Best Boston Sports Day Ever?

Sunday may well have been the best Boston sports day ever.  Of course neither the Patriots game nor the Red Sox game decided anything but for sheer excitement and thrilling outcomes, it has to, at worst, rank highly.

First I must admit I was admonished by my wife for having a crappy attitude watching the Patriots game.  My son was watching with us and when the Pats turned it over with 2+ minutes left, I proclaimed, “It’s over.”  To be fair, I legitimately thought mathematically the game was over and said as much.  Admittedly I said it with a strong tone of poor sportsmanship.  My wife told me it was the wrong message to send to my son and it turns out, boy was she right.

I think my son learned the lesson as well as the Patriots sure put me in my place and he’ll never believe another thing I say.

As for the Red Sox, I was at game 1 and it was probably one of the longest, most frustrating nights of my life.  The Red Sox were embarrassed, struck out 17 times and only mustered 1 hit and the game took nearly 4 hours to play.  To make matters worse, my drive home from Fenway was interrupted by downed power lines which forced me and many others to park our cars on Route 1A for an hour until things were fixed.  Bedtime came at 2:50 am, a late night.

Sunday night’s Red Sox game was a near carbon copy for 5 innings with Max Scherzer mowing down Red Sox at will and the Red Sox not getting even a sniff of a hit.

Things changed in the 6th with the Red Sox scoring their first run of the series and David Ortiz worked his magic in the 8th.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia capped the night with a walk-off hit.

Game 1 provided much room for debate, like why is Mike Napoli so bad?  Why can’t the Red Sox hit?  How many checked swings can one team have in one night, oh really, that many?  As for strategy debate, I can’t really argue with John Farrell as if your team isn’t hitting across the board, I’m not sure what you can do besides try a few pinch hitters, which he did.  Basically you have to tip your hat to Detroit.

Game 2 was David Ortiz’s game and he got the job done.  His grand slam was punctuated with an amazing effort by Torii Hunter flipping over the wall into the bullpen, and one of Boston’s finest raising his arms in triumph as the ball landed in the glove of a bullpen catcher (how the hell did the catcher even see that ball coming at him by the way?  He was in a crouch, his head below the top of the wall.  When did he first make eye contact with the ball?  Remarkable).  One of the most dramatic sports moments I’ve seen.

Good timing too as heading to Detroit down 0-2 and facing Justin Verlander isn’t ideal.

Mark Oct 13th, 2013 as a special day in Boston sports.

The Price of Qualifying

The Post is reporting that the qualifying offer that must be made to free agents is $14.1 million for 2014. The only way to get a draft pick if a free agent leaves is to offer them a one-year deal for $14.1 million.

I wrote about this in August in regards to Phil Hughes. At the start of the year, offering Hughes a qualifying deal seemed a lock. Now there is no way the Yankees can do it because  he would almost certainly accept. But, the Yankees have three players that they should make the offer to- Cano, Kuroda and Granderson.

Cano is obvious, he will turn it down in an instant. Kuroda is a bit more of a risk, but even with his September swoon he posted a 3.31 ERA. And, $14.1 million is less than he earned in 2013 ($15 million) so I am not sure he would accept the offer either.

Granderson is a real risk, but I still think the Yankees should do it.  He missed 100 games, hit .229 and saw his slugging percentage drop almost 100 points, but I bet he will get a multi-year deal from some team. And, if he did accept the offer, the Yankees would  only be on the hook for his salary in 2014. Granderson is only 32 and he hit 43 home runs in 2012. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to approach that total again in 2014 and since the Yankees don’t have any younger alternatives, they should gamble and make him a qualifying offer.

Joe’s Back

Multiple outlets are reporting that Joe Girardi has signed a new deal to remain manager of the Yankees. It is a four-year pact worth $4-million per year with playoff bonuses added on.

This is a great first step for a team that did not need any other obstacles this offseason. Girardi provides them with stability at the top and he has shown a knack for developing relievers, something that the team will definitely need next year. The Yankees were smart to open the checkbook for Girardi and they are still getting a pretty good deal. It’s worth remembering that Joe Torre made $7.5 million in his last year with the team and turned down a deal for $5-million with playoff bonuses in 2007.

Now comes the hard part. Plenty of decisions to be made regarding free agents, arbitration and the future. I will be sharing my thoughts starting next week.

Hal Speaks

Hal Steinbrenner went on WFAN today and discussed the Yankees. Here are some of the points he made.

He wants Joe Girardi back, an offer has been made and he wants the situation closed “sooner rather than later”.

If it comes down to the $189-million payroll or putting a championship caliber team on the field he will put a championship caliber team on the field.

He described A-Rod as one of the best third basemen in baseball and said there was no animosity on the part of the team. He wouldn’t comment on the lawsuits A-Rod has filed, but said the Yankees have a lot of confidence in Dr. Ahmad.

He is disappointed with the talent in the minor leagues and said that the team is working on a plan to make it better. He said they expected some of the younger players to be much better than they were.

He would like to see Robinson Cano come back at a contract “within reason”.

The Yankees are looking at their strength and conditioning regimen throughout the system to see if they need to make changes.

Chutzpah

I can’t think of a better word for describing Alex Rodriguez’s behavior. The lawsuits he filed yesterday are fascinating examples of chutzpah, hubris, ego, insert your own word.

In one of them he actually accuses Bud Selig of not doing enough to stop PED’s in the game earlier in his tenure. I mean Alex, really?

