3. Mike Scioscia
Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.
Mike Scioscia is FINE!?!?!?!?!?!?! Mike Scioscia is not only a terrible manager, he is a terrible, terrible person. Have you seen how much his teams do nonsense like bunt, hit-and-run and get caught stealing (led the AL in 2006). He is the quintessential target of FJM...not someone who you should accept as "fine." As a loyal reader, I am thoroughly disappointed.From Rob:
That guy runs his teams into outs so often it is border line insanity. He has had a better team than the A’s every year, yet he continues to lose division titles to them. The only reason anyone considers him good is his one WS title, which was kind of like him having a good run in blackjack while hitting 16 against a dealer’s 12 all game. Not to mention the fact that his team couldn’t even win the division that year. The only people that should be happy with the work of Mike Scioscia are A’s fans!And so on.
1. Tony La Russa
He put to rest the notion his players tighten up come October with one of the great managing jobs of our time last year. It's no easy thing to make an 83-win team believe it can win. Now he's made me believe. He's an original thinker who's unsurpassed strategically. "I have tried to guess along with him on what moves he'll make next,'' David Eckstein told me in spring training, "and it just can't be done.''
If you haven't already, I invite you to read Buzz Bissinger's book 3 Nights in August, about La Russa. The purported aim of the book is to show how brilliant La Russa is as a strategist. The actual accomplishment is to make one feel like one wouldn't trust La Russa to take care of one's cats, much less one's baseball team. It starts with an anecdote about how Albert Pujols has a severe arm injury -- one that allows him to swing a bat but not throw. La Russa wants to play him anyway, to like intimidate the other team (which doesn't know about the injury), so he puts him in left field and tells him to casually underhand the ball to the SS if it gets hit to him. A doctor has told La Russa that Pujols, the most important player on the team by a factor of fifty, is risking severe like career-threatening shit if he throws a baseball. This is a not-super-important game. I mean, what the hell?Avid readers of this blog might remember many months ago when I wrote that I was going to do a lengthy review of this book. I started reading and making notes. By page 80 I had filled ten notebook pages with scribbles and exclamation points and frowny faces, and decided the task was just too big.
2. Jim Leyland
Perhaps he isn't the master strategist that La Russa is, but as a salesman and motivator, no one's better. His only blemish is his short time in Colorado, when his heart wasn't in it.
I fail to see why it's okay that his heart wasn't in it when he had a tough job. As opposed to when he managed the '97 Marlins, the best team money could buy, or the ultimately disappointing 90's Bucs. I think he's a fun guy, and a good manager, but shouldn't a big part of a manager's evaluation be how he does when he gets handed a pile of crap? (And please don't tell me the '06 Tigers were a pile of crap. They were well-positioned to be a solid team with that pitching.)
3. Mike Scioscia
Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.
Whatever. He's fine.
4. Joe Torre
Fourth place for the four World Series rings. But can he please take it easy on his favorite relievers? He especially needs to be careful with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
I don't really know what to make of Torre. I happen to think that the most important job a manager does is handle the clubhouse and the owner. He has a tough clubhouse and a terribly whimsical/crazy owner, and is always even-keeled, so, to quote that weird guy who writes a weekly column about Starbucks and The Sopranos for SI.com, I think I think he's good. He also has a $200m payroll every year and occasionally makes some really odd decisions.
5. Lou Piniella
He didn't do his best work in Tampa, and baseball people noticed. Plus, he's been cited by some for mishandling pitchers. He certainly can lose his cool, as well, but that's part of his charm. Wouldn't want to have to match wits against him in the postseason, though that might not be anyone's worry this year.
I believe Sweet Lou is insanely overrated. Tampa never seemed one ounce better off with him than with anyone else. But what really irritates me is that he's sitting here at #5, and is followed by
6. Bobby Cox
I'm sure most would rank him higher. But since the goal is to win titles, that has to be seen as a failing.
I mean, you've got to be kidding me.
Figuring out what effect, if any, a manager has on a team is very difficult. Moneyball famously talks about how Billy Beane loved Art Howe because Howe sat stoically in the dugout and stared straight ahead and had the appearance of a leader, while essentially just following orders. He presided over those overachieving computer-generated teams that everyone loves to call underachieving because they got terribly unlucky in October, and then he went to the Mets and stunk up the place.
