Friday, August 29, 2008

"A Matter Of Worth"

But those moments of regret are few and fleeting because for the Alvarezes, telling the Red Sox, thanks, but no, your offer is not enough, wasn't so much a question of greed but a matter of worth.
-Melissa Segura, Sports Illustrated, June 5, 2008, in an excellent article on Pedro Alvarez turning down a $775,000 signing bonus with the Boston Red Sox in 2005, instead deciding to play at Vanderbilt.

So what's the question this time, Pedro? When you agreed to a $6 million signing bonus with the Pittsburgh Pirates it was okay, but two weeks later it's not worth forgoing the last year of college? Furthermore, it's so not worth it that you're going to back out of a binding contract, violating the current collective bargaining agreement of Major League baseball? Nice job. Have fun on the restricted list, typically reserved for drug addicts.

Not surprisingly, HYD Baseball suspension candidate Scott Boras is involved in this mess, as he claims that the Alvarez agreement was completed too late. According to several sources, the agreement between the Royals and Eric Hosmer was consummated after Alvarez's, but Boras has no problems with that deal so it is not being called into question. There was no grievance filed until after Boras and Alvarez found out what the other signing bonuses ended up being.

I wonder if this current Alvarez holdout is also a "matter of worth" instead of a matter of greed. I'd say the Pirates' $6 million signing bonus is a gesture of disrespect that ranks somewhere alongside urinating on someone's grave, insulting someone's mother in Spanish, and the Red Sox' $40 million offer to Johnny Damon in 2005, as the Pirates clearly don't think Alvarez is "worth" much of anything. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Alvarez, a veteran of approximately zero professional baseball games was offered $6 million, which is more than the annual salary of every Pirates major league player except for Jack Wilson ($6.6 million/year). The signing bonus is actually equal to one-eighth (12.5%) of the entire team payroll this year. It is the third-highest signing bonus of the draft (according to Foxsports.com) and it was given by the 28th-most-valuable team in baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates' franchise value is $292 million, which makes Alvarez's signing bonus almost 2.1% of the total franchise value. Once again, zero professional at-bats. But maybe the Pirates didn't consider the "worth" of having Pedro Alvarez on their rookie ball team. What a joke.

Maybe by "matter of worth," the Alvarezes meant how valuable Pedro's college education is. This was a major sticking point in the Segura article. Alvarez is an economics major, so unless Jim Herrick Jr. started teaching econ at Vanderbilt, Alvarez should know what opportunity cost is. In fact, in my introductory microeconomics class, opportunity cost was explained with the examples of Tiger Woods, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James going pro early because by staying in school, they are sacrificing too many potential earnings.

He's 21 years old and there are only so many years he can play professionally. Former Boras holdouts J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek decided to forgo not only their "inadequate" signing bonuses, but also a year of earnings in affiliated baseball and perhaps the opportunity to play at the major league level earlier. The completion of the economics major at Vanderbilt can be done at any time, especially when a $6 million bonus can cover tuition.

Not a sound decision, and though I do expect econ majors to have dollar signs in their eyes (sorry Bandi and Oz), I also expect them to know better. The decision to tell the Red Sox to stick it in 2005--a "matter of worth" as opposed to a matter of greed makes sense. But today they're squabbling about $200,000 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. That is nothing but a matter of greed, and that's detestable.

Let's see Alvarez lose his NCAA eligibility due to his connections with a sports agent. Then let's see him blow out his ACL or Achilles in independent ball while he continues his holdout.

It would be a fitting review of the opportunity cost lesson Alvarez, the economics major, must have slept through.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Two Questions

1) Is the infield grass a part of the basepath?

According to today's umpiring crew (there are four of them, that's 8 eyes, all on the infield by the way), it is. Which is wrong.

This is little league stuff. Judging whether or not a player is out of the baseline when they have both feet on the grass (and slow up and make no real effort to get to the base, Pedroia knew he was out), is not a difficult call. The reason it's not difficult is becaue it's not a judgement call. Either your on the grass or your not. It's a matter of observing fact, which is clearly above the umpires at this point. You know, seeing a call and making it.

The umpiring in Major League Baseball has truly become embarassing. Something needs to be done. I doubt that it will. Major League Umpires, from top to bottom, are far too arrogant a group to ever admit doing a bad job, and they are far too protected for change to ever be enacted.

2) Is anyone concerned about the fact that it's August 28th and Jon Lester, probably the Red Sox best pitcher, is already 20 innings over last year's total? If he takes his regular turn to the end, there are 6 more starts after today. That would be at least another 30 innings. Then you have the playofs, if the Red Sox make it, which could be anywhere from 0 to 25ish innings. 25-30 innings is the point where there is significant evidence if a pitcher goes above that from one year to the next, the chance for injury in the coming seasons is increased substantially. After his next start, he'll be there. From the on, every inning he throws is potentially damaging to his future. Are the Red Sox going to take this risk? Is this a concern amongst the fans?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And With That, It's Officially Time to Look at 2009

It's not going to happen now. They really needed to sweep, but definitely had to have at least a series win to even think about September. And it's funny, after a debate about the bullpen vs. the offense today, the offense had another in a season of pathetic performances and the bullpen imploded (weird how good they are with leads and how bad they are with deficits). And with that, the Yankees, for the first time in 14 seasons, are not going to make the playoffs. It was going to happen eventually, and, well, here we are. Good timing for me, first year of Law School and all.

And it's better that it happens now, with 30 games left. They probably weren't going to make it no matter what, and playing Damon in center and continuing to start Sidney Ponson or Darrell Rasner the rest of the way, just to miss the playoffs anyway, would have been counterproductive. You can find out some things -- things that are critical for the off-season and next year -- that you wouldn't be able to find out if they were still in the race. And you can get some guys ready for 2009. Here's a quick look:

-Give Phil Hughes 6 starts. He's a part of this team's future, but you just need to find out how quick he can be. As we've seen with so many pitchers (Mike Pelfry of the Mets most recently, who was not on Hughes' level two years ago, and stunk last year in the majors), it takes time. Pitchers need to get comfortable with what it takes at this level. Hughes was good at AAA tonight and he needs innings. Get those innings up top.

-Ditto Mark Melancon. Whatever innings he has left, get them at the big league level. And give him key innings if you can (as key as the Yankees will have, anyway).

-Have the talent evaluators within the organization come to a consensus on which one of three pitchers Ian Patrick Kennedy is. 1) Last year's. 2) This year's. 3) Somewhere in between. If it's #1 see above, and do the same. If it's #2 or #3, keep him in the minors, let him keep dominating, get his value up, and get ready to make him part of the trade package for a bat we are making this off-season.

-Limit Mariano's workload. As the Yankees become the ultimate win now team next year, Mariano is the biggest part of this. There is no reason to have him out there throwing too many innings and risking anything. Never more than an inning, never more than two days in a row. Don't shut him down (he'd never allow it anyway), but do the unintentional intentional shutdown, if that makes any sense.

-Hideki Matsui is a pretty admirable dude. Most people would have shut it down and gotten surgery when the doctor told him too. But he tried to come back, did, and played well and played hard. Now it's time to get the surgery. No reason not to.

-Give Brett Gardner almost every inning in center field and every at bat he can get in the 9 hole. Find out if the young outfielder you trade for this off-season also needs to be able to play center field. If Gardner can play, it doesn't have to be.

-Ditto Juan Miranda at 1B. I'm not sold that he's an everyday first baseman. He crushes right-handed pitching, but can't hit lefties and can't field the position. That said, he really, really, really crushes righties to the tune of .335/.444/.542 (yikes). But those are AAA righties. Find out if he can do it up here.

-Might as well do the same with Shelley. Small sample size, but he has a .642 SLG and 1.020 OPS (no joke) against lefties this year, and he has a history of smacking lefites. If not other options present themselves, find out if Miranda and Shelley can be a young, cheap alternative platoon at first.

-Let Phil Coke work out of the Major League pen. No prospect at the upper levels has made more of a positive stride this year than him, and the way he's pitched at AAA, keeping him in the Nady/Marte trade (it was initially reported he was going) could be a major coup. He's left-handed with a great makeup, so might as well see how well the numbers translate. He's been dominant all year.

That should pretty much cover it. A lot of these guys are on the border of "can they contribute or can't they", and the Yankees would be well served to try and find that out now as opposed to at any time next season. Didn't work that well this year. And next year's team is probably going to be an improved, healthier version of this year's, and one that needs to win before they lose Mariano, Jeter, and Posada in any capacity.

To close, in the 8 years before A-Plus-Loser arrived in New York, the Yankees had reached the World Series in 6 times, winning it 4 times. In his first year, they lost in the ALCS in 7 games. Second year, ALDS loss in 5 games. Third year, ALDS loss in 4 games. Fourth year, ALDS loss in 4 games, BUT, they didn't win the division for the first time in a decade. Fifth year, missed the playoffs. Not only that, but even with the shift in power from New York to Boston in the playoffs, New York had still managed to dominate Boston when it mattered in the big spots in the regular season. In 2006, right around this time, they swept a five game series in Fenway to take the division lead. In 2007, right around this time, they swept a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium to get the division lead, once 14.5, to 3 behind a 10-2 final 12 games against Boston. Now this year, in the biggest series for both teams of the season, the Yankees have been embarrassed, at home, by Boston. Look at where they started before A-Plus-Loser. Look at where they have fallen to now. Clearly, this isn't all his fault, and you can't say with certainty he has anything to do with it. But it is very worth noting. They have gotten progressively worse EVERY SINGLE YEAR since A-Plus-Loser was acquired. And you do have to wonder how related it is.

On the bright side, at least we don't have to watch A-Plus-Loser in the playoffs this year! You know, the place where he has stranded 38 consecutive baserunners since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (not a misprint). I'd love to hear the A-Rod apologists tell me how that's somehow okay.

