Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fight for the 5th spot begins soon

Joba Chamberlain is gunning for the fifth spot in the New York Yankees rotation, planning to get to Tampa weeks before the official start of spring training to prepare. It's going to be a helluva battle between Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, with Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin in the mix.

But mainly it's a fight between the two home-grown Yankees. In a sense, Joba has an edge going into this season because he will no longer have to contend with the Yankees' attempts to limit his innings. The constantly evolving plan to protect Joba did more harm than good, messing with his rhythm and head and contributing to his struggles during the last two months of the 2009 season.

After throwing only 86 innings last year, Hughes will be facing strict restrictions, which will likely play into the equation when Joe Girardi & Co. choose a fifth starter. Hughes showed great promise as Mariano Rivera's set-up man in the regular season, but stumbled badly in the playoffs. On the other hand, Joba has shown more confidence and fire coming out of the bullpen, another factor to consider.

We'll see who ends up on top (or rather at the bottom of the rotation). Let the battle begin!

Thanks to BubbaFan via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Teams right to lock up young stars

I was heartened to hear that the Minnesota Twins are close to signing catcher and reigning American League Most Valuable Player Joe Mauer to a long-term extension. The National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies have also locked up several young players over the last few weeks.

With the Detroit Tigers working on a long-term deal with pitcher Justin Verlander and the Seattle Mariners signing King Felix Hernandez to a multi-year deal earlier this month, there appears to be an extensive effort in baseball for teams to avoid a nasty arbitration process by signing their young stars.

As a New York Yankees fan, I'd be salivating at the prospect of signing any of these kids when they hit free agency. But I think these teams are smart to try to avoid that possibility by signing them to long-term deals that cover their peak years. You don't want to wait until they hit free agency and watch helplessly as the Evil Empire snaps them up with expensive contracts (I've always liked that nickname!).

Most importantly, I think other teams keeping their young players is really good for baseball. It keeps the competitive balance intact and allows these stars the chance to play their entire careers for the same team, an increasingly rare feat these days.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yankees should honor Bernie Williams

Who's going to be the New York Yankees centerfielder this year? Curtis Granderson? Brett Gardner? Randy Winn? I remember a time not too long ago when the answer to that question was settled. Bernie Williams became the Yankees CF in 1993 and held that position for the next 12 years, becoming a favorite among us Yankee fans for his clutch regular and postseason performances and his quiet, amusingly distracted demeanor.

Bernie is all over the place these days, gently mocking his former teammates at an awards dinner and hosting a charity event today. He seems content to focus on playing beautiful music, with an occasional foray into baseball. He played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, one of the main reasons I tuned in to watch.

I'd love to see the Yankees officially honor Bernie Williams with a day at the new stadium, celebrating his accomplishments and retiring his number 51 so that no other player ever wears it. The problem, of course, is that Bernie hasn't officially retired from baseball. I think if he did announce his retirement, then the Yanks would quickly organize a major bash in his honor. And all of us Bernie fans would be lining up to get those tickets.

Thanks to Chris Ptacek and Amineshaker via Wikipedia for the photo.

Damon shouldn't drag Jeter into dispute

Unlike most baseball players, Johnny Damon has been quite visible during his free agency, granting numerous interviews to local reporters. He was at it again yesterday, telling the WFAN's Mike Francesa that he hopes New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter doesn't have to go through the same hell that he has when the Captain hits free agency in November.

"Hopefully, this doesn't happen with Derek next year," he said. "I say there's no way Derek can go anywhere else. I hope he's not offered a 40-45% pay cut."

This is the second time Damon's camp has brought up Jeter during the negotiations. The first time, agent Scott Boras compared Damon's stats to Jeter and said he deserved a three or four-year extension to keep batting behind the Captain. Now I like Damon, but he is no Derek Jeter and neither he nor his agent should be mentioning Jeter at all.

Damon said he wanted to stay with the Yankees for two more years because the team had a great chance to return to the playoffs and he wanted to see Jeter get 3,000 hits. "No Yankee has ever done that," he said. "I thought that would be pretty cool."

The now former Yankee outfielder claims he has no hard feelings toward the team, blaming the luxury tax situation for much of the trouble negotiating an extension. But he obviously is unhappy with the way things played out, particularly with the Yankees portrayal of him and Boras overreaching with his salary demands.
"The book closed on Johnny a long time ago," Brian Cashman bluntly said Thursday during an interview on the Yankees Hot Stove show before adding that Damon sought a deal comparable to his last contract when he was four years younger playing a premium position (center field).

Damon is hopeful for a Yankee return. "I love New York," he said. "I never say never." But that seems unlikely after such a bitter split.

Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, January 29, 2010

No new pacts for Jeter, Mo anytime soon

The New York Yankees are firmly sticking to the team policy of not negotiating with baseball players until their contracts expire, even if they are part of the team's core. Brian Cashman made it clear that he has no intention of departing from that policy for future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

Cashman is apparently concerned about potential disruptions in the team's relationships with its players, observing that if he started negotiating a contract with Jeter, he couldn't justify not talking to Mo about a deal. Cashman also noted that both manager Joe Girardi and Andy Pettitte are on their walk years too (although Pettitte always considers retirement in the offseason). But Jeter and Mo aren't just any players, they are playoff stars and living Yankee legends, even as their careers continue.

The Yankees general manager didn't sound like he was expecting any trouble re-signing Jeter, rightly noting that Jeter wants to stay with the Yanks and that the team wants him back. It's important to Jeter to remain a lifetime Yankee given that all he ever wanted to do growing up was play shortstop for the Bronx Bombers. It's probably equally as important to Mo. He did speculate about signing with another team during his last contract negotiations, but that might have been a negotiating ploy or some residual upset feelings about Joe Torre being pushed out as manager.

Whatever the reasons, the Yankees will eventually have to re-sign both Jeter and Mo. The possibility of a Yankees team without either one of them is unthinkable.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photos.

ARod in good spirits, good health

Alex Rodriguez is in good spirits and good health these days, fresh off the New York Yankees 2009 World Series win and an offseason that didn't require another hip surgery. ARod is looking forward to playing baseball again soon. "It's going to be fun defending our title," Rodriguez said in an interview on the YES Network with Kimberly Jones.

This is in stark contrast to last year, when ARod was publicly outed and humiliated as a steroids user, followed by an unexpected injury that cost him the first six weeks of the season. ARod was scared that his career was over. "It was a painful road and one that wasn't a lot of fun for me," he said. "I'm glad that's behind me now."

ARod answered all the questions with a solid regular season and, more importantly for Yankee fans, a clutch playoff performance that won him postseason MVP honors. "It was good because I was sick of hearing that" he wasn't clutch.
No one is questioning that now.

Thanks to Randy Oostdyk via Wikipedia for the photo.

Jeter reeling in the dough for good cause

Derek Jeter is just as passionate about his Turn 2 Foundation as he is about baseball so this weekend is really important. The New York Yankees Captain is hosting a series of events in his hometown Tampa to raise money for his foundation, including a golf tournament with participants such as basketball legend and Jeter idol Michael Jordan and his good pal Jorge Posada.

