Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Most of "The Amazins" is devoted to profiles of Met players and stories of classic games. There are also sections on the managers, franchise builders, the ballparks and the team voices.
The player profiles and game stories are taken from the pages of the Post. It's fun to see how various Mets were viewed in their heyday and how the games were covered and what the participants had to say at the time.
Vic Ziegel's account of the Mets' clinching the NL East in 1969 includes details such as several Mets emptying cans of Yoo-Hoo over coach Yogi Berra's head and Tom Seaver pouring a bottle of champagne over future adversary M. Donald Grant.
When the Mets clinched the NL pennant in 1973 at Shea Stadium by beating the Reds, 7-2, there was a dark side, as Met fans began storming the dugouts before the game was over. Reds manager Sparky Anderson was quoted as saying, "I'm not angry. I'm just ashamed. I'm ashamed that I live in this country. I'm not too sure New York is in this country."
After the Mets won the 1986 World Series, Gary Carter said, "Regardless of the jealousy, the envy, the hatred that exists for us, we have to be considered a great team now."
After Mike Piazza homered in the first game at Shea after September 11, the Mets' catcher talked about how depressed he was, "but I was thinking ‘You know what? I have to do something, and it might as well be something productive.'"
Player profiles also offer some interesting comments by and about players. In a 1986 story about Keith Hernandez, Tom Seaver, then a member of the Red Sox, said, "The key to Hernandez's success is that he thinks along with the pitcher. I play more mind games with him than almost any hitter I've ever faced."
In a story about David Cone from 1988, Mets executive Joe McIlvaine recalled how he stole Cone from Kansas City Royals GM John Schuerholz the previous year. "It's very unusual to get the top pitching prospect in an organization," McIlvaine said. "Frankly, I was surprised, because our reports on him were so strong."
In a story about catcher Todd Hundley written in 1998 when he had to move to the outfield because the Mets had traded for Mike Piazza, Hundley, trying to look on the bright side, said "Who's to say I can't be another All-Star outfielder, another Craig Biggio, you know?"
Some game stories feature colorful accounts from Post sportswriters. When Al Leiter shut out the Reds in their one-game playoff in 1999, Tom Keegan wrote "He was Mario Cuomo, giving the best speech of his life. Michael Jordan on fire. Robert De Niro immersed in his character. He was Jerry Koosman three decades later. He was an ace."
When backup catcher Todd Pratt hit a walkoff homer to give the Mets a victory over Arizona in the 1999 NLDS, Wally Mathews wrote, "At 32 years old, with a baseball lifetime of disappointments behind him, finally he had done something that will get him free drinks for the rest of his life."
The book is also filled with photos of the Mets, mostly from the pages of the Post.
"The Amazins" may be short on new material and it does not offer the comprehensive history of other commemorative Met books, but it's a fun look back at the highlights of the team's eventful history.
Monday, December 19, 2011
After Wright, the rest of the top ten is Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Fernando Martinez, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey and Jason Bay.
No wonder Wright is unlikely to be traded anytime soon. Who will the fans come out to see? Whose jersey will they buy?
At least the Mets still have Ike Davis (14th on the list).
If the player came from the Mets' organization, seniority is defined as when the player made his major league debut. That explains why Fernando Martinez ranks so high, when in terms of actual playing time he would be a lot lower.
Except for Dickey, everyone on this list is a big question mark. It's reasonable to expect Dickey to continue to be a mid-rotation pitcher. But many of the others could be anywhere between an All-Star or a bust.
Even when the Mets were good, people used to debate over whether they should break up the core. Now Wright is all that's left, and there's no new core in sight.
Maybe in a year from now, some of these players will have shown they can be part of a new core.
Maybe Bay can regain his form with the new fences. Maybe Murphy can play second and stay healthy. Maybe Niese can continue to develop. Maybe Parnell can finally figure it out.
A return to form from Santana would be the best thing, but now it seems questionable if he can pitch at all.
But it's just as likely that most of the Met "veterans" will not be part of a new core, and that the rebuilding process has a long way to go.
Friday, December 16, 2011
There may not be much to celebrate with the Mets these days, but as the team heads into its fiftieth anniversary year, the New York Daily News has put out a new book that reminds us that, throughout its history, the team has had many memorable moments and characters.
The Mets: A 50th Anniversary Celebration was written by current Daily News Met beat writer Andy Martino and Daily News sportswriter Anthony McCarron. (Disclosure: Squawker Lisa and I used to work at the Daily News on the website, but we did not know either of the writers.)
The book is in hardcover and is arranged decade by decade, offering a running narrative of the Mets' story. The most famous years in Mets history, 1969 and 1986, get thorough coverage, but do not get their own chapters. However, that's just as well – most Met fans are quite familiar with those seasons and might even own books devoted just to them. This book takes a wider view.
The book includes over 200 images from the Daily News, from photos to front and back covers of the newspaper. The images set this book apart from other histories of the Mets. Along with numerous shots of Met players in action, there are other photos that offer a unique look into the world of the Mets.
I consider myself a very knowledgeable Met fan, but I had no idea that Olympic legend Jesse Owens worked for the Mets as a running instructor in spring training in 1965. But there's a picture in this book of Owens, wearing a Mets shirt, hurdling a bat held up by George Weiss, Mets GM at the time, and none other than Yogi Berra, who finished up his playing career that year with the Mets.
Another tidbit new to me was that the host of the Mets pre- and postgame radio shows in the mid-1960s was Howard Cosell, not yet a national figure but already outspoken enough to refer to Mets manager Casey Stengel as old and racist.
Other photos from the Mets’ early days include Stengel giving instructions to Shea Stadium "usherettes" in 1964 and Bud Harrelson playing guitar in the Mets clubhouse in the early 1970s.
Speaking of the Mets’ shortstop, one of the most memorable shots in the book comes from his famous fight with Pete Rose during the 1973 NLCS. Rose, his face contorted in rage, heads toward Harrelson, his left hand already forming a fist. There are two followup photos as well of Rose and Harrelson going at it.
Along with the numerous shots of the 1986 Mets, there is one of Fred Wilpon presenting President Reagan with a Mets warmup jacket as Lee Mazzilli and Dwight Gooden stand behind Reagan on either side.
The book also includes the Daily News front page when Gooden was suspended at the start of the 1987 season. GOODEN K’D BY COCAINE was the headline, with a somber cartoon by Bill Gallo.
The Daily News factored in another dark day in Mets history – the infamous Tom Seaver trade on June 15, 1977. Daily News columnist Dick Young's vicious attacks on Seaver played a role in the Franchise's bitter departure. The book details how Young went after Seaver and how the Daily News switchboard lit up with calls from fans angry at Young after Seaver was traded. Pete Hamill wrote a column in the News ripping Young for being "a hit man for Mets management."
One of the later photos in the book looks a lot different to me now than when it was taken. It shows Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan leaping in the air together to celebrate a Mets victory.
As the book heads toward the present, there is currently no happy ending. But there’s fifty years of history, some of it good, some of it bad, and all of it compelling to the diehard Met fan.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
And according to the Post, the story came to light after he pulled the same stunt on the same girl twice:
“Derek has girls stay with him at his apartment in New York, and then he gets them a car to take them home the next day. Waiting in his car is a gift basket containing signed Jeter memorabilia, usually a signed baseball,” the friend dished.
“This summer, he ended up hooking up with a girl who he had hooked up with once before, but Jeter seemed to have forgotten about the first time and gave her the same identical parting gift, a gift basket with a signed Derek Jeter baseball,” the pal said.Now I'm wondering if Steiner Sports is going to have a new category for "date-used memorabilia."
Personally, I think giving a one-night stand an autographed baseball in exchange for the evening is kind of tacky, and if it were Alex Rodriguez doing such a thing, he would be pilloried from coast to coast.
But this is Derek Jeter we're talking about, so almost all the comments on the New York Post article are about how cool Jeter is, and how this is great. I swear, Jeter could start a dogfighting ring, and there would be fans talking about how those dogs had it coming to them. He really is Teflon.
Squawker Jon and I were arguing over whether giving the one-night stand a gift basket was tacky. Jon sez it depends what else was in it!
So that got me wondering what other treats were in the gift basket. Is there an "I slept with Derek Jeter and all I got is this lousy t-shirt" in there? Is there one of those Christian Lopez autographed baseballs in there as well? Or how about a box of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, the way they always used to have that as a parting gift on game shows back in the day.
