Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bobby V adds fuel to Yankees-Red Sox fire

Adding Bobby Valentine to the Rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is like adding kerosene to a bonfire. It’s going to create an awesome explosion.

Even though I hate the Red Sox, I think hiring Valentine to be their manager is a great move. Valentine is a brilliant baseball man who brings instant credibility to a team most recently known for a historic collapse and a lot of behind-the-scenes nonsense. Bobby V simply isn’t going to tolerate any foolishness, even from the star Red Sox players, who definitely need a kick in the ass. It’s a good thing John Lackey will miss the 2012 baseball season due to Tommy John surgery because he would find himself firmly in Valentine’s crosshairs.

Valentine is also not going to allow the Red Sox to be pushed around by the Yankees in any way, shape or form. When he was managing the Mets, Valentine took great pleasure at needling the Yankees at every opportunity. And that was only during six games a year in the regular season (and a wonderful World Series, of course). Now that he is managing the Yankees’ archrival and his team is playing them 18 times a year, I fully expect Valentine to take his disdain for the Yankees to the next level.

Spring training can’t get here fast enough.

Thanks to the US federal government for the Bobby V photo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Mariano Rivera!

Mariano Rivera is used to striking fear in the hearts of opposing batters, but he recently unintentionally struck fear in the hearts of New York Yankees fans.

First, Rivera unveiled that he will be having surgery soon, not on his Hall of Fame-bound right arm, but on his vocal cords. Normally this would not be much of a concern as Mariano prefers to let his pitching talk for him. But as Mariano noted, nothing is simple when it comes to surgery.

But the scarier comment came when Mariano left open the possibility of retiring after the 2012 baseball season. He didn’t commit one way or the other, but hanging up his pinstripes is clearly on Rivera’s mind, much to the terror of Yankees fans and the hopeful glee of opposing hitters all around baseball. As much as we hope that a David Robertson or a Joba Chamberlain can eventually step up to take over the closer’s job, we know in our hearts that Mo is simply irreplaceable.

In our heads, we know the day is coming when Mo will not be closing games for the Yankees. But in our hearts, we all want Mo to keep going until he is at least 50, which gives us another eight years of not having to worry about the 9th inning of baseball games as so many other teams do. It may sound completely unrealistic, except that Mo really hasn’t shown any signs of fading. He marched right up to the all-time saves record without breaking stride. Mo is too humble to care about numbers, but the now 42-year-old has achieved a record that will likely never be broken.

Happy Birthday, Mo!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Solid move by Yankees to re-sign Garcia

Get ready for more Freddy!

The New York Yankees made a solid move by re-signing Freddy Garcia, who more than earned his pay bump after helping to keep the Yankees rotation together in the 2011 regular season. Garcia should have been the #5 starter, but was forced into the #3 spot due to the injuries to Phil Hughes and the inconsistency of AJ Burnett.

Does re-signing Garcia solve the Yankees’ rotation shortage? Absolutely not. The Yankees and Brian Cashman are still looking for a starter to slot in behind CC Sabathia. They don’t seem terribly excited about available free agents such as CJ Wilson and Mark Buehrle, neither of who will come cheap, and don’t really want to spend ace-type money on either one of them. But this being the Yankees, I imagine one of those guys will be in pinstripes relatively soon.

Who else will end up in the Bronx? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jeter will be scapegoat for forced All-Star play

Call it the Derek Jeter rule: players voted to the All-Star team must participate in the game, unless they have a really good excuse.

Jeter was roundly, and I thought unfairly, criticized for his decision to skip this season’s All-Star game, including by an unnamed baseball official. Bud Selig did some major damage control at the time by claiming he was not angry that the captain of the New York Yankees decided to blow off the game. But I think Selig’s true feelings were revealed by the fact that baseball’s new labor contract mandates that players voted to the team must participate unless they are injured or otherwise excused. Get ready to see some interesting doctors’ notes and excuses.

I wonder how Jeter will feel about this change as he will be made the scapegoat for this rather restrictive rule, but we will probably never know. I thought Jeter was emotionally spent after his grueling climb to the 3,000 mark and had every right to take a few days off to mentally recharge for the second half of the year. Plus, Jeter may have been making a last-ditch effort to fix his fraying relationship with then-girlfriend Minka Kelly by spending the time with her on her turf (she was filming the now-cancelled Charlie’s Angels reboot in Miami). I can’t blame Jeter if he decided trying to salvage his long-term relationship was more important than playing in the All-Star game.

I don’t like the idea of forcing players to participate in the All-Star game. In a season of 162 games, half of which are played on the road, players should not be penalized for having a great season by being forced to participate in the game when they would rather spend their limited time off with their families. I don’t think players should have to justify that decision.

But in the grand scheme of things, being forced to play in the All-Star game is a small price to pay to keep the baseball peace.

Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baseball keeps the labor peace

Major League Baseball gave its fans an early Christmas present: a new labor contract that will avoid the lockout problems seen in football and basketball.

