Monday, February 28, 2005

Shemp Ain't Going Anywhere Next Year

Murray Chass in today's Times says that the Yankees may have hurt their chances of re-signing Shemp Matsui after George cursed out his agent Art Tellem. Though I'd love to see Shemp hitting homers in some other uniform, I don't think it's going to happen.

I think if there will be any effect from this incident on the Shemp negotiations, it'll be that Tellem may up the ante for the Yankees. If Matsui puts up the same .300, 30, 100 numbers he put up in '04, he'll command at least $12-15 million from the Junkees. But the Yanks will be willing to pay whatever it takes to keep this guy. If a similar incident had happened with a mid-market team like the Astros, then they'd be up the creek. And even if Tellem implicitly uses this incident to make the Yankees pay, the Yanks will do it. The Yankees will outbid any offer by as much as necessary. And Tellem isn't stupid enough to screw his client and reputation over an insult by an owner.

After all, Shemp is one of the few Yankees who hits well in the clutch. He is sound defensively, which is important especially when sharing the field with two awful defensive outfielders. Shemp's classy attitude is reminiscent of the late-90's Yankees, which George wants so badly (hence bringing back Tino, Stanton, and Mendoza.)

Most importantly, Matsui is the biggest PR boon for the Yanks. They have their deals with the Youmiri Giants, they have the Japanese reporters, the Japanese fans. Basically, Shemp is bringing in lots of cash to the Junkees. And George never saw a moneymaker he didn't like.

So George can say what he wants about Arn Tellem, but he'll pay whatever he has to for Shemp to stay in pinstripes. Even if it means Shemp will have to join the Junkees' grossly overpaid club that includes Brown and Giambi. And here's hoping Shemp starts playing like those two.

Sheff - Mondesi II

After Gary Sheffield has hit the back page of the Post again, now refusing to partake in some team functions and YES interviews, I think it's fair to say this is Raul Mondesi redux.

When the Yanks got Mondesi in middle of '02, everyone was worried about how that classless jerk would fit into the Yankees clubhouse. After all, Toronto had traded the guy for a can of beans after his fight with then-manager Carlos Tosca. And for the rest of '02, Mondesi seemed to behave himself. He couldn't hit much, but stil had one of the best outfield arms in baseball.

And in '03, Mondesi starting wearing out his welcome. And the last straw came when Mondesi left a game early in middle of July. The Yankees were so fed up that they, too, gave the ex-All Star to Arizona for a couple of no-names, David Delucci and Brad Prinz.

Sheff kept his mouth shut last year, and put up much better numbers than Mondesi. And I wouldn't be surprised if Sheff puts up such numbers again this year. But now, his true colors are starting to show. Can you say "clubhouse cancer"?

And with Sheff's production, the Junkees won't want to dump him like with Mondesi. Things are starting to get real interesting.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A-Rod Still A-Schmuck

I get sick every time I read or hear A-Schmuck talk about the famous slap-play he made in Game 6 of the ALCS. He said that he has no regrets, that it was a smart play because he nearly got away with it, and he implied that he would do it again if he had to.

That's what you call a jerk. First of all, it was a dumb play because Jeter would have been on second base had you gotten tagged out and instead, he was sent back to first.

Second, it's illegal! What ever happened to sportsmanship? What ever happened to a good, clean game?

I'd have some respect for the guy the said, "Look, I got caught in the heat of the moment and lost myself. Obviously it didn't make much sense, but I didn't think about it at the time." Or, "It was a dumb move, and I wouldn't do it again."

Instead, the classless loser prides himself on a move that may have cost his team the pennant. I hope Bronson Arroyo hits him in the fanny.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Message to Bambi: Don't Retire!

The New York Post had a piece the other day on how Bernie "Bambi" (thanks to Stick Michael for that one) Williams is considering retirement. But I don't want to see the guy go! The Junkees are so much more fun to watch with one of the AL's worst centerfielders. Not to mention Bernie's steadily declining power and average numbers. What was his last big hit? That homer in game 1 of the '96 ALCS? What was that, almost ten years ago?

