Sunday, October 15, 2006

How Not To Fix Yanks

It seems the Daily News has decided to poll a bunch of nameless people (experts?) and come up with a way to "fix the Yankees."

Bear in mind, this is a team that won 97 games, but lost 3 games in a short series, so certainly nothing dramatic needs to be done, right guys? Right?
The Yankees need to make many moves to reshape their team.
Oh. And that's just the picture caption.
So the conclusion was reached that whatever ails the Yankees, Joe Torre isn't the problem. At least not so much of a problem that another manager is the solution.
What ails them is they ran into a team which had three great pitching performances in a five game series. Would they have lost those games with a different manager? Mose likely. Does this mean Torre is the best man for the job? No.
It will be Torre's charge to confer with Brian Cashman and the rest of the brain trust to find out what the problem is with a lineup of All-Stars and MVPs, and a pitching staff filled with escapees from a rehab hospital. Some old ones, at that. Something in that assembly of 25 was enough to let the Yankees overcome a year of injuries to earn the best record in the American League, yet something was still missing from the sum of those expensive parts.
Yes, they did not win the World Series. They had the best record in the league and lost in a short series to a team that was hot and then went on to run through the A's like a buzzsaw.
To determine what the difference is between the most expensive division winner in history and the most expensive World Series winner, the Daily News turned to a series of experienced, accomplished, but mostly anonymous experts for their take.
I am hoping one of these experts mentions luck and timing, because that's really the difference between those two scenarios.
Here are some of the suggestions they came up with.

1. DUMP A-ROD. REPLACE HIM WITH A HARD-NOSED PLAYER
Wait, what? Dump a 32 year old in the prime of his career, one year removed from an MVP for a guy with "hustle" and "grit" who "likes to get his uniform dirty"? Just dump him for whatever you can get in return and plug in a guy who's crappy but "tough"? Pat Kelly was a hard-nosed player, and I don't seem to recall him owning any rings either. What about Gritty McHardnose himself, Andy Stankiewicz? How many teams did he lead down the Canyon of Heroes? How hard-nosed is Pat Burrell?

I'm not saying "do not trade A-Rod under any circumstances." I'm saying you don't "dump" the guy. If you can somehow get a great deal for any player on your team, you do it, but the deal would have to make sense. Rodriguez is not addition-by-subtraction.
‘New York is a tough town and A-Rod is such a lightning rod, it's almost like the Mets when they had Roger Cedeno and the fans booed him every single time he came to the plate. It affects the whole team," a rival GM says. "(Derek) Jeter obviously doesn't like A-Rod. It's so clear. So get rid of the guy: they don't need him. Go get a team guy. They don't need a guy who cares about his stats and his image. Go get a Scott Brosius. Go get Mark DeRosa to play third base; that guy can bat eighth or ninth."
Jeter didn't like Chad Curtis either, but I'm probably pretty sure they both sport some fancy rings.

Mark DeRosa had a career year last season. His OPS+? 106. (For those who do not know, 100 is a league-average hitter). Alex Rodriguez, he of the crappy year of choking and being a big jerk had an OPS+ of 140. DeRosa's career line is 90, A-Rod's 145. So the suggestion here is to replace a guy who is about 50% more valuable than an average hitter with a guy who is about 10% less valuable. And this... somehow.. helps.. the... team.... Oh! Through grit and hard-nosedness!
DeRosa would be an interesting pickup, as close to a Brosuis as you'll find. The 31-year-old Passaic, N.J., product played his first full season this year with the Texas Rangers and put up respectable numbers, finishing with a .296 batting average, .357 on-base and .453 slugging percentage. He spent the season splitting duties at second, third and in right field, and committed a total of five errors. He'll be a free agent, and made only $675,000 this season.
Are you MarkDeRosa's agent? Third base is a power position, and in 2006 DeRosa smashed his career high in homers with 13, destroying his previous high mark of 8. He makes up for what he lacks in power with a HNQ (Hard-Nosed Quotient) of 176, while Chockey Rodriguez sports a paltry 65 HNQ for his career.

Not only that, but you wouldn't catch Mark Thomas DeRosa sunbathing with his family in the park, no sir!