As I said, most anecdotal evidence (because empirical evidence with managers seems misleading) says that managers' most important job is that of a sheep dog -- herding the players in the same direction, keeping them from going astray over the course of a long season, focusing them on the task at hand, that kind of thing.
If that is at all true...who is better than Bobby Cox? He didn't win titles? He won every division title from 1844 to 2005. He throws some of the best player-protecting temper tantrums in the game. His guys love him. He handles veterans and rookies and retreads and rich guys and does gutsy things like make John Smoltz a closer. If I were GMing a team, I might get Bobby Cox to run it. Assuming he secretly agreed to run it Moneyball-style.
7. Grady Little
He was knocked hard for sticking with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS, when his critics apparently would have rather seen him turn the game over to a very iffy bullpen. He's a low-key guy who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves.
Grady Little is a bad manager. He is a very nice man who says pleasant things in a pleasant drawl. He has no business being anywhere near a dugout. And this is not sour grapes. This is common sense.
10. Terry Francona
The Red Sox skipper keeps his cool in a tough environment. He manages both the clubhouse and game well.
If these are your criteria: put Torre first, Terry 2nd, Cox 3rd, and everyone else 4th.
11. Ron Gardenhire
Always has the Twins hustling, just like in the Tom Kelly years.
He also thought Luis Castillo was worth 15 extra wins for his team. He seems decent, I guess, though he does some funky things with his line-up.
Managers are a mystery. Uneven payrolls and the large element of luck in short series make conclusions about their abilities very difficult. In general they should probably be judged on their overall team management skills, on and off the field -- controlling their players well and also letting them have fun without letting things get out of control...all that jazz.
However, I believe -- and this is from memory, so correct me if I am wrong -- that it was Rick Pitino who once said that the only time a basketball coach really has any tangible influence over that fluid game was coming out of a timeout, when (s)he could set up a specific play. If there is any corresponding truth in baseball, then people who famously make bonehead moves at crucial situations should never be on the list of best managers in baseball.
I'm looking at you, Grady.
"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."
Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.
"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."
There's a lot of stupid stuff in this article. I am happy to say -- since I get bored of disparaging journalists only -- that most of it is said by actual baseball players. That's new and fun!
David Eckstein's career EqA is .260, which is exactly league average. Albert Pujols's career EqA is .341, which is easy, don't-even-think-twice Hall of Fame shoo-in. Anyone who ever wants to pitch to Albert Pujols over David Eckstein in any situation, including pick-up whiffle ball games at family barbecues when Pujols has dengue fever and Eckstein gets to use one of those over-sized red bats while Pujols has to hit with a live cobra, is a goddamn moron of the highest order. So I'm sure Paulino is the only one who thought this.
Others agreed without hesitation, players and coaches alike.
"Can't let Eckstein beat you there," shortstop Jack Wilson said.
Albert Pujols Career OPS: 1.042
David Eckstein Career OPS: .708
I feel stupid even comparing these two people. They almost don't play the same sport.
OK, so, just to be clear here: The Pirates are happy to duck a 5-foot-7 career .282 hitter to take on the sport's most imposing hitter?
And why, exactly, is this?
"Because," Wilson said. "Eckstein's clutch."
I don't like that stupid "close and late" stat, but...
Eckstein "Close-and-Late" 2004-2006: .722 OPS
Pujols "Close-and-Late" 2004-2006: 1.088 OPS. He has 24 HR in 231 AB.
On page 191 of the famed book, "Moneyball," Billy Beane, the innovative Oakland general manager and prime subject matter, barks at a television as he hears a broadcaster describe his Athletics as failing in the clutch.
"It's [expletive] luck," Beane says.
Those words resonate with some as gospel, mostly because they are so easy to support.
Easy to support? My whole effing life all I do is yell at people that there's no such thing as "clutch." Everyone tells me I am wrong. My friends and I had to start a blog so we could stop shouting into the wind and start typing into the wind (easier on the vocal cords). Easy? Easy?!?!
The numbers will show, the game's statistical-minded followers will say, that a hitter with a .280 career average will hit ... well, right around .280 in whatever anyone might define as a clutch situation.
Some use batting average with runners in scoring position. Some use a fairly new statistic called close-and-late, which measures average in the seventh inning or later with the score no more than a run apart. Some just count up RBIs.