However, Pine Tar Is Too Slow

Don't get me wrong, I have very little problem with Major League Baseball's implementation of instant replay for boundary calls. There have been so many mistakes made this season and also prior to this season (including when JD Drew got ROBBED of a home run which would have put him at the one dozen milestone for the season...what the F?). And unless it becomes a situation where the sport is changed significantly, there's little reason to balk on this before another major incident takes place in a pennant race.

I don't even have much problem with the timing, while I know many others do. Incorrect calls could stand for early in the season, but could be corrected if that "what-if" home run were hit later on. Whatever; deal with it. They're trying to minimize mistakes instead of staying consistent. If consistency means avoidable errors should still go on, consistency is somewhat stupid.

However, the way MLB is implementing the program is, just like many of their other policies, inefficient. Like many of their other policies (think revenue sharing, think steroids, think the "speed-it-up" policies, think the All-Star Game), there's a better way of going about it.

What is happening now with the replay is that if there is a disputed boundary call, play will be stopped, the umpires will all leave the field and will proceed into an area where they can see the replay, monitored (presumably remotely) by another official and a technician from MLB Advanced Media. This is similar to what happens in football, where a field official leaves the field and communicates with the technicians.

What should happen is that there should be a fifth official upstairs in a booth watching a game (Tim Tschida would be a good candidate, because that guy's ego should not be allowed on a baseball field anymore), just like in hockey. The fifth official should be trusted with the video (Tschida might not be the best candidate, on second thought) footage and make the decision, communicating the decision to the crew chief. This is similar to hockey.

Hockey decisions with the "booth guy" are oftentimes made in 45 seconds. Bringing four umpires into a booth is inefficient and creates unnecessary delays--delays that are not going to be off-set by less argumentation. Argumentation will continue, as most of those arguments are made on non-boundary calls. This just slows down the pace of the game.

It is not okay to let Drew put pine tar on a new bat, but it is okay to create unnecessary delays so that four people can do a one-person job. Terrible. Thoughtless. Typical of Bud Selig's administration.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

9 More Years Of This

The sad part about tonight is that you didn't see anything new. This wasn't just a bad game. This is who Alex Rodriguez has been with the Yankees. And, as Gunn pointed out last week, at his age, this is probably who Alex Rodriguez is, and who he is going to be for the next NINE seasons. I would never be able to claim to know that, because I can't predict the future, and things could change at any time. But if I had to place a bet, I know which way I would go.

Alex Rodriguez does not lack talent. There were four players in the Boston lineup tonight that do. Ellsbury, Crisp, Bailey, and Cash. But that didn't stop them from being far more productive for their team tonight. Because they aren't headcases in big games.

You really have to wonder what goes on with him. I certainly don't know. But one thing I do know is that 2007 was a contract year, and he didn't have this issue. It could have been a fluke. But then again, he's had one contract year with the Yankees, and prior to that he was terrible in big games, and now again we are right back at it. Certainly enough to raise both eyebrows in terms of what his true motivations are, and what makes him play at or near his full ability($$$).

I watched the game in the bar tonight, and you can just tell everyone knows what's going to happen, which is really sad. Offense, defense, doesn't matter. Everyone knows it's a big time in the season, a big game, and he's not going to step up. It's the same old story. The numbers at the end of the year will look good. But when it matters not only is he not going to contribute, he's going to take away (2 massive DBP's tonight).

I said to my buddy sitting next to me something that is rather obvious. Even if Johnny Damon wasn't having a bigtime season, and was batting say .280, you'd rather have him on your team than A-Rod in a big game everyday. Because he plays bigger than he is. A .280 guy that steps up is more valuable than a 45 homer star that disappears. Because the former will win big and close games for you, and be there for you in the playoffs. For teams that are likely to be good with a superstar or not (like the Yankees), this is even more true. You need winners, not big numbers. We are in season #5 of 14 (oh. my. word.), and outside of 2007, A-Rod has never thought about being anything more than big numbers. And the worst part is, he should be held to a higher standard. Not only is he supposed to show up, he's supposed to be able to carry you for AT LEAST one game every now and again. This isn't like Xavier Nady having trouble in big games. This is Alex Rodriguez.

And I'm not one of those that thinks he should hit a game winning home run every night. That's absurd, and I think some fans have those kinds of expectations (not that exactly, but you know what I mean). But I don't think I need to justify my position tonight that he's a loser. He could have changed this game with a single on two different occassions, and never came close. The next contract year is 8 years away. Get used to it. In non-contract years, this is all we've seen. I'd love to hear from the Yankees fans who thought it was crazy not to bring him back now. He dooped every last one of you. Worst signing the Yankees have made since I've been a fan (what's he going to be like when he loses his talent AND is still a disaster in big games?), and any winning they do in the next 9 years, they'll have to do despite him. October 1, 2017.

As a side note, there were some very accurate comments under the last post about how tight the umps strikezone was all game. It really was, both ways. And then with a runner on first and second and no outs in the 8th, with a full count to Matsui (big spot anybody?), he rings up Matsui on that curveball from Okajima that was 3 feet off the plate. And of course follows that up by calling the very same pitch to Cano on a 1-2 count a ball. Talk about a boner call, keeping it going from bases loaded no out is a lot more exciting than ringing a guy up with only 1 ball and 1 out, so that's why he does it in the first scenario. Totally making himself part of the action, which is the primary issue with umpires right now. They need replay for everything with these morons.

Well, Duh

Tom Caron has a good but pretty obvious column in the Portland Press-Herald today. He characterizes the Red Sox as a "catchable" team, specifically by the Yankees in this coming series. With the wide array of injuries the Red Sox have suffered, this is a team that is limping into September.

However, as he's pointed out also, they've done a pretty good job limping, as Sunday's exciting win in Toronto put the team at the high-water mark for the season (20 games above .500), which somehow is still better than Minnesota. By the way, good thing the Twins traded Santana. Carlos Gomez has been good, but I have a feeling Santana would be helping this team a little bit more. But anyway, a team that's leading the wild card despite injuries, real or imagined, to virtually almost every impact player plus role player J.D. Drew says something about this team. Not sure what it is, but it's something.

It is also notable that while watching Sunday's game for a second time yesterday, it kinda looked like the Red Sox woke up. Not that they were in a summer 2004-type coma, but there was a bit of an aura of "yeah, we're all injured, but F it, we're going to win 15 out of 20 games anyway," which is a sharp contrast to the team that sometimes shows up. After looking like Corky Miller for the majority of the summer, Jason Varitek has looked like Mark Bellhorn again lately. Coco Crisp is hitting .296 since July 30th as well, by the way.

But we still haven't found out what this Red Sox team is all about, and just as the Yankees can get back into this race by sweeping, the Red Sox can end it by sweeping. And though this team is showing some kind of promise, the pitching matchups are questionable at best for the Red Sox. Tonight is the HGH guy versus the injured knuckleballer (edge: NY), tomorrow is the fat slob who shot punches at the judge (yeeeeeeeah) versus the other HGH guy (even), and Thursday is the old lefty who's become an improbable stopper versus the young lefty who's become an improbable stopper (slight edge: NY). There is nothing the Red Sox have done this year that make me think "there's absolutely no way they don't get swept."

And I think Tom Caron's saying the same thing. But when you look back a little bit, there's nothing the Red Sox have done this year that would suggest they should be a "feared" team in the American League. Though no team this year is perfect, it's fair to say that as a Red Sox fan, there are a lot of teams that make me say, "ah crap, we're going there." Anaheim is one of those teams. So is Tampa Bay. So are both the White Sox and the Twins. And the Yankees.

As a Yankee fan (we have lots of them here), do you really say, "ah crap, we're playing the 2008 Red Sox?" Is a Yankee fan scared about 46 killing them? How about Jason Bay? How about anyone except for Youkilis and Pedroia? Are they afraid that with Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon a one-run lead is insurmountable? Do Yankee fans really relish the possibility that the Red Sox might sweep?

I'd say probably not. This team is "catchable" at best, "a disaster waiting to happen" at worst. Should be an interesting week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Few Monday Morning Thoughts and Quotes

- Is there something in the water in New York this year? Osi Umenyiora, the Giants best player, is out for the season. Unbelievable.

- Derek Jeter got his 2,500th hit on Friday night. Only five active players have more (Omar Visquel, Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Sheffield, Pudge Rodriguez, and Luis Gonzalez. Nobody has more hits since the start of the 1996 season, Jeter's rookie year. Pretty impressive. Yet, asked what it meant to him, he said, "It means we won the game today...More importantly, we won. We needed this win." Asked if he was looking forward to the next milestone, he said, "Yeah, 2,501. That's what I'll be thinking about tomorrow." All team, all the time. This is what I'm saying with guys who can't tolerate losing. Even when they are putting together some of the best numbers (in this case, the best), of their generation, it's all about the next day's win. I wish I could say the same for everyone.

- Prior to yesterday Damaso Marte had been resting for the last week or so due to inflammation in his left elbow. He thinks it may be related to the 42 pitches he threw in that multiple inning stint in Texas, the most he had thrown in a game since 2006. Didn't we get rid of Joe Torre because his primary shortcoming was his abuse of the bullpen? Joe Girardi has more shortcomings than I can count on both hands, and now he abuses the bullpen too. Awesome. Everyone, including me, has said "it's the injuries, it's the underperformances." But the more I think about it, maybe not. At this time last year, the Yankees were 3 games out of the Wild Card. Right now they are 5, and had they caught a break yesterday, it would be 4. Looks like last year and this year aren't so different. The Yankees have lost a lot of close games that they could have had a better chance to win with better managing, but what's done is done. Girardi is in a similar, albeit more difficult, position to Torre's Yankees last year. It will be interesting to see what he does.

-And to his credit, this weekend was a good start. He was aggressive with his bullpen, and the team really played with some urgency. I don't understand why he wasn't this aggressive for the last month, including last Tuesday with "Complete Game Darrell Rasner", but like I said what's done is done. Let's see Girardi go get it from here on out.