Rather than subjecting their fans to public animosity and bickering, MLB learned from the mistakes made by the National Football League and National Basketball Association and came to what looks to be a very fair and quick agreement. It ensures that there will be no interruption (or threat of interruption) to the game of baseball at a time when baseball’s popularity is on the rise again.

It looks like Bud Selig is the big winner as he got almost everything he wanted, including the addition of two wild cards to the playoffs and draft and signing changes designed to rein in exorbitant spending. He got the players’ union to agree to institute testing for human growth hormone, even though the new agreement is being criticized for the lack of in-season random testing. Selig did have to finally give in on expanded replay, which he has resisted for years. But I think he will eventually come to terms with the fact that instant replay is best for the game of baseball. Overall, Selig now comes off as the wisest commissioner among the Big Three American sports, understanding that a contentious labor negotiation simply wouldn’t fly with so many people out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

The New York Yankees were portrayed as one of the losers in the new agreement because of new taxes to be imposed on teams that overpay for draft picks. But the Yankees and Brian Cashman are sensitive about criticisms that they pay their way into the playoffs every year and have begun trying to limit their payroll and expenditures. And anything that forces the Yankees to be more disciplined in their spending is probably a good thing for us fans who bear the brunt of excessive spending through higher ticket prices.

I’m proud to be a baseball fan today. My sympathies go out to my uncles and all the other basketball fans who continue to needlessly suffer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ryan Braun a deserving MVP winner

I believe Ryan Braun is a very deserving winner of the National League Most Valuable Player award. Not everyone agrees.

Those who think that Matt Kemp should have been the MVP point to his slightly superior statistics and the fact that Braun hit in the lineup ahead of the mighty Prince Fielder. But Braun’s numbers were pretty close and the fact that he played on the first Milwaukee Brewers’ team to win their division in almost 30 years and helped lead that same team to the best record in franchise history obviously had an impact on the baseball writers. The vote wasn’t even that close.

No question Kemp had a fantastic year and losing the MVP award doesn’t take anything away from that. He handled the loss pretty well, expressing what seemed to be genuine praise for Braun. Plus, Kemp has better things to worry about, like how he is going to spend all the money the Los Angeles Dodgers are now paying him to play baseball.

I have to admit that I was rooting for Braun over Kemp. While the individual statistics play a key role, I take the word valuable to heart and will always support the guy who is playing for a winning team versus a non-contender. Plus, I thought Braun handled the Jose Reyes controversy wonderfully, showing a lot of class by declining the opportunity to criticize Reyes for bowing out of the last game of the New York Mets season after one at-bat just so he could win the batting title.

As hard as I’ve been on the baseball writers recently, I think they got both MVP winners right (although Curtis Granderson’s fourth place finish in the vote stings a bit). Well done.

Thanks to the Dana Files for the Wikipedia photo.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Granderson's 4th place MVP finish disappointing

OK, I definitely understand why Justin Verlander won the American League Most Valuable Player award. What I don’t understand is the fourth place finish for Curtis Granderson.

The ace of the Detroit Tigers received almost half of the first-place votes, ensuring his victory in a tight competition. Of course, one writer took it upon himself or herself to ignore the rules and left Verlander off the MVP ballot completely, likely due to a mistaken personal belief that pitchers should never win MVP awards, even though they are eligible. Not a surprise at all.

What was a surprise was the relatively poor showing for Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees. Granderson finished fourth while his teammate Robinson Cano finished in sixth place. I was rooting for Granderson and thought that if he didn’t win, he would finish second to Verlander. How on earth could he finish behind both Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays? The Red Sox collapsed in September and even if Ellsbury wasn’t directly responsible for that epic failure, he was a key member of a team that blew a substantial lead in the wild-card race. And I don’t care how many home runs Bautista hit. The Blue Jays finished 16 games behind the Yankees in the AL East division so why did he get so many votes?

The Yankees were the best team in the American League in the regular season. How their two best players could finish no higher than fourth in the MVP vote is mind boggling. Perhaps Cano siphoned off some votes from Granderson. There is no doubt that Cano is the best player on the Yankees. But Granderson carried the team at a time when everyone else, including Cano, was struggling.

If the award is really about the player that is most valuable to his team, then guys on teams that fail to make the postseason should not receive MVP votes. The definition of MVP is left up to the interpretation of the writers, unfortunately, but the word valuable seems pretty clear to me, which is why Granderson’s fourth-place showing is so disappointing. Perhaps it’s time to institute an explicit definition of MVP so that players are not at the mercy and whim of the writers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baseball making progress on PED abuse

Major League Baseball is making a valiant effort to ensure it never again suffers the ignominy of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. That effort will take a major step forward this week as baseball inches closer to signing a new labor contract with its players.

The reported deal, if finalized, will include blood testing for human growth hormone. Players caught using HGH will be subject to the same penalty that they currently face for using steroids. It’s a major victory for Bud Selig, whose legacy in the game has been tarnished by the use of PEDs by some of baseball’s biggest stars, including Alex Rodriguez.