But, it isn’t hard to see what Alex is going for here. The arbitrators involved in his case will hear about these lawsuits and they just might be influenced by them.

One thing is certain, Alex is not going to go quietly. Now it’s a matter of how many others he can drag down with him. What a sad legacy.

Not A Mistake

AJ Burnett just gave up 7 earned runs in 2+ innings in the NLDS.

 

Mistakes?

So based on two games, the Yankees looked like dunces letting Russell Martin go, but geniuses for letting Swisher leave?

The Martin critique is fair in some respects, but not because of what he did in the wild card game. It’s fair because Chris Stewart is not a starting catcher. Now, you could argue that if Cervelli had stayed healthy, the Martin move would not have been a mistake and that’s fine. But, we can’t turn Cervelli into a superstar based on 61 plate appearances. What the Yankees could have done is sign someone like A.J. Pierzynski after they lost Martin. They didn’t and it turned the Martin loss into a huge mistake.

Swisher had a rough night and a rough 2013, so letting him go looks like a great move, until you consider his replacement. If Swisher is in the Bronx, we never see Vernon Wells. Wells was terrible, his batting line of .233/.282/.349 was bad enough, but the defensive metrics showed that he wasn’t very good in the outfield either. Sum it all up and WAR says Wells COST the Yankees 0.8 of a win. Swisher gave Cleveland 2.4 wins, so you have a swing of 3.2 wins.

Now, the problem with both of these comparisons is that they just look at this year. Martin and Swisher would have been better than their replacements this year, but not enough that the Yankees would have made the playoffs. Furthermore, they are both signed for next year (and two more years after that for Swisher). If the Yankees do a halfway decent job of roster construction in 2014, they will cover for Martin and Swisher.

Perspective

If you wade through all the A-Rod junk in the papers today (no comment) you will find all sorts of doom and gloom stories about the Yankees and their current plight. For example, The Daily News has a series “cleverly” titled “Slide of the Yankees”. Interestingly, the Mets are nowhere to be found in most papers.

I bring up the Mets because they provide an interesting comparison and they supposedly “share” this city. Over the last five years, they have not finished with more than 79 wins. By contrast, the Yankees have won three AL East titles, been in three ALCS’s and won a World Series. That’s a really good stretch of baseball and even if we won’t see anything like it for awhile, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

The Primary Goal

There seems to be a big debate among the local papers about what the Yankees’ primary goal is. One side professes that wining is the primary goal and the Yankees will do whatever it takes to make sure it happens. The other side thinks that getting under $189-million next year is the primary goal and the Yankees will forgo winning in order to do it. I think they are both wrong.

The primary goal of all sports owners is simple- make money. Look around sports, apart from the Knicks and Rangers, most teams are owned by incredibly successful businessmen. These are franchises worth hundreds of millions of dollars and the owners want to increase that value.

Now some will argue that George Steinbrenner was different. That his primary goal was winning. I would counter that while that is true, it had more to do with the economics of baseball when George was in his prime (70′s to late 1990′s) than anything else. Back then winning was what gave you a healthy bottom line. Winning put fans in the seats and also gave you postseason games, a much bigger percentage of revenues then than now. Winning allowed George to market the Yankees as a must-see TV event and got him a $55-million a year TV contract from MSG back in the 80′s. (Crazy money back then) And let’s not forget, George may have nodded towards the tradition, but he wasn’t against threatening to move the club to New Jersey because a new stadium would have gotten him more money.

Why is any of this important now? Because I guarantee you that the conversations Hal and his partners are having at this moment revolve around money. Specifically, what is the best course of action for 2014? If they meet the $189-million goal, will they actually save money? Or, do they lose too much money from all the empty seats and damage to the brand? If they judge that the $189-million goal will cost them more than it would save them, they won’t meet it. Look at Cashman’s comments today when asked about the $189-million, ”It’s certainly a goal; it’s not a mandate. There’s a lot of benefits to staying under that, but it’s not a mandate at the expense of a championship run.”

If they don’t go through with the $189-million plan, we will hear all about how ownership is committed to winning, etc., etc.. But what ownership is ultimately committed to is a healthy bottom line. The $189-million goal may become a victim to that in the next few months.

Fox Attack?

The biggest free agent the Yankees have is not a player, it is their manager, Joe Girardi. Girardi proved his value this year, somehow getting 85 wins from a club with more holes than a piece of swiss. He deserves a new contract, but the Yankees are going to face some competition for his services.

Now everyone is going to say that the Cubs managerial position is the biggest threat to Girardi leaving town, but I don’t think so. Yes, he is from that area and he played for the Cubs, but Girardi has a young family that loves living in Westchester and I have it on good authority that he doesn’t want to disrupt their lives. I would bet that if Girardi manages next year, he does it for the Yankees.

And that is a big “if” because Girardi could get an offer from Fox to take over the color commentary duties of Tim McCarver, who is retiring. Girardi was a broadcaster before, working for YES in 2004 and 2007. He wouldn’t make as much as he could managing, but he would obviously have a much, much easier job and he would be home a lot more than he is now. That could be the kiss of death for the Yankees chances at bringing him back. They can offer him a big deal, but Girardi is smart enough to know that one day his Yankees run will end while as the lead baseball analyst, he could be looking at 25 years of job security.

So, if I am the Yankees, I make a big offer and I make it right now.