Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mike Lupica is a Jackass: Chapter Three

I knew - I just knew - Lupica would have a column about how great the Beckett trade was for Boston. I knew he'd say how terrible it is for the Yankees moreso than it's good for Boston, because he hates the Yankees more than he loves the Red Sox. So far I've only read the title, but let's explore the buffonery that is a Mike Lupica article.

Bosox trump Yanks with their new ace

Ah good. I knew you'd frame it this way. By the way, Beckett is not an "ace." He never has been anything more than an above average pitcher. He wasn't even the "ace" of his last team.

It looks like the Red Sox have hooked Josh Beckett.
From the time Josh Beckett made Game 6 of the World Series all about him, from the time he took on the Yankees and the Stadium and pitched one of the great closeout games in the history of the Series, the Yankees have wanted somebody exactly like him. They have wanted a big, strong, tough, young guy who could stand there and do everything except dare you to hit his fastball.

Beckett's game went right in with everything after Don Larsen, especially when you consider the circumstances and the stakes. Sandy Koufax struck out more guys against the Yankees in 1963 and Jim Lonborg pitched a one-hitter in '67 and Andy Pettitte beat the Braves 1-0 and Johnny Podres was 2-0 against the Yankees in his own closeout game in '55. And there was Bob Gibson in '67, and Blackjack Morris in Game 7 in '91. There have been others in the grouping after Larsen.

I know he's a Yankee now, but Randy Johnson single handedly beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, so I know there's no need for you to give him any sort of credit. Yes, in a limited sample size, Beckett has been good in the post season. He's been very good. Blackjack Morris? Was Jack Morris ever given this nickname? Not really. You do a Google search and there are about 3 or 4 hits referring to the former pitcher, most on blog and journal sites. You're probably thinking of Jack McDowell, Mike. But I'll give you a pass on that one.

Beckett will be remembered with any of them, even if he gave up five hits that night. Because the Yankees never had a chance.

How did they never have a chance? Pettitte and Rivera combined for 1 ER in 9 innings. In fact, the only Yankee you'll ever praise (Jeter) made a critical error that led to that unearned run. 2-0 is not "never having a chance." 8-0? Sure.

It was two years ago. Everybody still talks about the high fastball he threw past Derek Jeter late in the game, one Jeter still hasn't seen.

I have not heard anyone mention or talk about this since 2003. I must not know everybody.

The Yankees went out and got Javier Vazquez the next year from Montreal and he was going to be their Beckett, a horse who would go for years. He lasted one. So they went after one of Beckett's teammates, Carl Pavano, who was supposed to be the next best thing, even if he had only had one good year as a starter in his life. They got Jaret Wright out of Atlanta, because he looked tough, too. And they got Randy Johnson to be a geriatric version of what Beckett had been in Game 6, even if Johnson was about twice Beckett's age.

Vazquez wasn't supposed to be "their Beckett." He was supposed to be a young pitcher without injury problems who could throw 200 innings per year with a respectable ERA and high strikeout totals. Nobody expects 200 innings from Beckett. Pavano was the best available free agent by all accounts, and the Yankees needed pitching. Does anyone remember that when the Yankees signed Pavano and Lupica went on a rant, he was advocating Sammy Sosa for his beloved Mets:
"If the debate is Sosa or Floyd, there is no debate. I would rather have Sosa in a Mets uniform than Cliff Floyd any day of the week. I would rather have his bat in the Mets' lineup than Mike Piazza's, off what we saw from Piazza last season. I would rather have Sosa than Shawn Green." - Mike Lupica, November 14, 2004.
Piazza OPS: .778
Floyd OPS: .863
Green OPS: .832
Sosa OPS: .671.
.671. In the American League. In a hitter's park.
Yep, there's the guy we should listen to for player advice and predictions!
Anyway, I digress.

I said to Brian Cashman one time, "You guys still haven't ever had a Beckett." He said, "We don't draft high enough to get one. Then by the time they've turned into a Beckett, they're not available."

Josh Beckett finally became available the past couple of weeks. The Red Sox grabbed him.

They had to take a fading Mike Lowell along with Beckett. They had to give up Hanley Ramirez, whom some people think is the best shortstop prospect in anybody's system right now. Doesn't matter. The Yankees got clipped. Two years this month from when the Red Sox grabbed Curt Schilling, they grab Beckett. A 25-year-old Schilling this time.

I don't know who "some people" are, but I do know it's not the Red Sox. Ramirez was supposed to be the heir apparant to Nomar. Then they traded him, and Cabrera was supposed to be the stopgap. So they promote their big shortstop prosspect, right? No, they sign Edgar RenterE6 for four years, completely blocking Ramirez. They didn't even have him try and learn a new position, like third base. It doesn't look to me like the Sox thought much of Ramirez.

As for a "25-year old Schilling" he's only had one outstanding season (2003). His ERA+ that year was 132. Jason Schmidt led the NL that year with a 183. It was the first time in 5 years that Randy Johnson - who you repeatedly claim is worse than Beckett - didn't lead the NL (he lost significant time to injury that year). Schilling has never led the league, even in all of those years with Johnson on the same team. Neither has Beckett. In his best season, he didn't even crack the top 10.

There are reasons why this happened. There are more pressing needs Cashman needs to fill. Beckett is still better than any starting pitcher Cashman has. In the game that is always being played between the Yankees and the Red Sox, even after they have both gone out in the first round, the Red Sox score first, and they score big.