Whatever the bar, it is true that the disparity of numbers is little different between clutch and non-clutch.
At least this Dejan Kovacevic fellow seems to have read Moneyball. Unlike some ESPN Moneyball-disparagers I could name, named Joe Morgan.
"It's obvious that some players perform better in clutch situations," said Dan Fox, author for the statistics-based journal Baseball Prospectus. "The question is whether that difference, as measured in a week, a month or a season, actually reflects an underlying ability to come through more often."
A BP reference in a mainstream newspaper. I bet this is how Galileo felt (posthumously, obviously) when the Church finally admitted that the earth revolved around the sun.
"What they've found is that while there may be a small clutch ability -- for example, hitters who can adjust their approach in different situations seem to have a small advantage -- that ability is dwarfed by the normal differences in overall performance. In other words, in the bigger scheme of things, it's the best players who do best in the clutch."
Take the cases of David Ortiz and Derek Jeter, the widely recognized kings of clutch.
Over the past three years, Ortiz has batted .296 in all situations, .331 with runners in scoring position. Jeter has batted .315 in all situations, .310 with runners in scoring position.
Some difference, but not much.
Still, every time Ortiz launches one of those extra-inning bombs for the Boston Red Sox, it leads "SportsCenter" and resonates far more in the psyche than anytime he might fail. And when Jeter wins Game 4 of the 2001 World Series with a home run, he gets dubbed Mr. November, never mind that he batted .148 for the series.
Did I write this article somehow? Is this like a Fight Club-style thing where I split my personality and got a job writing for a Pittsburgh newspaper under the pseudonym Dejan Kovacevic? If not, I'm really enjoying reading this. What's next?
Oh, and Eckstein's clutch reputation? His average with runners in scoring position is .280, one point lower than his regular average.
I would have added that in Games 1-3 of the WS last year he was 2-13. Then he went 4-5 and 2-4 and won the MVP award and no one has shut up since.
The strongest anti-clutch argument on the Pirates' roster can be made by Freddy Sanchez.
He won the National League batting title with a .344 average last summer, and his .386 mark with runners in scoring position was the team's highest. Only Pujols' .397 mark was higher in the league.
Seems plenty clutch.
Not the case at all, he maintains.
"To me, it's pretty simple," Sanchez said. "If you're hot going into that clutch situation, you have a good chance. You're already feeling good. Obviously, there are times when a hitter can tense up, and there are some better mentally prepared than others. All I can say is that, for me, when I go up to the plate, it's not about the men on base. It's about how I'm feeling."
He rolled his eyes, remembering those four consecutive strikeouts in a game last week in Milwaukee.
"Trust me: If I'm feeling lousy at the plate like that, I'm not just going to walk up there with bases loaded and get a hit because I'm some great clutch hitter."
Freddy Sanchez: FJM's new favorite non-Red Sox. (I can't resist pointing out here that he used to be. Hometown pride.)
Still, come on ... no such thing as clutch?
What, then, of Reggie Jackson launching those three home runs in a World Series game?
He hit 563 HR in the regular season. He was excellent at hitting HR. It was probably his greatest skill. One day, in a big game, he hit 3.
What of Michael Jordan nailing that last-second jumper to sink Utah?
He was the best basketball player ever in history.
What of John Elway driving a stake through the heart of Cleveland?
This one kills me. In the eyes of basically everyone, Elway was a Choke Artist, a Big-Game-Failure, until Terrell Davis came along and the Broncos won two Super Bowls, and suddenly all of Elway's terrible SB performances were forgotten and he became Clutch. So incredibly stupid. The guy was always good. He ran into some awesome coaches and defenses in Super Bowls. Then one day, with a more complete team, he won. Like Peyton Manning. And Kobe. And Shaq. And McNabb getting over the NFC Championship hump. And like 1000 other examples.
What of Mario Lemieux burying that rebound behind Ed Belfour to raise the dome at the Igloo?
He is probably the second-best hockey player ever in history. He scored a lot of goals.
Those focusing on the numbers would lean toward the notion that those were elite athletes simply being themselves.
But those inside the games -- players, coaches and managers -- are almost universal in their belief in clutch.
