Only wins should be the measure of a netminder By Damien Cox
In recent years, the wisest of the wise have decided that it isn't GAA that matters most. After all, if a goalie faces five shots per game and lets in two, a flashy GAA of 2.00 might not be telling you all you need to know.
Instead, save percentage, something those of us who watched the game before the Original 30 never even knew existed, has become the sexy measuring stick for goaltenders.
Like on-base percentage in baseball, save percentage has come to be seen as the true measure of what a goaltender is accomplishing every night.
The problem with this number, of course, is that it doesn't take into account the quality or difficulty of shots a goalie faces. Just how many he stops out of how many he faces.
Well, in the new NHL, it may be time to simplify again. As in, just wins, baby.
Victories are what matter the most, and perhaps should be the decisive issue when it comes to passing on the Vezina legacy.
It's too bad I have no idea what to say about this.
Dan Wetzel knows the secret to the Chicago White Sox World Series victory. Take the eighth inning Wednesday, where a botched routine foul pop, a hit batsman and a wild pitch gave Houston life and would have frozen lesser teams. Instead, everyone on the Sox just took a deep, relaxing breath and slammed the door on the Astros.
I'm not sure what evidence Dan Wetzel thinks he has that everyone took a deep, relaxing breath. And I'm sure it was the deep breathing that induced a lazy fly ball from Morgan Ensberg, and a ground out from Jose Vizcaino to end the inning. Lesser teams might have hyperventilated.
Come to think of it, that's probably what happened to the Yanks in the 2004 ALCS. Why didn't Jeter remind everybody to breathe deeply? How would Ortiz have been able to come through with two walk-off hits if he he had seen the Yankees taking deep relaxing breaths? On his home field, no less.
Luckily for Red Sox fans, the 2004 Yankees were a lesser team, and they became "frozen."
In the bottom of the ninth of Game 3, the Astros have Burke at third, Biggio on first with one one and Willy Tavaras hitting. For some reason, Konerko is holding Biggio on first while the rest of the infield is drawn in a few steps. Is Guillen really playing for a ball to double up Willy Tavaras in that situation??? That's the only reason to keep Biggio at first at the expense of opening up a HUGE hole in the right side of the infield. Biggio is a meaningless runner otherwise. As it turned out, the hole might've led to Tavaras's weak hacks early in the count as he tried to take it the other way (a point actually alluded to by McCarver after a late cut for strike one), but there is no way that Guillen was anticipating the wide hole at first leading to the strikeout. On the other hand, every other crazy Ozzieball technique has struck gold up until this point....
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ensberg is at the plate, and there's Brad Lidge, taking hacks in the warmup circle with his jacket on. Now explain to me, Brad Lidge, how are you possibly going to bat in that inning???
Sorry guys, wrong blog for this. Though neither Buck nor McCarver took issue with these things, a fact that should suprise very few.
I hate that you hate to say it but are leading your article with it anyway. Also, why do you hate to say it? Astros fan?
Anyone who has watched the White Sox in the playoffs has seen that glimmer in their eye – the confidence that they expect to win.
I've watched the White Sox in the playoffs. I watched them crush the Red Sox. I watched them destroy the Angels. Funny, what I drew from watching them is that they have great 1-4 starting pitching, very solid defense, a good bullpen and guys who can hit home runs. Wasn't watching their collective eye and the amount of glimmer within said ocular cavity.
I'm telling you: The White Sox have a twinkle in their eye, a lot like the Red Sox had last year.
And I'm telling you that's a meaningless statement you are basing entirely on the fact that the Red Sox won it all last year and the White Sox are up 2-0 in the World Series.
Just throwing it out there to sidetrack the Baseball Crank's day, but after Brad Lidge's second demoralizing walkoff homer, is there any way to figure out the ratio of "Closer eventually bouncing back and becoming effective again" to "Closer who was never the same"? For instance, Calvin Schiraldi was probably the best pitching prospect in the Boston farm system before the '86 playoffs -- look at his regular-season stats in 1986 compared to everything that followed in his career. And what about Byung Hyun-Kim, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Mark Wohlers, Tom Niedenfuer ... really, the only guy I can remember who kept chugging along was Dennis Eckersley after the '88 World Series. Anyway, let's see what the Crank can dig up on this.
This has been discussed ad nauseum on this thread on the Sons of Sam Horn message board (check out pages 5 through 12). I believe all of those names save Niedenfuer came up (and Jose Mesa was thrown in).
I'm just going to pick out one name in particular: SoSH flashpoint Byung-Hyun Kim. We all know he had a disastrous 2001 World Series. Psyche-crushing, right? Irreparable mental damage?
2001: ERA 2.94, ERA+ 156, 19 saves 2002: ERA 2.04, ERA+ 216, 36 saves
It wasn't until 2004 that BK fell off a cliff. We might never know why, but he lost velocity on his fastball.
What's that? You want one "Moore" piece of evidence? (Previous sentence written by New York Post headline writers).
Donnie Moore 1986: ERA 2.97, ERA+ 138 1987: ERA 2.70, ERA+ 161
I think he got injured midway through the '87 season and his career was pretty much over after that.
The point is, Simmons is calling these guys closers "who were never the same" after pitching poorly in the postseason.
Kim got better after his 2001 debacle. Moore, in a small sample, also improved after 1986's disaster.
I understand why people make these mistakes. Our memories are faulty and it's easier to believe that a guy stops being able to do his job correctly after suffering a devastating failure at work. But just because it's easy to believe doesn't mean it's true.
Thankfully, people have written down what happens in baseball games and we don't have to trust our memories. We can look at results. And we should.
Really, Bill Simmons? Dennis Eckersley is the only guy you can think of who has rebounded from a crushing save in the postseason? That's your only counterpoint to what is already an unstable premise to begin with? Is there a reason you forgot Mariano Rivera who, for all his successes, has failed more spectacularly than any closer in history? His only saving grace (n.p.i.) has been that his failures were not the result of a dramatic home run, but then he went ahead and had some pretty good "rebound" years. There are dozens of reasons why relievers become ineffective, and I'd wager that the majority of these cases are physical in nature.
What's really amazing about Moore is that we basically know his head was fucked up that whole time. He was never able to get over the psychological trauma of giving up that Hendu tater -- or so the anecdotes tell us. And yet, despite an emotional spiral that would end in unspeakable tragedy, he was still able to put up pretty good numbers.
Reader Jim Bulger points out that Simmons is factually incorrect: Brad Lidge did not give up consecutive walk-off home runs. The Pujols shot came in the top of the 9th, and the Astros had a chance to come back in the bottom of that inning.
In fact, Lidge went on to strike out Reggie Sanders right after his psyche was indelibly scarred by Pujols.
Fox's game coverage couldn't have been much better. After engaging analyst Tim McCarverearly on argued Houston starter Roger Clemens, 43, is "as good as he's ever been," he candidly joked about his "expert analysis" after Clemens gave up three runs and limped away after two innings. Joe Buck, in a sign of a good announcer, managed to make fun of his network's own hype, such as the wailing siren touting the show Prison Break. "If you ever try to break out of prison, Tim, that's what it's going to sound like," Buck said.
I bet the only way Hiestand thinks the coverage could have been better is if they would have added Joe Morgan to the booth midway through the third inning.
I mean, there's no arguing with a man's opinion that these are good "jokes," or that Tim McCarver is "engaging." I'm just absolutely shell-shocked that someone out there loves McCarver and Buck.
And furthermore, that that someone is one of the few people in the civilized world who is paid for his opinion on how good or bad sports television is.
Ozzie Guillen is the best thing to hit October since leaf blowers, hot chocolate and -- if you were at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday evening -- Gore-Tex mittens. He is certainly the best thing for the White Sox, who won 7-6, in a game where you could see your breath and, if you looked hard, see the Houston Astros doing the World Series math in their heads.
Reporters love this guy. Makes sense. He says crazy things. Reporters can then report on those things. Makes their job easier.
The Ozzie Factor is visible everywhere. When Sox rookie closer Bobby Jenks blew a two-run ninth-inning lead Sunday evening, first baseman Paul Konerko met Guillen and the reliever near the mound.
"Don't worry about it," Konerko told Jenks. "We'll pick you up."
That's an Ozzie thing.
I thought it was a Bobby Cox thing. Or a Tito Francona thing. Or a thing about half the managers in baseball would do.
"One of my first rules," said Guillen. And the rule? "Nobody points fingers at anybody," he said.
April 16, 2005:
"It is good to have him [Frank Thomas] here because now he can see a winning attitude, because he was part of the bad attitude," Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. "Frank was a big part of the bad attitude."
Asked to define bad attitude, Guillen said, "Because he was here for 20 years and he was part of the bad attitude. He was a big part of the bad attitude. Why? Because he was their leader."
September 15, 2005:
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen questions whether Damaso Marte is really hurt and criticized the reliever for showing up late for a game last weekend.
"If Marte's not ready to help this team, he can have a nice trip to the Dominican Republic by himself," Guillen said before the White Sox played Kansas City on Wednesday night.
