The Wright Move

The Yanks traded Jaret Wright to the Orioles. Not really an earth-shattering trade, but significant in the fact they get another young arm and erase a mistake from the winter of 2004 (i.e. the fall of the Yankees). This benefits both sides as Wright is reunited with Mazzone, his guru from 2003 when he had a career year (and a possible revival forthcoming in ’07) and the Yankees add more depth to a depleted farm system.

More important, we no longer have to endure Wright and his 5 innings of nibbling or wondering when the next home run pitch will be thrown. I mean, how often do we have to see him wiping his brow with that stupid piece of chew in his mouth after giving up another bomb?

I admit he was gritty and gutty and when he asked to pitch he did, whether it was in the bullpen or not. Still, 5 innings is not enough to warrant $7 million a year. The Yankees were wise in trading him and eating some salary. Essentially, they bought him out and got an arm in return.

Here are Wright’s stas with the Yankees, courtesy of Baseball Reference.

2005: Games Started 13, 5 Wins & 5 Losses, 6.08 ERA, 63.7 IP, 34K, 32 BB.
2006: Games Started 27, 11 Wins & 7 Losses, 4.49 ERA, 140.3 IP, 84K, 57 BB.

I love the strikeout totals. Remember, he was signed because Cashman wanted pitchers who would make opposing hitters swing & miss. That worked out rather well don’t ya think?

We pick up Chris Britton, who as reported by Keith Law:

“Britton is a bad-body guy with plus control of a solid-average 90-93 mph fastball, with a fringe-average breaking ball. He’s strictly a reliever, and he needs a better second weapon, but anyone with his control and huge strikeout rates is a valuable asset, especially while he’s still making a near-minimum salary.”

http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=law_keith#20061112

As it stands now, our rotation is Wang, Pavano, Johnson (all under contract), possibly Moose (close to a 2 year $24 million deal) and a yet to be named 5th starter. We could use Karstens, Rasner, Hughes, Sanchez (from the Tigers for Sheff), or we could go out and sign Meche (god help us), Padilla (not bad, but another head case) or Lilly, who I would really be happy about getting back.

We don’t need a high paid 5th starter, just someone who can eat innings until our farm system can help out. Definitely, the Wright move to make.

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Can you smelllllllllll……..what the Sheff is cookin’?!

Oh, to be aYankee fan. You have an owner committed to winning, you’ve had the privilege of watching a true professional play Shortstop (Jeter), Center (Bernie), Relief (Mo), Catcher (Jorge) and in bygone years, Rightfield (O’Neill), Third Base (Brosius), First Base (Tino and Donnie) and a truly classy manager (Torre).

Now, you watch the aged and infirmed try to pitch every 5th day (Unit), you get the psychological mess that is A-Rod at third and the very bitter and always entertaining Gary Sheffield in Right. I mean, the man is a great quote. He was made for New York…but it’s time to say goodbye to at least one headache.

For the last 3 seasons (ok 2 seasons), we have had one of the most dangerous right-handed hitters in the game. I have friends who are Sox fans, who swear they feel he will put a hole in the Monster when he is up. I don’t disagree that he is a great talent, but his ego knows no bounds and his mouth might be bigger.

Let’s reflect on some of Gary’s more endearing sentiments:

From the New Yorker, 8/15/2005

“I know who the leader is on the team,” he says as he scratches his cartoon-villain mustache. “I ain’t going to say who it is, but I know who it is. I know who the team feeds off. I know who the opposing team comes in knowing they have to defend to stop the Yankees.” (sounds eerily similar to A-Rod’s Esquire rants)

followed by this gem:

“I know this. The people don’t know. Why? The media don’t want them to know. They want to promote two players in a positive light, and everyone else is garbage.”

All that in the first 2 paragraphs. Enjoy the rest:
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/sports/features/12398/

L.A. Times, 12/20/2001

“Of the top five players in the game, I’m going to be right there with them, or somewhere close,” Sheffield said. “So why would you trade somebody that’s going to give you consistent numbers?”

L.A. Times, 2/21/2002

“I always wanted to play for the Braves, I always wanted to be with an organization that knows about winning, but I never let myself think about it because I didn’t want to be disappointed,” Sheffield said. “When you play this game long enough, you know that things that you want to happen usually don’t happen, so I just tried to forget about it. Then [agent] Scott [Boras] told me about the deal and I knew I needed this.

