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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Is Mark Teixeira going to take A-Rod's place as the designated Yankee scapegoat?

About a month ago, I said to Squawker Jon that I thought Mark Teixeira would be the new target of the Yankees' ire in the future, basically becoming the new Alex Rodriguez when it comes to being the team's designated Yankee scapegoat.  After all, Tex not only has a ridiculous contract, like Alex Rodriguez, and he also is no longer in his prime, and he is injured all of the time now, it seems, but he has also said a number of outrageous -- but mostly ignored -- things.  Mostly ignored, that is, until now.

Here's the thing -- while A-Rod is coming back, of course, there is only so much mileage Brian Cashman and the Yankees can get anymore over blaming him for everything that goes wrong. So I figured that Tex would be the next Yankee target. And some of it might actually be deserved. After all, in this past year, not only is Mark refusing to adjust his game to compete against the shift, but he also announced that he he basically was never going to be the same player that he was in his prime. (Of course, he will still get paid like he did in his prime!)

Anyhow, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews writes what will undoubtedly be the first of many New York media hit pieces on Teixeira. In the article, Matthews speculates on whether Teixeira has lost the hunger to succeed, referencing how boxer Marvin Hagler once said that "it's tough to get out of bed to do roadwork when you've been sleeping in silk pajamas." Matthews writes, "There are some Yankees who wonder if the same syndrome is starting to affect Teixeira."

He goes on to say:
A baseball insider I spoke with this week said Teixeira's "outside interests" -- he is financially involved in real estate holdings, a chain of juice bars, and is working to create what he called a "marriage of baseball and social media" -- had become a point of concern, with some wondering how badly he still wanted to be a baseball player.
Brian Cashman, come on down! You are back to doing what you do best -- leaking anonymous smears on Yankees out of favor!

Look, I think Teixeira has said a lot of dumb things, most of which he has gotten away with until now. That being said, I seem to remember somebody else who started a "marriage of baseball and social media" while still playing -- Derek Jeter, who launched his Players' Tribune site this month (and had to have been working on it at the same time he was still an active player.)

And these days, most players have outside financial interests. Is there any hard evidence that Teixeira's terrible play is due to these interests, or to his YES Network show, which the article also references? No.
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I do think that Teixeira has been a disappointment, and he says a lot of dopey things (that he has gotten away with doing until now), but that has nothing to do with whether he owns a few Juice Press stores. And the anonymous leaks are a little unseemly.

Matthews' article also talks about how Tex's numbers have tanked in recent years, which is fair game. But what he does not mention is how Cashman and the Yankees did not have a backup plan for his absence this year, which made no sense. (Hint: having your catcher play first is not a real backup plan!)

Anyhow, get your popcorn ready. I expect Tex to be a big target next season if he doesn't get it together quickly; he was already facing some boos this year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 BBA awards ballot part 2 -- American League

Here are my Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards picks:

Goose Gossage Award - Reliever of the Year (American League) 
1. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
2. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
3. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

Walter Johnson Award - Pitcher of the Year (American League)
1. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
3. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
4. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays/Detroit Tigers
5. Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins

Stan Musial Award - MVP (American League)
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
3. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
4. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
5. VIctor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
6. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
7. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
8. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
9. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
10. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals


2014 BBA awards ballot part 2 - National League

Goose Gossage Award - Reliever of the Year (National League)

1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
2. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
3. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates


Walter Johnson Award -
Pitcher of the Year (National League)

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
5. Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
 

Stan Musial Award - MVP (National League)

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
4.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

5. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

6.
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
7. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
8.
Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates

9.
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

10.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Why did the Yankees pass on Andrew Friedman? And why is Hal Steinbrenner like Hermey the Elf?


Yesterday, after hearing about how the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped up and signed Andrew Friedman, after firing GM Ned Colletti, I was naturally peeved. As my friend Sully put it, the Dodgers have back-to-back seasons making the playoffs, and they fire their GM, while the Yankees have back-to-back seasons of not making the playoffs, and give their GM a new contract. Good grief.

I have had my eye on Andrew Friedman for a long time. Here is what I wrote in 2012, in a column slamming Brian Cashman for signing Kevin Youkilis, and correctly predicting that the $12 million signing would be a disaster. I said that:
"With a payroll less than a third of the Yanks, and their best players leaving for free agency, Friedman is able to field a competitive team each year. (And no, it isn't just having had the good draft picks -- look at Kansas City!) In the old days, George Steinbrenner would have poached Friedman from the Rays a long time ago, instead of having a schlub like Cashman as GM for life."
Two years later, KC finally has a good team, but the Yankees are content to settle for three more years with a schlub like Brian Cashman. And yes, I still contend that George would have swooped in and gotten Friedman. (An aside -- if I had a dollar for every Yankee fan who insisted to me over the years that Friedman would never leave Tampa, I would be rich!)

