Ever since Newsday went under that pay wall, I've missed reading their baseball coverage. Ken Davidoff is one of the best baseball columnists in the country, but I only get to "read" him on Twitter these days. (I actually tracked down print edition copies of Newsday in Staten Island during the World Series just to read his work - that's how much I like him!) Newsday TV sports columnist Neil Best is also a good read as well.
Then there's Wally Matthews, who I missed reading as well, but for very different reasons. He was one of the New York columnists whose stuff bloggers like myself love to hate. For every spot-on column he did - he had some good pieces last year criticizing the new Yankee Stadium - he also had a ton of over-the-top silly things to say.
Mets fans couldn't stand the way he bashed their team; The 'Ropolitans columnist Andrew Vazzano calls Matthews "everyone’s least favorite curmudgeon of a columnist." Red Sox fans didn't like Matthews' vitriol over Tim Wakefield's knucleball. Wally called the pitch "a bigger menace to the game than steroids, growth hormone or Clomid will ever be." (Harsh but still funny, I think!)
Personally, I loved, loved, loved reading a Wally Matthews column. Because chances were usually very good that there would be something completely ridiculous to rip apart. Anybody who can inspire me with such quick and easy blog entries like that is golden, in my view!
Anyhow, Matthews, who will be covering the Yankees (oh, joy!) for ESPN NY, did not disappoint with his initial column, suggesting "luck" was the biggest reason the Yankees won the World Series last year. "Last year, the Yankees not only had the best roster in baseball," Matthews writes, "they had maybe the best luck in the recent history of professional sports." Really? Hyperbole much? Sure, luck was a factor with the Yankees, but it wasn't the biggest one last year, not by a long shot.
Matthews goes on to cite the biggest piece of luck being that Game 6 was delayed one day by rain, allowing "the beleaguered Yankees pitching staff a much-needed day of rest." Hmmmm. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and think that the rainout the day after Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS was much more of a game changer. But that's me.
Matthews describes Joe Girardi's management last year this way: "Joe Girardi, the semi-new manager, had such a golden touch all year it seemed as if he could have reformed health care, righted the economy and ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his spare time, if anyone had bothered to ask him." While Girardi did do a phenomenal job last year, you would have hardly gotten any sense of that from the media at the time.
In fact, columnists like Matthews, who slammed Girardi for daring to criticize Selena Roberts' "A-Rod" book, led the drumbeat against Girardi all season, especially in the playoffs. Did Matthews forget how much grief Girardi got taking out David Robertston in favor of Alfredo Aceves in Game 3 of the ALCS? Or using Phil Hughes in relief in Game 5? Or how much the media mocked Girardi for using a three-man rotation in the playoffs? Remember, there were even calls for Girardi's firing if the Yankees didn't win it all!
But maybe the "best" part of this Matthews column is the way he (rightly) credits A-Rod with the Yankees' regular season turnaround. He writes:
Once the regular season began -- and it truly began on May 8 in Baltimore, when A-Rod, returning from his preseason hip surgery, belted the first pitch he saw out of Camden Yards -- it became increasingly obvious that the Yankees were the best team in baseball....After A-Rod's return, the Yankees went an incredible 90-44."What's wrong with that, you might ask? Well, it's funny that Wally Matthews, of all people, is writing that without so much as a mea culpa or a "my bad." You see, last March, Matthews proclaimed that A-Rod's Yankee contract was the worst deal in baseball history, writing:
Think about it. Worst. Deal. Ever.He also opined back then:
Worse than Andruw Jones to the Dodgers. Worse than Mo Vaughn to the Mets. Worse than Stephon Marbury to the Knicks or Brett Favre to the Jets.
It's not as if he is just an April to October headache. A-Rod is a year-round migraine.
In five seasons, A-Rod has hit 208 home runs with 616 RBIs for the Yankees. During the same period, the Yankees have gone 10-14 in the postseason, suffered the worst playoff collapse in history, haven't made it out of the first round since 2004, and missed October altogether last season.
They are getting worse with him, not better. Not to mention more expensive and more troublesome.
Fortunately for Matthews, Newsday has pulled all his old columns from the site (not that anybody could access them behind the paywall, anyway!), so he probably won't get haunted too much by his old words. (I happened to have written about that A-Rod article at the time, which is why I saved those quotes.)
Welcome back, Wally! It's so much fun to read your columns!
* * *One aside. I knew Leon Carter, Editor of ESPN New York, at my old job, although I didn't work for him. He always called me "Squawker!" whenever he saw me, which pleased me to no end!
What do you think? Tell us about it!