As a fan of the New York Yankees, I welcome such progress. Players such as ARod, Roger Clemens and, sadly, Andy Pettitte have made the Yankees the poster team for PED abuse in baseball. In fact, now that Pettitte is retired, many of the news stories I’ve seen that mention his name revolve around his admitted HGH use. It’s a sad legacy for a player with a borderline Hall of Fame career, a history that will keep him out of Cooperstown.

Bravo to the players’ union for not putting up as much of a fight this time around. The union’s resistance to drug testing during previous contract negotiations is a major factor as to why PED use was allowed to wreck the game of baseball. The union seems to have wised up to this or perhaps the majority of the players, those who are clean at least, forced the union leadership’s hands on this issue.

Of course, there will always be players and their helpers trying to game the system so MLB will have to continue to stay on top of the latest research to ensure their testing is as up-to-date and accurate as possible. But I look at the pending HGH announcement as a positive step toward cleaning up the game of baseball and repairing the damage done to its image.

Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Syracuse mess impossible to decipher

I am a graduate of Syracuse University so I’m closely following the allegations of molestation made against associate head coach Bernie Fine. But I don’t know what to make of them at this point.

Bobby Davis, a former ball boy for the Syracuse University men's basketball team, has accused Fine of molesting him for a period of 15 years, which Fine has vehemently denied. His claims are so far backed up only by a relative who also claims that Fine molested him. The Syracuse police have just started investigating so it will be some time before we get any answers.

Unlike in the Penn State University situation, we have no independent corroboration of the charges. We do not have an extensive grand-jury report that describes the accusations in graphic, stomach-turning detail. We do not have eight (and likely more) victims. We do not have an independent witness such as Mike McQueary to confirm the abuse. All we have is two men who are related (and we know families lie for each other all the time) against the word of a coach who may be completely innocent.

What is curious to me is the fierceness of the defense of Fine by head basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who has publicly called Davis a liar for claiming that Boeheim saw him in Fine’s room many times. The legendary basketball coach has also accused the two men of concocting the story for money in the wake of the Penn State scandal.

But Boeheim lost credibility with me when he defended Eric Devendorf after he was suspended for harassing a female student who accused the then-Syracuse shooting guard of hitting her. It’s clear that Boeheim is willing to go to the mat to protect someone in his inner circle. Does that mean that he’s lying? I don’t think he would lie about something as serious as child abuse, but he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt either. And if it turns out that Boeheim did see that kid in Fine’s room, that means he is the liar and should suffer Joe Paterno’s fate.

To some extent, I do fault Syracuse University for failing to inform the police of its 2005 investigation of the claims made by Davis. Even if Davis told them he had already gone to the police, they should have informed the authorities of the investigation and their failure to corroborate his claims so that the police could take over if they chose or just record it in their case files. A university investigation does not carry the same weight as a law enforcement probe, with district attorneys that can put people under oath and compel them to testify truthfully.

The frustrating thing about this scandal, if you can call it that, is that we have to wait and see how it all plays out. It’s impossible to decipher this mess right now because we simply do not have enough information. If it turns out that Davis is telling the truth, then heads need to roll at Syracuse, as they did at Penn State.

Photo of Boeheim coaching a game.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baseball gets it right on wild card changes

Bravo to Bud Selig and Major League Baseball for finally doing something right, and on the first try no less!

MLB will expand the postseason to add one wild card team to each league, having the two wild cards in the leagues square off against each other to see who can continue to play baseball in October. The one-game playoff is perfect because it ensures the excitement of a sudden-death game for the right to move on, but does not drag out the postseason any longer than necessary. I love the idea of recreating the excitement we saw on the last day of the 2011 season every year.

Of course, there will be some objectors, including players, even though they stand to benefit if their team has an extra chance to make and then advance in the playoffs. Players such as Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees hate the proposal because they do not believe that they should have to face an inferior team in a do-or-die game. It’s a legitimate point, but the new format puts a greater emphasis on winning the division outright than has existed in recent years. If a team wins its division, it does not have to worry about suffering a too-quick exit from the playoffs during the wild-card round.

Plus, the extra wild card gives teams such as the Yankees that are often penalized for playing in the toughest division in baseball an extra shot at ensuring their good work over the full year does not go to waste, even if they come in one game behind the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, if the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all make the playoffs because of the extra wild card, there will be quick calls for a rethinking of the new format.

But all in all, I think MLB got this one exactly right and I am looking forward to the playoff action next year.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Things starting to look up for the LA Dodgers

The fortunes of the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally starting to change for the better.

Frank McCourt mercifully realized his quest to hold on to the Dodgers was fruitless and agreed to sell the team, much to what I imagine was unbridled glee behind closed doors in the offices of Major League Baseball. It will take some time, but Bud Selig will be successful in his quest to rid baseball of McCourt once and for all and will hopefully find an owner that will not pilfer the team and will make a legitimate effort to reconnect with disillusioned Dodgers fans.

