Sigh

You may not have noticed, but I haven’t had anything to say about the Torre book in a couple of days.  The reason for that is because the A-Rod chapter really bothered me.  It bothered me so much that I put the book down for a day and then went and read it again last night.  I wanted to take my time with my thoughts. 

What I was going to say about it seems almost silly in light of today’s A-Rod news, but here it goes.  It is clear that Torre and Verducci don’t like A-Rod very much.  In the book they blame him for just about everything except cancer.  Is it true the Yankees have sucked in the postseason since A-Rod arrived?  Yes, it is.  Is it true A-Rod has sucked in the postseason since he arrived?  Yes, it is.  But, I think you need to dig a little deeper than that.  Start with the pitching.  Since 2003, the Yankees have had mediocre pitching.  Look back at the teams that won and they all had deep pitching staffs.  Do you think not having that pitching matters in the playoffs?  I would say absolutely.  

Anyway, I was going to go on like that for awhile, but luckily I have a new topic to vent on.  Apparently, A-Rod failed a steroids test in 2003.  (BTW- if anyone is reading the book and doesn’t think it goes out of its way to bash Alex, please speak up)  Here are a bunch of thoughts on this in no particular order.

1- This is a six-year old test that is just coming to light now?  And, there are 103 other players who also failed.  When are those names going to start leaking out?  This would be a wonderful time for baseball and the players’ union to come clean and provide all the names.  It will never happen, but it would be a nice thing right now.

2- I have no doubt the story is true.  Four sources confirmed it and that seems more than enough to me.  But, I also have a major problem with "unnamed sources" hiding in the shadows and destroying people.  

3- Who knew about this list and more specifically, did the Yankees know about it?  If so, why did they trade for A-Rod in the first place?  It would seem to me that the only reason the Yankees would have traded for A-Rod if they had known about this was because they knew everyone was juicing.

4- How scary is it that the most credible person in regards to this topic is Jose Canseco?

5- I was really looking forward to seeing A-Rod break the home run record as a "clean" player.  That’s pretty much gone now.

6- However, A-Rod was tested the past few years and for the WBC, which has Olympic-level testing and he didn’t fail once.  How do we reconcile that with this?

7- This just proves what a bad job the Mitchell Report did.  This garbage is everywhere and I am sick of hearing Bud Selig crow about how good a job baseball has done to curb steroid use.  Bud, you and the other owners and players were running an athletic pharmacy for years.  Cut the crap and admit it.

8- Alex absolutely needs to get in front of a camera in the next 24 hours and address this.  Admit it or deny it (be careful if you deny it Alex, think of Clemens) but he has to address it.

9- Along the lines of #3, do the Yankees have a way to get out of his deal now?  Maybe not his contract, but the whole "milestone home run" thing?  It would seem to me that marketing home runs clouded by steroids is a losing proposition.

10- I am depressed now. 

Behind The Dish

The following catchers are presented for your consideration.  As always, feel free to add someone to your list.

Johnny Bench .267/.342/.476 389 HR’s career OPS+ 126

Yogi Berra .285/.348/.482 358 HR’s career OPS+ 125 

Carlton Fisk .269/.341/.457 376 HR’s career OPS+ 117

Bill Dickey .313/.382/.486 202 HR’s career OPS+ 127

Mike Piazza .308/.377/.545 427 HR’s career OPS+ 142

Josh Gibson It’s impossible to come up with historical stats for Gibson, but he was known as "The Black Babe Ruth" and is in the Hall of Fame.  His plaque there says he hit almost 800 home runs.  

 

 

It’s Funny…

but Joel Sherman summed up my concerns about Derek Jeter perfectly.  Sherman also includes a very sobering fact, no team has ever won the World Series with a 37-year old shortstop. 

The problem as I said yesterday is going to be that Jeter should be right at the doorstep of 3,000 hits.  Assuiming Jeter gets 180 hits a year for the next two seasons (he has averaged 200 a season the last three years) he will have 2,895 hits. Now, it would be reasonable to assume if he gets to that point that he would get his 3,000 hit in 2011, but I don’t think Jeter is going to take a one-year deal and the paycut the Yankees will want to give him. 

Sherman calls it "D-Day" and it is a good term for it.  I don’t think Jeter would ever complain in the press or even rip the Yankees if a deal isn’t reached, but he wouldn’t have to.  Fans will do that for him and fans will demand that Jeter comes back.  A-Rod will get sucked into this because the majority of talk radio airwaves will be filled with something along the lines of, "How can you give that bum who has never won a ten-year deal and then not show Jeter, a true Yankee, any respect?" 