"I don't want this kid just to make an excuse that he was hurt just because he was giving it up," Guillen said. "A lot of guys in this game give up home runs, base hits. I don't want him to use (it) as an excuse to fake an injury. I don't think he was. I just worry about the mental."
I'm also worried about the mental, Ozzie. Very worried.
Tim McCarver is trying to explain to America -- following the HPB-foul ball Jermaine Dye controversy -- that a ball that hits a bat will "go down," whereas a ball that hits a player's arm will go "parallel to the ground."
I had the same thought. I kept imagining this conversation, which we will be having all winter: "Yeah, he did have a good postseason. But that doesn't mean he had a good regular season...no, it doesn't...no, because if you look at his--...right, he did do that. But the fact is, he was crazily overra--...yeah...okay, fine, whatever. Scott Podsednik is the best player ever. Fine."
Here's a real gem by Mike Celizic, entitled "Thank the Yankees for this World Series."
The Yankees aren’t going to get their 27th world title this year, but whoever does win the World Series might want to consider sending a “Thank You” note to George Steinbrenner for making it all possible.
Okay, so, we're going to hear about how a lot of former Yankee pitchers are now with the two Series teams. Let's go.
They might even consider sending a dozen roses and a nice bottle of wine. If they really wanted to show their appreciation for everything Steinbrenner has done to make their championship possible, they might consider sending him half a pennant. He’s done that much.
We get it. Let's get to the article now.
He talks about how Pettitte and Clemens, and Contreras and El Duque, were all vital to the success of their teams. Then we get this:
What should be most galling is that the Yankees could have kept at least three of those pitchers — Contreras, Pettitte and El Duque. Good arguments were made at the time for letting Contreras and Hernandez leave, but there was never an excuse for Pettitte’s departure. Nor is there any excuse for the fact that for all four pitchers, the Yankees got nothing in return, not even a player to be named later.
The funny thing about this is, he immediately undermines his own argument. Right off the bat he says that there were good arguments for letting Contreras and Hernandez leave. Okay, well, then why are you criticizing the Yankees for letting them leave? And since you have excluded Clemens, why isn't this article just about how they blew it by letting Pettitte go?
Anyway, there's his thesis: that the Yankees, who were extremely pitching-poor this year, let go of four great pitchers and didn't get anything in return. Let's see how he backs it up.
Clemens was gone two years ago. He had officially retired, and all of us actually believed him. But Pettitte, who, like the Rocket, is from Texas, was a Yankee lifer who never thought he’d play anywhere else. But when he became a free agent, the Yankee front office took it for granted that he would come back to the fold. Instead of courting him and making him feel loved, the Yankees spent their time wooing Gary Sheffield. By the time Sheff was signed, Pettitte had decided life might be better back in Texas, where he ended up pitching with his old pal, the suddenly unretired Clemens.
Now, this is the one thing the Yankees maybe botched -- the Pettitte thing. They did maybe take him for granted, and he bolted. Fine. However, his last year in pinstripes he gave up 227 hits in 208 IP. Not great. His ERA+ was 109, down from 134 the year before. They likely would have had to pay him $10-12 million a year for five years. Instead, they went after Gary Sheffield. Who is among the five most feared hitters in the league. Who has done nothing but annihilate the A.L. I mean, it's not like they let Pettitte go and signed Christian Guzman.
Yes, it is all about pitching, and yes, Pettitte might have helped them this year. But he did have a history of arm problems. He only threw 134 IP in 2002. And don't give me any baloney about his postseason dominance. He's pitched well in October, but only about as well as he's pitched in the regular season (postseason numbers: 13-8, 4.05 ERA. 3-4 in the WS.)
And as far as Clemens goes, well, the Yankees didn't "blow" that, as Celizic freely admits. He retired. Then he unretired, but only because he could pitch close to home. What could the Yankees have done differently?
Pettitte missed most of 2004 with arm troubles and subsequent surgery. Most people suspected it was coming; he’d had episodic elbow problems for years, and those things never get better on their own. But, given the success rate of Tommy John surgery, there was every reason to expect him to come back in 2005 as good or better than ever.
A. That's crazy. A whole lot of players don't recover 100% from Tommy John surgery. B. If "people suspected it was coming," why should the Yankees have automatically committed a ton of money to him? C. Pettitte had a great year. A Cy Young-calibre year. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Yankees made a mistake in letting him go. Because, remember, they got Sheffield, and they had every reason to believe that their other pitchers were going to perform well.
El Duque is a different story. He claims to be 36 years old, but he’s really at least 39 and he had been breaking down. He missed all of the 2003 season with injuries, and had just 15 starts for the Yankees in 2004. He went 8-2, but the Yankees decided he wasn’t going to be able to shoulder a full load as a starter, so they let him go. That estimation was correct. After a hot start this year, Hernandez finished the year with just 22 starts and was ineffective until his huge relief stint against Boston.
Hey, Mike. You're supposed to be arguing that the Yankees made a mistake in letting this guy go. Remember? You have suddenly started arguing the wrong side of your own argument. Do you see that? Focus up, buddy.
But that’s been the defining characteristic of El Duque’s career — he comes up big in the playoffs. He didn’t pitch in the ALCS, but other than Neal Cotts’ two-thirds of an inning in Game 1, no one else in the bullpen did either. And if the White Sox get in a situation in which they need help early in a game, El Duque is the most likely pitcher to get the nod and the most likely to shut down the opposition.
So, the Yankees should have signed this guy to a long-term contract despite the fact that he lied about his age, was clearly like 38, and had a ton of mileage on his arm...because, although he didn't pitch in the ALCS, he might pitch in the World Series, and might be good, because he has been good in the past. Solid argument.
This year, Duque was 9-9 with a 5.12 ERA, and an 87 ERA+. He had a K/BB ratio of 91/50. He was far worse than an average pitcher. If the Yankees had had him starting all year, they probably would not have even made the playoffs, and Duque would not have had the opportunity to demonstrate his preternatural alien-influenced October skill that everybody and his brother can't effing shut up about.
Then there’s Contreras. The Yankees outbid everyone — Boston especially — for him three seasons ago when he defected from Cuba. But in one season and half of another in the Bronx, he had a talent for imploding in big games — the Armando Benitez of starting pitchers.
Hey, Mike? A word? Again, you're supposed to be arguing that the Yankees made a mistake by letting these guys go. You're doing that funny thing again where you're arguing the wrong side of your own article.
The bottom line was the Yanks ended up with nothing for four pitchers and the two teams that got them ended up in the World Series. A lot of people will see poetic justice in that.
They got nothing for them because they weren't very valuable. Clemens retired. Pettitte left as a free agent, but the Yankees took that money and signed one of the best hitters in the world to fill a huge hole in their line-up (remember, RF in the Bronx had previously been patroled by such luminaries as Raul Mondesi and Enrique Wilson [!]). Contreras sucked in New York. El Duque was a thousand years old and hasn't even been very good for the ChiSox this year.
Just because they were all Yankees at one time, and just because their teams are now in the World Series, doesn't necessarily mean the Yankees blew it. I think they should have signed Pettitte, but you obviously can't blame them for Clemens, and you shouldn't blame them for Contreras or Duque, either.
Special thanks to reader Mike G. for (nearly instantaneously) pointing out that this sentence...
Nor is there any excuse for the fact that for all four pitchers, the Yankees got nothing in return, not even a player to be named later.
...is just flat-out wrong, since Contreras was traded for Esteban Loaiza. Which, amazingly, Celizic discusses in his article. I guess he means that they didn't get anything good in return, or something. It's really unclear what he means, because, again, he is bad at arguing things.
Boston's favorite cursemonger, Dan Shaughnessy, has probably been in a foul mood for the last calendar year given that his silly Curse of the Bambino myth was finally shattered.
So naturally, he's going to try to shoehorn a curse into this year's World Series even though it's an idiotic thing to do and there's no such thing as curses and people should have stopped believing that nonsense some time around the Renaissance and everyone should learn more about the scientific method and less about ghost whispering.
The money quote (and thanks to reader dave2380 for the tip):
The White Sox face a much tougher opponent than the Red Sox did last October. No, I'm not talking about the redoubtable Houston Astros and their stable of aces. I'm talking about the larger forces, the gallery of the baseball gods where superstition rules over science. The White Sox are up against the granddaddy of all bad karma.
Gallery of baseball gods? I know this stuff isn't supposed to be serious. It's supposed to be entertaining.
It's not. It's drivel.
Curse of the Bambino? That was nothing. It amused some, offended others (the estimable Gammons said it was more moronic than the wave), and made life easy for headline writers, but it absolutely pales when compared with the plague that has infected the Pale Hose.
It offended rational people with brains. Thank you, Peter Gammons, for calling this guy on his bullshit. Also, thank you for putting up with John Kruk and Harold Reynolds on Baseball Tonight.
