Monthly archives: November 2003
SHAPE OF THINGS
It's windy and cold here in Vermont this morning, but there are many happy Red Sox fans in these parts regardless. The Red Sox have pitching! This is a moment that should legitimately make Yankee fans nervous. For the better part of 85 years, Boston is a team that has been defined by its offense. If only they had pitching, if only...Well, adding Curt Schilling sure is a good place to start. Buster Olney sure thinks so:
Throughout the Yankees' dynasty of 1996-2001, they viewed the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles as sleeping giants, dangerous franchises that were operated incompetently. But now the Red Sox are being run effectively, efficiently, and they are starting to win some of the battles the Yankees always won in past years. They'll have their next chance on the field in the 2004 season.
Dan Shaughnessy, a writer who has a lot invested in the Red Sox being good but not champs, says this move makes Boston the favorites in the American League East. He also raises an eyebrow over how the Yankees were squeezed by Arizona:
Truly there is something about this deal that does not make sense. In their talks with the Yankees, the Diamondbacks wanted Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson in exchange for the 37-year-old Schilling. Dealing with Boston, Arizona settled for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge de la Rosa, and a minor leaguer to be named, likely Michael Goss -- four players who do not equal one Nick Johnson.
Conspiracy theorists believe the Diamondbacks stuck it to the Yankees in retaliation for New York snatching David Wells last winter after Wells made a handshake agreement with Arizona. Look for the Yankees to go after Bartolo Colon now that the Red Sox have Schilling. And brace yourself for New York's eventual signing of Gary Sheffield.
"I guess I hate the Yankees now," said Schilling last night after the deal was announced.
Fortunately for Yankee fans, there are some silver linings here. Let's talk Turkey. We hope that Schilling starts to break down. We hope that he gets in trouble with the press, and that the antiquated Fenway Clubhouse isn't big enough for both Pedro and Schilling. (Fat chance.) OK, I'm bitter. These might be flimsy hopes, but you got to start somewhere. Meanwhile, Schilling admits that he hasn't always been kind to Prince P:
"The one thing I know about being a visiting player is that I hated the fans," he said. "And I think there's a lot of disliking players until they're on your side. A guy like Pedro, I think I was quoted in the middle of the playoffs when that situation occurred [involving Karim Garcia and Don Zimmer] as calling him a `punk.' I can't take it back. I felt that way at the time, and I've played with guys that have done the same thing and I thought it was pretty sweet as a teammate. It's going to be different from anything I've ever done on a consistent basis and it's going to be a challenge."
As Gordon Edes notes, the Red Sox should not pop open the champagne just yet:
Of course, it's a great deal for the Red Sox. But adding Curt Schilling, as good as he is, guarantees nothing, except an over-the-top response from the Yankees, who are virtually certain to add either Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez while returning Andy Pettitte to a rotation that will be missing Roger Clemens and possibly David Wells in 2004. In the euphoria that followed his successful pursuit of Schilling last night, Sox GM Theo Epstein acknowledged as much.
...Before planning on that parade down Boylston Street that Schilling was imagining in his musings during last night's press conference, remember this: The A's, with their fabulous threesome of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder, have yet to play in a World Series. The Yankees, despite their rotation of impeccable pedigree, have not won a World Series since 2000.
The Sox led the AL in starters' ERA by a wide margin over the Bombers in 2002 and didn't even make the playoffs. Same thing in 2000.
I think it is fitting to end today's entry with the Red Sox Don, Peter Gammons, who gives the lowdown on the deal, and aptly praises Boston's GM, Theo Epstein.
DONE AND DONE
Curt Schilling has agreed to waive his no-trade clause, and accepted a trade to the Boston Red Sox. According to ESPN, after making $12 million in 2004, Schilling will earn $12.5 million in 2005 and $13 million in 2006. Boston has a $13 million option for 2007 that could become guarenteed if Schilling meets certain performance levels.
So there you have it. The Red Sox bagged their babe. What? You didn't actually think Theo and Company were going to come back empty-handed now did you?
Yankee fans, brace yourself for another loud-mouth ace up in Beantown who is sure to agitate us plenty. Yup, he'll be tough against the Yankee hitters, but he's likely to be even more irritating when he flaps his yap in the newspapers. All the same, I'm glad the Yanks didn't overpay to get him. Jay Jaffe thinks it is OK that New York passed on him as well:
...There are still other reasons to like Schilling in a Red Sox uniform from the Yankee point of view. One is that it would appear to limit Boston's long-term spending options. They already made a desperate move to free themselves from Manny Ramirez's contract, and they're in the final year of Nomar Garciaparra's and Pedro Martinez's deals. Handing out $25-40 million in extensions to the new kid in town isn't likely to be a hit with those two, and it's also unclear whether Boston would assume responsiblity for the deferred money. Additionally, signing him would likely eliminate the Sox as one of Andy Pettitte's suitors.
Steinbrenner's admiration to the contrary, Curt Schilling is not Roger Clemens. He's a pitcher who's had two excellent seasons and several good ones over the course of his career, but he's never won a Cy Young award, let alone six, and he's got a ways to go to win 200 games. He's a flyball pitcher, not particularly well suited to Fenway Park, where he hasn't done too well historically (career 6.04 ERA in 25.1 innings). On the other hand, he's still a fine pitcher who strikes out more than 10 men per nine innings and has pinpoint control, allowing less than two walks per nine in each of the past four seasons. Though he spent a bit of time on the DL last season, that time was due to an appendectomy and a broken hand, not shoulder or elbow trouble. But as the Yanks found out in the World Series, old pitchers have a nasty habit of breaking down at inopportune times. Let Schilling break down on somebody else's watch.
Still, he's a great fit for the Sox, and it was a great move on their part. What will the Yankees cook-up in response? Brace yourself: they've got a Sheff eager to jump into the kitchen.
THANKS A LOT
Checking in from the heart of Red Sox Country...I'm up in Vermont with Emily visiting her folks for the long weekend. Curt Schilling is still not a member of the Home Nine, but he should be by the end of the day. Schilling has until 5 p.m. on the west coast to make a decision. I thought he might want to give Red Sox fans something to cheer about this morning, but he's going to make 'em sweat it out just a bit. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. Schilling has always had a self-important sense of drama.
I'm going to be scrounging around the used bookshops here in the Middlebury/Burlington area hoping to find some bargains and perhaps even a hidden treasure or two. I'll be back later once something official comes out regarding Schilling.
Hope everyone had a great Turkey Day.
A-ROD HEADED TO BOSTON?
How about this for an eye-grabber:
It sounds like voodoo economics, but it's possible that the only way the Red Sox can afford both ace Curt Schilling and closer Keith Foulke and still stay under the luxury-tax threshold of $120.5 million for 2004 is by making another deal -- one that nets them Alex Rodriguez and the biggest contract in sports.
Gordon Edes sure knows how to get the reader's attention. I will continue to play the paranoid patsy until Rodriguez is not a Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Curt Schilling will talk turkey today. Schilling is in the driver's seat here. At this point, the Sox will look bad if they can't reel him in. Look for Schilling to ask for the anything he wants, and look for "Theo and the Trio" to give it to him. Boston hopes to satiate Red Sox Nation will dreamy headlines for the holiday tomorrow.
First we'll use Spahn, then we'll use Sain.
Then an off day, followed by rain.
Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain,
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.
---Gerry Hern, sports editor of The Boston Post, 1948.
There are several fitting appreciations of Warren Spahn today: Tom Boswell, Ira Berkow, and Rob Neyer all pay their respects.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
The mainstream media has been nothing less than shrill in their coverage of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, especially baseball. Lisa Olson adds her two-cents today with a piece on Barry Bonds' personal trainer and Jere Longman has a cautionary tale about steroids and a Texas teenager in the New York Times. For a more measured and clear-headed take, check out Rob Neyer's latest, as well as a lengthy, and exceedingly well-researched piece by Dayn Perry (thanks to Mike Emeigh at Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits for the link). Perry's article is almost a year old, but it still holds up and should be required reading for anyone interested in the steroid issue.
REPEAT AFTER ME: I'M STAYIN'
After weeks of silly headlines, Mike Piazza attempts to set the record straight: He does not want to be traded and is willing to play some games at first base:
"I don't want to be traded," Piazza told The [Newark] Star-Ledger in a casual, matter-of-fact tone by phone yesterday from his L.A. home. "I signed on for seven years. I made a seven-year commitment and I plan to stick to it. I don't know where all this came from, but it didn't come from me. What hurts me is that the fans are confused, and they shouldn't be. It's kind of embarrassing. It shouldn't be about me. It should be about making the team better."
..."I'm just trying to be accommodating, to help the team. I think we should have open lines of communication and we should be adults about it. They shouldn't be afraid to come talk to me about anything. I'll do whatever they want me to do. My agent was quoted saying I'm willing to play first base. I've said it over and over again. What do I have to do, go to the top of a mountain at high noon and sign it in blood?"
That would be funny. Not necessary, but funny. I'll settle for watching Mike play the air drums in the outfield during pre-game warm ups.
Travis Nelson has a winning (and funny) critique of the M.V.P. voting process. Travis offers some constructive criticism to Jayson Stark and makes his case for what "value" really means. This piece comes in two-parts (Part I and Part II) and I highly recommend that you stop by The Boy of Summer and give it a look.
JUST A MATTER OF TIME
The Red Sox high command will be in Arizona today to meet with Curt Schilling. From what I can gather, it is just a matter of time before Arizona's right-handed ace joins Boston. Here is this morning's coverage in The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, New York Times, Daily News and the New York Post. Jayson Stark, who has been close with Schilling since the pitchers' days with the Phillies, has the scoop at ESPN:
"I'm dealing with this situation exactly how I would if I were a free agent and Boston was a city I was interested in," Schilling told ESPN.com Monday night. "And I'm going to assess things just the way a free agent would who was thinking about going somewhere.
"I'm concerned about a lot of things -- and many of them are not just in the clubhouse and on the field. They're personal, family issues. And they're things I have to think about in a very condensed time frame, because by Friday at 5 o'clock, somebody has to have a decision."
..."In a sense, I'm still standing on the mound with the ball in my hand," he said, "because nothing has been determined. And nothing will be determined without my wife and I saying yes. That's just like I'm on the mound. I'm in full control of the situation until the ball leaves my hand. So now, the most important thing to me, in this situation, is to make the right pitch."
One major selling point for Schilling is the impending hiring of Terry Francona as the next Boston skipper. Schilling played for Francona in Philly.