The Dodgers appear to be off to a good start in making their fan base happy with the reported mega-contract for superstar Matt Kemp. I have to admit to being very surprised at the timing considering Kemp is not a free agent and the Dodgers are still in bankruptcy. Perhaps McCourt wants to try to screw over the next owner by leaving an expensive, long-term deal that the next owner will be responsible for and McCourt does not have to answer for if it goes bad. But I don’t have a problem with the deal, especially when you consider that Kemp is only 27 years old and coming off a terrific season in which he almost got the Triple Crown of hitting in the National League with a .324 batting average, 39 home runs and 126 RBIs.

The good news for the Dodgers continues, with young ace Clayton Kershaw winning the National League Cy Young award by a substantial margin. Only 23 years old, Kershaw beat out Phillies pitching studs Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Kershaw beat the competition by achieving the Triple Crown of pitching, tying for the National League lead in wins with 21 and placing first with 248 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA. The best news for the Dodgers is that he is only now becoming eligible for arbitration so they control his rights for three more years. But I would like to see one of the new owner’s first orders of business being to lock up the youngster to a long-term contract that both sides can be happy with.

It really does say something positive about the fortitude of both Kemp and Kershaw that they were able to have such fantastic years with all the drama hanging over the team’s head.

Of course there will be kinks along the way, but things appear to be looking up for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thanks to SD Dirk for the Kemp photo and Craigfnp for the Kershaw photo via Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will the Yankees ever get the real ARod back?

Either Brian Cashman is a terrific liar or he really does believe that the New York Yankees will get the real Alex Rodriguez back next year. I’m not so sure.

Cashman blamed ARod’s long stint on the disabled list for a frustratingly inept postseason performance and wondered if the Yankees would have been better off starting Eric Chavez at third base. But he expressed confidence that ARod can retake his place as one of the game’s best hitters if he stays healthy. “If he stays healthy” is a big question mark.

ARod also believes the real ARod will show up again in 2012, but he’s delusional on some many different issues that it’s hard to take him seriously, such as him counting himself and the re-signing of CC Sabathia as the Yankees’ two big moves this offseason. Apparently, ARod still sees himself as one of the premier players in baseball, all evidence to the contrary. Age and injuries seem to have caught up with ARod pretty quickly, although they likely had a lot of help due to his long-term steroids abuse.

I can’t blame Cashman for hoping for the best out of ARod. Through no fault of his own, Cashman cannot run his baseball team the way he wants to because of ARod’s ridiculous contract. Don’t you think Cashman would be more aggressive in pursuing one or two of the top starters on the free-agent market if he didn’t have to pay ARod $30 million a year? The general manager has to hope ARod will regain his previous form and provide enough offense that the Yankees’ stacked lineup overshadows the lack of depth in their starting rotation.

I’ll be beyond thrilled if ARod proves me wrong and becomes a solid version of the player he used to be. But I won’t hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Verlander shocks world by taking AL Cy Young

Just kidding! The only thing that would have been shocking about the news that Justin Verlander is the 2011 American League Cy Young award winner is if the vote had not been unanimous.

Verlander’s victory in the Cy Young balloting was never in doubt in a year where some baseball observers believe he also deserves the Most Valuable Player Award. There was no way to argue with his numbers as Verlander won the Triple Crown of pitching: 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts.

The only reason I thought Verlander might not be a unanimous Cy Young selection is that I have no faith in the writers’ ability to follow the rules. I thought that there was a slight chance that at least one writer would think the vote should not be unanimous or perhaps would be trying to get attention for himself or herself by voting for another pitcher. But I think any writer inclined to vote against Verlander wisely decided not to invite that kind of vitriol.

I knew Verlander had the respect of people throughout baseball when he walked out of the bullpen to start Game 1 of the American League division series against the New York Yankees. I was sitting in the bleachers behind the visiting bullpen and greeted him with my typical “You suck, Verlander" chant as he walked toward the dugout. The guy sitting next to me looked over and whispered: “Don’t make Verlander mad.” That tells you exactly what kind of year Verlander had that there were even Yankee fans afraid to set him off.

We’ll find out next week if Verlander will have a MVP trophy to match his Cy Young award. Although I’m all for pitchers winning MVP awards if their numbers merit it, I’m putting my money on Curtis Granderson. No bias there of course!

Thanks to leadfoot via Wikipedia for the Verlander photo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nova's year a breakout despite ROY loss

Ivan Nova didn’t win a Rookie of the Year award today, but that loss in no way diminishes his outstanding 2011 campaign.

I’m surprised at Nova’s fourth-place finish in the ROY balloting, with only one first-place vote and 30 points overall, well behind the winner: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (congrats, kid!). I thought Nova would get a lot more support and perhaps become the first member of the New York Yankees to win the ROY since Derek Jeter in 1996 (yes, it has been 15 years since the skinny kid from Kalamazoo took New York by storm).

Nova went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA for a Yankees team that finished with the best regular season record in the American League. He stepped right up to fill a major void to become the Yankees #2 starter behind CC Sabathia after AJ Burnett struggled mightily again and Phil Hughes lost a step because of injuries. I would have liked to have seen Nova rewarded for that.