And the biggest problem is there is no good solution.  The smart move from a baseball perspective will be to give Jeter the keys to Yankee Stadium and a position in the front office for him to retire to, but Jeter isn’t going to accept that.  The right move from an emotional standpoint would be to sign him to a new deal and let him keep playing short.  The middle ground is probably a two-year deal and a position change, but where could you put him?  First is gone, second is too hard defensively, center is being left open for Austin Jackson and his bat doesn’t support a move to left or right.  I suppose you could move A-Rod to left and Jeter to third, but do you really want to go into a season with two of your starters learning new positions?

Add in the fact that there are no viable candidates in the farm system to replace Jeter and this becomes even more depressing.  At some point, someone is going to be asked to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes.  It could be a free agent, it could be a rookie, but the pressure is going to be tremedous.  Mickey Mantle couldn’t handle it initially when he was brought to the majors as the next DiMaggio and given the #6.  

As Sherman says, 324 regular season games to go.   

Let The Countdown Begin!!

We have talked back and forth in the comments section about the greatest at any particular postion, so for the next nine days we will debate them in posts with the final day coinciding with the first day pitchers and catchers can report. 

Now, let’s talk rules.  For those of you who keep score at games, the progression will make sense, we start with pitchers and end with right fielders.  You can nominate anyone who has played a single game at that position and you are under no obligation to make an argument for your selection.  I will throw out some names and stats to get the topic started each night. (And for pitchers feel free to select more than 1)

So, without further ado let’s talk pitchers.  Some names to consider….

Cy Young 511 wins, 2803 K’s 138 ERA+

Walter Johnson 417 Wins, 3509 K’s 147 ERA+

Sandy Koufax 165 Wins, 2396 K’s, 131 ERA+

Lefty Grove 300 Wins, 2266 K’s, 148 ERA+

Christy Mathewson 373 Wins, 2502 K’s, 135 ERA+

Pedro Martinez 214 Wins, 3117 K’s, 154 ERA+

Mariano Rivera 68 Wins, 934 K’s, 199 ERA+ (Mariano has the best ERA+ of anyone with 1,000 IP in MLB history.  For comparison sake, Pedro is #2)   

And your choices are?   

 

A Couple Of Tidbits

Interesting note here in Jon Heyman’s latest, the Yankees tried to get Andruw Jones to agree to a minor league deal. 

I am curious as to why Jones turned them down because it doesn’t seem like the Braves are going to sign him and the Yankees obviously have a need in center.   He is getting paid millions by the Dodgers already so I don’t see any situation where he would logically expect to get more than the major league minimum from any team. If he had taken the deal and won the job he would have been in a potent lineup with plenty of RBI chances to boost his value for his next free agent deal in 2010.  Strange that he didn’t take it, but I guess he is looking for a major league deal. 

In other news, Derek Jeter will face the Yankees as a member of Team USA in an exhibition game this March.  This will be weird to say the least, but perhaps the Yankees can use the site of Jeter in another uniform to start getting their minds thinking about 2011.  Jeter will be almost 37 and a free agent.  He will probably have somewhere around 2900 hits, so the pressure to bring him back as a Yankee will be even greater than it normally would have been.  But, the Yankees have to be smart, they can’t give him a long term deal and they will need to talk to him about a position change for the 2011 season.  It could all get very ugly. 

Now I Get It

Mark Kotsay is expected to be sidelined until May according to the Boston Globe.  That explains the Brad Wilkerson deal the other day.

Wilkerson can do everything Kotsay can do…in theory.

Interesting

I haven’t gotten to this part in the book, but I find this take from Tyler Kepner fascinating.  If you follow Kepner, you know he has great sources and does a great job reporting.  I don’t know what it means in 2009, but I think it is fair to say that Alex was not exactly embraced in the 2004 Yankees’ clubhouse. 

A Minor Deal

I was going to write a big thing about how the Yankees need to make more trades like the minor league one they did today, but Steve Goldman did it better than I ever could

I am not as down on Austin Jackson as Goldman is, but I do worry about how soon he will be ready.  In addition, where are the impact bats after Jackson?  Certainly not at AAA and it’s hard to get too excited about prospects who haven’t even cracked AA.  

What the Yankees have is a ton of pitching prospects and like Goldman says, they need to turn some of those into position players.  What he didn’t mention and what makes this more important in my mind is when you look at the rotation for the next three+ years there are really no empty spots.  Sabathia and Burnett are obviously going to be in it.  Wang will be a free agent after 2011.  Joba and Hughes are under Yankee control until after 2012 at least.  And there are players like Aceves and Kennedy who could always fill in as needed. 

