Tonight at 8pm on ESPN, see which 11 players are honored for being clutchier than other big chokers!
Watch as Major League Baseball once again says "take that, anyone who cares about objective analysis of statistics! We prefer our sample sizes small, our TV loud, and our homosexuals fla-ming!" (with apologies to John Waters).
2006 has become the year of the meaningless awards, presented by various companies. They will not stop until every player in baseball wins an award of some nature.
In the category of nicest smile while sitting on the bench, the winner is..... Bubba Crosby!
However the fact that I just watched a World Series in which David Eckstein won the MVP, Kenny Rogers had the only win for his team, and Jeff Weaver won the clinching game makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
Three possible people could be involved in changing roles for the Yankees soon.
The Yankees are planning on picking up Gary Sheffield's option, with the thought of trading him. I really like this idea, as a one-year Sheffield for $13M - a lot of which is on deferred payment - is very attractive to a number of clubs. Cashman should just hold a bidding war and take the best offer he receives. I'd hope to acquire a bullpen arm, a good young near ML-ready prospect, a decent first baseman or a combination of the three.
It appears - as I've stated here before would most likely be the case - the Yankees are planning on keeping Alex Rodriguez. Boras, for all of his bluster, knows that he and A-Rod hold all of the cards here because of the no-trade clause. If A-Rod wants to stay, he'll stay. My guess is that Cashman called Boras, asked him what Alex wanted to do, and Boras said that Alex wants to stay a Yankee, and would exercise his NTC should Cashman attempt to move him. At that point, Cashman gave him assurances that there would be no deal, which is good since nearly any trade you can devise involving Rodriguez would be a diminished return.
While there is speculation that Joe Girardi may be returning as Yankee bench coach after he took himself out of the running for the Nationals managerial position, there's also a chance he could return to the YES Network booth as a color analyst for a specified number of games. This might just suit him better, as he'd still be receiving checks from the Marlins, and can spend additional time with his family in Florida or Chicago.
As far as I'm concerned, this is good news all around. Picking up Sheff's option and trading him is better than letting him walk and receiving nothing in return, plus you control where he goes. Keeping Sheff is really not an option anymore, as he's expressed his disdain for playing first base over the long haul and there's no room in the outfield. I've already voiced much support for the return of Rodriguez. Girardi back in the YES booth would be a welcome voice to help placate the loss of Kaat.
I've heard a lot bandied about concerning trade rumors (most for Alex Rodriguez started by people who root for or cover teams who covet Alex Rodriguez) but thus far this "insider" takes the cake.
Pitching will be a priority and the Yankees will be looking everywhere and anywhere for it. Yes, they will make a big play for Daisuke Matsuzaka, but George Steinbrenner will only open his pocketbook that wide if he gets a favorable scouting report from a source he trusts.
So, I'm predicting, based on the following, that a trade will garner the Yankees' next big starter.
And "the following" is completely ridiculous.
Don't be surprised if the Alex Rodriguez to the Cubs rumors pick up after the World Series and as the Winter Meetings approaches, according to our Windy City source. ÂDiscussions will be expanded to include some interesting pieces.
The Cubs want to rid themselves of a lot of players (and contracts) that (new skipper Lou) Piniella has already indicated to Cubs GM Jim Hendry would be smart to get rid off. Mark Prior is a guy that intrigues Cashman, so expect his name to be mentioned.
See, I would think Cashman would have had enough of pitchers who can't ever seem to stay healthy. Although maybe Prior's durability will rub off on Pavano and he'll start at least 4 games next year.
Other names that will be tossed around are Yankees' top prospects Phil Hughes and Jose Tabata (because the Yankees are expected to demand Carlos Zambrano), but none of those players are getting dealt in any trade. Prior for A-Rod if a deal gets done Â will be the main pieces.
If the Yankees do deal A-Rod, they will go after a guy like Mark DeRosa because Cashman is said to admire the University of Pennsylvania product's grit, ability to play several positions, and desire to win at all costs.
This is obviously someone who knows nothing about Brian Cashman. See, Brian Cashman is the type of guy who thinks about trading for the game's best shortstop to fill his hole at third. Brian Cashman is not the type who "loves gritty role players who have lots of desire." Cashman likes players who are... good.