The 1919 White Sox did something to earn a lifetime of hardball purgatory. They threw the World Series. And they have not won another one since. It is the big, dirty secret that no one wants to talk about as Chicago prepares to play host to the World Series for the first time since the ChiSox were beaten by the Dodgers in '59. Counting the Black Sox scandal, the Second City has lost the last seven (five by the Cubs) World Series played here. The last time Chicago had a baseball champion was in 1917, which was the year before Boston beat the Cubs, which was a year before the White Sox took money to lose.
It's all there in John Sayles's excellent movie, ''Eight Men Out" (John Cusack does a great Buck Weaver), or the book (same title by Eliot Asinof). Angry at cheapskate owner Charles Comiskey, eight of the White Sox, including all-world Shoeless Joe Jackson, took cash to intentionally lose the World Series to the Reds. They were beaten, five games to three, in a best-of-nine event. Two years later, after they were acquitted in a bag-job trial, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them for life. And the White Sox never won again.
Blah blah blah blah scandal no one wants to talk about? What? People talk about it all the time. I saw "Eight Men Out" on TV this morning! I'm totally serious. It was on a few hours before Game 1 of the World Series. Not sure which channel.
** SPECIAL ADDENDUM **
"Big, dirty secret that no one wants to talk about"?
FOX just opened its coverage of the World Series with an elaborately produced (okay, it looked sort of cheap) short film entirely about the Black Sox scandal, complete with actors in period costumes. And yes, they used the word curse. Because someone somewhere at FOX thinks that people watched the World Series last year because the Red Sox were cursed, and they're hoping they can trick people into thinking the White Sox are cursed, too.
So Shaughnessy, you're not the standard-bearer of baseball history you think you are. FOX has the exact same angle you had. FOX.
** END SPECIAL ADDENDUM **
Understandably, ballplayers, coaches, and managers want no part of this. They don't care about history.
They don't care about historical stories you make up to sell newspapers and your own books.
In the days before the miracle of 2004, the Red Sox routinely spit on the ground any time the old stuff was mentioned. Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin had nothing to do with Denny Galehouse and Mike Torrez. They didn't want to be asked about it and there was nothing relevant they could say about it.
Exactly. Because it wasn't relevant. You made it up.
Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Todd Benzinger once said, ''I don't know why people keep bringing up 1978. We're different players. It's not like we're related to those guys, like we have the same genes or something."
Thank you, Todd Benzinger. I'm extending to you a coveted invitation to post comments on FJM.
...from Tim McCarver, the most-experienced and by-far-worst-ever color man in postseason-baseball-announcing history.
Question: Where's the line between analysis and overanalysis?
Answer: You don't have to say something every time there's a replay. I was guilty, in the early part of my career, of overanalyzing. I know that's not true anymore.
Is this still considered the "early part of your career?" Because you never, ever, ever, ever stop talking.
Question: How does playing on two Series champs (1964, 1967) compare to working a Series on TV?
Answer: Broadcasting a Series is so much tougher than playing. When you're playing, you can do something about things physically. On TV, there's nothing you can do, except prepare.
This is nonsense. You can "do something about things physically" when you're playing, as opposed to just "preparing" when you're broadcasting. So it's tougher to broadcast. This is disingenuous to the point of absurdity.
Question: Get any coaching for TV?
Answer: I have never taken a lesson on how to talk on TV in my life.
Never rely on evidence or results of past baseball games. That's Michael Ventre's stand.
Picking the winner of a playoff series is a crapshoot. But since sportswriters have to do it, they might as well supply semi-legitimate reasons for their choices, right? Right?
The Chicago White Sox will win the World Series over the Houston Astros. And no, I can’t say I ever thought it was possible. Like NBA players wearing collared shirts, I just didn’t believe it would occur in my lifetime. But I’m happy to admit I was wrong.
Great joke. Topical.
Also, before the dress code was implemented this year, many NBA players wore impeccably tailored suits to press conferences of their own volition.
The primary reason the White Sox will prevail is pitching, which is another declaration previously reserved for the domain of Ripley’s. Chicago’s pitching is superior to Houston’s? Can this be?
This is a good start. Pitching has to do with baseball.
But the White Sox have that “team of destiny” feel, especially when it comes to their pitching staff.
In the American League Championship Series against the Angels, they got an unheard-of four straight complete games from Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras. When four starting pitchers all achieve such a high standard together in consecutive starts, it means something is going on. It means the dispensing of filthy stuff and winning are contagious.
Really? That's what it means? Conclusively? How about: all of these guys have been good solid pitchers all year, and they happened to all pitch well against a mediocre offensive team in consecutive games? They combined for nine complete games during the regular season, so while it's impressive that they strung together four in a row (in fact, it's pretty crazy that that happened), it's by no means proof of some awesome contagious winning disease sweeping the team.
These White Sox pitchers have something to prove. They’re hungrier than Clemens and Pettitte, for sure, both of whom have experienced World Series victory as teammates with the Yankees.
You're right, Clemens and Pettitte will probably just relax and take it easy this series. Why should they care?
The White Sox have a lineup of scrappers adept at figuring out a way to win.
Translation: not a great hitting team. See post concerning Jim Rome.
A.J. Pierzynski’s swipe of first on the controversial Doug Eddings call against the Angels in Game 2 of the ALCS was just one example of the tenacious way the Pale Hose approach the game under manager Ozzie Guillen. They’re not sitting back waiting for runs to happen, they’re out cobbling them.
This evokes images of Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand working for a 19th-century shoe cobbler. And for the last time, what the hell does it mean for someone to sit back and wait for runs to happen? No one does that.
As a result, they haven’t gotten as much air time on “SportsCenter” as teams that have more famous pop in their lineups, like the Red Sox and Yankees and Cardinals.
The Red Sox, Yankees and Cardinals have more fans than the White Sox. They are more popular teams. That is why SportsCenter, a show designed and produced by human beings to draw human viewers, features them more often than the White Sox, a team that is the second-most popular baseball franchise in its own city.
That’s part of the problem. The Astros feel like a team that has endured so much disappointment just to get here. There was a finality to their clincher against the Cardinals. They made the World Series. The goal had finally been accomplished. Guys like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell could put a capper on their careers. Said Bagwell: “My career is coming to an end. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get back. And it’s been a long time coming.” For Clemens and Pettitte, this is gravy.
I don’t want to say the Astros are just happy to be here. But on some level, they’re content. They’re satisfied.
You don't want to say they're happy to be here. You want to say they're content, a synonym for happy to be here.
The White Sox don’t have that same karma. They’re delightfully clueless. They’re just playing ball and winning games. They seem to understand the magnitude of being in the World Series, they just seem more focused on winning ballgames.
They seem more focused than the Astros? What are you basing that on? Pre-series press conferences? The number of quips per minutes A.J. Pierzynski is unleashing? Roy Oswalt's charmingly wooden performance reading the Top Ten List on the Late Show with David Letterman?
So batten down the hatches, Chicago. There’s a shaker coming.
That's the end of the article.
Michael, could you write a little more about baseball next time? And less about karma, focus, scrapping, hunger, destiny and how contagious winning is?
It's unclear exactly what the point of the article is, but it's generally about the diversity of the White Sox clubhouse.
``When you play baseball, you learn to communicate with the other guys,'' the pitcher [Freddy Garcia] said. ``It's not really a big deal."
Right, no big deal. So...why are we writing about this again? Andrew? Nine players on the White Sox's 40-man roster are from the Dominican Republic. Pitchers Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez are Cuban, and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi is Japanese. Puerto Rico is also represented, as is Venezuela, which produced Garcia and manager Ozzie Guillen.
Okay, that doesn't sound unusually diverse for a Major League Baseball team...did you know that the Phillies have 5 dudes from Venezuela on their team? Isn't that boring?
They won with pitching, with speed. And they won with a diverse group -- not that an ethnically mixed clubhouse is unusual. According to a study released this week by the University of Central Florida, 27.3 percent of the players in 2004 were not American.
Right. So, why is this unusual? Here's the story of the 2005 White Sox -- they're a diverse group. Like all teams. The whole article goes on like this...diversity, different backgrounds, language lessons...and yet none of this is really interesting to anyone, including the players and the author. At least he met his deadline, I guess.
Also, to say they won with pitching and speed is only accurate if you're talking about the speed with which the baseballs were flying off White Sox batters' bats on 3-run taters.
Regardless, I've gotta know: what does reliever Neil Cotts think?
``I think in our case it's come together pretty well,'' reliever Neal Cotts said. ``I think Ozzie instilled that from the beginning in spring training, that we're going to be together six months and make the best out of it.''
"I'm smarter than a lot of guys who go to Harvard. When you come to this country and you can't speak any English at 16 years old, and you have to survive, you have to have something smart in your body. If you take one of those Harvard guys and drop them in the middle of Caracas, they won't survive. But if you drop me in the middle of Harvard, I'll survive."
Bad news, Ozzie. I checked with the registrar. They do offer a class on speaking Spanish at Harvard.
