Monday, January 30, 2012

Yankees should not give up Phil Hughes

Why are people so intent on trading Phil Hughes all of a sudden?

Ever since the New York Yankees traded Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, speculation has run rampant that the Yankees will send Hughes away in exchange for a serviceable designated hitter. Putting aside the fact that the Yankees don’t really need a DH with all of their aging stars, I would hope Brian Cashman is not ready to trade away the talented youngster, even after his disappointing, injury-plagued 2011 campaign.

In a perfect world, the Yankees would find a way to trade AJ Burnett, but that’s not going to happen. However, I think trading Hughes would be a big mistake. He has shown us what he is capable of doing when he is healthy, with an All-Star campaign in 2010. I also think most of his problems last year were caused by his health issues. If he comes into camp in good shape, which he has fully committed to, I expect to see the 2010 version of Hughes and you do not trade a guy like that.

Plus, there is the old adage: you can never have too much pitching. I think that applies to the Yankees current scenario, as it has in the past. Not that I would ever root for a pitcher to go down with an injury, but the Yankees have to be prepared for the possibility that someone could get hurt. Rather than being forced to pay exorbitant prices on the trade market mid-season if that happens, the Yankees could tap into their starting pitching surplus. Hughes, if he does not win a starting job in spring training, could come in from the bullpen to fill any injury voids.

But the main reason I do not want the Yankees to trade him is because we have all seen his promise. I haven't given up on Phil Hughes. I hope the Yankees don't either. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mets' nightmare not close to over

The Mets’ long, Bernie Madoff-induced nightmare continues and they could soon be forced to part with millions of dollars.

A trial is set for March to determine whether Irving Picard, the trustee for the Madoff victims, can force the Mets to give up more than $300 million in principal they invested with the Ponzi schemer. But Picard is not waiting until then to try to compel the Mets to give up the $83 million in fictitious profits than made as part of the scheme. Although the Mets are fighting back and seeking to have the whole case dismissed, even the judge concedes that Picard could prevail in attempting to claw those fake profits out of the hands of Wilpon & Co.

Given the Mets’ precarious financial situation, just losing $83 million would be devastating. Even if the Mets are ultimately successful in preventing the trustee from getting more money out of them, just having to part with that much dough could force the Wilpons to cut payroll and squeeze every last dime out of their baseball operations. What that means is that what is best for the baseball team would no longer matter and any Mets player making decent money that can be moved will be out the door. They already had to sit back and watch helplessly as Jose Reyes headed for Miami. Who will be next? 

This whole situation is just sad, but the trial itself, if it gets to that point, will be fascinating to watch. I’m curious to see how much of an impact the trial fallout will have on the New York Yankees’ cross-town rivals. As I’ve said before, I think it’s better for New York and for Major League Baseball in general to have a healthy (both physically and financially) Mets franchise. But I suspect this nightmare will continue to haunt the Mets well into the 2012 baseball season and perhaps beyond.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Posada to get some Hall of Fame love

Unlike Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada won't poll in the single digits in the voting in his first year on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Judging from the comments by baseball writers such as Jack Curry and Mark Feinsand (who does not yet have a vote, but will by the time Posada is eligible), the now-retired New York Yankees catcher has a solid chance to make it into the Hall of Fame. Unlike Bernie, whose candidacy was quickly dismissed by multiple writers, Posada's resume has been compared favorably to current catchers in the Hall. That, combined with his postseason success, could put Posada over the magic 75% threshold.

Will Posada make it into the Hall on the first ballot? I don't think so. A number of writers will be supportive of his entrance into the Hall, but not on the first ballot, which they reserve for baseball's immortals. Posada was a great player for many years, but not an immortal on the level of his pal Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, who will both make it in on their first tries. 

Of course, there will be those who put Posada squarely in the Bernie Williams category: good but not great players whose superior postseason credentials mask the fact that they are simply not Hall-caliber. But there may not be enough of them to keep Posada out of the Hall, especially if the stat geeks get on board with his candidacy.

Posada is definitely going to get some love from the baseball writers. The key unanswered questions are how much love and will it eventually be enough? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

For Derek Jeter, laughter through tears

Derek Jeter did his best to put on a happy face at Jorge Posada’s farewell press conference, but the captain of the New York Yankees was clearly saddened by his best pal’s departure.