Otherwise, the Yankees are said to be targeting bullpen help, and lots of it.
Gee, way to go out on a limb there. I'm truly growing tired of "a source" who then "hears" something that makes no sense. Jeez, if you're going to make stuff up, at least make it somewhat believable.
Why would Cashman trade a bankable commodity for a HUGE question mark (no pun intended)? Answer: he wouldn't.
So let me get this straight.. Kenny Rogers gets caught cheating in a World Series game and the response is "hey fella, no more cheating please"?
Why in the world did Alfonso Marquez just act like a soccer mom and essentially tell Rogers "Kenny, come on now, you know better than that! Play fair, Kenny. Now you get back out there and you play nice with the other kids, ok?"
Why exactly is cheating acceptable here? Why wasn't Rogers ejected? Kenny Rogers had pine tar on his hand, in direct violation of MLB rule 8.02:
The pitcher shall not -- (b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.
At least this explains why one of the worst postseason pitchers ever has all of a sudden become an unhittable machine.
If he were tossed though I bet Leyland goes through two packs in the clubhouse entryway before the 6th inning.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers, seen here cheating.
While Rogers worked out of two-out trouble in the opening inning, the FOX network broadcast noticed a smudge on his left hand near his thumb. So, too, did home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, who determined it was a piece of dirt mixed with resin and asked Rogers to remove it, according to umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo.
The Cardinals didn't complain about it, Palermo added, though others suggested the Cardinals thought the ball was acting funny. If Rogers had any physical edge before, he seemingly had his usual emotional one after that. The runner on second base in the opening inning was the only runner he allowed to reach scoring position.
"If there's any conspiracy theorists out there," closer Todd Jones said, "I think they wouldn't have much of a theory now."
If anyone listened to Rogers' postgame interview, the very first question he was asked was about the substance, and Rogers replied (paraphrasing) that he noticed the "clump of dirt" between the first and second innings himself and that nobody asked him to remove it and that he simply wiped it off. Rogers was directly asked whether the umpires spoke to him, and he said they did not.
Leyland's postgame interview said that a couple of the Cardinals complained to LaRussa that Rogers' ball was "moving funny" and that LaRussa asked the umpires to ask Leyland to have him wash his hands, which he then did. Leyland then in a second interview completely changed his story and claimed that there were complaints to the umpires by the Cardinals but that the umpires did not speak with the Tigers about it.
(If anyone can find a link to the postgame interviews, please let me know - they are missing from MLB.com currently.)
So Todd Jones, here's your conspiracy: Leyland said the umpires told him the Cardinals complained. Steve Palermo says they did not. Rogers point blank said nobody talked to him. Leyland said someone did (and then said no one did). Palermo said that not only did someone talk with him, but that it was home plate umpire Marquez. Leyland said Rogers washed his hand. Rogers said he wiped it off.
There wouldn't be a conspiracy here if in fact the three people most directly involved - the umpiring supervisor, the pitcher and his manager - didn't all have three completely different recountings of the events in which they were involved just a couple of hours earlier.
Something is fishy here. There's no proof and no evidence of exactly what happened, but if nothing suspect was going on, why the differing accounts?
Besides, this is an isolated incident, right? It's just an accident, something Rogers overlooked I'm sure.
On the other hand:
On the left is Rogers pitching against the A's in the ALCS. On the right is Rogers pitching against St. Louis in the World Series.
After the substance was noticed, ESPN reviewed tapes of Rogers' pitching performances earlier in the postseason. The tapes revealed that, in starts against both the Yankees and Athletics, a similar-looking brown substance was spotted on Rogers' hand.
"The cold makes the ball so hard," Rogers said after the game. "There's no grip."
After the game, Rogers denied that his meeting with the umpires had anything to do with the substance on his hand.
So here we go again. Not only did Rogers deny the meeting with the umpires had anything to do with the dirt (in direct contrast to Palermo's story) but now it's pretty obvious that if you believe that Rogers "accidently had dirt on his hand" in Game 2, then you also have to accept that Rogers has "accidently had dirt on his hand" throughout the postseason.