Before flying out to meet with Schilling today, Boston GM Theo Epstein attended the Celtics-Knicks game last night in Boston with free agent reliever Keith Foulke. Looks like Red Sox Nation is going to have much to be thankful for come Thursday.
WARREN SPAHN DEAD
Hall of Fame southpaw, Warren Spahn passed away yesterday. He was 82. Spahn was famous for a fluid pitching motion and high leg kick. Oh yeah, he also holds the all-time mark for career wins by a lefty, with 363. He pitched for 21 seasons and won 20 or more games 13 times. He will be missed.
WAITING FOR CURT
Forget the three-team swap. According to ESPN:
Boston would send left-handed pitcher Casey Fossum, lefty Jorge De La Rosa, righty Brandon Lyon and outfielder Michael Goss to Arizona for Schilling.
Schilling will meet with Theo Epstein and John Henry tomorrow in Arizona to work out the details for a contract extension:
"Money is not going to be the key factor. I already have more money then I am ever going to spend. It will have to be right for me, my wife and family. The Red Sox have some positives, the Yankees have some positives, but we will see after I talk to them."
..."I'd rather stay here in Arizona, I have said that all along. I am adamant about that," Schilling said at the news conference. "I realize that it is a payroll decision. They have to move payroll and change payroll. Twelve million dollars is a big chunk of that. You can't always get what you want."
Welp, Yankee fans, it looks to me as if Curt Schilling will be wearing a Boston uniform next year. (Do you feel angry or relieved?) That makes for an imposing front three, no? But as scary as it may seem—and make no mistake about it, this will be the best starting pitching the Sox have had in a long while— what's really scary is the thought of Alex Rodriguez joining the Sox with Schilling and Pedro. If Epstein is worth his salt, the Schilling deal is just the start of things to come. (Hey if you going to dream, why not dream big?)
Be afwaid. Be very afwaid. And remember: Hell hath no fury like Steinbrenner scorned. How would you like to be in Brian Cashman's shoes right about now?
OF COURSE YOU KNOW, THIS MEANS WAR
This just in. According to Lee Sinins, a major trade is in the works:
The Diamondbacks have traded P Curt Schilling to the Redsox for P Casey
Fossum and a couple of prospects.
However, Schilling has a no trade clause and still has to approve the deal.
So, the deal is being sent to bud's office in order to officially start the 72 hour window to allow the Redsox to talk to him about a contract extension.
...According to Peter Gammons, the Diamondbacks would send Fossum to the
Brewers for Richie Sexson.
Just a note here--I'm hearing about Gammons's report through WFAN's Mike Francesa and I was also distracted by something else while listening to him. So, there may or may not be a detail or two that should also be in the
Wow. Think George will take this one well? If this goes through, Steinbrenner is going to hit the roof. Heads will roll; money will be spent, and maybe A Rod finds his way to the Bronx after all.
Schilling said a few weeks ago that he wasn't interested in playing in Boston. A right-handed fly-ball pitcher isn't the ideal fit for the Fens. Still, from my perspective as a Yankee fan, Schilling is the perfect Red Sox. He looks like a Red Sox and is easy to root against. And talk about quotable. Between Schilling and Pedro, it certainly won't be dull in Boston. They'll be bashing the Yanks from February through October.
If this trade goes through, it will be the biggest killing of Theo Epstein's young career. And another memorable chapter in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. The Hot Stove just got hotter.
RETURN OF THE M&M BOYS?
The Yankees could sport an updated version of the M & M boys if they manage to lure Japanese infielder Kaz Matsui (no relation to Godzilla Matsui) to New York this winter. According to the Daily News, moving Alfonso Soriano to the outfield and convincing Matsui to move from his natural position of short to second base if part of Boss George's master plan.
Another Matsui sure would make for some clever headlines.
SHOULD JETER CHANGE POSITIONS?
For many, the answer is simple: "yes." The statisitics prove that Jeter is a below-average defensive shortstop. If he moved to third, he would still be a good offensive player. Plus, the Yankees could find a slick-fielding shortstop which would help address one of the team's most glaring problems: the up-the-middle defense. Then again, for many fans, the answer is equally as simple: "no." Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop in Yankee history and there is no need to move him at this point in his career.
I am for Jeter changing positions and have been since the 2002 season. He is considered a "true team player" who puts winning above individual achievements. While I don't doubt that he is a "team-guy", I'd like to see him put to the test. Great players have changed positions before. However, I seriously doubt that Jeter will be moved anytime soon. At least not as long as Joe Torre is around. Maybe the Yankees will consider moving him for 2005 or 2006; that all depends on how rapidly Jeter's already suspect fielding continues to decline.
Steve Goldman addressed the $64,000 Derek Jeter question with clarity and poise last week in his Pinstriped Bible column:
Is it asking too much of a player with the ego necessary to be a star in professional sports (for that indomitable will to always appear at one's best is as much generated by self-adulation as by a sense of honor) to swallow his pride and admit that another man is his better? This winter Jeter and the Yankees have an excellent chance to demonstrate that pride of winning comes before pride of self.
I don't think it's too much to ask. I've heard people say that if Alex Rodriguez was ever traded to the Bronx, A Rod should move to third, not Jeter. Jeter has to stay at short out of respect. For what? Jeter's feelings? Puleeze. When did this become a diva cat fight? I thought all Derek Jeter wanted to do was win championships. Last I checked Alex Rodriguez has won two consecutive Gold Gloves and is one of the 10-15 greatest players in the history of the game. Now, let's talk about respect.
Of course, it is highly unlikely that Alex Rodriguez will ever play for the Yankees, just as it is unlikely that Derek Jeter will be asked to move his position in the near future. Still, I think it has become increasingly clear that moving Jeter out of short would be the best thing for the Yankees.
BAD DAYS FOR BUD
I don't know if I've ever written a post concerning the commisioner of baseball, Bud Selig. There are some things I just don't have the stomach for. But Selig has made the news on several fronts recently, most notably in America's Heartland. Doug Pappas has been all over the disaster area that the Brewers have become, and Jay Jaffe wrote several good posts explaining the current situation too.
If that's not enough for you, Jayson Stark has a column over at ESPN about how Bud and MLB have continued to make a laughing stock of themselves with regards to the Montreal-San Juan Expos:
"It's like a whirlpool," says one baseball man who once worked for the Expos, "that has turned into a cesspool."
It is a shame that they will not make a competitive offer to keep Vlad Guerrero, who is possibly the greatest player in franchise history (taking nothing away from Rock Raines or Andre Dawson—you can keep Kid Carter). Guerrero strikes me as the kind of player who would even consider staying with the Expos for less than the market value. Oh, well. Their loss will some other team's gain.
Meanwhile, Selig is hoping that everything will be coming up Rose's for Christmas. Right?
PITCHING FOR ALEX
Peter Gammons' latest details the Yankees' off-season plans. The priority in the Bronx? Pitching, pitching, pitching. But Gammons suspects the Yankees will also sign Gary Sheffield, and then move Alfonso Soriano to the outfield, making Bernie Williams a DH, and creating an opening for a good fielding second baseman.
Is A-Rod likely to end up in Boston? According to a report coming out of the Dominican Republic, the Sox and the Yanks are the only two teams Rodriguez would consider playing for. Gammons adds:
There seems to be some feeling that the ice is beginning to melt on their Manny Ramirez-Alex Rodriguez offer, which would save the Rangers $96 million in present-day value. Ramirez, Rodriguez and the Red Sox want the deal, and the way the A-Rod-Buck Showalter-John Hart freeze is going, if they don't do the deal, they might not be there at this time next year.
I don't think I'm being overly paranoid in thinking that the Sox could actually pull off a blockbuster deal that would bring Rodriguez to Beantown. Do you?
Rich Lederer has the third installment of his blogger-interview series up at Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT. David Pinto is featured this week. Pinto writes possibly the most popular baseball blog going, Baseball Musings. I like how David is honest about wanting a job with a major league club as a statistical analyst. He'd be great at it, don't you think? I also like how David would accept a job as a professional blogger. (Mmmm, profesional blogging.) Check it out. Also, don't miss Rich's article on "The Worst M.V.P Seasons Ever" too. As usual, quality is job one over at RWBB.
LOCK AND LOAD
Yankee GM Brian Cashman has been the busiest of worker bees over the past several weeks, gathering information concerning trade possibilities and the free agent market. The Yankees have yet to make a move, but the front office will meet Monday to devise their plan. A few things seem certain. According to The New York Times:
Cashman said that besides Pettitte, the Yankees wanted to retain two of their other free agents, catcher John Flaherty and reliever Felix Heredia. They would also like to re-sign David Wells "as a nonroster invite," Cashman said.
... Cashman said he was confident that first baseman Jason Giambi could play a full season in the field next year after having surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. That would seem to make the Yankees more comfortable trading Nick Johnson, who played first base throughout the American League playoffs.
"Nick's a valuable commodity, whether we hold on to him or as a trading chip," Cashman said. "If he's going to be here, he's going to help us. If not, he could help us in trade scenarios."
"We'll definitely have discussions with whoever Kazuo Matsui's agent happens to be."
The prevailing thought in Yankee land is that Boss George will sign Tampa-native Gary Sheffield to play right field in New York. It also feels as if Nick Johnson will be traded before Alfonso Soriano gets moved. (Drag.) Perhaps George will get something done special for Turkey Day.
Speaking of Tampa, the Cardinals dumped former Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez on the Devil Rays for two minor leaguers—pitcher and an outfielder. Tino joins fellow Tampa-native Lou Pinella on the Rays. Pinella was Martinez's manager in Seattle. Redbird Nation won't be shedding any tears:
When I think of Tino's career, I'll always think of Mike Shannon calling one of his at-bats back in May: "Swing and a THREE-RUNNER! How 'bout that! Way to go, Tino! [beat] No, it's gonna fall short." Fly out to the warning track. Was the acquistion of Tino Martinez the worst of Jocketty's Cardinal career? Possibly. Back in June we said it was his third worst signing, after the Danny Jackson and Scott Radinsky deals. But when you consider that we will be paying the Devil Rays $6 million to play Tino next year, in exchange for a would-be could-be set-up man, then you have to say that December 18, 2001 could be the ugliest splotch on Jocketty's record.
Martinez is remembered fondly in New York, but had he been on the Yankees during the past two seasons, many of those good feelings would have turned sour as Tino's game declined. Martinez clashed with another Tampa-native in Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. I suppose he gets on better with Lou.