The Yankees shortstop said all the right things about his dear friend, about how happy he was to see Posada move on to the next phase of his life, but how sad he was for selfish reasons that he wouldn’t have him around anymore. Jeter made a lot of jokes at his pal’s expense, about how Posada had to switch positions from second base to catcher because Jeter refused to try to turn double plays with him, about how Posada could be a big-league manager, as long as Jeter himself didn’t have to play for him. But Jeter seemed so sad during the press conference, looking quite pained as he watched Posada unsuccessfully try to get through all his thank yous without crying.

Jeter recently revealed that he and Posada had breakfast and lunch together every day on the road since they both became big leaguers. Can you imagine that? That’s 20 meals worth of conversation on a 10-day road trip. I personally find that a little weird as I don’t think there is anybody whose company I enjoy that much. You would think at a certain point, they would run out of things to talk about. Apparently, Derek and Jorge never did.  

So what is Jeter going to do on those long road trips without his pal? He could, of course, become friendlier with some of his other teammates and take them out to breakfast and lunch (on Jeter’s dime, of course). But I doubt that’s going to happen too often with any of his teammates, especially his frenemy Alex Rodriguez. As Ian O’Connor noted in his Jeter biography, the Yankees captain puts up barriers that are almost impossible to scale. ARod violated Jeter’s trust and got banished for it. While they eventually called a truce, their friendship never recovered. Perhaps that’s why Jeter and Posada spent so much time together because his long-time teammate was one of the few people Jeter could bring himself to trust.  

But I think the key question is will Posada’s retirement hasten the day when Jeter is no longer the shortstop of the Yankees? I would imagine Jeter will continue to play until he feels he can’t play up to his notoriously high, self-imposed standards. But with Posada gone and Mariano Rivera hinting that his own retirement could be coming soon, Jeter may decide he doesn’t want to be the lone member of the last Yankee dynasty and walk away. By his own admission, Jeter is not as outwardly emotional as Posada so there will be fewer tears as his own farewell press conference, even if the rest of us are crying. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sobbing Posada rides off into the sunset

Jorge Posada was not the only one crying yesterday.

I watched Posada’s farewell press conference yesterday with mixed emotions and a lot of tears. I am incredibly grateful that Posada decided retiring as a lifelong member of the New York Yankees was more important than playing another year of baseball, but also so sad that Posada, who has been a fixture for more than 15 years, is no longer with the Yankees. I wonder how they are going to fill the void left by Posada’s departure. I’m not talking about him in the designated hitter role, with Brian Cashman saying he is looking at potential trades for a hitter. I’m talking about whether the Yankees will ever be able to replace the passion and fire Posada brought to the team and the tough love leadership he gave to his teammates.

“I could never wear another uniform,” Posada said. “I will forever be a Yankee.”

I was also sad because Posada is clearly still hurt by the way his Yankees career ended. Posada was not even given a chance to compete for his catcher’s job in spring training last year and was embarrassingly demoted before nationally televised games against the archrival Boston Red Sox. Cashman and Joe Girardi can say whatever they want about Posada being a great Yankee, but knowing his temperament for so long, they could have handled things a lot better last year.

But for the most part, Posada’s press conference was a lovely tribute, particularly when Diana Munson, widow of former Yankees Captain Thurman, praised Posada and said she has loved two catchers in her life. I sobbed uncontrollably when she said that Jorge and Thurman would have been best buds. She knows they were cut from the same cloth.

It was really hard watching an emotional Posada fight tears during his speech, when he saluted his parents and sister in Spanish and told them he loved them, when he expressed his love and gratitude to his wife and kids (with his daughter Paulina, who is quite the ham according to her parents, widely smiling back at him), when he choked up trying to thank his teammates, especially his “brothers” Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and finally when he praised the Yankees faithful for standing behind him all these years.

“You kept me going when I needed it the most,” Posada said.

It’s a good thing Jorge put the words on paper because otherwise he never would have made it through that speech. I almost didn’t make it through and I was only watching on television, knowing that a great Yankee was leaving a large hole in our hearts, leaving not on his terms, but on the right terms, forever a Yankee. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For Braun, mum is the word

Ryan Braun apparently gave his version of an Oscar speech in accepting the National League Most Valuable Player award last night. But unlike some Oscar winners, he steered away from anything remotely controversial, namely the positive test result that a lot of people wanted to hear him talk about and try to explain.