Of those who feel otherwise, Pirates pitching coach Jim Colborn said, "Dead wrong. There is an element in certain people that allows them to focus at their peak and get into a zone when the situation is more important."
Well. I'm not "inside the game," which invalidates my opinion in the eyes of some. But isn't this quality merely one aspect of what determines a "good" player? And thus, isn't it sort of making our argument for us? In other words, the players one thinks of as "clutch" are just always good. Or, in Eckstein's case, "clutch" is simply a false notion, since very basic statistics show that he is no better in "clutch" situations than in regular situations. The end.
He cited, from his playing days, Joe Rudi, a career .264 hitter who had a reputation of elevating his level every postseason for the Athletics, at least as measured by the intangibles of timely hits and key defensive plays.
"Believe me: For all the great players in that lineup, Joe Rudi was not the one you wanted to face. He just had a knack."
You're not going to believe this. I was not familiar with Joe Rudi's postseason stats, so I looked them up on my Computational Machine. Kovacevic goes out of his way to mention that Rudi was a career .264 hitter. Want to guess what his career postseason average was?Did you guess: .264? You're right.
Some players, the argument can be made, do become better in trying situations. But those cases -- and this is one area where statisticians and those inside the game tend to agree -- are much rarer than those where performance decreases.
In other words, the absence of clutch might be more prevalent than a rise to a clutch level. The athlete rises to the level of competition and, in doing so, maintains similar numbers. And the rest ... well, for every Joe Rudi, there are many more like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
Bonds has a .300 career average and a home run every 12.9 at-bats. But in the playoffs, as the still-bitter baseball fans of Pittsburgh can attest, his drop-off is dramatic: His average in seven playoff appearances is .245, and the home runs come once every 16.7 at-bats.
Bonds had six pretty crappy postseasons. Then he had four awesome ones after he started using steroids. They are all small sample sizes. Also, would you have pitched to Bonds in 1990 if he had Steve Buechele hitting behind him?
Rodriguez is having a superhuman April, but that will do nothing to quell doubts about his clutch value. He has batted .306 in the regular season for his career, .280 in the playoffs.
Basically the same.
The home runs come once every 14.3 at-bats in the regular season, once every 22 at-bats in the playoffs.
Dumb way to look at this. Here's a better way. And please, after I go through the trouble to type this out, let's end this.
1997 ALDS: 5-16, 1 HR, .313/.313/.563 (Very Good)
2000 ALDS: 4-13, .308/.308/.308 (Eh)
2000 ALCS: 9-22, 2 HR, .409/.480/.773 (Monster)
2004 ALDS: 8-19, 1 HR, .421/.476/.737 (Monster)
2004 ALCS: 8-31, 2 HR, .258/.378/.516 (Very Good)
2005 ALDS: 2-15, .133/.381/.200 (Bad, though he got on base)
2006 ALDS: 1-14, .071/.071/.071 (Terrible)
In seven series, he has two absolute beasts, two very good series, three kind of crummy ones. How can you say this guy falls apart in the postseason? In 2000-04 he went 25-72 with 5 HR and 7 2B. Now hear this, people:
Derek Jeter's Career Splits: .317/.388/.463
Derek Jeter's Career Postseason splits: .314/.384/.479
Mr. Clutch is actually Mr. Exactly the Same No Matter What Month You Are Talking About. He is Mr. Equally Excellent Hitting SS Every Month from April to November. He is Mr. Outrageously Similar Statistics Every 30 Days.
And for the record, in that huge 2004 ALCS against Boston, which earned ARod the reputation as a non-clutch player, Jeter went 6-30, .200/.333/.233.
The Pirates' Jason Bay never has known playoffs, but he batted .346 with runners in scoring position in 2005, then saw that drop nearly 100 points to .242 last season and to .133 in the early going this year. Surely, some clutch factor was involved.
How is that the conclusion?! The conclusion should be: in small numbers of data points, there is bound to be enormous fluctuation. This is like saying: yesterday it was sunny, today it poured. Surely, some Fertility God disapproved of our elk sacrifice.
"It's not so much a matter of raising your level in a clutch situation. It's a matter of keeping your level the same," Bay said. "Baseball is predicated on the idea that the people who are the most successful are the ones who do things the same way most consistently. It's not an emotion game like football or hockey, where you can go bust some skulls."
