Monthly archives: November 2005
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are close to signing Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year deal worth more than $17 million. Last season Cliff and I agreed that "Meat" was a fitting nickname for Carl Pavano, but if the Yanks ink Farnsworth, Pavano will face some stiff competition for the moniker. They have different builds--Farnsworth is sculpted and looks as if he just stepped out of a comic book, and I'm willing to bet that ol' Kyle is a good deal dimmer than Carl. At least we know he's effective in a brawl. Farnsworth is the proto-typical "million dollar arm, ten cent head" Nuke Laloosh hurler. Perhaps he's better than I give him credit for, and maybe he'll be as good if not better than Flash Gordon, but I'm still cautious. He does throw gas, and has a nasty breaking ball, but there is something about the guy I just don't trust. This might not be fair, but the sports radio caller in me is thinking Benitez-lite (and Armando is good, just dubious in big spots). Oh, well. I don't have to like the guy. Hopefully, I'm wrong and he'll be a success if he comes to town.
Fight the Power
When Vic Power went into a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas in the early 1950s, a waitress promptly told him, "We don't serve Negroes."
On this date in 1952, Jackie Robinson appeared on the TV program "Youth Wants to Know" and was asked if the New York Yankees were bigoted toward black ballplayers. According to Jules Tygiel's seminal book "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy," Robinson replied, "I think the Yankee management is prejudiced. There isn't a single Negro on the team now and very few in the entire Yankee farm system." The two most notable black prospects in the organization were Vic Pellot Power and Elston Howard. Power, who passed away yesterday after a lengthy battle with cancer, remembered years later, "I think they were waiting for my skin to turn white."
As the Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez-to-center field story gained steam yesterday, it was refuted by both Brian Cashman and Joe Torre. That didn't stop Steven Goldman, Mike Lupica, and Murray Chass from weighing in on the matter though. Even if the story is just that, a story, it managed to capture the back page of both the Daily News and Newsday on a day when Billy Wagner and the Mets were celebrating their new union.
In other news, the team is reportedly interested in signing relievers Flash Gordon, Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers. They also came to a one-year deal worth $650,000 with Kelly Stinnett to replace John Flaherty as Jorge Posada's back-up.
There are some Met fans who've loved to chide the Yankees as the best team money can buy over the years. Welp, that diss goes out the window now that Omar Minaya and the Mets are doing their best impression of the big, bad Bombers. (I'm actually excited for the Shea faithful and hope their team wins the NL East next year.) Meanwhile, the Yankees are reportedly interested in Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers for their bullpen, while the Phillies are hot after Flash Gordon. Johnny Damon is still (fortunately) a pipe dream to play center field in New York next year, and many inside the Yankee organization feel that Brian Giles will likely remain on the west coast (or land in Toronto perhaps).
So how about this for a development? Joe Torre told Reuters yesterday that the team has been thinking about the possibility of moving either Derk Jeter or Alex Rodriguez to center:
"We've thought about it," Torre told the international wire service. "We just haven't made a commitment to that. We haven't broached it with the shortstops."
As Sam Borden notes in the Daily News:
Speculation about Jeter making a move to the outfield isn't new and, if one of the players were to move he'd be the more likely candidate. Even before A-Rod arrived in New York there had always been a small segment of the Yankee population proposing that the captain's ability to read the ball off the bat and his uncanny ability to go back and catch fly balls over his shoulder made him a natural candidate to finish his career as an outfielder.
Count me as one of the small segment of Yankee fans who've believed that Jeter would make a decent center fielder. Yeah, Robin Yount was always the comp that came to mind too. But while I still believe that Jeter would be a better gamble in center than Rodriguez, Yount was 29 when he made the transition back in 1985, whereas Jeter turns 32 next May (Murcer, Mantle and Aaron were all far younger than that when they moved). Those couple of years could make a big difference in how effective Jeter could be. I would be surprised if the Yankees actually went ahead with such a radical experiment, still, it's interesting that Torre even mentioned it. What if Jeter moved to center, Rodriguez went back to short and the Bombers inked Nomar to play third?
Calm Before the Storm
With the winter meetings drawing near, Ken Rosenthal has been extra busy these days. In his latest column, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers are very interested in Brian Giles. Considering Giles' reported desire to remain on the west coast, it isn't crazy to think that the Dodgers are the favorites now. Meanwhile, the Phillies are suddenly making a strong push for Flash Gordon. With B.J. Ryan off the market, and Billy Wagner likely to remain in the National League, the selection of established quality relievers are dwindling quickly. Regardless, they all seem in line to make a pretty penny before reporting to camp. According to Anthony McCarron in the Daily News:
As one agent who represents a free agent reliever this winter put it: "Were we happy about the Ryan contract? Oh, yes."
So, what are the Yankees going to do?
Rich Lederer thinks that the Padres are making a huge error letting Brian Giles get away:
I'll take an All-Star and a replacement player over two middle-of-the-road types. In other words, I would have no problem paying a "difference maker" $10 million per season even if it limited me to giving another guy the minimum ($316,000 in 2005). I believe using one's resources in this manner will generally beat the alternative of paying two average players $5 million each, especially when it involves free agents.
Some think that Giles will eventually wind up in St. Louis. I still hope the Bombers nab him. I think he'd be a fine Yankee.
Sit and Wait
Giles' agent, Joe Bick, said yesterday he had told the Padres that Giles would be "moving on" after San Diego rejected a recent contract counter-proposal. Asked if the Padres no longer were an avenue for Giles, Bick said, "Correct."
Meanwhile, according to News reporter Anthony McCarron:
The Yankees have been getting calls from opposing teams wanting to trade for Carl Pavano, who endured a forgettable 2005 season marred by ineffectiveness and injury. But even in a winter in which they perhaps have been hamstrung by a lack of attractive trading chips and a reluctance to deal young players such as Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees say they are not shopping Pavano.
Several major-league executives were in disbelief when they heard the reported terms. Their shock will turn to anger if the deal is completed and they are forced to bid for free agents in a grossly inflated market. Major League Baseball officials would be equally outraged, knowing their pleas for fiscal responsibility are again being ignored.
It's a good season to be a relief pitcher. Sounds like everyone is going to get paaaaaaid.
The Fool on the Hill
I remember playing stickball out in Brooklyn four or five summers back. On one particular afternoon I was pitching and getting pounded. I wasn't fooling the batters with anything. If I tried to be cute, I wasn't coming anywhere near the box on the wall. When I tried my best David Wells and simply put the ball over the plate, they murdered me.
So there I was, getting pounded, aiming the ball, with no confidence that I could throw strikes or record an out. Now, this was a friendly game of stickball, played with a group of semi-competent/semi-serious jocks. At one point, when I looked exasperated, my brother, who was on my team that day, walked over to me. I took off my cap and mopped my brow with the top of the hat and exhaled. Man, was it hot. I was red-faced and sweating and feeling all alone. And guilty. Here I am costing my team runs and my two fielders are standing around with their hands in their pants waiting for you to stop stinkin up the jernt.