But in the grand scheme of things, Nova losing the ROY doesn’t really matter. The Yankees will be counting on him to prove that 2011 wasn’t a fluke and that he deserves to be a mainstay in the Yankees rotation for years to come.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brad Pitt's Moneyball is a solid hit

Now that there is no baseball to be seen on television, unless you like to watch Yankees classics or the MLB Network (which I’m still boycotting), I highly recommend heading to a movie theatre to see Moneyball.

In truth, Moneyball isn’t really a baseball movie even though it revolves around the national pastime. It’s really about one man Billy Beane and his quest to change the way things are done. The same battle could be seen in any other sport or industry because people are naturally resistant to change. Beane’s new way of evaluating players hasn’t brought him the ultimate success, a World Series championship. But it did change the game for other baseball teams who had greater resources than him, namely the Boston Red Sox, who he famously spurned a few years before they finally overcame the Curse of the Bambino.

But back to the movie. I won’t use the old baseball cliché and say they hit it out of the park, but it was a terrific film filled with humor and great performances, namely from, yes, Brad Pitt, who really made you believe that he was Billy Beane. I had a couple of favorite scenes, one of which was of Beane and then Oakland A’s coach (and future Texas Rangers manager) Ron Washington trying to convince Scott Hatteberg to switch positions to play for the A’s. I also loved the scene with Beane at the trading deadline trying to manipulate and cajole other general managers so that he can get the player he wants. It was fun trying to picture Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees doing the exact same thing.

One of my rules for movies that are based on true stories is they have to make me want to learn more about the story afterwards for me to really consider it a good movie. Moneyball did just that. For example, I hadn’t known much about Beane’s struggles to reach the big leagues as a player or the tension that existed between him and manager Art Howe. In what Howe says was an unfair portrayal, the movie depicts him as an immovable obstacle to Beane’s grand plan, refusing to play the players that the numbers game led Beane to sign.

I doubt we’ll ever know whether Beane or Howe was right. Moneyball focuses on the regular season success that the A’s achieved under Beane’s blueprint. But for all the brilliance of Beane’s plan, the ultimate prize continues to elude him.

Thanks to Brett Farmiloe for the Billy Beane photo.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Papelbon flees sinking Red Sox ship

So the player bleeding begins for the Boston Red Sox, with closer Jonathan Papelbon fleeing the sinking ship.

In truth, Papelbon might have been gone even if the Red Sox hadn’t completely collapsed in September, gotten rid of manager Terry Francona and been embarrassed by revelations of beer drinking in the clubhouse. But the speed with which the closer, who had many good years with the Red Sox, fled Beantown was pretty surprising.

The Philadelphia Phillies were aggressive with a great contract offer and Papelbon jumped at it. He didn’t even give the Red Sox a chance to match it, probably because he was tired of the clubhouse chaos, the incessant media bashing and the unyielding expectations of Red Sox Nation. Or perhaps he saw this September as the beginning of the end for the Saux and believed signing with Philadelphia would be his best chance to pursue another World Series championship.

Whatever his reasons, Papelbon’s departure is a positive for the New York Yankees, who often find themselves engaged in tight, epic contests with their archrivals. Yankee fans will miss heckling him-I still call him Papelbum by default. He had his struggles against the Yankees, but he closed some key games against them too, which is why CC Sabathia felt pretty comfortable expressing what must be felt all over the Yankees organization today: that they are happy to see Papelbon depart for the National League.

The Red Sox have to figure out what’s next. I believe Papelbon will be only the first player out the door in Boston, although he may be the only one Red Sox officials eventually regret losing. I think Jason Varitek is done in Boston, but I’m surprised that the Saux are even open to re-signing David Ortiz. I thought they would take the epic collapse as a sign they need to clean house. But as Papelbon showed, it’s not only their decision as we may see others abandon the sinking ship.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the Papelbon photo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Jorge Posada's baseball career over?

We know that Jorge Posada’s great career with the New York Yankees is over. He told us that himself. But is his baseball career over or will he do the unthinkable and put on another baseball team’s uniform? Not even Jorge knows right now.

Posada saw the writing on the wall. He didn’t have to be told by Brian Cashman or the Steinbrenners that his great Yankees career was coming to an end, despite a terrific postseason in which he tried to singlehandedly carry the Yankees lineup to victory. In fact, one of the most disappointing things about the Yankees’ early exit was watching Posada unsuccessfully fight back tears, knowing that he would never again put on the Yankees uniform as a big-league player.

But Posada’s successful postseason proved to himself (and apparently to several teams) that he can still play the game of baseball. Plus, Posada has a lot to offer to a team looking for a spark from a fiery veteran with an impressive postseason resume. Would Posada actually put on another team’s uniform? We’ll see. He may decide he needs just one more year to undo the sting of struggling with his designated hitter/bench guy role with the Yankees and the emotions of his demotion during the 2011 regular season.

If Posada’s career is over, then the next question becomes, was it a Hall of Fame-worthy career? His ex-manager Joe Torre, soon to be a Hall of Famer himself, certainly thinks so. Derek Jeter won’t comment on his buddy’s situation unless Posada officially retires, but if he does, then I’m sure the Yankees shortstop will plug his pal’s candidacy for Cooperstown.