“I just didn’t want to be with the Dodgers anymore because of everything. One of the things I told my wife [DeLeon], when we heard all the [off-season trade] rumors, was that I didn’t know what was going to happen but I just didn’t want to play for an organization that did the things they did. I don’t have any bitter moments or memories, I’m where I want to be, but I just didn’t want to be there.”

L.A. Times, 10/30/2001

“When I hired Scott, Scott made it known to them I won’t ask for anything else, and they know I want to be here,” said Sheffield, who has returned to his off-season home in St. Petersburg, Fla. “I don’t want anybody to do anything for me. I just want to be here and help this team win. That’s why I came here in the first place–to win.

“I’m just going to go out there and play like I always do. As far as [Boras] going to them and asking for a [new] contract, that’s not going to happen.
“They don’t have to worry about that because that’s not what this is about. I just want to be able to put down roots here and feel comfortable. That’s what I’ve wanted my whole career.”

And now the latest salvo of a “team player”, someone you want in the foxhole with you, for 162 games:

Newsday, 11/9/2006

When asked about Bobby Abreu, Sheffield said, “He’s a good player, but like I say, you can draw it up any kind of way. He ain’t me. And that’s the bottom line. I understand them having to make this move for the remainder of the season, but to sit here and I’m leaving because of it, I always was told you leave because someone is better than you. I don’t think that’s the case here.”

http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-spyanks094967813nov09,0,3552906.story?coll=ny-sports-headlines

New York Times, 11/9/2006

“I’ve done more for the Yankees than he will ever do,” Sheffield said of Abreu. “When you lose your spot on a team, it should be because the other guy is better than you, but that’s not the case here. Why was I not given a chance to compete for the right-field job?”

Asked if life with the Yankees had been everything he might have expected, Sheffield answered flatly: “I will tell you that not everything is rosy in Yankeeland. It’s all a facade — it ain’t real.”

Sheffield was soon talking about Alex Rodriguez, who endured a tumultuous season. Sheffield said he was disappointed with the way “nobody on the team ever goes to bat for the guy.”

“When you have a teammate under fire like that, why would you keep your distance and just let people keep taking shots at him?” Sheffield said. “If it was anybody else, their teammates would have stood up for them.”

Asked if Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ captain, could have done more to help Rodriguez down the stretch of the season, Sheffield said: “I’m not naming names, it is what it is, but it tells you a lot about the situation here. I like Alex, but we have different personalities. He doesn’t fight back because he wants everyone to like him, but that doesn’t work here. I will not let anyone take shots at me like that.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/09/sports/baseball/09yankees.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

New York Post, 11/9/2006

Sheffield acknowledged he was Alex Rodriguez’s sounding board last season. Asked who would take his place, he answered, “Nobody,” a seeming shot at Derek Jeter and other team leaders.
“You all better get ready,” Sheffield said. “There’s nobody.”

http://www.nypost.com/seven/11092006/sports/yankees/sheff_is_stewing_yankees_michael_morrissey.htm

Wow, the man is certainly a chatter-box. I will definitely miss his violent swing and itsy-bitsy mustache (too bad nobody asked how he did shaved it so sm all), but his attitude and his ego have got to go.

Let’s hope the lockerroom is a better place and his “replacement” (Abreu) is better than Sheff gives him credit.

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An Ally for A-Rod

There have been a few articles recently regarding the state of the Yankees and in particular, one beleagured soul.  Mr. Alex Rodriguez.  Recently, Mariano Rivera, one of the last members of the Old Guard (re: The Last Yankee Dynasty), was quoted in Newsday as saying:  “I love A-Rod,” he said yesterday at Mo’s New York Grill. “I love the guy. He’s done a tremendous job. It’s not easy being himself … It’s tough. They don’t give the guy a break … New York doesn’t give him a break.”

http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-spynotes034958602nov03,0,3524173.story

To me, this one of the most important and public displays of support that A-Rod has received since he has been a Yankee and especially since the SI issue came out where Giambi and Torre decided to air their dirty pinstripes. 