"You okay?" He asked and touched my arm. He knew I was starting to implode and also knew there was nothing he could do to make it any better. But he'd been in the same spot before, just as I had been in the position of ptiching well, retiring hitters with relative ease. "Hey, this is supposed to be fun, remember?"
Oh yeah, funny how it's hard to lose sight of that when you can't throw a strike and everything else you toss up there is getting whacked around the vicinity. Mind you, this was just a knock around game of stickball played by some baseball nerds in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning.
But at the very least, it was a simulation of the same situations pitchers encounter all the time. This came to mind this evening when I stumbled across "Pitchers Do Get Lonely," a column that Ira Berkow published in the New York Times back on July 22, 1987. The lead went as follows:
With the Yankees losing 18-3, in the bottom of the eighth in Texas--even after a few days, the score still reads like a typographical error---Lou Piniella did the unusual, though not the unreasonable. Rather than waste one of his regular relief pitchers in that forlorn enterprise, he saved his sirloin and served the Rangers chopped liver.
Amen to that, dude. It sure can be.
Mike Piazza's old spring training Tango partner Guillermo Mota, a talented right-handed set-up reliever who had a down year in 2005 after two fine seasons in 03-04, was included in the Josh Beckett trade at the last moment. According to The Boston Globe:
The Sox, according to a major league source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, threatened to call off the deal because of health concerns over Beckett unless the Marlins included Mota. And so, on the busiest shopping day of the year, the Sox can sit back today pleased with not only a full cart of goods but what appears to be at bargain prices.
Meanwhile, the Daily News reports that B.J. Ryan, the hard throwing southpaw coveted by the Yankees and a host of other teams around the league, is close to signing a five-year, $47 million deal to become the closer of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays are also rumored to be hot after starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, and may even trade their erstwhile closer Miguel Batista to the Rangers for Kevin Mench, the only outfielder in the majors with a larger noggin than Godzilla Matui.
Beckett, Mota, Ryan--who'd be moving from Baltimore to Toronto, the chance of Burnett joining him: the AL East is adding some arms. With Billy Wagner set to to ink a big deal either with the Mets or back in Philly, Trevor Hoffman remains as the best high-profile reliver left on the market. I doubt that there is any chance that he'd want to become an eighth inning guy at this stage in his career, what with so many saves already to his name, but he'd be a swell cherce to set-up Rivera. Again, I don't think Hoffman's ego could handle it (understandably so too), but with Ryan gone, it's a nice little fantasy.
Serve You Up (Like Stove Top Stuffin')
Carlos Delgado, who I've always found to be one of the more likable players in the game (he sure has a million-dollar smile), is headed for Flushing, and last night the Phillies sent Jim Thome to the White Sox in exchange for Aaron Rowand and other things. The Yankees had been interested in Chicago's center fielder, and according to Newsday and the Daily News, may now try and work a deal out with the Phillies for their 29-year old part-time center fielder, Jason Michaels.
Brian Giles remains a possibility as well. It appears that he will not be able to work something out with the Padres after all. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:
The likelihood of Brian Giles returning to the Padres next season took a severe hit yesterday when the club rejected a three-year proposal that the right fielder's agent said was "significantly less" than what Giles can get elsewhere.
The Yankees, Cardinals and Cubs are just three teams that are likely to go there.
Regardless, or irregardless as they sometimes like to say in the Bronx, best wishes to all for a safe, satiating and soporific Holidaze afternoon.
Gorilla My Dreamz
With the Red Sox and Mets grabbing the local headlines this week, and the Yankees chillin on the back burner, I've been thinking about books devoted to the Bronx Zoo Era for the past two days. One of the better, yet lesser known ones is, "Pinstripe Pandemonium" a slim record of the 1983 season written by Village Voice reporter Geoffrey Stokes. That season had plenty of infamous Yankee turmoil, but Stokes' book stands out for it's thoughtful passages on Don Baylor, Steve Kemp, and Goose Gossage. Here is the Goose talking about the nature of his job:
"Sometimes, after a bad loss, I'm amazed that I can go out there the next day and do anything at all. But fortunately," he grinened, "there's this gorilla in me that just takes over.
''Everybody in the game would love to have him," said a major league executive, who added that most teams stayed away from Beckett because they were unwilling to take on Lowell's salary. "He's got a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball, and a plus changeup, and he comes right at you. He's a horse."
As the Yankees find themselves coming up short in the free agent market, the Mets rolled out the red carpet for Billy Wagner yesterday and the Red Sox and Marlins were on the verge of closing a deal that would send erstwhile Yankee Mike Lowell, and power-pitcher Josh Beckett to Boston for three minor league players, including Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. Lowell makes a lot of money and had a terrible season last year, but he's also solid defender and maybe, just maybe, he will rebound hitting at Fenway Park. I've always been fond of the guy because of his Yankee roots and his steady demeanor. I saw him walk into Shea Stadium a few years ago, and in person, he's got the George Clooney vibe down pat.
Beckett still has two years before he becomes a free agent and is nothing short of a stud. He has shown flashes of greatness--as we Yankee fans remember all too well--but seven trips to the DL in the past four years has prevented him from staying on the field never mind becoming an elite pitcher. The potential is clearly there: I can easily see Beckett emerge as one the American League's best starters. His health has to be a concern, but he's not making an obscene amount of money and when he's right, Beckett will be handful for the rest of the league to deal with.
David Pinto opines:
So Boston has a new ace. I also take it that Bill Mueller is out of the picture. At this point I'd much rather have Mueller than Lowell. Mike's career took a big plunge in 2005, and I don't believe it's a fluke. Lowell came into 2005 a .277 career hitter. Given his 500 at bats, the 95% confidence interval for Mike's expected hits was 119 to 158. Mike banged out just 118 hits in 2005. Rather than just being bad luck, it looks like Lowell decline was real.
Rich Lederer adds:
I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America last night for his perspective on the trade. Jim follows the Red Sox closely and is an expert when it comes to evaluating young players. "Ramirez and Sanchez are two of Boston's four best prospects, along with Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester. There probably wasn't another team out there willing to give up a shortstop prospect and a starting pitching prospect combo as good as Ramirez and Sanchez."
It is cold and rainy in New York, but there's a blister in the sun up in Boston. It's been a strange off-season thus far for Red Sox fans, but perhaps this will give them something to be thankful for come Turkey Day.
Steve Lombardi takes a closer look at the bullpen over at Was Watching.
Those Were the Days...
Hardly a peep about the Yanks to start the holiday week. The Mets are busy entertaining Billy Wagner and it appears that the Marlins are set to have another tag sale, but all is quiet in the Bronx. So I thought this might be a good opportunity to dig in the archives and pull out something in honor of giving thanks. Thanks for the relative sanity the organization has presented to the fans over the past decade, and thanks for the memories for the wild old days.
The Bronx Zoo Yankees would make for a great movie. It may be redundant to make a fictionalize version of a team that was so theatrical in it's own right, but that's okay. If they can make full-length features out of Scooby Doo and Fat Albert, they can make one on the 70's Yankees too.