Who knows, maybe the guy just never washed his hands since Game 3 of the ALDS, which would make sense since he's a dirty, dirty cheater.
I mean is there any other rational explanation?
As for rule 8.02 from above, there is a disclaimer:
Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6) Comment: If a pitcher violates either Rule 8.02(a)(2) or Rule 8.02(a)(3) and, in the judgment of the umpire, the pitcher did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball, then the umpire may, in his discretion, warn the pitcher in lieu of applying the penalty.
In this case, it would seem, the umpires felt that Rogers "did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball."
So the umpires did not have to immediately toss Rogers if they believed his "dirt" was accidental, but now that the evidence of past games is out there, it is blatantly obvious that there was in fact intent and that the intent was there for at least the entire postseason.
If Major League Baseball wishes to salvage any integrity here, it will suspend Rogers for the remainder of the postseason.
Of course, she neglects to mention - like most writers lately when they wax poetic about an A-Rod/Piniella reunion - that he had his best season under Buck Showalter, with whom he did not have the greatest relationship, to put it mildly.
She also seems to forget that the Cubs need to actually trade something the Yankees would want in exchange for His Rodness. But no matter, Chicago is just a sleepy little midwest village with no traffic and a calm understanding populace.
If My Free Time's Gone, Would You Promise Me This?
That you will please bury me with it? Please bury me with it.
Well sure as planets come, I know that they end. And if I'm here when that happens, will you promise me this my friend? Please bury me with it.
Major League Baseball and a company that makes funeral products will soon find out just how many fans want to be decked out for all eternity in tribute to their team.
Starting next season, fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will be able to have their ashes put in an urn or head six feet under in a casket emblazoned with their team colors and insignia.
MLB has entered a licensing agreement with Eternal Image, which hopes to eventually make urns and caskets for all 30 teams. The company also hopes to have similar agreements with NASCAR, the NHL and the NFL, but baseball was the first to sign on.
The $11 billion-a-year funeral industry is adding more personal touches, from Harley Davidson-themed caskets to ones featuring the cartoon character Betty Boop.
The Phillies urn was the first to be designed. Each urn will feature recognition of the deceased's passionate support, stamped with a message that says "Major League Baseball officially recognizes (person's name) as a lifelong fan of (team)."
David Griffin, funeral director at L.J. Griffin Funeral Home in suburban Detroit, said the caskets and urns could be a hot commodity.
"Looking at it as a consumer, I was thinking this is some pretty interesting, unique stuff," Griffin said.
Nevertheless, funeral homes will have to be careful to not offend clients.
"They are a little bit hesitant because of what others might think," Soffe said.
The manufacturer also will have to make sure the products aren't too expensive. People who choose cremation, for example, often do so partly because it is cheaper.
"I guess it's going to be interesting to see how it's accepted," Griffin said.
I am really quite curious who wanted to have their remains spend eternity in a Betty Boop coffin.
Just When I Thought We Were Advancing as a Society
I mean, Sportswriters are using sabermetrics. ESPN talking heads throw around .OPS numbers, but no longer treat it like a silly, nerdy stat. We were making progress.
And then all of a sudden, "clutchiness" became the phrase of the day. I think it really started in 2005 with the Ortiz/Rodriguez MVP debate, where some people felt that the most important ability one can have is their "clutchiness."
But what is lost in the argument about Rodriguez is his quite significant contribution to the Yankees. And no one benefits more from his presence than Derek Jeter. Jeter has never been considered a top defender, despite his sparkling reputation, and he was on a downward spiral in the years before the Yankees acquired Rodriguez.
From 1998 to 2003, Jeter performed below the league average for shortstops each season in a statistic called range factor per game, which shows how many plays (putouts plus assists) a fielder makes a game. He bottomed out in 2003, with a 3.65 RFg, a low figure in a season when the average major league shortstop recorded a 4.13. He also turned 29.
For comparison, Rodriguez never recorded a RFg below 4.3 as a starting shortstop, and the category has been led the last two seasons by Rafael Furcal of the Dodgers, who had a 4.99 in 2005 and a 4.88 in 2006.