The Turn 2 Foundation has already received $150,000 check from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Mingling with Jeter & friends on the golf course will cost $500 per ticket, which doesn't seem like a lot of money when you consider the cause. The foundation, started in 1996 and run by the Jeter family, aims to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol. The success of the foundation, largely driven by Jeter's good name and popularity in and out of baseball, is astounding: more than $10 million to fund empowerment programs in Florida, Michigan and New York.

The Turn 2 website reflects that success, showing pictures and videos of the children participating in the programs. Jeter photos are rare on the site and I think that's intentional. Jeter would much prefer to highlight the accomplishments of the kids rather than himself.

The foundation is obviously doing well and I hope the best for its future for the sake of the kids. Too often, when a player retires and is gone from the daily spotlight, their charitable endeavors suffer simply because of a lack of visibility. But I doubt Jeter will let that happen to Turn 2.

Thanks to OneTwo1 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sad end to Damon's Yankee career

Parting is such a sweet sorrow. In the case of Johnny Damon and the New York Yankees, it's a sad, bitter end to a successful career in the Bronx.

Both sides tried to put the best face on the situation although they were also quick to point fingers at each other. But it's sad for everyone when a successful collaboration comes to an end. Although his defensive skills were on the decline, Damon proved to be the perfect number 2 hitter behind Yankee Captain Derek Jeter. He could still engage in gritty at-bats and change games on the bases, as he did in Game 4 of the World Series last year against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Both sides are at fault here. Ultimately, Damon has to take the blame for not coming off his contract demands before the Yankees started looking elsewhere. Damon's comments that he didn't want to start a trend of older players taking less money is ludicrous. It's quite common for players to get smaller deals during the last few years of their careers. That's sounds like agent Scott Boras filling his head, but it's up to the player to take control in these situations so they don't end up out of a job.

Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, all of sudden concerned with a budget after years of out-of-control spending, could have been more flexible in not initially demanding Damon take a 50% paycut after the year he had or offering more than the $2 million they stuck to at the end. I don't believe for a second they could not have met Damon and Boras halfway when a few million was all that stood between them and the continuation of Damon's productive career in the Bronx.

Very sad indeed =(

Thanks to Ken N and Mattingly23 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bye Johnny! Winn deal closes door on return

Sorry Johnny Damon! Your New York Yankees career is now over. The Yankees have signed outfielder Randy Winn to a one-year contract worth $2 million to take Damon's place in left field.

The Yankees are getting exactly what they are paying for. Winn's not as strong a hitter as Damon (he hit .262 last year, but .300 and .306 the previous seasons), but he's a year younger. Plus, he's a defensive upgrade from Damon, although not necessarily from Brett Gardner. Even though I was rooting for Brett to get a real chance at the job, I knew deep down that the Yankees weren't going into the baseball season with just him as the left field option.

Damon had a legitimate shot this week at returning to the Bronx, but he and agent Scott Boras apparently couldn't put aside their pride to take what the Yanks were offering. With the market collapsing around him, he'll likely end up on an inferior team for about the same money. It's a real shame.

Thanks to Onetwo1 via Wikipedia for the photo.

McGwire return no excuse to lift Rose ban

I'm getting sick and tired of the argument that Mark McGwire's return to baseball after he publicly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs should pave the way for Pete Rose to once again be accepted by the fraternity.
Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after he was accused of betting on baseball, yet it still took him 15 years to admit that he did. In fact, he publicly denied it to anyone who would listen.

Both Rose and McGwire did irreparable damage to the game of baseball. But McGwire's sin in many ways is much worse because he and fellow steroid cheats made hitting those massive longballs glamorous. How many young kids saw what McGwire did and wanted to emulate him in every way, including using steroids and other drugs? How many of those kids died?

I do agree that Bud Selig is being a bit hypocritical by welcoming McGwire back, but that doesn't mean he should automatically give Rose the same consideration. I would rather have seen Selig come down hard on McGwire and other steroid users for soiling the game.

I'm not thrilled about McGwire's return to baseball, just as I wouldn't ever want to see Rose back in the game. But McGwire will be subject to the minimum level of punishment that I believe all steroid and human growth hormone cheats should have to suffer: denied entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose deserves to continue to suffer the same fate.

Thanks to Kjunstorm via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mo's best closer in real baseball

The Bleacher Report published its fantasy baseball list of the top closers. Jonathan Broxton of the Los Angeles Dodgers gets the nod as the top fantasy closer because of his high strikeout totals. But the Bleacher Report acknowledges that New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the better choice to save a close game even though he finished number 2 on the list.

If Dodgers manager Joe Torre could be honest, he would probably say he would rather have Rivera closing out games for him in LA than Broxton. Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history and is the biggest reason why Torre has four World Series rings to wear.

I played in a fantasy league for a while so I know they are geared around stats and are not necessarily reflective of the best players at each position. If they were based on sheer dominance, Mo would be number one with a bullet. Same thing for Derek Jeter, even though some fantasy league owners would use his relatively low home run and RBI numbers as a reason not to pick him for their teams.

Fantasy league aside, Rivera is the best closer in baseball. As Spring Training approaches, there will be a lot of questions coming up about his health and how long he can keep pitching. Rivera said after the World Series that he could pitch another five years. I don't doubt him for a second.
Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Take the Core Fore Yankees home

Anyone who wants to take the Core Four Yankees home with them will soon be able to do so. A boxed set featuring Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte figurines will go on sale next month, right in time for Spring Training baseball.

My favorite figurine is Mo coming out of the bullpen. It would be perfect if you actually could hear Enter Sandman playing in the background!

The boxed set offered by McFarlane Toys appropriately honors the Core Four of the New York Yankees for winning their fifth World Series title together (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009).
Unfortunately, the Web site is a bit short on details right now, but I'm sure they will soon post information on ordering online and price. There will be a lot of demand from Yankee fans. I definitely want a set.

Thanks to Googie man via en. Wikipedia for the photo.

Jeter can pass Rose on all-time hits list

Sometime early next year, Derek Jeter will pass the magic 3,000-hit mark that makes most baseball players a lock for the Hall of Fame (although Jeter is already a lock). But Rob Neyer wonders if Jeter can pass Pete Rose (not in the Hall) for the all-time hits record, which stands at 4,256.
Neyer thinks the answer is No. By his calculations, Jeter will wind up with 3,692 hits, good for 4th place on the all-time hits list, behind Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron and ahead of Stan Musial. That's amazing company to keep, something that Jeter will surely appreciate.
But I hope Jeter sees Neyer's column. Although it's clearly not a criticism, Jeter thrives on challenges and might make it his mission to prove Neyer and any other doubters wrong. When people criticized his defense, Jeter worked hard on improving his range and flexibility and was rewarded with another Gold Glove.
Former Yankee great Paul O'Neill said that Jeter is the most confident player he's ever played with, except for maybe Pete Rose. Jeter's never been about personal stats, but he is incredibly competitive. If the Yankee Captain feels he has a chance to catch Rose, he will go after him with everything he has.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, January 25, 2010

NY will love Granderson, will he love NY?

Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press outlines the reasons why New York will love Curtis Granderson. Even during his introductory press conference, you could tell Granderson is a charming and engaging guy, which will go a long way in winning over the New York fans and the media.

Granderson is also well known for being a good guy in the clubhouse and in the community. Team chemistry was critical to the New York Yankees' successful title run last year and Granderson will be a great addition if he can contribute to that fun, positive vibe. And with his community service, he fits right in with a Yankees team led by Captain Derek Jeter, who has made it a personal mission to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol.

But will Granderson love New York? Yankee fans are notoriously brutal on new players. Even Tino Martinez, who is now beloved by Yankee fans, was booed viciously after replacing icon Don Mattingly. And Granderson will not be the center of attention on a baseball team with Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, among other stars. Many players would welcome that: we'll see if Granderson falls into that category.

As long as Granderson doesn't put too much pressure on himself and is not terrible sensitive to criticism, which will come quickly if he struggles early in the season, then he should be welcomed with open arms.

Thanks to TheKuLeR via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Jeter will be a highlight of SNL special

Saturday Night Live is planning a special for Sunday, Jan. 31 featuring the sports stars who have hosted the show over the years. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter figures to be prominently featured as several skits from his hosting gig in 2001 are worthy of inclusion.

The Baseball Wives skit featuring Jeter as a disturbingly attractive woman, Mrs. Alfonso Soriano to be exact, probably makes the list. It was hilarious, poking fun at Roger Clemens' temper issues and Jeter's own looks. Another pretty funny skit was the Masseuse, featuring an overly emotional Chris Kattan rubbing down a shy and increasingly concerned Jeter. To this day, every time I hear that Enya song, I think of Kattan massaging the Yankee Captain and it still makes me laugh.

I also enjoyed the Point/Counterpoint segment on Weekend Update with Jeter trying to convince Boston Red Sox fan Seth Meyers that Jeter doesn't suck. The SNL folks might choose the Iglesias Brothers skit, which had funny moments with Kattan and Jimmy Fallon impersonating Enrique and Julio Iglesias. But that skit is weakened by Jeter's inability to carry a tune (his teammates have complained about his off-key singing for years).

One skit I don't expect to see is Derek Jeter's Taco Hole, not funny at all.

By the way, I personally thought Charles Barkley was great even though sports commentators beat him up pretty good for his recent SNL performance. I thought he was really funny in the Scared Straight skit, the gameshow skit and being mesmerized by Kristen Wiig's gross seductress. Admittedly, he wasn't in the funniest skit of the night, which had Fred Armisen impersonating New York Governor David Paterson with a slew of jokes at New Jersey's expense.

The SNL special is going to be great fun. Too bad it's going against the Grammys.

Thanks OneTwo1 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ARod honored for big playoff performance

Alex Rodriguez was honored this weekend for finally coming through in the playoffs after years of futility. The Baseball Writers' Association of America recognized his monster playoff run with the Postseason MVP.
ARod wasn't the only Yankee winner of the evening. The Core Four Yankees (Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte) were honored for winning their fifth World Series title together. Bernie Williams presented the award, mocking Rivera's extreme need for perfection even when making lunch and Jeter's bachelor lifestyle. And Jeter was also honored with the Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town award.
It seems like it was a night full of fun moments. But if we asked the attendees, the highlight probably was Aaron Boone receiving the You Gotta Have Heart award after coming back from open-heart surgery. Boone was the central figure in one of the most iconic moments of the last decade, his extra innings home run against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. He will always have a special place in the hearts of Yankee fans and it great to see him healthy again.
Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Is a Damon return really possible?

Apparently, the reports of the end of Johnny Damon's career with the New York Yankees were premature. All that's keeping the outfielder from returning to the Bronx are money and pride, both major hurdles.

The Yankees are reportedly talking to agent Scott Boras about a possible return, but have made it clear that they fully intend to stick to their budget. So if Damon wants to return, he's going to have to do it at the team's price, much below the $13 million per year he and Boras were looking for before his market collapsed.

The idea of taking a pay cut after his solid year must really burn Damon. But he should look on the bright side. Bobby Abreu took a major pay hit last year, going from $20 million a year to a $5 million deal, but was rewarded with a two-year contract worth another $19 million after having a strong year for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But Abreu did leave the Yankees. We'll see if Damon decides to do the same or whether he can put his pride aside and take what the Yanks are offering because playing baseball in the Bronx is really the best move for him.

Thanks to Ken N via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mets having a really bad week

I'm surprised Omar Minaya is able to get out of bed in the morning after the week he and the Mets have had. First Bengie Molina spurns them to return to the San Francisco Giants. Now comes word that Joel Pineiro, the free-agent pitcher they were targeting, is heading for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Mets planned makeover is taking a serious hit this week. They had success earlier signing Jason Bay to a less expensive deal than he was searching for, but they couldn't do the same with Molina. And they really needed to get some rotation help for Johan Santana and they couldn't do that either.
So what's next for the Mets? Minaya is going to have to go back to the drawing board and see who's left out there who could help. They may have to take a risk on an injury-plagued Ben Sheets to excite their base and fulfill a major need.

Thanks to Wknight94 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yanks play key role in baseball's great streaks

The MLB Network had a great special this week called MLB Remembers: Baseball Oddities, Crazy Games and Streaks. They showed fantastic clips from quirky events in baseball that many young fans didn't know about such as Cubs outfielder Rick Monday saving the American flag from being burned on April 25, 1976 (four days after I was born!).

Another story featured in the special was the Disco Demolition Night fiasco on July 12, 1979 at Comiskey Park. What started out as a silly promotion eventually forced the second game of a doubleheader to be forfeited, the last one forfeit in the American League.

But my favorite part of the special was the last third of the show, which highlighted the greatest baseball streaks. The Yankees played key roles in several of those streaks, including Joe DiMaggio's 54-game hitting streak and Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak, broken by Cal Ripken Jr. Quite fittingly, Ripken ended the streak in a 1998 game against the Yankees, to the applause of Jorge Posada and other Yankee players. The special showed the Yanks taking their rightful place in the middle of some of the greatest moments in baseball history.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is Mariano Rivera worth?

The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with all-star closer Jonathan Papelbon by signing him to a one-year deal worth $9.35 million. The Boston Herald points out that the deal makes Papelbon only the 8th highest paid closer, even though he is higher than that on the quality list.

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is the highest paid closer in baseball, making about $15 million a year. But this is the last year of his current contract so the real question remains to be answered: What is Mariano Rivera worth?

Mo had another successful regular season and fantastic playoff run in 2009. Unless he has a terrible 2010 campaign, he will be looking for a nice raise. How much more should Mo get? My answer is simple: whatever he wants.

The Yankees will obviously try to hold the line on any salary increase, but they would be in a bad spot if they try to pinch pennies with the greatest closer in baseball history. It would be a much worse public relations disaster than the Mets openly embarrassing Carlos Beltran by accusing him of having an unsanctioned surgery. I doubt the Yankees want to take that risk.