I doubt it would ever happen in George's lifetime, but it's a cinch for a comedy classic. Too bad that 70's Retro is now passe. I picture the Bronx Zoo movie to be a cross between "Slap Shot" and "Boogie Nights"; "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "The Turning Point"; "The Bad News Bears" and "The Poseidan Adventure." And maybe a dash of "Car Wash" to top it off. It would definitely have to have a "R" rating.
The costumes and soundtrack alone would be worth the price of admission. Get a group of terrific spaz method actors, and you're set.
Ed Linn's book "Steinbrenner's Yankees" details the Billy, George, Reggie years expertly, and provides excellent fodder for a script. Bill Madden and Moss Klein's "Damned Yankees" is also essential Bronx Zoo reading. (Both books can be had for peanuts on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles used section on-line.)
Here is an example that caught my funny bone: It is spring training, 1977. Reggie Jackson had just brought his star with him to Yankee camp after the Big Red Machine swept the Yankees the year before. Already, the camp was fraught with tension. But Reggie doesn't appear in this scene...
Plenty of Nuthin'
Not a lot of encouraging signs for the Yankees and the free agent market over the past few days. The search for bullpen help is looking kinda grim at this point. Reports from Newsday and The Daily News suggest that the team is not close to any kind of deal with Brian Giles. Joe Torre, whose recruitment call to reliever Scott Eyre did not convince the southpaw to come to the Bronx, has reportedly been playing phone tag with Giles. While some feel that Giles--likely a one-year, part-time stop-gap at center--isn't suited to the position, others suggest there is no way he'll come to New York either.
Fortunately, the Bombers don't appear to have any interest in trading for Florida's Juan Pierre, but they have poked around about free agent Johnny Damon, who is bound to earn a pretty penny from someone by the time training camp opens.
The other news that made the rumor mill a few days back was that Carl Pavano was unhappy in pinstripes last year and wants to be dealt. The Tigers is the name that has popped up as a possible suitor. There's been nothing from Pavano directly, and I have to say, I've got precious little sympathy for the man. I understand that New York and Boston aren't suited for everyone--fair enough. But don't take a boatload of dough and then start riffing. Hey Stoonatz, what did you think it was going to be like in the Bronx? What, were you born yesterday, you incredible putz you?
Jane Leavy, who wrote the acclaimed Sandy Koufax biography, is currently researching her next project, a biography of Mickey Mantle. Originally, her latest book was going to be about Willie-Mickey-and the Duke, but, due to several factors--including the fact that for all of the ink spilled on Mantle there hasn't ever really been a great book about him--it is now a Mickey book. That doesn't mean that Mays and Snider won't still figure prominently in the narrative though. Currently, Leavy is interested in hearing from anyone with any recollections or memories of all three players. In particular, she'd love to find someone who saw Mays play stickball in the streets of Harlem, and anyone who was a Willie-guy and would make the case that he he was the best of the three.
As far as Mantle goes, Leavy wrote me in a recent e-mail:
"These are the dates of major interest in Mantle's career that I will focus on. I would want to speak to anyone who attended any of the following games or who has a particular memory associated with these events. I am also looking for anyone who saw him at The Claridge Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Needless-to-say any fabulous Mantle anecdotes are welcome. I set up a new e-mail address where I can be contacted. It is: BaseballJaneDC@aol.com."
If you know of anyone who may be able to help out, please pass this along. I know Leavy sure would appreciate it.
What to Do?
General Manager Brian Cashman met with the Yankee brass down in Tampa yesterday to discuss the team's course of action this winter. While they are hot on Brian Giles, reports have it that BJ Ryan is not likely to come to the Bronx as a set up man. Scott Eyre signed with the Cubs yesterday. Tom Gordon wants to close. Do all signs point to knucklehead Kyle Farnsworth? Oy.
Vitamins L-O-V-and E
I've got a guest article over at Rich Lederer's Baseball Analysts site today. It is a piece about women and baseball and well as a tribute to a great friend of mine. The post is one that is close to my heart and if you have the time, head on over and check it out. Thanks.
Mr. Torre is on the Line
Whether or not it is a long shot, the Yankees appear to be serious about the possibility of bringing Brian Giles to the Bronx. Brian Cashman has spoken with Giles' agent six times in the past ten days, and Joe Torre has even picked up the phone, as he did with Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi in the past, to brief Giles on what it is like to play in New York. According to The Daily News:
"In those situations, I just want to talk to (players) about what it's like to come to New York," Torre said, speaking generally about his approach to these types of conversations. "It's not that complex. I remember when I did it with (Mike) Mussina, who people said he wouldn't want to come here. I just want to give them an idea of what's true about playing here and what's not."
Meanwhile, Michael Morrisey reports in the Post that Cashman spoke with Bernie Williams' agent, Scott Boras briefly on Tuesday:
"I told him, it's for another day," Cashman said. "In the event there's a role here for Bernie, it would be a secondary role, not an everyday situation.
I like Bernie so much that I would be happy to see him return in Ruben Sierra's role. But as several fans have pointed out recently, Williams on the bench makes them nervous, mostly because they feel that Torre--who loves his veterans--would wind up giving Williams far more burn than he deserves.
The Gang's All Here
On a hot August evening last summer I met a guy named Bill Kent on my way home. We got to talking and as it turns out, he is a great New York Giants fan. He told me that he gets together with a group of old Giants fans several times a year and invited me to come along to one of the gatherings. I missed the shindig in September but last night, I headed up to the Hunan Balcony on Johnson avenue in Riverdale--just a few blocks away from my apartment--for Chinese and baseball with a dozen or so other fans.
I used to swear by the old Groucho Marx line (filtered through Woody Allen) about not wanting to belong to any kind of club that would have someone like me for a member, but am happy to say, I'm way past that now. I am honored to hang around or be associated with a group of baseball nerds, regardless of their age. There was a reporter there from The Riverdale Press who is a few years younger than me, and we were by the far the youngest of the group. Most of the guys were Giants fans, but there was also a Dodger fan, and a guy who was simply a baseball fan too. Some kept up with the Giants once they moved to the west coast, while others gravitated to the Mets, and even more, to the Yankees.
They were great company. I peppered them with questions about Leo the Lip, Bill Rigney, Alvin Dark, and the Polo Grounds shuttle, a train that ran from Manhattan over the east river and into the Bronx. As we were breaking up for the night, Steve, who I had not gotten the chance to really chat with because of where we had been sitting, asked if I had gotten a satisfactory answer to my subway question. I told him that I hadn't, and being a subway buff, he gave me the skinny. As it turns out, the 9th avenue El, which was discontinued in 1939, went up the west side of Manhattan and then curved over into the bronx, over a bridge that is no longer there, and connected with the Woodlawn line (or the Lexington avenue line, the 4 train, as it is more commonly known). Well, when they took down the line, they kept the last portion of it, primarily as a way to get from the Bronx to the Polo Grounds.