-Steve from WasWatching.com pointed out why the Yankees are where they are, and this specifically applies to their relation to the Red Sox. Against teams .500 or better, the Yankees are one of only three teams (LAA and Tampa Bay) with a winning record at 34-31. The Red Sox are 31-37 against winning teams. However, against teams with a losing record, the Yankees are only 34-29. The Red Sox are a whopping 43-17 vs. such teams. The Red Sox, while not playing good baseball against good teams, are cleaning up on weak teams, as they should. The Yankees, while playing well against good teams, are not doing what they need to do against weak teams. And there you have it.

- How big was that Red Sox win yesterday, and where is Julio Lugo when I need him? As I've said in this space before, there is a big difference between 4 and 5 in a race. 4 you are really in it, 5 you are still kind of on the outside looking in. Either way, this is obviously a huge series coming up. Considering he pitching matchups and the fact that the series is in The Bronx, it's probably slight edge Yankees. And they need to take full advantage of it, because if they lose this series it's nighttime.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don't Worry, I Have a Desktop

For anybody who has gotten word that Clay Buchholz will be making his way up to the AA Affiliate and is therefore concerned about the safety of my laptop computer, no fears. I have a desktop computer here at the office, which is a lot more bulky and therefore more difficult to steal.

But last night was another disaster in a long series of disasters for Buchholz, and now there's a distinct possibility that he will pitch in Portland on his own bobblehead night commemorating his no-hitter. The no-hitter that my dad said all the way back in June might be the worst thing that could have possibly happened for Buchholz. After the no-hitter, it didn't matter if he was being Cla Meredith'ed, he had to stay on the major league level.

But he's a mess of Meredith-type proportions right now. He can't locate the ball correctly. He can't work himself out of jams. He's having bad luck sometimes and is getting hit hard other times. A really, really bad season. But my boy Jack Sox let me know that Roy Halladay had a very similar beginning-of-career trajectory, as he took a no-hitter into the ninth in his second start before having a piss-poor second season. Jack, of course, also wore a JD Drew t-shirt into work today, so he might be full of crap.

Other fun stuff that I've seen while not watching the Olympics, and once again, this goes pretty far back:
-If I were Paul Byrd, I'd want a refund for all that HGH. Or at least I'd for whatever Roy Halladay's on.
-The Josh Beckett thing is really not a good thing at all. If he's having weird feelings in his fingers, that's just bad news, and it's probably nothing to do with the fact that he showed up out of shape at the beginning of the season. This Tommy John surgery symptom article in the Providence Journal, though it's something I haven't heard too much about, makes me happy I've been looking at the Olympics lately. If Beckett has to miss a year and a half of baseball, the Red Sox have problem of unprecedented magnitude on their hands.
-Manny Delcarmen is a stiff. So is Michael Phelps Timlin. A common characteristic of both the 2004 and the 2007 Red Sox World Series teams was a good bullpen. The 2004 bullpen was the best it's ever been. The 2007 bullpen, while not as good as 2004, was decent to good as long as Eric Gagne didn't touch a baseball. It made you sweat a little bit, but not that bad except for Gagne. This year's bullpen--every guy except for maybe (MAYBE!) Papelbon and Masterson makes you pop antacids. Does a team like this win the World Series. Nope.
-Daisuke Matsuzaka is NOT a Cy Young Award candidate. But this is something I will address in a different post.
-Pat's Youkilis/Pedroia post was EXCELLENT. Good job right there. What I do have a problem with is that the Gunn has the same level respect for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but not Derek Jeter. Pettitte should probably have been suspended for his HGH use and his father should probably be in jail for narcotics distribution, while Jeter, however overrated, plays hard and gets the big hits when it matters.
-I was pretty unimpressed about how 46 pouted for several innings after he really put an electrical spark energy charge into a ball that moved six inches away from the plate. They say the greats in this game are the ones that, despite being unhappy about things that don't go your way, let it drop. Meanwhile, an inning or two later, they showed 46 talking to himself, still God-[bless]ing it. I didn't know 46 was Gus Polinski's son who stopped talking for a "couple of weeks" after being left in the funeral parlor for a day. "Kids are resilient like that."

No Surprises From Jeter and A-Rod

Coming off the Yankee home split with Anaheim ending August 3rd, the Yankees were in pretty good shape, and ready for a push. They were 1-2 games out of the Wild Card, and 3-4 games out of the division. They were about to go on a road trip that would be a big part of deciding their season, and have been playing really important, critical games ever since.

Since August 3rd, Derek Jeter has FIVE (5) games where he collected 3 hits or more, raising his average from .282 to .298. Getting 3 hits or more in a game is what we call stepping up, taking over, understanding the magnitude of this portion of the season, and being a winner.

Since August 3rd, Alex Rodriguez has had ONE (1) game where he has collected 3 hits or more, and has seen his average fall from .324 to .310. This is what you call disappearing when your team needs you most.

Small sample size? You bet. But as my father said to me this morning, "A big part of sports is when guys do things." And he's right. It's not all about overall numbers. It's about being your biggest in the biggest spots, especially when you are the best player on your team, like A-Rod is on the Yankees. When the timing is big, Jeter almost always steps up, and A-Rod almost always stays quiet (unless there is a contract on the line, more on that soon).

Less I get criticized for picking out such a small sample size, let's look at a few quick things. First, it may be small, but it's important. There isn't a Yankee fan in America who looked at that 10 game road trip to Texas, Anaheim, and Minnesota and said, "these games aren't a big deal". It was a massive point in the season, and like my father said, you have to do things in the big spots. Second, Alex Rodriguez is the most talented player on the planet. He gets paid an absurd amount of money to be head and shoulders the best player on his team, and to take over games offensively.

Yet, outside of this current terrible stretch, he still only has seven (7) games all season with 3 hits or more. That's only 2 more in 106 games than Jeter has had in the last 11. In a down year overall, Jeter has still managed to have twelve (12) such games.

I realize that hits is not anywhere close to the best way to measure a player's success. But it is part of measuring if a guy is "stepping up" or "taking over" which is what you sign a guy like A-Rod to do. He is 1 of 9 in an offense as much as Michael Jordan was 1 of 5 on the court, so don't give me that garbage.

Taking over not only involved getting hits, but collecting RBI's with those hits. Again, I realize RBI's is not a great way to measure a player's overall value, but it is a part of it, and it is definitely applicable here. On the season, Alex Rodriguez has only 4 games the ENTIRE SEASON where he has 3 RBI or more. In only one of those games, last Sunday vs. Kansas City, did he collect 4 or more (he had 5). By contrast, my boy Kevin Youkilis, who understands the definition of stepping up, has 9 games with 3 RBI or more, and in 5 of those games he has 4 RBI or more. So Kevin Youkilis, who has NOWHERE CLOSE to the talent of A-Rod, has five more 3+ RBI games, and four more 4+ RBI games. Think about that for a second.

I know Boston scores more runs, RBI is all about opportunity, yada yada. Give me a break. A guy like Alex Rodriguez, who hits a ton of home runs, and has Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Bobby Abreu in front of him, should back up into 3 run home runs by accident. Clearly, he doesn't. At the very least, 24 of his 28 home runs have come with one runner or no runners on. How to step up.

But it's the same old story with A-Rod. You'll look at his triple slash numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG) and his OPS and his OPS+ at the end of the season, and say wow he had a good year. Which is fine, and true. But part of it is when guys do things, stepping up, taking over, especially when you are supposed to be "the guy" on your team. In this respect, it's the same old story with Derek Jeter. He's there when the Yankees need him most. It seems like this is becoming the same old story with Kevin Youkilis. Someone get Theo on the phone, Youkilis for A-Rod, I'll do it right now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

See, This Is What I'm Talking About

I promise, I'm not going to beat this into the ground. Two more posts (barring anymore surprises like this one, which may be unlikely) and we'll move on. But this is too good to pass up.

The Yankees are facing a left-handed pitcher tonight, and not only Johnny Damon, but Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi are in the lineup. As everyone here knows, I complain pretty much every time Girardi sits the lefties because they are facing a lefty, and to be conservative, this happens twice a week? Suffice to say, it's happened a lot, and for a long time now. Tonight he's playing them, and I give him credit for that.

But this is the good stuff. When asked about playing all the lefties tonight for what seems like the first time all season (I'm not the only one who picked up on this, obviously) Girardi responded, "Our lefties have hit lefties."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Honestly, what am I supposed to do with this? Is he trying to make me go crazy? Your lefties have hit lefties, SO YOU SIT THEM AGAINST LEFTIES EVERY GAME SINCE MAY, AND THREE MONTHS LATER YOU TELL ME THAT YOU'RE PLAYING THEM AGAIN BECAUSE THEY HIT LEFTIES!

I don't know whether I can allow myself to get as upset as I want to get here, so I'm just going to laugh. DV, can we get a JD Drew countdown going on the days until Joe Girardi's days in pinstripes are over?

(In all seriousness, am I crazy? Or does he really have a lot of audacity to tell not only me, but a pretty baseball intelligent fan base, and a really baseball intelligent lockeroom, that his lefties have hit lefties after sitting them vs. lefties for three months? I find this to be outrageous, and would love to hear your opinions.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Joe Must Go

If you've been reading this blog for more than a month, how many times have you heard me complain about Girardi leaving a marginal starter, specifically Darrell Rasner, in past the 6th despite being effective in those 6? 3? 4? I was getting text updates all night tonight, and as the score held at 1-0, I just kept thinking, "get him out after 6, get him out after 6." Joe did not get him out after 6, and Rasner, as he usually does, gave up a run in the 7th. If there is anything we have learned, it's that Rasner becomes vulnerable after 6, Veras is very good for one inning, Marte is very good for one inning, and Rivera is lights out in save situations. When Rasner gives you six and a lead, you pat him on the butt, say not good, GREAT game, and send him to the dugout for handshakes. We've seen what happens when you don't do this before.