Come to think of it, I wonder if the driver plays this music when presenting the one-night stand with her farewell gift:
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Earlier today, the David Wright trade speculation was interrupted by a rumor that the Mets were shopping Ike Davis. Are Met faces of the franchise turning into Spinal Tap drummers?
Now Jon Heyman is tweeting that Jon Niese is on the block. If Niese goes, he could set a record for shortest tenure as one of the players pictured at the start of SNY telecasts. (Then again, considering that Jason Bay has also joined the opening montage, maybe SNY should just open their Mets programming with pictures of Shake Shack.)
Last week, ESPN's Keith Law ranked the top 50 players age 25 or under. No Mets made the list. But one Met was mentioned among those who just missed being in the list - Niese.
Supposedly, the Mets are getting younger and building for the future with a focus on pitching. One would think that they would want to hold on to a well-regarded homegrown young lefthander who has already shown that he can pitch in New York.
This is not to say that Niese should be untouchable. But if it turns out that the Mets are trading him for even younger players just to avoid having to go to arbitration with him in a year means the Mets are turning into the Oakland A's, who are desperately trying to trade young pitchers like Gio Gonzalez because they can't afford to keep anybody. Not what we thought we were getting with Moneyball East.
Meanwhile, Matthew Cerrone talked to an agent who speculated that the Marlins would trade Reyes to the Yankees once Derek Jeter's contract is up. And the Post's Kevin Kernan speculated that David Wright could eventually replace Alex Rodriguez at third for the Yankees.
I remember when Met and Yankee fans debated over which team had the best left side of the infield. It would be intolerable to see both Reyes and Wright reunited in the Bronx.
Sure, it's a worst-case scenario, but who would have thought that Darryl and Doc would win more rings with the Yankees than with the Mets?
Despite it all, I'll continue to root for the Mets. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's because, to use another quote from Forrest Gump's mother, stupid is as stupid does.
It's long past time for Frugal Freddy Wilpon and his idiot son Jeff to be on their merry way, and have to sell the team and let the Mets have a real owner. Heck, as problematic as George Steinbrenner could be at times, there was no doubt that he loved the New York Yankees. I don't know if Fred Wilpon has ever been a Mets fan. From making Citi Field into the new Ebbets Field, to his derogatory comments to Jeffrey Toobin in that New Yorker interview, Wilpon is the embedded Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
You know, people say that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel, or Microsoft, but I say that rooting for the Mets is like being the frog in the Scorpion and the Frog allegory. You may know the story -- the scorpion begs the frog for a ride on his back across the lake. The frog is afraid to take this passenger, but the scorpion says that he wouldn't sting him, because it would doom him both. Then the scorpion stings him anyway, they both start to drown, and when the dying frog asks him why he did it, the scorpion says that doing so is his nature. That's the Mets for you. How dare any fan expect them to re-sign their homegrown hero after they cut payroll this year. It's in their nature to sabotage their own team, and decrease attendance and fan interest, by letting Reyes walk. Good grief.
Anyhow, when Squawker Jon and I started writing this blog, way back in 2006, the Yankees and Mets looked to be close to being on even footing. And in fact, the Mets went further than the Yankees did that year, nearly making it to the World Series. Ever since then, the Metropolitans are on a downward spiral. And it was all fun and games to make fun of the Mets 2007 collapse, and 2008 collapse, and the Castillo dropped pop-up, now it's getting just plain sad.
And it's taken an important trash talk dynamic out of Subway Squawkers. I have had to pull my punches bigtime, because I didn't want to look like a bully beating up on Squawker Jon's Mets. For example, I had a great trash talk line prepared tonight, about how the Mets ditched a closer named Francisco with anger-management issues, only to pick up another closer named Francisco with anger-management issues. But if I really unleashed it, I would look like I was part of the 1% beating up on the 99%. Bummer.
So I actually want the Mets to get better, so mocking them won't make me look like a big meanie. It's up to you, Bud Selig. Time to do what you did to Frank McCourt to your buddies, Fred and Jeff Wilpon. They have to go. The future of the Squawkers depends on it!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Monday, December 5, 2011
The Marlins overpaid for Reyes. So what? Big-market teams keep their superstars. Big-market teams laugh at the notion of the Marlins outbidding them. But the Mets are no longer functioning as a big-market team.
Besides, it’s debatable just how much Reyes is being overpaid. For all the talk about “Carl Crawford money,” Reyes came nowhere near the Red Sox outfielder’s $142 million deal. Yes, six years is a long contract to give Reyes, but if you’re willing to give him five, and an extra year gets it done, a big-market team gets it done. Sure, you have to stagger your potentially bad contracts in a way the Mets have not done up to now, but if the front office is as smart as everyone says they are, that’s certainly doable.
Reyes can’t stay healthy. Some people treat Reyes as if he’s Fernando Martinez – someone who has never been able to stay on the field. Yet from 2005-8, Reyes was practically an ironman. He led the majors in at-bats in 2005 and 2008 and finished second in 2007. In the other year, 2006, Reyes played in 153 games and had 647 AB.
After losing most of 2009 to injury, Reyes played in 133 games in 2010 and 126 in 2011, making the All-Star team both years.
Yes, Reyes comes with injury risk, but that risk was factored into his new contract. A completely healthy Reyes might well have gotten Carl Crawford money. If you project Reyes to miss a month every year and offer him 1/6 dollars less as a result, you end up with around what the Marlins gave him.
Mets management has a good long-term plan. Last year, all we heard was how the Mets needed to get out from under the $60 million in payroll that was coming off the books after 2011 from the expiring contracts of Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo. I praised Sandy Alderson for cutting his losses with Perez and Castillo, getting out of K-Rod’s 2012 vesting option and landing Zack Wheeler for Beltran. I also praised him for not trading Reyes at the deadline, which I took as a sign that the Mets planned to make a good-faith effort to keep him.
But during the season, the payroll estimates for 2012 kept going down. Now Alderson is talking about a $100 million payroll. Yes, teams can succeed with that size payroll, but not with Johan Santana and Jason Bay taking up 40% of it.
So now we’ll probably be told we have to wait until Santana and Bay are off the books. And, just like this year, rather than offer a chance to reinvest in the franchise, it will produce an even lower payroll. $80 million? $60 million?
Alderson says he wants to build a strong business model. He says the Mets must cut payroll because they lost $70 million last year. He also says the Mets’ woes have nothing to do with Bernie Madoff.
But how exactly did the Mets lose $70 million last year? How is it that other teams such as the Marlins are able to increase payroll as a result of moving into a new stadium, while the Mets end up hemorrhaging profits and attendance?
What sort of business model has you devaluing your product and discarding your top gate attraction?
Meanwhile, the Mets have just put holiday five-game ticket packs on sale. These discounted tickets mostly feature games during the week with teams that are not big draws. You won’t find Opening Day or the Subway Series here.
But the marketing department's thankless task just got a little easier. One pack includes the first visit of the new-look Miami Marlins. The other two games in the late April series turn up in other packs.
Wonder how long it will take the Mets to realize that they are offering discounts on games that are likely to produce three of the few big crowds they can expect to draw next year.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Some people think Wednesday, the day when Penn State fired Joe Paterno after he announced that he would resign after the end of the season, was a sad day. I don't. I think it was a good day. I was glad to see that JoePa did not get to go out on his own terms, and that he was fired for what he allowed to happen on his watch. As somebody who went to Catholic schools from K to 12, I am glad to see somebody who enabled pedophilia finally get a little punishment, even if it pales in comparison to what the victims went through.
My brothers went to a Catholic high school where the priest molested a slew of young boys over many years. He used the power of his office to get his way, and also used an RV and a beach house paid for by his parishoners as lures. When one of the families, who was from Colombia, complained and threatened to go to the police over the priest molesting their young son, the school's principal, who was also a nun, threatened to have the family deported if they told the cops. The bishop in charge eventually moved the priest to another parish, where he got to have another 20 years of being a sexual predator before he finally got forced out of the priesthood. So yeah, I feel pretty strongly about this issue, and about what I think of those who enable pedophiles.
Anyhow, I really have been fired up on the whole Paterno story, as those who follow me on Facebook know! Here's the thing -- growing up in New Jersey, where Penn State was even more of a huge deal than the rest of the country, I've been hearing literally my whole life about how Joe Paterno wasn't just a great college coach, but a great human being. How, as New York Times writer Jonathan Mahler notes, Paterno's "Grand Experiment" put a premium on character and education, and believed in "Success With Honor. How Paterno was a leader of men. How he was Penn State. How he was so powerful that he could tell the school president and the athletic director and the board of trustees that he would stay as coach as long as he wanted to. How he controlled the school and the area with an iron fist.