Aside from the PR damage, the Yanks have a real baseball problem on their hands if they get into a contract battle with Rivera. The team has no replacement for him (they don't even have a reliable set-up man for him at this point) so what are their options? They could try to sign a free-agent closer or trade for one, but there's no one in baseball with his track record of success, particularly in the postseason. And would anyone want to be the guy who replaces a pushed-out Rivera in the Bronx? I don't think so. Yankee fans would treat him worse than they treat the Red Sox.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Straw, Doc join Mets Hall of Fame

Addressing a common complaint among New York Mets fans, the team has decided to celebrate more of its history by expanding the Mets Hall of Fame. The team will induct Darryl Strawberry, Dwight "Doc" Gooden, manager Davey Johnson and general manager Frank Cashen, key components of the team's 1986 World Series championship.
Strawberry and Gooden are remembered fondly in both Queens and the Bronx for their contributions to winning teams. Doc pitched a no-hitter with the New York Yankees in 1996 while Straw was an important hitter during the Yankees late 1990s dynasty. But they first achieved superstardom with the Mets. Strawberry won the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year award after hitting 26 home runs. Gooden won the 1984 ROY award, following that up with the NL Cy Young award in 1985 after winning 24 games with a 1.53 ERA.
Of course, their time with the Mets was also when their drug and alcohol abuse problems began. Playing baseball in New York for that rough-and-tumble team wasn't the best environment for impressionable kids. But ultimately it was Strawberry and Gooden who made the choices that led them down that dark path and ruined what otherwise could have been legendary careers.
With these inductions, the Mets are addressing an issue important to their fans: the idea that the beautiful Citi Field celebrates the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers more than the Mets. I didn't really see this as an issue: the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is one of my favorite features of the new ballpark. But some fans were really bothered by this and it's nice to see the Mets being responsive to those concerns. Let's face it: at this point, they need to do everything they can to make the fans happy, including letting them watch two of their favorite Mets being honored this summer.

Thanks slgckgc via Wikipedia for the photos.

Ouch! Bengie Molina disses Mets

It had been a foregone conclusion that Bengie Molina would sign with the New York Mets after coming off a demand for a multi-year contract. So imagine the surprise generated all around baseball by a report that Molina chose to re-sign with the San Francisco Giants for one year at $4.5 million.

Molina was supposed to be an integral part of the Mets' makeover, hitting in the middle of the line-up with new acquisition Jason Bay and bringing stability to the backstop position. Omar Minaya was constantly fielding questions about Molina, including at the press conference to introduce Bay. Last week, the two sides were reportedly closing in on a deal. So what happened? When did it all fall apart? I'll be watching closely over the next few days to see the spin on this one.

Could the Mets recent public relations disaster with Carlos Beltran have contributed to Molina's decision? Unclear, but it probably didn't help. A free agent wants to know that the team he is choosing to play for is going to treat him well. With the Mets publicly calling out their outfielder for a supposedly unsanctioned surgical procedure, Molina could not have been too confident that things would work out for him in New York.

Thanks to Lizzy Ramone via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yankees wisely avoid arbitration fights

The New York Yankees avoided arbitration by signing the last two eligible players Chad Gaudin and Boone Logan to one-year deals. It was a very wise decision.

Arbitration disputes can be contentious under the best of circumstances and you don't want to take the risk of any lingering resentment heading into the baseball season. Both players could play key roles this season, with Gaudin battling for the fifth rotation spot and Logan serving as the second lefty in the bullpen.
Even playoff heros have to navigate the nasty process, which encourages teams to bad mouth their players to save dollars and forces the players to defend their resumes. Before they signed long-term deals, Yankee Captain Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera both went through the arbitration process. Jeter won his 1999 case and received $5 million, but was bothered listening to the Yanks talk about how he didn't hit enough homers. Mo actually lost an arbitration case in 2000, getting $2 million less than what he asked for.

It's good to see the Yankees have learned the error of their ways. I thought with the penny pinching the Yanks seem to be doing to keep to their budget, securing their remaining players to deals outside the arbitration process might be difficult. Glad to see that wasn't the case.

Thanks to Chrisjnelson via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Are teams starting to spend Yankee bucks?

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, with a push from the players' union, is finally telling small-market teams to spend money on their players, rather than stuffing the dollars they get from the richer teams, primarily the New York Yankees, into their pockets. The Florida Marlins took the first step this week, signing pitcher Josh Johnson to a four-year, $39 million deal.

Yankee officials have long been frustrated by the fact that other teams spend the money they receive from the Bronx Bombers to pay down their corporate debt or improve their profitability by hoarding the money rather than expanding their payrolls.

Of course, a major benefit for the Yankees is that when teams such as the Marlins or the Pittsburgh Pirates decide they can't afford their players, they trade them away for virtually nothing or let them go as free agents. This is how the Yanks recently ended up with guys like Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Of course, it's also how they ended up with Carl Pavano, so I guess it's a mixed blessing.

Yankee fans have long been spoiled by the fact that George Steinbrenner would spend whatever he thought was necessary to get his team a World Series title. But things have changed in baseball, with even his son Hal having a budget. Of course, it's a budget around $200 million so the Yanks will never be accused of being frugal. But it really irks them that other teams don't share a similar commitment. It's time that changes and this represents a good first step.

Thanks to MissChatter via Wikipedia for the photo.

When will McGwire mess fade away?

Six days after a sobbing Mark McGwire finally admitted his reported steroids use, the story continues to dominate Major League Baseball. Will it fade away anytime soon? Unlikely, with McGwire heading to spring training to serve as the St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach.

Even though the the admission shocked no one, the story continues to have a life of its own. One major reason is McGwire's unwillingness to acknowledge that the steroids helped make him a stronger hitter, boosting the power numbers that would have led to an automatic Hall of Fame entry if his steroids use never came to light. The other problem is that some baseball watchers still question why he couldn't tell the truth during the 2005 Congressional hearings, waiting until now when he wanted to get back into baseball.

Former Congressman Tom Davis said McGwire had legitimate concerns about potential prosecution, even though criminal inquiries have focused on the distributors rather than the users. But he also said legislators could not back down from asking him about steroids use. "We weren't going to let him off the hook," Davis said. "That sets a terrible precedent."
The Cardinals family has mostly rallied around McGwire, but the circus that will surround them this year is unfair, particularly to Albert Pujols. McGwire said Pujols will go down as the greatest player in the history of the game and he seemed a bit sorry that Pujols' accomplishments are questioned due to the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. "I hope people understand how great this guy is," McGwire said.

Of course, that support is not universal. Former Cardinals and New York Yankees slugger Jack Clark verbally bashed McGwire this week, calling his confession a "cop-out" and saying he feels sick at the sight of McGwire in a uniform. It's a feeling shared by many fellow baseball players and fans, who will no doubt take the opportunity to verbally abuse McGwire when the Cardinals go out on the road. Of course, that could result in a boost in Cardinals' away attendance, but mostly it extends the drama, with no end in sight for McGwire or baseball.