Most of us have seen "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" a time or two -- or ten -- each Christmas season. Hermey the Elf is one of the more memorable characters. He is Rudolph's fellow misfit friend who doesn't want to be an elf -- which sounds like a pretty cool gig to most of us, even if you have to sing that annoying song about how "We are Santa's elves."  Instead, Hermey wants to be a dentist.

Anyhow, I was thinking about Lazy Hal yesterday, and I was struck by the similarities of  the Elf to him -- and it is not just the swoop of bangs! Hal literally has zero interest in running the team, which like being an elf, sounds like a sweet gig to most of us. Instead, he would rather do his amateur weather forecasting.

Mike Lupica, perhaps the only major media guy in New York unafraid to criticize Cashman and Steinbrenner, had an excellent column in the Daily News about the state of the Yankees. He said that:
"Hal Steinbrenner goes through the half-hearted motion of talking like a tough Steinbrenner owner, like he’s learning a new language on Rosetta Stone. But one of the reasons that Brian is coming back is that even if Steinbrenner had wanted to hire a new general manager, he wouldn’t have had a clue about who it should be. All we know for sure is that he’s decided that the general manager he has is indispensable."
That is about the size of it. Hermey -- I mean Hal -- does treat actually attending Yankees like going to the dentist. And the Yankee GM fancies himself an elf. After all, he dresses as one when he does his dopey rappelling each holiday season.

Imagine what Friedman could do with the resources in Yankeeland. Yet, by all accounts, nobody ever even tried to poach him, even though Hal lives in Tampa. Good grief indeed.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shocker: Fox gets into modern world with cool baseball broadcast idea

I have been hoping for years that there would be an alternative to the traditional big-network baseball broadcast. After all, who really wants to listen to Joe Buck mope in a monotone about what is happening on the field? Well, listen up. For tonight's Game 1 of the NLCS, you actually have an alternative. I got this info from Fox Sports:
For Game 1 of the NLCS, FOX Sports is gearing up for a grand experiment: A simulcast on FOX Sports 1 on October 11 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. FOX will provide the traditional broadcast, featuring Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci in the booth, Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews on the field.
Meanwhile, over on FS1 the crew- Kevin Burkhardt, Gabe Kapler and C.J. Nitkowski - will focus on statistics, sabermetrics, and graphics, with plenty of debate and conversation while the action plays out on the field. We’ll utilize a double-box format, with the live game action in one box, and our studio hosts and guests in another, along with a constant flow of graphics.  
This unique experience will be powered by Just a Bit Outside (JABO), a new microsite from FOXSports.comFOXSports.com
I think this is a great idea. I will be tuning in, just to hear a different voice from the usual boring Fox broadcast.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brian (Fredo) Cashman gets contract extension, and I have had enough

I was already in a bad mood today. My purse was stolen last week when I was in an Upper West Side Thai restaurant called Land. (Helpful hint -- don't ever eat there!) Anyhow, I have spent the past 10 days dealing with all of the repercussions involved with the crime -- talking to the police and the insurance company, getting the credit card companies to remove the many hundreds of dollars in charges the crook charged, trying to get the money back on my Metrocards returned, getting my locks changed (the criminal had keys to my house!) And I still need to hold down a job as well. It has been very stressful, and I am really worn out by the whole debacle.

Anyhow, I was trying to snap out of it by enjoying a Friday afternoon roaming around Manhattan, when Squawker Jon called me to tell me the big news -- that Brian Cashman just signed a three-year contract extension with the Yankees. Although I was not the least bit surprised by the news, it still really ticked me off. For one thing, it just goes to show that Hal Steinbrenner is a clown. As a Twitter friend put it, Hal wasn't just born on third base. In this scenario, Joba Chamberlain is pitching, and Mike Trout is at the plate.

Meanwhile, Prince Hal still cannot bring himself to get real accountability with this franchise. While Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher lost their jobs, that is window dressing on what really needs to be done. Cashman still holds the purse strings, and still doesn't have a clue on how to compete in MLB in 2014. Meanwhile, smart franchises like the Cardinals and the Giants are forming dynasties of their own, while the Yankees stick with has-beens like Cashman whose best days were during the Clinton administration.

In 2014, the New York Yankees spent over $125 million more on payroll than the New York Mets. For that financial output -- $210 million in payroll, the highest in the American League -- they got exactly five wins more than the Mets. Good grief.

