Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hank and Hal Dolan Keep The Yankees Skidding

Two days without internet access, and the s**t hits the fan in Yankee-land, while they're parading up in Boston. Where do we begin?

- No surprise that A-Rod made his announcement during the World Series. But if he's done as a Yankee, then New York will have some very, very big shoes to fill. Since '02, the Yanks have had at least one big power bat in the lineup. Giambi was The Man for a couple of years, followed by A-Rod and Sheffield. But after A-Rod, the Yankee with the most homers in '07 was Matsui (with 25). And he's on the downside of his career. Giambi is going to be 37, and it's unclear how much he has left in the tank. If not for A-Rod, the '07 Yanks miss the playoffs. If his Yankee career is over, that team is in trouble.

Then again, the last Yankee team without a player with 30 homers? The '99 World Champions.

- I've got a lot to say about Dallas Green II, aka Joe Girardi. That gets its own post. But for now, one reason this is a bonehead move - if the Yanks want to attract a mix of veterans and youth, Joe's the wrong guy. In Boston, Francona isn't a great field manager, but he's a guy that veterans want to play for. For all of Torre's foibles, the same held true for him. Girardi's hiring might mean new teams for A-Rod, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte. Joe was good for the $15 million Marlins, but he's not a great fit for New York.

- If Torre takes the job in LA, then I give the guy a ton of credit. Here's a guy who was pretty successful for the Yankees, a guy who can hang 'em up with a great run. But he wants to challenge himself, wants to show he can win without George's payroll. I respect that.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

YD's Predictions Bound to Go Wrong

(1) Mattingly will be the next manager. After taking a big PR hit with Torre's firing, the bosses will be looking to get back into the fans' good graces. Even Yankee-haters like Donnie Baseball, so he gets the nod. When the Yanks lose a few in a row in May, look for some uncomfortable moments during the press conferences.

(2) A-Rod will opt out, and George will resign him anyway. This will be George's last hurrah. Manny and I thought Clemens was it, but A-Rod's $300 million contract will be the one.

(3) The Junkees will be on the market for a good PR move in the form of an ex-Yankee. Manny thinks it'll be Kenny Lofton. My guess is Tony Clark. Feel free to make predictions in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a Baby

If you needed any more reasons to hate Randy Levine, Richard Sandomir of the Times provides a few more here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Go Boston!

Great to see the Red Sox in the World Series. What an ALCS it was, definitely a classic. I loved seeing Big Papi in the dugout in the ninth, with the muscle tank and the goggles on, ready to go. He's played through all sorts of pain, and put up great numbers this year. I loved seeing Manny get interviewed after the game. The guy's the hardest-working player in the game, and it's good to see people finally begin to realize that.

And suddenly, the J.D. Drew deal doesn't look too bad. Good for him, that grand slam in game 6 was huge.

In terms of the team's character, the Sox haven't changed much since '04. Lowell reminds me of Bill Mueller - a guy who plays the game right, a guy that's impossible not to root for. Ellsbury reminds me of Dave Roberts - the fleet-footed outfielder you wish you'd see out there more often. And Youkilis is like Millar - so much fun to watch, but Youk is much better both as a hitter and as a defender.

Plus, I'll take Paps over Keith Foulke any day.

If any guy can put an end to the Rockies' magical run right now, it's probably Josh Beckett. Hopefully he can dominate once again, and get the tide turning Boston's way. And if Schill can do what he does best in Game 2, and Dice-K can pitch like he did in the World Baseball Classic...

- And while the Yanks worry about A-Rod, their next manager, and whether Hank, Hal, and Randy are gonna keep screwing things up, the Sox get another visit to the Fall Classic. Go Sox!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dynasty Over; New Era of Chaos Begins

To me, the Torre legacy is as follows: he had one good year as a field manager, many years as a bad field manager, and all of his years, was a great politician.

Torre was definitely below-average as a field manager. I liked him in '96 because he brought over an NL style of managing. There was a lot more running and bunting than there had been during the Showalter era. And he did a great job in the World Series; instead of doing like Francona and keeping slumping veterans in the lineup, he shook things up and it worked really well.

After that, I can't say he made any impact moves that helped the team win. '98-'00 was just a steamroll through the rest of the league. It was all about having the best players and the highest payroll.

And all those division titles? Same thing. When you have the highest payroll in the game, anything less is a big flop. If you can't beat the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays in over 55 games a year, you're awful.

In the postseason, Torre stunk. The Jeff Weaver incident in '03? Bad. Blowing out every reliever's arm, so they couldn't do a thing come October? Stupid. Torre did a terrible job there, capped off with the Joba rules this year. To me, that was the beginning of the end for Joe.