The baseball talk was terrific. Bill, holding court, made some announcements about a mailing list and getting a Giants newsletter, and then had some random interjections like, "They've got brown rice if anyone wants." There were stories about Yankee third baseman named Celerino Sanchez, as well as the slow-footed catcher Ernie Lombardi, who evidentally was even slower than the Molina brothers are today. Bill told us of the time that he and a kid from his neighborhood, a wiseass named Lenny, heckled Lomardi from the bleachers at the Polo Grounds before the game. He was busting on Lombardi for being so slow and Lombardi went after little Lenny with the high-pitched voice and according to Bill, chased him the length of the field. Bill said he spoke to Lenny not so long ago, and Lenny was still sore about Lombardi going after him.
The guys had terrific faces--one looked like he could be related to Yogi Berra, another like he could be Whitey Ford's cousin. One guy looked like Ron Silver, another like basketball broadcaster Bill Raftery, another like a cross between Edmund Wilson and Gordon Jump. One fella brought posters to show us, and another is writing a book about Bill Terry. And even better than their mugs was their accents--bonafide New Yorkese, man. It was like listening to music--everyone gabbing over each other. Really, I was in heaven. I mean, how great is it to learn about a guy with a name like Celerino Sanchez eating chicken with Broccoli with a group of baseball guys in the Bronx? Riddle me that.
Oh, and when the fortune cookies and orange slices came, everyone grabbed for the cookies but nobody read their fortunes aloud. Know what mine said? "Love." I've never had a one word fortune before, but that one just about said it all.
Yankees Sign Matsui
As expected, the Bombers inked outfielder Hideki Matsui to a four-year deal, worth $52 million. It is a steep price to pay, but even if Matsui doesn't give the Yankees great value on the field for the duration of the contract, his stature as Japan's greatest star means big bucks for the team. Matsui was a relative bargain for the past three years and has been a solid, and exceedingly affable player.
The Yanks also excerised their option on Taynon Sturtze, who will make $1.5 million in 2006.
I can't begin to tell you how pleased I am to have the AL MVP race decided and behind us. In fact, I think I'm more pleased that I won't have to hear about it any more than I am that the voters got the top two spots right. With that all said and done, the BBWAA will make its final award announcement this afternoon when they name an MVP for the National League.
Despite the cockamamie logic of some who think the trophy should be heading to Atlanta, this is a two-man race, and neither of those men is Andruw Jones. Observe:
It pains me to even include Jones in the above chart, but, having done so, I think it's painfully obvious that he doesn't belong.
"I don't care much about the number of years," Matsui told Kyodo News Sunday. "You might think the longer a deal runs, the better. But it's not necessarily so because I can be given the same opportunity as I have now again if it runs over a relatively short period."
By midnight tonight, Matsui will have his new deal.
In a minor note, relief pitcher Taynon Sturtze is due to become a free agent tomorrow if the Yankees don't exercise his $1.5 million option today. Michael Morrissey reports in the Post that, "A team source said no final decision had been made, but the Yanks are leaning toward keeping him."
Yer Great, but You Suck
As I happily reported the news that Alex Rodriguez had won the AL MVP to Yankee fans around the office yesterday, more than a few rolled their eyes and immediately made a disparaging remark about his performance against the Angels in the ALDS. Today, the back page of the Daily News reads, "More Bling (But No Ring)" while the Post screams "MVP But...Lack of rings rarnishes A-Rod's second AL trophy."
Rodriguez is the first Yankee to win an MVP since Don Mattingly nabbed it in 1985, and is the fourth player to win the award at two different positions. Jeez, I don't recall there being so many qualifiers when Mattingly won. No, for this kind of contempt and lack of appreciation you've got to think back on how Darryl Strawberry, or Rickey Henderson or Dave Winfield were often treated in New York. Nothing they did was ever good enough. Give us a World Serious championship or You Stink. Wa-wa-wah. Sometimes New Yorkers are nothing but a bunch of big babies.
Forget about the fact the fact that Rodriguez has just recorded the two best seasons ever by a Yankee third baseman. Sir, he's no Derek Jeter (nevermind that his regular season numbers against the Red Sox for the past two years are better than the captains, or the fact that Jeter's two Gold Glove awards can be partly attributed to Rodriguez's arrival at the hot corner). Rodriguez is a playoff bust. Nevermind the fact that he sported a .330 career playoff average going into the post-season this year. Forget the great series he had against the Twins in the ALDS in 2004. Let's just recall how he did in the last four games against Boston in 2004, not the first three games. Let's gloss over how poorly Matsui and Sheffield performed over that span. As a matter of fact, let's forget everything Rodriguez has brought to New York but his failures.
When he won the award in 2003 it didn't count because he played for a bad Rangers team, this year it doesn't count because the Bombers didn't win the World Serious. Mike Lupica, who has criticized the Yankees in recent years for being joyless, and Yankee fans for buying into Steinbrenner's culture of entitlement, is just one of many local columnists who doesn't appreciate what Rodriguez has done in New York. He focuses on what he hasn't done. Man, Lupica kind of sounds like...a typical Yankee fan, doesn't he?
Look, I'm not saying that Rodriguez is the most likable player in town. In fact, I understand why it is easy not to like him. I also think that there is some truth to the notion that he can tense-up in big situations. Not always, but sometimes. But man, if a player ever has to have a flaw, I'd rather it be because he's trying too hard and not hard enough. Regardless, Rodriguez's performance in big games isn't as poor as Barry Bonds' was for many years, or even Mike Schmidt's for a few years there. In fact, you can check the record books and find any number of great players--including the likes of Mickey Mantle--who had horrible post seasons. The point is, the coverage Rodriguez has received has been grossly unfair. Moreover, it is sad when we can't recognize a player's accomplishments because we are so fixated on what they haven't yet accomplished. Yeah, yeah, I know, it comes with the territory with Rodriguez. But does it have to come with the territory for us as fans too?
I'm proud to report that Alex Rodriguez was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League this afternoon. In a close ballot, Rodriguez got 331 total points, to David Ortiz's 307. This is Rodriguez's second career MVP. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, had a terrific year, and deserved to win the hardware. This is the first time a Yankee has won the award since Don Mattingly earned it in 1985 (Steve Lombardi had five on it, don'tcha know).
Beauty or the Beast?
So after all the hot air and furious debate about who should win the AL MVP, the award will be announced on Monday at around 2:00. I'm not interested in rehashing the arguments now, but I am curious as to who you think will win it (not who should win but who will win)?
My money is on Ortiz, though I hope I'm wrong.
Who You Callin' a Mook?
According the The Daily News, the Yankees may have interest in the right-handed relief pitcher, Kyle Farnsworth. Ugh. There are few players in the game I dislike more than Farnsworth, and it's not because I've read that he's a complete mook off-the-field. It's because he can throw the ball 100 mph but in a crucial spot (like Game Four against the Astros this past off-season), he'll start mincing around with his slider, his splitter, falling in love with them, when he could just blow guys away with the heater. (His breaking pitches are nice, but that's not the point, the point is they are not his strength.) Farnsworth is Nuke Laloosh come to life but without the winning personality, the flake to make him somehow tolerable. He's probably best served as the team's defacto brawler should a fight every break out.