Yet Cashman still continues to get a pass from the media. Wallace Matthews writes for ESPN that this is "a wondrous opportunity for Cashman to do what he has always secretly yearned to do -- create a Yankees team in his own image, with his own vision and his own players, and to finally build his own legacy." Um, Wally, Cashman has been GM since we first found out about Monica Lewinsky and her little blue dress. The team is already in this image, and has been for a long time now. His legacy is already built -- he has just 1 ring in the last 14 years. Kind of like the Atlanta Braves, but with billions more spent in payroll, and three years without playoff appearances at all.

Now is decision time. Do I really want to spend the next three years writing in this blog solely about the Yankees? Spending my spare time rooting for a team that is not really very likeable, run by some extremely unlikeable people? We have been doing this blog since 2006, and I have newer interests in life. I run in a 5K race (or more) pretty much every weekend now, and I have other things going on in my world these days.

I am writing in different places as well, on different topics, and am getting rewarded for it. I recently beat out over 3000 other entries to win an all-expenses-paid opportunity to attend a weeklong magazine writing workshop, which is something to be thankful for. And it is a lot more positive than writing for the umpteenth time the obvious -- that Cashman is a lousy GM.

All of this is to say that I don't really find watching the Yankees much fun anymore. And we are going to have more of the same (actually, I think things will be worse -- the Mets have a brighter future than the Yankees these days!) in the near future. And for the last few years, writing about the Yankees has been a constant string of negativity, as this team just hasn't been much fun.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. My childhood friend Kelly wrote me this tonight:
Lisa, I am in the exact same space. Since 2001 I have subscribed to MLBTV (being I live in CA now). Prior to the 2013 season, upper management made little to no significant changes to the team and, granted injuries, sunk the team to the depths of nothingness. With minimal improvement to the 2014 year's team, I see virtually no commitment to making a championship caliber team. For the 2014 season I did not subscribe to MLBTV and I dare say, next year I won't either. I have loved this team since I was a little girl - from in the womb even. I can't believe where we are right now. It sucks to be pissed at your own team.
Yup. That is exactly how I feel. What is there to look forward to next year, other than maybe Betances? (Even I am not excited over A-Rod at 40!)

But I am not going to shut down the blog. That would mean Brian Cashman will have won.

However, I just can't see why I should expend the psychic energy involved with writing regularly about this dysfunctional situation. Writing 100 columns about why Cashman must go is not exactly my idea of fun.

So this blog will be a work in progress. Stay tuned.

2014 BBA awards ballot part 1 - American League

Squawker Jon and I are members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and we get the opportunity to vote on the group's end-of-season awards. Today, I am casting my ballot for the top rookie and top manager in the American League.

Willie Mays Award - Top Rookie (American League)
1. Jose Abreu -- Chicago White Sox (a player Brian Cashman should have gone after)
2. Masahiro Tanaka -- New York Yankees (may have been No. 1 if he hadn't gotten hurt)
3. Dellin Betances -- New York Yankees (one of the few things to look forward to in Yankeeland)

2014 Connie Mack Award - Top Manager (American League)
1. Buck Showalter -- Baltimore Orioles (Was always great at strategy; now is a great motivator of people. Was able to change with the times and relate to younger generation. Orioles are now team to beat in AL East. Yikes!
2. Ned Yost -- Kansas City Royals (Not a perfect manager, but got Royals to first postseason since I was in high school!)
3. Lloyd McClendon -- Seattle Mariners (Thanks to McClendon and Robinson Cano, the Mariners are relevant for the first time in over a decade.)

2014 BBA awards ballot part 1 - National League

For Rookie of the Year, I am pleased to vote for one of the Mets' few bright spots this season, Jacob deGrom. Terry Collins won't be showing up on my managers' list, however, but there's always next year if the Mets make their long-awaited leap to contention with the return of Matt Harvey.

Willie Mays Award - Top Rookie (National League)

1. Jacob deGrom - New York Mets
2. Billy Hamilton - Cincinnati Reds
3. Ken Giles - Philadelphia Phillies


2014 Connie Mack Award - Top Manager (National League)

1. Mike Matheny - St. Louis Cardinals
2. Bruce Bochy - San Francisco Giants
3. Clint Hurdle - Pittsburgh Pirates

Friday, October 3, 2014

Shocker: Derek Jeter decides to become a St. Petersburg Squawker!

Of all the things Derek Jeter could do after retirement, he is going to be a blogger? Hey, that's my territory! And guess what? After less than two days in the biz, he is already doing damage control. Good grief.