Also, I'd venture to guess that "survival" is tougher in Caracas than in Cambridge for anyone. I mean, yeah, a guy from Harvard -- or any college or town in America -- would have a tougher time "surviving" in Caracas than a dude from Caracas would in well-heeled sections of Massachusetts. This does not seem to me to be an issue of "intelligence," but rather things like kidnapping and murder rates.
Did you guys read in the Crimson about how Ozzie Guillen was studying for his Chem-10 final in the Leverett JCR and he was attacked by a tiger and he wrestled it to the ground and pinned it using only his smarts and enthusiasm and intangibles? That guy is so smart and enthusiastic and intangible.
Ozzie, with help from Orlando Hernandez, kept telling Contreras how good he is until he finally believed them. No pitcher in baseball has been hotter the past couple of months.
That's all he needed: two dudes telling him he's good. It's interesting that Joe Torre never tried that.
Ozzie took an Angels castoff named Bobby Jenks -- a July minor-league call-up -- and turned him into the closer he lacked.
This was a good move. But the real story is how fortunate the White Sox have been to get career years out of journeymen Dustin Hermanson (2.04 ERA this year, 4.21 career ERA) and Cliff Politte (2.00 / 4.06) as well as an amazing year from young Neal Cotts (1.94 ERA after a 5.65 ERA last year).
How much of that was Ozzie? I'm speaking for Bayless when I say 100%.
Ozzie pushed El Duque's button to get the White Sox out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam against the Red Sox in the sixth inning of Game 3.
He pushed his button. It's that simple.
And of course, Ozzie let his starters finish all nine innings of all four victories over the Angels. No manager in baseball would have been crazy -- or shrewd -- enough to sit on his hands and ignore The Book and his bullpen.
It's possible he should have allowed some members of his bullpen to get some work in so they wouldn't be entering the World Series with a minimum of 11 days off (and that's just Cotts -- no other relief pitcher has thrown in a game since October 7th!). Of course, the ChiSox won those four games, and that's the most important thing, but they likely could have won them and not had their bullpen be that rusty.
That was last year the White Sox played in the World Series. That team had three big stars -- Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox and Early Wynn.
This team has Ozzie.
You heard it here first: Ozzie will become the first man to pitch five complete games and hit seventeen inside the park home runs in a single game.
Series prediction: Ozzie in 3 (Astros will give up and return to their homes in fear midway through the third game).
If the ChiSox crap the bed in the Series, will anyone say that Ozzie did a bad job? My guess is no. My guess is, he is so completely the flavor-of-the-month right now, he could literally start Joe Crede on the mound in Game 2 and play six infielders and have Paul Konerko try a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning and people would praise him for his boldness.
But there's a lot of "I" in Joe Morgan articles. The title is "Astros End World Series Drought." It should be, "Joe Morgan on Joe Morgan."
This is the entire article. Pay close attention to the boldfaced parts:
After coming close so many times before (1980, 1986 and 2004), the Houston Astros have reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history. This has to mean a lot to the fans of Houston who have supported the team from the time they were known as the Colt .45's. Now that Houston has reached the World Series for the first time in 44 seasons, a lot of people, myself included, must be thinking about judge Roy Hofheinz. He bought the team and brought it to Houston, and also had the vision to build the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome, in 1965 (it was completed in 1966).
I'm happy for veterans such as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, both of whom have spent their entire major-league careers with the same franchise, something you rarely see anymore. It's quite an accomplishment because both Biggio and Bagwell have been there so long (Biggio since 1988 and Bagwell since '91). Until now, they have never experienced what it is like to play in the World Series -- and you are talking about two of the best players of their era.
The feeling also has to be satisfying for veteran pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. They probably feel like I felt going back to Houston in 1980. (When I was traded from Houston to Cincinnati in 1971, I hoped one day to come back to Houston and help the Astros win a championship, because that was where everything started for me. I'm originally from Texas and came up through the Houston organization. Everything in baseball started for me there. That's the reason I went back there after I left Cincinnati.) Clemens and Pettitte went back to Houston last season to try to do the same thing. They both grew up in Texas and both won championships like I had, then decided to try to help the team from their hometown win a World Series.
Over the years the Astros have had a lot of heartaches -- getting close and not getting over the hump. I saw Nolan Ryan sitting up in the luxury box during Game 5 and I'm sure he was thinking back to 1980 (when we lost to the Phillies in the NLCS). Houston has had opportunities, but just hasn't been able to take that final step, until now.
is almost as vexing to me as the cult of Joe Morgan. Here's Mark Kreidler's take:
Tony La Russa, a man with the gravitas to actually make the comparison, said this about Albert Pujols' home run: "It would be tied for first with the most dramatic home runs that have ever been hit."
Obviously unquantifiable, but...really? It was incredibly dramatic, but it won Game Five of an NLCS. Kirk Gibson? Bobby Thompson? Maz in the 1960 WS? Joe Carter? How about Hendu in 1986 -- that was a Game 5. Carlton Fisk? Jesus -- Bucky Dent?
Kreidler goes on to praise LaRussa for being stoic. Then he says this:
But in a roundabout way, maybe Pujols hits that home run because La Russa is who he is as a manager. Maybe the Cards don't panic, down 4-2 with two out in the ninth inning on the road against arguably the best closer in the game, precisely because Tony La Russa's emotional range as manager doesn't allow for free-form nervous expression.
I'm going to go ahead and say that in no way, shape, or form, does Tony La Russa's demeanor have anything to do with Pujols's HR. I think Pujols's HR is due to Pujols being the best hitter in baseball, and also due to Brad Lidge hanging a slider right over the middle of the plate.
If you want to see something almost as impressive as Pujols' home run, go back to the video and observe Pujols' expression during that at-bat. He stands in against Brad Lidge, and Pujols is just the embodiment of professional calm and concentration. His body barely moves at all. The swing on the home run is pure, of course, but it is also almost routine in its execution. Maybe Albert Pujols, as great as he is, also has a little La Russa in him. David Eckstein, too, for that matter.
There is no Tony La Russa in Albert Pujols. And to say that there is any "David Eckstein" in Albert Pujols (can we get through one article about the Cardinals without mentioning David Eckstein?), is to ignore the fact that Albert Pujols himself embodies all of the things that people praise David Eckstein for: hustle, determination, smarts, etc. Why does that mean there is "David Eckstein" in Albert Pujols? Did David Eckstein invent these things?
Plus, he fanatically studies video, researches the pitchers he is facing, and prepares for games better than anyone in the league. Which is why he hit that home run.
Also, Tony La Russa was being stoic, which totally helped him, I guess.
Let's Get Back To Trying To Get Joe Morgan Fired For One Sweet Minute
I know Joe Morgan just signed a 30 year extension with ESPN. But I got to thinking...why not Al Leiter as a permanent fixture in the broadcasting booth? Why not him instead of JM?
The New York Post says his retirement is all but a done deal: "'There would have to be a lot of talking to convince me to come back,' Leiter told the newspaper." And if you can't trust the New York Post, who can you trust?
I'm not saying Al Leiter is the best color man ever, but in the limited stints I've seen him, I'd say he's one of the most tolerable, if not insightful players-turned-broadcasters out there. He sticks to stuff that former players can actually comment well on: how to throw a changeup; where the defense might choose to play in certain circumstances; etc. I might be way off here, but I don't remember him talking a lot about emotions or momentum or voodoo.
So come on ESPN. It's a modest proposal. Dump Joe, hire Al, put him next to Miller.
I'm trying to be reasonable here. It's not like I'm asking for you to put some crazy nerd with glasses in the booth. I'm trying to be the guy who really wanted to vote for Nader but ended up voting for Kerry, or something like that. Or, depending on your politics, the guy who really wanted to vote for Badnarik but voted for Bush...or something. I'm not great with analogies.
Sadly, the rest of the Astros-Cards series seems predictably depressing (unless you're a St. Louis fan). Not only are the Cardinals back at home, not only have they been handed a second life, but out of every sport, baseball hinges on emotion and momentum more than anything else.
What about biathlon or ski jumping? Or emotionball? How about momentum-hockey? In the NBA, teams can lose the most devastating game possible and bounce back two days later as a completely different team (like the Nets after Game 3 of the 2002 Boston series). That doesn't work in baseball. Once you have the momentum, the other team has to take it back. And they can't do that when they're reeling on the road and wondering what the hell just happened. That's why I believe the Astros are finished, just like that '86 Angels team was.
Game 5 was a devastating loss, and the Cards are indeed going back home, but doesn't starting Oswalt (2.94 ERA) and Clemens (1.87) as opposed to Mulder (3.64) and Morris (4.11) at least even out the supposed momentum?
Because they are human beings who are actually playing in the games as opposed to vague theories about psychology and sports performance.
Also, I'm not sure I really want to do this, but I'm sure our readers can point out instances where a baseball team has lost the most devastating game possible and bounced back "as a completely different team" immediately afterwards, like Simmons says the 2002 Nets did.
I believe if you go all the way back to 2001, the Diamondbacks lost successive heartbreakers to the Yankees before coming back to beat them 15-2 in Game 6 and 3-2 in Game 7. Wait, Simmons mentions this in the column but dismisses it for some strange reason.