THE HIGH PRICE OF BIDDING
The Houston Astros spoke with Andy Pettitte's agents yesterday and of course, are very serious about bringing the southpaw home to Texas. The Red Sox have joined in on the fun too, and are interested in bringing Pettitte to Boston. What a coup that would be. Except it's unlikely to happen. Boston's main goal in showing an interest in Pettitte is to jack his price up and make George pay through the nose. It's been my contention all along that Steinbrenner will overpay to keep Andy in the Bronx regardless of what Boston does, so we are right on course.
Jason Giambi had surgery on his left knee yesterday. He will undergo rehabilitation this winter and should be ready for spring training.
Barry Bonds won his sixth MVP award yesterday, easily beating out Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield. No other player in the history of the game has won the award more than three times. Yet instead of soaking in the magnitude of this achievement, there is a cloud of skepticism hanging over Bonds' head. Has he been juiced up? Has he cheated? Columnists, start your soapboxes. (In fairness, Rob Neyer has a good appreciation of Bonds over at ESPN.)
Alex Rodriguez has not been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs like Bonds has, but the brightest star in the American League isn't exactly the most popular kid on the block either. He makes too much money. He plays on a losing team. He's selfish, a jerk. (Why can't he be more like the saintly Derek Jeter?) How can a player on a last place team be the MVP? According to Allen Barra:
Americans are always embarrassed about the subject of the big money paid to professional athletes because, at heart, we know they're paid that because it reflects how much more we care about them than the things we say are more important. The notion that the Texas Rangers and owner Hicks were bamboozled by Boras in the Rodriguez deal should have been dispelled long ago. First of all, with deferred payments and the interest that began accumulating on the Rangers' money before Rodriguez was even paid his first salary, the sum the Rangers pay A-Rod every season surely comes to considerably less than $25 million.
Second, and more to the point, the Rangers didn't exactly reach into their pockets to pay Rodriguez. They had the money for his contract because Fox Sports Net bought the 10-year cable rights to the Rangers and Dallas Stars hockey games for $250 million, and paid another $250 million for both teams' local broadcast rights for 15 years, according to some sources (Forbes reported the latter deal at $300 million). The Rangers, presumably, got the lion's share of that money. The TV deals boosted the value of the team, as reported in Forbes, by 16 percent, and the addition of A-Rod beefed up their revenues considerably. The Rangers jacked up their ticket prices by an average of 10 percent for Rodriguez's first season, 2001, and finessed several new endorsement deals, including a sponsorship pact with Radio Shack.
The question that should have been asked three years ago was not "How can the Rangers afford to pay Alex Rodriguez $250 million?" but "Why don't the Rangers use some of the money produced by those deals and the acquisition of Rodriguez to buy some pitching?"
Is Bonds even more disliked than A Rod? ESPN should run a poll asking that question. Barry Bonds surely must be on drugs, he's beyond selfish, and one of the biggest jerks since Ted Williams.
What gives here? These are two of the greatest players in the history of the game and yet journalists and fans alike seem to spend more time running them down than admiring their achievements. Well I can't tell you that either player is a personal favorite of mine, but I can tell you that I stand in awe of their accomplishments on the field. For me, that is enough. For those who choose to belittle Bonds and Rodriguez, all I can say is "You're missing out on greatness." And that's your loss.
DON'T BE SORE
Carlos Delgado assumed that he was going to win the A.L. MVP. I have always enjoyed watching Delgado play--even when he is killing the Yanks--but you know what happens when you assume...
"If they were going to pick somebody from a team that didn't make the playoffs, I think that would have given me an edge," Delgado said. "But that's what I get for thinking, I guess."
Hey, you said it brother. Meanwhile, David Pinto has an excellent post about why people should stop whinning and learn to accept the fact that the best player in the league is usually the M.V.P. as well.
Major League Baseball has asked the Yankees to open the 2004 season in Japan. What a homecoming for Godzilla, huh?
Meanwhile, the other Matsui, Kaz, is headed for the States. But he doesn't look like a fit for the Bronx. Not if Boss George gets his man Sheffield. Sheffield is a borderline Hall of Famer who is coming off his greatest season. But he has a history of being a headache too. Reader John Litt sent me an e-mail yesterday hoping beyond hope that Sheffield doesn't wind up in pinstripes:
"Please, please, please, please, please, not Gary Sheffield. Gary Sheffield disgraced the game, disgraced it in a way that few players have, and was never punished, never apologized. These are Gary Sheffield's words about his time in Milwaukee:
"The Brewers brought out the hate in me. I was a crazy man. . . . I hated
everything about the place. If the official scorer gave me an error, I didn't think was an error, I'd say, `OK, here's a real error,' and I'd throw the next ball into the stands on purpose.' "
That's from an article in the LA Times by Bob Nightengale on 9/1/92, quoting a previous article. Nightengale goes on to talk about Brewers' fans "mistakenly believing that Sheffield's quote was an admission that he wasn't performing up to his ability." Excuse me? I don't know how else to read the original quote.
Nightengale's article continues, "Sheffield said Monday: 'What I said was out of frustration. They want to take something and run with it. Why would a player purposely make mistakes? I'd never do anything to hurt the team. You get paid to play.' Sheffield said the only time he may have made an error purposely out of anger was when he was in the Brewer minor-league system."
...The fact that it was a decade ago really doesn't matter to me. And furthermore, it was only a couple of years ago that he demanded a trade from LA because he wasn't happy there, either. He not only demanded a trade, but it basically had to be to Atlanta or New York, so he could be closer to his family. Not surprisingly, the Dodgers traded him; after all, we know what Gary Sheffield can do if he's unhappy.
I don't want this guy on my team. I don't care how he hits. Not now, not ever. Please, please, please, please, please.
I think that Sheffield would be fine in New York for a brief period of time. If he remains healthy, he should be productive as well. But I can understand why John wouldn't want him around.
A VIEW FROM THE NEW YORKER
Every year, I eagerly await Roger Angell's year-end wrap-up of the baseball season in The New Yorker. This year, Angell's overview of the 2003 playoffs is available on-line. I haven't read it yet myself, but that's no reason not to link it anyway. I'll follow-up with my reaction sometime tomorrow (thanks to Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits" for the link).
The issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is one that makes columnists drool. Unfortunately for us, their columns are more concerned with editorializing and moralizing than giving us straight information. They are usually a platform for a writer to tell us everything that is wrong with sports and our culture in general. But Derek Zumsteg has a sensible and rationale piece on steroids-in-baseball over at Baseball Prospectus. This one is free, so stop by and give it a look.
Alex Rodriguez won the American League MVP award yesterday after coming close on several occasions (much to the dismay of Jayson Stark). Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada placed third. But Rodriguez's celebration was upstaged by trade rumors and a report that he does not get along with Texas manager, Buck Showalter. Here in New York, there is a lot of ink being spilled over the possibility of Rodriguez playing for the Mets. The Daily News reports that a trade is unlikely, while Joel Sherman suggests it is a move the Metropolitans need to make.
ANOTHER SURE SHOT
Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter, has launched a new blog here all-baseball.com, The Trasnaction Guy, a site that will ostensibly record each and every transaction that takes place in the world of major league baseball. Ruz will give us the facts on each deal and offer some off-the-cuff comments to boot. Go over and check it out, then link it, and put it on your favorites list, because chances are you will be spending a lot of time there in 2004.
HE HATE WHO?
Rob Neyer is often attacked as being anti-Yankee. But he's also slammed for being anti-Red Sox, anti-Braves and just about anti-every other team too. That is one of the perils of writing a national column, I suppose. Anyhow, in his latest piece, Neyer has some positive things to say about the Bronx Bombers:
The Yankees do have to find some starting pitchers because they're losing at least one and quite possibly three, but they could begin next season with exactly the same starting lineup and be a pretty good bet to win 95-100 games. Anything that happens in New York gets magnified, almost beyond recognition, but this was a good lineup in September and it's a good lineup right now.
Which isn't to say the Yankees shouldn't try to get better. One of the reasons they haven't missed the postseason since 1994 is simple: they're always trying to get better, and that's not something you can say about every winning team. Some winning teams seem happy to tread water, but when you're treading water it's easy for a shark to take off one of your legs at the knee.
Speaking of sharks (he wrote, clumsily switching metaphors), a baseball team might be said to resemble a shark: if you're not moving forward, you're dying. And while it's not precisely true that the Yankees are always moving forward -- remember Hideki Irabu, anybody? -- it's true that they're almost always trying to move forward. If they don't run into a bunch of injuries, the Yankees will be better next year than they were this year.
Actually, according to Woody Allen in "Annie Hall," relationships are like sharks. Woody tells this to Diane Keaton as they travel back to New York from a weekend in Hollywood (she loved it, he was miserable). "Relationships are like sharks. They have to keep moving forward," in order to survive. "And what I think we have here is a dead shark."
ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT...
Peter Gammons is credited for inventing the 'Sunday Notes' column when he wrote for The Boston Globe in the 1970s. These days, Gordon Edes is the top baseball scribe at The Globe, and his version of the 'Sunday Notes' is top-notch. Check out the latest from the Hub.
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE...
Who will win the A.L. MVP? Alex Rodriguez or (gasp) Shannon Stewart? Jorge Posada, David Ortiz or Carlos Delgado? Which one of these guys will take home the hardware? The results will be announced later today and one thing is for sure: the race is wide open. According to a report in The Daily News:
Anything is possible, because 10 players received first-place votes from the 28 voters, said Jack O'Connell, the secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which presents the award. It's only the third time in history that the number of players receiving first-place votes has reached double-digits - 1977 (11, AL) and 1947 (10, NL) being the other years.
"I've never seen anything like it," O'Connell said. "Sometimes, when you're going through the ballots before actually counting, you know who's going to win. I saw Roy Halladay's name so many times, I knew he was going to win the AL Cy Young. But I have no idea who is going to win this until I count up everything."
O'Connell added, laughing, "I'm just hoping it's not a two-way or three-way tie. Those trophies are expensive."
Steve Goldman, who pens "The Pinstriped Bible" for YES, offers a history of the MVP award over at mlb.com. Like most everything Goldman writes, this article is well worth your time.
FATHERS AND SONS
Over at Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT, Rich Lederer has the second installment in his interview series up today, which features none other than yours truly. We talk about the Yankees, some of my experiences in the film business as well as my baseball relationship with my girlfriend and father.
