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Back Where They Belong

The Yankees are heading back to Channel 11, WPIX next year for 20 games. I am thrilled by this.

It has been 16 years since the Yankees last appeared on Channel 11, and in the interim the channel became home to Mets games of all things. But from 1951 until the late 70’s, Channel 11 was the only place to watch the Yankees on TV. It was the channel I turned on as a six-year old on October 2nd, 1978, and watched Dent hit a big homer and Greg Nettles catch a huge pop-up. It was the channel that gave us Bill White and the Scooter calling games and showed us flashes of the GWB every game because Rizzuto was worried about beating the traffic.

It is also the channel that broadcasted Batman every afternoon along with the “Pix Game“, and the Yule Log every Christmas. (They still do the latter, and I put it on every Christmas morning.) In short, Channel 11 reminds me of my childhood, so excuse a 40-something guy for getting a bit nostalgic over this news.

Meet The New Boss…

Rob Manfred has made some committee decisions and he is not off to a strong start.

First, he has removed any owner who voted against him from the executive council. Hal Steinbrenner and others are on, John Henry and others are off. That seems like pretty blatant favoritism to me.

Second, he has appointed Fred Wilpon as head of the MLB Finance Committee. This one is even better because Wilpon was a pretty famous victim of Bernie Madoff. In that respect, he certainly had company. But Wilpon was sued by the trustee of Madoff”s victims for showing “willful blindness” to Madoff’s schemes. Wilpon eventually settled that claim for $162-million.

And the Mets also have reduced their payroll from $140-million to a projected $82-million this year. Considering they play in New York and reap the revenue benefits of that, should they really have the 22nd-biggest payroll in MLB?

But the guy who presided over the collapse of the payroll from $140-million to $82-million and was accused of being complacent in the Madoff scheme is now running MLB’s finance committee. Perhaps I celebrated the demise of Bud Selig too soon.

Pitch Clocks?

Apparently, the “wise” owners have decided to try pitch clocks this upcoming season at the AA and AAA levels.

I am not against the idea of a faster game. I wouldn’t mind it one bit, but one of the great things about baseball is the lack of a clock. Adding a clock to MLB is like putting a TV up in church to me.

If the owners really want to speed up the game, here are a few ways they can do it without adding an artificial clock.

1- Start calling strikes on balls above the waist. This would lead to fewer pitches in a game and shorter AB’s.

2- Cut down on the time between innings. This will never happen because it would reduce TV commercials, but if you took 45 seconds out of the break between each inning that would eliminate at least 12 minutes from the length of a game.

3- Call a strike if a batter steps out of the box after a pitch. This is a personal peeve of mine. Why do hitters need to readjust everything after every pitch even when they haven’t taken a swing?

4- Make replay an automatic process. Have someone in charge of reviewing calls who decides if a replay challenge is needed or not. Stop the stupid system of a manager stalling for time while he waits to see if the dugout tells him to make a challenge. The point of replay is to get the calls right, so why not make it automatic?

How about trying some of these ideas before bringing a clock to baseball?

 

Height Matters?

The Yankees made another trade today, getting Chris Martin from the Rockies for cash. Martin is 6’8″, which puts him in good company with the new Yankees’ pitching staff. The Yankees designated Gonzalez Germen, a pitcher they had acquired for cash from the Mets, to make room. Germen is only 6’2″.

Poor Brett Gardner. At 5’10”, he is the shortest Yankee and he gives up three inches to the Yankees shortest pitcher- Adam Warren. The Yankees have the makings of a basketball team with the quintet of Betances, Miller, Martin, Sabathia, and Pineda. Everyone is 6’7″ or 6’8″.

What does the height  mean? I have no clue, but Martin is another guy who throws heat. He has only had a brief cup of coffee in the majors, but he misses bats, a common theme among the Yankee bullpen. (Sidenote- Buster Olney ranked the Yankees bullpen second in MLB today behind the Royals) Realistically, Martin will head to AAA and wait for an injury to get his chance. But, it isn’t impossible that he beats out someone like Rogers for a roster spot.