There was also the ALCS last year, when the Red Sox came back from a pretty seriously devastating Game 3.
Anyway, if you read on in the article (which I just did), Simmons hedges his bets a little with this paragraph:
You could even call me an expert. And according to my research, your team is cooked unless they can create a new Level of Losing for the Cardinals -- the "Reverse Dead Man Walking" Game on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Okay, so the Astros are toast unless they're not.
I know Simmons' articles are mean to be light and fluffy and fun, but I bet there's a small part of him (and a large segment of his readership) that genuinely believes what he's saying is absolutely true. People want to believe this stuff.
Yeah...guess what? Turns out the Astros won easily, in St. Louis. Turns out baseball is more about pitching and hitting than "Dead Man Walking" games or "momentum" or "The Godfather, Part II" or "Caddyshack" or any other of Simmons's go-to references that have nothing to do with actual sports,
Very soon after Albert Pujols' 3-run bomb to win Game 5 of the NLCS, Bob Brenly could not wait to start praising David Eckstein for "not giving up" and hitting a dribbler to the left side.
Then, on Sportcenter, John Kruk made sure to give Eckstein credit, as well.
We get it. He's small.
** CORRECTION **
Thanks to many readers for pointing out that something stupid was said NOT by Tim McCarver, who was mercifully nowhere near a broadcast booth last night. It was, in fact, the Brennaman-Lyons-Brenly team. I will happily acknowledge that the instant I heard something that made me angry, I assumed it was McCarver.
He's not just small, Junior. He's also scrappy and white. And he has the guts and hustle to dribble a ball through the hole to keep an inning going. You know what that takes? Incredible luck. That's another thing David Eckstein, along with every other major leaguer, occasionally has.
Vladimir Guerrero is really struggling at the plate this postseason, particularly against the White Sox. He's 1-16 in the ALCS; in the playoffs overall, he's 7-34 with zero extra-base hits and 1 RBI. His OPS so far this October: .476.
Stories are starting to trickle in about Vlad's woes at the plate, which makes sense because he's basically all the Angels have on offense. But there's a decided difference in the way sportswriters are handling Vladdy as opposed to the dressing down A-Rod got just a few days ago.
In short, no one's calling Vlad a choker. No one's questioning his heart, his desire, his mental makeup. No one's crying out for him to earn his enormous contract. No one's screaming that Arte Moreno acquired him FOR THESE GAMES AND THESE GAMES ONLY.
Instead, writers are -- quite fairly, I think -- saying that without Vlad, the Angels don't stand a chance, and it's too bad he happens to be slumping at the wrong time. Which would also be a very plausible explanation for what A-Rod did in the ALDS. But no one was offering that excuse for him.
Is he hurt? Even in the best of times Guerrero looks as if he woke up after a rough night on a bad mattress. The guy walks and jogs as if his spikes are too tight. But then he'll burst from first to third on a bloop --- the way he did against the Yankees in the ALDS -- in a show of sprinter's speed. So who knows?
"He's not getting treatment that I know of," one Angels staff member said. "If he was hurt he wouldn't say anything, but there's nothing wrong as far as we know."
So when Guerrero performs poorly in the playoffs, he's just a little off, or he's banged up and is valiantly playing through the pain. When A-Rod stinks it up, he's an overpaid superstar who will never come through in big moments.
Possible reasons people do this:
1. A-Rod is not a likeable guy. He seems fake, and he's too polished to offer interesting quotes to the media.
2. There are higher expectations of A-Rod because of his contract.
3. There is increased scrutiny of A-Rod because he's a Yankee.
None of these are good reasons. As of right now, Vladimir Guerrero has never had a good postseason series, and I'm glad to report that no one is labeling him a choker just yet. They shouldn't. Given enough time, I think he'll come through, just as Barry Bonds did and A-Rod likely will.
God Disapproves of America's Love Affair with Darin Erstad
Game 3, ALCS, 6:40 pm.
Joe Buck: Here is Darin Erstad, who is 2 for 7 in the postseason, hitting .296. He's never had a postseason where he's hit under .300 and he has sure displayed a terrific glove over at first here in October...
Lou Piniella: Now this guy I like as a player. He comes to the ballpark to play every day. He's serious. He's got tenacity. And he wants to beat you.
JB: He rips one into right, down the line. It's a fair ball, and Erstad will have at least two. Dye digs it out. Erstad is going to try to get to third. Iguchi's throw! That was a no-no. Darin Erstad, trying to do too much, just made the final out at third base with his team down by three. Mike Scioscia with bad marks on that play by Erstad.
Joe Morgan: Sorry I missed you all last week. I was traveling. I'm heading to the airport now to get to Anaheim. I'm ready for your questions!
We're sorry too! Can't wait!
Chris (Tampa): Joe, is this a lackluster post season without the Yankees or the Red Sox? Who's looking strongest going into the weekend?
Joe Morgan: It's obvious the expectations aren't as high as last year with the Red Sox-Yankees circus atmoshphere. But I think we will find new players that you will enjoy watching into next year.
Joe Morgan: Already, Chris Burke from the Astros has made a name for himself. Joe Crede with the game-winning hit the other night has set the stage for himself as well.
So who's looking strongest going into the weekend? Joe? Joe?
Rob (Brooklyn, NY): What's your take on instant replay? Also, how much does "the Call" affect the angels?
Joe Morgan: Replay would not have helped. I saw the replay over and over and you could say it was inconclusive although I believe he caught the ball.
You could say it was inconclusive, but you would be wrong.
I don't believe replay should be in baseball. You would really be messing with the history of the game. Bad calls are part of the game.
Segregation used to be part of the game. Don't mess with history, Joe.
When would you use replay? On a close play at first in the fifth? Only in the late innings? A play in the fifth is just as important as a play in the ninth.
Well, a committee would propose several ideas. Perhaps only on home run calls. Perhaps coaches could get a limited number of challenges a game like in the NFL. No one's suggesting replay for balls and strikes.
I'm not a fan of replays.
I can tell. You're also not a fan of the concept of change.
The only time it might work is using it on disputed home runs.
That is an option that would almost certainly be suggested.
As for how much it affected the Angels, it is hard to judge. If A.J. got a hit, how would that have affected the Angels? The question is how will it affect them tonight. Will the mental aspect carry over?
YOU JUST ANSWERED A GUY'S QUESTION BY REPHRASING THE SAME QUESTION BACK AT HIM. Joe, no one's going to print these chat transcripts out like they're testimony from a criminal trial and later point out specific instances where you were wrong. (Except us.) You can go out on a limb and say the Angels will play fine. Or you can say the series is over. That's your job. You're a sports analyst.
(The Original) Jeff (Cleveland): Joe, How come the umpires didn't look at the ball to see if there wa s a dirt scuff on it. If it hit the ground, there would be a noticible mark on the ball.
Joe Morgan: No. The ball could have had dirt on it from before. You can't tell just by looking at the ball. It could have hit the dirt and then the dirt rolled off when it was rolled back to the mound.
Joe Morgan: What really happened is the guy got confused. He signaled with his right arm as if to say he was safe and then he showed his first which would mean he is out.
No. That's wrong. He signaled with his right arm that there was no contact between the bat and the ball, just as he had done all game (as shown on BBTN on the Dye and Molina strikeouts). Then he showed his "first," signifying an out. He was confused, sure, but not as to whether it was a strikeout. The error came when he didn't stick to his original call. Eddings got scared when he saw Pierzynski running to first, and he made the wrong decision.
I went to umpire school and when you give a fist that means out. They only do it on the third strike.
If Joe Morgan had umpired the game, I believe there would have been at least forty-eight calls as controversial as the Eddings mistake, including numerous plays where Morgan dozes off mid-call.
Julie (At Work in Weehawken, NJ): Joe, It is truly an honor.... I hope that you take my question... I am a huge Roger Clemens fan... he is my Cy Young winner (even though they are going to give it to Carpenter). Anyway, what possible reason could there be for the Astros being completely unable to score runs for him when he is on the mound? I mean they scored 10 for Pettitte... then 1 for him? What is the deal... ?
Joe Morgan: Baseball goes in cycles.
That is a miserable way to start this answer.
It all depends on how the opposition is pitching as well. If Clemens is always matched up against the other teams' ace, of course you will have problems scoring.
The chances of that are pretty small. Although it is possible that the Clemens' opposing pitchers had a lower than average ERA.
Clemens did get good run support with other teams. If he pitches again next year, the bad luck will probably fall on someone else.
Okay. There you go. All you have to say is: it's 99% certain that his poor run support relative to other Astros pitchers was due to chance. Dumb luck. I agree with you, Joe.
It just goes in cycles for starting pitchers.
All right. You don't have to repeat yourself.
After awhile, it can become mental because the team will start to press. But I guarantee if he pitches next year, he will get much better run support.
You're repeating yourself again.
Billy (Detroit): Do you think the Tigers made the right decision by hiring Jim Leyland in such haste. Would we have been better off with a no non-sense guy like Pinella.
