FIRE JOE MORGAN: Where's My Ladies At?


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Where's My Ladies At?

Here's one. Her name is Gwen Knapp, and I'm guessing she had a deadline, and had nothing to write about, and Googled "Yankees+cliches+team chemistry+true yankee" and cribbed a bunch of other crap to write this:

(starts with a perfectly good analysis of the injuries that have hit the Yankees this season. Then...)

Other teams go through this stuff all the time, piecing together lineups. The A's swear by spare parts. But vulnerability doesn't suit the Yankees, and as a team, they look shockingly fragile.

On Saturday night, they managed to beat the A's 4-3 in 13 innings after losing the night before in 11, partly because Rasner didn't unravel when Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each committed an error behind him in the first two innings. In the end, the Yankees had four errors and won primarily because of the rookie and the bullpen, the one element of their team that remains overwhelming.

Well, I wouldn't say "overwhelming." Rivera still lurks out in the bullpen like an invincible Panamanian Destructicon, but Farnsworth is a mess, and if you think Myers, Henn, and Bruney are going to stay this good for the whole year you've got another thing coming. (They do have Vizcaino, who was a great addition [9.92 K/game last year] and Bruney looks decent to me, but in the 13th last night he threw a fastball to Bobby Crosby that was so meaty and straight and thigh-high I swear I saw Crosby's eyes actually like toy-train-headlight-style light up before he jumped too early and fouled out to left.)

Anyway, if you ask me, the one element of their team that remains overwhelming would be their offense. It seems to me that Damon-Jeter-Abreu-ARod-Giambi-Posada-Cano is a pretty good 1-7.
I know, I know. I'm crazy.

The scouting reports issued appropriate warnings, but seeing them up close, inning by inning, brings home how reduced they are. The reputedly thin pitching staff is actually emaciated, much like the bench, and the lineup has a greater intimidation factor on paper than in reality.

Well, I know it's early, but in "reality" they have scored the second most runs in baseball so far.

Perhaps watching the Yankees wither in October so often the last few years has stripped away an aura, and the talent hasn't changed that radically. Or maybe it's merely the fact that Hideki Matsui resides on the disabled list. But something is clearly missing from this team.

They're probably a little less intimidating without Sheffield. And Matsui will be back. But isn't what's missing...their pitchers? Mussina/Pavano/Wang/no Clemens? I mean, those people are actually physically missing. No? It's not that? Then what could it possibly be?

Oh. Oh God. No. Please don' can't mean...please no dear Jesus...are you going to talk about...?

One of the New York beat writers pointed out that the 2000 team had a relatively underwhelming lineup, and visions of Scott Brosius at third and Ricky Ledee in left came rushing back. Glenallen Hill and Jose Canseco spent time on the roster, too. Of course, that team had Roger Clemens, plus El Duque and the first pinstriped incarnation of Andy Pettitte, on the pitching staff. And in the end, it had a World Series trophy, too.

What is she getting at, you might ask?

She's talking about aura, people. Aura. Mystique. That indefinible je ne sais quoi de sinistre that the magical underachieving Yankees of 1996-2000 had in spades. Think about the improbable run of that team. They were made up entirely of career minor leaguers, rag-tag humps, 42 year-old semi-retired recovering-alcoholic player-coaches, a pretty-boy third baseman (Corbin Bernsen), a young, raw base-stealing phenom with a batting glove obsession, a placekicking horse, Kathy Ireland, that weird quiet kid Jimmy who swore he would never play basketball again, and a simple Iowa farmer who ploughed his field because Ray Liotta/his own dead dad/he himself talked to him in a funny way, and they were all coached by Emilio Estevez. And somehow, someway, they overcame extraordinary odds, came together, and using nothing more than guile, team chemistry, mystique, aura, and togetherness, won four World Series in four of the biggest upsets in the history of professional sports!

(In 2000, by far the worst year in that run, they also had Pettitte, Clemens, El Duque, and 145 IP from Nelson and Rivera at like a 200 ERA+. And Jeter and Bernie, and a catcher who walked 107 times. And a reserve outfielder, David Justice, who in 78 games hit 20 HR and went .305/.391/.585.)

The payroll became more menacing after that, but the trophy has not returned. As the Yankees stocked up on Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, et al., they became less potent.

Incorrect. They became far more potent.

In 2000 they won 87 games and got to the WS from a very weak AL East. They scored 871 runs, allowed 814 .

In 2002, the first year with Giambi, they went 103-58. They scored 897 runs, allowed 697.

In 2003, they went 101-61. They scored 877 runs, allowed 716.

In 2004, the first year with Sheffield/ARod, they went 101-61 again, scored 897 runs, allowed 808.

In 2005, 95-67. Scored 886 runs, allowed 789.

In 2006, first year with Damon: 97-65. Scored 930 runs, allowed 767.

So. To sum up. More "potent" pretty much every year since 2000. Just haven't won the WS, due mostly to thinner pitching, better competition, and bad luck (esp. 2001, 2004).

The core of their roster when they won four of five World Series from 1996 to 2000 was homegrown. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Pettitte all came through the farm system. They didn't have to adapt when they put on pinstripes. They were born to them.

Is there an emoticon for: I Am Barfing? Here, I'll make it up:


The 2001 Diamondbacks, the 1997 Marlins, the 2004 Red many examples of teams with few homegrown players. Who cares? It's nice. But it's not necessary.

