Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Mets, R.A. now stands for "Rebuilding ahead"

When I had the opportunity to interview R.A. Dickey last month, he told me that people were still suspicious of knuckleballers:
   The problem is, people still have this bias against the pitch. They think it's a gimmick, they think it's a trick pitch, illegitimate, whatever adjective you want to try and put there you can. It takes a little while to get people past that.

The lingering suspicion of knuckleballers, combined with Dickey's age, has given the Mets cover in sending Dickey packing instead of agreeing to his very reasonable contract demands.  A 74-win team has gotten rid of the man who earned 20 of those wins. If more people really believed that Dickey could duplicate his great 2012, there would be a lot more outcry over this trade. Teams don't usually trade the reigning Cy Young winner.

And Dickey had become far more than just a great pitcher, but a local folk hero. As I've written before, Dickey's popularity could have led to his becoming a longterm representative of the franchise a la David Wright. Instead, Dickey is not only gone, but had to face anonymous sniping on the way out, aided and abetted by Post writer Ken Davidoff's attacks on the knuckleballer. It only serves as a reminder that much of whatever class the Mets have has left with Dickey.

I hope Dickey proves all the doubters wrong. With Jose Reyes also joining the Blue Jays, I now have a new team to root for in the AL East.

That said, with the current state of the Mets' franchise, trading Dickey for the haul of prospects the Mets got could be the right move long-term. Citi Field could even become a more interesting place if the team appears to be building for the future instead of treading water and denying they are in rebuilding mode.

You never know what will happen when you start stockpiling young players.  Four years ago, Omar Minaya traded a bunch of players for J.J. Putz and Sean Green, both of whom are long gone from the Mets. One of the players the Mets gave up in that deal, lefthanded pitcher Jason Vargas, was traded today even up for righthanded power hitter Kendrys Morales.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Youk? Yuck. Why the Yankees signing Kevin Youkilis is a terrible idea

Hey, kids. Brian Cashman made history Tuesday! Thanks to his idiotic signing of Kevin Youkilis, the Yankees will be paying more for the third baseman spot in 2013 than any other team has ever paid for any other position in history! That's right, folks. The Yanks will be spending a mind-boggling $40 million year for third base next year, more than the Miami Marlins will be spending for their entire franchise's payroll.

And what are the Yanks getting for their money? As I put it yesterday on Facebook:
Youk is a Yank? Yuck. Yet another dumb move by Brian Cashman in replacing an aging, expensive, injury-riddled third baseman with a bad hip, with another aging, expensive, injury-riddled third baseman with a bad hip. Not to mention that whole Red Sox thing. Good grief.
Only the Yanks would get "younger" (Youk will be 34 in March) with a player who misses 40 to 60 games a year, and who has been on the DL pretty much every year of his career. Only the Yankees would replace an overpaid, frequently-injured third baseman with an even more brittle version. And give him $12 million (!) to do so.

Not to mention that Youkilis is a jerk, and even his fellow Red Sox players long ago grew tired of his hissy fits after every strikeout. (And before you bring up Paul O'Neill, he acted like a baby, too, but he helped the Yankees get four rings. Youk won't be getting his own Yankeeography any time soon.)

Yesterday, I heard over and over from Yankee fans trying to justify the trade about how this was the best Brian Cashman could do. What nonsense. I would have been happy with a rookie or role player who can play decent defense and can stay healthy. But the Yanks are more interested in big names for ratings on the YES Network than with having some nobody (the horror!) field the position. Of course, having somebody who could, you know, actually be a relevant player in 2013, not 2004, never figures into Cashman's equation. (Hey, Manny Ramirez is still out there; maybe Cash can sign him, too!)

And by the way, Cashman has been GM since 1998, and got that vaunted "complete control" of the franchise since 2005. Who has the team's player development system produced since then? Arguably the three best players -- Jesus Montero, Ian Kennedy, and Austin Jackson -- are all playing elsewhere, traded for less than their value. The Killer Bs are nowhere. And there isn't just an MLB-ready backup at third in the Yankees farm system; there doesn't appear to be an MLB-ready anything.

You know who also got complete control as a GM in 2005? Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays, who became their GM that year. And yet, 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.

Anyhow, don't fool yourself that Kevin Youkilis has somehow seen the light and will be a great Yankee hero. This is about the Yankees being foolish enough to pay a has-been like him $12 million for 2013. Nothing else. Meanwhile, Brian (Fredo) Cashman will preen somewhere about what a great GM he is, putting this golden oldies team on the field. Good grief. I haven't had somebody join the team that I had such a visceral reaction to since Javy Vazquez Part Deux. This is worse.

Guess what, folks? You can't count on the Yankees making the playoffs with this ancient crew just because they have in the past. Every single team in the AL East got better in the winter this year, except for the Yankees, who got worse (Rafael Soriano not being on this team will come back to bite them.)  There's a reason my Sox fan friends are laughing over Youkilis being a Yankee -- they know what he is now. And the one-time .300+ hitter is not an All-Star third baseman anymore. He's slightly more relevant than Derek Lowe, but that's about it. Good grief.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mets make Wright move; Yanks let Martin go to Pirates

One New York team gave a star player a $122 million extension while the other New York team allowed its starting catcher to sign with Pittsburgh as they seek to cut payroll for 2014. And the first team is the Mets and the second team is the Yankees. It's Backwards Day!

The Mets had no choice but to lock up David Wright. Even the dollar store Tampa Bay Rays just gave a big contract to their star third baseman Evan Longoria. 

But Tampa Bay still has a good chance of eventually trading 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price. And the Mets still have a chance of trading 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. If the Mets are really starting to make the transition back to big-market team, they'll keep Dickey.

As for trading Jon Niese, it depends on what they can get for him. I don't buy the "Mets have a surplus of starting pitching" theory. And Niese is not yet the kind of pitcher who can fetch a big return. But there is that little matter of not having an outfield.

At least there no longer seems to be any talk of trading Ike Davis.

I'm going to enjoy this Backwards Day while I can, because it is no indication of a long-term trend. Even if the Yankees do slash payroll to reach their 2014 goal of $189 million, that's still double the Mets 2012 payroll. The Yankees will end up with some sort of name catcher, while the Mets will proclaim faith in Josh (.584 OPS in 2012) Thole.   

But as we head into the Winter Meetings, at least there's some good news from the Mets for a change.

Deja vu all over again: Brian Cashman more concerned with self-aggrandizing stunt than his day job

For the third year in a row, Brian Cashman is wasting time in the postseason by doing his dopey rappeling stunt instead of concentrating on working as GM of the New York Yankees. And this year, he's doing this stunt with Bobby Valentine, of all people. Good grief.

In 2010, Cashman was apparently more concerned with getting his mug on the news dressed as an elf than he was at getting Cliff Lee signed. Cashman also did the stunt in 2011. And this year, Russell Martin left for Pittsburgh last night on a two-year, $17 million offer, reportedly without the Yankees even making him an offer of their own. 

And before you start screaming at me again about how Cashman's stunt is for charity, why doesn't he just write a check from his $3 million a year salary and be done with it? Is it really necessary for him to rappel down a building each year, let alone now do it with Bobby V? Not to mention all the time and psychic energy this entails. Not only is this stunt dangerous, but it takes up way too much of his time and attention. Sorry, I'm like George Steinbrenner would have been on this. Stick to your day job, dude.

So who's going to catch for the Yankees next year? Is Austin Romine, who has back issues, going to get the job? (Because, you know, nothing helps back problems like being a catcher!) Or is Francisco Cervelli, who Cashman banished to the minors for most of last year, going to get the spot? Or are the Yankees going to decide to increase the jerk quotient for the team by signing A.J.Pierzynski for a year?

Granted, Russell Martin was not my first choice for Yankee catcher of the future (although as a person, he was one of my very favorites over the last few years.) But my choice, Jesus Montero, got traded to the Seattle Mariners for a bag of not-so-magic beans. Oh, by the way, Cashman recently said this about Michael Pineda, aka Carl Pavano with a DUI: 
We certainly have high hopes for him, but in terms of planning and counting on him, it’s in everybody’s interest not to do that right now and just put together as deep and strong a staff as possible and be pleasantly surprised and appreciative if we can welcome him back to the fold at some point. 
So this is what you gave up the player you compared to Albert Pujols for, Bri? Somebody who you can welcome "back to the fold at some point"? And yet again, present company excluded, nobody in the media questions Brian's judgement for making this trade in the first place. Nor do they wonder why, given that Curt Schilling, among others, was able to return from this same surgery in 10 months, why a surgery that was done in April 2012 should basically keep Pineda out for the rest of 2013 as well.