Enough about Scott Brosius already. The guy was a decent player (lifetime OPS+ of 95) who had two really good seasons ('96 and '98). In 2000, the Yankees won the World Series despite Brosius' 67 (!) OPS+. This whole idea that since the Yankees won a few rings with a less than average hitter at third base = the Yankees can only win the World Series with a less than average hitter at third base has been catching on amoungst sports writers for a while now, and it's an asinine argument. It's specious reasoning. It's correlation implying causation. Again, I'm reminded of this exchange between Homer and Lisa Simpson:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is working like a charm!
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: [uncomprehendingly] Thanks, honey.
Lisa: By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Hmm. How does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work. (pause) It's just a stupid rock!
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: (pause) Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
A former Yankee agrees that A-Rod has to go: "Alex is the one who separates himself from the rest of the guys. He doesn't let anybody in."
Larry Bowa says this is all a bunch of hooey, and he does it on the record.
Rodriguez shouldn't be hard to move. With an average of $16 million a year coming to him from the Yankees over the next four years, he's a bargain. The Rangers still pay the rest of his $25 million-a-year salary, so the Yankees should be able to rid themselves of most, if not all, of the money they owe him.
I agree with this part. It should be pretty easy to find takers for one of the best players in major league history.
Another executive said he has heard rumblings of an A-Rod for Pat Burrell deal, but says he doesn't think those rumors are coming from the Yankees or the Phillies. "It could make sense," he says. "A-Rod did well with (current Phillies and former Seattle GM) Pat Gillick."
What the hell? A-Rod had good years in Seattle, Gillick was GM in Seattle, thus A-Rod will do well in Philadelphia? What kind of crazy logic is that? Who are these "experts"? For the record, Rodriguez has two MVPs and played for three teams. The only team for which he has no MVP is ... Seattle.
What most of our experts agreed on was the need for some players with fire in the belly, or any part of the anatomy that will inspire the rest of the lineup.

"They need guys like Paul O'Neill, like Joe Girardi, like me," former Yankee World Series hero Jim Leyritz said recently. One American League executive disagrees, however.
Well at least Leyritz used his own name. I agree they need a guy like Girardi. Managing, not playing.
"Those guys all play hard. Jeter plays hard, (Gary) Sheffield plays hard, (Robinson) Cano plays hard, (Jorge) Posada plays hard - they all do," he says. "I don't know what happened in the playoffs, but it wasn't effort. They don't need guys to get loud, they just need guys who fit together."

Those fans who have looked to Jeter for fire and brimstone, all agreed, have been looking in the wrong place. "That's not who he is," Leyritz says. "That's never been who he is. He's a quiet leader who leads by example."
Why is he the captain then?
2. GET HELP FOR JOE TORRE
The mental kind.
When Torre's Yankees were great, the two men next to him on the dugout bench were vital components. Bench coach Don Zimmer was the unquestioned master of strategy, while pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre had the complete confidence of his staff.

"Zim was the strategic genius, and Joe was perfect at managing people. It was a great combination," Leyritz says.
I really don't think Torre has listened to another bench coach since Zimmer left.
For all Torre's ability to motivate and mitigate in the clubhouse and dugout, he has never enjoyed the reputation of a tactician on the scale of Tony La Russa or Bobby Valentine. That was part of the front office's thinking when Larry Bowa and Tony Pena were brought in as coaches.
But you just said the team had no fire in the playoffs. Was Torre not able to "motivate" his troops? If Rodriguez and Jeter are such enemies, couldn't Torre "mitigate" that situation? What exactly is he good at, anyway?
"They're good baseball guys, but I'm not sure how much (Torre) listens to those guys," a rival executive says.

It can't be that much because they're the third and first-base coaches. Lee Mazzilli is the one sitting next to Torre on the bench. Torre has faith in Maz, but our panelists don't.

Our panelists also want to see a pitching coach Torre that will listen to, whether it's Ron Guidry or not. Gator has the confidence of his staff, but either Torre didn't listen to him or Guidry wasn't aware that Scott Proctor and Ron Villone were headed for a meltdown.
A blind schoolchild could tell you that Proctor and Villone were headed for danger. I refuse to believe Guidry didn't try and tell Torre to knock off his abuse.
Proctor led all AL relievers with 102.1 innings and 83 games pitched this season, while Villone was sixth with 80.1 innings and tied for eighth with 70 appearances. This season was only the second time that Villone made at least 70 appearances. He had 79 in 2004. And those were only the games he appeared in. Villone threw 40-60 pitches every time he was told to warm up but didn't get in the game. Those throws might not end up on a pitcher's stats, but they take something out of his arm.

"He probably got up 120 out of 162 games," one executive says.