As much as I would like to see Jorge walk away never having worn another uniform, I want more to see him walk away from the sport on his own terms. If he feels he needs to play for another team to do that, then he absolutely should. I will still root for Jorge no matter where he goes, unless, of course, it’s Boston!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cashman taking his sweet time

Brian Cashman is taking his sweet time shopping for free agents and possible trades to improve the New York Yankees. And why not? The off-season is just getting started.

For the Yankees, there is no surefire target on the free agent market. The best free agents out there Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, won't be Yankee targets because they both play first base, a position the Yankees are all set at with Mark Teixeira. I know some Yankee fans would love to get Pujols or Fielder for the middle of a lineup that had trouble scoring runs in key spots in the 2011 division series. But it’s not going to happen, with Teixeira having five more years left on his rich deal and the Yankees needing to keep that designated hitter spot open for a rapidly aging and fragile Alex Rodriguez.

Cashman & Co are looking for starting pitching and, unlike last year, there is no Cliff Lee-type available on the free-agent market. The best pitchers may be Japanese import Yu Darvish, who I expect the Yankees to view cautiously after the Kei Igawa disaster, and CJ Wilson, who proved this postseason that he is not an ace and may not even be a legitimate #2 starter although he certainly will want to be paid that way.

Again, Yankee fans are probably hoping Cashman can swing a trade for Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, but his general manager has repeatedly said he is unavailable and I take him at his word. It would be a great shame if the Mariners traded their young stud, who already has a Cy Young on his resume, and is signed to a very reasonable contract.

Cashman has plenty of time to assess the possibilities and make the best deal or signing he can for the Yankees. Who knows, he may even go the same route he did last offseason, bargain shopping for a pitcher such as Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia. That worked out pretty well for him, didn’t it?

Paterno drags Penn State down with him

Joe Paterno goes down, as he should, for his failure to do the right thing. Unfortunately, he took Penn State right down with him.

News of Paterno’s late-night firing led to a mass demonstration by Penn State college students that turned into an ugly riot. The legendary coach is the target of widespread anger and scorn outside of the university because of his failure to aggressively stop an alleged child rapist. But not on Paterno’s campus. And make no mistake; Penn State is his campus and his school.

Those rioting college students made a bad situation a lot worse. Yes, they are young, but they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. They are old enough to know that you can’t throw things at the police, that you can’t topple a media news van no matter how much you hate the media because you blame reporters for what happened to Paterno, that you can’t cause mass chaos just because you are angry that your football coach was fired. I’m truly shocked at the comments from these students justifying their behavior. They are wasting their outrage on a man who admitted that he did not do the right thing. Their outrage should be directed at Paterno and all the other Penn State employees who allegedly allowed children to continue to be victimized by Jerry Sandusky.

It was because of the supposed disrespect to Paterno, learning his fate in a phone call, that anger erupted on the streets of State College, Pennsylvania. Should someone from the board of trustees have tried to inform Paterno of the decision in person? Sure, but on the list of sad things about this entire situation, I’m going to choose not to worry about Paterno getting sacked over the phone. I will instead worry about all those kids Paterno and the others could have saved if any of them had called the police immediately after learning of the alleged attack.

But Paterno deserves some of the blame for last night too. He could have said he was immediately retiring so that he does not further burden a school that he claims to love. Instead, he insisted on trying to retire on his own terms, tried to dismiss the board of trustees by saying that they should not worry about his future. As painful as the decision must have been for some of the board members, they knew in their hearts and minds that Paterno had to go for the sake of the school, which is why the vote was unanimous. If Paterno had just gone quietly on his own, if he had not put the board in the difficult position of having to fire him, last night would not have happened.

I don’t even know how the school recovers from this disaster. Paterno goes and drags a great university down with him, first by his inaction to a horrific crime and then for his failure to do the right thing for Penn State and quietly walk away to spare the innocent staff members and students further pain and embarrassment.

Thanks to PSUMark2006 via en.Wikipedia for the Paterno photo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jeter won't get 100% Hall of Fame vote

Derek Jeter is definitely getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, probably on the first ballot, but he’s not getting 100% of the vote.

Wade Boggs said the captain of the New York Yankees may be the only player ever to get into the Hall with a 100% of the vote. Now I’m the biggest Derek Jeter fan, but I don’t think there is any chance he gets every single vote from the baseball writers.

No baseball player in history has ever gone into the Hall of Fame as a unanimous pick. Tom Seaver has come the closest to a unanimous selection to Cooperstown, garnering 98.84% of the vote in 1992, followed closely by Nolan Ryan with 98.79% in 1999. None of the legendary men to ever play baseball has gotten every single vote. Not even Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb.