What did Torre do best? He kept a sense of calm around the team, no matter what happened. You can talk about the pressure in '96 after losing the first two games to Atlanta, October '98 after 114 wins and the Knoblauch incident, all the tragedies in '99, and even the way he handled the choke in '04. Even the way Torre has handled the muddled front office situation this year. Torre kept his cool almost all the time

Torre has been the anti-Ozzie Guillen, always saying the right thing. Always. In the age of 24/7 media and blogging, it's a great skill to have. No wonder some people think he'd make a great mayor or CEO. I don't know if you'd get results, but you'd get lots of banal soundbites.

But as I said last week, being a manager of the highest payroll means you have to win it all every year. Torre started his Yankee tenure with a bang, but ended it with seven years of big disappointment. And in terms of strategy, Torre is not even close to legends like Weaver, Herzog, and LaRussa. Or even possible successor Bobby Valentine.

- Now that he's left the team, the place is in chaos. The Yanks will have a hard time finding another manager who can be such a good politician; maybe Mattingly can. But the front office handled the whole incident terribly, you have Cashman, Levine, and two Steinbrenners all fighting for power, and a team with a very uncertain future.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bye Bye Snorre

Wow. I am surprised that he's gone. At first I thought that he'd be a goner and that George would make good on his ALDS threat. But after a few days I figured, okay, he's coming back.

Here's what happened. They didn't want him, but they didn't want to take the PR hit of firing the beloved Joe Torre. So they made him this insult of an offer knowing he'd turn them down, and now they can save face. If I were a Junkee fan who loves Torre I'd be more mad at this than if they had just let him go. But I suppose that's become the Junkee way. Like with Bernie Williams this past offseason. They didn't want him, but rather than say so, they offered him a spring training invite.

Well, we'll miss his blowing out his middle relievers' arms. And we'll miss his occasional boneheaded moves.

It's amazing how suddenly I don't hate him anymore.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guidry and Rickey

The lesson from this year's season in New York? Don't hire coaches with PR being the primary motive. The fans don't really care, and it doesn't help the team at all. Looks like early-'90's hero Dave Eiland (who also had a cup of coffee with the '96 team) will take over, and if he's responsible for Chamberlain and Kennedy's early success, he's easily a better pitching coach than Guidry.

Which Yankees did better under Guidry than before he came along? Not one of Cashman's better decisions.

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Last couple of days have been difficult for me as a baseball fan. I'm glad I have other interests, because it's getting frustrating?

- I'm waiting to hear the verdict on Joe Torre. I'm not going to write an in-depth piece on the managerial candidates until we hear official word that he's fired. What are Hank and Hal waiting for? The suspense in killing me. I will say this - I would love to see Joe Girardi in the dugout. The guy is a young Dallas Green. I'll elaborate if/when Torre goes.

- I'm waiting for the Rockies to lose a game. Their run is simply unreal. Very hard to believe. But it's too storybook, too cliche for me to enjoy. It sounds like something from a kids fiction book. I liked the Cardinals story last year. Team almost pulls a Mets-like collapse in September, falls victim to one of the greatest catches ever, and ends up winning it all. Hard to script that one.

- I'm waiting for the Sox to face Sabathia and Carmona again. I hate to ruin your day, but in the back of my mind I hear a John Sterling classic monologue - "you know Suzyn, that's why baseball is such a great game. You can't predict it! You have to actually play the games! You have Wang against McClung, and the Rays winning 8-1, you can't predict that!" The Sox did a great job against Sabathia and Carmona, and did nothing against Westbrook and Byrd.

Problem is, let's say the Sox beat those two again, and force a game 7. Who do you send out there? Dice-K? Wakefield? Hard to be optimistic right now.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Kids In Town

The Post reports that Hal and Hank Steinbrenner are taking over. What does this mean for the future of the Yankees? I think it will bode very well for Yankee haters.

This fascinating piece in the Conde Nast Portfolio tells us a lot about Hank Steinbrenner. The guy hasn't made many decisions in the past, but the few times he's gotten involved, it's been a flop. In 1986, he tried convincing the Yanks to put Dave Righetti back in the starting rotation, suggesting that a no-name minor leaguer take over. Nobody listened, and Righetti laughed at Hank's ignorance.

Then, in '02, Hank pushed like crazy for the Yanks to get Raul Mondesi. And we all know how that one worked out.

The big x-factor is how much control Cashman will retain in the organization. After '05, when Cashman pushed for a bigger role in building the team, George was already fading from the limelight. So Cashman had the upper hand, and was able to take control.

But with two new faces eager to take control, will Hank listen to Cashman? In the Post piece, Hank says that he'll insist on Joba being a starter. Now, let's say Rivera signs elsewhere, or, come April, it's clear that Rivera's age has caught up with him. Does Hank let Cashman do what the Red Sox did with Papelbon this year? Or does he stand firm?