Considering the Yanks didn't get Beltran, they oughta pick up Bernie's option next year. Joe Snorre needs some more late '90's guys in the clubhouse to make up for Brown, Sheffield, and A-Schmuck. Maybe they can get Bernie to pull off a Dale Sveum '98 and have him just serve as a bullpen catcher. And in true Yankee style, pay Bambi $13 million for it.

And who would take over for Bernie, anyway? Beltran is in Queens. Damon, a free agent after this year, is as appealing to Junkee fans as Pedro. Besides, Jesus Damon hits better with long hair and beard. And the farm is barren. Perhaps to appeal to a few pathetic Schmet fans (and to make up for Bernie's lack of defense), the Junkees will trade for Mike Cameron. But even washed-up Bernie can hit better than Cameron. So the Yankees have to keep Bernie!

And I'm sorry, Stick Michael, but the Bernie-Bambi comparison is inaccurate. Bambi has a better throwing arm.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Manny's Preseason Picks - AL East

Let's start with the East:

1) NY Yankees - even as a Yankee despiser, you have to admit that the Yankees are baseball's best from April to September. Come October, though, and you'll see the return of the choke. Expect Randy to wear down come the postseason, Pavano return to his pre-'03 form, Wright to get injured, the hitting to get older and worse, and Brown to bring the choke back to New York once again.
2) Red Sox - 3rd straight wild card. I like Wade Miller, think he'll be one of the biggest surprises this year. Arroyo will get better, and Renteria provides an extra catalyst for Manny and Papi. Clement has flown under the radar of Prior and Wood in Chicago, and should do better than Pavano. Sox can't steamroll over the O's as consistently as the Junkees, so they have to come in 2nd. But the Sox will prevail come October.
3) Orioles - Slammin' Sammy will help out, but can he pitch? Guys like Bigbie, Matos, and Brian Roberts will improve. Sidney Ponson and Erik Bedard can't beat the Yankees, though.
4) Blue Jays - Offense will take a slight step back, in missing Delgado. Hillenbrand and Koskie are nice pickups, but not much effect. Bounce-back years from Halladay and Miggy Batista give the pitching a boost, but not enough for the Jays to compete.
5) D-Rays - most mismanaged team of all-time, anyone? Gotta feel bad for Piniella and whatever fans are left down there. What a mess this team is.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Phil Mushnick on Snorre's Steroids Stupidity

From the New York Post:

February 20, 2005 -- OF ALL the responses to Jose Canseco's published claims, none seemed odder - or more disturbing - than Joe Torre's. In an interview seen on Ch. 2's Tuesday night newscast, Torre seemed to throw his support behind the darkness. He clearly suggested that steroid use in baseball - illegal steroid use - is a nobody's-business issue.
"I'm put off by books," said Torre, who in 1997 co-authored a revealing book about his life. "What goes on in the sanctity of the clubhouse," he continued, "like the sanctity of the kitchen at home, needs to stay there."
Coming from Torre, that's bizarre. Through his Safe At Home Foundation, Torre has valiantly lent his name and private experiences to bringing the "sanctity" of domestic abuse out of the kitchen and into the light.
That he's "put off by books" that violate both clubhouse and kitchen as secret-sanctified harbors flies in the face of his book and his very public personal stance against indulging domestic abuse as a behind-closed-doors, keep-out matter.
In fact, early in his book Torre details instances of his father's abuse of his mother, writing that she was once driven to threaten his father with a knife. Might that have been a kitchen knife?
And when Torre writes of how his family gathered to ask his father to get out and stay out, the meeting is held in the family's dining room, surely, next to the kitchen.
Torre lived with an old-world, traditionally secretive and illegal evil. He then nobly exploited his public stature to identify and combat that evil by meeting it head-on, dragging it, shoving it into the light.
That he would consider steroid use a what-happens-here, stays-here matter for the clubhouse or any house is shocking.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Wells and the Rocket

I must admit, I've never liked David Wells. In the last game of the '02 ALDS, he proved he was a quitter, giving up after Bernie botched a fly ball. And of course, during the '03 World Series, he was bragging about how he can still pitch even though he doesn't work out as rigorously as Roger Clemens. He promptly followed that up by lasting only an inning in his next start, pulling himself out due to his back. And his moronic statements to the press yesterday didn't help the cause.