The season he turned 30, which happened to coincide with the Rodriguez trade, Jeter suddenly turned a corner. His RFg improved to 4.32, and he was awarded a Gold Glove. The next year, 2005, was even better, with Jeter improving to 4.56 and winning another Gold Glove. With Rodriguez struggling through a difficult year in 2006 — and his fielding suffering — Jeter again regressed to below average, with a 3.97 RFg.
After Rodriguez’s arrival, Jeter’s fielding percentage remained fairly constant with his .975 career mark, meaning the only difference in his game was that he was getting to more balls put in play.
There are two possible explanations for Jeter’s transformation from a poor shortstop to a Gold Glove contender: either he developed more range at 30, an age when most players are beginning to decline, or he benefited greatly from having a Gold Glove-caliber defender at third base, which allowed him to cheat to his left, a weakness highlighted by many scouts.
Rodriguez certainly struggled this season in clutch situations, but his struggles were nothing that other Yankees, including Jeter, have not gone through.
While Jeter is often talked about as one of the great clutch performers, he has had his share of problems, including hitting .152 in close-and-late situations in 2003, far worse than Rodriguez’s .237 average in those situations this year.
Despite his reputation as Mr. November for a clutch hit in the 2001 World Series, Jeter went 6 for 44 for a .136 average that year in the American League Championship Series and World Series, which the Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Using the statistic called win shares, which was developed by the baseball analyst Bill James to determine how many wins a player contributes to his team as a hitter and defender, Rodriguez has been more valuable to the Yankees over the last three seasons than Jeter. He has recorded 92 win shares as a Yankee, translating roughly to 30 wins for the team. In the same amount of time, Jeter has 85, translating to 28 wins. While a few wins may not seem significant, in two of the last three seasons, the Yankees have won the division by three or fewer games.
To replace Rodriguez’s average of 30.67 win shares a season since he joined the Yankees, Cashman would have to trade for two to three players who could combine to provide the same number. At that point the Yankees would already be at a net loss; those shares are accounted for by one player and not spread out over multiple positions where the Yankees have All Star-caliber players.
A player is often one good postseason from being considered a clutch hitter, and Rodriguez may look to Barry Bonds for inspiration. Going into the 2002 playoffs, Bonds was a .196 career postseason hitter. He then proceeded to hit eight postseason home runs and to compile a .471 batting average in the World Series, and that stigma has been shed.
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.
If you're like me, you're a fan of great deals on quality products at blowout prices. This is why quite often, I visit the Woot! website, where their daily deal can often not be rivaled.
Imagine my surprise to discover that the 10/11/06 Woot!, for the 30 GB Archos AV500 is only $269.99! And it has a crying child! How adorable!
But I need a closer look of course, before I make my decision as to whether or not this item is the one for me. It's then that I notice the child is wearing an Oklahoma Sooners shirt. Hmm. So I click on the image to zoom in and get more detail.
Imagine my surprise...
It appears someone's idea of a joke is that either the Yankees are crying babies, or their fans are crying babies, or that Sooners fans are crying babies, or some combination of all of the above.
The Sooners lost to Texas last weekend, 28-10. Woot! is located in Texas, so perhaps the gloating there makes a little sense but it's still probably a bad business practice. The Yankee hate from Texas? Ah hell, we're used to everyone hating our team by now, or at least we should be. Maybe there's a disgruntled Bubba Crosby fan working at Woot! who was disappointed his Texas superstar missed the postseason roster.
Needless to say, I didn't purchase the device.
You'll probably sell more products if you don't insult a portion of your customer base, even if it's subtle.
(Thanks to reader and good friend Stan for the heads up. And please people, realize this post is all in good fun.)
The Twins exercised their 2007 option on Torii Hunter for $12 million dollars.
This is a small raise for Hunter, whose 2006 salary of $10.5 million was only the federal minimum wage. "The Yankees have a $200 million payroll, and we play for minimum wage," Hunter said in early September.
It's nice to see he's getting a raise and that someone is finally giving some respect to an outfielder with a career OPS+ of 102.
If you've ever seen Hunter's MLB "I Live For This" commercial though, you know already that hitting is not important to this guy.