And will the Steinbrenners push to win now, and trade the farm for guys like Johan Santana? We don't know how much Hank will be like George, but it sure will be very interesting to find out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who's Staying, Who's Going

This is easily the most fascinating Yankee offseason in recent memory. Lots of big names are free agents, and this team might have a very different look next spring. Here are my picks and analysis for where some of the big names will end up:


Why he’ll go – you know Boras will opt out. He’s looking for a situation where he can get a bunch of bidders out there to drive A-Rod’s price as high as it can possibly get. Even if the Yanks offer $30 million a year, A-Rod’s going to test the waters. George would give the guy $50 million a year to stay in town, but if Cashman has his way, once A-Rod opts out, he’ll no longer be a Yankee. I also think Arte Moreno will be willing to pay whatever it takes to make A-Rod an Angel.

Prediction: Angels

Jorge Posada

Why he’ll go – I don’t see George pushing to keep the guy, and I can’t see Cashman being interested in spending over $10 million a year on a catcher in his upper 30’s. I know Posada had a career year this year, but he looked spent in October and is due for a big decline next year. Cashman wants to get younger, and I can see him using Molina or making a trade to fill the role. The PR factor will be too much to resist for Omar Minaya and Co.

Prediction: Mets

Mariano Rivera

He’s pissed about the Yankees waiting to re-sign him, and doesn’t seem very interested in returning. I think he’d definitely stay if Torre stuck around. Of course, Torre is likely out, so whoever the replacement is might be a big x-factor here. The Yanks will probably be willing to pay top dollar for him, and that will, of course, be the biggest factor in his decision.

Prediction: Yankees

Andy Pettitte

No Clemens and no Torre means he’ll probably want out of New York. Does he want to go back to Houston? Hard to imagine, because that team is not a contender. I think he’ll either go back to the Yanks or call it a career.

Prediction: Retirement

Bobby Abreu

Yanks will spend whatever they have to in order to bring the guy back. He scored points with that shot off Borowski in Game 4, and is a huge asset in wearing down opposing pitchers. Only other factor would be if the Yankees pursue Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones. Would they shift Melky to right? Put him back on the bench? The Yanks surprised everyone by getting Damon a couple of years ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those two (or Aaron Rowand) ends up in pinstripes.

Prediction: Yankees

Luis Vizcaino

Because Edwar Ramirez and Ross Ohlendorf stunk, they’ve gotta bring this guy back. He’ll get overpaid, but that’s hardly a surprise.

Prediction: Yankees

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Torre Deserves The Axe

There's been a mini-lovefest for Joe Torre going on, as many out there think the Boss is wrong for wanting to get rid of the guy. I've discussed Torre on this blog many, many times, so I'll be quick with this one.

The Yankees have the highest payroll in the game, and, understandably, the highest expectations in the game. This is not Tampa Bay or Washington, where Joe Maddon and Manny Acta get extensions just because they didn't lose 100 games. When you have the highest payroll in the game, you've got to capture the highest prize in the game - that world championship flag. Winning the division title? Meaningless. Even in a tough town like Philly, Charlie Manuel will come back next year, even though his team was awful in the NLDS.

For seven years, Torre has not gotten the job done. In most baseball towns, you don't get seven years as a manager if you can't get it done. True, Torre did win four world championships, so maybe you can't kill the Yankees for keeping the guy a few years after. But with a seven year drought under his watch, Torre has failed repeatedly. His time has come.

Monday, October 08, 2007


And don't blame A-Rod for this one; he ended up hitting a respectable .267.

I wanna see Yankee fans finally boo Jeter; he was terrible in this series - only a 2-5 job in Game 4 helped him raise his average to a glorious .176.

And Jorge Posada, who made the last out, was even worse. He went 1-5 to boost his average - to .133.

Shemp Matsui - terrible. .182. He hasn't done jack in the postseason since the 19-8 game.

A tip of the cap to Damon, who showed that even in pinstripes, he shows up for games like these. Cano did very well, too.

But overall, Captain Clutch showed up a little too late.

Wang Not The Man

After this October, Yankee fans have to wonder if they can count on Wang when it matters. As I write this, it's still only the bottom of the fifth. But Wang had nothing again, putting his team in a big hole early.

I'm not going to say that Wang is overrated. He's been one of the AL's best pitchers over the past two years. But he's not dominant. Sure, he's had a few starts where he's been lights-out, including the one against Boston this past August. But overall, he's not dominant. Opposing batters hit .265 against him in '07, and .277 in '06. His lifetime ERA is 3.74. Pretty good, not great. Jorge Sosa, Jason Marquis, and Anthony Reyes had better BAA than Wang this year.