And this overblown "to the manor born" shit about the Yankees has got to stop. It's fucking ridiculous. They weren't "born" to anything. They were drafted by the Yankees and weren't traded. They were good players because they would have been good players for any team. Derek Jeter was the fucking 6th overall pick in the draft. He was not a scrub who suddenly put on a Yankee uniform and became Superman. Pinstripes do not add Special Powers.

Giambi and Damon, a pair of colorful, irrepressible characters, each shed part of himself to become a Yankee. The transformation went beyond frequent visits to the barber. They are still vital, important players, but they aren't linchpins the way they were in Oakland and Boston. They can't be.

Damon OPS+ 2005 (BOS): 113. (35 2B, 10 HR.)

Damon OPS+ 2006 (NYY): 120. (35 2B, 24 HR.)

Jason Gambi's OPS+ in the four full years he's been a Yankee: 171, 156, 151, 154.

To be fair to Gwen Knapp, does not keep track of the players' Lynchpin Indexes. But I bet she's right -- they are probably far lower now, maybe as far down as the low 65.00's or maybe even 64.00's...what's that? There is no Lynchpin Index? And the idea of applying the concept of "lynchpin" to a baseball player is confusing and meaningless when evaluating the team's overall performance? Okay. Sorry.

Alex Rodriguez is another story.

Fasten your seatbelts, people. You knew it was coming, didn't you?

The Yankees exiled Alfonso Soriano, a homegrown star, to get him, and he was tagged a soft pretender last year, not a true Yankee.

Gwen Knapp, how do I ridicule you? Let me count the ways.

1. Alphonso Soriano is not a "homegrown" player. He signed with the Yankees as one of those foreign-free-agent deals in 1998.

2. AlSo has a career 114 OPS+. (And $136 million from the Cubs. What idiots.) ARod has a career 146 OPS+. They were both middle infielders. ARod was, and is, one of the very best players in all of baseball. He is going to retire with 900 HR and probably 3-4 MVPs. When they traded for him he was about to his the very sweet-sport prime of his brilliant, Hall of Fame career. (AlSo was also lying about his age before he was traded.) Are you seriously suggesting that trading Soriano for ARod was a bad move?

3. Anyone who signs a contract with the New York Yankees or any of its affiliate minor league teams and receives a check for services rendered from said team is a "true" Yankee.

4. If you read that sentence again: 'The Yankees exiled Alfonso Soriano, a homegrown star, to get him, and he was tagged a soft pretender last year, not a true Yankee" you will note that "he was tagged" is a bit of a confusing, dangling modifier type deal, since one could conclude that the antecedent of "he" is Soriano. I would suggest this rewrite:

"In a stunningly brilliant coup by GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano, an overrated star,and a bunch of other garbage, and landed a sure Hall of Famer in Alex Rodriguez. But some Yankee fans did not take to Rodriguez right away, because their brains are stupid, and Rodriguez was soon tagged "not a true Yankee," which is a four-word piece of gibberish used exclusively by asshole-morons."

See how that just flows better?

But he is staggeringly talented, and his powerful start this spring suggests a grit that, if it flourishes, could make the Yankees more intriguing than they've been in a long time.

They are just as intriguing this year as they ever are. They win 97-103 games and make the playoffs. And what was ARod's grit index in 2005, when, and I am going to do one of these newfangled typeface explosions here:


(Side-note: In the time it has taken me to write this, Darin Erstad has struck out twice, and is now hitting .189 with a .532 OPS.)

When the Yankees lost the bidding for Dice-K last winter, the Boston victory called to mind New England's gloom four years ago, when the Yankees snared another pitcher from the international market, Jose Contreras. That did nothing for New York. The following year, A-Rod veered away from Fenway at the last minute and ended up in the Bronx -- another giant transaction that didn't look so big on the field.

Except in 2005, when he won the A.L. MVP Award. Although to be fair, he has never won the...what's it called? Shoot. I forgot. What's that award called that is given to the player who is even better than the player who gets the MVP award? Oh wait -- that's right -- there fucking isn't one.

Now, they're reduced, scraping by, and not terribly scary. That's the best route to a fairy-tale ending.

Oh, those loveable little scrappy non-intimidating Yankees. They're just going out there every day and winging it, with nothing more than a $189,639,045 payroll and a dream. You have to admire that.

Erstad just singled. MVP! MVP! MVP!

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posted by Anonymous  # 1:33 PM
But he is staggeringly talented, and his powerful start this spring suggests a grit that, if it flourishes, could make the Yankees more intriguing than they've been in a long time.

"Suggests a grit" that "flourishes"? That is a weird way to talk about grit. I imagine flourishing grit is sort of the same process you use to bloom yeast -- put the grit in some water, let the grit do its thing.

Grit is like midichlorians.
A pretty kick-assedly scathing e-mail from Rick:

At the end of the season, when they announce the awards – or even before then, when they’re just discussing it -- can we remind you how you explained here that winning MVP = best player in the league?

Nicely done. Got a little excited in my criticism, and our loyal readers call my shit to the table.

The fact remains, however, that although the MVP award is frequently not given to the actual best player in the league. (See Vaughn, Mo.) However, it is rarely given to a bad player.

Anyway, mea culpa.
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