There are numerous reasons for that. Seaver, for example, was reportedly omitted on three of five ballots because writers were protesting the decision to make Pete Rose ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration. Several other players have been hurt by the belief of certain writers that no player should ever go into the Hall as a unanimous selection. Writers sometimes have a nasty habit of ignoring the rules and inserting arbitrary rules of their own, as two writers did in refusing to include Hideki Matsui on their Rookie of the Year ballots in 2003 because of his age and long experience playing in Japan. I wish these writers would immediately lose their voting privileges.

Jeter will have to deal with these types of inherent biases, but he will also have to contend with his own detractors, those observers who believe Jeter is overrated because he has played in New York for the Yankees. If anything, he deserves credit for never succumbing to the glare and temptations of the New York spotlight and for his postseason prowess.

No question Jeter’s resume has proven he is worthy of Hall inclusion, with his 3,000 hits this summer cinching what most baseball observers already believed was a lock. So Jeter will get in, probably with a very high percentage of the vote in his first year. But he won’t get every vote, no matter how much he deserves them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Paterno, Penn State officials should all go

The sexual abuse allegations involving a former Penn State coach are not shocking because of what he allegedly did, but because of the disturbing failure of his colleagues in the program to stop him.

Whether or not Jerry Sandusky goes to jail for molesting and raping children, everyone who knew about the alleged abuse in the Penn State program should be fired for allowing a sexual predator to roam free. At least two employees, including a current coach of the team, witnessed sexual assaults and did nothing to stop them. If I ever saw anyone hurting a child, I would immediately physically intervene and call the cops. I wouldn’t care if this person was someone I worked with or someone I considered a friend. But apparently the folks at Penn State care deeply about that for some bizarre reason. As many of them are fathers themselves, you would think they would not want someone like Sandusky in their organization, but they did nothing to get rid of him.

That includes Joe Paterno. The legendary coach did not fire Sandusky when he was informed directly about an alleged attack, did not follow up on what action the university was taking to get rid of Sandusky. It’s horrifying and despicable considering Paterno has five children and 17 children and part of his legend is that all his children are proud Penn State graduates (I bet Paterno never allowed any of his grandchildren near Sandusky after he was told what happened).

I have always admired the Brooklyn-born Paterno for his success on the football field (two national championships, 409 career wins and hopefully not counting) and his willingness to buck conventional wisdom in college football to care more about his athletes doing well in school, which should be the primary focus of their college years rather than football. But sometimes a person does something so heinous that it outweighs all the positive contributions they’ve made in their careers and their lives. This is one of those times and it’s the reason why the man they call JoePa has to go.

What really makes me even sicker and madder is the spin on this by the university. They did the bare minimum of notifying up the university’s chain of command, but no one, not even Paterno, bothered to call the cops. I find this so infuriating. While it may be defensible from a legal perspective, it certainly isn’t from a moral perspective. This is why everyone who knew about the alleged abuse, including Paterno, should have the decency to walk away or the university board should have the courage to get rid of them as punishment for their inaction and the shame they have brought on a good university.

Thanks to PSUMark2006 via en.Wikipedia for the Paterno photo.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mets have bigger problems than Madoff

Forget the Bernie Madoff mess for a second. The New York Mets have many problems in their baseball operations to deal with.

The disappointing 2011 season led to a sizeable decline in attendance at Mets games, which has led to something even sadder: job losses. Not the jobs of the general manager, manager or the players, but of rank-and-file workers, the people who can least afford to lose their jobs. The Mets have always tried to position themselves as the team of choice for blue-collar New Yorkers as opposed to the New York Yankees, who embrace their corporate fan base with enthusiasm. That Mets image is certain to take a hit with the layoff news.

I fear that the fan defection will get worse with a bad offseason, particularly if the Mets fail to re-sign Jose Reyes. The Madoff-related lawsuits have been tipping in the Wilpons’ favor recently, but they could still be forced to part with hundreds of millions of dollars. That would make it unlikely that they would be willing to accede to Reyes’ likely expensive contract demands. Even if they had the money, I would understand a reluctance to sign Reyes to a long-term deal, even though he is one of the most dynamic players in baseball, considering the multiple leg injuries he has experienced in recent years.

If Reyes walks away, Mets fans will be stuck with only David Wright as a true franchise player and that’s if the Mets choose not to trade him away, which is not a given. Wright is coming off a sluggish year, especially power-wise, but perhaps the moving of the fences at Citi Field will help him find his power stroke again. Of course, that could be bad news for the Mets pitching staff, but the Mets have to try something to spur on their struggling offense and boost their attendance.

I worry that further deterioration of the Mets on the field will lead to more fan defections and job losses for the good people who work for the organization. Hopefully, that won’t come to pass, but I won’t hold my breath for a quick Mets’ revival.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free agents use Yankees to jack up price

Now that the offseason has officially started, it's time for the annual dance of agents of players who have absolutely no interest in playing for the New York Yankees to use the Bronx Bombers to jack up their price.

First up: Mark Buehrle. The long-time ace of the Chicago White Sox is finally a free agent, but has generally been in the conversational shadows of CJ Wilson and other free-agent starters. The agent for Buehrle, who has hurled a perfect game, talked up Buehrle’s durability in throwing more than 200 innings for 11 seasons. Is it just a coincidence that Brian Cashman mentioned AJ Burnett’s durability as a positive contribution by the otherwise inconsistent righty or did Buehrle’s agent see Cashman’s comments and decide to let the general manager subtly know that Buehrle could be his guy?