Thanks to Johnmaxmena via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Boss is back

George Steinbrenner made a welcome appearance at the spring training facility of the New York Yankees as exhibition season tickets went on sale Friday. Anytime The Boss makes a public appearance, it's always a good sign. It reminds everyone no matter how much things change around the team, some things stay the same.

Yes, Hal Steinbrenner is firmly in charge of the baseball team, directing the budget and approving or disapproving personnel moves. But the very presence of the Boss best symbolizes the Yankee mission: a championship every year. It's a high standard, extremely difficult to achieve as shown by the eight years between World Series titles, but it works. It keeps players and everyone around the team focused on the ultimate prize.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mets season may be over before it starts

Just when I thought Mets officials were starting to get their act together, here comes the unnecessarily public spat over Carlos Beltran's knee surgery. The Mets claim that Beltran had the surgery without their explicit permission and without giving them a chance to get another medical opinion. Beltran and agent Scott Boras claim the team doctor gave his blessing to go ahead with the procedure and general manager Omar Minaya did not object in a phone conversation with the Mets center fielder.

Who's right doesn't really matter at this point. But the Mets have reached a new level of dysfunction with this incident. The club's eagerness to publicly bash Beltran and implicitly threaten his contract is baffling. Why would a team want to alienate one of its star players? If they are serious about trying to void his contract, which doesn't make much sense from a baseball perspective, then they should have done so quietly rather than making a public spectacle.

The New York Yankees' crosstown rivals are really creating an ugly situation for themselves that will threaten their season, especially because Beltran is reportedly angry about the public spat. Team officials were on their way toward really improving their ballclub with the signing of Jason Bay (wonder what he's thinking about signing with the Mets now) and closing in on a deal with Bengie Molina. But now baseball people and probably Mets fans are questioning how they are running the team. It's a legitimate concern.

Thanks to Wknight94 via Wikipedia for the photo.

How long can Derek Jeter play short?

Derek Jeter was the best shortstop of the 2000-2009 decade, according to the MLB Network. He may be the second greatest shortstop in baseball history, says
But people are starting to wonder how much longer he can play the position for the New York Yankees. Former Yankee Al Leiter called it the "big pink elephant" in the room.

Can the Yankee Captain stay at short beyond the 2010 expiration of his current contract? I wouldn't bet against him. He'll be 36 in June, well past the age that is considered the peak for a middle infielder. But Jeter takes incredible care of himself and is constantly working to improve his skills.
The Yankees would be in a real tough spot if they ever did want to move him. Given everything he's done for the team, he's earned the right to keep playing short as long as he wants. Ultimately, it has to be his decision to move to another position. Jeter is a team guy and would probably make the move if he thought it could help the club. But he is an extremely confident guy and he probably believes he's best suited to play shortstop for the New York Yankees until he retires.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

David Wright stepping up for HGH test

I've gotten pretty cynical about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball so I was pleasantly surprised to see Mets third baseman David Wright voicing support for testing for human growth hormone.

One of the reasons why the steroid era lasted as long as it did was that too many of the clean players stayed quiet. It's nice to finally see a player like Wright step up in favor of improving the drug policy to keep more cheaters from manipulating the system.

It's a fairly brave stance when you consider Jose Canseco still feels he got blacklisted for writing Juiced and exposing the steroids culture. While former players and baseball watchers acknowledge that Canseco was telling the truth about how widespread steroid use was in baseball, he still gets criticized over relatively minor details that may or may not be true. Does it really matter whether he actually injected Mark McGwire with steroids himself or whether McGwire got them from someone else?

It's nice to see a good guy like Wright stepping up to the plate on this issue. I really wish the New York Yankees would do the same.

Thanks to alpineinc via Wikipedia for the photo.

Angels getting a great player in Matsui

Angels fans shouldn't lose any sleep over the loss of Vladimir Guerrero to the Texas Rangers. They've replaced him with former Yankee Hideki Matsui, a great player and hitter and a good guy adored by his teammates.

Although limited to the designated hitter spot last year, Matsui was a key contributor to the New York Yankees championship season. His biggest contribution came in the playoffs, when he carried the Yankees offense in the World Series despite not starting the three games in the National League ballpark. Matsui is a loyal guy and was obviously hurt when the Yanks didn't put up a fight for his services. But he found himself a good home in Anaheim and a good manager in Mike Scioscia.

No doubt Angels fans will miss Vlad. He was a fantastic player for them over six years. He recorded the 400th home run in his career and 1,000th hit as an Angel last year. But he was clearly on the downside, struggling through the playoffs and the American League Championship Series, which his team lost to the Yankees. And he was never the vocal leader that team probably needed. Not that Matsui is that kind of guy either, but he can pick up his team with his bat.

Thanks to Onetwo1 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yankees help Haiti. We should too.

I've been fighting tears all day, following news of the earthquake's devastating impact on Haiti and its people. The damage and destruction is going to take a heavy toll on a country whose people have already suffered too much. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and their relatives and friends around the world.

We should all do what we can to help the massive humanitarian effort currently underway. Earlier tonight, I made a donation to ActionAid, which fights poverty and provides disaster relief to poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Anyone looking for a charity to donate to can go to for help finding a good organization.

My heart was lifted when I read that the New York Yankees were donating $500,000 to the rescue and relief efforts in Haiti. In a week when we were confronted head-on with the dark side of baseball, it's incredibly moving to see the positive side too, with the Yankees contributing to the humanitarian efforts and the Florida Marlins visiting our troops serving overseas. Let's follow the Yankees' lead and do what we can to mitigate this cruel tragedy.

Thanks to the US CIA via Wikipedia for the map.

Will the designated hitter disappear?

Let's get back to the actual game of baseball for a minute. I'm looking forward to seeing what recommendations are made by the All-Star advisory committee convened by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The committee will have its first face-to-face meeting of the minds at the baseball owners' meeting in Arizona this week to consider major changes to the game.

An issue that has been gaining steam recently is a re-examination of the designated hitter rule. The DH spot has gained a lot of attention this month with Edgar Martinez, widely considered the best DH in baseball history, being eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time this year (receiving 36.2% of the vote). The committee is made up many baseball traditionalists so expect to hear a lot of talk about the elimination of the DH. But given that the players union would have a major problem with that, such a move would be extremely difficult.

If the DH is going to remain in place, I hope the committee recommends using a DH during interleague play in the regular season and in the World Series to eliminate the risk of American League pitchers suffering devastating injuries, like Chien-Ming Wang did with the New York Yankees in 2008.
Of course, the DH won't be the only thing on the agenda. Given the many missed calls during the 2009 playoffs, the expanded use of instant replay will be discussed. I don't expect old-school guys like Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia to actively advocate for replay, but I think the wider use of technology to correct on-field mistakes by umpires is inevitable.

I hope that instead of a lot of rhetoric, we get actual changes that help improve the game of baseball. To be continued...