I got to thinking about fathers and sons again late this summer when Jay Jaffe posted an article about Bobby and Barry Bonds. Jay wrote about how Dan Le Batard's article about Bonds made him look at the superstar with a different sensitivity; he also talked about his own dad and how they remain close today. He has a much different experience with his father than I do with mine, but we share one thing in common: baseball bonds us together (if you'll pardon the pun).
Baseball gives my dad and me something to talk about. It' a safe, comfortable place. My old man isn't an active fan by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have a history with the game and he certainly has an appreciation for it. More than anything, he respects how involved I am with it. He is also proud that I write about it almost everyday.
My father and I had a volatile and difficult relationship when I was growing up, but have a mindful and loving relationship now that I'm an adult. Again, baseball gives us something to talk about. Oh, we also talk about show business and the arts and New York City history. And we make like a pair of old yentas and gossip about the family too. But as imperfect as our relationship has been, baseball has always been a constant. Dad's attraction to the game may be superficial, but his willingness to invest himself in it as a way to relate with his son is anything but. For that I am grateful.
And that's the truth: tthhhppppt.
MAKING THE ROUNDS
The talks between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks have reportedly cooled over a possible Curt Schilling deal. But Brian Cashman continued to check in with the Expos, White Sox and Dodgers. Who would you rather have in right field? Gary Sheffield, Vlad Guerrerro or Magglio Ordonez? Decisions, decisions. It's tough to be rich and willing to spend, huh?
Mel Stottlemyre is officially back as the Yankees pitching coach, and George The Benevolent has also hired Darryl Strawberry as a spring training coach.
Can you feel the love? Or is that last night's dinner repeating on you?
Eric Gagne ran away with the National League Cy Young award yesterday. Gagne who had one of the best, if not the best single season a reliever has ever recorded, blew away the competition. I wish I could have seen him more often, but what little I did see of him was absolutely terrifying. Congrats to the Frenchman.
In other Dodger news, GM Dan Evans had an interesting chat with Oakland's general manager Billy Beane last week. Got any questions? Make like Will Carroll, and go ask Jon Weisman.
MIKE ON THE MOVE?
Newsday is reporting that Mike Piazza would like to be traded to an American League team. If the Mets had been smart they would have moved Piazza in 2002 or 2003. As it is, if they choose to trade him, they might have to eat some of his salary, as Piazza is due to earn $30 million over the final two years of his contract. That is a steep price for a DH. Personally, I love the guy and as much as I have enjoyed him on the Mets, I think he would be a great fit for an American League squad.
MLB announced yesterday that more than five percent of baseball players have tested positive for steriods. Random testing will continue in 2004. The mainstream media is sounding the alarm of course. I picked up the papers early this morning and both the Daily News and New York Post have a photograph of a needle sticking out of a baseball on their back covers. A guy standing next to me was already reading the story and I asked him what he made of it. "I'm not surprised," he said. "Look at these guys."
Dave Anderson offers a stern lecture in the Times and Filip Bondy is positively shrill in the News. You've got to love it when sportswriters become moralists.
Am I surprised by the finding? Not a bit. Does it bother me? Not especially. Unlike Mr. Bondy, and perhaps many casual sports fans like the one I encountered this morning, I'm not a romantic. I assume there is cheating and drug use in sports just like in other parts of our culture. (Thankfully for Pete Rose and the players of a previous generation, baseball didn't test for greenies.) You are naive and foolish if you think this is a new problem. I don't think a majority of the players cheat, and my enjoyment of the game isn't ruined because there are some that do.
A fellow named Avkash Patel has devised a simple yet meaninful new statistic that measures offensive patience at his Mets-related web page, Raindrops. I'm sorry that I didn't link the article earlier, but it has received rave reviews in the blogging community. Jay Jaffe does a great job of sorting out Patel's theory. I'm afraid that writing about performance analysis is not my strength--though I still enjoy reading about it--so I prefer to pass you along to someone who can.
Jay is just about to go on the DL himself. He has a torn labrum in his shoulder and is going under the knife next week. Stop by and wish one of the best baseball bloggers well.
Tony Pena and Jack McKeon took home manager of the year honors in their respective leagues yesterday. No surprises there. They were both deserving. I have one minor complaint though. Why didn't Frank Robinson recieve a little more support? It seems as if he had one of the most arduous tasks in the majors, trying to keep his team focused as they shuttled back and forth from Canada to P.R. I know he had some talent to work with, and I'm not saying he should have won the award, but I thought he would have recieved a little more love from the writers.
Here are a few more pieces on the AL Rookie of the Year voting controversy--from Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman and Ben Jacobs. I have to say I was mildly amused that Jacobs allowed himself to get so steamed over comments made by Boss George Steinbrenner. It's not that I don't agree with Jacobs here, but I have developed such a thick skin when it comes to the Boss that I hardly ever get worked up by anything that comes out of his big, fat mouth.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Tabloid gossip is as New York as handball, hip hop and the screwface stare. Today, the rumor mill is in full effect, and it is as dizzying as watching Chinese Chess in Chinatown. Here is the lowdown according to New York's finest...
The Curt Schilling talk is still hot, although the two teams are predictably miles apart. The Diamondbacks want both Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano in exchange for their $12 million ace headache and second baseman Junior Spivey. Kevin Kernan thinks the Yankees would be making a major mistake letting Nick Johnson go for Schilling, while John Harper thinks it is a sacrifice worth making. One thing is for sure, there are those in the Yankee organization (led by Stick Michael) who do not want to lose Johnson, but George Steinbrenner is not one of them:
"Stick hasn't changed his opinion of Nick," one Yankee insider said yesterday. "He still thinks the kid can win a batting title in the next few years. But George is frustrated because he keeps hearing he doesn't have the kind of prospects in the (farm) system to make a deal like this.
"He's 70-something years old and he doesn't want to hear about the future. If Nick is his ticket, he'll use him."
That is a point worth noting. George has always constructed his team to win now, but at his age, why should he think about the future if he won't be around to enjoy it? We are talking about a world-class, instant-gratification egotist after all.
But the Yankee brass isn't alone in their appreciation of Johnson. According to Kernan:
"You know who Nick Johnson is?" one GM told me yesterday in the lost-in-time lobby of the Arizona Biltmore. "He's the kind of player the Yankees of 1996 used to build around. He's a Paul O'Neill type. The type who will work you deep into the count and drive the pitcher crazy."
It is unlikely that any trade will be made soon. Hopefully for the Yankees, Cashman and Stick Michael can keep their raging bull of an owner from doing anything rash.
Meanwhile, Cashman met with Bartolo Colon's agent, and also huddled with Expos GM Omar Minaya regarding Javier Vasquez. Roberto Alomar's agent has approached Cashman about his clients' desire to play for the Yankees, and the Bombers are also interested in Vlad Guerrero too. (With the White Sox willing to move Magglio Ordonez, right field has some interesting options.)
MEL TO RETURN
The New York Post is reporting that Mel Stottlemyre will in fact return as pitching coach next season. Joe Torre said that he hasn't spoken with Stot since the end of the season but expects to hear from him in the next week. Looks like he'll have his old friend back by his side. You think Andy Pettitte will notice?
HAVEN'T GOT TIME FOR THE PAIN
Derek Jeter apparently played through the ALCS and World Series in serious pain. Jeter strained ligaments in his left thumb in Game One of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Last night, at a fund-raiser, Joe Torre told reporters:
"After the first game against Boston I got a phone call the next morning and we weren't sure he was going to play anymore," Torre said last night at his Safe At Home Foundation dinner in Battery Park.
"It's one of those things you test yourself as a manager and say, 'Well, it's out of our control now.' But this kid was something. He got some pain shots the first couple of days and he said, 'I can't feel my thumb, I can't take these shots anymore.' "
Jeter, who was in attendence too, played coy:
"Mr. T blew a secret, huh?"
There are no plans for Jeter to have surgery this winter.
If you are interested in keeping up with the latest Hot Stove Rumors you should be subscribing to Lee Sinins' daily Around the Majors e-mail. Why? Because Lee compiles information from papers around the country and because the e-mail is absolutely free.
Here are a few Yankee-related tidbits from today's edition:
1. According to the Newark Star Ledger, Curt Schilling has told the Diamondbacks he's changed his mind and would approve a trade to the Yankees.
There is a 3 team rumor that would send Schilling to the Yankees, Nick
Johnson to the Brewers.
2. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, if the Yankees decide they are
interested in Jim Edmonds, there is already a 3 team rumor that would send
Edmonds and Schilling to the Yankees, Nick Johnson and Danny Bautista to
the Cardinals and Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Weaver to the Diamondbacks.
How do you think Yankee fans would like to lose Sori and Nick Johnson and receive Curt Schilling and Jim Edmonds in return?
The gossip is fast and furious right now. Edward Cossette has a good piece today about how instability of the the free agency era reflects modern life.
ART IN THE FAMILY
My father used to work in Televison Production for years, and I know he was a big fan of Art Carney's. I wanted to share an e-mail I received from Pop this morning:
I’ll try to give you some more in a day or two, but I put the death of Art Carney in the same category as the death of Zero Mostel; an important person has left my life.
Although there’s no arguing that for an extended period, Jackie Gleason was akin to a force of nature, he was never, in my mind, the kind of talent or funny man or actor that was Art Carney. Carney wasn’t just schtick although his schtick was about as godd as it gets; Carney was a commentator, and a damned funny one at that. My first memory of him (I knew his work in radio but didn’t know who he was) was playing a waiter in the nightclub that was Jackie Gleason’s stage in Cavalcade of Stars for DuMont Television’s Channel 5 in New York. He was intrusive, clumsy and hysterically funny. It’s to Gleason’s credit that he saw in Carney a second banana of remarkable skill. And he was a second banana; for reasons of his shyness, I guess, he was clearly not at home in the starring role, certainly not as a working comic, and why he didn’t get more leading roles considering his successes in The Odd Couple and Harry & Tonto is beyond me. Why he did a couple of films with Gleason when the latter was well past his heyday, again playing the second role when it was no longer fittin’ and proper, is also beyond me.
One quick story.