Now, if the Yankees signed both B.J. Ryan and Farnsworth, I won't complain. But if Farnsworth is an alternative to Ryan, I'll be moaning 'til the cows come home.
The Bombers are expected to sign Hideki Matsui by Tuesday. When all is said and done, expect Godzilla's pockets to be fat, not flat.
There was a pause of sorts in the Yankees' negotiations with left fielder Hideki Matsui yesterday as GM Brian Cashman spent most of the day flying back from the GM meetings in California. But before he left, Cashman made contact again with the agent for another outfielder, Brian Giles, who could be developing into a candidate to take over for Bernie Williams in center field.
Over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, SG thinks that a Giles-Matsui-Sheff outfield would be hard to resist:
Giles has not played center field regularly since 2000, although he has seen spot duty there as recently as last year. If the Yankees are considering signing both Giles and Matsui, they'll probably have the best hitting OF in baseball, although defense will continue to be a problem. While Giles is going to be 35, he is still a very good offensive player who should be reasonable risk on a 2 or 3 year deal. While I wish the Yankees would stop signing older players, if this is the alternative that does not involve trading away young prospects, it's probably the smart way to proceed. Let's hope Joe Kerrigan can teach every pitcher on the staff a 2 seam fastball.
Steve Lombardi has a slightly different take:
Giles can help the Yankees - but not as a full-time CF. After watching Bernie Williams out there for the last few seasons, and seeing catchable balls fall for hits and not seeing any hits turned into outs, I'm shocked that the Yankees would consider putting another non-centerfielder in the 8-slot for 2006.
SG goes on to mention that the Yankees will likely overpay for Matsui but they don't have much of a cherce.
Plan B, C, Etc.
While Brian Cashman's dinner with Godzilla's agent apparently went well last night, the team is still looking for a center fielder. According to The Daily News, the Bombers approached the White Sox about the possibility of acquiring Aaron Rowand in a trade only to find that there currently isn't a match that fits. However, the Yanks still are interested in Brian Giles:
There is some skepticism within the organization about whether he'd be suited to handle playing center field every day, but the Yankees made contact with Giles' agent, Joe Bick, during the period when free agents could talk money only with their former clubs and are expected to check back with Bick now that the exclusivity window has passed.
Giles may not exactly fit the Yankees need for a defensive upgrade, but man, if they could ink both Matsui and Giles, I will not riff. I maintain that he'd be a great Yankee.
NL Cy Young
As went the American League Cy Young Award, so shall go the National League Cy Young. Last year's winner was clearly the best pitcher in the league, but won't win the award due to an unsatisfactory win total:
There are two reasons that Roger Clemens not winning this award will be less troubling than Johan Santana not winning in the AL. The first is that, while both pitchers took home the award in 2004, only Santana deserved it. Randy Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the National League in 2004, but, as we learned when discussing Santana's case this year, his 16 wins simply weren't enough. Instead the award went to the 18-4 Clemens, marking the second time this decade that Clemens had won a Cy Young award that should have gone to someone else (the other being the 2001 AL award, which Clemens won with a 20-3 record despite being clearly inferior to the 17-11 Mike Mussina). As a result, I won't cry any tears over the fact that the Rocket won't win his eighth Cy Young when he should only be winning his sixth.
What also makes Clemens not winning this award easier to take than Santana not winning in the AL is that the NL race is much tighter. Eliminating Clemens from the discussion, a solid case could be made for any of the remaining four pitchers on the chart above. Pettitte is second in ERA, ERA+ and VORP and leads in BB/9. Pedro Martinez leads in WHIP and K/9. Carpenter leads in strikeouts and is second to Pedro and Pettitte respectively in K/9 and BB/9. Willis leads in wins and HR/9 and is a surprisingly close second in RSAA, he also lead the majors with five shutouts and seven complete games.
Of course, wins are a team-dependent stat, and Willis's HR/9 is a result of pitching in an extreme pitchers park. His RSAA is attractive, but he's worst on this list in loses, Ks, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. Martinez, meanwhile, is worst in ERA+ (again due to pitching in a pitchers park), HR/9, VORP and RSAA.
Eliminating those two boils it down to Carpenter and Pettitte. Of the two, Pettitte has the better VORP, Carpenter the better RSAA. Their WHIPs, H/9, HR/9, and K/BB (4.17 and 4.18) are all nearly identical. Pettitte has a clear lead in ERA and ERA+, but Carpenter has the more attractive record and the even more eye-pleasing triple crown stats that all start with 2s (20 wins, 200 Ks, sub-3.00 ERA). Carpenter also tied Willis with 7 shutouts and finished one behind Dontrelle with four shutouts. The temptation is to favor Pettitte because he pitches his home games in an extreme hitters park, but shockingly the Juice Box played as a slight pitchers park this year (park factor of 98 to a 101 for Busch in its final season). With that in mind, it's really a coin flip as to who the second best pitcher in the National League was this year. I'm fairly certain the writers will choose Carpenter. If so, I won't complain.
Center of Attention
"Absolutely, staying with the Yankees is my first priority," [Hideki] Matsui told Sankei Sports. "But I want to feel that the Yankees really need me. I want to be respected. If I feel the Yankees do not need me anymore, I am ready to [talk to another team]."
Brian Cashman met with Hideki Matsui's agent, Arm Tellem last night (in an editorial today in the Times, Murray Chass explains why Tellem is such a shrewd operator). It is expected that Matsui will remain in New York, but he won't be a bargain. While Joe Torre has acknowledged that Matsui is most comfortable in center field, it is unlikely that the Bombers will go that route. Well, how about Rafael Furcal? Say again? Well, according to Ken Rosenthal:
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman asked one of Furcal's representatives if Furcal would be willing to play center. Furcal, 28, likely will rule nothing out at this early stage of free agency he routinely shags fly balls with Braves teammate Andruw Jones and jokes about replacing him in center. He not only is athletic enough to play the position, but also could bat leadoff for the Yankees, forming a dynamic 1-2 combination with Derek Jeter.
That's rich, huh? Meanwhile, Joe Torre tells Daily News Yankee writer Anthony McCarron, that he's spoken with Bernie Williams:
The two old friends had played phone tag for about a week before finally talking yesterday and Joe Torre came away with the sense that Bernie Williams wanted to continue his career as a Yankee, though Williams knows that he'd be a sub rather than the team's starting center fielder.
In the same article, Torre also endorsed the idea of giving Andy Phillips an opportunity to be the second-string first baseman.
There are Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez rumors involving the Mets this morning, but not much in the way of our boys in the Bronx. One item that caught my eye though, concerns what the Yanks might do about a back-up first baseman. According to Sam Borden in The Daily News:
GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees are looking at Andy Phillips as the likely replacement for Martinez at first, since he provides a cheap, righthanded option to complement Jason Giambi.