And now we are supposed to believe, according to his sycophants, that the great Joe Paterno is really just like some mid-level bureaucrat who was only following the chain of command when it came to reporting sexual abuse? Whose hands were tied when it came to protecting children from being anally raped in his own locker room? Are you flipping kidding me? Paterno was the most powerful man not just in college sports, but one of the most powerful men in the country. He counted presidents as personal friends. All he literally had to do was make one phone call to the cops about Jerry Sandusky, and his old coach would have been in handcuffs a decade ago, instead of going on to be in a position to molest many more children.
Paterno's story that he only knew of one incident involving Sandusky also defies credulity. You don't get to the top of the food chain -- and stay there -- without knowing everything going on around you. Besides, I cannot believe that it is just a coincidence that in 1999, the year after police investigated Sandusky for the first time he was reported for groping a young boy in the shower, that Paterno told his protege and would-be successor that he would never be head coach. Why did Sandusky then retire at the age of 55, and never work for another college football program again? And no, I don't believe Scott Paterno's story that his father told Sandusky he could never be head coach because he was too devoted to his foundation. Oh, please!
Anyhow, even if want to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend that Paterno only knew about one case, the 2002 anal rape of a 10-year-old in Paterno's athletic center's shower, and that his graduate assistant supposedly downplayed the graphic details of what actually happened, the fact is, as Paterno admitted to the grand jury, that he knew that "something of a sexual nature" happened with his old coach and a young boy. And that Paterno, other than some perfunctory mention up the chain of command, never called the police, never asked his graduate assistant for more details, never asked Sandusky what happened, and never even attempted to find out who the boy was.
For the next decade, Paterno went to bed every night knowing that his old coach was around young boys all the time, at Sandusky's foundation for at-risk boys, at his home, with the children he adopted, at schools, at his coaching camps, run on Penn State satellite campus. He also let Sandusky himself have an office on the Penn State campus, and his old coach was seen in his locker room working out just last week. If you knew for a fact, as Paterno did, that somebody you knew was a child molestor, and you had the power to stop them, would you be okay with letting them be around children?
Not to mention that Jerry Sandusky was able to get so much access to children precisely because he was connected to Paterno's Penn State program. He took his victims to Penn State games and events, for goodness sake! And JoePa was okay with that?
I just don't understand the Penn State students rioting over Paterno being fired, or the sycophants defending him. Because when it comes down to it, it ultimately doesn't matter how good a coach Paterno was, or how many young men he did help in his career. He didn't help the vulnerable boys who needed his help the most. How many children were molested because Joe Paterno chose not to act on what he knew? One is too many.
As much as I root for A-Rod, and as much as I admire and appreciate Vince Young and Mack Brown for bringing my Texas Longhorns their first national championship in 35 years, you'd better believe I would be marching in the street against them if they did anything to enable a pedophile.
Real life should come before sports. And the lives of young boys should come before Joe Paterno's career. He didn't deserve to get a flipping victory lap after what he did -- make that didn't -- do.
Put aside the hero worship, or the appreciation for Joe Paterno as a coach. When it comes down to it, he is a man who enabled a pedophile to wreak havoc on countless boys' lives. He is no better than those bishops and nuns who looked the other way when priests took away the innocence of young children. Paterno has had a great 84 years of life. How great have the lives been of all the young boys who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, his old coach? And how many of those acts of abuse could have been prevented, if only the great Joe Paterno had made one phone call? Think about it.
Tell us what you think.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
At any rate, I don't think I can bear to hear another three years of Cashman talk about how stressful and difficult his job is. So I really hope he quits his whining.
You know what's really stressful? Being unemployed. Trying to figure out how to pay your bills when you have too much month left at the end of your money. Being outsourced. There are millions of Americans suffering right now in this country's poor economic state. I have empathy for them. For Brian Cashman, who is the 1% when it comes to MLB management, not so much.
And by the way, can we please, please get rid of the myth that working for the Yankees is infinitely tougher than any other team, because every season is supposedly considered a failure if the Yankees don't win it all? Our enemies in Boston actually stick to that more than the Yankees do -- Terry Francona was essentially shown the door, and Theo Epstein was given a strong hint to take his own talents to Chi-Town, only after they brought two World Series titles to a team waiting since 1918 for another World Series championship. The team's September collapse this year made heads roll, the way heads should have rolled in the Bronx after the 2004 collapse.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, the franchise that claims that any season without a title is a failure just re-signed a GM who has brought the team exactly one ring since 2000.
The email I got from Yankees.com regardng bringing Cashman back emphasizes how the Yankees "have earned a postseason berth in 13 of his 14 seasons as GM," and notes that Cashman's "feat of reaching the playoffs in each of his first 10 seasons (1998-2007) remains unmatched in Baseball history." But, but, aren't those seasons all failures if there's not a ring involved?
Look, as I noted after the Yankees lost in the postseason this year, I thought it was ridiculous for fans to flip out over it, given that the Yanks won the World Series just two years ago, and I also thought Randy Levine's "failure" rhetoric was obnoxious. But at the same time, I really want to see this franchise stop with that myth that anything short of a title is a failure. Because it's inconsistent, given that Levine still has a job, and Lonn Trost, and, yes, Brian Cashman. And you can't have it both ways -- bragging about making it to the postseason each year, at the same time you're calling those years failures. Which one is it?
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Author Matthew Silverman has written several books on the Mets, including “The Miracle Has Landed: The Amazin’ Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World.” In “New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History” Silverman has plenty of details and photos on 1969 and 1986, including things even the diehard Met fan may not know. When spring training was delayed in 1969 by baseball’s first work stoppage, Tom Seaver led players-only workouts.
While I’ll never get tired of reading about 1969 or 1986, what sets “New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History” apart is the rich detail of the less memorable years in Mets’ history. Even the events that Met fans try to forget are worth revisiting, if only to learn that the Angels originally asked for Gary Gentry in the Jim Fregosi trade, but the Mets preferred to send them Nolan Ryan.
As for the events leading up to the Tom Seaver trade, Silverman unearths an astonishing quote from Met chairman M. Donald Grant, who resented that Seaver was known as “The Franchise.” According to Grant, “Mrs. Payson and I are the franchise.”
On a brighter note, one of the numerous photos in the book is of Seaver with Dave Kingman and Joe Torre when Torre was named Mets’ manager. Another photo is of Willie Mays drenched in champagne after the Mets clinched the division in 1973.
Speaking of Kingman, in the spring of 1981, a time of rising cold war tensions and calls by some for a nuclear freeze, the Mets put up a sign in the Shea Stadium parking lot warning that it was a “Kingman Fallout Zone.”
The book includes profiles of the top 50 players in Mets history. The numerous photographs include not only game action and shots of individual players, but also yearbooks, programs and other memorabilia.
An appendix lists all-time Mets records, while charts throughout the book offer lists of such items as Mayor’s Trophy Game results and every game in Anthony Young’s 27-game losing streak.
I recommend it to any Met fan that embraces the team’s whole history, good and bad. And even if it is an unbelievable 25 years since the glory days of 1986, there’s still a lot worth remembering.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
According to one of the insiders, Jason Giambi and Roger Clemens would routinely drink beer on the dugout bench when they played for the Yankees, passing back and forth what Giambi called his "protein shake," code for a cup of beer, the source said.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This past offseason, the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million deal. Beltre, who turned 32 in April, had had only two really good seasons, both the year that he was going into free agency.
Signing Beltre also meant that longtime Ranger Michael Young would now mostly be a DH, which made Young ask to be traded.
So far, the Beltre signing has worked out great for the Rangers. Beltre hit .296 with 32 homers and 105 RBI and did so in only 124 games. Young dropped his trade demand and hit .338 with 106 RBI.
The previous offseason, the Cardinals signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year $120 million deal. The Scott Boras client would be averaging $17M/year through age 36. The Cardinals were tying up payroll just as Albert Pujols was approaching free agency.
When Holliday was a free agent, another power-hitting left fielder was also available. Jason Bay would end up signing for four years and $66 million, which appeared more reasonable compared to Holliday, who was getting about the same per year but would have three additional years on his deal. We know how the Bay signing has worked out.
