Sunday: Brunch and serious memories

…Which is not bragging, but the opposite: I ain’t complaining about the arduous work I have to do. Still, I was just chatting with my colleague Jon Lane about what time I have to get out to Yankee Stadium II to do my annual set of interviews on Old Timer’s Day, and he was speculating 9 a.m. This is depressing in that it takes me about two hours to get up to the ballpark, so it’s going to be an early Sunday morning. On the positive side, I’ll get to enjoy breakfast fare in the press dining room, which I am told includes Eggs Benedict a la Babe Ruth (poached egg on an English muffin and hollandaise sauce, topped with a broiled horse shank).

I’m already feeling my fatigue, but it should still be a fascinating time. The Yankees always do a terrific job of assembling a memorable roster for these occasions. The usual Hall of Famers will be in attendance — Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, and Reggie Jackson — but I’m looking forward to talking to a couple of the first-timers, “Hit Man” Mike Easler and relief ace Lindy McDaniel. It’s fascinating that the former relief ace is making his first trip back at the age of 73. He played with many future Hall of Famers in a career that covered 21 seasons and three decades, and was an important part of the lost-years Yankees just before George Steinbrenner bought the club. He was then traded for Lou Piniella, which turned out to be one of the bigger robberies in franchise history. Luckily for me, most of the writers will be more concerned with more recent players who are returning for the first time, fellows like Chad Curtis and Charlie Hayes. I typically get the literal old timers to myself, and that’s the way I like it.

The Yankees had Babe Ruth for 15 seasons. They won seven pennants. 15-7=8. The Yankees had the best player in baseball by a country mile, and sometimes the two best players, but they still went home in October more than half the time. In 1920 they had Ruth and the best pitching staff in the league, but the non-Babe parts of the offense were weak. The same thing could be said of the 1924 offense, plus the pitching staff was just decent, not great, and the club got beaten by a Senators team that had one of the great pitching staffs of the period. Ruth missed half the season in 1925, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack (even with Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Earle Combs having good years), and the pitching staff was just mediocre. From 1929 to 1931, the Yankees were outclassed by a dominant A’s team that couldn’t hit with them but had by far the better pitching staff (there is no Lefty Grove in the history of the Yankees, nor, with the possible exception of Ron Guidry in 1978 and a couple of Lefty Gomez seasons, any starting pitcher who is even close). Weak pitching was again the problem in 1933. The staff began to come around in 1934, but not enough to win a pennant.


After the Angels’ sweep, I’m out of the prediction business for awhile…

Tigers 12-7 4.7 4.3 .260 .325 .444 9 5 1.1 3.7 7.7
Yankees 13-7 6.1 5.0 .285 .375 .465 13 7 1.2 3.1 7.3

The 2009 Yankees are not unlike those 1929-1931 Yankees that couldn’t beat out the A’s. They can scorch the ball anywhere, but their pitching staff does the same favor for the opposition. The Tigers do not have a good offense, and are hitting a tragically weak .245/.307/.395 on the road, averaging 4.1 runs a game while doing so. If they start blasting balls into outer space during this series, you not only have further proof of YS II’s pinball qualities, but also of the state of the pitching staff. .. Watch out for Curtis Granderson, a career .291/.408/.523 hitter against the Yankees.


  1. letsgoyankees

    Couple BIG differences with those 30’s teams…first of all they needed to have the best overall record in baseball, we just need the wildcard. And once we’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. And we’re better poised for a second half run, w/all three of our big FA’s (who did all have fine first half’s) being perrennial second half players during their careers. Expect good things from all three (starting off with A.J pulling off a quality start on nothing but blood, sweat, and tears).


    Good point about the Babe and the limits of what one player, however dominant, can do.

    But that applies to the ownership as well. For all the talk of the lauded Steinbrenner era, the fact is that until he was suspended from baseball in 1990, from 1973 until 1990 all his money got was 2 world championships, and 2 pennants, one of which was in the 1981 strike-riddled year. That’s 2 in 18 years with untold millions having been spent. And the 1990 team was atrocious.

    Fortunately, the suspension allowed Gene Michael and Buck Showalter the freedom to actually build a team from the ground up without the Boss’s incessant and unproductive interference.

    But we’ve been back to the old days of a futile quest for a WS win by buying overpriced free agents. Arod is the new Winfield, a huge post-season disappointment.

    It hasn’t worked since 2000 and it probably won’t work now.

  3. letsgoyankees

    I wouldn’t trade those two World Series wins in the 1970’s for anything. Including the 80’s.

    I think that what some people are missing is that the Yankees plan did not change from the 70’s to now; they just got luckierwith the prospects they kept and lost. As a result of this method you get those dynasty teams, but you also get those teams of “not quite there yets”…the 80’s Yankees.

    Dave Winfield’s playoff criticisms, like A-Rod’s, are very unfair. IMO. Winfield was a great guy and a great player.


    I agree letsgoyankees. Calling both Winfield and Arod overall playoff disappointments is a little unfair. Both had a great series at the beginning of their “Yankee careers” and then both tailed off after that. As Francessa likes to point out, if Mariano closes out Game 4 against Boston, Arod is suddenly a playoff hero. After that he dropped in production and now here we are. I’m as annoyed as anyone about that series against Anaheim. That was horrible, but we can’t expect him to be the sole reason the Yankees win or lose. There have been many examples where “clutch playoff performers” had a horrible series or two and were bailed out by their teammates (usually pitchers, a luxury Arod hasn’t really had). Please see Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, and Tino Martinez for examples.
    Look, Arod does press when the pressure is on and therefore his production goes down from what it usually. However, because his usual production is ridiculously high, his “pressing” production is still better than average. Would I like more? Yeah. Do I think he’s an overall disappointment? Nope.
    Now Winfield on the other hand…the poor guy had 1 year of playoff production to go by. 1 year. We have no clue what kind of a playoff performer Winfield was based on that. We can all thank George for his stupid “Mr. May” comment in 1985.


    great to see all the old timers out there but there has always been one who ive always wanted to see out there and thats otto velez a right feilder who played on those 70’s teams


    I think this year, assuming all goes well and the Yankees return to the playoffs, A-rod will do much better than he has in previous years. With the addition of Mark Teixeira to the line-up and the amount that the Yankees offense has picked up, namely Cano, Cabrera, and you could even through in Jeter, but he is never a concern in the fall, the opposing pitchers will have enough to deal with, while A-rod, barring any mental gymnastics, could take some pressure off of himself. While on the topic of A-rod, his bat is just about incinerated and I’m going to have to take the 13-7 prediction and bump it up to 15 wins, so long as there are no pitching disasters.

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