I'm not a fan of players trash-talking. Takes too much away from the game on the field. Leave that to the thugs in the NBA. One exception: A-Schmuck has earned the response he's gotten. A-Rod is brash, egotisitical, and a sore loser. The message from the Red Sox: keep your mouth shut till you win something. It's right on target, and maybe A-Rod will get it. But for Wells to start mouthing off on Steinbrenner, Torre, etc. I could've done without.

But the Wells situation reminds me of the Clemens situation in '99. Yankee fans hated Clemens when he came to the Bronx. Just the year before, Clemens was called a "headhunter" by Derek Jeter and incited a brawl in Toronto. And when Clemens came to the Junkees the next year, it took a while for them to warm up to him. There were the cheeseballs who put on catching gear when he threw batting practice, etc. Point is, when a guy's on your team, like him or not, you root for him.

So I don't like Wells. I don't like his attitude or his big mouth. But like the Yankee fans cheering on Clemens in '99, I'll be rooting for the Boomer every time he gets out there. I guess it's part of being a fan in the free-agency era.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Same Old Sheff

So, Gary Sheffield has made headlines today for ripping Jason Giambi. Gee, why am I not surprised? Okay, last year Sheffield kept his mouth shut, played through pain, and was arguably the MVP of the Yankees. But this is the same Gary Sheffield who's had an attitude throughout his career, and had his infamous tirade in LA, complaining about not being paid enough. And considering this news, considering Sheffield's age, and considering the fact that he's off the "clear" and the "cream," I believe this is the beginning of Sheffield's wearing out his welcome as a New York Yankee.

And again, this is a sign of perhaps the worst chemistry of any Yankee team in the Joe Snorre era. I mean, pitchers and catchers just started and already you have one Yankee ripping a teammate. And this just won't help the sensitive Jason Giambi in attempting to come back under as much scrutiny as anyone in baseball today. Just wait till Johnson or Brown crack up.

Let's examine some of Sheff's wisdom:

On Giambi: "As his teammates, we want to win and we have to support him."

Gee, and your other statements are a fine gesture of support. What a great teammate, Sheff.

On himself: "I put my numbers with anybody. Wherever I have been there has never been a player better than me."

Guess Sheff has been hanging out with Reggie Jackson too much. But the comparison ends there. While Mr. October put together one of baseball's most clutch performances in Game 6 of the '77 World Series, Sheff's bat fell asleep as part of baseball's biggest choke effort in the '04 ALCS. Put your money where your mouth is, Sheff.

And I'm sure A-Schmuck is glad to hear that you are the better player. That comment will go over real well with him and his small ego.

(Speaking of A-Schmuck, kudos to Trot Nixon for speaking the truth on A-Schmuck. Trot doesn't have A-Schmuck's numbers, but as he proved in Game 3 of the '03 ALDS, he'll get the hits when they count. When was A-Schmuck's last clutch hit? Swatting the ball out of Arroyo's hand? What a loser.)

One more point: When I was a Yankee fan, my favorite player was the classy Paul O'Neill. Too bad his RF position has been supplanted by two of the biggest jerks in the game, Raul Mondesi and Gary Sheffield. Maybe Cashman ought to pursue another attidude-ful Dodger to help Bernie out. I think Milton Bradley would be a perfect fit with the Yankees' chemistry right about now.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Old York Times on "What Did the Junkees Know Before Signing BALCO-Boy?"