This offseason, if the Cardinals re-sign Pujols, they will doubtless face criticism for giving him too much money and years. But Pujols is irreplaceable - one of the best players of all time who is also a great postseason performer. He may be past his peak, but he still seems far from going into decline. The Cardinals, generally far from a powerhouse team, are now in their third World Series in eight years, which would not have happened without Pujols.
Jose Reyes is no Pujols, but he could end up making as much or more than Holliday. And if that happens, people will complain that he's getting too much, especially if he ends up back with the Mets. But even the well-constructed teams that get the World Series do so with the help of big contracts that are not without controversy.
Squawker Lisa and I find ourselves on the same side in this World Series. She likes the Rangers from her days living in Texas and I am rooting for Nolan Ryan and against Tony La Russa. One would think the Rangers would win with that powerhouse lineup so I'm picking them, but I hope the Cardinals don't turn out to be a team of destiny.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Anyhow, I was still taken aback by the "rumor" that Cashman could be in the running for taking over Theo Epstein's GM position in Boston. Who fed the media the rumor -- Cashman himself? (Incidentally, remember this summer, how Cashman's name was included as a possibility to be the new Cubs' GM? Yet it looks like Chicago only talked to Theo Epstein for the job? Funny how that works.)
It wouldn't be the first time Cashman threw his hat in the ring to be Boston's GM. Remember that New York Magazine profile of him from the summer of 2004, where his wife Mary said, “Brian would like to go to Boston and win the World Series as general manager of the Red Sox. That would be any man’s dream, to go up there and become the god of Boston." That was the same profile which had Brian talking about how smart he was in getting Javier Vazquez over Curt Schilling, and had some anonymous agent praising his trade of Jeff Weaver for the immortal Kevin Brown. At any rate, the fact that Cashman never even got called on the carpet in Yankeeland for that interview showed that the days of the Big Bad Boss were long over. But I digress.
Anyhow, aside from the fact that it's very likely, given how much he has been included in postseason postmortems, that Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington is going to be the next GM of the Boston Red Sox, what, exactly, would convince Boston ownership that Brian Cashman would be the right man for the job? What would make their fan base accept somebody who has spent his entire career in the Yankees organization?That at least the Yanks' overpriced free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett stays in the dugout and watches his team during games, unlike fried-chicken eating, beer-drinking, video-game playing John Lackey? (Incidentally, if you haven't read the Boston Globe's investigation of what went wrong, please do so. It is absolutely delicious reading for Red Sox haters!)
I also had to laugh of the ridiculousness of Yankee president Randy Levine's own puffery in declaring that the 2011 Yankees season was a failure, then talking in the same interview about bringing back Cashman. Remember, Levine said: "We are the Yankees. That is the way The Boss set it up. When you don't win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year." So, when is Levine handing in his own resignation? Or looking for a new GM? Gee, you'd think that all this talk of "World Series or bust" is just a sop to the rubes, since nobody ever actually loses his job or anything! Not even a general manager who once looked longingly at being Boston's GM!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Friday, October 7, 2011
Please understand that I'm not talking about all Yankee fans. But some of the team's fans need to hear this: Get over yourselves already. Acting like spoiled, entitled jerks doesn't make you good Yankee fans. It just makes you spoiled, entitled jerks. Newsflash: The Yankees won the World Series TWO YEARS AGO. It really wasn't that long ago, folks. Show a little gratitude for once in your miserable lives.
You think you have it bad? Imagine being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, who hasn't seen their team even sniff .500 in nearly 20 years. Or a Chicago Cubs fan, rooting for a franchise that hasn't won in 103 years. Or a New York Mets fan, being in the same town as the Yankees, but having dumb owners who lost their money in a Ponzi scheme and are now making it clear that they're going to run a big-market team with a very small-market budget. I could go on and on, but you get the point. How many teams' fan bases would love to make the playoffs every year but one since 1995?
Back in March, the Yanks weren't expected to win anything this year, not with CC and the Has-Beens and Never Weres in the starting rotation, let alone win the AL East with 97 games. I certainly didn't think so this spring. No Cliff Lee, no Andy Pettitte, and no hope. The joke was that Brian Cashman had assembled a team that would have been great for 2005; not so great for 2011. It was supposed to be the Sox's year, not the Yanks.
And the Bombers had a ton of injuries throughout the year, including to Derek Jeter, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alex Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon, and Rafael Soriano. Not to mention A.J. Burnett pitching horribly for the second year in a row. Yet the team overachieved, got key contributions from the Class of 2005, and made it to the postseason with the best record in the league.
Sure, I'm disappointed and ticked off that the Yanks lost the series. And I can point to a lot of things that went wrong -- like Joe Girardi refusing to pinch-hit for anybody last night, and the Yankee hitters' inability to get much done in runners in scoring position (and frankly, when you only score two runs against the Tigers at a home game, and one of them was driven in by a bases-loaded walk, you don't deserve to win.)
But it's one thing to be upset over the series loss (although for me, it doesn't even make my top five worst losses, and nothing will ever match the pain of 2004.) It's another thing to act like some unruly, hateful mob, scapegoating one player (you know who, of course!) Some of the very same "fans" who couldn't open their mouths to cheer on their team in the ninth inning -- the Yanks were behind by just one run, but the place sounded like a morgue -- found their voice outside the Stadium after the game, chanting "A-Rod sucks." Sure, Alex had a bad series, but this was a collective loss, and shouldn't be pinned on one person. Ross Sheingold of NYYStadiumInsider.com was at the game, and described the scene this way on Facebook:
Never been more embarrassed to be an New York Yankees fan. Hundreds (if not more) were chanting "A-Rod Sucks" in unison as they exited the stadium and headed down River Ave. In the past, chanting as a crowd down River Avenue was reserved for joyous moments. Now, the fans are entitled and only enjoy the game of baseball if the team marches to a World Series victory. It is sickening, and not enjoyable to be a part of.Do those Yankee fans think this makes them look good? As Sully Baseball, a Red Sox fan friend of mine, put it last night on Facebook, "THIS is why people hate Yankee fans. Most fan bases would salivate to have a 2 time MVP who led their team to a World Series title. You cry that he hasn't given you more. Next time you wonder why the rest of the planet Earth cheers when the Yankees lose, look in the mirror. (That is if they allow mirrors in Bellevue.)" Exactly!
I just hope A-Rod has bodyguards with him anywhere he goes in this town. The unbridled hatred for him out there is out of control, and more than a little frightening.
Not only have too many Yankee fans forgotten 2009, they have forgotten who led them to that title. When I pointed out online to some Yankee fans last night that A-Rod carried the team on their shoulders that postseason, they either denied that he was the reason they won, or said "that was two years ago," like it's ancient history, or said that he only did it once, and implied that it somehow didn't count (tell that to Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, Jim Leyritz, etc....) When I then pointed out that the Flip Play was ten years ago, but people still talk about it incessantly, I was chastised for daring to put Rodriguez in the same category as Derek Jeter. Good grief. What a bunch of ungrateful clowns.
Sure, it stinks that the Yanks lost, but they did do much more this year than I expected them to. Besides, things could be worse -- the Red Sox humiliated themselves way more this season than the Bombers did!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Two things settled him down, I think. That first was Curtis Granderson's great catch (the first of two terrific Grandy Man catches of the night.) The second was the little discussion pitching coach Larry Rothschild had with Burnett after the first. Supposedly, the two talked mechanics, but I would like to think the talk went a little more like this:
Anyhow, while I wrote the other day that A.J. "could erase the last two years with one gutty, gritty performance," I then remembered the fanbase the Yankees have, where some scapegoated players never get redeemed, no matter what they do. (Not that A.J. hasn't given people a lot of reason to be frustrated with him, but he did save the Yankees' 2009 season with a great performance in Game 2 of the World Series. To me, that's what's the most frustrating about Burnett -- there is a Good A.J. in there!)
But the next time Burnett has a bad start, this game will be forgotten with some of the fan base, even though Derek Jeter said: "Trust me -- I'm pretty sure all New York fans will remember this game as opposed to some of the other games." Not everybody will. Remember that the A-Rod haters have forgotten his two MVPs as a Yankee, and his 6 homers and 18 RBI in the 2009 postseason.