And it's not a knock on Rasner. He is what he is. A really gritty guy capapble of grinding. But he's not a complete game pitcher. He has shown us this three times in the last three weeks alone (Baltimore, @Anaheim, @Toronto). The whole idea of coaching is to cater to your players strengths, not give in to conventional wisdom, like "my starter is only at 73 pitches and is pitching a shutout, I'm leaving him in". If Jon Bandi was a basketball player who routinely went off for 20 in the first half, but tired in the 3rd quarter, got beat on defense all the time, and made tons of turnovers, I, am the coach, am going to ride him in the first half, get as much out of him as I can, and then sit him down. That's the whole idea of coaching. I'd be maximizing his strengths for the good of the team, and then making a move before his weaknesses hurt the team. Especially if there is a trend. Joe Girardi apparently pays no attention to trends.

Now, Girardi is not responsible for this offense's pathetic performance tonight, and most nights (although I have a theory about "tightness" coming soon that I think has something to do with Girardi, especially in contrast to Torre). He definitely has nothing to do with Damon dropping two flyballs. But your job as the coach is to deal with what you have. If your offense isn't scoring, you have to manage that way. Allowing a back-end, spot starter, long reliever type ROUTINELY go past 6 innings, with a rested bullpen, in the middle of a playoff race, is crazy. I'm sorry, but it is. I don't care how good Rasner is. Lind is a lefty. What's the point of trading for Marte if you are going to let Rasner face Lind past the 6th inning? Seriously, can somebody explain that to me? Especially when Rasner has a HISTORY of cracking after 6? It makes no sense. Zero.

Cashman, along with Girardi, also don't get a pass here on Matsui. I'm a believer offense is somewhat about cohesiveness and comfort. Batting in the same place everyday, behind the same person, and in front of the same person. After a 15 run output, with Gardner hitting the ball all over the place and providing a spark with his speed, is it really the best thing to just throw Matsui right in there? Especially with the defensive downgrade he creates by shifting Damon into center? Wouldn't he be dangerous late in games as a pinch hitter to start? I know they've been struggling to score in general, but why go away from something that worked right away? It disrupts things.

The main point here is not about this season. The Yankees players are not performing, and that's probably a bigger deal than all of the the poor decisions Joe Girardi is making. But next year, or the year after, the Yankees players are probably going to perform. And when they do, I don't want a manager that is still making poor decisions, and for those decisions to at that time be costing the team key games. That's the concern. He makes bad move after bad move after bad move. It may not matter this year. But it will next year. That's a big problem for me. I wonder if Larry Bowa needs a new gig...

A Very Simple Equation

The Yankees' schedule the rest of the way is vicious. The only break they get outside of the division (where there really are no breaks), is 3 in Seattle, which come right after a 3 game set in Tampa with no off days (awful scheduling). The Red Sox schedule is also serious, but slightly less so than the Yankees, as they get 3 with Texas and, oh baby, four at home with Cleveland on the last week of the season. Bad break here for the Yankees. If they are in a tight one with Boston for the Wild Card that week, you are going to be rooting for a bad Cleveland team totally out of it to show up against Boston, in Fenway. Ouch. The Yankees have Toronto, in Toronto, at the same time, and Yankee Hater JP Riccardi will almost certainly start Hallady, Burnett, and then Halladay again, with Hallady coming out of the pen in the game he doesn't start, because all he does is make sure Hallady starts in every Yankees series.

Minnesota has a favorable schedule to both teams, as they have 6 left with Oakland, 3 with Seattle, and 3 with Baltimore (who won't play them as tough as they'll play NY and Boston) outside of their division. Inside their division, which stinks, they only have 3 left with Chicago, and then it's six (6) with Kansas City, 3 with Detroit, and 3 with Cleveland. They really only have 9 games left against tought teams, 3 with Chicago, 3 with Anaheim, and 3 with Tampa. That's not a lot. If they aren't already, this team needs to be taken seriously. I realize that with this schedule they have a good chance to win the division, and as such we need to look at first place Chicago's schedule. I'm not going all the way through it, so we'll leave it as it's tougher than Minnesota's but easier than New York and Boston's.

For the Yankees, the division is gone. They are a tough, but not undoable, 5 games out of the Wild Card in the loss column. However, with every game that passes that they don't make up ground or lose ground the situation becomes more dire. They really can't afford to waste any time, and won't be able to for the rest of the season.

With this in mind it's really very simple. The next 9 games are probably going to determine whether or not the Yankees are going to contend in September. They have to play well against teams below them in the division (Toronto and Baltimore) and they can't afford to not gain ground head to head with Boston. 6-3, with two of the wins coming vs. Boston, is a bare minimum. 5-4 or worse and you essentially just wasted 9 games, and like I said the Yankees just can't do that at this stage in the game. Beating Boston in the 6 games they have left is a big part of this. 3-3 or worse and you are talking about making up 5 games, or more, elsewhere (probably not going to happen). So the Yankees really need to win both series to have a shot. If they don't do that it's probably lights out.

So, after the next 9 games, we'll have a pretty good idea of what the Yankees chances are, good or bad.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Love for Pedroia and Youkilis

Stay with me here. Whether or not there is going to be September baseball for the Yankees is going to be decided in the next 9 games, I'm fired up, and as such am going to have some fun with this.

In my formative years as a baseball fan, starting in 1994, the Boston Red Sox were not on my radar screen. Outside of knowing they hadn't won anything in a while, I looked at them like I looked at every other team in baseball. As such, I didn't dislike any any of the players. Didn't care. The players I disliked and the teams I cared about were the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves. PJ Brown and Alonzo Morning were my least favorite athletes on the planet.

This all changed in 2003 and obviously beyond. Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling blew everyone else in any sport out of the water as my least favorite athletes ever in back to back seasons, and it will take something special to change this. Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Mark Bellhorn, Billy Mueller, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, Mike Timlin, Bronson Arroyo, David Ortiz, I really disliked them all, and despised the team and the city.

Starting this year, I've gone the other way. I've gotten used to Boston being good at baseball in the last four or five years, and I'm okay with it. I don't want to see them win, but I think it's good for the sport to have them be so consistently prominent for the first time since the teens. Just like with the Cubs, I can appreciate the passion of their fans, and I like that too.

The only players I truly dislike on the current squad are Jason Varitek, Jonathan Papelbon, and Josh Beckett. And, as a Yankees fan, for good reason. Varitek is generally annoying, wears a C on his uniform, is absolutely terrible at baseball (despite people defending that he's not, which bothers me), and thinks it's socially acceptable to throw punches with protective armor on your face, something I'm never down with. Papelbon I don't like because there is a perception amongst his fan base that he's a down home country boy. Yet he points at Varitek and pumps his fist and screams everytime he throws a strike, runs his mouth about anything and everything, and wears designer suits and trendy sunglasses to the All-Star Game parade (where Rivera and my boy Youkilis wore t-shirts). Not that there is anything wrong with any of this. It just means he isn't a good old country boy, because those types of guys put there heads down, keep their mouths closed, and do their job. Papelbon is showtime, more A-Rod than good old country boy, and it bothers me that the perception of him is different amongst his fan base. Beckett was (and I think still is) a headcase for years, and now acts like he has found his Zen on the mound. Very annoying, although with his results this season being more like the rest of his career than 2007, it gets less and less annoying every time out. Whatever (doesn't) work, Josh!

If listing only these three sounds funny, it's probably because you've been reading this blog since before this season, and know that at that time Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis would have been included, probably at the top. I couldn't stand Pedroia because, in a game in May last year, he went five feet out of the basepath to slide into Jeter on a routine double play ball, a hardnosed bordering on dirty play. Two innings later, A-Rod came in hard, up, and in on him on a double play ball, a hardnosed bordering on dirty play, and Pedroia whined about it at the time, and mouthed off to the media about it postgame. Can't make a certain kind of play, and then complain when someone else makes the same play on you, especially when you are a rookie. He wreaked of Napoleonic complex for the rest of the season, which wouldn't have been so bothersome if he wasn't having an awesome year, at which point you really have to stop acting like tough guy on a mission (I can accept someone beating me, and I can accept someone acting like a tough guy on a mission, but not together). Youkilis I didn't like because he cries about everything, mostly at opposing players and the umpires (as opposed to himself), which drives me crazy (and he still does this today, which makes what I'm about to say all the more impressive).

I'm in love with Pedroia and Youkilis as baseball players. I really, really like their games, bordering on obsession. Pleasure to watch. They never give away at bats. Could be 4-4, could be 8-1 winning, could be 8-1 losing, they are going to give you a tough at bat. DV wrote a great piece - great - about Kevin Youkilis yesterday, and why he is a better player than Drew (he is). A big part of it, as DV aptly pointed out, is Youkilis' ability to change what he does offensively in order to provide what the team needs. Pedroia does this too in his own way. This is a very underrated characteristic. They always seem to be in the middle of big innings in key situations for the Red Sox. Down 10-3 in the 9th at the game I was at a few weeks ago in Fenway, Pedroia cracked a grounder right at Cano, and ran as hard as he could down the line despite knowing he was going to be out by 15 feet. He also seems comfortable in his own skin now, no longer mouthing off to unknowing security guards at Coors Field attempting to do their job. And most importantly, they don't dislike losing, they don't hate it, they don't despise it. They can't tolerate anything but winning, and will everything, literally anything, to make sure that happens. I love that.

With this said, if I was the General Manager of the New York Yankees, and Theo Epstein called me tomorrow and offered me Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia for Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, I would make the trade without blinking.