Joe Morgan: From a personal standpoint, I like Leyland a lot. He is a proven manager. But this is the second time the Tigers have gone against baseball's etiquitte of interviewing minority candidates. I heard they gave Juan Samuel a 15-minute interview. The Tigers seem to feel they can do anything they want. They decided they didn't want to wait.
Joe Morgan: And it's not a matter that they should have hired a minority, it's about interviewing and have minorities as part of the hiring process. It seems they feel they are above the law so to speak.
This is a rare appearance of Bizarre Rant Joe. Usually we're only treated to Clueless Joe or Vendetta Joe or Misty-Eyed Nostalgic Joe, and we always get a dose of Just Plain Wrong in Every Way Joe, but here, Joe turns a question about managerial skill into a moratorium on the possible racism of the Detroit Tigers franchise. "It seems they feel they are above the law"? We're talking about whether Jim Leyland is a good choice to manage a baseball team. Next time someone asks about Mark Buehrle's pickoff move, Joe will assess the lack of judicial experience of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.
Brad (Albuquerque): Joe!..Always enjoy chatting with you..should the A's make a real play for Orel?..is he management material?
Joe Morgan: I don't know his management background. I just know him as a pitching coach. But I think there are a lot of good management candidates out there. I just don't know him that well to really comment.
Oh. I guess I also forgot Wussily Refuses to Answer the Question Joe.
If you are going to the A's, will you be a manager or a puppet? That's the question.
And there's Vendetta Joe.
Will B. (Va Beach): what's your thought on Field Level reporters. You've had them all from Erin Andrews, to Gary Roberts, to Sam Ryan. Do you have a preference as to what you expect them to bring to the game and whom do you enjoy working with the most?
Joe Morgan: What I expect is different from what the producers expect! I hope if something happens on the field .. if someone gets hurt .. or something controversial .. that they can find out what happened without me having to speculate. But now they are actually part of the broadcast whether there is controversy is not. They just come on and talk. Sometimes it can be irrelevant. Sometimes the game might be in doubt and they are talking about something other than the batter, pitcher, etc. They have a definate place but we don't always use them properly. The broadcasting of the actual game is always the most important thing. I don't necessarily need to know where somebody is going to dinner after the game. But there is a definite place for them if used properly.
Joe Morgan: From the viewers perspective, you just have to ask if that reporter enhances your enjoyment of the game.
It is absolutely no surprise to me that Joe Morgan hates his field reporters. Hates them. This is a guy who refuses to offend Orel Hershiser by offering an opinion on his readiness to manage. Yet he says of his own co-workers, "They just come on and talk. Sometimes it can be irrelevant. Sometimes the game might be in doubt and they are talking about something other than the batter, pitcher, etc.... I don't necessarily need to know where somebody is going to dinner after the game."
So, Joe, what's the most important part of the game? "The broadcasting of the actual game is always the most important thing." And you are ... right. A broadcaster.
And I love that after throwing the field reporters under the bus, he throws his hands in the air and says, hey viewers, make up your own mind.
Dan (Akron): What happened to ARod in the ALDS? He performed like an MVP on boths sides allyear and then just looked lost in those 5 games like a boy amongst men. Your thoughts thanks?
Joe Morgan: Very good observation.
Yes, very good observation, Dan (Akron). No one's been talking about A-Rod at all. Impressive original thinking.
He was an MVP all year but I think it stems back to last year in Boston. From the third or fourth game on, everybody in the lineup looked lost. That has carried over this year a bit in the postseason.
You're kidding me. You think the psychic damage from last year's ALCS Game 4 (the Yankees won Game 3, so I'll discount that he even said that) carried over and caused them to lose to the Angels this year?
Randy Johnson's poor performance is largely to blame for their series loss, and he wasn't on the team last year.
Good Lord. I have to get some fresh air.
Okay, I'm back.
Richie Sebuharara (Denmark): in ur opinion joe, who is the best Molina brother, yadier, jose or bengie, im talkin hitting and feilding
Joe Morgan: I don't have a favorite Molina! They are all funky and cold! Bengie is the best hitter right now.
The question was who is the best, not who is your favorite. Bengie is the right answer.
mike (miami): a little tone loc..nice job hall of famer
Joe Morgan: I like to have fun, too. ; ) This isn't brain surgery.
CINCINNATI, OH - Local brain surgeon Joe Leonard Morgan left several patients dead on the operating room table this morning when he refused to use modern computer technology, CAT scan results, or scalpels made of metal during his surgeries. Said Morgan, "The greatest brain surgeons of all time operated using only sharp rocks, intuition, and hustle. Are you saying you're a better brain surgeon than those all-time greats?" Morgan then leapt onto a waiting horse and proceeded to burn down an iPod nano factory.
I hope I can chat again next Friday but I might be traveling to the World Series. We'll see. Thanks for your great questions, as usual. Take care.
Over the past few days, I've realized that nothing, nothing brings out more unadulterated idiocy than the Yankees losing. Today our submission comes from perennial FJM Writer of the Year candidate Skip Bayless, writing for the always-substantive ESPN Page 2. Thanks to reader Steven for the tip.
I am a non-Yankees fan trapped in Manhattan. I live here because I work here, but I can barely live with the fan and media overreaction to Yankees win! or, now, Yankees lose!
Skip Bayless, a member of the media, will now proceed to blatantly overreact to the Yankees losing.
Yet as much as I'm loving the fact that the Yankees lost, I find I'm hating it, too. As crazy as I'm driven by all the off-target excuse-making, I'm missing the Yankees more and more with each sleepy inning of the Angels vs. White Sox.
Nothing against those teams, which proved to be better teams than the Yankees or Red Sox. Fewer weaknesses, better chemistry.
More like "Fewer terrible starters, better bullpens." That's it. The Angels and White Sox had great pitching. They won the games because their players played better. There it is. Also, when will people stop using the stupid trick of italicizing the word "teams" to imply an unbreakable brotherhood between men? "The Yankees had better players; the Angels had a better team." Shut up. You can't even explain what that means. And if you did, your explanation would be patently false.
But please, Yankees fans, do not pelt me like the recent relentless New York City rain with silly excuses. Get real. Boil it down. Understand why the Red Sox won last year, and why your Yankees aren't really Yankees anymore.
It's simply because your owner, George Steinbrenner, bet two tons of fool's gold on two superstars whose intangibles will never measure up to their best-in-baseball bodies and talent. The Yankee Stadium stage will always be too big for A-Rod and Randy Johnson.
YOU'RE BASING THAT ON FIVE GAMES -- or in Johnson's case, one lousy start and one great relief appearance. "The stage will always be too big"? What kind of garbage is that? These are two great players with very good postseason histories. Randy Johnson won three games in the World Series against the Yankees -- he had an ERA of 1.04 in 17.1 innings! How is the ALDS stage too big for him?
In pinstripes, A-Rod turns into C-minus-Rod in October. As the ace of the Yankees, the Big Unit came up small (but not Aaron Small) in the pivotal Game 3 against the Angels.
In last year's ALDS against Minnesota, A-Rod OPSed 1.213. In pinstripes. In October. Similar sample size to what he did this year in the ALDS.
Who was writing "A-Rod = Clutch-Rod" articles after that series?
Show me where you, Skip Bayless, predicted that both these guys would shit the bed in the playoffs.
If you could pour whatever is inside Derek Jeter into A-Rod, you would have the greatest baseball player ever.
There's an offensive gay joke here that I'm straining to not write.
But something has always been missing in A-Rod's makeup: mental toughness, guts, whatever it is that allows Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez to make entire teams better. A-Rod doesn't seize the biggest moments. They seize him, often by the throat.
Barry Bonds, up until 2002, was criticized as being one of the worst postseason chokers of all time. Here are his batting averages from three NLDSes and two NLCSes from the years 1990-2000:
.167 .148 .261 .250 .176
For ten years, Barry Bonds performed poorly in October. Then he did something -- regressed to the mean, perhaps, or perhaps he took some magical intangible mental toughness pills that gave him intestinal fortitude -- and he absolutely destroyed the teams he faced in the 2002 playoffs, hitting eight home runs and OPSing three million (I'm estimating).
Then, in 2003, he was terrible in the playoffs again.
Will A-Rod break out in a big way in some future playoff series? If I had to bet, I would bet the house on that happening.
If you could pour whatever is inside Curt Schilling into Randy Johnson, even at 42, you would have the most dominating left-handed pitcher ever.
Randy Johnson is alreadly up there as one of the most dominating left-handed pitchers ever. He's amazing. He has five Cy Young Awards. He's led the league in ERA four times and been second three times. He even has a World Series MVP despite not having "whatever is inside Curt Schilling" (Everquest figurines and hot air)? He's in the conversation with Clemens, Martinez, and Maddux as the greatest pitcher of his generation.
But sure, he's a choker. Right.
But something has always been missing in Johnson's makeup -- big-game confidence, emotional control, whatever it was that Schilling provided Johnson when he pitched the tone-setting games ahead of Johnson as the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. In the biggest moments, Johnson too often has been a psychological powder keg with a short fuse.