I saw it on Facebook Tuesday night. One person I saw screamed "TradeRod" when he only hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run. (Good luck with trading that contract!) Another posted on my wall that he read that AROD stood for "Another Regular October Disappointment," and when I responded "Who cares?," he said that "True Yankee fans care." (Um, I thought that True Yankee fans remembered what he did in 2009 to get the team No. 27!) A third said that the only reason Rodriguez got two hits Tuesday is because the game was already in hand. (And if he hadn't gotten a hit, he would still be Chokey McChoker, of course.)
Anyhow, A.J. did built up some goodwill with the fans with his great performance Tuesday. But unlike some Yankee players, who will never get criticized, Burnett's leash with the fans will be about as short as Joe Girardi's leash on him Tuesday night. Expect this game to go down the ol' memory hole with some fans, the way A-Rod's 2009 performance for the ages has been forgotten.
Squawker Jon had this to say, after Jesus Montero got his first hit in his postseason, after his first at-bat in the postseason. He noted that it only took Montero one at-bat with runners in scoring position to get an RBI, while it took Nick Swisher 30 at-bats to do it. Harsh!
One other thing. I listened to the presser of Ivan Nova. Some members of the media were annoyed that he said he didn't feel any pressure over Game 5, asking him over and over why not? I guess they expected him to appear in the fetal position or something, hoping that he would cry "It's all too much!"
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I had to check on Facebook that Keep the Faith wasn't copyrighted by Red Sox fans. So I was told that was okay to use, but a Met fan friend warned me to stay away from Ya Gotta Believe!
I keep on having flashbacks to the horror that was the 2006 ALDS. (And I'm glad I missed Kenny Rogers throwing out the first pitch last night!) But at least the Yanks showed some fight in rallying during Game 2 and Game 3, even if the rallies were ultimately unsuccessful. Verlander may have won the game, but he did not look great out there.
On the other hand, Joe Girardi kept CC Sabathia in too long. CC's outings as of late have been awful -- not exactly a great contract drive for him getting that new deal! And he looks like he's put on another 25 pounds this year. Is it any surprise that he has been laboring so much when he pitches?
And it would be nice if Mark Teixeira contributed a little. (For all the grief A-Rod gets, he drove in a run and walked twice last night, only to be stranded by Tex.) Not to mention Captain Clutch striking out to end the rally last night.
Anyhow, given that so many of the big names for the Yanks haven't come through in the playoffs, while the two players who have shown some consistency are Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner, it would be fitting if A.J. hurled a brilliant game tonight. He could erase the last two years with one gutty, gritty performance.
Or he could make me hurl. But I'm gonna stay positive here. Keep the faith!
Monday, October 3, 2011
Anyhow, it really ticked me off last night when Alex Rodriguez was getting booed by his own team's fan base during the game. Sometimes, I really can't stand some so-called Yankee "fans." As I've said over and over in this blog over the years, booing your own home players doesn't fix anything. All it shows is that you're a fair-weather, petulant moron. And that goes for the Met fans who booed David Wright, too.
The booing yesterday -- and the subsequent media attacks on A-Rod-- are nothing but predictable. (Although I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by ESPN New York writer Wally Matthews defending Rodriguez, saying about that the scapegoating: "It isn't fair and it isn't right.")
As I have been saying for years, no matter what he ever does in the postseason, A-Rod will always be held as a scapegoat. Those booing Yankee fans who pride themselves on being so knowledgeable on Yankee history seem to have conveniently forgotten that if it weren't for him, the Bombers wouldn't have won the 2009 World Series. And all the talk back before 2009 how if he would just have one great postseason, all would be forgiven is just nonsense, as I said at the time.
Sure, A-Rod is hitless in this series, although he does have an RBI and a walk. But the Yanks only got five hits yesterday, and Jorge Posada was the one batter in the lineup to have two hits (including a triple, my favorite moment of the day.) Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson were the other batters to have hits. And how did Derek Jeter, aka Captain Clutch, do? He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, left five runners on base, did nothing when the Yanks were trying to rally in the ninth, committed an error that led to a run, and helped cause a Boone Logan balk.
Also, I wasn't crazy with Joe Girardi pitching Luis Ayala in the ninth inning. Best bullpen in baseball, and he goes to the last man in the lineup? Hey, Joe, we're not playing Tampa anymore!
I've already heard talk about switching Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in the starting lineup -- one ignorant writer from NBC Sports' Hardball Talk even sez A-Rod should be batting eighth, with Teixeira batting cleanup, because Mark is "the better option right now." This, even though Tex has exactly one hit in the ALDS this year, and has a .168 average in the postseason as a Yankee over the last three years. When, exactly, did Tex become Mr. October?
Anyhow, CC Sabathia better win tonight, or there will be full-scale panic in Yankeeland, given that A.J. Burnett is the Game 4 starter!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Sunday, October 2, 2011
First of all, Pennington doesn't seem to understand the Internet. He writes that Sterling "has spawned more than 100 Web sites dedicated to denigrating his emblematic calls and his anomalous broadcasting style." Nonsense. There may have been more than 100 sites that have criticized Sterling at times (including Subway Squawkers!) but writing that there are that many sites devoted just to mocking him is completely untrue -- and it's also a scurrilous accusation to make. It's the type of so-called "fact" that people will quote, because they read it in the Times, even though it's inaccurate.
The truth is that there is exactly one site -- It is High, It Is Far, It Is Caught -- that is solely dedicated to mocking Sterling, albeit in a good-natured way. And the article described Hart Seely, creator of the site, as calling himself "a Sterling fan." Seely says that "Sometimes, John is like a caricature of a baseball announcer who would be on a TV sitcom." However, he also says this:
"But for the serious Yankees fan, he has a lot of appeal. Some people, most of them not Yankees fans, think that because the Yankees are a flagship franchise, they should have a network-level announcer who is never a homer. But the truth is, when the Yankees do something wrong, John rips them, like any psychotic Yankees fan. At the same time, like a true Yankees fan, when they win, John cannot control himself. The joy bursts from his breast."Look, I'm not saying that Sterling doesn't get criticism on the web -- of course he does -- but the idea that there are over 100 web sites owing their very existence to mocking his every move is overstating the case by about a hundred! I mean, really. Casey Anthony may be the most hated woman in America, but there aren't even 100 web sites devoted just to her!
Anyhow, the author of the Times piece also writes:
He is the regular whipping boy of two New York tabloid sports media columnists. Radio talk-show hosts play tapes of his radio calls almost daily, frequently mocking his shtick and picking apart his missteps, whether they are misidentified players or a hasty, over-amped home run call on what ultimately became a long flyout.That is true, but sometimes some of the Sterling clips played, like the home run calls and his WinWarble at the end of the game, are done in a good-natured, funny way. And Evan Roberts of WFAN, to name one example, is as obsessed as I am with coming up with possible home run calls for new players for Sterling to use.
But this topic brings me to the most jarring thing about the article -- the almost complete absence of Sterling's companera, as he calls co-host Suzyn Waldman, from the article. The sole mention of her is this: "He has worked with Suzyn Waldman since 2005." What? No interview with her? No discussion of the complete lack of chemistry the two have (one of my own complaints about the broadcasts?) Writing about Sterling without talking about Waldman is writing about Laverne without mentioning Shirley!
Besides, as we talked about yesterday with the Squawkers' radio show host friend Larry Milian, Suzyn Waldman clips are staples of sports radio, too. Suzyn's "goodness gracious" Roger Clemens remarks, and her crying over what turned out to be Joe Torre's last game as also rebroadcast incessantly on sports radio shows around the country. (The other day, I just heard WEEI hosts play Suzyn's tears as if she were crying over Terry Francona's last game!)
The article also gets into complaints that Sterling is too much of a homer. But I want my broadcasters to be homers! Frank Messer wasn't a homer, and he was pretty dull to listen to. My issues with Sterling is more than it's sometimes hard to follow what's going on in the games, between the schtick and the incessant on-air shilling for advertisers.
The other thing about leaving Suzyn out of the story is that if you're going to talk, as the article does, about whether Sterling will be back, the future of Waldman should also be discussed. Will they both be gone, or one of them, or will they stay? It doesn't make much sense to speculate on his future without including her in the mix.
What do you think? Tell us about it!
And seeing Robinson Cano become a superstar was one of the better stories of the last few years. Last night was a little bit of the "changing of the guard," seeing him be The Man on the Yanks, and driving in six runs (including hitting a grand slam.) To paraphrase Jack Curry from the post-game, Cano ought to be hitting third in the lineup for the next game, and the next game, and the next game....