Team sources say Cashman spoke to Torre about Villone's overuse. The 36-year-old lefty hit the wall sometime after he left the mound against Toronto on Aug. 1, when his ERA was 2.01. His ERA in August was 6.04, and in September it was 27.00. In two months, his ERA ballooned from 2.01 to 5.04.
Cashman had to step in. This isn't about Torre needing guys he will listen to or that will help him in the dugout. This is about a man incapable of managing a bullpen who should not be in charge of the premiere sports team in the country.
There is no reason to suspect that the Yankees' baseball operations office is unhappy with Guidry, but the highly respected Dave Wallace, the former Mets pitching coach and executive, was just fired by the Red Sox. Wouldn't it be just like the Boss to punish a coach and replace him with an ex-Red Sox coach whom Red Sox pitchers are sure to miss?
Dave Wallace? Joe Kerrigan is already on the staff. Why go after Dave Wallace if you're going to replace Guidry when you already have Kerrigan?
3. FIND A SUB FOR MARIANO RIVERA BEFORE ONE IS NEEDED
Gordon walked and Farnsworth was brought in to replace him. I still think Farnsworth will be an asset to the Yankees in the long run although he had a disappointing year. Bruney looks like the pickup of the year for the Yankee 'pen, and if Dotel had a chance to actually throw some major league pitches maybe we could have seen something from him as well, but unfortunately there were no innings available since Proctor needed his daily three innings of work.
No matter how good a closer is, he's a lot better when he's paired with another potential closer. Tom Gordon was a nice complement to Rivera. Rivera was a magnificent setup man for John Wetteland. But the other reason to find another closer is that the Yankees are moving ever closer to the day when Rivera will no longer be able to pitch. His effectiveness has barely diminished with time - he just completed his fourth straight sub-2.00 ERA season - but his elbow soreness this year was a warning. When Torre said he was going to limit Rivera to an inning a night in the postseason, it wasn't to reward his closer for good behavior.
I don't know if "he's" a lot better, but if the statement is "having two elite relievers is better than having one elite reliever" then you'll get no argument from me. In Rivera's case it might prevent Torre from using him for two innings at a time constantly.
If the Yankees could put a deal together with the Angels that would bring Francisco Rodriguez to the Bronx, they should do it, all agreed. He has another two years before free agency, but the Angels will be loathe to let him go.
So you won't put up with A-Rod, because he's an asshole who hits homeruns, but advocate getting a setup guy who is an asshole that strikes people out. Make up your mind here, it's either about chemistry or it isn't.
A more realistic target, one GM says, is Atlanta's Danys Baez, who will be a free agent. Baez has never put up Rivera-type numbers, but was an effective closer for Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
I do not have a problem with signing Baez as long as the years and dollars make sense. What's more likely is that you give a couple of those pesky "kids" in Columbus Scranton a shot.
Houston's Brad Lidge could also be a steal, the same GM says, since he's coming off a bad season. "They'll have to hope he bounces back, but it could work out well," he says.
What are the Yankees giving up to get Lidge or Rodriguez? So far the only guy the article wants out is A-Rod.
4. GET MORE STARTERS, NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES

Most of our experts mentioned starting pitching in the first sentence when asked about the Yankees. Most Yankee fans would do the same. To what is sure to be the great lament of the rest of the major leagues, the Yankees will be driving the market for Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt and Dontrelle Willis, even while the Marlins are adamant that Willis is untouchable.
Well, duh. Get more starters. Having guys like Ponson starting a bunch of games for you is not good.

All reports have said the Yankees do not have a great deal of interest in Zito, and I believe that. Jason Schmidt? How exactly is signing Jason Schmidt getting younger? That's exactly the type of move the Yankees should avoid. Schmidt is not signing a one year deal.
In 1998 (yes, it's unfair to compare them to what might have been the best team they ever had, but so what), five starters pitched 9521/3 innings out of the team's 1,4561/3, a hefty 65%. That's a solid staff.

The 2006 staff's primary five, beset by injuries and disappointment, pitched 823 2/3 innings, or 57%. It's a difference between 5.9 innings per game and 5.1, almost a full inning. That meant an inning a game more for the 2006 bullpen or other starters to work, which put a strain on the entire staff. Chien-Ming Wang is becoming a true ace, but the experts agree Mike Mussina shouldn't be higher than the team's third starter for them to be World Series-worthy.
Yes, the pitching has been worse. There you have it - that's the number one reason why the Yankees are not stomping their way to world championships anymore. It used to be that the 4th starter in the rotation was a guy like El Duque. Late 90's El Duque would probably be the ace of this current group.
5. DEVELOP YOUNG TALENT - CHANGE IS A COMIN'
Or sign Jason Schmidt. Whatever.