Braun was likely advised not to say anything while he was challenging the test result that could get him suspended from baseball for 50 games. So he didn’t. Instead, he focused his speech on thanking a wide group of people, including the players’ union that apparently is supporting him in his battle to get the test results thrown out. Braun made a vague reference to dealing with challenges, but he never said what those challenges were and whether they were even partly of his own making.

The night was not all about Braun as there was what sounds like a very moving tribute to Gary Carter, the former New York Mets great who is battling brain tumors, another lovely send-off for the now retired former head trainer of the New York Yankees Gene Monahan, and a respectful good-bye and thank you from Jose Reyes, who is taking his talents to Miami (but not in the same obnoxious way as you know who).

However, Braun’s appearance seems to have overshadowed the normally festive night, much to the chagrin I’m sure of the other baseball greats in attendance. And they didn’t even get the satisfaction of hearing Braun explain himself to a lot of people who deserve an explanation, including his employers at the Milwaukee Brewers, who apparently are as much in the dark about what’s going on as the rest of us.

For Braun, mum is the operative word and it’s pretty disappointing.

Thanks to Dana Files for the Wikipedia photo.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yankees offseason business almost complete

The New York Yankees signed Brett Gardner to a one-year contract, leaving only Russell Martin and Boone Logan without deals so far. By all accounts, the Yankees offseason business is nearly complete.

Unless the speculation about Prince Fielder signing with the Bronx Bombers comes true (I think it’s nothing more than a pipe dream by some very spoiled Yankees fans), Brian Cashman & Co are almost done for the winter. Of course, the Yankees have surprised us before, most recently with the pre-Christmas 2008 mega-signing of Mark Teixeira and the inking of Rafael Soriano after being rejected by Cliff Lee last year. But Tex is signed for another five years so first base isn’t open for Fielder and I doubt the Yankees are willing to spend what it will cost to get him. And I think the Steinbrenners have learned their lesson about overruling Cashman after paying Soriano more than $10 million a year to be their 7th inning reliever.

This being the Yankees, they could surprise us yet again after pulling off a stunning trade for a potential young ace in Michael Pineda. But after getting Hiroki Kuroda at the price Cashman wanted, he is probably not willing to ask the Steinbrenners to loosen the purse strings again for anyone, including Fielder. And I’m not even sure Cashman is particularly interested in Fielder, even though he is a terrific young hitter. The Yankees general manager has often been stung by criticism that his baseball prowess only goes as far as his resources. By focusing only on moves within his budget, Cashman wants to quell such talk once and for all.

I think Cashman & Co are nearly done, save for signing Martin and Boone and perhaps Eric Chavez or someone of his ilk to be a back-up infielder. The Yankees roster is almost set heading toward spring training and it’s looking pretty good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Braun PED challenge will test the system

I will not be at the baseball writers’ dinner tomorrow, but Ryan Braun will be and I will eagerly read the Sunday newspapers to see what he has to say about testing positive for a banned substance, a result that he spent yesterday fighting.

Braun apparently will not do interviews at the dinner, although he is expected to give a speech in accepting the National League Most Valuable Player trophy. But what could he possibly say that will make anyone feel better about this terrible situation?

If I was attending the event, as I did last year, I can tell you what I wouldn’t want to hear. I do not want to hear Braun claim that he is innocent because he mistakenly took a banned substance. The players get a lot of education and guidance about what’s allowed and what isn’t under baseball’s drug policy so that is simply no excuse. And I don’t want to hear him pull a Jason Giambi by offering an apology without specifying what he is apologizing for.

If I had to guess, I think Braun will say something along the lines that his positive test only proves that there is something wrong with the drug testing system. Let’s assume for a moment that Braun is completely innocent and ultimately successful in his appeal, which under normal circumstances I would root for because he seems like a good guy. But that would have terrible consequences for Major League Baseball, which would have players challenging every dirty test and everyone else questioning the system. It would force MLB and the players’ union back to the negotiating table and those two sides do not have the best history of working together on this issue. For the sake of baseball, it feels like Braun has to lose his appeal or he could end up inadvertently destroying the drug testing system it took many painful years to build.