Anyhow, what struck me today about both of their great games was that these players were not really heavily hyped in the farm system, or as rookies. There were no equivalents of the "Joba Rules" or slogans for either of them. And I think that helped them be able to make mistakes and learn without all the hype. Is it coincidental that the least promoted "Generation Tre" member, Ian Kennedy, is the first to win twenty games in a season?
Anyhow, it was a great win last night. Here's to the Yankees winning Game 2.
These are the conversations that Squawker Jon and I have -- noting that Al Alburquerque, the pitcher who gave up the grand slam to Cano, has a name that is not spelled like the city!
Speaking of Jon, we got together in Manhattan to meet up with our South Florida sports radio show host friends Larry Milian and Phil (Dizz) Domanic. It was great to see Larry again and to meet Dizz. Glad it stopped raining so they were able to see more than an inning and a half on their trip to NYC!
While we were killing time before seeing them, I dragged Jon into the Yankees Cluhbouse store. Jon got so freaked out over all the Yankee stuff he fled the store after two minutes. The thing that triggered the flee? A "Don'tcha Ya Know, Robbie Cano" t-shirt!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Not only does the rainout change everything, especially with putting A.J. Burnett in the mix, (and CC had better be pitching tomorrow!) but it also inconvenienced a lot of Yankee fans, including our radio host friend Larry (The Amigo) Milian and his New York Sports Report co-host, Philly "Dizz" Domanic. They flew up from South Florida to see Friday's game, only to see just an inning and a half. Yikes!
To top it all off, the news that Friday's came was being postponed was presented by Joe Torre. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see him, especially after reflecting on the way he mismanaged the Yanks the last time the team faced Detroit in the postseason. Come to think of it, maybe Torre and MLB relied on Mike Francesa's weather report!
Oh, and can we please stop the "Joe Torre should be the Red Sox manager" boomlet in its tracks? Torre has a cushy job now, where he can threaten to punish the people and teams he hates (A-Rod, the Mets, etc.) under the auspices of MLB. He hasn't shown much interest in working very hard for a long time. By his own admission in "The Yankee Years," the clubhouse was hopelessly divided, not playing together as a team. And in any team he managed, he has been the oxygen thief, taking all the attention -- and the credit -- away from the front office and ownership. To top it all off, Joe has no interest in sabermetrics.
So given those facts, how would he possibly be a good fit with Boston, other than entertaining the media with his dopey stories? The press is so solipsistic, focusing on how he made their jobs easier, and not noticing that in recent years, he really didn't do much to make teams better (he would never have even made the playoffs in Los Angeles without Manny Ramirez, for one thing.) Not to mention that Torre going to Boston would make the furor over "The Yankee Years" look like a day in the park. I should want the Sox to hire Torre, because he would make things even worse. But at any rate, the chances of that happening are about as big as Roger Clemens taking over the team.
Here's hoping that Ivan Nova does as well tonight as the Rays' rookie did against the Rangers yesterday.
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Squawker Jon and I starting writing Subway Squawker in March 2006, with the idea of capturing the Yanks and the Mets when both of them were expected to make a run for it in the playoffs. Imagine my chagrin when the Mets actually made it to within a Yadier Molina home run of the World Series (more on that in a sec!), surpassing the Yankees in the postseason.
Arguably the biggest issue for the Yanks that year was that A-Rod, coming off an MVP season, was 1) having an "off year" for him: .290, 35 homers, 121 RBI and a .914 OPS, 2) getting thrown under the bus again and again by his manager and his captain. I think Torre was trying to get him to force his way off the team by making his life miserable. He certainly wasn't trying to get the most or best out of him. (An aside -- compare and contrast with the truly classy way Terry Francona stepped away from the Sox today, acknowledging that he failed with getting players to listen to him, and being genuinely broken up about the way the season ended. But I digress.)
Anyhow, that situation was brewing all summer, and it was obvious to me at the time what was going on, from the way Torre refused to tell the fans to stop booing Rodriguez to the way he blew up, instead of tamping down, every story brewing on Rodriguez, that Joe had a nasty agenda. But every time I pointed out how much Rodriguez was being undermined and gaslighted by Joe Torre, I would hear critical responses from readers, telling me I didn't know what was going on in the clubhouse. True, but I do know a little about human nature, and a lot about passive-aggressive phonies!
And the mainstream media wouldn't acknowledge the undermining, not even when Torre hooked up with his past and future ghostwriter Tom Verducci to orchestrate "The Loneliest Yankee" hit piece, set to run on the eve of the playoffs, just when Rodriguez was in the midst of a great September. Funny thing is, though, that years after the fact, Torre finally acknowledged in "The Yankee Years" that the clubhouse was divided. Duh!
Anyhow, I think that year that Torre wanted to make sure that Rodriguez would fail in the playoffs again, so A-Rod would be off the team, even if it meant sacrificing his team's October chances. First, he batted Rodriguez sixth in Game 1, even though A-Rod hadn't been in that role all year, just to make sure to give him more scrutiny.
Also, Torre's lack of preparation for that series was breathtaking. The team never took Kenny Rogers seriously, which haunted them in Game 3, and Torre let Jim Leyland flatter him with that "Murderers Row and Cano" nonsense, playing St. Joe like a fiddle. He also never asked for the umpire to check if Rogers was doctoring the ball, something Tony LaRussa did in the World Series.And don't forget the sight of Gary Sheffield at first base.
The Yanks did win Game 1 at home, but they never won again in that series, although they did lead in Game 2 before Mike Mussina blew that lead. Remember Mussina blaming the fact that the game was a day game, with a quieter atmosphere than it would have been if it hadn't been rained out the night before? Good grief.
Game 4 was the infamous day where Torre decided to hang the entire series on A-Rod's shoulders, scapegoating him by batting him eighth, and never telling him beforehand. Then, when the media hordes inevitably descended on Torre, he chastised them for not asking them about why he had also benched Jason Giambi. I thought what Torre did was one of the nastiest, most cowardly things I've ever seen in my life. He wasn't trying to win the game. He was trying to put the goat horns on A-Rod. And I wished that the Yankees would have fired him then and there for what he did.
Anyhow, Game 4 was the day of my cousin's wedding, so I fortunately missed seeing much of the carnage live, although I knew it was hopeless. I spent most of my cousin's wedding reception in a rage about the Yankees, capped off seeing the Mets' chanting about "Party in Queens, Funeral in the Bronx" on the TV at the banquet's room bar when the Mets clinched the NLDS.
I really hoped that Torre would be gone after that year, but the Yankees were stuck with that gold-plated phony another year. There was talk that the Yanks might get rid of him, but Steve Swindal didn't want to pay him without him managing. I said when the team brought Torre back that they would never win another playoff series until he was gone, and I was proven to be right.
Anyhow, I'd like to see the Yankees beat Detroit this year, and for A-Rod to have a huge series in October, as a little cosmic payback for the 2006 ALDS. In fact, that's my prediction -- A-Rod will have a big series, and the Yanks will win in four games.
Good grief. Maybe I'm naive, but other than the famous Jack Daniels shot in the Sox clubhouse before Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, I haven't heard many stories of players drinking beer in uniform during games. Even David Wells, for all his partying ways, was never accused of boozing it up during a game. Whether or not it was a game a player was pitching in is irrelevant. Crazy times!
I listened to the Terry Francona/Theo Epstein presser yesterday, and while they didn't give explicit details, they did acknowledge that there was some clubhouse turmoil and a bad atmosphere, so much so that Francona had to call a team meeting after a 14-0 win! Terry admitted that "We were spending too much energy on things that weren’t putting our best foot forward toward winning." Interesting!
The thing that got me with that press conference was that they both acknowledged problems in the clubhouse, as well as players not being in good physical condition. Hmmmm, isn't that the manager's job? To keep the players working together, and make sure they are ready to play?
(The other thing that amazed me in the presser was Theo Epstein suggesting that John Lackey just couldn't help it when he rolled his eyes at his teammates and his manager. What, is he suffering from Sarcasm Syndrome or something, where he just can't help but show his disdain to others?)
Anyhow, I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but my guess is that Francona is going to "leave" today as Sox manager, but it really be a firing by the front office. Speaking of which, I got a link in my email yesterday from SaveTito.com. This Yankee fan completely agrees -- I think Tito ought to be Red Sox manager for life. Get your popcorn ready!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Before I get to the conclusion of my brief stint as a Yankee fan, I want to congratulate Jose on becoming the first Met to win a batting title. And there's nothing on the final day to apologize for. As Squawker Lisa points out, the reason we remember Ted Williams' heroics 70 years later is that they are so unusual.