Like I try to do with everything I write on this blog, I understand the arguments, which are big, against this trade. To start, and without being too obvious, Alex Rodriguez is a lot better, in terms of total production, than Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis is having a monster year. A-Rod is having a down one by his standards, so much so that DV didn't list him on his list of MVP candidates (he probably won't win, but when you see the next sentence, it's a questionable omission). Yet, Youkilis has an OPS+ of 147, which is not only a point below A-Rod's career OPS+ at 148, but well below the monster 162 A-Rod is putting together this year. Further, by the numbers, Pedroia is greatly helped by playing in the little league park that Fenway is for righties. His power is straight pull, and his home/away splits are significant, especially regarding doubles, which his his game. Cano is the exact opposite. Yankee Stadium crushes him, because when he pulls it, its gone anywhere, and most of his power is to left, and Yankee Stadium eats that up. His home/away splits are significant the other way, especially regarding doubles, which is his game. Fenway Park would really help Cano, and leaving it would hurt Pedroia. Finally, A-Rod and Cano have higher ceilings than Youkilis and Pedroia. In other words, in all of their best seasons, A-Rod and Cano will probably be on top, because they have more natural talent and tools (which you can see simply by looking at their physiques).

But I don't care about any of this. You never walk away from a Youkilis or Pedroia at bat saying "wow, that was terrible". No matter how much good they do in their other at bats, I feel like I say this twice per game with both A-Rod and Cano. And that right there pretty much sums it up. As much as I appreciate what A-Rod and Cano can do talent wise, I don't get the sense that they can't stand losing. I have no doubt they want to win badly, but this is different from not being able to tolerate losing. Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill were very talented, but they certainly weren't A-Rod, and in terms of natural talent and tools, probably weren't Cano. But like Youkilis and Pedroia, they were tough. They never gave away at bats. And they couldn't stand to lose. That's the kind of guys I want on my team (assuming a certain level of substantial talent, like with O'Neill, Martinez, Pedroia, and Youkilis). In the biggest spots, these are the guys that do it consistently. Not for three weeks, not for the first half, not for one season. Every year. That's why I love Tino and Paulie, and that's why I love Pedroia and Youkilis (even despite all the crying from the latter). They aren't the most talented players in the game, but they don't just want to win, they can't stand to lose. And it shows in every single baseball related thing that they do. I love it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Believe Me, This Is Strictly A Hypothetical

This is a hypothetical situation because it is based on the assumption that Bud Selig and the folks in his office have any balls at all to actually discipline anyone who is damaging their sport. Of course, that is not true and therefore this argument is not really worthwhile. However, I'm going to write about it anyway.

Is it time for MLB to suspend Scott Boras?

Now, I understand that you can't suspend someone for being a dick. But there continues to be a growing laundry list of offenses committed by the superagent, with each one a little slimier than the last.

The first that comes to mind is the manipulation of the MLB draft, an institution that was designed to correct some of the market inefficiencies for amateur players. Back in the 1950s the teams who were more willing to spend started spending a lot of money for the rights to amateur players. Teams that were successful were more willing to spend. Teams that lost a lot were not as willing to spend, so the draft was created so that the losing teams actually got a shot to sign the best players and become good. As always, players have to choose between taking the money (which is more money for wealthier teams and less for less-wealthy teams because there is no limit to signing bonuses) and going back to school, playing football, doing OxyContin, etc. Historically, more or less, the best players were drafted first.

This is no longer the case, partially a result of the inefficiencies of the system and partially because Scott Boras started acting as an "adviser" for amateur players. Suddenly, unless a team were to overstep their budget for a player, they're going back to school. Fine. I'm not picking on education. After the Gerrit Cole incident, maybe Pat will. But when Georgia Tech or FSU graduates--guys with less leverage--still refuse to sign and instead play independent ball, this is where teams get screwed and the draft goes completely to hell.

Still, here 46's Agent didn't overstep any boundaries and instead just manipulated a system that is currently poorly administrated. Shocking. But things get worse. The next incident ruffled the feathers of some MLB officials. That, obviously, is when Boras decided to announce his client, Alex Rodriguez, would be opting out of his contract...in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. It was clearly an intentional expression of disrespect to the game that pays his clients' salaries and therefore his salary, and some MLB officials expressed their disgust. Bud Selig was on vacation that week.

At the same time, Boras's client Rodriguez said the timing of the announcement was 100% Boras's decision, which probably is a lie. Either either way, Game 4 was just another reason that 46's Agent's presence around baseball is just about as productive as Victor Conte's presence around track and field and Michael Jackson's presence around a Boy Scout camp. I want to write about it more just as much as you want to read about it more. For a trip down memory lane, I suggest taking a look at our archives. Also, if Boras and not Rodriguez was behind what happened during Game Four, Rodriguez should have fired his agent for being bad at his job. It hurt the client first and foremost, but it was also not good for baseball.

Other controversy has surrounded 46's Agent and his clients in the last few off-seasons. There was the Nancy Drew tampering issue, discussed here in March 2008. That could be filed under Boras breaking the MLB rules, something where there could be some punishment levied down from a competent commissioner of baseball. But the latest Manny Ramirez scandal could be the worst.

The rule cited by the Dowd Report (the report regarding Pete Rose's behavior) was "Major League Rule 21," available here. The rule addresses "misconduct" and calls for punishment including "fine, suspension, [or] ineligibility." Relevant to the Manny matter is the bold part:

Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or personconnected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected...

If it was Boras behind the Manny sit-down strike, 46's Agent could fall under the category of a "person connected" to a player who intentionally failed to give his best efforts towards the winning of several baseball games this year, including the Mariano Rivera strikeout and the last week of July. Under the jurisdiction of this rule, I believe both Manny and Boras would be subject to a fine or a suspension. Manny is one thing, but if baseball had an axe to grind against 46's Agent (and they should because of the two pages of reasons I already mentioned), this is what they could get him with.

Just some food for thought over the weekend. Nothing more, because, once again, it would require a commissioner who had any sense of discipline to make any of this more than a hypothetical situation.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's Why We Watch (Volume 12)

First, let me reiterate that the discussion regarding the Paul Byrd acquisition is among the best discussions in HYD Baseball's history, in my opinion. Tonight should be a weird night, because this is the first time the Red Sox have so obviously made the statement that steroids are okay and have acquired a guy who not only is suspected of using, but bought 25 grand worth of HGH under his own name. Nice. Without further ado, It's Why We Watch.

1. Nice pitching, Texas. Really good way to go. My goodness were they bad. We know how they fared: No starting pitcher for Texas surrendered fewer than eight runs this week. Each of these starters have an ERA well north of five. Woof.

2. This IWWW post is going pretty far back--back to Monday. Just want to give Josh Beckett a big thumbs-up for finally arriving for the 2008 season. I mean, I like the guy a lot and when he's on, he's really good. I also like his attitude. But with this kind of attitude, you'd think he'd be in shape come March and not use April through July as spring training. Maybe next year?

3. Another observation from Monday: I think John Danks was doctoring the ball. Maybe it was the television, but I could very clearly see a discolored spot on Danks's jersey. And Danks seemed to tug on the jersey pretty often during the game, especially during the tail end of the game. I noticed him tug on the jersey right before a particularly-good breaking ball, and then I saw the discolored spot. Anyone watching the TV in the clubhouse find that one?

3a. Long-time readers of this blog know that I view steroids and the spitball very, very differently. I actually think the spitball is a clever thing to do, like stealing signs. If you get caught, you deserve punishment for sure. Steroids, however, are illegal, and they're illegal for a reason. The spitball has never killed anyone. In fact, it was banned in the late 1910s not because it's "cheating," but because people were afraid of a flu epidemic being spread by the spit.

4. Ouch babe for Charlie Zink. Every time I checked Gameday during that game, Zink gave up another double. He actually gave up four doubles in the game, which is as many doubles as Jason Varitek has recorded since July 4, 2008. You'd think a guy could at least go five innings with a ten-run lead in the bottom of the first. F. All in all, I'm just glad he got his moment and his raise.

5. NESN called the high-scoring game a "masterpiece." Ask Javier Lopez. Ask David Aardsma (goodness). Ask Manny Delcarmen. As bad as Zink was, the bullpen surrendered nine runs that night. Nice game. F.

6. While we're on that department, Mike Timlin is the Red Sox' answer to Michael Phelps. How so? Well, Phelps makes people change the channel and attracts television viewers to his event (the Olympics). Phelps lured viewers away from the Red Sox and towards the Olympics on Wednesday night, because it looked like the game was in hand. However, Mike Timlin lured viewers away from the Olympics, because his complete incompetence made it a game instead of a blowout again. Somebody get him a gold medal. Mike Timlin turning blowouts into close games again...IT'S WHY WE WATCH!

7. I am kinda glad the radio antenna on my car snapped off, because I don't think I could tolerate trying to listen to WEEI yesterday. With the news of Jason Varitek's divorce, I can't wait to hear the "Varitek Can Do No Wrong" crowd talk about how his pathetic performance this year is not because he sucks at baseball, but is because he is having marital problems. Bust out your checkbook, we need an extension!

8. To once again beat a dead horse, I just want to address one of Mr. H's comments on my latest "Dirt Dogs vs. Coco" post. My boy wrote, "I know that we have this debate at least every other week, but the undying love for one bad player, and the unstoppable venom for his competition hurts your credibility as much as you say Silva hurts his own." I agree with that whole-heartedly. However, I'm the co-author of this blog, and the people who read this know what to expect from me. I think you guys know that all reason goes out the window when I have to defend Coco Crisp. I have no credibility, therefore I can't get it damaged.

On the other hand, Steve Silva has a by-line for a reputable sports news source. The biased article in question was not part of his blog--it was part of aforementioned news source. Unlike mine, his credibility is important. And he damaged his by chucking rocks at the Fastest Member of Red Sox Nation for no reason except for the fact that he is 1) not Johnny Damon and 2) not 46.

Have a nice weekend, folks. Don't do drugs. But if you do, don't buy $25,000 worth in your own name.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Differing View On Obtaining Paul Byrd (or any known PED user)

Joe Torre is in first place. Joe Girardi is in third. Awesome.