Anyhow, if not re-signing Martin is a matter of getting the Yanks down to that $189 million for 2014, it seems an odd place to penny pinch. Because if spending $8.5 million on a catcher next year is going to break the bank, then this team is going to be a real mess.

What do you think? Tell us about it. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Subway Squawkers interview with R.A. Dickey, Mets Cy Young Award winner

I was very excited to have the opportunity to speak with 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey earlier today. Dickey is one of the stars of "Knuckleball!," which is now available through video on demand. The DVD is available for pre-order at Squawker Lisa and I were able to see the movie last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and we highly recommend it, particularly if you are a Met fan or a Red Sox fan, since Tim Wakefield is also featured. But overall, it's a compelling story for baseball fans in general.  

Subway Squawkers: First of all, congratulations!

R.A. Dickey: Thank you.

Subway Squawkers: In the age of Moneyball, do you think there is going to be more of an effort to develop knuckleballers as another way for teams to get an edge?

R.A. Dickey:  Well, I think at the very least, it's as logical as trying to teach a hitter to switch-hit – that happens all the time. If you can teach a guy who would otherwise be released, who has good makeup and good arm strength, how to throw a knuckleball, you may have stumbled on something that could really be a benefit to your organization.

The problem is, people still have this bias against the pitch. They think it's a gimmick, they think it's a trick pitch, illegitimate, whatever adjective you want to try and put there you can. It takes a little while to get people past that.

Subway Squawkers: I do the blog with a Yankee fan and we've seen many pitchers have trouble pitching in New York. You’ve had such success here. Tim Wakefield was very successful in Boston. Do you think it's harder to pitch in New York, or is there something about being a knuckleballer that might have made it easier?

R.A. Dickey: As a knuckleballer, you pay attention to climate from time to time, and the Northeast has always been a good place to pitch from a climate standpoint. The humidity's nice, and the field - I love pitching at Citi Field.

And also, I have interests that lie outside the game of baseball, and New York is a great platform to try and invest in some of the things that might transcend the game. And I’m thankful that that's been a place where I can kind of be myself. It’s a real cathartic place for me because I can get away from the field and do some things that I really feel like have a lasting effect. So it’s a good place for me.

Subway Squawkers: Trying to think of a good Kilimanjaro analogy – it was such a struggle for you to get to the top of your profession. Do you think it will be a struggle to stay at the top?

R.A. Dickey: Why, sure! I don't think there’s anything about me that says the hard part is not getting to the top, it’s staying there.  I’m gonna tell you, it is hard getting to the top. (laughs) It’s not easy.  The only thing I can do is try to be responsible for the moments that I've given, regardless of what I've done in the past or what I hope to do in the future.  I have to really be invested in the moment. That’s what works for me.

Next year, I'm not going to try to be a Cy Young award winner, I'm just going to try to be me. And hopefully, at the end of the year, it will be a similar stat line. You just try to do the best you can.  

Subway Squawkers: After you left Texas, when you were signing with other teams, were they signing you strictly as a knuckleballer or did anybody suggest you go back to being a more conventional pitcher or maybe do both?

R.A. Dickey: No, I was 100% knuckleball. That’s what I was known as. From the moment that I announced that's what I’m going to become in 2005, that’s what teams knew me as.

Subway Squawkers: My cowriter on the blog has read your book and I’m looking forward to reading it. We were wondering, are you going to do an updated version of it or are you going to do a sequel  since so much has happened since the book came out? 

R.A. Dickey: I’m in the process right now of writing an epilogue, a close to 4,000-word epilogue, kind of chronicling the 2012 season, including Kilimanjaro and the Cy Young experience.  

Subway Squawkers: There’s been a lot of talk about the other knuckleballers, and I know you called Phil Niekro back as soon as you won the Cy Young and I’m wondering are there other people in baseball, like say, Buck Showalter, that have also been important in getting you to this point? 

R.A. Dickey: There’s a lot of people I want to celebrate this with who impacted me. I am not a self-made man (laughs). I've had a lot of people who really care about me and I'm glad to be able to share this with them. This is an award meant to be shared.  It's not an individual award for me. It's one that people should celebrate because they had something to do with it. Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield, Buck Showalter, Orel Hershiser. The list is as long as Santa's naughty and nice list. It's long.

Subway Squawkers: You mention that you enjoy pitching at Citi Field. The Mets are traditionally a team that has been built around pitching, so that much be exciting that you're now part of this great pitching tradition the team has had, dating back to Tom Seaver.  

R.A. Dickey: You know, to be considered with Doc Gooden, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, the New York Mets pedigree of pitchers, the stable is deep, to be able to say I’m considered among those is a real honor.

Subway Squawkers: Well, I certainly hope you'll be back with the Mets next year. We look forward to rooting for you.

R.A. Dickey: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mets Must Keep Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey

The last time a Met pitcher won the Cy Young Award, the team won the World Series the following year. 27 years later, I'll settle for a reason to come to the ballpark every fifth day.

R.A. Dickey is a great story. Now he's had a great season. Conventional wisdom says that the Mets need to sign David Wright to a long-term contract because he's the face of the franchise and can be a long-term ambassador for the team. But Dickey could also be a great representative of the Mets - a unique everyman who triumphed over great odds.

The odds were against my going to a Met game last September once another season was down the drain. But thanks to Dickey going for his 20th win, the Mets actually had a meaningful game in September, and I was part of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Teams trying to contend don't trade Cy Young winners. In recent years, Kansas City traded Zach Greinke, Cleveland traded Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia and Minnesota traded Johan Santana. How's that working out for them? 

2012's other Cy Young winner, David Price, probably just punched his ticket out of Tampa Bay because his price (no pun intended) just got too expensive. The Rays have had a lot of success in recent years, but it hasn't translated into a large fan base. Who wants to root for a team that keeps shipping out their best players?

A couple of years ago, Toronto traded away former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, who promptly won a second Cy Young with the Phillies. But Toronto got back top prospects Travis D'Arnaud and Kyle Drabek. Isn't there a scenario in which the Mets could trade Dickey for top prospects and improve the team's chance of contending down the road?

Theoretically, yes, but most prospects are ultimately just prospects. Everyone's excited over how the Mets landed Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, but Wheeler still hasn't pitched an inning in the majors. He's no sure thing.

And Beltran, always underrated with the Mets, has been a perennial star when healthy. Halladay is putting together a Hall of Fame career. Will other teams be willing to part with top prospects for a 37-year-old who finally found success with a knuckleball?

As Squawker Lisa knows all too well, finding good pitchers who can pitch well in New York is hard enough. The best thing for the fans is to keep Dickey around. It's probably the best thing for the Mets'  hopes to put together a good team as well.


Lisa and I saw "Knuckleball" last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and we both highly recommend it. The film is now available on DVD through

Monday, November 5, 2012

More on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island and the Rockaways

Squawking about the state of the Yankees is the last thing on my mind this days. Squawking about the state of New York City and surrounding regions after Hurricane Sandy is what I am most focused on. Here is the latest from Staten Island:

I was heartened to see that Mayor Bloomberg finally cancelled the New York City Marathon (and cited this blog and the argument I made about the congestion issues of having it now.) But it still sound like he doesn't understand why people were so outraged over it. The New York Times said:

"Persuading the mayor to change his mind was difficult. Aides and friends said Bloomberg was not one to wallow, and he saw value in urging residents to move past the storm.

“It goes back to his earliest days in office,” said one person familiar with the mayor’s thinking. “He is an engineer, not a political science student.”
These aren't people wallowing in some imagined slight. It is hard to expect people living without food, water, electricity, heat or places to live to be moving on, when they don't even have the basics.

And Bloomberg doesn't sound like an engineer to me. I have worked with and for engineers, and none of them had as little concern for humanity as he does. Frankly, Bloomie just sounds like a jerk.

* * *

On another note, I was privileged to go out to the Rockaways this weekend with others to help a few friends and relatives of friends with cleaning up their homes. They weren't even in the hardest-hit area there, but it was still pretty terrible.  Imagine 13 feet of water rushing into your home, ruining your basement, your first floor, and very well causing permanent structural damage to your house. Imagine having your possessions ruined, and having to throw them out, with no chance of salvaging them. Imagine having your photo albums waterlogged.  And the people closer to the beach got not just water, but sand pouring into their homes.

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of when people say "I know how you feel" unless they actually do. But I do know a little of what it's like to lose nearly everything. Nearly 15 years ago, my apartment burned down, and I lost two cats and most of my possessions, with the exception of clothing that smelled like smoke. So while I am not going to say I know exactly how these families feel, I can at least relate to having your home violated and things you valued destroyed in the blink of an eye.

Back then, I also received much help from friends, family and co-workers when it came to going through my ruined things, trying to salvage what was left, and moving.  So I was trying to "pay it forward" a little.