Before Channel 13 became a PBS channel, it was owned by a fella named Ely Landau, a genuine entrepreneurial type who will always have a place in my heart because he kept trying things with Henry Morgan. Now Morgan was a radio man and like Fred Allen, never really figured out how to sell his successful brand of cerebral radio humor on television except as a game show panelist. But, for a brief while, he did some things on Channel 13 and on one show in particular, he had Carney visit. At one point, while they were both sitting behind a desk, they played a three or four minute recording from an old radio broadcast with Art in the role of “Sailor Carney”, a not-so-hot prize fighter. If I’d ever heard the routine, I didn’t remember it. They obviously had. Nevertheless, all three of us were is stitches … and it was because of Carney. Apparently, it was Morgan’s policy with Carney, to set a premise and let him go so when they went on the air, they were both hearing his material for the first time. This was before the days of planned improvisational entertainment, but I assure you, Carney could have played with the best of them.
Some people shouldn’t grow old and they certainly shouldn’t die and Carney is one of them people.
One more note on Carney. I neglected to mention the crime caper he starred in with Lily Tomlin, "The Late Show," which was the first feature Robert Benton directed. Both Carney and Tomlin are in fine form, and I actually enjoyed it even more than I liked "Harry and Tonto." The two movies would make for a great double feature on a cold night this winter.
THE (TRULY) GREAT ONE
Art Carney, one of America's greatest---and most under-appreciated---actors, passed away on Sunday. Carney is most famous for playing second banana to Jackie Gleason on "The Honeymooners," but he was an accomplished actor on the stage and radio as well as the silver screen.
Young actors should all watch Carney's work on "The Honeymooners" (which has just been boxed in a nifty DVD set). Carney brought a sense of naturalism, or everyday authenticity to his role as Ed Norton. He never chewed the scenery like his famous co-star, but his understated professionalism was always fascinating to watch. He was also a graceful and talented physical comedian. Has any actor ever done more with the simple act of eating food than Carney did? If so, let me know, because I've never seen it.
One of my all-time fantasies is that I wish Art Carney had been allowed to recreate his stage performance as Felix Unger in the filmed version of "The Odd Couple." Whenever I watch Jack Lemmon in the movie, I close my eyes and imagine what Carney would have done with the role. Especially playing against Walter Matheau. Ahhh...
Carney did win an Oscar for his role in Paul Mazursky's tender comedy "Harry and Tonto." If you have not seen that movie, I would highly suggest that you do. If not, make sure to check out "The Honeymooners" next time they are on late-night TV, and watch for the subtle genius in the background.
LET'S MAKE A (DOPE) DEAL
The Curt Schilling-to-New York rumors are all over the papers this morning. Yankee GM Brian Cashman arrived at the GM meetings in Arizona yesterday and was engaged in talks with several teams. Any deal for Schilling, or any other stud pitcher would most likely involve Nick Johnson or Alfonso Soriano. Aw, nertz. Excuse me while I moan, but I don't want to see Nick Johnson go.
Congrats go out to Roy "Doc" Halladay who ran away with the Cy Young award in the American League yesterday. He was deserving of the award and was a fun pitcher to watch---even when he was killing the Yankees.
WAS MATSUI ROBBED?
George Steinbrenner issued a statement yesterday expressing his displeasure over two writers' decision to leave Hideki Matsui off their Rookie of the Year ballots (two writers also inexplicably left winner Angel Berroa off their list as well). According to the Times:
The writers, Steinbrenner said, "clearly made up their own rules to determine who was and was not eligible for the award and disqualified an eligible candidate who could have won." Steinbrenner continued: "One of the writers in question, Mr. Ballou, actually said, `while he is technically a rookie by the rules of Major League Baseball, he is not a rookie in the spirit of the award.' Spirit of the award? The award was renamed by the Baseball Writers' Association to honor Jackie Robinson, its first recipient.
"Jackie Robinson came to the major leagues after playing in the Negro Leagues, a league whose high level of play is unquestioned. This year's voting farce, where the appropriate qualifications for the award were blatantly ignored...
John Harper puts it well in the Daily News this morning:
Before I swallow hard and at least sort of agree with George Steinbrenner, a notion that has all the appeal of a colonoscopy, let's get to the bottom line: The right guy won the AL Rookie of the Year award.
The two writers in question---Bill Ballou from the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette and Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune--defended themselves, but ESPN's Mike Greenberg thinks that their arrogance is inexcusable.
Roy White came to the Yankees during their CBS days, when the great dynasty in the Bronx had finally crumbled. In the mid 1960s, the Yankees farm system was all but depleted, but White was one of the few bright spots, along with Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer and Stan Bahnsen to come up through the system. White lasted into the Bronx Zoo days of George, Billy and Reggie before he finished his career in Japan.
Here is White talking about how Billy Martin's aggresive managerial style shook up the Yankees in the mid-'70s (from Dick Lally's book, "Bombers":)
When Billy came on board, everything was put on the table. There was nothing laid-back about him. He was on the attack all the time. You could just feel it. He was always probing, trying to find the other team's weakness, and he wanted us to do the same. And he was so unorthodox, you never knew what to expect. He wanted everyone to run, not just steal bases but challenge the other team's outfielders by taking the extra base. He put the opposing team on edge and kept them there.
One game, I was on second and Pinella was hitting. Billy gave Lou the bunt sign, and Lou fouled the ball off as I broke for third. I went back to second and somehow missed the next sign. Now, in that siutation, you would expect Lou to bunt again. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred that is the logical play, and I assumed Lou would put down another bunt. But this is Billy in the dugout, so forget what the book says. Billy calls for the hit-and-run. Nobody does that! Lou singled, but because I had missed the sign, I didn't score.
After the inning, Billy asked if I had missed the sign and I admitted that I had. He told me to stay awake out there or it would cost me money the next time. I knew from that day on that we had to keep on our toes because we had a manager who was capable of the unexpected. Having a manager like that drives a team. You don't want to miss a sign and embarass yourself by messing up an inning. You also don't want to get fined. Billy was fiery and samrt. He made us fiery and smart.
White coached for Billy Martin in 1983, and served as hitting coach for Yogi Berra in 1984 and Lou Pinella in '86. White, has been the hitting coach for the A's triple A team for the past five seasons. Originally an infielder who made the transition to the outfield, White may help young Soriano learn the ropes in the outfield too:
"The kind of athlete he is, I don't think he'd have too much of a problem, with his speed, his natural instincts," White said. "It's just a matter of going out there, getting the experience, seeing balls off the bat.
"It wouldn't be any tough feat to turn him into an outfielder."
That is if Soriano is still around come spring...
YOU GOT THAT WHITE
Well, it looks as if Roy White will be joining the Yankees coachign staff after all. Except he'll coach first, and Uncle Luis Sojo will move to third. (Thanks to Cliff C for the update). That's very cool. Like I mentioned earlier, White was a sound player, and an under-appreciated Yankee. He was a good outfielder and fast too (he isn't as strong as Matsui, but they share some similarities). White is certainly a good addition to Joe Torre's staff. I will be shocked if Mel Stottlemyre doesn't return.
THAT CAN'T BE WHITE
A friend of mine just called me at work and told me that he heard on the radio that the Yankees will hire fomer outfielder Roy White as their new third base coach. Could that be possible? If so, then that is more good news for Yankee fans. White was a quiet and solid player on the Yankees for years and it would be great to have him back.
If anyone knows anything about this story, let me know. The AL Cy Young will be announced at 2:00 pm, and I would be surprised if Roy Halladay doesn't get it.
Angel Berroa narrowly defeated Hideki Matsui to win Rookie of the Year honors in the American League, while Dontrelle Willis ran away with the award in the National League. According to the New York Times, Matsui's age played a part in Berroa getting the nod:
"It had everything to do with that," said Bill Ballou of The Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette, who listed Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli first, Cleveland outfielder Jody Gerut second and Berroa third. "Matsui's numbers are comparable to any of the other strong candidates. But I really think that while he is technically a rookie by the rules of Major League Baseball, he is not a rookie in the spirit of the award."
Age didn't bother the voters enough to deny Matsui's countrymen, Ichiro and Kaz from winning the Rookie of the Year title. Why the change of heart? Do you think this might just have something to do with the fact that Matsui plays for the New York Yankees? I don't doubt it, but sportswriters have traditionally been stingy with giving awards to the Bronx Bombers. Boo-hoo.
Having said that, I don't think that Matsui deserved to win in the first place. It's not as if he has been "robbed." But if the writers voted correctly in the American League, then how can they explain what happened in the National League? Dontrelle Willis is a great story and a charasmatic kid, but he wasn't even the best rookie pitcher in the league.
Fortunately, I don't get too worked up over awards one way or another (although I like a good controversy as much as the next guy, and if Barry Bonds is somehow denied another MVP, that would get me going). I'm reminded of Woody Allen complaining in "Annie Hall" when his character visted L.A. to present an award. "All they do is give out awards. Greatest Fascist Dictator: Adolph Hitler."
How about "Most Spiteful Sportswriter Snub: George King."
THE MAN BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Rich Lederer has kicked off his off-season interview series with Lee Sinins, the man who brings us the sabermetric baseball encyclopedia, as well as the indispensable daily Around the Majors e-mails. Lee gives a terse, opinionated and informative interview. This is worth taking a look at it. Funny, but Lee and I share favorites: (team) the Yankees, (childhood player) Reggie Jackson, (current player) and Bernie Williams.
LET THE BIDDING BEGIN
The free agent season officially begins today. Boston GM, Theo Epstein anticipates his second go around in the Hot Stove League:
"I think it will be a pretty active offseason in general," he said in a conference call last week. "There was a record number of one-year contracts signed last year, so a lot of players are available. Obviously, with a changing market, it creates an interesting dynamic for the clubs, and I think action is a good way to solve those issues. I think it will be an active offseason.
J.P. Ricciardi adds that teams will continue to non-tender players in order to avoid arbitration cases:
"It seems like there are going to be a record number of nontenders," Ricciardi said. "More and more clubs are going that route. When teams look at the value of players based on the system as opposed to what their actual talent is, sometimes 2 and 2 isn't 4. Some teams look at players and say, `I don't want to pay this guy $4 million because of the system.' "
Peter Gammons has the skinny, as usual, over at ESPN.
Meanwhile, the Awards season begins in earnest today, when the American League Rookie of the Year will be announced. The competition is between Rocco Baldelli, Hideki Matsui, Angel Berroa, and Jody Gerut. I liked what little I saw of Gerut, but think the award will go to either Berroa or Godzilla.