Players sit on their stats in meaningless games all the time. As Mike Vaccaro pointed out in the Post, Bernie Williams left the last game of the 1998 season early to protect his batting title. And as one of Lisa's Facebook friends pointed out, in 2008 Derek Jeter left the game early and sat out the last two games, finishing with a batting average of exactly .300.
I do feel a little bad for the loyal fans who came out to Citi Field yesterday, but they ultimately got what they paid to see - Reyes win a batting title and appear in what could be his last game as a Met.
Reyes' early departure was handled awkwardly, but these are the Mets. And my main concern with Reyes is that the Mets now avoid an early departure for Reyes from his Mets career.
So much for my three-day stint as a Yankee fan. If I had wanted to see epic bullpen meltdowns, I could have stayed in Flushing. But the Yankees are not obligated to use Mariano and Robertson in a meaningless game for them as they prepare for the playoffs any more than Reyes was obligated to play the whole game.
And whatever the Yankees did, it was the Red Sox who were responsible for their own collapse. While I wanted to see the Red Sox win, I have to say that I don't mind seeing the Sox and Braves pass the 2007 Mets on the list of epic chokes.
Especially the Braves.
While my brief stint as a Yankee fan was a bust, my brief stint as a Phillies fan went well, with the Fightins finishing off the collapsing Braves. And the Phillies did themselves proud, with veterans Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and even ancient Raul Ibanez playing all thirteen innings of last night's game.
Thankfully, the postseason is here, so I can go back to rooting against both the Yankees and the Phillies. I just hope I don't have to make another grim choice in the World Series.
I still can't quite believe it all happened the way it did. Remember, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead against Tampa (what was up with Mark Teixeira hitting two homers?) and even though their bullpen ending up giving up six runs against the Yanks, the Bombers were still within one strike away from winning the game when Tampa tied it. And Boston was also one strike away from winning the game when Baltimore roared back to win.
There was also Atlanta's historic collapse, with the Cardinals making it into the playoffs. All in all, my TV's remote control and picture-in-picture function got quite the workout last night. That was the most action-packed, exciting night of baseball all year.
The funny thing, though, is that if Bud Selig gets his way with adding another wild card, none of this would have happened -- both Boston and Atlana would have made the playoffs, being rewarded even though they blew their wild card leads.
It was so good, so good, as they say in Red Sox Nation, to see Boston back where they belong, choking away their playoff chances and bringing much angst to Beantown. Remember, I witnessed the carnage of the 2004 ALCS in person for Games 6 and 7. I literally cried after Game 7. And the next day, when I went into work at New York's hometown newspaper, I saw how my employer mocked the Yankees with the infamous "The Choke's On Them" Daily News cover. Those were horrible, horrible times.
Well, now the choke is on the Red Sox again. And you'd better believe I am enjoying every single minute of it. It's not just that Boston blew a nine-game wild card lead in a month. They were also in first place as late as September 1 this year, and were in that spot for 60 days this summer. The Yanks knocked them out of first for good at the begining of September, and helped send them on this downward spiral.
BTW, I've already seen some revisionist history by a few Sox fans that this debacle isn't that bad because the team only missed a wild card spot. Puh-lease. This team was being touted as the best Red Sox squad ever. They seemed totally stacked, from top to bottom, and had a great winter of acquisitions. At the beginning of the year, most people, including myself, figured the Sox would win the division, with the Yanks winning the wild card (and who would have expected the Rays to be in the playoff picture at all?) To do what they did ranks right up there with 1978. Only thing is, the '78 Sox actually made it competitive towards the end, forcing a one-game playoff.
I feel some empathy for my Red Sox fan friends -- they deserved better for their loyalty -- but I'm still loving seeing the Red Sox franchise I remember return to its old ways. (I've been listening to WEEI on my phone all week. Great stuff hearing Red Sox Nation lose their minds!) Since 2004, the Red Sox have had their own mystique and aura, of seeming that they could come back against impossible odds. Now that's all gone.
Come to thing of it, a lot of what I see the Red Sox this year reminds me of the Yankees in 2004. And if the ownership is smart, they will fire Terry Francona, the way the Yanks should have gotten rid of Joe Torre after that year. I think that in most cases, the first five years a manager has a team are the most effective (Torre had four rings in that time, Francona two.)
One of the things Joe Girardi did, after some initial resistance, was successfully meld the four rings guys and the rest of the Yanks together as a real team, with a different identity from the late '90s dynasty. That's what the Sox need right now. From what I see, they don't have the all-for-one, one-for-all look that they did in 2004. They also don't seem to have the Kevin Millar-type joker to keep things loose, the way the Yanks have now with Nick Swisher, and didn't have in 2004.
I already see a lot of scapegoating in Red Sox Nation of Jonathan Papelbon, Carl Crawford, etc., the way A-Rod was scapegoated in 2004. But in both cases, this was a team-wide meltdown, with nearly everybody playing a part in the suckitude.
And I don't want to hear any whining about losing pitchers due to injury. The Yankees won the AL East with CC Sabathia, the rookie Ivan Nova, and a bunch of retreads. They won with A.J.. Burnett having an even worse season than last year, and Phil Hughes being terrible and/or injured for much of the year. The two worst pitchers down the stretch for Boston were Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, both of whom are arguably better than any Yankee starter who does not have the CC initials.
Anyhow, I'm going to bask in the fact that the Red Sox of old, the ones who broke hearts all over New England, are back, baby! Good times!
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
People complain that fantasy baseball causes fans to compromise their rooting interests. But look what the collapse of the Red Sox has done to the Squawkers!
Not that it's any fun being a Met fan pulling for the Red Sox these days, when Boston is making the Mets looks good. The Mets have only won five of their last 16. The Red Sox have only won five of their last 22.
And just when I'm putting the 2007 Mets collapse in the past, I get to be reminded of it every day.
Since I know all too well how these collapses turn out, it's not like I have any hope that the Red Sox will turn it around.
The one bright spot about the Red Sox completing their historic collapse is that it will be even worse than that of the 2007 Mets. So maybe every time a team falls apart, the Mets won't be one of the first teams mentioned.
Meanwhile, the Braves are on the verge of their own historic collapse, which would be great, except now I have to root for the Phillies, since they are playing Atlanta.
I'm still rooting for the Mets to finish on a positive note, but even Jose Reyes' pursuit of the Mets' first batting crown is tainted by the fact that these could be his last appearances in a Met uniform.
But when I was hoping for meaningful games in September, I didn't expect it would involve rooting for the Yankees and the Phillies.
I want to see Red Sox fans wailing and gnashing their teeth over their team going down the tubes. I had great fun listening to bridge-jumping fans on WEEI last night. And I've been loving reading Boston fans killing Jacoby Ellsbury, only their team's MVP this year, because he dropped the ball and let in an inside-the-park homer last night.
And my Sox fan friends would feel the exact same way if the shoe were on the other foot, as my BoSox fan friend Sully Baseball and I discussed on his podcast last night (click here to listen.)
This Rays/Yankees series means zero to the Bombers, so why not cheer for Tampa to win, since it would help keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs. I don't want to see Boston rise from the dead, the way I feared they would after winning Sunday's game. I want them to go down in history as the worst September collapse ever. This isn't a matter of which team would be better for the Yanks in the postseason; this is a matter of extracting maximum humiliation. And if the Sox make the playoffs at all, the humiliation factor is not there.
Boston could still wake up over the last two games -- after 2004, I NEVER count them out. But here's hoping they continue their September swoon.
One other note on the Sox. Whenever I have pointed out that John Lackey, who I think is a colossal jerk, is actually having a worse season than A.J. Burnett, I've heard back from fans to not be so hard on Lackey, because his wife has breast cancer, and that's part of the reason for his terrible numbers. There's also been some holding back in the press on slamming Lackey due to that issue. And apparently, even the Sox's Bill James asked people to give Lackey a break because of this wife.
Now comes the news, courtesy of TMZ, that Lackey has filed for divorce from his cancer-stricken wife. Then he tried to make himself the victim here, being all outraged with the media Sunday, because some reporter dared to text him over the issue. Good grief.