We felt good Saturday that we were able to help two Rockaway families -- one with packing, the other with getting rid of things. But it made me tremendously sad to see the damage firsthand that this storm caused. Every house we drove by had valued possessions ruined and sitting curbside for sanitation workers to take the items away. The trauma that this storm caused -- from deaths and injuries to ruined homes and cars to kids having to go to different schools -- is almost too much to bear.

On the way there and back, we drove through Brooklyn picking up and dropping off friends to help. On the way there, we drove by 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge, where the marathoners would have run by. That street was clogged on Saturday with desperate people in cars and on foot just trying to get gas. Imagine what would have happened if those folks had not been able to get gas on Sunday, in favor of the marathon!

And on the way home Saturday evening, we saw the marathon starting point, on Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. It still had tons of porta-potties there. This, even though Mary Wittenberg, head of the New York Road Runners Club had promised to help give/loan such items to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

After waiting on line for two hours to get gasoline on Sunday morning, and succeeding, I tried to go back there to Fort Wadsworth to see if there was food and water still there for the marathon, and to take pictures, but the security denied me access. Too bad.

But I did see a great sight on the way home after that -- hundreds of would-be marathoners streaming from the Staten Island Ferry to help Staten Islanders. They had more of the spirit of humanity than Mike Bloomberg ever will.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Hurricane Sandy, living on Staten Island, and the bad decision to run the New York Marathon

Greetings, all. Squawker Jon and I are fine after Hurricane Sandy, but unfortunately, many of our fellow New Yorkers are not. Nor are many people in New Jersey, where I was born and raised. We've been very saddened over the hurricane's destruction, not just throughout New York and New Jersey, but on the Jersey Shore, one of our favorite places in the world.

Fortunately, we ourselves are okay, although I did lose power on Monday night here on Staten Island, and was without power until early Wednesday morning (Con Edison did a great job getting the power back in my neighborhood quickly.)  I also lost cell phone service for much of the time. I consider myself extremely lucky -- I had great flashlights in the house, so I could get around okay, and didn't suffer any damage from trees or weather (unlike other houses in my neighborhood). I live two blocks from the North Shore but my house is dry. And Jon didn't even lose power in where he lives in Manhattan!

However, many Staten Islanders weren't as lucky. As of now, 19 people have died on the island. There are still many people out of their homes, and nearly half the island still doesn't have electricity. And none of us who work in Manhattan can get to work easily -- the Staten Island Ferry and SI Railroad are closed, and the lower Manhattan subways are literally under water. And forget about driving -- the gas shortage is horrible, with literally mile-long lines just to fill up the tank. Not to mention all the traffic lights still out, and Bloomberg requiring all cars going into Manhattan to have three passengers or more.

Other than what I saw with my own eyes, I really didn't know the full extent of how badly Staten Island was damaged until I got my power back (many of the worst areas shown on TV are not accessible to the public right now.)  Things are a mess -- it truly is a disaster area. I know people who have lost their homes, who still don't have power, who don't even have water. Some people are running out of food, thanks in no small part due to them having food spoil when the power went out. And the Red Cross never even bothered to show up until Thursday, when the borough president called them out.

Anyhow, do these sound like the type of conditions that you would have a sporting event with 47,000 participants, thousands of volunteers, and, more importantly, many first responders focused on in this borough? That's why Mayor Bloomberg's decision to have the NYC Marathon continue is unconscionable, especially when he had the gall to suggest that the dead people would have wanted it to go on! "You've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those who have been left behind," he had the nerve to say. No, Mikey, I think the dead people would like their families to be safe, and have the basics, like electricity and water and heat and food. I think they would also like their families to have the freedom to travel, something we effectively don't have on Staten Island right now. Not to mention that we are literally still finding deceased victims of the storm at the very same time first responders will have to break away to do marathon preparations.

As for the economy issues, it sticks in my craw that according to the owner of the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island, the New York Road Runners Club tried to pressure him into kicking Staten Island hurricane victims out in favor of runners with reservations. Are you kidding me? That's yet another reason this race should have been postponed -- most hotels below 39th Street in Manhattan don't even have power, which means that hotel rooms are at a premium. And Manhattan evacuees are having to give up their hotel rooms for the marathon runners. How does that make any sense?

Not to mention the congestion issues. How are you going to get 50,000+ people on Staten Island when the roads are so congested? The ferry is supposedly starting again on Saturday. What about Islanders who actually need to start rebuilding their lives again? Why should their needs play second fiddle to sports? Not to mention the bad taste of seeing runners throw half-full water bottles and food items to the ground at the same time so many are going without here. Every year, some marathon runners end up in the hospital. Are they going to take away already-stretched resources from the truly ill people who have already been evacuated from other hospitals due to the hurricane?

Look, I love sports -- baseball is the focus of this blog, after all -- but they have a time and a place. The first baseball game after 9/11 in New York was ten days later. There was a 10-day gap in the 1989 World Series after the earthquake. The New Orleans Saints didn't play in New Orleans for the entire season after Katrina. Here in New York, we are literally still finding dead victims of this storm, and so many don't have even basic living conditions. I appreciate the marathoners' sacrifice and dedication, but now is not the time for this race. To have a marathon in this town six days after the worst storm we have ever seen is a real bread-and-circuses move, and is in extremely poor taste. Shame on Mike Bloomberg.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Denial is not just a river in Egypt -- It's the state of the Yankees

History's greatest unexplained mysteries include Easter Island, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and why the Yankees got swept in the ALCS. At least that's what Yankees president Randy Levine seems to be claiming. He told the New York Times that "there was a total collapse in the A.L.C.S. that was very surprising. Why did that happen? Nobody will ever know." Really? We will never be able to figure this out, no matter how many sabermaticians and baseball historians pore over the numbers? Ridiculous.

Brian Cashman also treated this debacle as some sort of great mystery. He told Ian O'Connor on ESPN Radio that "I'm not sure if I can ever give you a tangible, realistic, honest, this-is-what-I-know from (what) CSI New York has provided. ... I just don't know." Are you kidding me? It's not that complicated, Brian!

Cashman also said this:
"It was kind of like a Yankee flu went through five of our guys in the lineup. ... I do think there is a mental component that really crept in on us, and all of a sudden & you hear our players talking about passing the baton. Well, I wonder if the baton that was passed was one of pressure and tightness and it started going throughout our entire lineup, that, 'Oh jeez, he didn't get it done; I've got to get it done.' And they started getting us out of our game.

Gee, you'd almost think that Joe Girardi's indefensible panic in the playoffs, where his only answer to any dilemma seemed to involve somehow benching/humiliating a player, whether it be Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, or Curtis Granderson, may have had a ripple effect. And that instead of projecting calm, Girardi projected instability and lack of trust in the players who got him to October in the first place by putting up a spring training-style lineup in a postseason game. Nah, that's too out there, right? Who would ever think that a manager showing such lack of faith in his players would have such consequences?

It is interesting that Cashman used the term "Yankee flu." Because there is a term called "blue flu," which describes when police officers, who are not allowed to go on strike, call in sick en masse to express their displeasure with their contract and work situation. Is Cashman suggesting that the Yankee bats deliberately went on strike?

Of course, Cashman still refuses to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with the team he assembled as far as having a season-long inability to hit with runners in scoring position, as well as generally only winning when they hit homers. Mix in some angry boos from the hometown crowd, and add a little missing leadership on the team thanks to Derek Jeter getting hurt in Game 1 of the ALCS, throw in the lack of faith Girardi and Cashman showed in their team, which led to tightness and panic, and it shouldn't really be a big mystery as to why the Yankees lost.

I do have to ask this: have Cashman or Girardi ever read a modern management book? Ever given some thought about how to motivate people? For that matter, reading a classic book like Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" would have served them better than what they did. Because their actions in the postseason seem to show not just lack of baseball skills (sorry, Joe, Derek Lowe is not a good option when the game is on the line!), but a lack of people skills. At this point, I wouldn't trust either of them to plan a one-car funeral, let alone run a baseball team.

Unfortunately, they work for the Steinbrenner kids, who are just as unaware of good management as they are. So they will all pretend that this was just some big mystery as to why the Yankees lost in the postseason. Heaven forbid anybody actually be held accountable for this disaster.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shocker: Mike Lupica makes more sense on the Yankees than the Steinbrenner sons do

Sports columnist Mike Lupica may be the newspaper equivalent of a slugger whose best days were in the 1970s, but every once in a while, he can still hit a mistake pitch out of the ballpark. The New York Daily News writer had a great column this Sunday about what I've been saying and thinking recently about the Yankees front office -- that the Yankees' rhetoric about how the season is a failure without a World Series title no longer matches reality.