I hope this post doesn't make me less credible than Peter Gammons (who is the baseball version of a gossip columnist at this point. He's only good for what he hears, not what he actually thinks, which is supposed to be a big part of his job. Anytime he thinks and says these thoughts out loud, it becomes a very dangerous thing, as seen through the fact that he hasn't made a legitimate baseball analysis for the better part of a decade. What a boner.) But since I never had any credibility to begin with (like Gammons), and don't get paid to do this (which Gammons does, even though he's a failure at his job outside of rumor reporting), I'm not too worried about it.

We had a great comments section yesterday on Paul Byrd, PEDs, crimes against the sport vs. crimes outside of the sport, and the like. It's a great conversation, and one that is very relevant to the game currently.

Gunn posed a question to DV about morality, and I think it is an important one to answer in general before attacking the steroids question specifically. Steroids are a crime, in life, and against the sport. Whether or not a player is moral outside of his decision to take steroids doesn't matter to me RELATING TO BASEBALL. They are still a criminal, and they have harmed the game, which is especially significant here. This is worse than players who are immoral away from the game (Alex Rodriguez, for example), but have not harmed the game in the way steroids have. It's not that it's a good thing for a player to cheat on his wife, drink excessively, or anything of this nature. It's not, and it's not good for the game's image. But those aren't crimes, like drug usage, and as such, they aren't nearly as bad for the game, or the game's image. Criminal activity, on or off the field, trumps lesser issues of morality that are not crimes. Doing drugs or harming another person physically are worse than excessive drinking or infidelity, assuming the latter two don't lead to physical harm. You can incorporate a million examples here, and grapple over the little details, but ultimately I think it comes down to common sense. Crimes against the game (which are fundamentally immoral), are worse than lesser issues that, although immoral, are not crimes, at least as far as baseball is concerned, which is what we are talking about here. So, even though Andy Pettitte is probably a far better person than Alex Rodriguez is all things considered, Pettitte is far worse as far as baseball is concerned. I hope this makes sense.

All of this said, I am okay with teams acquiring known steroid users (and this is where I hope I'm not softer than Peter Gammons, who is softer than loose stool as a journalist with his recent Rick Ankiel and Manny Ramirez analysis). Not because I don't think steroids are a bigger deal than most things relating to baseball, and don't want it cleaned up badly. I do. But it's because by watching the game, and rooting for the game, I know I'm watching and rooting for a lot of UNKNOWN steroid users, far outnumbering the amount of KNOWN steroid users. Steroid usage was far too widespread, and the number of known users far too low, for me to make the decision to root for the game and in good faith make too many distinctions between steroids users and non-steroid users, because in reality a lot of the current "non-users" actually used. You don't think so, check out Mitchell's report. He had 2.5 sources and netted 80 some odd names. Imagine if he had, I don't know, gotten to talk to a whopping 5 of the hundreds of sources who have knowledge on steroids? He'd get hundreds of names. If he talked to the right 20 people he could probably get 1,000 names, easy. This is significant in looking at Paul Byrd, or any team acquiring any KNOWN PED user.

The Red Sox, like every team in baseball, have former and/or current PED users on their team. Like any fan of any team in baseball at this time, if you are rooting for your team, and the game of baseball, you know you are supporting something that is dirty beyond your knowledge. If you don't think this is the case, you are kidding yourself. And if you do go about supporting your team and the game with this in mind, with the simple understanding you are rooting for a lot of unknown users, I think it's okay. You think steroids are bad, you condemn their usage, you understand how widespread it was and still is, you want to clean it up, and you know you don't know the half of it, but you don't want to give up the game you love. So you still root, despite knowing that what you are rooting for is dirty. This is exactly how I go about it.

So if you are already rooting for a team that has a Paul Byrd that you don't know about, what does it matter if you actually add Paul Byrd? Is it okay to employ and root for hundreds of users you don't know about, but not to employ and root for known users? I understand the argument against is that you aren't punishing known users enough, and this sends a bad message by giving more opportunities to known users, etc.

But here is my argument for. If the Red Sox don't acquire Paul Byrd because they are on their moral high horse, somebody else will. This is a guy that is 4-0 with a sub 2 since the All-Star Break. Clay Buchholz is a terrible pitcher and Tim Wakefield is on the DL. Adding Paul Byrd makes the Red Sox a significantly better baseball team in terms of performance. In terms of morality, all it does is add another dirty player to an already dirty team, whether the users are known or not. And this would be the case for EVERY SINGLE TEAM IN BASEBALL had he gone to them, whether they have known users or not. Paul Byrd isn't making the Red Sox, or any team he might have gone to, anything they already aren't: an organization with former and/or current PED users on the roster. It's just that now you know about one. Is it better to be a worse team with unknown users, or a better team with a known user? Especailly when there is nothing stopping your competitors from doing the same thing you want to do if you don't do it?

If all 30 teams want to come together and say that, as part of their effort to clean up the game, no known steroid users can be emplyoyed by any team, fine. But until something along those lines happens, I'm not going to get on my moral high horse, watch my competition get better while I don't, and have it potentially cost me a playoff birth and the chance to win the World Series. No way. I want to clean up the game as much as anyone. I despise that their are cheats everywhere. But, with so many more unknown users out there than known users, I'm not turning away, or not rooting for, a known user who can help my club win. If it's okay for unknown users everywhere to help their club win, it's okay for known users to help my club win. Because known or unknown, the key word is users. For me the problem is users, not whether they are known or unknown. We are all rooting for users, so if a known one can help my club win, so be it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sneaky Sneaky

Rotoworld.com on Monday night said that Nancy Drew is "looking like a sneaky MVP candidate" with his .952 OPS this season, his out-of-this-world June performance, and his in-the-middle performance from July 1st on. I'm not picking on Drew...actually, yes, I am...but I'm just saying that he's the second-biggest "sneaky MVP candidate" in his own lineup. The biggest would be Kevin Youkilis.

Highlighted by his two absolute rockets last night, the former fat minor leaguer has put up a gargantuan season of his own, posting a .948 OPS which obviously rivals Drew's .955 (as of today). Like Drew, Youkilis has as many triples as #46 (four), but has six more doubles and three more home runs. He is tenth in the league in home runs, eighth in the league in both extra-base hits and total bases, and is fifth in slugging percentage (Drew is 7th). Youkilis also has a batting average about thirty points higher than Nancy's.

Unlike Drew, who seems content with a walk, the former "Greek God of Walks" relishes the opportunity to get the big hit with guys on, as his 81 RBIs are fifth in the AL. While Nancy is hitting .302 with runners in scoring position, he has actually passed the buck more often than he's hit (31 BBs, 26 H with RISP). Conversely, Youkilis has 39 hits with RISP to 16 walks. And once again, I'm not picking on Drew, because walks are important, but you more effectively drive in runs if you take the bat off your shoulder instead of letting Varitek, Crisp, and Lugo take care of the dirty work (Drew has hit 6th in 36 games this year).

Plus, Pat already went over defensive value over replacement player and how Youkilis wipes the floor with Drew defensively (+5 to -4 as of the All-Star Break). With Youkilis's ability to play third base with Mike Lowell's second DL stint of the year and Drew's excitement about sitting on the bench all night, it is clear to see which is the better MVP candidate.

Note: Here is my acknowledgment that a) it's only August 13 and Youkilis has trouble falling off a bit the second half of the season and b) I clearly have something against Drew, and the above article is one of many reasons he embodies everything I dislike in a baseball player. But as of August 13th, Youkilis has to be considered one of the top-5 MVP candidates behind Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Milton Bradley, and maybe (MAYBE) Jermaine Dye or Justin Morneau.

The only thing Drew has done better than Youkilis overall this season is walk. Youkilis's notorious plate patience has passed by the wayside as he has embraced his responsibilities of hitting when in the middle of the order. Drew's patience is commendable, and his presence on base is worthwhile as long as he's not hitting in front of the aforementioned three stiffs. And unless the rest of the world becomes as dumb as Tim McCarver, it is common knowledge that a walk is NOT just as good as a home run.

Nancy Drew, despite having a very good season, is a #2 hitter (the A-Rod definition): Someone who can walk all he want and pass the buck to people (like Youkilis) who aren't afraid to drive the ball. Not that there's anything wrong with that (unless you're paid $70 to drive guys in), but that's why Nancy Drew is not a "sneaky" MVP candidate, and that's why the tremendously underrated Kevin Youkilis is.

An It's Why We Watch might be on its way some time tonight. In the meantime, lock your medicine cabinets, because Paul Byrd is coming to town.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boston INJECTS Byrd Into Rotation

Thanks to Bandi for alerting me, but according to the Red Sox' website, the team has come up with a clever solution to HELP SPEED UP THE HEALING PROCESS for their ailing starting rotation, decimated by injuries to Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, and now Tim Wakefield. This is NONANALYTICAL EVIDENCE that the Red Sox are trying to BULK UP their chances to win the American League East and make a run toward another World Series, as a year without a playoff berth to Boston fans causes effects similar to the symptoms of DRUG WITHDRAWAL.

Byrd has been DEALT to Boston in exchange for a player to be named later or CASH (POSSIBLY $24,850), and it should really be a SHOT IN THE ARM (or stomach) to a struggling pitching staff. Byrd, 37, has seemingly COUNTERACTED THE EFFECTS OF AGING and has really JUICED up his performance since the All-Star Break, going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.24 since the All-Star Break.

In fact, I think Paul Byrd is a hurler who will be such an effective helping guy that I'm going to call him Helping Guy Hurler (or H.G.H. for short). I'm really happy that HGH is here to help the Red Sox down the home stretch.

P.S. For a little more background information on Paul "HGH" Byrd, please click on this article by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, two writers that Bud Selig has never heard of.