Jason Bay: possibly replacing Freddy Sanchez as FJM's new favorite non-Red Sox.
"There are some guys who are better hitters in tough situations, and the stats will show that, too," he said.
I think we have sort of disproved that...with actual stats. I like it when guys just say "the stats will show it!" without actually looking at stats.
"They take a different approach to the plate. They're maybe not thinking so much about themselves and trying to pull the ball or hit it out of the park."
No. They take the exact same approach, and are already good, so they perform well.
"The guys who are successful don't have that fear of failure. Some guys have that, believe me."
I believe this. I also believe that they are good baseball players.
There is no bigger proponent of clutch in the Pirates' clubhouse than the man in charge.
When his team wins, Jim Tracy invariably points to "big" hits that were delivered. When the team loses, he points to the lack of same.
If you win a baseball game, ipso facto, you have gotten some "big" hits. If you lose a baseball game, ipso facto, you have failed to get some "big" hits. This is tautology, Mr. Tracy. Tautology, I say! (I mean, even if you are up 15-5 in the seventh inning and you fall apart and lose 16-15, you could look back and say, "If we had only cashed in on that bases-loaded-nobody-out in the fourth..." You get the idea.)
Even after the Pirates were blanked on three measly hits in their home opener April 9, Tracy lamented, "We had chances."
Yes. At least 27 of them. Like in every game.
Tracy's view is reflected in how he forms his lineup, bucking the modern thinking that the highest on-base percentage players should be stacked at the top. Instead, he favors the more traditional approach of getting the runner on, moving him along and getting a "big" hit.
How's that working out for you, Jimmy?
"Isn't that what makes teams good?" Tracy said when asked about his value of clutch. "It's what separates you from the pack, your ability to take the big at-bat. You don't expect somebody to hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position, but you have to get your share of hits in those situations. Look at the upper echelon of clubs, and that's what you look for. And if we can get to that point, we've got a chance to become a pretty decent team."
Amazing. Just amazing. I don't know where to begin.
What makes teams good, offensively, is not making outs. And of course you have to "get your share of hits" in any situation. But what in the world would prevent you from putting your high OBP guys at the top of the line-up? Baseball Prospectus has proved that line-up order doesn't really matter that much, but the higher in the order you are, the more AB you get. And the higher your OBP, the fewer outs you make, so -- given those extra AB -- you will increase your chance of winning baseball games. This is not black magic, people. This is straightforward logic. Delivered in a exaggeratedly strident tones over a blog.
It could not hurt. The National League's highest average with runners in scoring position last season was the .286 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they were one of the four playoff teams. The other three also ranked above the league average.
But then, so did ... the Pirates? Their .266 mark ranked seventh, even though they finished with the fewest runs and were nowhere near the playoffs.
So what does that teach us? It teaches us that it's not that crucial a stat, relatively speaking, because if the team isn't getting anyone on base, you can hit .300 with RISP and you won't score as many runs as other teams with lower BA and SLG with RISP. See?
The statistic that correlates most closely with scoring runs is on-base percentage ---- how many times a batter reaches base safely, whether by hit, walk or hit batsman -- and this is backed by every spreadsheet back to the late 19th century.
Where were you a paragraph earlier, man? I just typed all that shit for nothing?
Last year, the Pirates' on-base percentage was .327, third lowest in the league. This year, it is .303, second lowest.
Huh. So, Tracy is a bonehead?
But then ... so is their .190 average with runners in scoring position, which might bolster Tracy's case.
If their team OBP is .327, they can hit .500 with RISP and they still won't win anything. Tracy's "case" is that they need a high BA with RISP, and that OBP doesn't matter so much. That's like saying that the important part of the alley-oop is the slam dunk, and it doesn't matter so much whether anyone bothered to lob you the ball.
So, in the end, I guess I made fun of Jim Tracy. Dejan Kovacevic gets a check-plus, because I think if you read between the lines he is on the side of Facts and Truth. Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay get gold stars. Ronny Paulino and everyone else who would rather pitch to Albert Pujols than to David Eckstein get a punch in the face and an exhortation to seek counseling.
The more I listen to Cowherd, the more I value his reasoning, candor, intelligence and distaste for political correctness. I don't take to his sleazier double entendres at times, but here's his new grade: A-plus.