I was tempted to attend this year’s dinner, mostly because Mariano Rivera and David Robertson of the New York Yankees will be honored. But I have a concert to go to that night, which won’t be nearly as dramatic and controversial, but will be a lot more fun and a lot less uncomfortable to sit through. 

Thanks to Steve Paluch via Wikipedia for the Ryan Braun photo. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yankees set up for a happy reunion

The New York Yankees apparently are on the hunt for a part-time designated hitter after trading Jesus Montero. So expect to hear the announcement that Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui will return to pinstripes any day now.

The Montero trade clears the path for one of the World Series heroes to come back to the Bronx and try to recapture the magic of 2009. The Yankees won’t overpay for either of them and won’t promise them much in the way of playing time. But if Damon or Matsui are realistic about their options, they might consider a return to the Yankees to be their best chance for another championship.

However, Damon already has a pair of World Series rings and is 277 hits shy of the magic 3,000-hit mark to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame so he might opt for a team that will guarantee him more playing time. Matsui is still immensely popular in New York, as shown by the loud cheers and long standing ovations that he received every time he stepped up to the plate as a member of the Angels and the A’s, even with former teammates such as Derek Jeter. If he is willing to settle for less money, the Yankees would likely welcome him back.

The Yankees do not really need to hire a designated hitter. They could go with a rotation that has position players such as Jeter and Alex Rodriguez fill the slot once or twice a week to rest their aging bones. Truthfully, I would much rather have a younger back-up who could help Eduardo Nunez spell the regulars. At this point of their careers, neither Damon nor Matsui can be counted on for regular work in the field.

But I may have the minority opinion on this one, as we Yankee fans are suckers for nostalgia and the great tradition of the Bronx Bombers. As long as either Damon or Matsui could be had for the right price, I don’t think the Yankees have any problem bringing one of them back into the fold. They’ve done it before with Tino Martinez, a move that thrilled me beyond belief despite Tino’s rough years away from the Yankees because he is a personal favorite of mine (like I said, we are suckers for nostalgia). So a Damon or Matsui reunion could be imminent, a prospect that will make a lot of Yankee fans very happy. 

Thanks to Keith Allison for the Damon photo and edogisgod for the Matsui photo via Wikipedia. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hughes, Burnett the odd men out for Yankees?

The New York Yankees all of a sudden have a crowded starting rotation heading into spring training after reportedly signing Hiroki Kuroda and trading for Michael Pineda. So who are the odd men out? Most likely it will be either AJ Burnett or Phil Hughes, or perhaps both of them.

Hughes just got some good news, as his agents and the Yankees reached agreement on a one-year, $3.25 million contract with performance bonuses and avoided arbitration for the second straight year. I’m glad that Hughes and the Yankees were able to reach a deal because of the contentious nature of these arbitration hearings. Hughes would not have had as strong a case for a raise this year as he struggled with injuries and was unable to replicate his 2010 All-Star campaign. With Hughes rededicating himself to going into spring training in tip top shape, I fully expect him to have a bounce-back year.

But even if Hughes struggles in spring training, I don’t think the Yankees are ready to trade him, despite the rumors in the blogosphere. For one, he is coming off a rough year so his value is not as high as it was a few years ago when he was a key prospect that Brian Cashman simply refused to part with for Johan Santana. Secondly, the Yankees know that Hughes can be successful in the bullpen and could ultimately decide that is the best spot for him, as they eventually did with Joba Chamberlain.

Burnett is another issue entirely. He has worn out his welcome with Yankee fans, and possibly even people within the Yankees organization, as evidenced by the Yankees reported willingness to trade him. Since the Yankees would have to pick up a huge chunk of his remaining salary over the next two years to make it happen, I still think the odds of a trade are miniscule. But I think the Yankees are almost out of patience with Burnett so his large contract is not going to protect him for much longer. Burnett has already been demoted to the bullpen in the playoffs and I could easily see the Yankees shifting him to the pen if he struggles in the regular season.