"I'd rather rob a home run than hit a home run," he proudly exclaims. Hunter might be alarmed to learn that his 164 career home runs are actually a higher total than his on-field thefts.
But certainly when I think of a great value - even if it's slightly above minimum wage - it's $12 million dollars per year for Torii Hunter.
If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to file a complaint here with payroll.
In looking forward towards and past 2007 (which many in the media seem to be unable to do where the Yankees are concerned) there's one individual whose presence could make a huge difference to the team from the Bronx: Daisuke Matsuzaka. I was hoping the Seibu Lions would have posted him last year, but they didn't, and perhaps with good reason. After his riconkulous World Baseball Classic performance, his value has never been higher.
Highly regarded pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given permission by the Seibu Lions on Tuesday to pursue a career in the major leagues.
Matsuzaka, who has drawn interest from several major league teams including the New York Yankees, finished the 2006 regular season with a career-high 17 wins against five losses.
The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.13 earned-run average and 200 strikeouts.
Matsuzaka has long been considered one of the brightest prospects in Japanese professional baseball.
Seibu is expected to use the posting system in which major league teams present bids for Japanese players and the highest bidder wins the negotiating rights. Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners under the same system.
Matsuzaka is still one year away from becoming a free agent.
In his eight-year career in Japan, Matsuzaka has led the Pacific League in wins three times and in strikeouts four times while winning the ERA title twice and the Sawamura Award, Japan's version of the Cy Young Award, once.
Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March and was named MVP of the tournament.
Do it. Get him. How can you not want a pitcher who throws a friggin' gyroball? I was lucky enough to attend both of Japan's games at Petco Park, and got to see him up close. He's filthy. I know it's a small sample size, but this guy made major leaguers look silly. He's no Hideki Irabu, he's the real thing.
Do it Cashman, go get him. Spend what needs to be spent. He's a better talent right now than the best free agent starter on the market (Zito) and you don't even give up a draft pick. He'll bring in more revenue from Japan along with Matsui.
It's a no brainer, and quite possible the rotation next year could be Wang, Matsuzaka, Mussina, Hughes, and Johnson. Huge improvement.
Remember When Randy Winn was Traded for Lou Pinella?
It looks as if the value of managers has never been higher and the Yankees are essentially trading one of the greatest players of all time for their sleepy faced manager who completely lost control of the clubhouse - the only thing at which he was supposed to be good.
If the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez this offseason, it's a victory for everyone I - and I assume you, since you're reading this site - hate: idiot sportswriters whose own egos and need to create news trump actual facts and reality. Alex Rodriguez being traded is a victory for Mike Lupica, and makes Steve Phillips into the genius prognosticator of 2006.
Let's face facts: Rodriguez would have been run out of town by the Daily News, ESPN, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated, Newsday, and on and on and on. This is what happens when nearly every day one of these sources needs to create controversy and destroy a man's character and distort his accomplishments in order to sell more advertising and get an interview on Baseball Tonight with more idiots.
Has Rodriguez been perfect? No. Has he been "money" in the postseason? No. However he did carry the team single-handedly past the Twins in the 2004 ALCS, a fact that is rarely mentioned. Instead he's a choker, regardless of the fact that without him on the team, it's quite possible neither the 2005 (especially) or 2006 editions of the Yankees fail to make the postseason. Think about that for a second. Would Joe Torre still have a job today if the Yankees were unable to reach the playoffs? I doubt it. In many ways, Alex Rodriguez saved Joe Torre's job. Torre, on his part, never attempted to return the favor and may have left the last image we see of a Hall of Famer in a Yankee uniform as an 8th-spot hitter who is seemingly made to be the sole reason the Yankees did not win the World Series for three years.
This is why it is asinine to choose a manager whose only supposed strength is clubhouse and media management - and who failed in that role - over a future hall of famer in his prime years.
This is not to mention that the one person who could have ended the Rodriguez mess a long time ago never stood up and defended his teammate, which is exactly what a "captain" should do. And yet there is hardly ever a tarnish on the halo of St. Derek, while Rodriguez is not allowed to go to the park with his family.
Congratulations, media whores. It looks like you're going to get what you wanted. Rodriguez will be gone and you've had days of "will they or won't they fire Torre" to sell your papers since there are no "real" stories to print.