A lot has been made that Alex has never been made to feel comfortable.  That responsibility belongs to the guys in the clubhouse and specifically the home-grown Yankees and even more to the point, the Old Guard.  As most of Yankee nation knows, only 4 Yankees remain from the 1996-2001 team, Jeter, Posada, Bernie and Mo.  Of the 4, only Mo has spoken out.  Why? I can’t say for sure, but you can bet Bernie would never say anything.  He’s much too introverted and Posada has Bigger issues to deal with, namely the Unit.  That leaves Jeter.  As we all know, Jeter was deeply offended by A-Rod’s remarks in Esquire a few years back.  Apparently, Jeter carries a grudge (understatement of the day). 

Quite a few pundits and sportswriters even go to lengths blaming Jeter for A-Rods’ continued mediocrity in the clutch and for all the booing he endures.  A few days after the collapse to the Tigers, John Harper of the Daily News states:

“Jeter sets the tone for everything the Yankees do, so while he got tons of credit, and rightfully so, when they won, he has to take some of the blame now for allowing the A-Rod mess to seemingly suffocate this team. He has kept A-Rod at arm’s length, apparently all because he can’t get past the famous Esquire article of five years ago in which A-Rod allowed his jealousy and self-esteem issues to surface for the first time”

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/story/459941p-386970c.html

Harper continues by saying: “There’s only one person who can change the dispassionate climate surrounding the Yankees, and it’s the reluctant captain, Derek Jeter. But if he hasn’t been willing to embrace A-Rod by now, it’s hard to believe anything is going to change”

Phil Taylor of SI even states that Jeter should not win the MVP due to his lack of support for his teammate.  

“Jeter is the Yankees’ Teflon shortstop, the golden boy to whom no criticism ever sticks. He is a clutch player, to be sure, and he is one of the few Yankees who earned his paycheck on the field in the Yankees’ ALDS flop against the Detroit Tigers. But in the most crucial area, the A-Rod area, he was a crashing failure.”

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/phil_taylor/11/01/arod.jeter/index.html

Both writers make valid points.  Jeter should show support like Mo, it’s just not his nature to make a public plea.  Remember, he endured his own booing when he was hitless in April a few years back.  Jeter did not ask for the booing to stop and ask to remember the good times, he instead put his head down and went back to basics and being the player he was/is.  I suppose Jeter expects the same of A-Rod.  He shouldn’t let the booing get to him, but he does.  Jeter should realize this and accept it and try to help him.  If it takes a public appearance together so be it. 

Jeter needs to realize that with a mentally stable A-Rod, the Yankees are in a much better position to succeed.  If he does not want to help, than the string of disappointments may continue.

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Heir Apparent.

With the recent release of Lee Mazzilli, the vacancy of Bench Coach is flashing like a neon sign in the middle of a Bronx night.  This might be the most important seat in the dugout, in Torre’s hip pocket.  Not since the Gerbil (aka Zimmer) vacated his position rather hastily after the 2003 World Series, have we had a decent field manager.

Yes, yes, Torre is a tremendous manager.  He is able to soothe egos, push the right buttons and insulate his players from the crush of the New York media and the Boss.  However, Torre lacks in two areas, and these last few seasons it is blatantly obvious where he is lacking….Pitching and Strategy.  Zimmer brought to the table a tenacity and National League quality of managing.  I would be interested to see what the number is for amount of sacrifice bunts, hit and runs and sac flys during Zim’s tenure and the numbers in his absence.

Girardi did a respectable job, but he wasn’t here long enough to really have an impact.  The job he did with the Marlins and their incredible shrinking payroll should prove that he has what it takes.  His predecssor and successors both want onto managerial gigs.  Willie took the cross-town Mets to game 7 in the NLCS and Maz couldn’t manage Boog’s Bar-B-Q, let alone the O’s. 

Again, Willie and Maz didn’t hold the position long enough to make it their own, but by having 3 relatively inexperienced “managers” acting as bench coach in Zim’s absence, that may have hindered the in-game strategy.  Which is why I thought it odd that with all of the managers (former, of course) on the Yankee bench, they went with Maz, instead of Bowa (NL guy), Pena (had 1 solid year with KC, which should count like dog years…1 good year = 7 solid years for a real team) or even Kerrigan (bullpen coach).  And lets not forget, the Gator was a first year pitching coach. How much hand holding did Torre have with that job?

So now, we hear rumor that Donnie Baseball is the next in line for the “throne”.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/baseball/mlb/11/01/yankees.mattingly.ap/index.html

Is this a legitimate step? Sure is. There is no quick fix now that Pinella is in Chicago.  With Sweet Lou out of the way, it is safe to assume that Torre is a lame duck for the whole year and he will be tutoring the Hit Man. 