I DON'T WANT HIM, YOU CAN HAVE HIM, HE'S A SHNOOK TO ME
It doesn't appear as if Curt Schilling will be a New York Yankee. Boo-hoo. Schilling apparently doesn't think much of playing in New York, or the Yankees chances to compete for another World Serious for that matter. According to Lee Sinins:
"People talk about the Yankees and the spending and the money and all this other stuff. I feel like if I wanted to go to the Yankees and they were interested in me, I'd call and be done and I'd get a deal that was very lucrative.
"But the dollars, I can honestly, with my hand to God tell you, are absolutely meaningless for this last contract. ... So I'm going to spend my final years pitching in a place I enjoy being and that every year I'm going to have a chance to put a World Series ring on my hand."
I'd love to know where that place will be. Hey, Schilling: good luck and good riddance, you unbelievbable putz you.
O'S NAME MAZ MANAGER
The Baltimore Orioles will hire Lee Mazzilli as their next manager according to the Associated Press. A press conference is scheduled for later this afternoon. This is not a surprising move. I'm happy for Maz, and hope he does well...but not too well, of course. Meanwhile, the Yankees will now need to find a new third base coach. Who do you think they'll consider for the job?
HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW?
One year ago today, I wrote my first post here at Bronx Banter. It was about Bill James going to work for the Red Sox. I had been thinking about writing about baseball for some time when my friend Steve hipped me to the world of blogs. In a short time, I set up my own page, with considerable help from John Perricone, and I was off and running.
One year later, writing about baseball every day--or almost every day--has become an intrinsic part of my life. I have made many new friends, and don't know if I can express how meaningful that has been for me. After all, part of what attracts me to baseball is that it is a way to connect with people.
I never anticipated that I would have a core of regular readers or that I would have the opportunity to interview so many interesting public figures. It just goes to show what a little ambition and a lot of persistence can get you. I've always enjoyed reading long, meaty interviews, and it is gratifying to know that I'm not alone. (By the way, if anybody ever has a suggestion about someone they would like me to talk with, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail.)
I don't pretend to be a baseball expert. I just can't bring myself to be that presumptuous. What I do know is what it's like to be a Yankee fan. So I stick to what I know. I've rooted for the Yankees ever since I can remember, and have consciously followed each season since I was eight years old (1979). I try to write an honest, amusing and informative blog, and I think I've been able to do just that.
Thanks for coming through. I look forward to another great year with you.
Joe Torre's father was an abusive lout. Torre will appear on NBC's "Dateline" this Sunday to talk about his experiences.
Yesterday David Pinto linked a new baseball blog written by an openly gay man. That is a first of sorts. The site is called Ball Talk and it is written by a guy named Alex Ciepley, who is a Cubs fan. I would expect Alex to write more about the baseball from the perspective of a Cubs fan, and not specifically a Gay Cubs fan. Still, it's great to have Ciepley's voice out there. Welcome aboard.
WHAT'S BREWING IN BEANTOWN?
Bryan Smith continues his Hot Stove Reports over at Wait 'Til Next Year. He taps Ben Jacobs and Jeff Kuhn for the state of the Red Sox. This is a particularly detailed article (Ben Jacobs is especially thorough). Bryan contributes his own take this morning. This will be a fascinating year for Boston considering how many of their core players are up for free agency at the end of the 2004 season. I was struck with how measured and rational all three analysis' were. There is no call for mega trades and huge free agent signings. One thing seems sure: In Theo We Trust.
If you have any interest in Red Sox Nation, you will do yourself a favor and brush up on your Bosox. Great job fellas.
WHAT'S NEW IN YANKEE LAND?
The big news this morning involves Andy Pettitte's decision to test the free agency waters. There is some speculation that the Yankees are not a lock to re-sign Pettitte, but I still think they are the front-runners. I expect that the Yankees will let teams like the Astros set the market before they overwhelm the southpaw with an offer of their own. Could he sign elsewhere? Of course. But again, Andy Pettitte will rue the day he signs with a team like Houston over the Yankees; he needs the Bombers as much as they need him.
Today's gossip revolves around Arizona's right-handed ace, Curt Schilling. Apparently, George would love to replace Rocket Clemens with the 37-year old Schilling. What the Yankees would have to part with (Nick Johnson?) is uncertain. I think Schilling is a loud mouthed shnook, but he is still a stud on the mound, and he probably has a few stellar years left in the tank. The question is: How many, and at what price?
Tyler Kepner has a good history of hitting and pitching coaches in the Steinbrenner era this morning in The Times (who remembers that Champ Summers once served as the hitting coach in the Bronx?). Boss George loves to tweek his managers by abusing their coaches. Rick Down offers some good insights.
Bob Raissman spoke with Yankee announcer Jim Kaat yesterday and as usual Kitty Kaat didn't pull any punches:
"I thought the Yankees overachieved," Kaat said over the telephone from his Florida home. "Go man-for-man with Boston, even the Marlins. Who would you rather have at this stage of their career? Well, a few years ago the Yankees would have had an overwhelming number of players you would pick. That's not the case anymore."
..."Because they are the Yankees, and they spend a lot of money, and because of the demands of George (Steinbrenner), everybody automatically thinks they should win the World Series," Kaat said. "A lot of the money being paid to guys is being paid for what they did in the past."
...'It's not that Yankee players don't have the right attitude, but there is such an atmosphere there that if they win it is a relief," Kaat said. "Lately there has been no joy. No enjoyment. Now it's like if you don't win the World Series you've had a miserable year."
THE MOST POWERFUL MAN YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
UNDER THE RADAR
By Tim Marchman
Tim Marchman writes about baseball for The New York Sun and is one of the brightest voices currently working in the alternative press. He had a piece today that is worth bringing to your attention, but because it is difficult to link to The Sun on-line, Tim has generously agreed to let me reprint the article for "Bronx Banter."
Frank Coonelly may be the most powerful person in baseball you’ve never heard of.
Coonelly’s job title is chief labor counsel for Major League Baseball. One AL executive told me that so far as he knew,Coonelly “coordinates our side on the arbitration stuff” and that he is on management’s committee on salaries and relations with the union. Doug Pappas, who is the chairman of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Business of Baseball Committee, puts it this way: “Coonelly is in charge of monitoring compliance with suggested draft bonuses and free-agent negotiations.”
Aside from Pappas, no one I talked to wanted to say anything about Coonelly on the record, and he didn’t answer a phone message I left at his office yesterday. But an article by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s John Hickey on Mariners pitcher Freddy Garcia’s salary arbitration case earlier this year is telling. Coonelly, in an unusual — though not unheard of — step, attended the arbitration hearing to rebut arguments made by Garcia’s agent. Hickey quotes the pitcher as saying that Coonelly “‘got pretty excited’ while he was talking.‘From what I heard about him, that’s the way he is,’ Garcia said…‘He was pretty loud.’” Garcia won the case.
A prominent player agent suggested to me that Coonelly plays a much more important role than merely popping up at arbitration cases to argue on behalf of management.
“The clubs are calling him before they sign people,” the agent said.
Now in considering such an allegation, it’s important to consider the source, and player agents have a real interest in leading people to believe that illegal collusion is going on. As I wrote on Tuesday, I don’t believe that baseball’s owners are illegally colluding to drive down player salaries, although I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if they were. The evidence, though, suggests an agreement among owners and the Commissioner’s office to honor the letter but not the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement they’ve signed.
It’s important, first, to understand that while it is illegal for owners to restrict the free-agent market by discussing with one another the offers they plan to make, that still leaves a legal grey area. As Pappas puts it, “Having clubs directly vetting one another’s offers would clearly be collusion. The owners may argue that sending them to a central information bank isn’t, but [that would be] skating on very thin ice.”
If, as the player agent implies, teams are maintaining an information bank in the person of Coonelly,it is possibly not collusive. But, possibly, it is.
The second point to understand is that it is not illegal for clubs to discuss arbitration offers they plan to make, because the player is bound to negotiate with one party. This leaves a loophole for owners to collude in fact, if not in law, against the players. What they can do is let one another know what players they will be non-tendering by running all arbitration information through a single person, such as Coonelly.
The effect of such information having to do with what is, in effect, a secondary free-agent market is to depress the primary free-agent market; after all, there’s no reason for a team to sign a second baseman now when they know that there will be another five available if they wait until mid-December.
This mechanism seems to be what agents and the players union are talking about when they intimate that there is collusion going on. It fits in with the general pattern of MLB conduct over the last few years, which has been to employ every means of driving down player salaries, short of a blatant, 1980s-style agreement not to sign free agents. For instance, the “slotting” of bonuses paid in the amateur draft, for which Coonelly is responsible, is legal only because the players union negotiated away the rights of those it doesn’t represent. The owners have exploited this mistake to the fullest.
Perhaps an information bank is being maintained; perhaps not. But the activities centered on Coonelly’s office amount to an attempt to make the collective bargaining agreement cover only those irreplaceable players whose skill will continue to command top dollars. The rest of the players — the undifferentiated mass — will be set against one another in a market that no longer functions according to the rules they thought they had negotiated. It’s a classic union-busting tactic but one that is perfectly within the rules of the game.
I hope Frank Coonelly is available for comment in the coming days. If he’s half as powerful as everyone says he is it will be one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in a while.
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE BILL JAMES
David Pinto has an forthright and instructional post today about "How to Become a Stat Head." Keep this one handy in case you ever run across someone who would like to learn about sabermetrics but doesn't necessarily know where to start.
Here is more from Red Smith, on the agony of writing:
I don't enjoy the actual labor of writing. I love my job, but I find one of the disadvantages is the several hours at the typewriter each day. That's how I pay for this nice job. And I pay pretty dearly. I sweat. I bleed. I'm a slow writer.
...When I began doing a column...I found it wasn't something that I could rip off the top of my head. I had to do it painstakingly. I'm always unhappy, very unhappy, at anything that takes less than two hours. I can do it in two hours, if I must. But my usual answer to the question, "How long does it take to write a column?" is "How much time do I have?" If I have six hours, I take it. I wish I could say that the ones that take six hours turn out better. Not necessarily. But I will say this: I do think that, over three hundred days, effort pays off. If you do the best you can every day, taking as much time as necessary, or as much time as you have, then it's going to be better than if you brushed it off.
"No Cheering in the Press Box" was released in 1973, and along with Lawrence Ritter's seminal work, "The Glory of Our Times," remains one of the great oral histories in baseball literature.
FOR PETE'S SAKE
The Mets officially introduced Rick Peterson as their new pitching coach yesterday. Again, I think this should give Mets fans something to be excited about, as Peterson has earned his reputation as one of the best in the business.