Just what do you plan on writing about next season, when Rodriguez is gone? There’s still that big ol’ bus and you’re going to have to find someone else to throw underneath it on a daily basis.
Surprising comments but Sheffield has always spoken off the cuff:
Torre, who managed the Yankees to 11 consecutive postseason appearances, has come under scrutiny for the Yankees' latest playoff loss. He benched Sheffield in Game 3 and first baseman Jason Giambi in Game 4 of the playoffs, and caused a firestorm when he demoted Rodriguez to the eighth spot in the batting order in Game 5.
"I think that affected the morale and psyche of the entire team, not just A-Rod," Sheffield said. ""I'm not making any excuses, but everyone was wondering what was going on. It made it a real weird day. You would like to be treated with a little respect, I don't care who you play for.
"We were worrying about all of that stuff, and we still had a game to play. If I'm on the other side, and all of a sudden they're putting Rodriguez eighth and putting me or Jason on the bench, you wonder what's going on. Those guys [the Tigers] were asking me about it. I think it boosted their morale. It gave them confidence they didn't have.
"[Tigers manager] Jim Leyland took advantage of that. He can make you believe anything. He can put a fire under your belt like you never had before in your life.
Look, any regular reader of this space knows I am no Torre defender or lover, but Lou Pinella is not the answer either. Lou's the kind of guy to manage a bunch of kids and up and comers, which is not a great fit for this team as currently constructed.
I'd really be a fan of Girardi taking over, but I assume that's a pipedream.
You've had the most unique interaction with fans for a sportswriter. I wish it would continue, but I'm thankful for the times you've given us.
I will be covering baseball through the remainder of the postseason and keeping tabs on the Yankees. I plan to continue posting every day but, obviously, there won't be as many posts. But when I hear something interesting, I will be writing about it here. There will be plenty of hot stove talk and I'll be at the Winter Meetings.
But I do have lots of vacation to take between now and spring training. The blog will close down then.
"Joe, we're going to make a change. You know how much I appreciate you, you know how much you've done for us. But the Boss wants a new manager and this time, I can't talk him out of it.
I can't really blame him, either. It all comes down to results and by our standards, we are not getting it done. Remember those days during the dynasty? You couldn't do anything wrong. All your moves paid off. You stuck Cecil Fielder at first base and he hit. You pinch-hit Darryl Strawberry and he delivered. You used the bullpen perfectly. The players loved you; the players responded to you. The last few years, you've made moves and they haven't worked out. I was on board with your decision to use Sheff at first, but it didn't work out. Your handling of A-Rod, talking to Sports Illustrated about him, dropping him to eighth in the lineup for Game 4, none of that worked out. Starting Bernie Williams in Game 3. Look, I know you had no control over Carl Pavano's driving habits, or Randy Johnson's back problems, or Mike Mussina's inability to finish off Curtis Granderson in Game 2, but at the end of the day they won and we lost and the Boss wants a new manager.
But this time from a writer I like who actually makes sense!
A snippet from Alex Belth:
But New York's obsession with hating Rodiriguez says more about Nee Yorkers themselves, and the nature of the tabloid competition here, than it necessarily does about Rodriguez himself. (Just like ovation Torii Hunter got from Twins' fans after mis-playing a ball into an inside-the-park home run said something about Minniesota fans. I know Hunter is different to them than A Rod is to Yankee fans, I'm just saying.) Not that A Rod doesn't contribute to the matter but the resentment that people express says more about what they demand from the highest-paid player: nothing short of being the absolute best in every way. They feel entitled to take the guy down if he doesn't match their expectations.
I'm not about to say that for sure there was something fishy going on, but since the (unofficial) major league record for fastest pitch is 103 MPH, did Zumaya really not only tie the record on the strikeout of Giambi but throw eight of his last nine pitches at over 100 MPH? I know Zumaya's got a great power arm, and he was pumped up, but I'm not sure that ESPN's radar was exactly... accurate either.
Again, not saying there's fire, just saying there's smoke.
Now remember kids, you have to set the stage, mention how he could be a hero but fails, be sure to bring up his salary, and at least once mention the phrase "True Yankee."