A person with knowledge of the contract said that before they signed off on Giambi's seven-year, $120 million deal, the Yankees acquiesced to his request and removed all references to steroids from the guarantee language routinely included in contracts.
The Yankees were not innocents in this matter. They didn't say to themselves: Delete references to steroid use? Well, all right if you insist, but why would you want us to do that?
They wanted Giambi badly enough that they relinquished the right to suspend him or stop payment on the contract or terminate the contract or convert it into a nonguaranteed contract if he was found to use steroids. No other words were deleted from that paragraph of the contract, the person said.
That act alone made it difficult for the Yankees to try to void the contract after The San Francisco Chronicle reported Giambi's leaked testimony before a federal grand jury on Dec. 11, 2003. A hearing into a Giambi grievance over the termination would have produced some tantalizing testimony.
Union lawyer: Mr. Steinbrenner, before you approved a $120 million commitment to Mr. Giambi, did you have any idea or any suspicion that he used steroids?
George Steinbrenner: Umm. ...
Giambi was asked at a news conference yesterday at Yankee Stadium if he misrepresented himself when he signed the contract. Arn Tellem, his agent, answered for him.
"Absolutely, unequivocally no," Tellem said. He didn't spell it out, but he didn't have to. The Yankees' action three years ago spoke eloquently enough. Their willingness to delete steroids demonstrated that they clearly understood Giambi's representation.
The Yankees signed Giambi on Dec. 13, 2001. The Chronicle reported that he had told the grand jury that he used steroids during the 2001 season. He made sure his continued use of performance-enhancing drugs would not jeopardize his contract.

Bob Raissman on the Giambi Press Conference

Yesterday, in the media capital of the world, the Yankees staged what amounted to a media blackout.
They threw an invitation-only press party for Jason Giambi. Black tie was not required. Still, the color would have been an appropriate one for this black-eye session.
Anyone administering this fiasco can say an independent public relations firm, not the Yankees, orchestrated - and set the ground rules - for Giambi's bull session with notebooks and microphones.
They can say Giambi's agent, Arn Tellem, was puppet master for an exercise in obfuscation. They can say all the Yankees provided was a home - Yankee Stadium - for this charade.
Since the coming of what is known as "the Joe Torre era," an announcement concerning a Yankee player recovering from a hangnail is apt to be made at a press conference in which the entire media corps is invited and fed.
Yesterday, you had to be invited to dance.
A bootlickers' ball? If the shoe fits ...
A selective audience was in the house.
A select few in a completely controlled environment.
This way, Giambi - characterized yesterday by one Yankee mole as "soft and fragile"- did not have to face any real heat or a Duke Castiglione moment. The format where everyone - print and electronic - gets to pounce en masse was tossed in the garbage.
Think about it. If Giambi's "people" were actually controlling this event, then the Yankee organization - George Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman - basically let a guy who has embarrassed them, milked them for $80 million and lied to the media, order them around like errand boys.
Can't you just hear Tellem and Giambi say: "Hey guys, we know we've made you look like jerks and are stealing money from you, but can we use Yankee Stadium on Feb. 10 to spin the media?"
The guys running the Yankees are too smart, too savvy, to let some double-talking agent and Body By BALCO play them for suckers. And they have too much ego to let Giambi and Tellem, who really are disingenuous schleppers in this scenario, tell them what to do.
That's why the Yankees bows were on this fiddle. The pinstripe suits conducted this orchestra.
By giving the impression they had nothing to say in running yesterday's festivities, the Yankees were distancing themselves from being portrayed as media manipulators and co-authors of any lies coming out of Giambi's mouth.
The fact Giambi's soiree was not covered live by the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, aka Al-Yankzeera, was the most telling evidence of the distance the Yankees attempted to put between the organization and Giambi's soiree. If Steinbrenner & Co. wanted the "press conference" on YES, it would've aired.
When it comes to the Yankees, the Giambi story is big. It would stand to reason YES would cover Giambi's meeting with the media live. When Giambi signed with the Yankees, YES covered the press conference live. Other momentous events, like Derek Jeter being named Yankee captain, were also carried live on YES.
Instead of getting live coverage yesterday, Yankee fans could only see a small snippet of video replay on WFAN's "Mike and the Mad Dog" simulcast on YES. Then, viewers were reduced to having to listen to a replay of Giambi audio - in steroid-phonic sound - while having their eyes glaze over watching Mike Francesa and Chris (Mad Dog) Russo listen to this drivel.
Man, that was riveting television.
This, again, showed that YES' marching orders come directly from the Bronx and Tampa. The right thing to do, if YES was a legitimate network devoted to covering all Yankee news rather than an extension of the team's PR department, would have been to air yesterday's Stadium session live.
Instead, there was a convenient excuse for shafting viewers. Since "ground rules" were set by the Giambi camp, no local TV outlet was allowed to televise the farce live. So, Yankee lackeys running YES could tell everyone: "Gee, we wanted to cover it live, but we were just following the rules."
Rules that will be broken if the "new" Giambi gets off to a hot start. Then, YES will air his postgame press conference live.
And media members won't need an invitation to attend.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Twins and A's: Not Proof