Believe me, there is no one I would rather see as manager of the Yankees than Donnie.  If it was up to me, I would get Rags to be my pitching coach too. 

Donnie might actually benefit from Cashman’s unified Yankee front office.  The more high priced divas to leave the team, the less headache it would be for Donnie to manage.  Instead of Unit, we would have Hughes.  Instead of Sheff, we have Melky & Abreu.  Will the Hit Man be able to survive the glare of the media once he becomes the manager?  He certainly seems to have the personality for it.  Being a home-grown Yankee helps and he is even more untouchable than Jeter (if you can believe it).  Does all of that translate into a good manager, let alone bench coach?  Only time will tell.   I can’t wait for  2008.

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For the Birds.

Wow. If anyone had predicted at the start of the playoffs that the St. Louis Cardinals would have won the World Series, I would have said they were out of their mind or a homer.

It happened.  LaRussa added to his HOF plaque for Cooperstown with a great playoff run, helping the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals become the worst team in history to win the World Series, beating out the 1987 Twins (85 wins) and the 2000 Yankees (87 wins). 

They also happend to be the seventh different World Series Champion in the past 7 years (or since the Yankee mini-Dynasty).  Now, the question is, which is odder?  That the Yankees won 4 of 5 or that there is this much parity?  At this point, you have to recognize that what the Yankees did was extraordinary.  In the era of 3 playoff rounds, to win 4 titles in 5 years is unreal (and also a discussion for another day).

Today is a day for Cardinal fans.  They certainly had the hot team and all of their pieces clicked over the last 3 weeks.  How do you explain them winning when Pujols had 3 RBI in 14 games?  Scott Spezio is the answer.  The man has never lost a postseason series.  He has won 2 titles (2002 Angels and 2006 Cards).  He has a .284 postseason BA (not great, but solid), a slugging percentage of .531 (very good), an OBP of .379 (again solid), and 25 RBIs (produced by 23 hits!).  That is astounding.  Another major piece…Eckstein (another Angel…God how I hate the Angels).  He has 18 RBIs, 49 hits, .345 OBP, .335 SLG and .278 BA.  Not great, just solid and clutch.  Same with Spiezio (who may be hitting close to .700 with men in scoring position).  All stats courtesy of MLB.com

You need the little guys, the grinders, the bench guys to know their roles and to fulfill them.  You need to have pitching (Reyes, Anthony – Game 1), a good bullpen (Wainwright) and timely hitting. Says Jon Heyman of SI.com “Eckstein has now won two rings as a starting shortstop, one in each league. Not to rub it in. but he and Scott Spiezio are now each up two rings on A-Rod”.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/jon_heyman/10/28/cards.wrap/index.html

Tom Verducci of SI goes into the “winners & losers” of the 2006 series:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/tom_verducci/10/31/winners.losers/index.html

The fact that Eckstein was named MVP, after starting the World Series 0 for 11, is a testament to his grittiness.  These are the types of players needed to win a short series.  These are what the Yankees had in abundance during the 1996-2001 Era.  Everyone copied them and somehow the Bombers lost the formula.  Who knows, maybe 2007 they’ll find themselves again by looking at an old foe or two.

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Shenanigans!

Game 2 of the World Series should have been played under protest. Protest by whom, you might ask? By us, the fans. Kenny Freakin’ Rogers(!) pitched another scoreless game. This time under a cloud of suspicion….the illegal use of pine tar.

LaRussa knew something was up, the guys at Fox knew it and ESPN ran tape of his hand during the Division Series and ALCS and saw the same thing. He cheated. Right out in front of anyone. The best part? No one in baseball seems to care.

LaRussa says he doesn’t want to deal in that BS. Really?  If it was a player on a Buck Showalter team, he would have personally undressed him.  Oh, if it was a Dusty Baker led team, he may have undressed the pitcher and punched out Baker (see “Three Days in August” by Buzz Bissinger).

Now that he’s playing the Tigers and Leyland is managing, it’s a different story?  Everyone knows he has a tremendous relationship with Leyland (LaRussa hired Leyland when LaRussa was with the ChiSox) and perhaps he did not want to show his buddy up. If that is even remotely true, he should be fired after the Series. Why? He did not do everything in his power as manager to help his team win a game. If Rogers is checked by the umps, he is caught. Thrown out of game 2 and the Series altogether. How does that not help your team?