I've seen a lot of outrage online over TMZ somehow invading Lackey's privacy by reporting a public filing. I wonder where all these Lackey lackeys were when the media ran story after story putting Alex Rodriguez's personal life on the front page, with zero newsworthiness other than it being a way to sell papers. When the press ran stories which were based on unsubstantiated rumors, like the centaur thing, his alleged behavior at strip joints, his tipping habits, and the supposed meltdown over being filmed at the Super Bowl, a meltdown that never actually happened. Not to mention the fact that MLB did a gambling investigation on A-Rod, based on a story from a scandal sheet, even though he could not possibly have been at one of the games in question because he was playing in the World Series.
At any rate, given the intense media attention that the Boston Red Sox's collapse has gotten, how Lackey thought that nobody in the media would write about him divorcing his wife when she has cancer is pretty astonishing. He ought to ask Newt Gingrich and John Edwards about the issue!
I was wondering when the Yankees were going to do the rookie hazing thing. They did it last night, having the kids dress up as 80s music stars -- Prince, Madonna, George Michael, Milli Vanilli, Slash, and MC Hammer. Aside from the fact that it made me feel old to see some of the big names of my younger days being a nostalgia thing, I noticed a few other things:
* Other than the Madonna costume, and maybe the George Michael one, the "hazing" was nonexistent, particularly in the Slash costume, which actually looked really cool. And the Hammer pants didn't really look like Hammer Time. Plus, most of the players wore sunglasses with their outfits, which helped hide whatever "embarrassment" there was even more. It made the event fun, not a humiliation. I'm sure that's intentional, giving all the issues these days with bullying. Keeping this good-natured was a good thing.
* As a teenager in the 80s, I was completely obsessed with music, and know that decade's music better than any others. So I think there were some really glaring omissions there in this group. Where is Michael Jackson, only the biggest star of the decade? Or Bruce Springsteen? Or Bono? And there are also no alternative rock representatives. Wouldn't it be funny to see a Yankee rookie dressed as Robert Smith of the Cure or as Morrissey? Or the Flock of Seagulls guy?
Monday, September 26, 2011
I subscribe to the Conan the Barbarian belief that what is best in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. But now I am the one doing the lamenting!
I blame Joe Girardi for making several critical mistakes that helped cost the Bombers the game:
* The first was keeping Ivan Nova in for too long when the Sox were clearly getting to him. Nova should have been pulled by the sixth, not in the seventh when the damage was done, with the game tied.
* The second was Girardi refusing to use most of his bench to get a big hit to win the game. Leaving Austin Romine in to face Jonathan Papelbon with the bases loaded in the ninth inning was inexcusable. Romine has all of 15 at-bats in the majors, with exactly three hits, and you leave him in there to face Papelbon? Joe could have used Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, or Derek Jeter instead in that spot. Then he let Romine bat again with runners on base, only to have his strike out. Good grief.
Not pinch-hitting for Greg Golson with Andruw Jones made no sense, either. Or letting Eduardo Nunez go 0-for-6, bat in extra innings with Derek Jeter in the house. Why Girardi let the kids get so many at-bats when there were several people on the bench who could have ended the game with one swing makes no sense. What good did it do to give the veterans "rest" when if one of them had gotten to hit in the ninth, or even the tenth, the Yanks would have been resting on the plane much earlier, after most likely winning the game. Who needs the stars refreshed for Tampa, anyway? Tonight was the night to play them.
* And the third was going to Scott Proctor (yeah, I know Girardi was out of the game then, but I'm sure he helped make the decision) in the 14th. Why would you rely on a guy who is best known for having his arm blown out, and setting his equipment on fire, for anything? Proctor is horrible. He shouldn't even be on this team. (BTW, funny how when Brian Cashman was patting himself on the back the other day for all the moves he made this year, he didn't talk about picking up Proctor. Gee, I wonder why.) As soon as I saw that Proctor in, I knew the Yankees would lose. Thanks for nothing, Scottie.
One other note on Proctor. The media's revisionist history on him amuses me. Back when St. Joe Torre was blowing out his arm as a Yankee, it was bloggers like yours truly who pointed out how Joe ruined so many arms. The media mostly ignored the issue. It really wasn't until the whole Joba Rules thing that the press finally started to acknowledge that Joe was a bullpen-killer.
Anyhow, I was hoping to be jubilant over the Yanks sweeping the series, but I am disgusted that the Bombers let the BoSox escape with a win. Yikes!
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I have been trying to keep myself from doing a full-on Snoopy Dance about the Boston Red Sox's September swoon -- they need to be officially out of the Wild Card race before I will put on my dancing shoes. That being said, what I've seen so far reminds me a lot of the 2007 New York Mets. (Squawker Jon, are you listening?)
The angriest I have ever heard Jon in the decade I have known him was when Tom Glavine coughed up seven runs in the first inning of the last game of the season, to put the nail in his team's coffin. Tom Terrible lasted all of one-third of an inning before getting knocked out of the game. Jon was appalled by Glavine's horrific performance and wrote a rant in Subway Squawkers that made my anti-Joe Torre rants look tame. And that was before Glavine poured salt in the wounds of Mets fans everywhere by proclaiming that he wasn't devastated by the loss. Good grief.
Anyhow, I've been reading talk about how it would be unfair to get rid of Terry Francona, because he has two rings, blah blah blah. Nonsense. If the Sox don't make the postseason, after everybody and his brother predicted them to win the World Series, the manager has to go. One of the many mistakes the Mets made in recent years was not getting rid of Willie Randolph after the 2007 collapse, instead waiting until the following June to fire him in the middle of the night after a West Coast win.
The same with the Yankees keeping on Joe Torre after 2004. It's the manager's job to keep the team grounded, and not letting the team drive into the ditch, the way Boston is right now. It's not all Carl Crawford's fault, you know, as much as some people in the media would like to make it that way.
Anyhow, I'm looking forward to today's doubleheader, but apparently the matchup I was hoping for -- A.J. Burnett vs. John Lackey -- is apparently not going to happen. Alas. They could have called the game the Toilet Bowl.
What do you think? Tell us about it!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
* Mariano Rivera making history with his 602nd save: It was a great moment to see the greatest closer make history. What happened afterwards, not so great. Literally seconds after Mo set the record, I got an email from a certain sports memorabilia company congratulating Mo on setting the record, and pushing all sorts of commemorative products, including that valuable Yankee Stadium dirt. And the very first commercial after the game ended was for that company, pushing more product.
Then, I was horrified to see in the postgame presser that Mariano was wearing a cap and shirt featuring a logo of himself on it, commemorating the occasion. Say it ain't so, Mo! It was bad enough to see Jeter have his own logo after getting his 3000th hit, but to see Rivera promoting himself was even more of a spectacle.
Heaven forbid we just enjoy the moment, without having to see it so commercialized. I feel like Charlie Brown complaining about the commercialization of Christmas or something, but good grief. Could the powers that be wait a week or two before exploiting Mo's achievement with $199 "hand-signed" autographed baseballs (um, isn't that what authentic autographed baseballs are supposed to be? Hand-signed?) And don't forget the free "Dirt Crystal Paperweight" included. Oy. There's also a $799 signed jersey available, with a commemorative patch featuring Mo's achievement. This huckersterism and tackiness all seems so incongruous to the quiet, low-key way Rivera has conducted his career. I get that some people want to buy this stuff, but pushing it so strongly, right after the event, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I don't mind it as much when players get caps and shirts for winning the division, like the Yankees did when they got the playoff gear stuff when they won the AL East the other night. It's a team achievement, not a promotion of an individual. But these individual player logos rub me the wrong way. Not to mention the incessant promotion of the autographs and other memorabilia. And please, Chris Parmalee, do not sign any merchandise about how you were involved in getting "MR602," the way David Price embarrassed himself with his "I gave up DJ3K" autographs.
* I am very glad the Yankees won the AL East (it ticked me off the way last year ended, and they staggered into the postseason with only the Wild Card.) And I want to see the Yankees sweep the Red Sox this weekend (and A.J. Burnett has to be thankful for the existence of John Lackey, as he makes A.J. look like the reincarnation of Cy Young.) I've also been greatly enjoying Boston's September swoon. But I am not going to join in with the "I'd rather see the Yankees face this team than that team in the playoffs" crowd. The last time I did that, with the 2006 Detroit Tigers, the Yankees got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by those Tigers. I'm not taking a chance of jinxing things ever again.
And keep in mind that how a team does in September has zero to do with how well they will do in October. No matter how bad the Sox look now, as long as they can make the postseason, they have just as much chance as anybody to win the World Series. (I feel ill writing that, but unfortunately, it's true!)
What do you think? Tell us about it!