Oh my God. Now Schilling is supernaturally infusing Johnson with confidence by pitching in entirely different games from him? I wish he had done that with Matt Clement this year.
The two main reasons the Red Sox finally reversed the curse last season were: (1) they signed Schilling to be their ace and driving force, and (2) they had Ramirez batting cleanup behind David Ortiz.
Thanks to reader Slade Gilmer (I'm not making that name up) for this: Ortiz hit cleanup behind Manny last year. I can't believe I didn't catch that the first time I went through. Here's proof.
Yes, Ortiz has become baseball's most talked-about clutch hitter -- while Manny remains the most chuckled-at goof. But would most pitchers rather pitch to Ortiz or Manny? The answer is Ortiz, who takes amazing advantage of the many mistakes made by pitchers fearing the "goof" on deck.
Ortiz put up a little better numbers this season than Manny -- 148 RBI to 144, and 47 homers to 45. DH Ortiz obviously deserves to be an MVP candidate, even though he rarely plays defense. But in beyond-numbers impact, Manny has always been Boston's MVP.
I thought this article was about A-Rod and Randy Johnson?
The shrewdest move the Yankees could make right now would be pulling off a trade for Manny. Imagine the back-page headline in New York: MANNY-HATTAN.
GREAT REASON TO SIGN SOMEONE.
The Red Sox would be crazy to do it, unless maybe the Yankees would give up Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang, but acquiring Manny could shift the balance of power dramatically.
So could trading for Bonds and DHing him every night.
So could travelling back in time, cryogenically freezing Cap Anson, reviving him in the present day, training him with modern technology and science, injecting him with various strength and vitality serums, and sliding him into first base, allowing Giambi to DH.
I don't know how many times after Yankees-Red Sox games I read in New York papers about how A-Rod or the Unit had earned his pinstripes and proved himself as a "true Yankee."
That, obviously, can be accomplished only in October. Johnson was Mr. September, holding the American League to a .167 average in the final month of the season. Yet Steinbrenner paid him $16 million mostly to win series-turning playoff games.
If I hear anyone say the phrase "true Yankee" in person, I will taser their nutsack.
Also, the Yankees probably don't make the playoffs without Johnson's September.
In the first round of the playoffs, Johnson is 0-7 with a 5.33 ERA in his last eight starts.
In the second round of the playoffs and beyond, Johnson is 5-1 with an ERA under 1.50.
Johnson's partner in Yankee crime? C-minus-Rod, who gave the Angels life in Game 2 by blowing as easy a play as a third baseman can have -- a point-blank Sunday hopper. Yes, it's possible he lost it in the lights. But has Jeter ever lost a high hopper in the lights?
Almost certainly yes. Baseball Reference doesn't have postseason fielding statistics, but I'm going to place a large wager on the fact that Derek Jeter has > 0 errors in his postseason career.
Meanwhile, A-Rod was going 2-for-15 in the series with no homers and no RBI. That makes him 4 for his last 32 in the playoffs, counting last season's collapse against Boston.
I've already gone over this with Tim Keown, Bayless. Scroll down and read that post.
A-Rod's reaction? He "left it all out on the field," he said. He tried his hardest, maybe too hard. He apologized to his teammates.
These are the words of a player who has no idea what it takes to win.
What do you want him to say? "I will now commit seppuku for dishonoring the team"?
This is a freak of a 6-foot-4, 230-pound specimen who hit the most awe-inspiring home run of the season -- a rare opposite-field, upper-deck blast. This is a slugger who has never been suspected of being A-Roid -- one who eventually could wind up with more career homers than Bonds or Hank Aaron.
Yet this is a guy you wouldn't want in your October foxhole. C-minus-Rod finally made Yankees fans long for the days of a far less talented -- but far more clutch -- Scott Brosius.
Finally. Finally you write what idiots all across Yankeeland are thinking.
Scott Brosius postseason BA /OBP / SLG: .245 / .278 / .418 Scott Brosius ALDS BA / OBP / SLG: .167 / .196 / .259
That's right. In 54 ALDS at bats, Scott Brosius recorded two extra-base hits. Two.
GET HIM IN MY OCTOBER FOXHOLE.
So should manager Joe Torre be blamed for the failings of A-Rod and the Unit? Please.
I've been saying for a month what Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said Wednesday as he left the clubhouse, probably for the last time: "I've been here with Joe for 10 years, and this has been by far the toughest year for him, and it's the best job he's done."
Yes, the best regular-season job. Given all the injuries and aging suffered by his Old York Yankees, Torre deserves consideration for manager of the year.
You're right. I'm glad you pointed that out. Joe Torre is so underrated. No one ever talks about him when they talk about good managers. Let's give him another award.
Steinbrenner pushed for -- and absurdly overpaid for -- three premier free agents without championship intangibles. First it was Jason Giambi, then A-Rod, then Johnson.
**SPECIAL ADDENDUM #2** As pointed out by reader Bob Hay, A-Rod and Johnson were acquired via trade, not free agency.
One, two, three strikes you're out of luck, George. You built your kingdom on their October quicksand, and now you're paying for it.
Please sign Scott Brosius. He'll hit fifty home runs in the playoffs, I promise.
"The pace that he worked at made his defense pretty effective behind him."
Because he worked quickly, he made his defense effective? How in the world can you say that had anything to do with the effectiveness of -- wait, there was that time when the entire Red Sox D fell asleep when Arroyo was on the mound. Point taken, HR.
After the Pierzynski debacle:
"I love the fact that Ozzie Guillen was in the game enough to pinch run, get a stolen base, and Crede comes up with a big base hit."
Where did you expect Ozzie Guillen to be? There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Two of the American League Championship Series. The game was tied, with the winning run on first base. You love the fact that Ozzie Guillen was "in the game enough" at that point? You love that?
There is dumb, and then there is dumb. Check out what Alessandro Trigiani has to say about some of Italy's national team members in today's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
DE ROSSI - Abbiamo detto che il test più importante era quello che riguardava De Rossi. Il giovane romanista per la prima volta in vita sua era chiamato a dirigere il gioco della nazionale, sostituendosi a Pirlo. Ebbene, da questo punto di vista la sua gara non ha dato i risultati che ci si aspettava tant’è che nel secondo tempo, quando Lippi ha deciso di premere sull’acceleratore in cerca dei tre punti lo ha spostato più avanti togliendogli quel gravoso incarico di impostazione. Quella di Lecce non deve certo essere una bocciatura: il ragazzo ha tempo e talento per acquisire doti che ancora non ha affinato, ma è giusto dirsi chiaramente che allo stato attuale delle cose l’assenza di Pirlo crea un problema di difficile soluzione.
DEL PIERO – L’altro elemento dal quale ci si attendevano notizie era Ale Del Piero e in questo caso i segni sono incoraggianti. Il capitano della Juve (e per l’occasione anche della nazionale) ha messo grinta da vendere dimostrando di potere essere ancora utile a questa casacca. Il suo ruolo ideale è e resta quello di rifinitore, di suggeritore dell’ultimo pallone. E’ chiaro che a questo punto per lui sarà molto difficile ritrovare una maglia da titolare, ma vista la prestazione di ieri siamo convinti che ce la farà a staccare il suo onesto biglietto per il Mondiale.
Can you effing believe this?
VIERI – L’ex nerazzurro ha ritrovato la strada del gol e questo, come ha sottolineato Lippi in conferenza stampa, è molto importante. Ma non è sufficiente. E’ vero che Bobo ha dato segni di vita anche sotto il profilo del gioco (tra l’altro ha anche segnato un gol annullato), ma da lui ci si attende ancora qualcosa di più. Molto del suo futuro in maglia azzurra dipende da quello che Ancelotti deciderà di fare durante la stagione con i suoi gioielli lì davanti: non dovesse più trovare grandi spazi sarebbe molto probabilmente costretto a rinunciare anche al suo impegno con la nazionale.
We have to get over here to Italy, you guys. This place is worse than the States.
That isn't all. On Sportscenter, Harold Reynolds and John Kruk watched A.J. Pierzynski claim that he didn't hear Doug Eddings call an out, so he ran to first.
HR and JK immediately jumped on this point and began praising Pierzynski profusely and implicitly approving what Eddings did -- specifically, they criticized Angels catcher Josh Paul for not "finishing the play" by tagging Pierzynski or throwing to first.
There are several problems with this conclusion, which again, they reached nanoseconds after Pierzynski finished talking to Pedro Gomez. First, we have only Pierzynski's word that no audible out call was made. Later, I believe Eddings himself would claim he made no verbal call, but at the time HR and JK didn't have that information. Second, Eddings made what looked to everybody in the world, including the players in the field, like an out signal with a clenched fist. You can see Darin Erstad imitating what Eddings did in the replay. That's why people were running off the field -- because it really looked like Doug Eddings had called the third out. Third, if you're Josh Paul, and you know you catch the ball, and you know Pierzynski swung at the pitch, don't you believe the inning is over? Heck, if you turn around, you'd see the umpire making what looks an awful lot like an out call. Sure, you could make an insurance tag after every third strike ever, but Paul probably didn't even think the catch was borderline. Paul also later said that umpires typically make a "No Catch" verbal call if the ball isn't caught.