Can you dig it, Cliff? Next thing you know they'll be giving Colter Bean a shot at middle relief. Say it ain't so, my brother.
Posada on the Block? Unlikely. Yanks Part Ways with Tino
Tom Verducci has this from Palm Springs:
The New York Yankees declined the 2006 option on first baseman Tino Martinez, opting to pay a $250,000 buyout rather than bring him back at $3 million for 2006.
Bartolo Colon won the American League Cy Young Award this afternoon. Mariano Rivera placed second, Johan Santana came in third. While it may have been nice for Yankee fans to see Rivera win it, I do not think he deserved it, even as a kind of lifetime achievement award. As reader KJC put it, "Mo's gonna be in the Hall of Fame -- that's his lifetime achievement award, not the '05 Cy."
AL Cy Young
The Baseball Writers Association of America is off to a solid start this awards season, having chosen Hudson Street and Ryan Howard, two deserving candidates, as the Rookie of the Year in the AL and NL respectively. Of course, one need look no further than the second place finishers to see that those selections are not necessarily evidence of sound objective analysis throughout the BBWAA. Today, the American League Cy Young Award will be announced. So, before our ink and paper friends give us something to complain about, let's take a good look at the candidates.
Looking at the traditional "triple crown" statistics (wins, strikeouts, ERA), as many writers are sure to do, there is no clear favorite in the American League. The league's only 20-game winner, Bartolo Colon (21-8) struck out just 157 and posted a less-than-exciting 3.48 ERA. ERA leader Kevin Millwood (2.86) actually posted a losing record (9-11) for the 93-69 Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, strikeout leader Johan Santana won a "mere" 16 games.
Santana's win total is significant because no starting pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award in a non-strike year with fewer than 17 wins, and only Randy Johnson in 1999 and Pedro Martinez in 1997, both in the NL, ever won the award with as few as 17 wins. In those two cases, Martinez struck out more than 300 with an ERA below 2.00, while Johnson struck out 364 men, 126 more than Santana did this year (238), with an ERA almost a half-run better than Santana's 2.87.
History aside, Santana, who won the award last year with a 20-6 record, was once again easily the best pitcher in the American League in 2005. Here's a look at Santana and his five closest competitors:
Whatta Ya Know? Huston Street is the AL Rookie of Year
Followed by Robinson Cano and Jonny Gomes.
Rookies Of The Year
The Rookie of the Year Awards for both leagues will be announced today, so I thought I'd take a quick look at the candidates. Although there has been a lot of noise in comments about Robinson Cano winning the AL ROY, at best, Cano played well enough to insert himself in the discussion. Ultimately, there's no argument for him to actually take the award home. You don't even have to go beyond the three major rate stats to see why. Here's Cano along with the other top offensive candidates in the American League:
Gomes is the clear standout here, leading the pack in slugging and trailing Mauer by just one point of OBP. Of course, Gomes also had the fewest plate appearances of the seven players listed above, just 407, trailing the criminally ignored Chris Shelton's 431 and Dan Johnson's 434. But despite his limited opportunity to display it, Gomes' bat was so much more potent than the other players on this list that he finished second to only Mauer (554 plate appearances) in VORP (36.9 to Mauer's 40.9--Cano, for those wondering, finished at 27.5). Mauer also played excellent defense at a more challenging defensive position (Gomes actually spent half of his time at DH and was well below average in the field) and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts against Gomes' 9 of 14. Still, 123 points of slugging are a lot to overcome, and I'm hesitant to penalize Gomes for the Devil Rays' refusal to give him a job until mid-June. Thus, from this list, my vote would go to Jonny.
Of course we haven't taken the pitchers into account yet. Here are the top five rookie hurlers in the AL with their ERAs and Runs Saved Against Average. I've also included Chien-Ming Wang, just for fun:
The GM meetings start today in Palm Springs California, but the morning papers are almost completely without any baseball stories. (Shrug.) Ah, welcome to the winter. It's too early still for trades and signings and the 2005 awards are just starting to trickle in (Steve Lombardi and David Pinto do have their paws on the latest Bill James Handbook though, and are finding it to be tons'o'fun.) One item of note around these parts is that today marks the start of Bronx Banter's fourth year. My first post appeared on November 7, 2002. The subject: Bill James joining the Red Sox.
Hey Good Lookin
The day after the Yankees lost to the Angels in the ALDS, my friend Rich Lederer suggested that Brian Giles would look good in a Yankee uniform. I agreed (as do the fellas over at No Maas). According to Anthony McCarron in today's Daily News:
Hideki Matsui remains the Yankees' outfield priority, but GM Brian Cashman also has started looking into other outfield possibilities and recently called the representative for Brian Giles to express interest in the free agent.
Giles in not young and wouldn't figure to help improve the Yankees outfield defense significantly, but he's a terrific hitter, and is the kind of all-out hustle player who would be embraced in New York, don't you think?
Ron Guidry, the taut, electrifying left-hander who was my favorite pitcher as a kid, was named as the Yankees' new pitching coach on Friday. Joe Kerrigan will man the bullpen and presumably show Gator the ropes (as well as care for Randy Johnson, who he coached in the minor leagues back in the 1980s). According to The Daily News:
"It's not a secret that pitchers don't throw a lot of complete games anymore," Guidry said. "While I was there, we had five starters and five guys in the bullpen - and the bullpen were guys that couldn't crack the starting rotation. ... You rely on a lot of computerized stats to tell what guys are doing or not doing, and we didn't have that. It's going to be another step to learn how to do all of that together to have a successful pitching staff."
I have no idea whether or not Guidry is well-suited for the job or if he'll becine an effective coach. But he is a fan favorite in New York and was a terrific Yankee so he'll be given the benefit of the doubt to start. Just wait until the first losing streak when Gator gets some of what Mel Stottlemyre put up with...but then again, there is no doubt that he'll be ready for that.
George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck is an elegant-looking chronicle of CBS and Edward R. Murrow's daring coverage of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the mid 1950s. Featuring a fine lead performance from David Strathairn, the narrative is terse and even-handed without being humorless. There is a sense of cool detachment in the storytelling that brought to mind All the President's Men, but Robert Elswit's black and white cinematography has a sensuality that suggests Bruce Weber's lush documentary about Chet Baker, Let's Get Lost. In fact, Clooney's direction reminded me of something the late film critic Pauline Kael once wrote about Bob Fosse's movie, Lenny:
Fosse has learned a phenomenal amount about film technique in a short time; Lenny is only his third movie (after Sweet Charity and Cabaret), and it's a handsome piece of work. I don't know of any other director who entered moviemaking so late in life and developed such technical proficiency...Lenny is...controlled and intelligent.
Clooney has the good sense to surround himself with top-notch professionals and this movie is an accomplished piece of filmmaking, a big leap forward from his first picture, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
2005 Yankee Postmortem: Outfielders
You can read my contribution to the Baseball Analysts' "What Went Wrong" series here. Meanwhile, on with the outfielders.