EDIT: Monday, 5:59 PM: From a baseball standpoint, giving up something minimal for a guy who is good is one thing. Byrd's ERA in each of the last three years has been north of 4.50. That is not exactly "good," but it's better than what the Red Sox get from Buchholz. If he wasn't an HGH user and an HGH dealer who is dumb enough to have $25K worth of drugs and syringes shipped to his house under his name, using his own social security number, this would be at least an okay trade. However, Paul Byrd is...an HGH user and an HGH dealer who is dumb enough to have $25K worth of drugs and syringes shipped to his house under his name, using his own social security number. I am not shocked, but I am saddened and disappointed that the Red Sox would sign a man of this character.

Not Your Average Joe

Worse.

First, let me just say that I understand. I understand the injuries. I understand the underperformances. I understand that this is just one of those years. The Yankees are in all liklihood going to miss the playoffs this year (it was going to happen eventually), and this is not Joe Girardi's fault. He has been a contributor to the cause, for sure, but is not soley to blame. It is very unlikely that any manager would have been able to get this team to the postseason. I understand all of this.

But this is not the critical point of analysis. Joe Girardi should not be evaluated only based on whether or not this team makes the playoffs, nor should he be given a free pass because of the circumstances that were laregley responsibly for brining this state of affairs about. Rather, the important questions should be, has Joe Girardi done a good job with what he has, and could another manager have done better?

The answers are no and yes. And it has nothing to do with missing the playoffs or having a lot of injuries. The Yankees are 63-56. Even despite all of the injuries, the Yankees are better than that. And a big part of the reason they aren't better than that, even if it is only a few games, is him not being good at what he does.

The lineup is a big deal. Very big. It is one of the manager's primary responsibilities to take care of this over 162 games. Girardi has not been bad, he's not been terrible. He has been mystifying, in a very negative way. Last night, in that spot, at this point in the season, to sit Damon AND Giambi (for the second day in a row), is something you just can't do. Especially when you are playing Richie Sexson, Melky Cabrera, and Justin Christian instead. Forget the production you lose in this tradeoff. What kind of message does this send to the team? Um, we just got swept in Anaheim, our season is on the line, we are struggling to score runs, we absolutely need to win Game 1 in Minnesota, and we are sitting our leadoff man and leading hitter in the AL, because he needs an off-day? I know players are supposed to believe in all of their teammates, but we all know Jeter and A-Rod don't think Sexson and Christian and Cabrera give them as good a chance to win as Damon and Giambi. They aren't dumb. It doesn't send a good message. Especially since these guys, including Damon, are competitors. They don't need off days. Damon was on an 11 game hit streak. He's not tired.

This leads me to my next point. Girardi has shown nothing to make me believe he understands circumstance. All 162 games are not equal, as David Cone told us on Sunday. There are certain games you have to have. This should be reflected in the lineup and the way the game is managed. Girardi really does not do this, and showed as much Sunday waiting so long for Rivera (who had pitched 3 times in 12 days), and last night sitting the guys he did. This is a big thing. Sitting a guy on an 11 game hit streak in the name of rest, when the player publicly says he doesn't need a day off, is evidence that Girardi is clueless in this regard. As a manager, how can you approch every game the same way, whether you are in second place by 3 games or third place by 9? You can't. Not to be successful. But Girardi does. This is his biggest weakness, by far. Because it shows up in everything he does, from the lineup to the in game moves.

They say managing the bullpen is his strength. Well, especially compared to Torre, the bullpen is rested. But rested doesn't necessarily mean good. He rests guys too much, and always tries to get the most he can out of each pitcher before going to the next one, particularly when it comes to his starters. I've said it many times before, I think this is the catcher in him. Commendable as a catcher, terrible as a manger. He's blown up multiple games close games this year by trying to get more out of a journeyman starter in the 7th or short reliever in his second inning of work. Really bad.

Perhaps most significantly, he was supposed to be this innovator. In reality, he managers with the manager's textbook in his lap. In this sense, he doesn't manage to his team, especially offensively. They stink with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. Yet, whenever there is a leadoff double, he almost always bunts the guy to 3rd. If your team stinks in these situations, is it better to give one guy one chance to sacrifice him in, or three guys a chance to single him in from second? I don't know. Might it be worth at least experimenting with? Yes, but Girardi does not. Now, of course, the players should just get guys in from 3rd less than two outs, and we wouldn't have to worry about it. However, when the players are not, you have to adjust, because that's the team you have. And you have to manager YOUR team, not a fantasy team. That's the managers job. If the players could just play and every team could just do everything they were supposed to, we wouldn't need managers.

The problem is not this season. Good managing probably would not have impacted this season. The problem is moving forward. The Yankees organization is entering a critical period starting in 2009. You have a number of key guys, especially Mo and Jeter, who are older, and can still produce, but maybe not for that much longer. Once they stop producing, they are going to leave HUGE holes on the team. Look around the league and tell me how many championship closers there are. Can you tell me there are 10? No. How about 7? Maybe. Having a closer of his caliber is a big deal. Jeter is having the worst season of his career, by a lot, and it's probable he'll have some sort of offensive bounceback (just look at where his defense went from 07 to 08, when the guy works on something, it usually gets better). Yet you look around baseball this year, and only 6 shorstops have a better batting average, only 5 a better OBP. There aren't that many good shortstops out there. As it is, in a deplorable season by his standards, he is giving the Yankees a competitive advantage at the position. Imagine if he bounces back (which again, I wouldn't bet against)?

Closer and shortstop are premium positions where the Yankees currently have players who are crucial to their success. However, they are also old. Ditto anything you get from Posada, Mussina, and Pettitte moving forward. When you consider the talent they have when healthy, whether it is or isn't the best in baseball entering 2009, this very point relating to Rivera and Jeter et al makes the Yankees win now, starting next April. To not be would be to waste an advantge that they have at closer and shortstop that they may not have for too much longer.

As such, it is important that they have a manager who, when they aren't injured, when the season isn't lost, is going to give them the best possible chance to win. From what Joe Girardi has shown me this year, in a year when good managing wouldn't have mattered, is that when it does, he is not the man for the job. He's worse than your average Joe, and the average Joe, and probably much better, can be obtained this off-season. With this knowledge, choosing to retain someone who is worse than average, in a key organizational position, during a critical "win now" period for the franchise, when replacements are available, would be a mistake.

Feel-Good Stories Not Involving Illegal Drugs

Not every Crash Davis gets his day. But tonight (weather permitting), knuckleballer Charlie Zink, 28, will finally make his major league debut. He has the dubious distinction of spending five years with the AA Affiliate, and was on the verge of being released plenty of times, being told he was running out of time and getting lit up in both AA and AAA for years and years. At the same time, he was occasionally pitching well. For more on his story, check out this excellent Boston Globe Magazine article from this spring.

But after so many years of the knuckleball driving this kid crazy, he's finally getting his chance. It means a pretty significant raise, but it also means that all the years of adjustments and determination and focus on such an unpredictable pitch finally pay off. Even if he doesn't get out of the fourth inning.

Of course, that also means he'd be faring slightly better than Clay Buchholz at this point.

So even though this is the kind of feel-good story that's more common on a team that is not in playoff contention (ummm...), I'm excited to Gameday this game tonight just because I want to see how Zink's major league debut goes.

By the way, where's Peter Gammons for this feel-good story? Too busy writing love letters to HGH user Rick Ankiel? Writing about the comeback of Fernando Tatis, whose first career boom happened to take place during the time where steroids were most prominent in the game? Now, we know that Gammons is a Red Sox apologist and someone who, once Manny left, felt that Manny's behavior is worse than taking illegal drugs to help your performance on the baseball field.

But he's not going to write about this non-drug-enhanced (as far as we know) feel-good story happening on his favorite team? My goodness.

Monday, August 11, 2008

No Explanation

There's this guy. His name is Johnny Damon. He's leading the American League in batting at .322. Four games out of the Wild Card, coming off a sweep, 40 some odd games left, why on Earth would you want the person with the best average in the league leading off? Especially since he isn't red hot, hitting in 11 straight games or anything (oh, wait, he has). "Johnny's played a lot," Girardi tells us. Uh, that's the whole idea with your best players, especially in a playoff race!

Of course, it's a lefty, so Giambi sits (for those who haven't been following, Giambi is hitting lefties better than righties this season). Hey, with the season on the line, who needs Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi when you can have Justin Christian AND Melky Cabrera in the lineup!

I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. It's every single day with this guy and the lineup, and that's before the game even starts. At this point I'm not just spewing frusteration and anger either. I'm legitimately questioninig his competence as a manager of a Major League Baseball team. Is there any argument that he is, coming off a sweep, putting this kind of lineup on the field? Is any Yankees fan okay with this?

Go Dodgers. I really wish I would have more fully realized what I had in Joe Torre when he was here. And that's saying something, because I was one of the ones that really tried to apprecaite it. But I complained a lot, which I suppose is natural for any manager, but I had NOTHING to complain about compared to Girardi. Inexplicable stuff everyday.

Confidence Booster for Everyone

I said last week that if the Red Sox could take 2/3 in KC and 3/4 in Chicago, I'd have a good feeling about whether this team is for real. Well, 3/4 in Chicago was too much to ask. Here are things that do not help:
-Manny Delcarmen giving up rockets like the one he gave up to Carlos Quentin.
-Four double plays over the weekend, including two by Mike Lowell (who is probably not healthy enough to play--how about giving some at-bats to Sean Casey).
-Futility Unlimited by Captain K (it's an acronym), who was 2-11 this weekend. However, by his standards, that is acutally a hot streak. Varitek has recorded eight (8) extra-base hits, fifty-nine (59) strikeouts, six (6) double plays and a .167 batting average since May 24th. It is hard to fully understand how bad he is unless you actually look at the numbers. But it's the intangibles, not the numbers, that matter.
-Clay Buchholz serving up bombs in a confidence-boosting start, in his own eyes.