Now of course injuries happen and players don’t perform as expected, but stockpiling pitchers while neglecting hitters is going to cause problems.  In an ideal world the Yankees would groom some young position players who can then start to fill in the gaps in the lineup.  The Yankees can of course just throw money at the problem, but it is far safer and more efficent to have some alternatives in the minors.  Maybe Cashman will address that in the near future, but if history is any guide, he won’t. 

250 Pages In

I have some more quibbles with this book, though I will say up front that it is very well written and entertaining. 

First, more spelling mistakes and historical errors.  For example, there is a comment about the 2003 ALCS and how "In Boston where more people were watching than saw the Patriots win the Super Bowl eight months earlier…" The only problem is the Patriots did not win the Super Bowl in 2003, they won in 2002 (and 2004 and 2005) so that should have read 20 months earlier.  

But more troubling to me is the lack of proper balance in the critque of certain moves.  For example, there is a long part in the book about how Torre did not want to sign Giambi and instead would have preferred to keep Tino for a year and then turn the job over to Nick Johnson.  The book then details how Giambi ran into injury problems and other difficulties later on with the Yankees.  Meanwhile, the reader is left to assume that Nick Johnson would have been a perfect solution and Torre was absolutely right.  I loved Nick Johnson with the Yankees, but Nick Johnson can’t stay healthy.  He played in 38 games the last two years while Giambi played in almost 230.  I think that might be relevant information when sizing up the two players.

In addition, the book continually lauds the core group of the dynatsy (Jeter, O’Neil, Bernie, Posada, Tino, Brosius) as "special" players, but then blames the Yankees for never adequately replacing them.  Isn’t that the point of a special player?  I don’t know who will close games for the Yankees in 2012, but I am 99.9% sure that it will not be a player as good as Rivera.  Those guys were tremendously special, they always seemed to be at their best when it mattered the most and I don’t see how you can fault the Yankees for not finding their equals.  That’s what makes them special!

Finally, there are passages like this one which drive me nuts:

"Quite simply, Enrique Wilson was one of the worst hitters to ever play for the New York Yankees.  He appeared in 264 games for the Yankees and batted.216.  Only four men in the history of the franchise ever hit worse with that much time in pinstropes….Morever, Wilson was neither especially fleet nor adept in the field."

I don’t think a Yankee fan would dispute any of those assertions about Enrique Wilson.  But who exactly was the one filling out the lineup with Wilson’s name in it?  This is where the use of a third person narrative really causes problems.  Tom Verducci has correctly identified that Enrique Wilson was a bad player, but he hasn’t asked his co-author why he kept putting Wilson into the lineup.  I would love to hear something from Torre about what Wilson did to earn all that playing time.    

Anyway, it’s a very good book so far and Torre hasn’t said anything I would take him to task for.  Then again, I am only in 2003, history is going to get a little more choppy from here on out. 

Three Chapters In

Well I got through three chapters of "The Yankee Years" today and I have found nothing shokcing or surprising.  I do have two complaints/critiques. 

The first is from page 2, where one of the reasons given as to why George Steinbrenner parted ways with  Buck Showalter is for "blowing a two games to one lead" in the ALDS.  As most fans remember, the Yankees actually blew a two games to none lead in that series.  I guess that also means they blew a two games to one lead as the book says, but I don’t think that was the author’s point.  I am surprised that mistake was made.  (On a side note, that series loss was far and away the most painful loss I have ever suffered as a fan.  2004 was bad, but this was much worse, especially after they led in Games 3, 4 and 5 and lost all three.)

The second thing that bugs me is the steroids issue.  The Mitchell Report made it clear that the 2000 Yankees had a number of players who juiced.  There are details of a conversation between Torre and Pettitte from December 2007 when Pettitte was about to admit to part of his HGH use.  Torre basically gives him a pass, telling him "You weren’t trying to get back to win a game for yourself."

Now, I can’t hold Torre to a standrad that didn’t exist back then, nobody did much of anything to stop steroids.  (With the notable excpetion of Rick Helling who is identified in the book as having stood up at meetings of the MLBPA in 1998 and every year after that asking what the Union would do about streoids.) But, I find Torre’s pardoning of Pettitte interesting.  Pettitte is clearly one of Torre’s guys and one theme that you can see very clearly in the beginning of this book is that Torre is going to back up his guys to the hilt.  That’s great and loyatly is a good thing, but I wonder what happened to the rest of the Yankees who weren’t Torre’s guys and were in the Mitchell Report.  Did David Justice get a call from Joe Torre?  Why isn’t this explored more in the book?   It’s an interesting topic that I wish had more teeth to it.

More later