Right now, the call seems like a travesty. And it's the opposite of surprising that HR and JK are right there, getting it almost completely wrong, or at the very least, painting an incomplete picture of what happened.
Thanks to reader Christy for the link to this New York Daily News article, written by, and I quote from the article itself, "New York's premier sports columnist," Mike Lupica.
Over the past five seasons, George Steinbrenner has spent just short of $1 billion on the Yankees in payroll and luxury taxes. It has bought him the softest Yankee postseason team in history.
There's no reason to believe this team was soft. What does that even mean in baseball? They're not tackling enough guys out there? Not drawing enough charges? 10 times out of 10, a team a writer calls "soft" is only retroactively soft after they lose. Did you see anything out there that indicated these guys weren't "hard"? Please explain.
Think about it: The Yankees might end up with the MVP this season, Alex Rodriguez, the Cy Young Award for Mariano Rivera, have the Rookie of the Year in Robinson Cano and the Comeback Player of the Year in Jason Giambi, and still they can't make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
So what? Since when has the Comeback Player of the Year's team been suddenly favored to win the World Series? A team could win all those awards and still have a starting rotation full of question marks, poor bullpen depth, and bad defense. Kind of like the 2005 Yankees.
We thought this team might be different, especially after the way it won Game 4 Sunday night against the Angels to stay alive.
Then it did what five straight Yankee teams have done in October: Lost the game it needed to keep going, or to win it all. This team falls down in October, every single time.
Right. The chances of a team not winning the World Series five years in a row even if they're the very best team are fairly high. They just are. Baseball isn't basketball. The playoffs, especially the five game divisional series, can often produce strange results. I'm not saying these Yankees teams weren't flawed, but if a team (with vastly different rosters over the course of five years) "falls down in October, every single time," does it mean they have some inherent choking gene as a whole franchise? Probably not.
They just lost. You have to be good and lucky to win eleven postseason games in a season.
Lupica goes on to criticize Randy Johnson and the bullpen for the playoff exit. Fine. He also, predictably, takes some shots at A-Rod and refreshingly, at Matsui for not hitting against the Angels.
Then he goes and writes some incredibly stupid stuff:
5. No leadoff man
Once again Monday night, Jeter was the heart and soul of the team and the most dangerous guy in the world to the Angels. He's still not a leadoff man. He wants to swing and hit it hard. The Yankees haven't had a real leadoff man since Chuck Knoblauch.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, playing baseball should want to swing and hit it hard. Derek Jeter got on base at a .389 clip this year, better than any other leadoff hitter in the majors. He was sixth in the AL in OBP! Also, it's not as if he's especially slow on the basepaths. He's a decent baserunner.
You want Chuck Knoblauch back? In 2001, he had a .339 OBP. The year before that, .366. Replacing Derek Jeter's 2005 with either of those seasons would definitely cost your team runs. You truly are New York's premier sports columnist, Lupica.
Now A-Rod, who might end up hitting 800 home runs in the big leagues, is No. 2 at the end of this season, the way he was at the end of last season. It was a joke then and is a joke now.
How is this a joke? A-Rod has an even better OBP than Jeter (.421). He's an unbelievable, MVP-caliber hitter. YOU WANT HIM TO GET AS MANY AT BATS AS POSSIBLE. If the Red Sox had batted David Ortiz second and moved Edgar Renteria far, far away from the 2-hole, he unquestionably would have had even more RBI opportunities and hence, more RBI. Who do you want to bat second, Lupica? Bubba Crosby?
He actually hit pretty good in the playoffs, and you can't call him a reason why the Yankees lost. And he was a huge hitter for the Yankees over the last three months of the season. He was Comeback Player of the Year, in baseball and BALCO.
And it is why this is a perfect time to pay somebody as much as the Yankees can to get him out of here.
Great. I hope they do. Giambi led the majors in OBP. He was a huge reason they made the playoffs to begin with.
He is not a good first baseman and never will be and you saw it again this week. He is a DH. Still working off a seven-year, $119 million contract.
Papi Ortiz, DH, real MVP of the American League, made $5.3 million for the Red Sox this season.
Yes, he should play DH. He sucks at first. Yes, he is overpaid. Pretty much everyone on the Yankees is, including (especially?) Jeter. David Ortiz' contract is one of the best bargains in all of baseball. Comparing anyone else's deal to his is pretty pointless.
9. A team of great All-Stars, not a great team
The 2003 Red Sox lost a crushing Game7 against Aaron Boone. The 2004 Red Sox came back from that, then got knocked down as hard as you can, down three games to none, and three outs away from elimination with Rivera on the mound.
They came back and won.
They had been through something together and it made them stronger.
Nearly every sportswriter and commentator wants to make a neat little narrative out of every single thing that happens in sports. Often these cute fables reinforce virtues like resilience, harmony, hard work, and effort. Often they're bullshit.
The 2004 Red Sox added an excellent starter and a lights out closer while retaining a high-scoring offense. That is why they were better than the 2003 Red Sox. Not because they had been through something together.
Plus, that has nothing to do with the Yankees. It just doesn't.
You thought it might happen with these Yankees. But these are not the old Yankees. Not even close. Just an All-Star team of old Yankees.
The Yankees were full of All-Stars. All-Stars are good, not bad. Stop acting like it's otherwise.
Today's "Rome is Burning" was business as usual: atrocious, knee-jerk, lazy, conventional wisdom-based commentary. Enjoy:
The Angels finished the Yankees in five, and it's easy to see how they did it -- with heart, grit and toughness. Effort does matter, and these guys scrap like nobody else.
Are you saying the Yankees weren't putting in any effort? For God's sake, everyone on the field wants to win. Show me a play where a guy didn't want to win. One play. Did Bengie Molina hit three home runs in the series because of grit?
On paper, it should have been a colossal mismatch, especially offensively.
Regular season records: Yankees: 95-67 Angels: 95-67
Not just a mismatch. A colossal mismatch.
Pitching-wise, this was a colossal mismatch in favor of the Angels.
But they don't play it on paper, they play between the lines, where the Angels are gamers.
One sentence, three cliches. Three!
And not just one or two of them, but one through nine. They scratch, they battle, they turn every game into a street fight.
EVERY TIME A TEAM WITH A PRETTY GOOD PITCHING STAFF BUT A BAD OFFENSE WINS, THEY'RE "GAMERS" WHO "SCRATCH" AND "BATTLE." THIS IS STUPID.
They don't make dumb mistakes. They throw to the right base. They get their bunts down. They catch the ball. They pick each other up. They do all those cornball, cliched little baseball things, and it was enough to beat the big, bad, $200 million Yankees.
The Yankees weren't that good this year. A bunch of their guys got hurt. Their pitching staff was a shambles.
The more talented team didn't win, but the better one did.
But wait. It gets much, much worse.
And there is no single guy who epitomizes the toughness of the Angels more than first baseman Darin Erstad.
Here we go.
He's not the best player.
You're right. He's not the best player. He hit seven home runs all year. Seven. 609 AB. Seven home runs. From first base. He's not even the most valuable player on that team.
Good. Vlad Guerrero is. Darin Erstad OBPed .325 and slugged .371. All year. But no one means more to the Angels than Erstad.
You are an unprecedented moron. Actually, I take that back. Many, many people have said this about Darin Erstad. What is it about this guy that makes sports media figures absolutely adore him? Is it his football background? He was a punter. He looks very rugged, I'll give you that.
This guy is the ultimate red ass.
The following players had a higher OPS than Darin Erstad this year:
Russ Adams Craig Counsell Greg Zaun Every Major League First Baseman
That's right: in the major leagues, no regular first baseman had a lower OPS than Darin Erstad.
He is the ultimate gamer and competitor. A guy that will do absolutely anything and everything to win a ball game. He grinds every single at bat like it's the most important at bat of his whole career.
Of major league first basemen, Erstad finished 24th in walks, with 47.
The guy is a freaking nut. He practically left his knee ligaments out near second base sliding into the bag last night.
If Manny Ramirez hurts his knee with that horrible sliding technique, he's the laughingstock of sports media the next day.
The guy is a great tone setter.
He better set a damn good tone for $8.25 million in 2005. By the way, his OPS+ was 89 this year. No one, I mean no one on that team is going to go soft with Ersty around.
I'm glad you're on a cute-nickname-basis with Darin Erstad. Hope that goes well for you.
And I'm not talking about that football mentality that he brings to the diamond, either.
Yes, you are. You love Darin Erstad, and the reason why is because he used to play football and he looks tough. That's it.
He did steal an incredible 10 bases this year.
He's a flat-out whiz with the leather at first base. There aren't five guys in the bigs who make that game-ending play last night.
Doug Mientkiewicz Derrek Lee J.T. Snow John Olerud Travis Lee Todd Helton