When you're not dominant, you have to rely on getting out of jams. Maybe that's a good approach against the Orioles, but the Indians have been excellent in getting 2-out hits this series. And that's one of the reasons you wonder if Wang is a big-game pitcher.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Torre Gets Another Day

When Clemens left and the Indians finished the inning up 3-0, I got optimistic. Would've been sweet to see the Yanks get swept out of the first round. Instead, the Yankee bats came alive against Westbrook, as expected. Phil Hughes was impressive, keeping the Indians at bay and bailing out the $28 million (old) man.

- After Wang's outing last time, it's clear that the Yanks have a problem similar to the Mets: they have no guy you can absolutely count on in October. The Yanks need a guy they can count on in October. Pedro was like that before the injury, El Duque was like that at one point, David Cone and David Wells were that way in their prime, and Beckett and Schilling are like that.

You have to wonder which Chien-Ming Wang will show up tomorrow night; the one who had nothing on Thursday night, or the one that has driven me crazy over the last couple of years.

- Joba got touched up again tonight, and you wonder if he's finally coming back down to earth.

- Paul Byrd has been horrendous against the Yankees, and this is an important game for Cleveland. Even if they bring the series back to Cleveland for Game 5, who knows if C.C. Sabathia will have control issues again. The Indians better wrap this thing up tomorrow night.

The Latest Steinbrenner Interview

A few thoughts on the latest rant by George:

- George must be at the stage where he has his lucid days and his not-so-lucid days. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about in this interview, as he did in May when he ripped Cashman. But overall, he's been suspiciously quiet.

- George says Torre's job is on the line, but doesn't say a word about Cashman. I think George is realizing what most of the front office is realizing - Torre is not a great manager. Once the front office had to institute the Joba rules to keep Torre from turning the kid into the next Scott Proctor, you knew Torre's stock had fallen. Besides, Cashman redeemed himself in the second half, as the development of Duncan, Joba, Kennedy, etc. showed that the Yankee farm system is richer than it was during the Dioner Navarro era.

You get the feeling that George is waiting for the right time to oust Torre, for the point when the PR fallout will not be too bad. It would be ironic that Randolph gets to keep his job despite missing the playoffs, while Torre would get fired even though he made it till October. But it makes sense, too: the Mets failures were more about the front office and Minaya, while the Yanks' biggest management problem may be Joe Torre.

- You knew George would have what to say about the bugs incident in Game 2. It affected both teams, but George doesn't have to be rational.

- George says the Yanks will re-sign A-Rod no matter what. For the first time in months, you see a rift between Cashman and Tampa, as Cashman has said that if A-Rod opts out, he's done as a Yankee. My money is on George getting his way here, even if A-Rod strikes out three times tonight and the Yanks lose. And as long as A-Rod keeps failing in October, I have no problem with him staying a Yankee.

- In the long run, you wonder what the Joe Torre legacy will be. True, he won four championships. But if he ends his Yankee career with seven failures in October and a growing record of poor management, he may not be up there with the likes of Stengel, McCarthy, and even Billy Martin.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Yankee Fans Praying For Jeremy Giambi

The Yanks have been here before. In 2001, the Yanks were down 2-0 to the A's in the ALDS. Then came a Derek Jeter play for the ages, with a little help from Jeremy Giambi. Thanks to a Posada homer, the Yanks eked out a 1-0 win. After that, the Yanks won two more en route to shocking the A's.

But most fans forget that the difference-maker that game was Mike Mussina. Moose's postseason record is mostly disappointing (5-7 as a Yankee), but he pitched the game of his life that night, shutting down an A's offense featuring Tejada, Chavez, and the well-juiced duo of Jason and Jeremy Giambi.

Tomorrow night, the Yanks do not have Moose in his prime going for them. They have Roger Clemens, a Clemens way past his prime. The Yanks have no idea what they're gonna get from the guy. His career ERA in ALDS games is 4.36. The last time he pitched a must-win game in pinstripes, he did not get the job done. It was Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, and he did a lousy job (3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER), only to be redeemed by Grady Little and Aaron Boone.

But the biggest thing going for the Yankees is that ex-Yankee Jake Westbrook is a far cry from the 2001 version of Barry Zito. He got pounded by the Yanks this year (12.46 ERA in two starts), and the Indians will have to keep hitting if they want to wrap this thing up. They've batted .329 in the first two games, and if they keep that going, they should have no problem sending Joe Torre and Co. to the golf course.

- To the commenters: The 22-0 Indians win took place in 2004.

- A telltale sign that Joba still hasn't fully grasped the Yankee way:

"They bugged me, but you have to deal with it," Chamberlain said. "I will never make an excuse. I let my guys down."

I'm sure he got a good talking-to from Mike Mussina and Torre after that one. Real Yankees make excuses.