Lupica writes:
Yankee fans really need to take a deep breath here, be a little more realistic about who their team is, has been for a long time. We hear constantly about the Yankee “brand.” Well, here is what the Yankee brand has become: Winning a lot of regular games, drawing a lot of people, making a lot of money. They are big winners, unprecedented winners, April through September. Just rarely in October. October was the old brand.

And they’re still working off an old script at the new Yankee Stadium. The comments from members of the Yankees’ high command after the team doesn’t make it to the World Series have become as predictable as their baseball team not making it to the World Series.
Lupica is right to point out that the Steinbrenners are now more concerned about "profit and loss" than playoff losses. Quite frankly, fans are more upset over the ALCS than Hal Steinbrenner or Brian Cashman is. While Hal acknowledged in a statement that the Yanks "fell short of our singular and constant goal, which is a World Series Championship," and called it a "bitter end" and a "disappointment," nobody is going to lose their jobs over this. George Steinbrenner may have gone too far when it came to firing people, but the Steinbrenner kids are way too passive on the opposite end of the spectrum, guaranteeing Cashman and Joe Girardi's jobs after the postseason even began. 
By the way, a "disappointment" is when Starbucks ran of Pumpkin Spice Latte mix. The Yankees are a disaster. They didn't play hard and just come up short in the ALCS -- they were annihilated, embarrassed, and humiliated.  But Hal doesn't seem really upset over it. If he were upset, he would get rid of at least one of the architects of this disaster.

Anyhow, Lupica didn't stop there. The columnist calls the Yankees the "New York Braves" (ouch!) but notes that the Braves got further into the postseason than the current Yankees did when Atlanta was dominant (ouch again!) Lupica also notes that the Yankees "consistently fall short of what they say their mission statement is, but nothing really changes in the organization." Yep. So we will have another year of Joe Girardi panicking, and Brian Cashman getting ripped off in trades, and Kevin Long no longer being up to the job. Oh, joy.

As Lupica says:
They consistently fall short of what they say their mission statement is, but nothing really changes in the organization. You know the only person who effectively got fired from the World-Series-or-bust Yankees lately? A.J. Burnett. They paid the Pirates to take Burnett off their hands. They might pay somebody else to take A.E. Rodriguez off their hands. That is the modern Yankee idea of holding somebody accountable.
By the way, I loved Hank's complaining to the Associated Press about too much blame being put on A-Rod, saying that it wasn't fair "to accuse him of everything but the Kennedy assassination." Um, Hank, your crew did that all by themselves! Hank also had this to say about his feelings about the ALCS debacle: 
"It was something to not be very pleased about," Steinbrenner said. "Everybody is kind of a bewildered and a little angry, too. But that's natural."
Even hothead Hank is way too passive in his comments.

How weird are things in Yankeeland these days? Even Lupica, who has been a longtime A-Rod hater since he was on the Mariners, thinks that Alex should have played in the postseason. He has this to say about Hal's comments:

But whatever Steinbrenner the Younger does say, you have to say he seems pretty happy with the way his team is being run, and managed. For now he doesn’t say a word about his manager benching A-Rod in favor of a guy, Eric Chavez, who couldn’t hit or field by the end. Doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that after a decade of record spending, the Yankees have won one World Series to show for all that spending.
Lupica ends his piece by noting that while "the people in charge say what they think George M. Steinbrenner would have wanted them to say," but with "the old man, it was more than just talk." Ain't that the truth!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The smearing of Curtis Granderson

The New York Yankees may not actually have any true accountability anymore -- after all, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi still have jobs after the most embarrassing postseason since the 2004 ALCS -- but boy, do they know how to stick it to people. Fresh off their humiliation of Alex Rodriguez, they have now moved on to smearing Curtis Granderson, the player who led the team in home runs and RBIs for the last two seasons, and led the AL in RBIs in 2011.

First, Kevin Long, the hitting coach who was once credited with helping Granderson improve his approach at the plate, told this to the New York Post:
“We all know Curtis is a swing and miss guy,” Long said of Granderson, who went 3-for-30 (100) and whiffed 16 times in the postseason. “He started to struggle in situations where those swings and misses become more glaring than usual.
“I think Curtis can take something out of this: Where was my head at, was I confident enough? There might have been a little bit of self doubt that I saw. He’s got to go through that and see where he’s at and make adjustments.”
True, I don't know what's in Granderson's head. What I do know is that it's pretty unseemly for Long to publicly accuse Granderson of having a confidence issue, and to single him out this way. Especially when the powers that be in Yankeeland did everything they could to sap this team of their swagger by all the crazy lineup changes and public humiliations of their players.

Gee, I can't imagine why Granderson might have had self-doubt, if he actually did, when Joe Girardi panicked and showed that he had zero confidence in the hitters that, as the Yankees like to continually remind us, won 95 games in the regular season. Girardi's bizarre moves did nothing but make the team look like a laughingstock.

Sure, Granderson probably needs a better approach at the plate -- his strikeouts are rising, his batting average is falling, and he was horrible in the postseason. You know, something a batting coach is supposed to help him with. I guess Long did "help" him, though, by telling the New York Times about how Granderson went 0 for 11 in "chases" -- those are swings at pitchers outside the strike zone -- during the ALCS. Classy!

Now I see in this morning that a "Yankee source" reveals to the New York Daily News that the team "plans to send Granderson to an eye specialist to see if his eyesight has been the source of his problems at the plate." Gee, it's too bad that the Yanks had to wait so long to get a referral from their HMO for Grandy.[/sarcasm]

I have several thoughts on this. The first is that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that somebody who struck out 16 times in 30 postseason at-bats, and 195 times during the regular season, might have an issue with his eyes. The second is that if this is indeed the case, then why the heck didn't the Yankees do something about it when it could have actually mattered? There are a gazillion eye specialists (many of whom are even Yankee fans) in New York City who could have examined Granderson earlier, and at a moment's notice. It's not like he would have had to wait for an appointment!

But the third, and most cynical, reaction to this story is that I remember what George Steinbrenner did to Reggie Jackson at the end of his time with the Yankees, when Steinbrenner didn't want to re-sign him. Jax was struggling, and The Boss made things worse by publicly ordering him to get an eye exam, treating it like a punishment. It was not one of Steinbrenner's finest moments.  Regarding Granderson, there are rumors that the Yanks will pick up the 2013 option on his contract, but don't want to sign him to another deal. Is this their way of explaining why?

I was as frustrated as anybody by Curtis Granderson's postseason numbers this year. But his poor playoff outings don't justify the Yankees treating him like a human pinata, especially given that Granderson not only has helped the Yankees as a player, but as a person. He's a good man, and he doesn't deserve this type of treatment.

You have to wonder if this smearing is being done to somehow redeem Brian Cashman's reputation for trading for him, given that Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Max Scherzer -- all players the Tigers got in the trade for Granderson -- helped beat the Yankees, while Granderson didn't even start the final game of the ALCS. Yes, that makes me extremely cynical. But we just finished watching the Yankees scapegoat Alex Rodriguez to run him out of town, and then have to start doing damage control when they finally realized that he, for now at least, is going to exercise that no-trade clause. I have good reason to be cynical!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Yankees lose in humiliating fashion, and the recriminations begin

I missed seeing most of yesterday's game live due to work projects. This was a blessing in disguise, of course. From what I saw later, heard about and read, it doesn't sound like the Yankees even showed up. I was angry before the game, and furious after it, and I'm still ticked off now.

When I saw the first part of Joe Girardi's postgame interview, when he talked about "life goes on" and "moving on," I was more than a little annoyed -- he sounded like Tom Glavine, circa 2007, talking about not being devastated by killing the Mets season. Towards the end, though, Girardi got very emotional, especially when thanking the media for the way they handled his father's death. (I lost my own father five years ago in a similar way to Girardi's dad, so I understand a little of what he's feeling.)

At any rate, Girardi did the worst managerial job of his five-year tenure with the team with all of his panicky moves. I actually agree with Michael Kay about his assessment of the postseason -- that after Girardi pinch hit for A-Rod in Game 3, which provided the playoff's best moments, the two Raul Ibanez home runs, things went downhill, causing what Kay called a "toxic atmosphere" that surrounded the entire team. Girardi went from doing a gutsy but understandable move, to scapegoating Rodriguez by having Eric Chavez, who never even got one hit in the postseason, going 0 for 16, continually fill in for him. There was nothing "gutsy" about having Chavez start in ALDS Game 5, or in having him start Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. It just smacked of scapegoating. To top it all off, Girardi ended up having journeyman Jayson Nix bat in Chavez' place yesterday! So much for that.

Ironically, Brian Cashman was still patting himself on the back for constructing this team. And I'm sick of his stupid "big, hairy monsters" nonsense and his ridiculous assertions that this team is Gene Michaelesque, and similar to the late 90s teams. Yet the NYC media is so in the tank for him, that nobody has the guts to point out these obvious lies -- for one thing, the late 90s championship teams never had one hitter who had more than 30 homers in a season.

