FIRE JOE MORGAN: This Dude is a Machine


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This Dude is a Machine

Wallace Matthews is my new hero. I haven't been this excited about a journalist since Junior discovered Bruce Jenkins.

In this edition of "Indefensible Positions," Matthews posits that ARod's salary might be better spent on middle relievers. Because...

$25M could buy lots of arms

A-Rod: Stats but no rings

In 1996, the Yankees got four home runs, 54 RBIs and a .308 batting average out of Charlie Boggs, the two-headed monster that held down third base that year.

In 1998, the third baseman's name was Scott Brosius and the numbers were 19, 98 and .300. In 1999, Brosius again: 17, 71, .247. In 2000: 16, 64, .230.

How dare you assail Scott Brosius. That man is a saint!

The Yankees won the World Series in every one of those years and in fact, won 14 World Series games in a row, stretching from Game 3 against the Braves in 1996 through Game 2 against the Mets in 2000.

Do you guys see where this is going? Are you as excited as I am?!

During the previous three seasons, the Yankees' third baseman has averaged 40 home runs and 119 RBIs and batted just about .300. Two seasons back, he won the AL MVP, and this season he has a great chance to put up the best numbers of a career that already is a first-ballot ticket to Cooperstown.

And with him, the Yankees have won precisely nothing.

Cue the band! Release the balloons! Strip down to your underwear, slap some warpaint on your faces, bang your drums and go wilding in the streets -- because Wallace Matthews is arguing that having an all-world 3rd baseman who hits a lot of HR and generally kicks ass is worse for your team than having a terrible third baseman who does none of these things.

It will be worth remembering this at the end of the year when general manager Brian Cashman is faced with the agonizing choice of burning more cash on Alex Rodriguez or bidding him a fond farewell.

No it won't. Because Cashman, unlike you, is not an idiot. Cashman will want to keep the 31 year-old surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer who is going to hit 70 HR this year despite the fact that he -- ARod -- is a weirdo and everyone hates him and there is an organized media movement -- of which you, Wallace Matthews, are a key player -- to drive him out of New York by arguing that Scott Brosius was better for the Yankees than he is.

There is nothing agonizing about deciding whether to keep Alex Rodriguez. If he isn't sick of NY, and wants to stay, you keep him. Because he's awesome. And because -- and this is the first of several times I will point this out, the Texas Rangers are paying you $7 million a year to help you keep him, because Tom Hicks is a bigger idiot than you, Wallace Matthews.

I am going to repeat that.

The Yankees, who have a $200m payroll, are being paid $7 million a year to help them retain Alex Rodriguez's services. And you still think this is a difficult decision?

To lose A-Rod would do me no good at all - who on Earth would I write about when the Yankees are slogging through some meaningless August tilt with the Devil Rays - but it might be the best thing the Yankees can do to right a ship that be sinkin', slowly, for the past seven years.

Honesty in journalism, here, folks. Who indeed would hacks like Matthews write about, were ARod gone? Who could allow them to drag out their tired old columns about the glory days of Scott Brosius? God forbid Matthews would have to work hard and form new opinions about things. That simply won't do. He needs ARod around, yelling things at rookies on the Blue Jays and saying slightly-off things in interviews about therapy so Matthews can put down his giant tumbler of Old Grandad, head to his file cabinet, blow dust off the A-D drawer, dig through his Brosius file, pull out a winner from 1998 that reads, "Yanks' 3rd Baseman About More than Stats," and do an old-fashioned cut-and-paste job. Then: more whiskey!

You can argue successfully that without Rodriguez, the Yankees would be even worse off than they are right now.


You also can point out that without the burden of his salary, they can start shopping to fill the real needs of this team.

Incorrect. They have no limit to their salary. None. They said last year that they had a limit, and then they traded a pile of old hoodies for Bobby Abreu, who cost $13 million last year and $15m this year. Actually, let's just go ahead and list the most expensive Yankees this year:

Jason Giambi: $21m
Derek Jeter: $20m
Roger Clemens: $18.5m (ish)
Alex Rodriguez: $17m (ish)
Andy Pettitte: $16m
Bobby Abreu: $15m
Johnny Damon: $13m
Hideki Matsui: $13m
Jorge Posada: $12m
Mike Mussina: $11m
Mariano: $10.5m
Carl Pavano: $10m

Are you seriously telling me that of these guys, ARod is the one not earning his pay? That his money is less well-spent than that spent on Giambi? Pavano? Matsui? Abreu? Mussina?

The question of whether he will opt out of his contract isn't even worth discussing. Originally, [the opt-out clause] was included to provide Rangers owner Tom Hicks with an ejector seat to escape from what remains the richest contract in the history of sports. Now it serves as a way for A-Rod and his agent, Scott Boras, to further cash in on what so far has been a phenomenal season...