It’s possible this overcrowding situation will be resolved by injury although I would hate to see anyone lose a job because they got hurt. More likely, Hughes and Burnett will have to step up to keep their jobs. I believe Hughes can do that, but seriously doubt we will ever see Burnett consistently harness his ridiculous talent to become the #2 starter the Yankees paid for. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yankees make splash by stealing M's pitching stud

You didn’t really expect the New York Yankees to stand pat heading into spring training did you?

For all the talk of the Yankees’ budget, they managed to find some money for Hiroki Kuroda. With spring training right around the corner, Brian Cashman & Co was simply not comfortable with a rotation of CC Sabathia and a lot of question marks and Kuroda was the best option on the free-agent market. But in the long-term, I really do believe the Yankees are sincere about trying to get under that $189 million figure before the next contractual penalty phase kicks in, as shown by their unwillingness to give Kuroda or any other mediocre free-agent pitcher a multi-year deal.

No, the Yankees did not pry King Felix Hernandez from the Seattle Mariners’ dying hands, as many Yankee fans were clamoring for. But they got the next best thing: another potential stud in 22-year-old Michael Pineda. His 2011 win-loss record was not great, but put the Yankees’ lineup behind his 3.74 ERA and his win total is guaranteed to improve, unless Bobby Valentine is right about the Mariners trading him for a reason.  

The Yankees supposedly thought the world of Hector Noesi, with him rumored to be in the mix for a starting job in the 2012 Yankees rotation, and supposedly had big plans for Jesus Montero. But that could have been the Yankees talking up their prospects in the hopes of trading them for better players, a long-time habit of Cashman & Co.

I, for one, am not going to cry over the loss of Montero even though I liked what I saw of him last year. For all his terrific September at-bats, the Yankees were souring on Montero because they could not find a position for him. They were never sure he would put in the work to become even a decent game caller, the way a defensively-challenged Jorge Posada did in becoming a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. It was quite telling that Montero, as young as he was, was headed for an almost full-time designated hitter role, which would not have been in the Yankees’ best interest as they need to free up that slot to give Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter time off the field without breaking any hitting strides.

I’m a pitching and defense fan first so I’m supportive anytime the Yankees get a veteran arm and a couple of young pitching studs, even if they have to give up a promising power bat. Unlike Bobby V, I approve of these moves. 

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the Michael Pineda photo.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shocker! Bud Selig to stay on as MLB commish

I’m sure we’re all completely shocked by the news that Bud Selig will stay on as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

In all seriousness, as much as Selig insisted that he would depart at the end of his contract, there was just no way he was going to leave with so much unfinished business, namely the precarious financial situations of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets (yes, I blame the New York Yankees’ cross-town rivals in part for Selig’s decision not to ride off into the sunset. And Bernie Madoff, of course). If Selig can put the Dodgers in the capable hands of his one-time deputy Joe Torre and find a way to help the Mets out of their financial abyss, that would settle two of the biggest obstacles between Selig and retirement.

Did Selig really want to retire? I truly believe that he did want to leave his high-profile job and settle into an uncomplicated life in academia. But I also believe that Selig is not a man to walk away when things get tough. To be sure, he would have been leaving Major League Baseball in pretty good shape following the almost completely rancor-free contract negotiations that resolved many key issues: tighter drug testing, more expanded instant replay that will hopefully reduce controversial calls, additional wild cards that ensure the excitement of the 2011 regular season’s finish will be replicated every year.

But the financial troubles of two major franchises in baseball’s key markets was simply too much for Selig to walk away from, a delicate situation that the baseball owners probably did not trust another commissioner to handle, which is why I can imagine that they may have begged Selig to stay.

Whatever the reason, Selig’s decision to stay on is good for the game of baseball. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bernie gets no love from Hall of Fame voters

Bernie Williams got no love from the Baseball Hall of Fame voters.

Williams only got 9.6% of the vote, which guarantees that he will remain on the ballot for next year, but also means that it is highly unlikely he will ever get anywhere close to the 75% threshold needed for induction into the Hall of Fame. The voters simply didn’t buy his Hall credentials despite a .297 batting average, 287 home runs, 1,257 runs batted in and all his postseason numbers, with Bernie ranking first or second in many categories. They didn’t care that he was a key member of four World Series champion teams and played the glamour position of center field for the New York Yankees.