Now Cashman won't even acknowledge that maybe hitting coach Kevin Long should go -- he says he'll be back next year! This is why I think the nonsense this team talks about how winning is all that matters, and that any season without a World Series title is a failure, is just sanctimonious blather. Joe Girardi will be back next season. So will Brian Cashman, and Kevin Long, and everybody else. Cashman has been GM since 1998, one of the longest tenures in baseball history, and he has one ring since 2000. I guess they will designate A-Rod as the scapegoat, and will try to trade him, but he is only one part of the problem.

Cashman also said one of the more infuriating things I heard yesterday, saying "Unfortunately, a bad spell hit us right now," and that “The perfect storm hit us, where a collection of the opponents’ pitching made great pitches and also our guys were getting themselves out and getting away from their DNA a little bit.” What self-serving waddle. No, Bri, this was your team -- a one-dimensional one that can hit a lot of homers, mostly against mediocre pitching, but that utterly failed in the postseason. Knock off the passive voice, and take some frigging ownership already.

The way Girardi and Cashman changed the lineup made little sense, and helped psychologically take the team out of the game before the series was over. You cannot say that the Yankees put the best lineup on the field in this series. It was more about settling personal scores than about winning. Because if moving people around the lineup and benching them was solely due to their numbers, and not scapegoating people, then why didn't Robinson Cano, by far the biggest goat of the series, ever get such treatment? (And no, don't tell me it's because of lack of great options as backup. As if Chavez and having Brett Gardner bat leadoff when he hasn't played since April made sense!)
A lot of fans are very upset with the quotes from an anonymous player in today's Daily News, which the headlines suggest are blaming the fans for the loss. But that's not exactly what the player said. Here are the actual quotes:
“I really think the booing spooked a lot of guys," the player said. “A lot of guys hadn’t been booed before, and they couldn’t believe how nasty it got in the stands."
“A lot of guys were talking about it in the clubhouse," he said. “I was surprised by how much it bothered them. I really don’t think they ever recovered."
Yeah, yeah, I know, according to a lot of fans, they should just suck it up. But it is bizarre to me, that fans will wear lucky socks, or sit in certain places, or do all sorts of superstitions that they think will help the team. Yet they seem completely unable to grasp that booing their own players on the field may actually have negative effects. Forget the lucky hat, folks -- how about not booing your own team when you're at the game, when they can actually hear you!

CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel wrote an article the other day calling the fans "unforgiving jerks." As he wrote, "Booing a baseball player isn't going to make him better -- but it sure could make him worse. The Yankees fans who booed their own players, they don't get it -- or they just don't care." That's about the size of it. These fans think they're awesome, though! They pat themselves on the back about as much as Cashman does!

I was okay with last year's loss to the Tigers. This season, not so much.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bleep you, pay me: The postgame speech A-Rod should give

Everybody is already making plans for Alex Rodriguez’s swan song (no pun intended) with the Yankees. Everybody, that is, except for the guy with the no-trade clause. Anyhow, after the Yankees lose the ALCS – and they will lose; they are not even trying to put their best lineup on the field – I hope Alex does it up right. I hope he brings everybody down in a blaze of glory by making the ultimate gaffe: telling the truth about what they’re really trying to do to him in Yankeeland.  Since A-Rod isn’t always the most articulate speaker in the world, I’ve taken the liberty of writing a few words for him to use:

Bleep you, pay me. That’s what I have to say about the idea of trading me. I’m not going anywhere.  I have a no-trade clause. I know that you and your lackeys in the media think I should graciously agree to be traded to cover up for the mistake the Yankees made in giving me a 10-year, $275 million deal when I was 32 years old. But I’m staying right here. What are you going to do about it? Move me down in the lineup? Pinch-hit for me? Bench me? Whisper negatively about me to your puppets in the press? You’ve already done all that.  How much more can you do? Wait until I’m sitting on the bench eating sunflower seeds and chewing gum for the next 810 games and the media attention every single day on me sucks up all the oxygen around you. Enjoy!

Bleep you, pay me. You think I don’t know that line? I’ve seen Goodfellas more times than Brian Cashman has thrown money around to cover up his mistakes.  Cashman, you think you’re so gangsta? Fuggedaboudit! You’re the tough guy who traded away a future superstar slugger for Carl Pavano with a DUI. But didn’t your media minions say that the Yankees didn’t need any more hitting? How’s that working for you, Cash? Speaking of which, what a perfectly appropriate nickname you have. Because those are the only good deals you ever make; those involving you paying lots of cash. I slay me!

Bleep you, pay me. And the best deal your team made in the last few years, Bri, was the one you were dead set against. Without Rafael Soriano, the 2012 season would have ended when Mariano Rivera collapsed to the ground in Kansas City. But you were the brainiac who didn’t think that having a backup plan for a closer born in the 1960s was a good idea. I know, I know, you did make at least one good move all by yourself in recent years. You traded for Nick Swisher four years ago. Which was a salary and a personality dump. And, oh yeah, now you’re about to run that same player out of town on a rail because he told the truth about your fickle fans. 

Bleep you, pay me. You picked a great time to lose the binder, Joe Girardi. You seemed to have forgotten that my numbers against Justin Verlander, especially this year, were awesome, if I do say so myself. And that when you want to win a playoff series, you go with your best, not Eric (0 for 14 this October, with an error) Chavez. Oh, by the way, my replacement’s career postseason batting average is under .200. He was an October flop when he was an All-Star, and you trust him over me now? Child, please. Chavez hit .220 in September, worse than I did, and I was returning after suffering a broken hand after King Felix plunked me!  Oh, and by the way, did you ever occur to you that maybe I wasn’t hitting to my career levels because I came back too soon after that injury? But I wanted to be a team player, and you were in the midst of blowing a 10-game division lead, so I returned two weeks early to save your season. Yet you won’t even give me the dignity of acknowledging that perhaps my lack of power had something to do with, you know, me getting my hand broken through no fault of my own. Thanks for nothing, Joe.

Bleep you, pay me. People think I have an ego. Guilty as charged. You don’t get to this level, having your tuchis kissed from elementary school days because I could hit a baseball, without having a big ego. But my good friend Kobe Bryant is right -- I’m still too nice. I actually did try to be a good teammate. I gave up going down as the greatest shortstop in history to my defensive inferior. Miguel Cabrera switches positions, and everybody praises him for being a great teammate. The next time somebody in the New York media even mentions what I did will be the first time.

Bleep you, pay me. And yes, I’m concerned about my image. Guess what? So are most people who get to my level. Derek Jeter is just as concerned about his own image – remember what the first words out of his mouth when he broke his ankle were? He told Joe Girardi not to carry him. The thing is, unlike the captain, I’ve never been any good at massaging my image. Sue me.

Bleep you, pay me. What’s that rap on me on this town? I want people to like me? As if that’s a bad thing. Yes, I’m Morrissey in a jock’s body. I am human and I need to be loved, just like (almost) everybody else does.  You know what you get when you bring in a ballplayer who doesn’t care about what others think? Kevin Brown.

Bleep you, pay me. You would think I were the only person in baseball history who had a thing for the ladies. Yeah, I cheated on my wife, but I never hooked up with the women you did. And even I would have better sense than to let a bunny boiler sit in the Yankee family seating area, never mind writing her a letter of recommendation on Yankees letterhead!

Bleep you, pay me. Oh, and let me give a few words of love towards those members of the Yankee fan base who booed me at every turn. You all think it shows what great fans you are. No, it shows that you are what other baseball fans say you are – spoiled, selfish, and entitled. Go team! Oh, and good luck with your Yankees getting many other free agents to come here anymore. The only reason anybody would want to put up with the nonsense that goes on in New York is not for winning anymore – without me, your last title would still be from the Clinton administration – but for the money. But even then, more money didn’t work to convince Cliff Lee to come here after you literally spit on his wife.

Bleep you, pay me. So yeah, I am going to sit here and count the $114 million the Yankees will have to pay me for the next five seasons. Sure, I may never get to see any of that $30 million in home run milestone bonuses if I stay in pinstripes, but I will try to get by. But by the way, I never pointed a gun to the Yankees’ head and told them to give me this contract. They thought I was worth it. Who am I to judge? And by the way, if I am greedy for getting money for my skills from people more than willing in 2007 to pay for it, what does that make Randy Levine and Lonn Trost for jacking up ticket prices and building a stadium as a monument to the rich, and then trying to shut down StubHub for selling reasonably priced Yankee tickets? Did anybody ever buy a ticket to see either of them play? Um, no. At any rate, as the song says, I’m telling you I’m not going. Get used to me singing that tune every day for the next five years. Bleep you, pay me. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Child, please: The 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox

Warning: long rant ahead! I knew the Yankees were going to lose the game last night when I first saw Joe Girardi's bizarro world lineup. When you're going up against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander, you should have your best lineup. And Girardi didn't. Not only was Brett Gardner, somebody who should have gotten at-bats earlier, batting leadoff in Nick Swisher's place, and Eduardo NunEEEz playing (although the latter one worked out well) but Alex Rodriguez, somebody who has great numbers against Justin Verlander, was riding the pine, again, in favor of Eric Chavez, who only went from 0 for 11 to 0 for 14 and made an error that cost the Yankees a run.