Thanks to Kuyabribri via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dark clouds still hang over Selig, baseball

The nightmare continues for Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, with Mark McGwire's not surprising admission to steroid and human growth hormone use. As much as Selig would love to turn the page on this dark chapter, he keeps getting pulled back in.

Selig is in a tough spot with McGwire because he can't really criticize him since the home-run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the 1998 season helped save baseball after the disastrous strike. His statement expressed pleasure that McGwire finally confessed, but mostly focused on the stricter drug-testing policy implemented on his watch. There was also more than an inkling of resentment about continued references to the "steroid era," which Selig claimed is a thing of the past.

I feel a bit sorry for Selig because the steroid scandal continues to taint his legacy. This despite dramatic changes he has overseen that have improved the game during his 17-year tenure, including the revamp that allowed for the introduction of wild card teams and an extra round of playoffs, and billions of dollars in additional revenues. But the steroids scandal defines his tenure because of the extensive use and the length of time and legislative prodding it took to implement the tougher testing program. Not entirely his fault, of course, but as commissioner he gets a large share of the blame.

Will it ever really be over for Selig and baseball? Unlikely. The scandal will be revisited every time another player on the positive test list is publicly outed. It will come up year after year when these players become eligible for the Hall of Fame. Luckily for Selig, he plans to retire at the end of 2012, right before baseball writers vote on Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sosa. The next commissioner will have to deal with that mess.

Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Big Mac seems sorry but it's not enough

I don't have a heart of stone so I got a little teary watching Mark McGwire cry multiple times during his interview with Bob Costas on MLB Network where he talked about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Big Mac cried when he talked about the disappointment felt by Pat Maris, the widow of Roger Maris, when he told her about his steroid use. He cried when he talked about having to tell his parents, his oldest son and his former manager and future boss Tony LaRussa about his steroid use.
"I've let a lot of people down," McGwire said. "It doesn't feel good."
Unlike Alex Rodriguez's confession in front of his New York Yankee teammates, I believed McGwire was truly sorry. But McGwire refused to admit that the steroids helped him succeed in baseball, which is going to continue to be a problem for him.

I hope McGwire does get some comfort from unburdening his soul with this confession. He said he wanted to tell the truth during his Congressional testimony, but feared the legal jeopardy it might pose to his friends and family. "It was absolutely killing my heart," McGwire said.

Some people will argue that the public humiliation and obvious hurt this has caused him is punishment enough. I don't agree. I keep coming back to a point that Barry Larkin made quite eloquently. Larkin objected to McGwire's comment that he wished he hadn't played in the steroid era. Larkin said that regardless of the era, players made the choice whether or not to use steroids. Larkin, who should and will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, also contended with numerous injuries and never succumbed to any temptation to use the drugs to manage his injuries, as McGwire did.

"I knew it was wrong," Larkin said. "I knew it was cheating, that's why I didn't do it."

I agree. The players can talk about steroid use not being banned in baseball until they are blue in the face. But they knew it was wrong and they did it anyway. McGwire's obvious pain indicates that he knew it was wrong and that he knows he hurt a lot of people and the game of baseball. That's why he and other users need to be held accountable.

Thanks to Rdikeman via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Clean players should get proper credit

Talk about steroid use in baseball tends to focus on the players caught or admitting to cheating. But what about their colleagues who stayed clean, who resisted temptation, who played baseball the right way? How should their careers be viewed? How should those players be rewarded? Should they be given credit for succeeding during the steroid era?

Former New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina is a great example of this dilemma. He pitched from 1991 to 2008, compiling a 270-153 record with a 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts. He made five All-Star teams and won seven Gold Gloves. Mussina's Hall of Fame credentials are pretty solid.

But how much better would his stats have been if he hadn't pitched during the steroid era? How many fewer home runs would he have given up? How many more wins would he have? Mussina deserves credit for pitching against known users such as Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire.

Players like Moose who are borderline Hall of Fame candidates should get extra credit in the character, sportsmanship and integrity categories that put them over the threshold for entrance. In a sense, it seems wrong to have to reward players for doing the right thing. But when so many of their counterparts did not, there needs to be recognition that they were playing at a disadvantage. I hope the writers will take that into consideration when judging these players.

Thanks to Mandalatv via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Keep Big Mac, all steroid users out of Hall

So it's official. Mark McGwire finally confirmed what many baseball fans and independent watchers suspected after his disastrous performance in front of the US Congress in 2005: that he used steroids, as well as human growth hormone. Now where do we go from here?

The steroid use has cast a dark shadow over the sport that I love. Even McGwire referred to the 1990s as the "steroid era." The most frustrating part for me, aside from the fact that the clean players have to defend themselves against unfair and untrue steroid allegations, is the lack of punishment for the users.

What should that punishment be? It seems clear that McGwire has no chance of getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He couldn't get more than 25% of the vote when he was merely suspected of using. How much do you think his numbers will drop in next year's balloting? It's possible that if McGwire stays on the ballot long enough, his numbers could actually improve with the passage of time. Already there are sports watchers advocating amnesty for those like McGwire that admit their steroid use. But I think denying him the Hall of Fame will be the way he and other users are punished for their misdeeds.

McGwire admitted using steroids during his 1998 competition with Sammy Sosa for the home run title. If it were up to me, his statistics would be permanently removed from the record books. At the very least, there should be an asterisk next to his name. But this is a form of punishment that Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig seems unwilling to inflict.

In a posting last week about the chances of current Yankee players making the Hall, I wrote that Alex Rodriguez should be denied entrance because of his admitted steroids use. I think it's also true for McGwire and should be true of all players who are caught or admit to using performance-enhancing drugs. I know there are other bad apples in the Hall right now, but that's no reason to let in any more. Let's try to keep the Hall as clean as possible.

Thanks to Rdikeman via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Can Boras pull Holliday trick with Damon?

Baseball superagent Scott Boras managed to secure a seven-year deal worth $120 million
for outfielder Matt Holliday from the St. Louis Cardinals even though no other team appeared close to matching an initial offer for less money and years. Can Boras pull off a similar magic trick with Johnny Damon?

It seems like a tough chore, especially with Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner openly dismissing the possibility that the New York Yankees will reenter negotiations for Damon's services. Boras apparently alienated the Yankees early in the process, first with a multi-year contract demand and then asking for $13 million per year before lowering that demand to $10 million.

Where does Damon go from here? There was talk of a possible fit with the Cardinals, but that has died down since the Holliday signing as St. Louis must save all available dollars to re-sign Albert Pujols. Current speculation has him going to the Atlanta Braves, which would be a good place for Damon. It's hard to imagine they could afford him at current prices, but anything's possible with Boras as an agent. The Holliday deal proved that.

Thanks to Onetwo1 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yankees making the right call on Cuban lefty

If the reports are true that the New York Yankees are no longer pursuing Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman, I think the team is making the right call. During his workouts for the numerous baseball teams interested in signing him, it became clear that he was not going to be ready for the big leagues anytime soon. But he still wanted to be paid like a major leaguer so the Yanks apparently have decided to move on.