The result is disappointing, but not surprising. I had been hoping for support in the 20-30% range, but was not optimistic. Bernie’s chances did not look good when New York-based writers such as Jack Curry and Jon Heyman publicly acknowledged their refusal to vote for him.  But it is galling to see Bernie get fewer votes than known cheaters such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Sure, Bernie’s power numbers do not compare to their numbers, but Bernie was a clean player, which is a lot more than we can say for those guys.  

Other former Yankees again struggled in the voting. Legendary Yankees Captain Don Mattingly only received 17.8% of the vote in his 12th year on the ballot, making it a virtual certainty that Donnie Baseball will not go into the Hall as a player. Lee Smith received 50.6% of the vote in his 10th year on the ballot and Gil Hodges is the only player with more than 50% who has failed to gain entrance into the Hall. But too many writers struggle with or scoff at the saves category, Smith’s biggest credential for the Hall with 478 career saves, so I doubt he will make it in. Ruben Sierra, in a total shocker (J.K.), did not get one vote in his first year on the ballot so we won’t have to consider his candidacy ever again.
The one positive vote for the Yankees was the 48.7% for Tim Raines, who continues his steady climb toward that magical 75% threshold. Raines, who has the support of prominent writers such as Heyman, has 10 more years of eligibility left so I have high hopes that he will eventually make it into the Hall.

Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada will be on the ballot in four or five years, respectively (assuming the reports that Posada will retire are accurate) and will be interesting candidates for the Hall, although Pettitte does not get my vote because of his admitted human growth hormone use. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, whenever they decide to call it quits, will be surefire, first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees. But Bernie Williams will never again be a real candidate for the Hall of Fame and that is truly disappointing.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pride of Cincinnati now the toast of baseball

The pride of Cincinnati is now the toast of baseball.

Barry Larkin, the long-time shortstop of the Cincinnati Reds, got the good news that he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after being named on an impressive 86% of the ballots, easily surpassing the 75% threshold required for induction. The Captain of the Reds  will have a fantastic plaque in Cooperstown, shining a well-deserved light on his list of accomplishments, including, but not limited to, 12 All-Star game selections and the 1995 Most Valuable Player Award.

Larkin was the only member of the class of eligible candidates to win induction, although former Minnesota Twins ace Jack Morris came tantalizingly close with 67% of the vote. Perhaps that bodes well for Morris in future years.

I personally love it when players are truly happy about honors such as Hall of Fame induction and there is no doubt that Larkin was genuinely excited and thrilled by the honor. You could not wipe the smile off of his face.

“I could not believe it,” Larkin said of getting the Call. “It was unbelievable.”

Not to us, Barry. Congratulations!

Thanks to the White House for the photo of Barry Larkin, taken alongside former president George W. Bush and members of the armed forces. 

Who should get into the Hall of Fame?

This is supposed to be a weak class of candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I can think of a couple of deserving players.

Barry Larkin has to be the guy with the best chance of getting into the Hall. His has an impressive resume to be sure: a Most Valuable Player award, a career .295 batting average, 12 All-Star appearances playing for one team, an unusual feat in modern baseball. Larkin was such a great player that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and his family were in distress over possibly being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1992 baseball draft and having the talented youngster stuck behind Larkin for much of his career. Fortunately, New York Yankees fans know how that turned out. But I think Larkin, who got 62.1% of the vote in last year’s balloting, makes the leap into enshrinement this year.

Larkin shouldn’t be the only Hall of Fame candidate getting some good news this afternoon although I think he will be. I would like to see Jack Morris finally win a place in the Hall. I know the stat geeks don’t like him much, partly due to that 3.90 ERA and his supposedly lacking in the wins above replacement department. But Morris was the very definition of the big-game pitcher, tossing what some baseball observers consider one of the greatest games of all time: a 10-inning shutout of the Atlanta Braves that won the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins. In 2011, Morris received 53.5% of the vote, his highest level of support so far so a jump to the 75% level is not impossible. But it would require a significant number of writers changing their minds about his candidacy, which seems unlikely.

I adore Bernie Williams and I hope he gets a respectable level of support in the balloting. But he’s not going to get anywhere near the 75% needed for election to the Hall in his first year on the ballot. Even the New York beat writers, who have a lot of affection and respect for Bernie, have publicly stated that they will not vote for him, although they would like to see him receive his well-deserved plaque in Monument Park. So would I.