38 days until pitchers and catchers.

 

An Interesting Point

Buster Olney (subscription required) points out that the Yankees could have a serious platoon advantage in the new AL East.

To summarize, the Yankees can trot out an all-lefty lineup now between switch-hitters and lefty bats. The AL East is projected to have 16-of-20 righty starters on teams other than the Yankees, much less than in recent years.

Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium clearly favors lefties, and it could be a solid advantage.

 

 

It’s Their DNA

Jon Heyman is reporting the Yankees have reached a deal with Stephen Drew. It sounds like a one-year deal for $5-million with an extra $1 or $2-million possible in incentives. I haven’t seen anything else about this, but Drew is a Boras client and Heyman has exceptional sources with Boras, so I would believe it.

Drew was terrible last year as we know, but a bounce back closer to his career levels is certainly not out of the question at the age of 32. The money is not a lot for the Yankees, but two things about this deal bother me.

1- All advanced metrics show that Drew wasn’t a very good second baseman last year. Now I am assuming he will play second, so that is a concern for me. (I don’t think they are trading Didi, but Cashman has been wheeling and dealing lately.) He had never played second before, so maybe he needed to learn the position, but it is something to worry about.

2- The Yankees had two young guys deserving of a shot to take over the position. Who knows if Refsnyder or Pirela would have worked out, but trying to beat Drew’s 2014 season wouldn’t take much. I am having a hard time seeing how this makes the club better.

And ultimately, wouldn’t it have been better to spend this money on starting pitcher?

An Interesting Question

Rob Neyer asks when we will put another starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame?

It’s hard to make a case for Clemens ever getting there based on his vote totals. Maybe Schilling has a chance, but Mussina doesn’t seem to.

And if those guys don’t make it, who will make it? Jamie Moyer has lots of wins (269) but he had to pitch into his late 40’s to get them. Andy Pettitte has lots of wins, but PED issues. Roy Halliday doesn’t have a lot of wins (203) but he was brilliant for most of his career. Maybe he breaks the streak in 2019.

Beyond that, here is the list of active win leaders. Looking at it, we probably won’t see a 300-game winner again. Take any of these pitchers and give them 15 wins a season until they turn 40 and the only three who would be projected to make it are Sabathia, Felix and Kershaw. Sabathia isn’t going to get there, and as great as Felix and Kersahaw are, that is an enormous projection.

 

So it really is a great question with no apparent answer.

The Votes Are In

The Hall of Fame has announced the class of 2015, and it contains four players. This is the biggest class since 1955, and the first time ever three pitchers were inducted at the same time.  The inductees, in order of votes received, are:

Randy Johnson-97.3%

Pedro Martinez-91.1%

John Smoltz-82.9%

Craig Biggio-82.7%

First off, congratulations to all four of them.

Mike Piazza almost cracked 70%, Jeff Bagwell was at 55.7%. Tim Raines 55%, Schilling 39.2%, Clemens 37.5,, and Bonds 36.8% rounded out the top-10.

Some observations

1- I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the writers who left Johnson off the ballot and assume they used the vote for other worthy candidates.

2- Mike Mussina was in the 20’s, as was Allan Trammell. Trammell will be in his last year next year so it seems like he will never get in. I also don’t see how Schilling and Mussina’s combined vote totals don’t even equal Smoltz’s.

3- Next year will be interesting because only Griffey is a lock. That should get Piazza in.

4- This was Don Mattingly’s last year on the ballot. <sigh>

5- Want a good example of what PED’s did to the way the game is perceived? Look at Carlos Delgado, 473 career HR’s, and he didn’t even stay on the ballot for a second year.

6- Seeing guys like Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, and Darin Erstad get votes makes me crazy. This is why ballots should be made public.

7- Pedro is the first player elected born in the 1970’s. Pretty soon all the Hall of Famers will be younger than me- yuck.

8- Pedro made a point of saying “I did it clean” in his interview with MLB Network. He also said the toughest guy he ever faced was Edgar Martinez.