Oh, and how about that photo above? It's Robinson Cano watching Justin Verlander pitch. Yes, folks, this is how a postseason hitter who went 0 for 29 until getting a ninth-inning hit -- the worst streak in MLB history! -- intently watches the game. Sure, A-Rod is a big goat for this postseason. But Cano should be the biggest one. He is the superstar who is supposed to be this team's best player, and he has gone 3 for 36 this October. To put those numbers in perspective, bench players Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez have two hits each. Yet Cano has mostly gotten a pass in this postseason. He shouldn't.

This postseason should put an end to the canard that October is all about pitching. The Yankees couldn't have had better pitching -- every single starter has been terrific, and the bullpen, other than Phelps, has been stellar -- yet they can't win, due to their lousy hitting (Ichiro, Jeter, Tex and Ibanez are the only exceptions).

* * *

I was on the Staten Island Ferry yesterday afternoon when I checked my iPhone and saw a note on Facebook from our friend Larry, a longtime Squawker reader. He wrote, "I am now convinced the Yankees have decided to eat 130 million dollars and dump A-Rod for a bag of balls. I am sure he wants out now." When I saw the lineup, I figured out what he was referring to! Because there was absolutely no justification in benching Alex, other than if the Yankees are sending him a message that they want him off the team, and Girardi is sending the world a message designating Rodriguez as the 2012 postseason scapegoat.

Or perhaps this was punishment for that New York Post story about A-Rod allegedly getting the digits of some chippies during Game 1. (If that story is true, A-Rod did a mind-numbingly stupid thing, but it's still shouldn't be worthy of him being benched in a playoff game the Yanks are trying to win.) I think that if you want to send a message, call Western Union (or Western Onion, as Bugs Bunny used to. Boy, am I dating myself here!)

Here's the thing: Rodriguez didn't just have very good career numbers against Verlander in his career (8 for 24 with 3 homers), he also had excellent numbers in 2012 against him (4 for 6 with 2 homers.) This wasn't ancient history; this was just a few months ago. And, as even A-Rod hater Wally Matthews noted, Rodriguez "ended Sunday's Game 2 at Yankee Stadium with good at-bats his last two times up, lining out to left and then singling up the middle." The ESPN writer said that A-Rod's "bat may have been sick, but it seemed to be recovering." He certainly looked better at the plate Sunday than Cano or Curtis Granderson did, to name two examples.

Also, as Christina Kahrl of ESPN writes, Chavez, Girardi's choice as Rodriguez's postseason replacement, "hit .200/.244/337 with more than 120 postseason at-bats -- his consistent failures in October made him Oakland’s A-Rod-level postseason disappointment a decade before A-Rod got there."

But hey, let's throw Chavez out there again, to look terrible at the plate, and make another bad play in the field -- this one costing the Yankees a run. Yippee! As even Derek Jeter biographer Ian O'Connor noted, "If nobody knows for sure that Rodriguez would have made the play, everybody knows for sure that his replacement didn't." I have said it before and will say it again -- it is one thing to have Raul Ibanez, the hottest player on the team at the time, pinch-hit for A-Rod. It's another thing to continue to run Eric Chavez out there, when he has yet to do a thing to contribute positively in this postseason.

What's the endgame here? Girardi has lost Rodriguez -- as bad as Joe Torre was to him, you'd have to argue that Girardi cut him off at the knees even worse here.

Are the Yankees trying to get A-Rod to retire? It's not going to happen. Yesterday, Cashman made references to A-Rod's numbers in September being the reason for his benching, not just the postseason. (Of course, Chavez had even worse numbers that month, but why confuse Cashman with the facts?)

Sure, A-Rod went .261/.341/.369 in September after King Felix broke his hand. Which begs the question, if the Yankees thought he was physically unable to perform due to this, why did they rush him back from the hand injury? Why didn't they at least give him the dignity of benching him for physical reasons, and not mental ones? Because this is a world-class humiliation, and it doesn't speak well for either Cashman or Girardi.

Rodriguez isn't even trying to put on the "good soldier" act with the media -- he's obviously ticked off, and didn't talk with the press before or after the game. I think they are going to have to trade him, but they will have to pick up 80% to 90% of his contract to have him play elsewhere. If you think that paying $20 million a year for Alex Rodriguez not to play for the New York Yankees for the next five years is a great idea, you may very well get your wish.

* * *

If the New York Yankees really took seriously their bogus "the season is a failure without a World Series ring," then there should be a whole lot of heads on the chopping blog within the next day or two. But there won't be. There never is. Brian Cashman will get to keep his job, as will Girardi, as will Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, whose overpriced postseason tickets resulted in lame crowds and no sellouts. Maybe hitting coach Kevin Long will get fired, but that's about it.

And sorry, folks, but these 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox; there is not going to be a miraculous comeback. (For one thing, Jim Leyland, unlike Joe Torre in 2004, isn't going to help the opposition by doing the equivalent like not bunting off Curt Schilling and not running when Jason Varitek is catching Tim Wakefield. Not that I am bitter or anything!)

Even though I mentioned to my friend Sully Baseball that maybe this team's offense could use a shot of an adult beverage before a game, that still wouldn't change things. CC may pitch well tonight, but 2004 Sox hero Derek Lowe may be in the bullpen, but this team isn't going anywhere.

And why doesn't anybody in the media remind Brian Cashman, architect of this disaster, that he had this to say just 11 days ago, bragging about how he put this lineup together, which he claimed was like the late 90s Yankees, which is a joke in and of itself. (hat tip to my friend Steve of
“I want a team that walks and mashes,” Cashman said. “And if you can mash and hit home runs, then you can hit singles and doubles, too. We’re not going to hit triples. But we’re built the way we are for a reason.

“I’m still using the Gene Michael playbook, and this is about getting big, hairy monsters that mash and are selective at the plate. There’s a reason we’re perennially at the top of runs scored.”
Big, hairy monsters? More like a big, hairy disaster! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 New York Yankees!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On some Yankee fans' blatant double standard when it comes to booing

I got a variety of responses, both on Facebook and elsewhere, to my article defending Nick Swisher's complaints about Yankee fans booing him. Click here to read what people said in the comments section of Subway Squawkers. Thanks to everyone for weighing in on the subject. Anyhow, the whole thing got me thinking some more about when and where Yankee fans boo.

Since we started writing this blog way back in 2006, I have been consistent in being against Yankee boobirds. I swear, I think some fans just want to show up at the game so they can vent their frustrations in life against A-Rod/Swisher/Granderson/whoever their target du jour is. Because it's soooo much to endure being a fan of a team with 27 rings and the best record in the American League this year, still playing October baseball, y'all!

Sure, this postseason's batting struggles have been extremely frustrating. However, maybe it's because my co-Squawker is a Mets fan, but I do attempt these days to keep real fan misery in perspective. Not that Mets fans are perfect -- the way some of them scapegoated Carlos Beltran was terrible. But their season usually effectively ends in July. The fact the Yankees are still playing in October is something to be thankful for.

While I get complaining about the Yankee lineup these days -- I've done a ton of that recently! -- I don't get booing them, especially when some Yankee fans are focused on their two-minute hate against the designated Yankee scapegoats that they seem to have forgotten to boo the opponents!

Somebody brought up to me yesterday that Mickey Mantle got booed by Yankee fans. Yes, he was. So was Roger Maris, and Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield, and many other Yankee stars. And it was as stupid then to boo as it is now. Imagine the conversation young Yankee fans may have had with their elders over it:
"Tell me, grandpa, did you ever see Mickey Mantle play?" 
"Yes, I did, Bobby, and we booed our lungs out at him!"
Anyhow, the subject got me thinking about Yankee fans' reaction to another high-profile flop. Remember when Jorge Posada was batting .165 last May, and was 9 for his last 62, and Joe Girardi had the nerve to bat him ninth against the Boston Red Sox? Unlike Alex Rodriguez, who has yet to throw a fit over being pinch-hit for, moved down the lineup, and benched during the postseason, Posada had a sitdown snit, pulling himself from the game and throwing a hissy fit. Then, instead of putting on a happy face, he pouted in the dugout. Oh, and he had his wife spread an excuse saying that his back was bothering him, when the only thing really hurting was his ego!