THE QUIET MAN
When I was growing up, Reggie Jackson was my favorite player. He dominanted my thoughts; he was my idol. Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph came next, but they were a distant second. The irony is when I played baseball---through high school--I actually modeled myself on Randolph, the quiet, but solid professional. Reggie was the perfect hero for a child; Randolph is the ideal role-model for an adult.
Harvey Araton has a piece in The Times this morning about why Willie should be next in line as Yankee skipper (an assumption that Don Mattingly agrees with):
He has come to work, done his job, never once embarrassed the uniform he wore. One day last season he mentioned to me how a reporter had asked him before a game against the Red Sox if he felt entitled to succeed Torre. Randolph said he couldn't believe someone who knew anything about him would have thought he would answer, at that time or any time. "I would never talk about it out of respect to that man in there," he said, nodding toward the manager's office.
The Yankee realist in me thinks that Randolph is unlikely to ever manage in the Bronx. To be fair, I don't know if he'd actually be good at the job, but it's simply too sensible to ever happen in Boss George's world. But stranger things have happened. After all, how long has Joe Torre been managing the Yanks now?
I spoke with Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter, who recently lost his home in the wild fires that ravaged southern California. He is alive and doing as well as can be expected. Ruz and his wife, Darryl were in Europe when their house went up in flames. Would you believe that Christian works in the fire-insurance business? Fortunately, they were able to place a call to a co-worker before the fire claimed their home, and Darryl's wedding dress, as well as many of their photographs were saved. (As I mentioned earlier, so were their dogs as well as their automobiles.)
Instead of flying directly home, Christian and D chose to stay in Paris for a few days. They went to the Louvre, and then went to the movies. They needed an escape. So they went to see Clint Eastwood's skillfully constructed, yet emotionally opaque, "Mystic River." Talk about a pick-me-up. Yeesh.
Ruz is back home in California now, and he is doing OK. One thing that is certain is that Christian has been absolutely humbled by the amount of support that he has recieved from the internet community. I suggested to him that the love he's gotten is a reflection of what a good man he is. Not that people wouldn't have sympathized with him regardless, but if he were a shmuck, I doubt folks would have reached out to him in the same fashion.
WE DO THIS EVERY DAY
Good morning, readers. What better way to start the day, than some words of wisdom from the late, great sportswriter, Red Smith:
Over the years people have said to me, "Isn't it dull covering baseball every day?" My answer used to be "It becomes dull only to dull minds." Today's game is always different from yesterday's game. If you have the perception and the interest to see it, and the wit to express it, your story is always different from yesterday's story. I thoroughly enjoyed covering baseball daily.
I still think every game is different, not that some of them aren't dull, but it's a rare person who lives his life without encountering dull spots. It's up to the writer to take a lively interest and see the difference.
This quote was lifted from Jerome Holtzman's fine collection of interviews with old time sports writers, "No Cheering From the Press Box." (More later...)
IN THE COUNTRY OF PROSEBALL
Donald Hall is a poet as well as a baseball fan. He co-wrote Doc Ellis' autiobiography, "The Country of Baseball," and also appeared in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary. If you are looking to fill your off-season reading list, Hall has a book of sports essays called, "Fathers Playing Catch With Sons." The collection as a whole is well worth reading, but there is one article that I especially like: "Proseball: Sports, Stories, and Style," (1982) a criticial examination of baseball writing and literature. (The article is dated, but Hall's observations are still interesting.)
Hall's analysis is sharp without being vicious. He calls out newspaper hacks (Chass), as well as pompous eggheads (Updike). However, he fawns over Roger Angell, and admires Peter Gammons and Tom Boswell (as well as Roger Kahn). I've never been a huge fan of Kahn's work, but Angell, Gammons and Boswell are three of my favorite baseball writers. Hall's description of Angell's talent is spot on:
Angell's prose is graceful and pleasant, with never a misstep, never cliche or corn or overstatement or pomposity. What a pleasure it is to read him, like the pleasure of watching effortless fielding around second base: Angell can pick it. And his overall essay construction, as well as the dance of syntax and the proportion of analogies, makes for our pleasure. He paces his paragraphs with a perfection of tact--up and down, slow and fast, back and forth--leading readers lightly, giving them just enough of each subject to leave them wanting more. I watch his essayistic trickery with admiration and despair, much as a beer league softball pitcher might observe Luis Tiant.
As for Gammons, Hall opines:
Peter Gammons is strictly a newspaper writer; he left the Globe for a year at Sports Illustrated and wasted his talent. He writes a lively, tight, observant game story, and he excels at the background column. His prose is witty, authoritative, and factual, strong with moral judgement, like an eighteenth-century historian's.
Next, Hall dubs Boswell, "the other great newspaper baseball writer of our day:"
Unlike Gammons, Boswell is inconsistent, and unlike Gammons, he is not limited to newsprint...Boswell is pure scholar of the sport as well as a naturally gifted prose writer. He is quick to write a game story on a word processor, and when he slows down to write for a monthly magazine, his pace remains lively.
But here is the kicker:
Writers are as different as athletes, who perpetually divide themselves into those who feel natural in what they do, born to their skills, and those who pride themselves on the difficulty with which they learned those skills. The first type climbed from the crib with the eye's ability to discriminate the spin of a slider. The second, instead, listened to an American Legion coach explain the virtues of the batting stance; at the hundred-thousandth repetition, the lesson was learned...Thus, there are writers who boast about the number of their revisions, and others who brag about their facility. No doubt we are never quite what we think we are or what we pretend to be; no doubt the difference represents character more than history; yet character differences are as appreciable as history. Roger Angell writes as if he practiced, Thomas Boswell as if he didn't, Peter Gammons as if he didn't need to.
I am in no way trying to compare myself with any of these great writers, but if I had to critique myself, I'd say I write as if I didn't practice (and boy does it show), but I strive to be more like Angell, who writes as if he did practice. (Actually, that's not entirely true: writing a blog every day has to count for some kind of practice.) I don't think I'm talented enough to fantasize about being a member of the third category. All I know is that writing is very difficult, and that these three writers--along with Hall--allow the reader to enjoy the fruits of their labor with a kind of pleasure that can seduce you into believing that this stuff is actually easy to do.
THE HITMAN COMETH
Don Mattingly was officially introduced as the Yankees' new hitting coach yesterday. After spending the last eight years on his farm in Indiana, it was time to return to baseball. Just ask his wife Kim, who got Boss George on the phone last week:
A booming voice said, "Big Man."
Kim answered, "It's Big Woman."
"He's at the farm."
"I want to talk to him Kimmy, I really want him up here."
"Then it just kind of flew out of my mouth," Kim Mattingly related yesterday at Yankee Stadium. "Before I could stop myself, I said, 'You know what, I think it's time he comes back your way. I'm glad I got you on the phone, I want to tell you that.'
"So then when I get hold of Donnie, I say, 'You need to come home right away and call Mr. Steinbrenner.'
"He asked, 'Why?' And I just said, 'You just need to come home and talk to him. I just told him you need to go back to coaching. And Donnie said, 'What?!' "
(Kernan: New York Post)
With his wife giving her blessings, Mattingly returns to New York, where he will presumably start the second part of his career in baseball. John Harper has a good take on Mattingly in the Daily News today and suggests that Donnie Baseball's much-publicized humility and work ethic are anything but phoney.
Mattingly wasn't born yesterday either. He understands how things work in Boss George's Universe:
"You don't get out of here alive...Everybody talks to me about 'It's great to have you back' and whatever. I am not naive in the fact that if the ballclub isn't swinging the bat after a month that I am going to be on the hot seat. That's the way it is here, and you relate that to guys and hopefully help them out."
..."There is pressure to play here and do the job," Mattingly said. "You can't be a guy who comes to New York afraid of performing. I think the same thing is expected as a coach. You have a job to do and I am not afraid of that. I feel I can help guys. I am not a savior or anything else, but I bring something to the table."
As expected, Willie Randolph will replace Don Zimmer as Joe Torre's bench coach and Luis Sojo will become the first base coach. Lee Mazzilli will coach third unless he is hired to manage the Orioles.
In other Yankee news, Andy Pettitte will become a free agent and test the market. This doesn't mean that the Yankees won't still sign him. In fact, it would come as a surprise if Pettitte didn't return to the Bronx next year. The Yankees declined to pick up Boomer Wells' option, making the hefty lefty a free agent. There is still a possibility that he could return as well. Felix Heredia also filed for free agency--declining a player option for 2004---but Yankee GM, Brian Cashman maintains that the Yankees are interested in signing both Heredia and Gabe White. Allen Barra thnks bringing the two lefty relievers back is the right move.
Lastly, Mike Mussina won the gold glove for the best fielding pitcher in the American League. Four Seattle Mariners were awarded Gold Gloves, and the M's made their fans happy yesterday by signing Edgar Martinez to a one-year deal. Somewhere, Derek Zumsteg is smiling.
Larry Mahnken has some ideas about how the Yankees should look in 2004. Warning: if you do not root for the Yankees, I think you'll be seeing red by the time you finish Larry's most recent article. Still, Mahnken's stuff is worth reading. He is a passionate fan with a talent for analysis. Oh yeah, he knows how to write too.
SAY HEY BY THE BAY
Bryan Smith continues his Hot Stove reports this week, covering the Giants with Matt Durham of The Southpaw, and the A's with fellas over at Elephants in Oakland. These are wonderfully in-depth posts. It's hard not to be impressed with just how bright and well-informed some blogger-analysts--like the guys at Elephants in Oakland--are. Well worth the trip.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Billy Wagner is sad to be leaving Houston, and he's offended that nobody in the Astros front office had the decency to talk to him about the trade in person:
"There's no hard feelings about being traded, because I knew it was coming," Wagner told the Chronicle from his home in Virginia. "I just don't see the respect. If you're going to try to show me up, that's just disrespectful. I never said anything negative about them. I just said what I thought we should do to win."
..."If you're trying to win a championship, you don't get rid of a closer you continually say is one of the best," Wagner said. "If you want to win, you don't cut salary. That's just common sense."
Jayson Stark covers the trade over at ESPN, and confirms the Astros interest in Andy Pettitte.
Meanwhile, the White Sox hired Ozzie Guillen as their new manager yesterday. It will be interesting to see if the affable Guillen gets the White Sox to play the spirited kind of ball that Tony Pena got out of the Royals this past year.