Anyhow, I read with great interest Jeter's announcement Wednesday that he was starting his own blog, or as he calls it, a "platform," called the Players' Tribune, where athletes could get to speak their minds with "no filter." He also gave sportswriters a big ol' middle finger after they kissed his tuchis for the last two decades, basically saying that he avoided saying anything of interest for 20 years to avoid being misquoted or having his quotes taken out of context. Now he says, "I do think fans deserve more than 'no comments' or 'I don’t knows,'" he said. "Those simple answers ave always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted."

He also announced to the world that he is "not a robot." Who knew?

So Derek has started his own blog platform to, as he puts it, for athletes to have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel," so that they can "connect directly with our fans, with no filter."

Obviously, I have more than a few opinions on this endeavor:

First of all, this is not a new idea. In fact, didn't Curt Schilling do this, like, a decade ago with his 38 Pitches blog, way before social media? And don't athletes already have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and their own web pages these days to communicate with fans? Heck, Richard Sherman even has his own weekly column with MMQB.com!

Second, there actually will be a filter -- the "editors" and "producers" Jeter acknowledges will be involved with the product, making decisions on everything from proofreading to choice of article topics. There will also be PR professionals involved, no doubt, to protect these players' brand and make sure they don't say anything interesting. Not to mention smoothing out those rough edges. It will be the verbal equivalent of Kim Kardashian's and Beyonce's "candid" Instagram shots that are actually Photoshopped to death.

Do you know what happens to athletes with no filter who "share what they really think and feel"? They usually get in trouble with the public. Heck, even with editors involved, athletes can get in trouble. Remember how David Wells got fined for daring to write in his autobiography that he was still half-drunk before his perfect game? Remember how Charles Barkley claimed he was misquoted -- in his own autobiography?

Heck, Jeter is already having to do damage control with sportswriters after his initial manifesto, telling Jimmy Fallon that the site "is not trying to eliminate sportswriters," and that "sportswriters are what make sports great and fun to watch." Heh.

I also would like to know exactly when/where Jeter thinks that reporters misquoted him. Because he literally received 99% positive coverage over the past 20 years. Also, thanks to televised post-game press conferences, players already have the ability to communicate to the fans directly. Yet Jeter still didn't say anything interesting in that spot.

Also, if Jeter is going to speak out now, he had better answer more interesting questions than he did in his snoozeworthy #AskJeter Twitter live chat. Maybe if I were 12 years old, I might want to know #2's favorite flavor of ice cream or whether he preferred chicken to beef. But I think people are more interested in things like how he really felt about A-Rod, a question I and many others asked him online in the chat, yet were ignored.

Something else Jeter is not acknowledging when it comes to being allegedly unfiltered is this: celebrities who talk about real issues stir up controversy and can suffer a financial hit. After Oprah Winfrey campaigned for Barack Obama for president, she lost a good chunk of her audience who never came back to her show. Rosie O'Donnell lost millions of fans and her reputation as the "Queen of Nice" when she got involved with political hectoring.

As Michael Jordan allegedly put it at one point when asked to wade into politics: Republicans buy sneakers, too. Are Jeter and other athletes going to risk potentially damaging their endorsement contracts, or their product sales, by truly saying what they really think? I doubt it. Heck, they are not even going to have a comments section on their articles!

In fact, Jeter also told Fallon while other athletes "like to share with the people, everything about them. I, personally, have not done that, and I personally will not do that." He insisted, "this is not about me, this is about an avenue for the players.” So even with his own blog, Jeter still isn't going to say anything interesting. Move over, Richard Neer. We have a new Sir Sominex!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hal Steinbrenner finally speaks, and shows that he couldn't manage a one-car funeral

So Hal (Rip Van Winkle) Steinbrenner has finally woken from his summer slumber and spoken to the media for the first time in two months. He talked to Michael Kay on the Yankee broadcaster's ESPN New York radio show yesterday, a day after I wondered where the heck Hal was. But I think Hal would have made a much better impression by doing the interview in person, given that Kay's show is simulcast on Hal's TV network. Heck, even A-Rod figured that out his fireside chats with Mike Francsesa came across much better when he was in the studio!

Here are some of the noteworthy subjects that Hal the Dilettante touched on during his phone call:

His apology to Yankee fans

He said "I apologize" when asked to explain this year's disastrous season, saying "We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us and we expect the same thing of ourselves." No, Hal, you don't expect anything of anybody, except not to be bothered with making any actual decisions. That's the problem! You said in August that Yankee hitters needed to "step it up," yet when the hitters didn't, nothing happened. Heck, even teams like the Mets fire hitting coaches now and then. Yet you have kept Kevin Long on since 2007!