The Laptop Thief hung curveballs all day, and it's becoming increasingly clear (especially seeing that he only retired one more batter than Justin Masterson) that his presence in the Red Sox rotation is hurting the team. The worst part is that he's coming down with Ian Kennedy Syndrome, also known as "I sucked but am going to describe my god-awful performance as a good thing." Here's what he said (source: Boston Globe):

Today's one of the few times this year, same story, but I felt like I actually made pitches today that got hit. Up here you expect them to hit mistakes, and when you don't make a mistake with a pitch and it still gets hit, it makes it that much harder to swallow, I guess. Today was actually a confidence-booster. I went out and threw a lot of quality pitches that, like I said, got hit.

Giving up three bombs in three-plus innings shouldn't boost your confidence. I mean, if you think you're throwing good pitches and not only are they getting hit, but they're getting hit out of the ballpark, you might have to tweak your definition of what a good pitch is. May I suggest Josh Beckett's definition?

Now Wakefield's going on the DL, which means someone else from AAA will have to start. Bartolo's not ready and Buchholz looks lost. Just as the Yankees are in dire straits, the Red Sox have been just as unfortunate when it comes to injuries. Simply because of this (and I know Crawford's out for 2-3 weeks), you gotta start thinking the Tampa Bay Healthy Rays might wind up on top of this division.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Let's Go Giants!

Incredibly odd decision, again, by Girardi to allow a reliever, who has probably reached his limit, to start another inning, and then let not one, but two runners on base before replacing him. Rivera has not been good, relatively speaking, in non-save situations, and although he doesn't give up many hits, the ones he does give up are mostly singles, especially of the dribbler/bloop variety. Brining him into a non-save situation where a dribbler/bloop scores a run would seem like the perfect storm. Yet Girardi does it anyway. I understand that, once it reaches that point, you like Rivera's chances to get out of it better than Marte's. But why let it get to that point? Just let Rivera start the inning. Girardi's problem is that he lets it get to that point all too often. Using Wilson Betemit (.276 OBP) as a pinch hitter to lead off an inning instead of Jason Giambi (.393 OBP), and then using Giambi later in the inning with nobody on and two outs is really terrible, and makes absolutely no sense. It is the exact opposite of what he should have done. Let Giambi try to get on, but the pinch runner over, and then see if Betemit and (if no DBP) Damon can a single, instead of needing a home run to score, like Giambi did when he came up. At this point, it just looks like Girardi is overwhelmed. I'm starting to feel bad for him.

At the same time, the players have to play. They are abysmal not only with RISP, but even moreso with a runner on third and less than two outs. They were, I believe, 1 for 4 in that situation today. Getting this done 50% of the time, at least, is a bare minimum. If they just got it done once more today, they probably win. And that's terrible. At the same time, I can never remember a Yankee team that so blatantly lacked fundamentals. Cano and Betemit (would you really rather Betemit than Giambi at first, Joe) cost us the game by staring at Figgins' dribbler off Rivera. They both could have fielded that ball. This is very much their fault, as in that situation they should both be doing everything they can to get the ball. But the coaching staff doesn't get a free pass here. This type of play is not acceptable, and it is their job to enforce it. It's not just this one play either. We throw behind runners, bobble balls being thrown into the infield from the outfield because there is no threat. Allowing that stuff to happen when their is no threat creates bad habits for when there is one, like the 9th today. Everyone gets blame here.

The season isn't over, but boy is it close. And even if they made it, good luck with the Angels. Team is awesome. I'll be shocked if they don't represent the AL in the World Series.

With all of that said, let's go Giants! I know it sounds obvious because they are defending a championship, and that is rarely not exciting. But I am as excited for this year's Giants as I have ever been, not just because they are defending a Super Bowl, but because I think they are a better, younger, more complete, and more exciting team than they were last year. HYD resident NFL expert Jon Bandi, can I get some analysis here? Offensive line is healthy, improved, and deeper. With Jacobs, Bradshaw, Ward, and this line (best in years), this team could legitimately rush for 2,500 yards. Add to an already potent passing attack your boy, and playoff difference maker Steve Smith for a full season, as well as Manningham and Hixon, and they have a pretty serious, and improved offense. Strahan and Mitchell are highly significant losses, but I think Tuck and a healthy Kiwanuka are ready for bigger roles. This is especially true considering the secondary, easily last year's biggest weakness, is much improved, which could soften the blow of a potentially weaker pass rush without Strahan/Mitchell. Webster/Ross is better than Webster/Madison at the corners, and more important, Sammy Knight/Kenny Phillips is a huge upgrade over Wilson/Butler at safety. Everything I read about Phillips is outstanding, and I didn't see anything to the contrary when he dominated the game last Thursday. He looks like a stud.

Of course, a million things could happen in terms of injury, classic Super Bowl hangover, etc. But the only thing I see is Eli Manning, who, although it is now his team, is not a sure thing. He still has to show he can put together a full season. I am confident in him, because I think the subtraction of Shockey and Tiki coupled with the confidence last year's playoff run gave him put him over the top (especially the confidence part). But I'd be kidding myself if I didn't list him potentially reverting to average as a question mark, and one that would really, really hurt this team. Your thoughts?

Another Lefty, Another B Lineup

I guess 3 home runs, 5 RBI, and on base 9 times in the 5 games he's played on this road trip isn't good enough for Joe Girardi, because Jason Giambi inexplicably sits again versus a lefty. With the season hanging in the balance, we might just want our best lineup out there, you know, especially because Giambi is hitting lefty better than righties this year and all. You want to get Sexson in the lineup and give Giambi a blow at first, fine. Put Damon in center, Nady in left, Abreu in right, and DH Giambi. Whatever Damon gives up defensively, he makes up for offensively over Cabrera/Christian. With the way we are pitching, we need to take offense over defense, which we are not doing. We also need to play the A Lineup, or at least the closest thing to it, which we are not doing.

The players have to play, there is no question about that. Lately, they have and they have not. But the last two nights, the Yankees have trailed 6-5 and led 3-1 entering the 7th. Both tight games with little to play, both ended in a blowout with the Yankees on the losing end. Part of this is about the manager pushing the right buttons, which he clearly is not. I understand this is not an easy thing to do, and is a very easy thing to criticize from the couch after the fact. But when you couple this inability to push buttons (a difficult, but big part of being a manager) with his cavalier attitude about not playing the A lineup, and Joe Girardi is doing a really bad job right now. Not good timing.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Have Another Protein Shake: Pathetic Bullpen Management

Forget Ian Kennedy, forget everything. At the end of six frames, this game was 6-5. Yes, Darrell Rasner was great in innings 3-6 of reliever, allowing only one run (on questionable defense). But we've been down this road before. 6-5 against the best team in baseball on the road, in a playoff race, is as true a baseball game as you can be involved in. Once it gets to the 7th inning, no matter who started, who relieved, if it is a close deficit, a tie game, or a close lead, the Darrell Rasner's, Sidney Ponson's, and Dan Giese's of the world should not be pitching. The only way they should pitch in the 7th inning or later is if it is a blowout or it's extra innings. Period. It's to take nothing away from any of these pitchers. They are doing their job to the best of their ability, and often very successfully. But they have a track record of being a certain type of pitcher. And that type of pitcher is not the one you want pitching in a 6-5 game in the 7th inning of a game you need to win. Every pitch you leave them in beyond 6, you risk them reverting to the type of pitcher they are. This is an unecessary risk when you consider the kind of bullpen the Yankees have had to date.

It really is a pretty simple recipe for me. Assuming everyone is rested (and everyone gushes how, compared to Torre, Girardi really rests his pen, so I don't want to hear about this being an issue), you have pitchers who protect leads and ties in innings 7-9 (Mo, Veras, Marte), pitchers who protect leads earlier than the 7th if necessary and DEFINITELY try to hold small deficits (Robertson, Ramirez, Bruney), and pitchers who pitch in other situations (Rasner/Giese, whoever isn't starting).

What is the point of trying to get Rasner through the 7th? Seriously. We went through this with Baltimore last week. What is the point of having him start that inning? He doesn't have a better chance of having success than Robertson, Ramirez, or Bruney. And it lessens their chance of success when you allow Rasner to allow base runners and/or runs, and then want these guys to always get out of his jam. Why not just let them start the inning? If they don't pitch in this situation, when are they going to pitch? Because if we have a lead tomorrow, it will most likely be Veras, Marte, and Mo. It makes absolutely no freakin' sense.

Joe Girardi's bullpen management is becoming pathetic. I really think it has something to do with thinking like a catcher. He never wants to admit defeat, and if a pitcher has something left in the tank, he'd rather see him try to empty it before going to someone else. This is really dumb. When a guy like Rasner gives you some quality through 6, you have to run with it. Again, not a knock on Rasner. But it's really a long shot to expect him to keep it up in the late innings of a tight game. And it's pointless when you have guys who should be almost exclusively pitching in these kinds of situations, for one if not two innings.

Joe Girardi has cost us more games this season by allowing mediocre pitchers to go too long for no reason than Joe Torre cost the team in a similar fashion in his entire tenure with the club. He'd have given Rasner a big pat on the butt tonight after 6 (deserved), gushed about him in the postgame (deserved), and then gone to a better guy to start the 7th. Just look at the difference in Bruney tonight in the 8th vs. the 7th. Starts the 8th fresh, 1-2-3. In the 7th has to come on with a run in and a runner on. Totally different.

I said to my father right before the Hunter home run that we had to be careful about letting Rasner go to long because they'll probably get him eventually. The words were barely out of my mouth when the ball went 450. And this is on Girardi, not Rasner. Pathetic. This is really becoming a frusterating thing to watch, as it is costing us the opportunity (clearly you are not going to win them all, but you'd like to win more than the Yankees currently are), to win important games. Really, really pathetic by Joe Girardi. There is no reasonable explanation, and also no need to have a 7 man bullpen. It's like he's saving them all for when there is a lead, which is ridiculous. I need to stop, I'll just run myself in circles, because it makes no sense. Pathetic managing.