After another complaint to a friend of mine about the competitive imbalance in baseball, the guy brought up the Twins and A's as proofs that money isn't everything; after all, those teams proved you could be spendthrift and win!

Time to debunk that one:

The Twins have lucked out in that they're in one of baseball's cheapest divisions. While there's an elite big-market money club or two in each other division in baseball (AL East- Yankees, AL West - Angels, NL East - Schmets, NL Central -Cardinals/Cubs, NL West -Dodgers), the only team in the AL Central that comes close is the Chicago Mets a.k.a. White Sox. (Although Detroit, with Ilitch's Red Wings locked out, has stepped it up a few notches). And when Cleveland was spending tons of money, Minny didn't stand a chance. So Minny was lucky in that the Sox, Royals, and Tigers were severely mismanaged the past few years and Cleveland was rebuilding. And thanks to the chemically imbalanced schedule, the Twins were able to play these awful teams many times a year and put up a solid record. Basically, they came out on top of the heap.

And in the playoffs, the Twins never stood a chance. They've had a consistent lineup from top to bottom (not too many holes), but nobody sticks out at you and scares you. Torii Hunter is a solid player, and so is Jacque Jones, but I can think of at least 50 other guys I'd rather have up in a big spot. You can't tell me the Twins had what it takes to win it all last October, or the year before that. Having what it takes to win a weak division and having what it takes to win a championship are two different things. And the Twins could've used some serious dough to build a champion.

And like so many other small-market teams, they lack depth. After Johan Santana and Brad Radke, they have scrubs like Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays holding up the back end of the rotation. And in last year's ALDS, once the Junkees got to their middle relief, it was over. The Twins would've loved to have had LaTroy Hawkins last October. Too bad they couldn't afford him. Juan Rincon is okay, but can he handle October?

Okay, so they were able to re-sign Radke. But now, they've lost Cristian Guzman and Corey Koskie. I've heard they have decent prospects who are ready to play those positions, but prospects are always a risk. Koskie and Guzman may have been unspectacular, but were reliable everyday players.

However, I must admit, you have to give GM Terry Ryan credit. He's made some solid moves, like the trade of AJ Pierzynski for Joe Nathan. And even after losing Pierzynski, Hawkins, Guardado and Milton last year, his team didn't skip a beat.

And as a Red Sox fan, I'm forever grateful for the Twins for releasing David Ortiz. But that also had to do with money; he was due for arbitration after '03, and the Twins couldn't afford him.

Finally, this coming year, the Twins' reign on the AL Central is being threatened. The Tigers are spending again and are more of a threat, especially if their pitching holds up. If Cleveland's bullpen is effective this year and everything works out right, they can be this year's '03 Marlins surprise. And if El Duque and Contreras have something to contribute, the Sox are a threat.

And who knows? Maybe losing a lot of regulars and the reality of baseball's financial imbalance will finally catch up to the Twins.

Okay, this is too long. Next time, the A's.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Nobody Hates the Patriots

So much for the argument that the salary cap prevents dynasties. That's what the Junkee fans like to claim as to why a salary cap would be bad for baseball. But the Patriots proved otherwise.

There are tons of Yankee haters out there. As I've said before, an ESPN poll last October found 88 percent of fans rooting for the Red Sox to beat the Yankees.