There is some serious turnover on the way. Mussina has an option for $17 million next season, but the Yankees will probably take the buyout and then offer him a smaller deal for a year or two; Randy Johnson has one year left; Bobby Abreu has one year and a $16 million option left in 2008; Gary Sheffield has a $13 million option for next season, which they may also decline; Rivera and Posada are at the end of their contracts and have options next year; Jaret Wright has one year left or could be bought out; Proctor, Villone and Bernie Williams are all at the end of their contracts. And other clubs think the Yankees may try to move Jason Giambi.
I can't imagine a scenerio where the Yankees would get something of equal value in return for Giambi. They'd have to throw a boatload of money in with him. Also, he led the team in OPS+ this year. His entire season was better than Abreu's Yankee numbers. The only one on the team that can (statistically and sabermetrically) claim to have had as good or better of a 2006 season as Giambi is Jeter. Yes, so dump arguably the team's best hitter too. Fuck it, let's get rid of the bunch of losing losers who performed the best over the course of last season! Let's get a team of Miguel Cairos and Adam Everetts!
The point is the Yankees of 2008 could look vastly different than the 2006 or 2007 models, and this upcoming year is almost certain to be Torre's last. Whatever pieces they pick up, Cashman and company need to find players from within or from without who can be the core of a new era to go with a new manager, possibly Don Mattingly.
Also Torre's contract runs out this season (finally).
It has been a while since the Yankees developed a top pitcher from within their system. Philip Hughes, all of 20, might surpass Andy Pettitte's accomplishments, but with the Yankees there is always the concern that a sure-fire ace in the minors will react differently to the fish bowl that is Yankee Stadium. Eric Duncan, the 21-year-old infield prospect touted as one of the nation's best since he signed in 2003, regressed this season when he went to Triple-A, hitting .209 with a .255 slugging percentage. The future might rest in young men only die-hard fans would know, like pitcher Tyler Clippard and outfielder Jose Tabata.
I thought the theory was that guys who come up through the Yankee system thrive in it and it's the guys from other organizations who "can't handle the fishbowl" such as Jeff Weaver and Javier Vazquez.

Tabata is a long way away. He looks good, but it's way too early to start thinking about him in the majors.
Our experts have never had Steinbrenner's money to throw around, but they agree that the key will be the kind of players the Yankees get, not the price tags on them.
I know this is crazy talk, but usually the better players are more expensive. Crazy! Do they think Steinbrenner just tells Cashman to find him the most expensive guys regardless of talent?
One reason the Yankees of the late '90s were so good, some of our experts point out, was because they had homegrown talent in Jeter, Williams, Posada, and Rivera, and their key role players, O'Neill, Brosius and Tino Martinez, were good players, occasional All-Stars, but not MVPs. They became better than the sum of their parts. Steinbrenner's fascination with getting the best players from other teams has not translated to success for his own. If the Yankees are to be the Yankees again, they need Legos that snap together, not jewels that shine on their own.

"Everyone knows, this All-Star at every position thing," a GM says, "that's a recipe for disaster."
No, everyone does not know that. I do not know that.

Another cliched Yankee argument is that it is bad to have good players at every position. In fact I'll go out on a limb and say that having guys who are All-Stars at every position is probably a good thing. It means they are at least good players. Having good players on your team is good. How much simpler do I need to make this?

Why is it that people believe that so-called "hard-nosed" players are better than players who actually produce? You know who had a gritty team this year? The Royals. The Marlins. The Kings of Grit, the Angels. None of those teams' hard-nosed players were in the postseason.

The only thing that impressed me about this article was that it lacked one single reference to "True Yankees."

Coming up I'll have my own suggestions for what the Yankees should do in the offseason to prepare a team for 2007. I'll give you a hint: it's probably not going to mention Scott Brosius.

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posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 1:39 PM   4 comments







4 Comments:

At 10/15/2006 3:53 PM, Blogger lupe_velez said...

Scranton

HOORAY

 
At 10/15/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger Mr. Faded Glory said...

Aint no party like a Scranton party 'cuz a Scranton party don't stop!

 
At 10/15/2006 4:24 PM, Blogger Karen said...

I'd personally like someone to go all hardnosed 'n' Paul O'Neill on "the core" and have them stop being bitchy teenage girls. If they think it's A-Rod who is the problem for lacking "manliness", perhaps they should look in the mirror.

Unless all that bling from their rings is blinding them, of course.

That the media buys into this nonsense is very, very frightening.

 
At 10/15/2006 4:41 PM, Blogger June said...

most of this is too ridiculous to respond to and/or you already did a better job than I possibly could. All I'm going to say is:

"Alex is the one who separates himself from the rest of the guys. He doesn't let anybody in."

granted I don't have a huge sample size, but whenever I've seen A-Rod he may not be pounding beers with teammates but he makes a point of saying hello and/or buying a drink for most everyone he knows - teammates, staff, even media. Just as a random counterexample, more than once I've seen cappy walk past teammates and not even acknowledge they're there. He has one or two teammates he'll talk to outside of the park and that's pretty much it - he's with them or with family or alone. I've never seen Alex go to or from the park alone. I've never seen cappy NOT go to or from the park alone. I'm just saying this selective memory thing is gettin really fucking tiresome.

 

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