The Yankees have a decidedly mixed record with Cuban pitchers, winning big with Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and losing badly with Jose Contreras. With their apparent determination to stick to their reported budget, they were not willing to break the bank for a kid they are not sure about, no matter how talented he may be.

The Boston Red Sox are apparently still in the mix and if they want to overpay for him, that's on them. He may ultimately be a great pitcher in the big leagues, but right now he is anything but a sure thing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Yanks must do more to fight drug use

Although star players from other teams such as Manny Ramirez have been caught using banned substances, the New York Yankees as a team have come to represent the drug problem that has tainted the sport and the ongoing difficulties Major League Baseball still faces in curtailing drug use despite its stricter policy. Yankee stars such as Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez have all either admitted to or been named as players using performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, that trend continues today.

Yankees minor league Rony Bautista was one of three players suspended for 50 games today for testing positive for substances banned under the improved drug policy. This comes a year after pitcher Sergio Mitre also got a 50-game ban for violating the drug policy after using a nutritional substance he bought from GNC.

I hope this latest suspension opens the eyes of Yankee officials to the fact that they need to do more to deal with this problem. Make the players understand the consequences of being wrong about the products they choose to put in their bodies and insist that they check with their trainers and MLB to be sure that the products they want to use are allowed under the drug policy. It seems simple, but the fact that the Yankees keep getting busted for using banned substances is a real concern and continues to cast an unfortunate shadow on the team.

Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Random Yankee thoughts

Denzel Washington (my favorite actor) schooled CC Sabathia in New York Yankees trivia on Jay Leno's show last night. To be fair, I probably wouldn't have remembered that Alfonso Soriano had the most strikeouts in one season for the Yankees even though I remember being very frustrated by his propensity to swing and miss. Someone should give the big guy a book on the history of the Yankees--there are plenty of good ones to go around. Fortunately for CC, he has six more years on his contract so he has plenty of time to learn.

* Sergio Mitre and the team avoided arbitration after agreeing to a one-year, $850,000 contract. The Yanks declined his $1.25 million option last year. Guess they really are pinching pennies to stick to that budget.

* Manager Joe Girardi's staff will all come back in 2010. The announcement probably took a little longer than it should have, but you don't mess with a staff that works as hard as Girardi's guys. Hitting coach Kevin Long is already flying all over the country to get in some extra work with his hitters.
* Sorry to hear that David Cone is leaving the YES Network. He was good in the booth, better as the host of Yankees on Deck. Wonder who's going to host the show now.
Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Active Yankees have better shots at Hall

Yesterday I wrote a post about the problems retired Yankees such as Don Mattingly and Tim Raines are having getting serious consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But the current New York Yankees have at least two players destined for the Hall, probably on the first ballot (although with this group of writers you never know), and maybe more.

Let's take a look at the surefire Hall of Famers first. If Mariano Rivera never saves another game (extremely unlikely), he goes into the Hall, no question. If his 526 regular season saves aren't enough, he has those extra 39 from pitching the Yanks to five World Series titles to polish his resume. His career postseason ERA is 0.74, which is amazing when you consider that he only pitches against the best teams in the playoffs.

Derek Jeter is another sure thing. He doesn't even have to reach the magic 3,000 hit mark, but he will. The Captain already has the most hits by a shortstop in baseball history and most hits by a Yankee. But like Mo, it's his postseason accomplishments that really solidify his Hall of Fame status: 175 hits, .313 batting average, the 20 home runs that always happen in key spots.
But after that it gets dicey. Alex Rodriguez certainly has a Hall of Fame resume with 583 home runs and three Most Valuable Player awards. But he wouldn't get my vote. I think any player caught using steroids should not be allowed into the Hall. I think there are many writers who feel this way and that means trouble for ARod. Look at the problems Mark McGwire is having, only getting 23.7% in the latest balloting. Granted, ARod is a far superior all-around player than McGwire. But you can't keep McGwire out for something you think he did and let players such as ARod and Manny Ramirez in for something you know they did.
For me, Andy Pettitte gets disqualified for the same reason. He has 229 regular season wins and a record 18 postseason victories. His 3.91 career ERA is high for the Hall. In comparison, Jack Morris was a dominating pitcher with more wins, a similar career ERA and one less World Series ring than Pettitte. But he's had trouble getting into the Hall although he received more votes this year at 52.3% than ever. But for me, the human growth hormone use earns Pettitte a ban. I give him a lot of credit for owning up to it, unlike his ex-pal Roger Clemens, but he falls into that category of players that shouldn't be rewarded for making bad decisions.
Jorge Posada will get some votes because he is one of the best hitting catchers of his generation and he has five World Series rings. But his numbers aren't Hall of Fame-worthy: .277 batting average, 243 homers and a solid 964 ribbies. He only had one 30 home run, 100 RBI season and he is notorious for his defensive problems.
It's too early to tell for younger players such as Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, but they may have legitimate shots at the Hall as their careers continue to blossom. He's not yet 30 and Tex already has 242 homers and nearly 800 ribbies. CC has 136 wins and counting at age 29, but his 3.62 ERA could be better. He has time to work on it.
The rest of the current team is either too young or don't have the resumes for the Hall, but the Yankees will undoubtedly add to their presence in Cooperstown with this group.
Thanks to Anc516 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yankees keep falling short in Hall of Fame voting

The New York Yankees may be the most iconic franchise in baseball, but recent Yankees players keep falling short of the Hall of Fame.

Closer Lee Smith makes the best case for inclusion, but his numbers barely edged up in the latest round of voting, garnering 47.3% of the vote after years of hovering in the 37%-43% range. His 478 career saves (third-most in baseball history behind Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera) have failed to make a good impression on more than half the voters, which is a shame because he was a dominating reliever during his day. But he can stay on the ballot until 2017 so there's still hope for him.

I'm sorry that good guy Tim Raines didn't do better in the voting, getting just 30.4%, a modest improvement from the 22-24% support he received in his first two years. He was such a dynamic leadoff hitter with more than 2,600 hits and 808 stolen bases and was a three-time World Series champion. But new inductee Andre Dawson thinks it's just a matter of time and said he's looking forward to the day that the Rock joins the Hawk in the Hall. "It's going to happen," he said.

It's time to give up on any hopes of Don Mattingly making the Hall via the writers' ballot. Donnie Baseball's candidacy is stagnant after being named on 16.1% of ballots in this round of voting. Despite being the best player in the American League for several years in the 1980s, his candidacy is diminished by the injuries that curtailed his greatness and by many years of futility before making the playoffs in his final season.

This trend is likely to continue in 2011 despite several former Yankees making first-time appearances on the ballot. Former Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown has some decent numbers, but his surly nature and reported steroids use will definitely keep him out as they should.

Tino Martinez, my personal favorite player during the Yankees 1990s dynasty, finally makes an appearance on the ballot next year. I love Tino, but with only 339 homers and a .271 career batting average, he's unlikely to get much support. He did hit in the middle of the line-up on four World Series championship teams so that should get some votes.