Who do you think should get in? 

Thanks to Rdikeman via en.Wikipedia for the Barry Larkin photo. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Posada right to retire as a great Yankee

I was sad to hear the news that Jorge Posada plans to retire from baseball, but thrilled beyond belief that he chose to call it quits after playing his entire career for the New York Yankees.

In a day and age where baseball players go from team to team, it is heartwarming to know that Jorge Posada has apparently decided that playing his whole career for the Yankees was way more important than trying to latch on to another team in a part-time role for a year. This way, he will go down as one of the most critical members of the last Yankee dynasty, with a plaque in Monument Park acknowledging his truly immeasurable contributions.

For the proud Posada, it had to be an extremely tough decision. In truth, after hearing reports of interest from contending teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought Posada would decide that he wanted to go out on his own terms rather than let the Yankees determine that he was done. Posada proved he had some baseball still left in him, trying to singlehandedly carry the Yankees past the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. The worst part of the Yankees early exit was watching Posada trying to fight off tears, knowing that this was the end for him in Yankee pinstripes.

The 2011 version of Posada left us with some great moments and one really bad one, which truly reflects the real Jorge Posada. His pride and fiercely competitive nature led him to make some bad decisions over the course of his Yankee career, namely opting out of a game against the archrival Boston Red Sox. But it also helped him bash his way to a borderline Hall of Fame career. On his way out the door, Posada thrilled his supportive fans with several memorable moments this year: stealing his pal Derek Jeter’s thunder with six ribbies and a Grand Slam on the day the Yankees honored Jeter’s successful pursuit of 3,000 hits, the clutch pinch hit to help the Yankees secure the American League East title, his exciting and unexpected appearance as an emergency catcher after being told he would never catch another game for the Yankees. He leaves us with a lot of beautiful memories like those and World Series championships that we can treasure forever.    

Posada absolutely made the right call, one that will ensure he will soon take his place alongside all the other great Yankees. I just hope it’s one he can live with. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Can Joe Torre restore the Dodgers to greatness?

Joe Torre is a proven winner in the game of baseball, but he is going to need all his skills and talents for what he hopes will be his next job: restoring the Los Angeles Dodgers to greatness.

Torre announced that he was leaving Major League Baseball’s front office to join a group seeking to buy the bankrupt Dodgers. If the group’s bid is successful, Torre would become the head of baseball operations for the iconic franchise and the primary face of a new ownership group seeking to turn the Dodgers back into a superior organization.

Torre has a lifetime of baseball experience as a player, manager and broadcaster, although he experienced his greatest post-retirement success as manager of the New York Yankees. I do not question Torre’s baseball smarts at all. But I can’t help but wonder whether a job running baseball operations is the best fit for an admitted old-time thinker when it comes to baseball. Can Torre really deal with all the advanced metrics and new-age thinking that comes with recruiting and signing players for a major league franchise in the Moneyball era?

I’m also a little surprised that Torre decided to leave his job as right-hand man to Bud Selig at MLB. It was a comfortable role that seemed to fit Torre like a glove, even when there was controversy with the umpires or MLB’s foolish decision to deny the New York Mets the right to honor the first responders at the 9/11 ceremonies by wearing their hats. But Torre is a master at deflecting and defusing controversies, a talent honed in his many years as Yankees manager under George Steinbrenner.  

He’s going to need more than that if he’s going to succeed in his latest task. The Dodgers are fighting to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and regain the love and affection of Angelenos turned off by the antics of current owner Frank McCourt and the thugs who infiltrated the stadium in recent years, leading to a near-fatal attack on a visiting San Francisco Giants fan. The Dodgers will also have to contend with the suddenly free-spending Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and their new superstar Albert Pujols, whose signing has excited, and perhaps expanded, the Angels fan base.

But Torre has a lot to work with, namely a nucleus of young talent, led by superstar Matt Kemp on the offensive side and ace Clayton Kershaw on the pitching mound. He will have his hand-picked successor Don Mattingly, who did a commendable job running the 2011 team despite all the drama, back in the dugout. It’s a strong base to build off of and Torre may be the guy to massage the team back to what die-hard Dodger Blue fans deserve: a title-winning ballclub. I certainly hope so.

Good luck, Joe!