To think Rodriguez and Boras won't invoke it at the end of this season, no matter what its outcome, is to believe that Donald Trump will wake up tomorrow and say to the latest Mrs. Trump, "Honey, I'm loving you so much, I'm gonna forget all about that pre-nup."

Ain't gonna happen.

Yikes. Leave the comedy to the professionals, Wallace. Stick to Brosiusian Hagiography.

...When the time comes to say deal or no deal, the Yankees would be wise to remember the lessons of 1996 and 1998 and 1999 and 2000. Those championships weren't won by slugging third basemen, or designated hitters built like Schwarzenegger, or prima donna starting pitchers who show up when the season is half over.

Here it comes...the moneyshot...

Those teams were built on small ball - incredibly, Bernie Williams' 30 homers in 2000 represents the peak of Yankees power for that era - on timely hitting, on role players who worked together like the cast of "The Sopranos," and on pitching.

Mostly, on relief pitching.

Okay. Everybody take a deep breath. We're going to get through this together.

First: Tino Martinez had 44 HR in 1997.
Second: The 1998 Yankees had all nine starters and one reserve (Shane Spencer) in double-digits in HR. They hit 207 HR that year, which was fourth in the league. In 2000 they were 6th in the league. They were not a huge power team, but they hit their share of HR.
Third: 2, 1, 1, 2, 5. Those are the AL ranks of the Yankees' teams in OBP, 1996 to 2000. That's what those teams were always based on, offensively. They walked a lot and grinded out at-bats and wore people down.
Fourth: 1, 2, 4, 3, 4. Those were their yearly league ranks in K's by their pitchers. Their starters were very good, 1-5, all of those years, in striking out people and not walking people. Their relievers were good, except Mariano, who was impenetrably brilliant.

The Yankees did not win those championships with "smallball" or "smartball" or "intelli-ball" or "think-ball" or "genius-ball' or "Torre-ball" or "How'd-they-do-that?-ball." They won with great starting pitchers (Cone, Clemens, Pettitte, Wells, Key, Hernandez), a 9-man line-up that grinded out long at-bats and walked a lot and hit for good power, and the greatest closer in the history of baseball.

And these days, more than ever, that is where Yankees games are won and lost. In fact, throughout baseball, that is where most games are won and lost, with starters going six innings and managers jumping for the bullpen phone when the pitch clicker nears 100. For all the brilliance of Mariano Rivera, it is the grunts, the middle relievers, the Sean Henns and Brian Bruneys and Scott Proctors and Kyle Farnsworths, who have become the most important pitchers on the Yankees' staff. Too often this year, they have been much too important and not nearly good enough.

Yes, the problem with the 2007 Yankees so far was been Brian Bruney and his 28 IP with 25 K's, and Scott Proctor's 32.2 IP with a 1.30 WHIP. Not Kei Igawa's 30.2 IP with a 1.60 WHIP, or Carl Pavano disappearing, or Mike Mussina's 5.63 ERA, or having to rush Tyler Clippard up to start games, or having Darrell Rasner and Matt DeSalvo start 11 games, or Hughes' hamstring. I think it's Bruney.

The Yankees' relievers stink. But their starters haven't even been able to start. Except Pettitte and Wang, it's been Russian Roulette out there. (And by the way, I'd like to see Pettitte duplicate his first half while still striking out fewer than 5/9IP. Watching him revert to the mean is going to be very enjoyable for me.)

Anyway, the point is, I think the Yankees should let ARod walk and spend the money on middle relievers. What do you think, Wallace?

Saying goodbye to Rodriguez would be a gutsy and risky move, because he is one of the few players about whom it can be said there truly is no other. But they have done without his likes before and they can do it again.

And surely for every Rodriguez, there are dozens of Mike Stantons and Jeff Nelsons and David Weatherses out there. What the Yankees need to do now is take the money they will save on A-Rod and go find them.

Oh good. You agree with my crazy joke stance.

Read that last paragraph again. Then consider that at the bottom of this article, Newsday saw fit to print this:

Bank-breaking numbers

If A-Rod keeps up his current pace, these are his projected numbers for 162 games:

Hits 186
Runs 149
HRs 64
RBIs 167

as if to chastise Matthews themselves. Consider for a second, again, that the Yankees are being subsidized by Tom Hicks to the tune of $7m a year so that ARod can put up those numbers in the Stadium. Consider that Wallace Matthews thinks they should use the money on 6th inning set-up guys and 37 year-olds with WHIPs in the 1.50 range. Consider also that the Yankees do not need to free up any money to sign anyone, much less a reliever or two who cost like $2m a year. Consider that Alex Rodriguez's EqA is .354. Consider all of that, and then read this article again, and try to figure out why this article ever got written. And then consider why a mild-mannered claims adjuster for a mid-level insurance company would spend his entire morning dissecting it for a meta-critical blog that only he and a few of his stupid friends really care about.

Now who's crazy?

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