A-Rod goes 0-for-4 with 3 Ks as Yankees drop Game 2 to Tigers By IRA PODELL, AP Sports Writer October 5, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez strode to the plate and the Yankee Stadium fans cheered as one, imploring him to deliver that elusive clutch hit.
Strike one. Strike two. Strike three.
Another missed chance for baseball's $25 million man.
Rodriguez stood at the plate and removed his batting gloves after being frozen on Justin Verlander's curveball Thursday. There were no boos, just groans when the New York Yankees' early threat ended with a whimper.
"It's hard to put the hammer down in the first inning," Rodriguez said, "but a hit there would've been nice."
The vaunted Yankees' offense put up runs later, but not enough to put away the Tigers, who evened the best-of-five AL playoff series with a 4-3 victory.
Rodriguez went 0-for-4, including two other strikeouts that ended the fifth and eighth innings. By the time his day was finished, boos were raining down.
"I didn't like him that well," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.
Rodriguez shook his head and flipped away his bat and helmet in further frustration with each successive out. He blocked out the hooting fans, he said.
"I don't even hear them," Rodriguez said. "I am so focused on what I have to do on the field."
In that initial at-bat, A-Rod fouled back Verlander's second pitch. Rodriguez felt that was the one that got away.
"I had some good pitches to hit," he said. "I didn't get it done, and you have to move on."
Try as he might to prove he is a true Yankee with championship mettle, his numbers continue to show otherwise. Rodriguez is 1-for-8 in the two games against Detroit and 5-for-40 in his last 11 postseason games. A two-time MVP and 10-time All-Star, he has gone 10 straight playoff contests without an RBI.
"The fact is, last October was bad. But this is not over," he said.
A-Rod went a quiet 1-for-4 with a strikeout in New York's series-opening 8-4 win on Tuesday night. He hit the ball hard, even on his outs, but had nothing to show for it.
Instead, he felt the shadow from shortstop envelop him, as it always seems to do. Derek Jeter put up a 5-for-5 night in the opener and heard all the chants of "M-V-P," the very award Rodriguez won last season.
Even after his first-inning failure Thursday, the crowd didn't turn on the third baseman.
Rodriguez was met by lesser cheers for his next at-bat leading off the fourth. The Yankees were down by a run when Rodriguez blooped a ball to shallow left. Just when it seemed a rally would start, Craig Monroe made a sliding catch to send him back to the dugout.
It turned out to be a three-run inning for New York, but Rodriguez was just a spectator to the theatrics.
Verlander caught him looking again in the fifth. Joel Zumaya got him to wave at a 1-2 pitch in the eighth.
"A-Rod's a great hitter and when a great hitter comes up with me on the mound, I don't back down from him," Zumaya said. "A-Rod could have easily took one of my balls 500 feet if he would have connected."
Rodriguez's best moment came in the field during Detroit's go-ahead uprising in the seventh. Playing in to try to cut off an insurance run, Rodriguez snared a liner off the bat of Placido Polanco and nearly doubled Curtis Granderson off third with a lunge with his glove at the bag.
"I was surprised I couldn't get there," Rodriguez said. "He got back pretty quickly."
Just short was again the story at the end of this day. When it was done, Rodriguez was back in his funk and feeling the chill on a warm October day.
"My chin is up," he said. "My chin isn't going anywhere."
David Eckstein's .350 OBP is good enough for 96th amoungst players who qualify for the batting title. He's not "speedy" (7 steals). He has no power (2 HR). It also seems as if he can't sacrifice (bunted horribly and got a fielder's choice).
However LaRussa is giving him more post-season at bats than any other Cardinal.
I slammed Torre for Womack last year, I can't excuse LaRussa now. "Managerial genius" my ass.
Also, did San Diego, like, install some sort of a medusa in center field or something?
It looked to me like Pujols just turned into a statue after he hit that jack.
The last regular-season game yesterday was a lot of fun for the Yankees, one last, lighthearted moment before the baseball gets serious. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano didn't quite win the batting title, but Bernie Williams played manager, pinch-hit himself and knocked a double in the ninth. Then he said George Steinbrenner had called the manager's office, to fire him.