Overall AL Average: .268/.328/.424
AL Average: .270/.332/.451
Gary Sheffield .291/.379/.512 (.302)
Sheffield has been an absolute masher for the Yankees in his first two seasons in pinstripes, but both years he's suffered a fall-off in September. At first blanch those September swoons might appear to be evidence fatigue exacerbated by Sheffield's age. Indeed, his production in 2005, though still placing him among the top hitters in the game, marks a continued decline from his fantastic 2003 season. On second glance, injuries appear to have played a role. After playing all of last season with a torn shoulder muscle, Sheffield simply wore down at the end of 2004. A pair of cortisone shots in that shoulder on September 19 helped him put up strong postseason numbers, but robbed him of his power for the remainder of the regular season. Looking at this year, one is tempted to point to the mysterious upper leg muscle pull Sheffield suffered while playing the field against the Devil Rays on September 7 as the cause for his September swoon, noting his lack of an extra base hit in 21 post-season at-bats as further evidence of the effects of the injury. In reality, after missing five games due to that injury, Sheffield hit a robust .299/.383/.545 over the remainder of the regular season. Rather, it was the six games prior to the thigh injury, a plain old slump in which he went 2 for 19, both hits being singles, that sunk his September numbers.
Despite the slight fall off in production from 2004, Sheffield finished second among American League right fielders in VORP in 2005 and a very close fourth among major league right fielders (behind Vlad, free agent Brian Giles and the still underrated Bobby Abreu). As an added bonus, after a dismal 5 for 11 performance on the bases in 2004, Sheffield rebounded by stealing 10 bases in 12 attempts in '05.
AL Average: .268/.322/.407
Bernie Williams .249/.321/.367 (.242)
After what was actually one of his finest offensive seasons in 2002 (.333/.415/.493 - .312), Bernie appeared to take a step down to an inferior, but consistent level of production in 2003 and 2004 (something along the lines of .260/.360/.420 - .270). Alas, Bernie's production fell off yet again in 2005 to the point where, after clearly not being able to field his position for the past several seasons, he could no longer hit well enough to carry it either. One would think that this fall off in production is what motivated the Yankees, ever the offensive-minded organization, to take desperate measures to get Bernie out of center field. Curiously, that was not the case. Instead it was Bernie's defense that prompted the move,
In the seventh inning of a home game against the Blue Jays on May 1, Eric Hinske stood on third with one out when Gregg Zaun lifted a fly ball to shallow center. Charging, Bernie made the catch for the second out, but, suffering from an elbow injury, couldn't even get his throw to the pitcher's mound on the fly, allowing Hinske to tag up and score. It was then that Brian Cashman realized that, after ill-advisedly sending Bernie out to the middle pasture for the past several season, the time had come to send Bernie out to pasture somewhere else.
Unfortunately, Cashman chose to replace Williams in the outfield with Tony Womack, which assured Bernie's return to the starting line-up. A later attempt with 20-year-old Melky Cabrera in June lasted a mere six games, as did a mid-July stretch of starts by Bubba Crosby. Ultimately, the Yankees simply didn't have anyone on hand who could clearly out-produce what remained of Bernie's bat. It wasn't until Crosby kicked off a hot streak at the plate with his first extra base hit of the season, a triple on September 11, that Joe Torre was able to find a reliable replacement for Williams in center. Meanwhile, in a curious turn of events, Bernie's defense improved upon his return to center, continuing a trend back to league average that had stretched back to 2001, which was statistically his worst defensive season. Unfortunately, Bernie's bat never did recover.
Tony Pena is the new first base coach of the Yankees. The thought is with Pena aboard the Yankees will not trade Robinson Cano. While I like the idea of the Yankees having young players on the team, and was impressed at times with both Cano's glove and his ability to hit line drives, his insouciant demeanor left me cold. Further, his lack of patience is a concern moving forward. Which is not to say that he won't improve, but maybe now is the best time to move him. Over at the Pinstriped Blog, Steve Goldman agrees:
The Yankees seem to have come out of their organizational meetings firm in their resolve not to trade Cano. Gentlemen, start constructing our alternate Torii Hunter trade fantasies now. I actually see this as bad news, because the Yankees need their pitching prospects, and if Cano isn't going, they are the most likely trade targets. Seeing Matt Desalvo and J. Brent Cox pitching for the Twins in August while the Yankees struggle to find Aaron Small 2006 would be extremely frustrating. Cano could develop into something good, but he's not the kind of player who is indispensable.
I've read that the Blue Jays are eager to deal Orlando Hudson, who is not only likable but certainly an upgrade defensively. Meanwhile, the $64,000 question is who will play center field in the Bronx next year: Torii Hunter, Johnny Damon (please no), Juan Pierre (Lord no), Preston Wilson (yikes), Milton Bradley, Vernon Wells (slap me, I'm dreamin'), or someone out of the blue, like say, Jose Cruz Jr, Gary Matthews Jr, or even Bubba Crosby?
Relax Your Mind, Let Your Conscience Be Free
Emily and I were in bed last night and I was leafing through a picture book about Yankee History. At one point she asked, "Do you learn something new about baseball every day?" "Yeah, I suppose I do," I said. I tried to think what I had learned that day. I had just been studying a photograph of Joe DiMaggio's last home run, hit against the Giants in the Polo Grounds during the 1951 World Serious. The photograph, taken from behind home plate, gave me a different perspective of the Polo Grounds than I had ever experienced. I soaked in a new appreciation of a place I deeply desire to have actually visited.
Often, I'm not even aware of how much I'm learning, though of course I absorb new information constantly. But not only do most of us baseball nyerds learn something new about the game each day, we probably spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about it too. At least I know I do, especially as I'm drifting to sleep at night. Baseball is a year-round sport these days, still there are enough lulls in the off-season for us to indulge in our fantasies without the daily tension of wins and losses. This brings to mind one of my favorite Hot Stove passages:
There is a game of baseball that is not to be found in the schedules or the record books. It has no season, but it is best played in the winter, without the distraction of box scores and standings. This is the inner game, baseball in the mind, and there is no real fan who does not know it. It is a game of recollections, recapturings, and visions: Yet this is only the beginning, for baseball in the mind in not a mere yearning and returning. In time, this easy envisioning of restored players, winning hits, and famous rallies gives way to reconsiderations and reflections about the sport itself. By thinking about baseball like this, by playing it over and yet keeping it to ourselves, keeping it warm in a cold season, we begin to make discoveries. With luck, we may even penetrate some of its mysteries and learn once again how richly and variously the game can reward us.
Roger Angell, from "Baseball in the Mind"
Put Me in Coach
The Yankees coaching staff is rounding into shape. Yesterday, Lee Mazzilli was officially hired as Joe Torre's bench coach. According to the New York Post, Luis Sojo has been offered the managerial job at Single A Tampa, as the Bombers prepare to announce that Tony Pena will be their new first base coach:
"It looks like I am going to be in Tampa and I will be happy [to be home]," Sojo told The Post from Venezuela yesterday. "I talked to [GM Brian Cashman yesterday] and they wanted to make a move, and what can you do. It's something you can't control."