So why don't people hate the Patriots as well? They seem to win every year....

Because in the NFL, the salary cap makes it possible for every team to compete and have a chance to win it all. If they don't, it's lousy management, bad coaching, or underachieving. So how can you hate New England? They didn't cheat; they don't have an unfair advantage.

The Junkees, on the other hand, have an unfair advantage, and their spending makes it impossible for some teams to compete. That's why people hate the Yankees but don't hate the Patriots. And I hope Mr. Selig realizes that a salary cap does not mean the end of dynasties.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Yankee Postseason Transaction Patterns

It's funny how the Yankees' postseason transaction focus seems to change every year. And since 2000, it hasn't really helped. Let's take a look:

Post-2000: Even though the Yankees won it all, they were kind of thin on the back end of the rotation with an awful Denny Neagle and a washed-up David Cone. So while other teams picked up marquee free agents A-Schmuck and Manny Ramirez, the Yanks' prize catch was Mike Mussina. Offensively, the team was identical in 2001, except for Knoblauch ending up in LF and the rookie Soriano taking over at 2nd.

And in the 2001 World Series, the Yankees' hitting was awful. So they canned ill-fated hitting coach Gary Denbo, got rid of David Justice (to the Mets for Robin Ventura), and what was the big splash that winter? Jason "BALCO" Giambi. The Yankees also finally got Rondell White, who they'd been trying to acquire for years. On the pitching end, the Yankees added Wells. And after all the "Mariano was tired" theories, the Yanks overpaid for Steve Karsay, Yeah, a lot of good it did them.

After 2002, it was the pitching that did the Yankees in. Their acqusitions the next winter? Jose Contreras, and for the leaky bullpen, Chris Hammond and Antonio Osuna. The Yankees were trying to fix that pen. Taking over for Rondell White in left was PR-puppet Shemp Matsui.

And fixing the pen was an issue lasting throughout '03, as the Junkees brought in a circus including Acevedo, Miceli, Orosco, Benitez, Gabe White, and Felix Heredia.

After Josh Beckett stymied the Yankees in '03, George decided the hitting had to be shored up. SO he went out and got Sheffield, A-Schmuck, Kenny Lofton, and Tony Clark (and I am forever grateful to George for getting him). As for the pitching, the Yanks didn't need to tinker, but after losing Wells, Pettitte and Clemens, something needed to be done. And Weaver had to go. So in came Brown and Vazquez.

After '04, the Yanks have focused solely on pitching -- 2 question marks in Pavano and Wright, and a sure but aging Randy Johnson. The offense is the same, except for Tino and Womack. Last time the Yanks went without improving the hitting? '01. They stayed with what they had, and look what happened.

Now, the Yanks may not run into Johnson and Schilling this October. But remember: they had trouble against Brian Anderson and Miguel Batista too, that October. And Bernie has gone down since then. as has Tino. But again, they do have Shemp and A-Rod now. So here's hoping Gary Sheffield turns in David Justice '01 next year!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Now Mendoza?

ESPN's rumor central reports that the Yankees are interested in Ramiro Mendoza. Wow, these guys really want to go back to the glory days. Maybe they can get Mariano Duncan to come out of retirement. This is one big joke.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Overhyping A-Schmuck

First it was his trash-talking to Curt Schilling. (Just go to the NBA, A-Schmuck). Then there was a piece on on A-Rod's intense off-season regimen, which also mentioned how A-Rod was disappointed with last year and was pumped for a huge year. Basically, there's lots of hype surrounding A-Rod as we enter this season.

It reminds of a few years back, when everyone made a big deal because Derek Jeter showed up to spring training more muscular than ever. Everyone thought, "wow, he's been good, but he'll be amazing this year!" And he proceeding to put up the same numbers he put up every year -- over .300, some power, but nothing eye-popping.

A-Schmuck would do well to keep his mouth shut and let his bat do the talking this year. He's not in hitter-friendly Texas anymore. Let's see if he can hold up to the bigger ballpark, the bigger crowds, and the bigger expectations. And his performance this year will tell us a lot more than anything he can.