I don’t know much about Buehrle except that he has roots in the Midwest. New York is a notoriously difficult place to play with the media glare, but Buehrle did spend nearly a dozen years in Chicago so I doubt it would be that much of a transition. But just because Buehrle wouldn’t be blinded by the big-city lights doesn’t mean he actually wants to play for the Yankees, especially since he has only ever played in Chicago (hey Theo Epstein, how about stealing your cross-town rivals' ace—wouldn’t that make a major splash?). It could just mean that Buehrle and his agent will use the Yankees, as many other players do, to increase the bidding for the pitcher’s services.

Should the Yankees go after Buehrle? It doesn’t hurt to take a look. I don’t know how much he would cost them, but if the Yankees are at all interested, the price will be substantially higher.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cashman slip of tongue on Burnett teases fans

Brian Cashman should know that he more than most baseball executives really needs to watch his words very carefully.

Cashman, fresh off his new three-year deal to remain the general manager of the New York Yankees, teased millions of Yankee fans by saying that if AJ Burnett is with the Yankees, he will be in the rotation. The “if” part of that quotation seemed to imply that Cashman was dangling the possibility of an offseason trade of Burnett to another baseball team. The general manager claimed it was just an inadvertent slip of the tongue. But was it?

Was Cashman’s statement simply a bad choice of words or an unveiling of his intentions? Was he signaling to other teams that he is willing to trade Burnett, even if the Yankees have to eat a large portion of the final two years of his contract? Or was he perhaps trying to send a message to Burnett to get his act together or risk being shipped out of town?

Anyone can have a bad day so it is entirely possible that Cashman just misspoke. But Cashman is a pretty media savvy guy (even though he speaks about Yankees players a lot more than I would like or then is probably advisable). He knows that the media circus surrounding the Yankees hangs on his every word. I have a hard time believing that Cashman didn’t mean to open up the possibility of trading Burnett. But perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

If Cashman was just teasing Yankees fans by dangling the possibility of trading Burnett, it’s pretty mean. But not nearly as frustrating as watching a talented pitcher deliver inconsistent performances year in and year out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yankees should not pursue CJ Wilson

Many things went wrong for the Texas Rangers in the World Series, but CJ Wilson may have had the worst postseason of all the Rangers. He may have pitched himself out of a big contract.
Wilson is on the list of free-agent pitchers that the New York Yankees were expected to pursue and the Yankees’ mere interest would have driven his price tag way up. But if the Yankees watched the World Series at all, they could not have liked what they saw from Wilson, the Rangers’ supposed ace. He did not pitch well at any juncture, especially when his team needed him to stop the bleeding in Game 7.

Wilson’s numbers this postseason: 5.79 ERA, 18 earned runs and 29 hits in 28 innings, with no wins and three losses. Does that sound like a guy you want to give a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract to, especially when you still have to pay AJ Burnett more than $15 million for each of the next two years?

The Yankees do not need another pitcher who is going to demand big money and turn into a mediocre pitcher in the playoffs. They need a solid #2 guy to step into the void after CC Sabathia and Wilson showed nothing that would lead you to believe that he is that guy.

Thanks to CJ Wilson via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yankees breathe a CC of relief over deal

The New York Yankees are breathing a sigh of relief now that they have signed CC Sabathia to a contract extension after a surprisingly civil and quick negotiation.

In a deal that I think is extremely favorable for the Yankees, Sabathia will only get another guaranteed year at $30 million added to his contract. The Yankees ace also has a vesting option for another $25 million if he stays healthy, which he has over his first three years in pinstripes. Sabathia has been a true horse for a team that desperately needed one so that option year is achievable for him.

I’m really surprised CC didn’t demand a better deal from the Yankees. Not that he will be hurting for money. But I thought he had all the leverage he needed to get exactly what he wanted from the Yankees. From what CC is saying, he personally just didn’t want to drag this out. He didn’t want to go through the hoopla of being a free agent again. And he obviously loves being the big guy in New York.

Yankee players have shown the team a lot more loyalty in contract negotiations than they have been shown by the team. The Yankees publicly embarrassed Captain Derek Jeter into the deal he signed, knowing that Jeter had no leverage because he had no desire to ever play for another team. But Mariano Rivera didn’t hold a gun to the Yankees head and demand a longer, richer contract even though he had genuine interest from other teams, namely the Red Sox. Sabathia too could have waited until midnight and let the Red Sox come in and drive up his price or get him more guaranteed years. But he didn’t do that, which shows a lot of class and loyalty. From a fan’s perspective, it’s heartwarming, but I can’t help but feel that the Yankees dodged another bullet.

So the most important task of the offseason for the Yankees was accomplished quickly and with essentially no rancor. No matter what happens over the rest of the winter, the Yankees should consider themselves very lucky.