 

 

My Hall of Fame Ballot

If I were a Hall of Fame voter, these would be my choices for the upcoming ballot. I am going to rank them alphabetically first and then explain.

Bagwell

Biggio

Bonds

Clemens

Johnson

Martinez

Mussina

Piazza

Schilling

Trammell

 

Jeff Bagwell was one of the best hitters in the NL during his career. He was an on base machine and won the Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, and MVP.

Craig Biggio was one of the best second basemen in the game and an offensive force.

I will bunch the next two guys together- Bonds and Clemens. They used PED’s, but it is silly to pretend that they were the only ones. I have long advocated that we put the whole 1990’s to present era in a separate wing of the Hall, or put PED admission and suspicion on the plaque itself. I also can’t get too worked up about their PED use, while the Hall has racists like Cap Anson and Ty Cobb among its membership. Clemens and Bonds were the best pitcher and hitter in the game for a large part of their careers and they deserve to be in the Hall.

I will bunch the next two guys together as well. From the late 90’s to the mid-2000’s if you had to win one game, who would you want to start? Pick RJ, pick Pedro, I can’t argue with either choice. They were the two best in the game. While RJ has the better stats, and 300 wins, Pedro has a 154 ERA+ which is simply amazing. They are both no-brainers for me.

Mike Mussina will set off protests, but here’s an interesting exercise adopted from this really good article:

Which pitcher is the best?

Pitcher A: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3,562.2 IP, 2,813 SO
Pitcher B: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3,261 IP, 3,116 SO
Pitcher C: 194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2,898.2 IP, 2,668 SO
Pitcher D: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 3,473 IP, 3,084 SO
Pitcher E: 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 3,256.1 IP, 2,397 SO

The guy with the most wins, Pitcher A,  is Mike Mussina. The guy with the lowest ERA, Pitcher E, is Kevin Brown. The remaining three pitchers are (B,C,D) Schilling, David Cone and Smoltz. Using WAR, Mussina is 5th on this year’s ballot behind Bonds, Clemens, Johnson and Pedro. Using JAWS, he 7th behind the same four plus Bagwell and Schilling. Yet, Schilling and Mussina are stuck in the 20% range of the vote while Smoltz has a very good chance of getting into the Hall in his first year.

Piazza may have been the best offensive catcher in baseball history. He deserves to be in the Hall.

Schilling is in the Jackass Hall of Fame already, so why not baseball’s? I kid, I kid, but the guy was one of the best pitchers in the game and amazing in the postseason, he deserves it.

Trammell gets my vote here because of Hall of Fame rules. He is about to come off the ballot and I believe he deserves to be in. I could easily have voted for some other guys, but to me it will be awful if he falls off the ballot like Jack Morris did. Trammell’s numbers are not overly impressive until you remember that he was a shortstop and other than Ripken, shortstops didn’t put up hitting numbers like that.

There are plenty of other guys I could make a case for, but rules allow only 10, so those are mine. How about yours?

 

Bullpen Depth

Brian Cashman didn’t take today off, trading Manny Banuelos to Atlanta for David Carpenter and Chason Shreve.

Banuelos was once a top prospect, but injuries and surgery derailed him. After he had TJ surgery, he struggled to pitch effectively and he represents a lottery ticket for Atlanta. If he can find his old form, they will easily win this trade. That’s the risk the Yankees have taken to get two very promising bullpen pieces.

Carpenter has been the 8th inning guy in Atlanta and while his 2013 and 2014 ERA’s differed by two runs, his FIP’s were 2.83 and 2.94.  He has a huge fastball, averaging 95-mph and a good slider. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this year .

Shreve is a lefty who came up at the end of 2014 for Atlanta and has shown the ability to get lots of K’s in the minors.

The Yankees now have a lot of power arms in their bullpen. They can close with either Miller or Betances. They have Carpenter to set things up for those two. They have Wilson and Shreve from the left side and Rogers and Warren from the right. They have some interesting arms in the minors that could contribute as well. The rotation will be full of questions, but the bullpen will be a force to be reckoned with.