Good luck, Luis. Something tells me you'll be back someday.
Clock Strikes Twelve
According to the Associated Press, Matt Lawton was suspended by Major League Baseball today for violating the league's steroids policy. Lawton, who has always struck me as an aimable man, had a forgettable run for the Yankees this past summer.
A Small, Great Thing
"Something in my gut reacted at the moment. Something about what? The unfairness of it? The injustice of it? I don't know."
A statue of Pee Wee Reese with his arm around Jackie Robinson was unveiled yesterday in Brooklyn commemmorating one of baseball's most touching moments. Reese was a mensch in the truest sense of the word. Veteran baseball scribes Vic Ziegel and Ira Berkow report.
As Yankee executives meet today again to discuss the team's Hot Stove agenda, Theo Epstein is scheduled to address the media and detail why he's decided to leave the Red Sox. Be sure and check out Bill Simmons' take, as well as Christina Kahrl's piece too (subscription required). As noted in our comments section yesterday, Steven Goldman hit the nail on the head in the latest edition of The Pinstriped Bible:
Before casting aspersions on anyone else's evil empire, make sure your own house is in order. This is the lesson to be drawn from the departure of Theo Epstein from the Boston Red Sox. As they have so many times, the Red Sox have handed the Yankees an unearned victory.
And this from Joel Sherman's column today in the Post:
"The Red Sox are in utter chaos right now, a GM said in what felt like a summation. "The Red Sox have chased the Yankees for so long, and now they have caught them, they are as chaotic as the Yankees."
The Yankee coaching staff just got a bit hotter as the team officially announced Larry Bowa as its new third base coach. Tony Pena is expected to replace Luis Sojo at first, and Ron Guidry is the front-runner to become the new pitching coach (with Joe Kerrigan operating out of the bullpen). It is anticipated that Lee Maz will be Joe Torre's bench coach as well.
Know When to Fold 'Em
Alex Rodriguez may not be the Michael Jordan of baseball but evidentally he just might share MJ's fondness for gambling, at least poker.
I Gotta Rock
When the season ended part of me secretly wished that Joe Torre would tell George Steinbrenner to go to hell, and walk away from the Yankee job on his own terms. It didn't happen and I'm happy that Torre is still around. He knows what he's in for and he's a big boy. But apparently the prospect of working for Larry Lucchino for another three years was more than Theo Epstein was ready to endure. In a suprising turn of events Epstein turned down the Red Sox three-year offer to remain as the general manager of the ballclub. In effect, Epstein is saying that he isn't willing to put-up with his mentor Lucchino anymore (This article by Dan Shaughnessy has been cited as the straw that broke the camel's back for Epstein.) Good for him. He walks away from Boston with the world as his oyster. He'll forever be a hero in New England and now has his pick of job opportunities. I'm sure the Sox will find a decent GM, but for the moment there is no buffer between Sox fans and Boston's version of the Boss, Larry Lucchino.
In a move that is bound to infuriate as many as it pleases, the New York Post reports that Derek Jeter will be awarded the Gold Glove for the second consecutive year later today. While I don't think that Alex Rodriguez is the best fielding third baseman in the league yet, Jeter can give Rodriguez an assist for his new piece of hardware. It's not a coincidence that Jeter's fielding improved once Rodriguez arrived at the hot corner, allowing Jeter to cheat more up-the-middle. I don't put too much stock in the Gold Gloves--heck, Bernie won four of them, and Yankee fans are well aware of Raffey's 28-game winner in 1999--but I'm amused at how upset some fans will get over Jeter's selection. Good for you, Jetes: keep giving 'em something to riff about. But as Cliff mentioned in the previous post, Jeter's fielding has indeed improved. He might have won the award based on reputation but he wasn't an awful choice either.
The Yankees' organizational meetings commence today here in New York where it is unseasonably warm and gorgeous (whatta day to take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or hang out in Central Park). The first order of business for the Bombers will be to re-sign Godzilla Matsui. They've got two weeks to get it done. Something tells me that they will.
2005 Yankee Postmortem: Catchers and Infielders
This should all be self explanitory. My goal is to post the outfielders and designated hitters tomorrow, the starting pitchers on Thursday and the relief pitchers on Friday. We'll see how that goes. While reviewing the below, it might be helpful to keep in mind that the average American Leaguer hit .268/.328/.424 (AVG/OBP/SLG).
AL Average: .257/.313/.393
Jorge Posada .262/.352/.430 (.272 EQA)
Jorge Posada turned 33 last August, a dangerous age for a catcher, but because he entered the 2005 season coming off two of his three best offensive seasons (2000 being the third), the prevailing thought was that, as an infielder converted to catching at the age of 20 and brought along slowly in the majors (he caught less than 40 games in the majors prior to his 26th birthday), Posada had more miles left on him than the typical 33-year-old catcher. Emboldened by this logic, the Yankees shipped Dioner Navarro, one of the top catching prospects in the game to Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal despite the fact that Navarro's progress through the Yankees' farm system synched up perfectly with what would otherwise have been Posada's expected decline and the expiration of Jorge's current contract.
Absent a future at the position (bounced to Los Angeles by the Diamondbacks, Navarro posted a .263 EQA as the Dodgers' everyday catcher over final two months of the season), the Yankees watched as their 33-year-old backstop struggled at the plate for the bulk of the 2005 season. Despite hot streaks in May and September (.326 and .298 GPA's respectively), Posada finished the year with his lowest marks across the board (AVG, OBP, SLG, EQA) since he assumed the full-time catching job in 2000.
That said, he was still comfortably above average for his position. In fact, he had the fourth best offensive season by a catcher in baseball, behind only his AL counterparts in Boston, Cleveland and Minnesota, and easily out-produced the best NL backstop (the Cubs' Michael Barrett). Meanwhile, he had one of his best defensive seasons. In addition to allowing just eight passed balls (just one more than his career low, including his part-time 1997-99 seasons), and throwing out a hair more than 30 percent of attempting base stealers (a pinch better than his career rate), Jorge Posada finally learned to block the plate, a development I covered in detail in the bullet points at the end of this post.
John Flaherty .165/.206/.252 (.149)
After catching Randy Johnson's best start to that point in the season on June 11 in St. Louis, Flaherty was installed as the Big Diva's personal receiver, proceeding to cost the Yankees a half a win over the course of the season due to lack of production at the plate. Flaherty's collapse (believe it or not, his uncharacteristic slugging over the past two seasons--.461 between 2003 and 2004--was good for an extra win each year for the Yanks) would have made for the perfect opportunity for Navarro to step into the back-up job much like Posada did in 1997 after Jim Leyritz's departure. Instead the Yankees' third string catcher was Wil Nieves, who doesn't do anything well at the plate and didn't show up in the Bronx until September, when he took four hitless at-bats, all as an in-game replacement.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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