So you would think that these Yankee fans who are so appalled these days at A-Rod, and Granderson, and Swisher, and Cano, for committing the crime of hitting poorly would really have been outraged over Posada's sitdown strike. After all, not only was he not performing at the plate, something that, by their logic, should automatically be grounds for booing, but he also refused to play against the Red Sox, showing that he wasn't being a team player, but a diva. Then the next day, he gave a non-apology apology, saying that he "needed a day," and that he was "trying to move on." Lovely.

You can guess where I'm going with this. Not only was Posada not booed by these Yankee fans for the "Quit, quit, Jorge" act, but the Bleacher Creatures did a special salute for him the following night, while ESPN kept on focusing on fans holding up a "We stand behind Jorge" sign during the game. To top it all off, Posada got a standing ovation from Yankee fans when he came into the game to pinch-hit the next night. Here's what I wrote back then:
Look, I am not a fan of booing your own players. But vociferously cheering Posada was flat-out ridiculous. What, exactly, was he being hailed for? Was it for quitting on his own team? Insubordination? Pretending to be injured, when he really wasn't? Getting his wife to spread that phony story on Facebook and Twitter? Making a rather lame -- and late -- apology the next day? Sitting in the dugout making the Nomar face? Sorry, but there is nothing Posada did this weekend that was worth giving him a standing ovation for.
So keep that in mind the next time you hear Yankee fans justifying booing their own players. Many of the very same people doing the catcalls now gave Jorge Posada a standing ovation after he quit on his team, as if he were a victim or something.What hypocrites they are.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why Nick Swisher is right about the Yankee fans who boo their own

I wondered today if anybody was going to be the Eric Winston of the Yankees and call out those Yankee fans who have been booing their own players. Turns out that it was one-time fan favorite Nick Swisher, who is extremely unhappy that fans not only booed him, but blamed him for Derek Jeter getting hurt. has the story. Some will say that Swisher made a real gaffe here in telling the truth about the way some of the fans act. I applaud him for doing so.

Here are some of his comments, courtesy of Bryan Hoch:
“That’s the last thing that I ever thought would be in this ballpark, that people would get on you that bad. Especially your home, where your heart is, where you’ve been battling and grinding all year long. It’s just frustrating, man. You never want to be in that spot. It’s not like you’re trying to go out there and do bad on purpose. It’s just tough, man.”
"It hurts. Sometimes I’m a sensitive guy and some of the things people say, man, they get under your skin a little bit."
He also said that "it might be nice to get out of here and get to Detroit and hopefully pull out some wins over there." So yeah, he's looking forward to getting away from the home field disadvantage that some of our fan base provides! Hoch said on Twitter that other Yankees were "looking forward to change of scenery." Lovely.

Swisher obviously doesn't expect to be back in the Bronx next year. He has gone from being perhaps the most fan-friendly Yankees (and one of the most beloved Bombers) to reportedly hearing very nasty comments, and reportedly even threats, about himself and his wife. And according to Newsday, Swisher said he was serenaded with "Na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" in his final plate appearance.

Anyhow, I think Swisher has been horrendous in the playoffs, as he has been in every year as a Yankee. His defense was horrible last night, too. That being said, I would never boo him. And blaming him for Jeter getting hurt is idiotic. Why not blame Raul Ibanez for tying the game with a homer and going into extra innings? It makes about as much sense. Which is to say, no sense at all!

After hearing about Swisher, both my brother and Squawker Jon pointed out about Yankee fans being rude to Cliff Lee's wife. It's been mostly forgotten now, but Lee's wife being mistreated is undoubtedly why he turned down the Yankees' money. And given that Baltimore is on the rise, there is a very good chance that the Yankees will start losing free agents to them now. Why put up with the abuse and the negativity from Yankee fans, when in town like Baltimore, fans cheer, not boo, the home team? The Yankee fans who are booing Swisher and A-Rod and Granderson and Cano need a nice steaming cup of shut the heck up. I am sick and tired of these clowns making our fan base look bad. Enough!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Why are the Yankee playoff games not selling out?

The dirty little secret about the Yankees this postseason is that these games are not sellouts. Not only that, but according to Yahoo Sports, Yankee fans were being moved to better seats last night to cover this up.

There are a variety of reasons for this, of course -- the original ticket prices were too high (although StubHub has pushed the prices down; on both Friday or Saturday, I saw tickets for as low as $21, and I'm sure they went even lower), people can watch the games on big-screen TVs and get arguably a better view than they would at the ballgame, going to a playoff game can be a big time commitment, Friday's game was at a weird time, and Saturday's was scheduled at the last minute, etc.

But I have to wonder if the fan atmosphere, or lack thereof, is a turnoff. I have watched a lot of baseball over the past week, and Yankee Stadium appears to be the only place where fans boo their own players. Not only that, but the atmosphere, at least from what I have seen on TV, has mostly been pretty bad. With the exception of Game 3 of the ALDS, when Raul Ibanez made history, the crowd doesn't seem all that into it when it comes to rooting for the home team. Oakland and St. Louis and Washington and Baltimore and San Francisco and Detroit and Cincinnati had raucous crowds really into every pitch. New York, not so much.

Look at last night. A-Rod, of course, was booed repeatedly. But Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano also got some boos, too. What was up with that? I get the frustration that fans feel -- I feel it myself -- but the booing is not helping. And when the Tigers went ahead, 4-0, many of the fans fled the ballpark and went home.

I have to wonder if part of the reason for the crummy attendance is the lousy fan atmosphere. I have some non-baseball related work assignments I am doing this weekend, but even if I didn't, do I really want to sit next to somebody who is yelling anti-A-Rod stuff the whole evening, or booing other players? That's not exactly a spirit of fun. And I'm the type of person who will say something in response, so it's not going to end well!

Where is the Eric Winston of the Yankees? Who is going to step up and say that it's counterproductive to boo your own players? I'm not saying that people should cheer strikeouts, but just don't say anything then. Sure, we're all disappointed in the hitting. But booing A-Rod or Grandy or Swisher will not make any of them magically play better. It could make them press, though, and be even worse! It's not that complicated!

* * *

Speaking of pressing players, I am really tired of what Joe Girardi is doing with Alex Rodriguez these days. He is basically putting a target on A-Rod's back and making him the scapegoat for the Yankee failures.

Look, before you think I am reflexively defending A-Rod here, hear me out. I wrote before Girardi moved A-Rod down the lineup that he should be batting sixth, behind Ibanez. I also thought that pinch-hitting him with Raul Ibanez was the right move. How could it not be? Ibanez had two homers in the spot! I was even okay with benching A-Rod Friday, assuming that Granderson and/or Swisher would also be benched.

That being said, what Girardi is doing to A-Rod now is unfair. First of all, he was the only one benched in Game 5, which is singling him out in a time where his teammates have played just as poorly, if not poorer. Robinson Cano, who is supposed to be the best player on the team at this point,  is now hitting worse than Rodriguez, batting just .071, and going 0 for 22. Swisher isn't just hitting poorly; he also helped cost the Yanks the game with his poor fielding last night.

Second, it's not like Eric Chavez is setting the world on fire. He is 0 for 11 with six strikeouts in the postseason. Yet he is replaciing A-Rod over and over? It's ridiculous.

Third, the only way A-Rod is going to bust out of the slump is to get some playing time. Pinch-hitting for him when the Yankees are losing 4-0 is silly, especially when it's with Chavez. (Oh, and lost in the shuffle in last night's loss is that Girardi did one of his dumbest moves of the year in bringing in Derek Lowe with a 2-0 deficit to face the heart of the lineup. And guess what? The game became 4-0 in a hurry!)

Cal Ripken Jr. was saying that A-Rod needs to get mad about this. But aside from the fact that Rodriguez is trying to be a good team player here (something Cal should have done by taking a day off here and there), A-Rod getting ticked off will just reinforce some people's reputation that he's a diva.

More to the point, somebody in Yankeeland, whether it be a player, a coach, Brian Cashman, or a Steinbrenner, needs to tell Girardi to stop jerking A-Rod around like he's a yo-yo. Put him in the lineup in the same spot every day and leave him alone already. (This is what happened in 1977, when Billy Martin tried to get cute with moving Reggie around the lineup and benching him. It took several Yankee leaders to go to Billy and tell him to knock it off. What will happen now?)