I have invented a new word for the sound my throat made when I read this:
The Yankee captain and New York’s favorite baseball player since Don Mattingly has been having a rough go of it this year. It’s not so much his hitting, although his average is sinking fast after a torrid start and he’s got just three RBI in 12 games, but his fielding that’s been a problem.
Jeter has made a lot of errors so far. But so has Mike Lowell. And unlike Jeter, Lowell is actually a good fielder. Freaky things happen in small sample sizes. That's why after a week Ian Kinsler is 2nd in HR. That's why people say things like "At this pace, Garth Iorg will have 300 RBIs!" and then he ends up with like 34. You really can't tell anything about a player's year after 40 AB or 10 games in the field.
For the record, the reasons Jeter has made a lot of errors are probably: (a) it's been really crappy playing conditions, or (b) he's never been that good a defensive SS, or (c) it's a complete fluke.
Jeter has won three Gold Gloves, but he’s not on his way to winning a fourth. Through 12 games, he has six errors, the most in the major leagues.
For the millionth and final [sic] time, Gold Gloves are 99% meaningless.
Everybody’s writing about his problems catching and throwing, but no one’s trying to run him out of town. Yankee Stadium with him would be like the Sistine Chapel without Michelangelo’s ceiling work.
I’d ask you to imagine A-Rod in the same situation, but you don’t have to, because we’ve seen what would happen...He was booed at every opportunity and flayed daily by the talk-show guys and the columnists, many of whom suggested the only way for him to fix things was to take the first plane out of town. I was one of them, and I don’t apologize for it.
You should. It was insane. In 2005-06 he hit 83 HR, drove in 251. He walked 181 times. His OBPs were .421/.392.
His WARP3s were 13.0 and 7.5 (same as Troy Glaus in 2006, BTW), and if he had been able to play his natural position on the field, they would probably have been much higher, all things being equal.
Even when he had his legendarily "terrible" year, when everything "fell apart," when he hated New York and was a "head case" and everyone in the world wrote about how he didn't fit in with the Hallowed Pinstripery of New York, he was an awesome, awesome baseball player. Who in his right mind can think differently?
He had come to the Yankees as the best player in baseball.
By last season, he wasn’t even the third best third-baseman.
J'accuse, Monsieur de Chapeau!!!
And the worse it got for A-Rod, the better it got for Jeter. Every bad throw, every late-inning out, every clumsy attempt to explain himself made A-Rod look more misplaced and Jeter more the true Yankee hero.
Jeter had a great year last year. ARod had a very very good year that looked bad only in comparison to his outstanding previous years. It happens.
So this year, A-Rod showed up wearing high stirrups and after a couple of games to warm up started hitting — for average and power, in early innings and late, by day and by night.
I don't think this makes cognitive sense. "...after a couple of games to warm up started hitting." Does that mean, "after taking a couple of games to warm up?" Also, the part that comes after the dash reads like a weird parody of "Paul Revere's Ride."
After three years of waiting for him to do his part, he was suddenly doing everybody’s part.
He has been doing pretty much what he did in his 2005 AL MVP Season, when he went .321/.41/.610 with 48 HR, a .354 EqA and a 13.0 WARP3. This didn't come out of nowhere, people. He has always been this good. He was this good even while you were all talking about how bad he was.
But there’s something wrong with this picture — the Captain’s early-season slump, especially in the field. The SABRE folks will tell you that Jeter has never been a particularly good shortstop despite the Gold Gloves, but his teammates, his manager and anybody who watched him every day will differ.
"The facts will tell you some information. Some casual anecdotes will contradict this. Your choice."
There are some things the stats don’t tell you, and unless you watch the guy every day, there’s no way to tell you about them.
I've seen somewhere in the vicinity of 500 Yankee games, I'd say. And I think Jeter is vastly overrated as a fielder by every anecdote-toting sportswriter and fan out there. Twice a year he goes deep into the hole to his right, stabs a backhand, jumps in the air and gets the guy at first by a step. It's very impressive and flashy, but it doesn't nearly make up for the fact that he gets nothing to his left. He has what people often call a "high baseball IQ" in that he is very alert and smart when the ball is in play -- I will give him that. He takes relays well and is very athletic. But he is nowhere near the league of the Vizquels, Everetts, or even Cabreras of the world.