Statistics say Beckett is not better than any starting pitcher that Cashman has. I know you hate statistics though.

The Red Sox don't go for a knockoff Beckett like Pavano. They hold onto Jon Lester, the lefthander who is supposed to be an even better arm than either Jon Papelbon or Craig Hansen, the St. John's kid. They do this even though the Rangers thought they had the inside track on Beckett by offering some of their prospects, plus their terrific young third baseman, Hank Blalock.

The Red Sox wanted Pavano badly last offseason. Matt Clement was Plan B.

Also, Blalock has only been good at home. On the road last year, he hit .231 BA, .276 OBP, .335 SLG, .611 OPS.

That's certainly a lot closer to "terrible" than "terrific." Mike Lowell' OPS was .658. Tony Womack's OPS was .556. Blalock has been essentially the average of the two.

The Yankees were never really involved with Beckett, for whom they have lusted for two full seasons. They didn't want to take on Lowell, a third baseman they don't need, one who fell to .236 and eight home runs last season and is owed $18 million over the next two seasons. And they can tell themselves that they made their amazing run from 11-19 to 95 victories and a tie for first in the AL East with a rotation that included these seven starters, all of whom are still under contract:

Johnson, Pavano, Wright, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small.

"I believe that from June on, we had the best record in baseball," Cashman said yesterday. "Am I comfortable going into next season with a rotation that will include five of those guys? Yeah, I am."

First of all, they won the division, they didn't tie. Yes, the records ere the same, but do you honestly think if that Sunday game mattered that Torre would have rested regulars and tarted Jaret Wright? Also I'm pretty sure that you can get a pretty decent starting staff out of five of those guys.

Cashman still has to find a center fielder. He is still looking for a bullpen, because after Mo Rivera and Tanyon Sturtze, he has no bullpen. Johnny Damon is out there as a free agent, but not at the ridiculous prices Scott Boras is talking about, and not for five-to-seven years. The Yankees like Brian Giles but not, Cashman says now, as a center fielder, more as a fourth outfielder and DH.

OK, OK, hold the phone. YOU were the one that was saying Giles was going to be a centerfielder, NOT Cashman. Cash and Torre in fact seemed to prefer Matsui in CF to Giles (though given the choice I'd go ith Giles). However: you've still got it wrong. You honestly think Cashman is exploring signing the best hitter available (yes, I'm including Konerko) to be... a 4th outfielder??!!? You think they're planning on giving Giles the "Ruben Sierra role" of 4th OF and part time DH?!? Sheffield in right, Giles on the bench or at DH on a dialy basis?

Lupica, you've done it. This is officially the most asinine thing you've ever come up with. Congratulations!

Who knows, maybe in the old days - last winter - Cashman would have taken on Lowell's contract, even without a place to play him, just to get Beckett. He didn't bite this time. So the Yankees were never really in play here, probably wouldn't have been even if they had been willing to move Wang and Robinson Cano, something Cashman is not inclined to do at this time.

No, last winter Cash stated he wasn't trading his top prospects either.

For now, he holds onto the few prospects he has, especially now that they are more than prospects. Maybe this really will be a baseball winter when other teams lead the league in headlines. And of course this could all change fast, because these are Steinbrenner's Yankees, and the old man is probably twitchy right now that the Red Sox have Beckett and he doesn't.

"We have other needs," Cashman kept saying yesterday.

Maybe those needs wouldn't seem so pressing if Johnson, the lefty geezer version of Beckett, hadn't gotten bounced all over the Stadium and finally booed out of the place in Game 3 against the Angels, the game he was hired to win. Maybe one of these days, in a game the Yankees absolutely have to have, a Yankee will do to somebody else what Beckett did to them.

It's amazing that you're calling Johnson the "lefty geezer verision" of Beckett. You've already aid Beckett is the better pitcher. Their 2005 ERA+ was nearly identical (117 v. 119). Johnson pictched 225 innings to Beckett's 178. Johnson's WHIP: 1.13. Beckett: 1.19. Johnson: 211 Ks. Beckett: 168. And remember this season was a "disaster" for the Big Unit. Let's not even go back to 2004 where Johnson's 171 ERA+ dwarfs Beckett's 108 (barely above average). It's a disservice to Johnson to compare him to such an inferior pitcher, and it's ridiculous to call Beckett better than anyone on the Yankee staff.

Before Beckett does it to them again.

Let's hope he keeps clear of those blisters.


Originally published on November 23, 2005

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posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 8:45 AM   2 comments


At 11/23/2005 10:13 PM, Blogger Lara Marie said...

That was so well put...I completely agree with you on every point. I don't even read Lupica's articles anymore because he annoys me so much. He must have a clause in his contract that pays him everytime he mentions the Yankees payroll and brings up a particularly bad defeat from the past. We'll see how well Beckett handles Boston and the American League this season. I'm glad the Yanks laid off so there's no risking another ex-Marlins pitcher in pinstripes to completely self-destruct. Sorry this is so long, but I loved what you wrote!

At 11/24/2005 12:16 AM, Blogger Mr. Faded Glory said...

Hi Lara.

See, the reason I read Lupica's articles is because they annoy me.

It's nice to feel smarter than someone on a daily basis.


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