On him bringing Brian Cashman back and his firing philosophy

He said Cashman "does a good job" (yeah, Hal, that Kevin Youkilis deal was awesome! So was trading for Stephen Drew!) and that they would be negotiating a new contract with Cashman. Hal told Kay the following:
"I don't think it is a news flash that I am different than George in a lot of ways," Steinbrenner said. "He was better in many things than me, but I do tend to be a little less rash when it comes to firing people. I want to make sure that what went wrong was for a reason. It was wrong because of that one individual or two individuals or whatever, I will get through that process before anything like that as opposed to any kind of knee jerk reactions."
Let's review. Hal has been in charge of the team for seven years now. George Steinbrenner has been dead for four years already. Brian Cashman got a three-year contract after the 2008 season, and then after the 2011 season. You might have been able to justify the 2011 deal, given the 2009 World Series win. But how in the world is it "rash" to think that another GM could have done a better job with the team, or to think about going in a new direction in the future? Cashman's day has come and gone, and everybody knows it except for Hal.

During this last Cashman contract, the Yankees were absolutely humiliated by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, and then didn't make the playoffs the next two seasons, even with the extra wild card spot. Cashman also did some embarrassing shenanigans in his personal life. In those three years, Cash also outspent everybody in the league bat least $50 million each year, made a slew of personnel mistakes, and got outwitted over and over. The farm system is a mess, and the team has a dismal future. But Hal still thinks it is "knee jerk" to consider finding a new GM? Good grief.

I think Hal is one of the laziest people ever. If he weren't born on third base and thought he hit a triple, he would be hanging out in his mom's basement, or living off some girlfriend's money, instead of doing something for himself. He would literally rather accept failure, year after year, than get off his duff and fire Cashman. After all, hiring and firing is sooooo hard!

George Steinbrenner spent his entire life trying to impress his father, Henry, which is part of the reason why he bought the Yankees and turned a down-at-its-heels franchise into a new dynasty, ultimately resulting in the team becoming in a multi-billion-dollar team. Hal Steinbrenner has spent his entire life not trying to be his father, avoiding responsibility and putting up with not just mediocrity but flat-out incompetence, year after year, and avoiding firing anybody for fear that somebody might compare him to The Boss. And the so-called tough New York media gives him a pass.

He said Beltran and McCann and Teixeira would be better next year

Hal sounded like Brian Cashman's ventriloquist's dummy in insisting that Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira would all be better next year. As I wrote yesterday, maybe McCann might, but expecting injury-prone, old players to improve without PEDs is absolutely delusional. 

Why he didn't attend Derek Jeter's final home game

Hal rationalized why he wasn't at Derek Jeter's home farewell, saying that "The 'Thank You Day' was the 7th [of September], and that day"was my family, that was the organization saying thank you to Jeter, which is exactly what I told him for everything that he has done for the organization." He said that "The last day really, in my opinion, was for the players." Too bad Kay did not ask Hal this followup question: So why was your sister Jenny front and center at that game, and you weren't?

Hal also told Michael that he was in Tampa that day, and said "I'm not going to get into why I couldn't be there, but I couldn't. I watched every bit of it." Note: I still think Hal was watching #TGIT instead of attending Derek Jeter's final home game!

He also said "It is perfectly understandable for people to be upset" about him not attending Jeter's home farewell, although he claimed to have been in Boston for the final weekend. How does the person running a billion-dollar business not realize that his job description entails being in Yankee Stadium when his team's No. 1 marketing choice of the year reaches his apex?

Here's what I would like to know. What could Hal have possibly had going on that day that was more important than being at Yankee Stadium that day? As my readers know, I think this Jeter farewell tour was a monstrosity, but even I get that Jeter's last home game was kind of a big deal.

He said the same blather about having a championship-caliber team

It shows the pathetic state of the New York media in that Nomaas.org, a fan/fun Yankee site, had a better analysis of how Hal keeps on with the same nonsense about having a "championship-caliber team" than the press did. (Check it out here.)

Here is what Hal told Kay:
“I don’t think you can teach us old dogs new tricks – we expect to win every year. Our fans do, too. I am disappointed by all of this. We will be back next year with a championship-caliber team.”
Um, Hal, your old dog Brian Cashman just pooped on your interlocking NY rug, and it's time for you to clean it up. And if you won't do it, then, please, sell the team already and go back to spending all of your time being a dilettante, flying planes and doing weather reports. If you can't seem to care enough about the Yankees to clean up this mess, then why should the fans care about the team?