But there’s no denying he’s killing his team in the field right now, and his hitting isn’t that great either. Come to think about it, he’s not even stealing bases with his normal ease — just one-for-three on the season.
He's not off to a great start, but his OBP is .390, which tells you his patience is still there. And it's been like 50 AB. In 2004 Jeter had an 0-32 in April, and ended up having a fine offensive year.
It’s as if he and A-Rod are two yo-yos that are out of synch. When A-Rod was down, Jeter was up. And now that A-Rod is tearing the cover off the ball, Jeter is down. It’s a little spooky. It’s as if he thrives on A-Rod’s negative energy and is being sapped by A-Rod’s success.
Or, alternately -- and I don't mean to disparage the Yo-Yo/Vampire-Energy-Suck Theory, which seems air-tight -- ARod has always been awesome, Jeter had a mediocre first 50 AB, and this is all pointless and stupid.
I’m sure — well, pretty sure, anyway — it’s just an aberration, that Jeter’s problems are just a slump that will pass and not the result of him trying for the first time since A-Rod arrived, to keep up with and outdo his teammate.
Yeah, probably. Or -- and bear with me here -- what if ARod, brimming with jealousy and malice, is secretly poisoning Jeter with a magic serum that causes him, Jeter, to have a slightly mediocre first 50 AB of the season and be slightly worse in the field than normal? Could such a serum exist? Get on this. Pronto.
You never thought of Jeter as needing to outshine anyone. He’s shared the stage with plenty of great players, and it’s never stopped him. On the other hand, in the three years that A-Rod’s been playing next to him, he’s always been the leader and A-Rod the guy trying to keep up.
The roles are reversed right now. Jeter says it’s just a slump. So do Joe Torre, his manager, and Brian Cashman, the team’s G.M. They’re probably right.
But what if they’re not?I said get on this! Visit every witch doctor in the city! Search ARod's home for boiling cauldrons! We will get to the bottom of this, fair readers. That I promise.
Given Gaston's impressive record and World Series titles, it is somewhat surprising that he never managed again in the Major Leagues. Nevertheless, Gaston was a final candidate for the Detroit Tigers manager's job in the 1999-2000 season and was the runner-up to in the Chicago White Sox manager position in the 2003-4 off season. Sox GM Kenny Williams, a former Blue Jays player, had Gaston as one of two finalists for the job but decided to hire Ozzie Guillen. Gaston had several offers to rejoin major league teams as a hitting instructor...but declined offers. His length of unemployment now makes it unlikely he will return to the major leagues as a manager.So...it was African-American GM Kenny Williams who hired Ozzie Guillen -- a minority candidate -- over Gaston. Just sayin'.
Federal prosecutors charge that the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, known as BALCO, distributed undetectable steroids to elite athletes in the form of a clear substance that was taken orally and a cream that was rubbed onto the body.
Bonds testified that he had received and used clear and cream substances from his personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, during the 2003 baseball season but was told they were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis, according to a transcript of his testimony reviewed by The Chronicle.
Federal prosecutors confronted Bonds during his testimony on Dec. 4, 2003, with documents indicating he had used steroids and human growth hormone during a three-year assault on baseball's home run record, but the Giants star denied the allegations.
During the three-hour proceeding, two prosecutors presented Bonds with documents that allegedly detailed his use of a long list of drugs: human growth hormone, Depo-Testosterone, undetectable steroids known as "the cream" and "the clear," insulin and Clomid, a drug for female infertility sometimes used to enhance the effect of testosterone.
The documents, many with Bonds' name on them, are dated from 2001 through 2003. They include a laboratory test result that could reflect steroid use and what appeared to be schedules of drug use with billing information, prosecutors told the grand jury.
In a September 2003 raid on Anderson's Burlingame home, federal investigators seized documents they said showed Bonds was using banned drugs, according to court records. Anderson was indicted in February on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to distribute steroids in the BALCO case.Now can you say he cheated?
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't...you 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?
(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.
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:
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, Baseball-Reference.com 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:
HE WON THE MVP AWARD. IN 2005. ALEX RODRIGUEZ WON THE 2005 A.L. MVP AWARD FOR BEING THE BEST BASEBALL PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE.
(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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