The other side…maybe LaRussa’s pitchers are just as dirty as Rogers (see Suppan and Weaver and their lifetime post-season stats) and he didn’t want to call attention to his guys. Fine. Slightly more acceptable.

The main thing is Kenny Freakin’ Rogers(!) cheated. He apparently did not get the better of the A’s and Yankees on the up and up. Does that make the fan bases feel any better? I doubt it.

An old saying that I heard on the Michael Kay (ESPN 1050) show…”if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying”.  For generations, ballplayers have been trying to get any advantage they can.  Sosa using a corked bat, Albert Belle (with Jason Grimsley trying to steal them back like a scene from Mission Impossible), Graig Nettles (superballs). Gaylord Perry is a Hall of Fame cheat, as is Whitey Ford. Joe Niekro was caught.

Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun has a nice compilation in his article: http://torontosun.com/Sports/Baseball/2006/10/24/2114573-sun.html

Lots of players use pine tar. Catchers use it, plus their shin guards to doctor the ball. Pitchers use suntan lotion and shaving cream. Check out Jon Heyman of SI: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/jon_heyman/10/23/scoop.rogers/index.html

Another question…how long has Rogers been cheating? Once he washed his hands, he continued to pitch brilliantly. Does that mean he really is that good, or is there another source of pine tar? Perhaps his hat?  Paul Lukas of PAGE 2 (ESPN) has a great story on his UNIWATCH blog:  http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/061023?

Not only does baseball have a steroid and greenie problem, but in their showcase series, a cheater is amongst us. What do they do? How do the powers that be handle it? Like all of their other problems….heads buried in the sand. Not the way America’s past time should be handled at all.

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All Things A-Rod.

It’s been a few days since the “collapse” of the 2006 Yankees. Again, we are dealing with rumors of the trading of A-Rod.

There are two sides to this debate. The first side is the side that says…”you’re trading an MVP, Hall-of-Famer, in his prime”. The second side is the side that says…”he can’t handle the pressure of New York, get him out”.

Unfortunately, both sides are right. When Torre dropped him to 8th in Game 4 and when he and Giambi aired their dirty laundry in SI, well that sealed the deal for this year.

The Yankees lost Game 4 and the gnashing of teeth and wailing began. Torre has to go! A-Rod needs to go! We need pitching! Boston still sucks!

A few pundits and press folk wanted Torre out and had his farewell speech written and his bags packed. He lost the team. He didn’t manage with any emotion (see the play at 3rd where A-Rod tags out Pudge…how do you not argue that if you still have a pulse?). Ok, fine. Torre didn’t have his best series….but did he really get outmanaged? Who was going to hit 100 mph, followed by 103 out of the bullpen? Not Torre….no, just $200 million worth of ballplayers.

Do these guys need a kick in the arse? Maybe, but Pinella was not the answer for 162 game season…a short series maybe. Not 162. That you need Torre for. He is the best at massaging egos and getting the most out of the overprice prima donnas. Since Zimmer left, the Yankees have lacked the NL mentality. Not the Torre didn’t try (see Cano, Melky, Abreu, Jeter, Damon). It’s just when Matsui and Sheff (or another high priced big bopper was added) came back, whatever small ball was working was pushed out the door for the vets.

Enough about Torre. Why? He’s here to stay. Unless he and A-Rod can sit down and hash out how to get over his fear of NY, 2007 is going to be a very short post-season again.

Lots of rumours over who and where A-Rod gets traded. If you trade him, I want a minimum of 3 guys in return. 2 of the 3 need to be in the majors or major league ready. You also have to start thinking about positions of need. Catcher and Relief Pitcher are screaming for attention.

Posada has a year left on his contract and Mo also has one. The only one I want back after next year is Mo. Replacing the old guard is absolutely necessary to the Yankees continued success.

The Angels fit the bill. Give me Santana, Mathis and any power arm for the bullpen and I’m sold. If we have to go Chicago, I want McCarthy from the ChiSox, plus Crede and another P. If we go to the Cubs, I want Hill and 2 other guys (I’ll even take a 75% Mark Prior).

We need pitching. It’s always been about the pitching (except 2002. That was an anomaly).

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