Thanks to Tlee1523 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Bert Blyleven is a class act

Bert Blyleven is such a classy guy. After years of disappointment, he was so close to election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, falling short by just five votes. I would have been devastated and probably taken the opportunity to rant and rave about how unfair the process is. But after admitting that he was a little disappointed, he laughed off the shortfall.

Blyleven thanked his supporters, including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, for their constant encouragement. He seemed genuinely happy that Andre Dawson finally made it into the Hall. "It's a beautiful day for Andre Dawson," he said.

Blyleven also praised his strong climb in the balloting, going from 62.7% in 2009 to 74.2% in 2010. He has solid credentials with 287 wins, a 3.31 ERA and 3,701 strikeouts, but he is hurt by losing 250 games playing for some bad teams.

Despite his disappointment, Blyleven is playing the game just right. He knows that with a weaker class coming in next year he will probably make the Hall in 2011. All he has to do is continue to be gracious and he will finally be rewarded with a plaque in the Hall.

Thanks to ConspiracyofHappiness via Wikipedia for the photo.

Larkin, Martinez deserved a bigger Hall push

Aside from the shock of Roberto Alomar not making the Baseball Hall of Fame, I was generally disappointed about no player other than Andre Dawson making the 2010 induction class.
I was surprised Barry Larkin only got 51.6% of the vote. He was the best overall shortstop of his generation and a Most Valuable Player in 1995. He gets hurt by being compared to Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. But I guess half the voters isn't a terrible start considering that other players with fewer votes their first times on the ballot eventually made the Hall. I hope he gets a real big push over the next few years.
Edgar Martinez only got 36.2% of the vote, making it clear that him being primarily a designated hitter is going to really hurt him. It's a little disappointing considering he was one of the most feared hitters in the American League. He was the hitter I least wanted to see up at the plate in a big spot against the Yankees.

Although not surprising, it was disappointing to see Andres Galarraga fall short of the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot. I know that people hold his Colorado numbers and injuries against him, but I expected The Big Cat to do better than 4.1%.

Thanks to Rdikeman via en.wikipedia for the photo.

Happy for The Hawk, but he shouldn't be alone

First of all, congratulations to Andre Dawson for finally making it into the Hall of Fame after many years. He had a wonderful career, finishing with 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 314 stolen bases and 1,591 RBI. Dawson won the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year and 1987 NL Most Valuable Player. He finally passed the magic threshold with 77.9% of the vote. "I really can't explain the elation," he said.

But the lack of other inductees is shocking and disappointing. This Hall of Fame class should have been so crowded. Roberto Alomar falling just shy of the needed 75% is unbelievable. There's no question that he was one of the best second basemen of his generation, if not the best, and he was a two-time World Series champion. I'd love to know what the writers who didn't vote for him were thinking.

I wish I knew who those five writers were who submitted blank ballots so I could start an email campaign to revoke their voting rights. The notion that no player on the ballot was worthy of Hall of Fame induction is ridiculous and I think they should be punished for injecting what is quite obviously a personal bias into this vote.

Thanks to Amineshaker via Wikipedia for the photo.

Red Sox reloading for 2010 season

The Boston Red Sox are continuing to move full steam ahead with their offseason revamp. The team has agreed on a one-year, $7 million deal with free-agent defensive whiz Adrian Beltre and and a reported trade of infielder Casey Kotchman to the Seattle Mariners to clear room for Beltre in their crowded infield.

The Red Sox are going with pitching and defense this offseason, upgrading at third base with Beltre, in center field with Mike Cameron and in the rotation with John Lackey. But they subtracted from their offense when they let Jason Bay walk away to the New York Mets without putting up a fight for a guy who proved he could perform on the biggest stage against the New York Yankees.

But you wonder when these decisions become a problem for the team's chemistry. Although he hasn't said much publicly, Mike Lowell can't be happy with the team's constant determination to trade him despite several productive seasons in Boston. Now comes word that Jacoby Ellsbury wasn't thrilled when being told he will be moving to left field so that defensive star Cameron can play center. At some point, having too many unhappy players on a roster will kill a team's spirit. The Red Sox risk returning to the dysfunctional teams that consistently fell apart before they won two World Series titles in four years. Yankee fans hope that collapse happens quickly.

Thanks to MyName (Cacophony) via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Randy Johnson's greatness undeniable

Although Randy Johnson's tenure with the New York Yankees was unpleasant for both him and for the team, I have to acknowledge that baseball is losing one of its most dominating pitchers now that Johnson has decided to retire at age 46 after 22 years in the game.

His credentials are impeccable: a 303-166 career record, 4,875 strikeouts (second only to Nolan Ryan), five Cy Young awards (second only to Roger Clemens), a perfect game and a no-hitter. His best years came with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he led that team to a victory in the 2001 World Series over the Yankees, which was one of the best postseason series of all time.

Perhaps New York's expectations for Johnson were unreasonably high after that World Series victory, but Johnson stumbled badly with the Yanks. He got into a physical altercation with a cameraman during his first visit after the trade and never became the ace that the Yankees thought they were getting (that they got in a much younger CC Sabathia when they signed him last offseason). In his book the Yankee Years with Tom Verducci, Joe Torre openly talked about how self-conscious Johnson was and how easily he could get rattled. If Torre knew that, perhaps the 2001 World Series would have ended differently.
But his struggles with the Yankees don't overshadow his dominance during the rest of his career. Johnson will sail into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot when he becomes eligible in five years (unless he decides to un-retire), unlike other former, deserving players who will have to sweat tomorrow waiting for news about whether they made the Hall or not.

Thanks to Googie man via Wikipedia for the photo.

Bay wanted the Mets, really

Jason Bay sounded very sincere today during his introductory press conference when he said he wanted to play for the New York Mets. Unlike the Boston Red Sox, the left fielder knew the Mets wanted him very badly and went after him hard.

Besides a lot of money, a free agent really wants to be wanted by the team and city he's going to spend the next four or five years playing for. He was very complimentary of the Mets, praising Johan Santana as probably the best pitcher in baseball and citing their numerous injuries for last year's collapse. Maybe I'm just being naive, but I believed Bay when he said that he wanted to play for the Mets. "I wouldn't have signed the contract if I wasn't happy or didn't want to be here," Bay said.

I still don't get the reluctance of the Red Sox to aggressively pursue Bay. But I have to admit that I was rooting for the Mets to get him instead of Boston. I'd much prefer that the New York Yankees have to face him only six games each year than 19 games. "I think the Mets wanted me more, this is where I wanted to be and I'm very happy about that," Bay said.

Signing Bay was the right move for the Metsies. They got themselves a good player who performs brilliantly under pressure and a great character guy. And if he could handle replacing Manny Ramirez in Boston, he can handle anything that gets thrown at him in New York.

Bay seemed to have some fun today, pointing out that no one would confuse him with Torii Hunter in the outfield when asked about playing in cavernous Citi Field and jokingly offering to bat 9th if the Mets wanted.

The Mets had a little fun today too, having former hockey player Rod Gilbert give Bay a New York Rangers jersey with his #44, thrilling the Canadian in him. The Mets took one solid step toward getting their moxie back. But they have much more work to be done.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.