THINKING OF RUZ
Jay Jaffe has a great post about The Cub Reporter, Christian Ruzich over at Futility Infielder. Edward Cossette offered his thoughts on Ruz's recent loss yesterday. Will Carroll and I were talking about how we can offer support Ruz, and for the time being I think Jay has the right idea:
Ruz already has a means of accepting donations to support his weblog via PayPal. If you're reading this, I ask you to consider digging a little something out of your wallet. It's not going to bring his home or his possessions back, but it will remind him that he's got a lot of people pulling for him, and taken altogether, the money might be enough to replace an item that really meant something to him.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Later this afternoon, the Yankees will announce that Don Mattingly--one of the most popular players in team history--will return to the Bronx next season as hitting coach. This is a move that is certain to appease Yankee fans. Outside of New York, I doubt that anyone will even raise an eyebrow. And if they do it will be to wonder why Mattingly is so venerated in New York.
The New York papers are speculating that Willie Randolph will replace Don Zimmer as bench coach, and if Lee Maz isn't hired to manage the Orioles, he will move from first to third, opening first for Luis Sojo. Former Yankee cather, Joe Girardi was offered Sojo's gig as special assignment coach, but turned it down. Mel Stottlemyre is still a question mark to return as pitching coach, but it's my feeling that he'll be back too.
I don't know how much better the Yankees offense will be next season simply because Mattingly is the hitting coach. I tend to think that the importance of a hitting coach is inflated. However, as a ceremonial move, I absolutely love it. According to Bill Madden, so does George. I was thirteen years old when Mattingly played his first full season (1984), and he was one of my favorite players during my teenage years. He was the patron Saint of Joe Torre's Yankees: The Man Who Wasn't There.
Mattingly was still active when Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada got their first glimpse of the Majors, and Bernie Williams played with him for several seasons. The Yankees are hoping that Mattingly will help the Yankee offense become more selective and patient. Mattingly didn't strike out much during his career, but he also didn't walk much either. Mattingly's season-high in walks was 61 (1993). For his career, Mattingly whiffed 444 times and walked 588 times. Mattingly was a line drive hitter, who put the ball in play.
Tom Boswell remarked on Mattingly's talent back 1985 (from the collection "Heart of the Order"):
For historical reference, the Musial analogy works [with Mattingly]. Left-handed hitter. Eccentric closed and coiled stance. Sprays the ball. Tons of doubles. Not too many walks. Hard to strike out.
"He doesn't look like Musial, but he hits like him," says Orioles manager Earl Weaver. "Musial was the best at adjusting once the ball left the pitcher's hand. He'd hit the pitcher's pitch. Williams was the best at making them throw his pitch. He didn't believe in adjusting. If it wasn't what he wanted, he knew enough to walk to first base. That's why he hit .406.
Once every coupla games, a Musial or Mattingly is going to adjust and put that tough pitch in play instead of walking and you're going to get some extra outs. But he's also going to drive you crazy by popping a perfect fastball on the fists down the left-field line for a double."
Perhaps Mattingly can help Soriano or Aaron Boone a bit, but what he really brings to the team, is a solid work ethic. He was a grinder as a player, and I'm sure he'll be a grinder as a coach (to be fair, it was often said that Rick Down was one of the hardest workers on the Yankee staff last year as well). Mattingly is young enough to command respect from the players, and he fits right in with Randolph, Sojo and Torre. While it may make Yankee-haters roll their eyes, it sure feels good to have Donnie Baseball back in the Bronx.
WAG THE DUCK
Things just got more difficult for the Mets and the rest of the National League East. Peter Gammons is reporting that the Phillies have traded starting pitcher Brandon Duckworth to the Astros in exchange for closer Billy Wagner. The teams are scheduled to have a press conference this afternoon. We'll know more later in the day.
Worried Yankee fans can breath a sigh of relief: Wagner will not be a Red Sox. Greedy Yankee fans: Go Fly a Kite. He won't be wearing Pinstripes either.
I buy three papers each morning before I get on the subway: The Times, The Daily News and the Post. There were no baseball stories in The Times this morning. Not one. (It was a long ride to work today.) The Post and the News had a few minor ones. Both had small blurbs about Don Zimmer, who evidently has not been contacted by the Tampa Bay D-Rays for a coaching position (I haven't been able to find the articles on-line yet).
The other story of note is that Bobby Valentine is in Japan and is expected to return to the Lotte Marines, a team he managed in 1995. The AP is reporting that he will sign a three-year deal to manage the team again. ESPN will lose Valentine after Bobby V's fine rookie campaign as an analyst.
It's hard not to admire Valentine's moxie. Talk about going against the grain. With Japan's biggest stars focused on breaking into the Majors, Valentine is saying, "Damn the Torpedos: Eastward Ho!" And why not? He's a charasmatic personality who will most likely only see his celebrity grow this time around in Japan.
JACKING FOR BEATS
Peter Gammons invented The Sunday Notes column when he wrote for The Boston Globe in the 1970s. Gammons can still crank out a satisfying Notes column for ESPN, and Gordon Edes--the top baseball writer at the Globe these days--does a fine job of it himself too. Jack Curry--filling in for Murray Chass--does his variation for The New York Times and Bill Madden holds down the fort for The Daily News.
As Will Carroll suggests, Gammons is at his best when writing about the Boston Red Sox:
[Manny] Ramirez wants to leave the Red Sox and play for the Yankees. He was offered a chance to opt out of his current contract, but we're told the union wouldn't allow him to do that -- the "union" that lectures us about rights of the sweat shop inmates who play baseball, unless those rights have to do with trying to trade happiness for dollars, a right forbidden by the MLBPA.
Then, incredibly, Moorad told any newspaperman or talk show host who'll listen how Manny is happy in Boston, he just prefers playing for the Yankees. Unbleepingbelievable. Oh, great. And Manny is going to be upset when he gets booed the first time he doesn't run at full speed on a ground ball to short?
...What the Red Sox pulled has been widely applauded across baseball. "First of all," says an American League general manager, "it sends a message to Manny to shut up and stop talking about a trade because no one wants him at that price. For anyone associated with Manny to say 'the Red Sox should eat some of the money' is a joke. He wants out, the agent wants out, they should eat the money. But, beyond that, isn't this a reminder that the player and the agent bear some responsibility for accepting $160 million? The evidence right now is that they bear absolutely no responsibility."
Sticking with Boston, Edes confirms the A-Rod-to-the-Red-Sox rumors:
One club source insisted that an A-Rod/Garciaparra swap never has been discussed, and Sox ownership has maintained all summer it feels an obligation to make every effort to re-sign Garciaparra. But the Rangers have made it known they would move A-Rod, who at 28 is unchallenged as the game's best all-around player.
Unlike Garciaparra, who finds the working environment here miserable, Rodriguez has the personality to not only handle all the attention but thrive on it. It's one of those Williams-for-DiMaggio swaps you think could never happen, until you find out after the fact that it was discussed.
Also, here is a good tidbit for all you "Moneyball" fans:
Did this conversation really take place? We heard that it did. During Game 7 of the ALCS, A's GM Billy Beane called Sox GM Theo Epstein and told him, "Remember who helped you get where you got -- don't screw it up."
IN FULL DEFECT
Here is some more information on the two Cuban ballplayers who have recently defected to the States.
Meanwhile, I'm sure nobody will be shocked to learn that Manny Ramirez is still a member of the Boston Red Sox this morning, although Ramirez's agent says that Manny would still love to be traded to New York.
CLEARING THE AIR
Joe Torre is not normally asked to sit in on Boss George's annual Tampa meetings. He did attend this week however, and in his first comments to the media since the end of the World Serious, Torre shared what he told his Boss. According to Tyler Kepner in The Times:
"I talked about some of the things I didn't appreciate, as far as some of the statements and things that went on all year," Torre said during a conference call yesterday..."It was basically a one-sided conversation. The fact is I said something I needed to say and did it, I'd like to believe, in a diplomatic way."
... "This is the last year of my contract," Torre said. "I certainly am not politicking for an extension. I do not know if I'm going to do it after this year. But I'm looking forward to this next year. Hopefully all the baseball and all the good things that happen on the field will offset what happens off the field.
"I don't know what those are going to be; none of us do. It was a little unusual this year. But when you own the ball club and you spend the money Mr. Steinbrenner spends, you understand the frustration. But I hope everybody is understanding of what it takes to win on a regular basis. I'm not complaining about it. I know we've been there every year. But I want to let people know it's not that easy."
Joe Torre might not be the greatest manager in the game—he's got his shortcomings and flaws to be sure—but I know that having been raised in Boss George's Yankee Universe, I sleep better at night knowing that Joe is around. And that's the truth: thhhpppt.
Christian Ruzich, who runs The Cub Reporter, invited me to join his site, all.baseball.com mid-way through the summer. Along with Jay Jaffe, Edward Cossette and Will Carroll, Ruz has become one of my closest baseball pals this year. So it is difficult to express how upset I'm feeling. If you head over to The Cub Reporter you'll learn that Ruz and his wife Darryl's house was a casuality of the great fires that have been sweeping California. They've lost their home (and so did Christian's dad). Fortunately, their dogs were saved. And Christian and D have each other, which is what is most important.
I've never lived through an experience remotely like the one Ruz and D are facing, and I don't quite know how to express my sympathy to them. What I really feel is humbled because I'm so helpless to "fix" the problem. Will Carroll wrote a touching piece on his page today and he feels at a loss as well. Will and I exchanged e-mails yesterday wondering what we can do to help Ruz and D out. We haven't come up with anything solid yet, but perhaps we can initiate a fund-raiser to help Ruz out.
Maybe he'll need a new computer or a new TV. We could also simply raise some money and then give it to Ruz as a gift and let him spend it how he wants. Anyhow, I know how popular Christian's site is, and I know he's got a loyal following. If each one of his faithful readers would give just a couple of bucks, I'm sure we could hook Ruz up with something nice, just to let him know how much we feel for him, and to let him know how we feel about him.
If anyone has any suggestions, let Will Carroll or me know. We'll be trying to figure something out over the next week or so—I'll be sure to keep readers aprised of the situation. I know that you can make donations to Ruz on the home page of The Cub Reporter, and maybe that's the best way to go—we'll see. But for now, I just want to let Ruz know that he's got friends all over the country thanks to his distinct voice and the wonders of the internet. He's sure got one here in New York City. I'm looking out over the Bronx on a warm and cloudy Saturday morning, and am sending Ruz and his wife all the best.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.