Oh, and no, I don't think Rodriguez should fill in for Jeter at shortstop. He hasn't played the position since 2003, he has a bad hip, and, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, he's not built the same way as he was then, and he's old. And the haters will boo him the moment he makes an error. This would be a good idea why, exactly? Because the Yankees must have a former All-Star at shortstop? I don't get it.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Yikes! Derek Jeter fractures ankle on freaky play

I am still very upset about what happened to Derek Jeter last night. He fractured his ankle while trying to field Jhonny Peralta's grounder in the 12th inning. The game was already effectively over, thanks to Nick Swisher's poor defense on Delmon Young's double. But after seeing Jeter get hurt, I couldn't help but wonder if the Yankees' season was over. After all, Jeter has been one of the few Yankees to be consistently hitting well in the postseason.

I know some Squawker readers won't believe this, because I have no heart, and I have criticized Jeter in this blog, but I was fighting back tears seeing him lying on the ground like that, and then being helped off the field. It was pretty clear to everybody not named Ron Darling that he was pretty badly hurt right away. (A big clue, of course, was the fact that he didn't get up off the ground, not to mention the scream, which Squawker Jon noticed immediately.) It's just terrible. I hope Jeter makes a full recovery quickly, and is back in the starting lineup next Opening Day.

What also is terrible are the morons out there who I saw online last night making fun of Jeter for screaming when he got hurt, and who said he should suck it up and get over it. Then there are the idiots who said that they wished it were A-Rod getting injured, with one person saying she would be "doing the happy dance" if Rodriguez were injured instead.  Sure, they are in the minority, and I also saw some Red Sox and Mets fans who said very nice things about Jeter, but the fact that anybody would feel okay publicly saying such horrible sentiments is appalling. It's like the Kansas City fans openly cheering Matt Cassel getting knocked out of the game with a concussion. What is wrong with people?

I am not going to pull a Dan Shaughnessy and blame bloggers in their basements on the meanness in this culture. But if all you can think when you see a human being busting his ankle is how he should have taken it like a man (whatever that means) and not screamed, or that you wish it were A-Rod, you are a degenerate and a disgrace to humanity. Seek help immediately.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

My thoughts on Game 4, karma, and why I am worried about Game 5

I have to say that one thing I envy about other teams in baseball is that their fan bases haven't got as cynical and as demanding as ours. For all the patting on the back that we do about the pinstripes, and the tradition, I just don't get the way too many people in our fan base boo our own team's players not for not trying -- they are all trying -- but for not succeeding. And even when the Yankees win, too many of our fellow fans are still complaining up a storm, as my friend Jason Keidel aptly pointed out in a recent column. They seem to enjoy whining, especially about Alex Rodriguez.

To be sure, there is plenty of blame to go around on the Yankees this postseason, and not just to No. 13. While the Yankee pitching has been pretty close to flawless, the hitters leave something to be desired, with A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano, among others, not getting the job done. But I don't think that booing the players is the way to get them going. We lose home field advantage when our fans do that.

Does anybody really think that the booing helps things? It doesn't. And the fact is that the Yankees have had a losing record at home in the postseason since 2009. Incidentally, today's game is not a sellout, and there are plenty of tickets available at StubHub for below face value. I hope that fans who are going to cheer from the first out to the last -- or at least don't boo their own players -- will show up today.

* * *

Anyhow, I do not have a good feeling about today's game, and I am afraid that Baltimore has the momentum. It is time for Joe Girardi to make some big changes to the lineup. I would expect that A-Rod will be benched -- he got pinch-hit for again last night, and I don't think he will start today against a righthander. (So who will the haters blame if the Yankees lose without him?)

My guess is that Raul Ibanez will most likely be in the lineup, as will Eric Chavez. And Squawker reader Jo-Lynn had another idea:
Hi Lisa. Wanted to get your thoughts on something. I was at the game last night with my husband who is not much of a baseball fan but enjoys playoff atmosphere in the Bronx. Since he has no vested interest in either team (other than when the Yankees win it makes his wife very happy) he was able to make so observations. One was what we are all saying – no one is hitting with the exception of one two on either team. He was marveling at the .100 and .0something batting averages. The one that stuck out most to him was Granderson’s .067 or something like that. He brought it up again this morning and asked me what happed to that Brett Gardner guy. 

Got me thinking – A-Rod is going to sit most likely today because of the righty. Why no sit Granderson too and start Gardner? He hasn’t forgotten how to catch a fly ball – put him in left, Ichiro in Center or vice versa. Sure Gardner’s bat may be rusty, but Granderson is abysmal. Gardner can bunt – sac or base hit style – and chances are he’ll get the bat on the ball and maybe beat out an infield hit or make an infielder rush a throw. More times than not those little things seem to wake up a team. You’re probably going to have to leave either Granderson or Swisher in because I don’t know that Ibanez really should be in the outfield, so I’d remove Granderson. 

How many times are you going to run the same guys out there expecting it to turn around? If this was July you’d wait it out. I liken it to a football team trying to go for the long passes and being covered. They’d change it up, throw some short 5 or 10 yard passes under the coverage in hopes of eventually opening up the deeper routes later on. Eli’s not going to keep throwing to Nicks and Cruz deep if they are covered all game.
Why not? Gardner may not be at 100%, but could he be worse than Granderson or Swisher at this point? And Girardi claimed that he could hit again -- he pinch-hit against Boston at the end of the season. It's worth a try. If the Yanks keep on doing what they have been doing, they'll keep on getting what they've been getting.

Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards -- AL votes

Squawker Jon and I are members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Each year, we get the opportunity to vote on which players we think should win individual awards. I will vote for the American League, and Jon is voting for the National League. These choices are based on the regular season only, and not the playoffs. Here are my picks, and the reasons why I chose these people:

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year): Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: I recently took my Yankee hat off to write an article elsewhere about what you can learn from Showalter's leadership. (Read it here!) No matter who you root for, you have to admit that Showalter did with the Orioles is truly remarkable. True, Oakland had the huge comeback this year, but resurrecting Baltimore was a much tougher deal, between having to work for Peter Angelos, one of the worst owners in baseball, and competing in the AL East, the toughest division in baseball, with only an $84 million payroll. The O's came within a game of tying the Yankees' record, even though their payroll is over 60% lower than the Yanks. Not only that, but if you look at run differential, the Orioles should have won 11 fewer games this season than they did. Credit their manager for that.

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year): Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels:  I'm voting for Trout, who has had a remarkable season for anybody, let alone a rookie, leading the league in runs and stolen bases and hitting 30 home runs. Not to mention the .399 OBP. I won't even hold his the unfortunately-named Twitter account against him. @Trouty20? Really?

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever): Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays: Although with 51 saves, the Orioles' Jim Johnson is arguably Baltimore's team MVP (speaking of which, Rafael Soriano is my pick for the Yankees' team MVP -- replaced a legend with ease.), he's not my pick here. Fernando Rodney is my choice. He has a miniscule 0.60 ERA and 0.777 WHIP, along with 48 saves and 76 strikeouts, outdoing everybody else.

October 18: Walter Johnson Award (Top Starter): David Price, Tampa Bay Rays: While the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander had another great season, Price, who led the league in wins and ERA and was tied for third in WHIP, gets my vote.

October 19: Stan Musial Award (MVP): Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: This is the award I feel most passionate about. Cabrera should win this for several reason -- he had the first Triple Crown since 1967 (and I don't get those sabermetrics folks who denigrate the Triple Crown as arbitrary -- do not homers, RBI, and great batting averages help win games? Baseball is a game of numbers!)  He also switched positions from first to third so Prince Fielder could join the team. And his great play down the stretch got the Tigers into the playoffs. Three years ago, I was infuriated with him for going on a drinking bender on the last weekend of the season. Now, I have to applaud him as the top AL position player of the year, beating Trout. The Angels star had a great season, but I give Cabrera the edge because of the Triple Crown, and him getting his team into the playoffs.

2012 National League Awards

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance will begin announcing its choices next week for baseball's best of 2012. Here are my votes for the National League awards.

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year) 

Davey Johnson, Nationals: Washington had the best record in baseball and the Nationals won the first full division title in franchise history (the 1981 Expos won the second-half division title in a strike-divided season).

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)

Bryce Harper, Nationals: 5.0 WAR led the Nationals. Hit .270 with 22 homers, 98 runs, 18 steals and 59 RBI.

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)

Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Historic season featured 116 strikeouts in 62.2 innings for record 16.7 batters per nine innings.1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, .126 batting average against. 42 saves in 45 chances.

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)

R.A. Dickey, Mets: Won 20 games for a 74-88 team. First in strikeouts, second in ERA and wins and third in WHIP, going 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP with 230 strikeouts.

Stan Musial Award (MVP) 

Buster Posey, Giants: Led National League in WAR with 7.2. Second in OPS with .957. First catcher to win the batting title in the NL since Boston Braves' Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Hit .336 with 24 homers, 103 RBI and 78 runs. Played for division-winning team.

Search This Blog