TEMPTED, BUT THE TRUTH IS DISCOVERED
With the Phillies in place for the World Series, the temptation is to jump ahead and crank up the head-to-head comparison with the Yankees. That would be premature. A.J. Burnett can be a riddle wrapped in an enigma decorated in squid ink, and when he’s off he’s really off. Yet, it would be wrong to think of him as truly unpredictable, because he gave the Yankees a quality start roughly two-thirds of the time. This was just a bit better than John Lackey (who did suffer from a strained elbow this year).
The great break that Burnett gets in this series is that when he’s off his game, he’s wild, but the Angels, by nature of their offensive approach, are not inclined to let him be wild. Despite all the talk that Bobby Abreu has made the Angels more successful by his example, if you remove him — along with Chone Figgins — from the equation (and they’ve pretty much removed themselves in this series), and they remain a team that likes to hack. The Yankees have nearly doubled them up on walks, 23-13. Arguably, they are also putting better pitches in play, as they’ve struck out more than the Angels but have gotten far better results when they have made contact.
As I write this, Coffee Joe is still mulling his lineup, which one assumes will be sans Jorge Posada. Melky Cabrera’s solid showing in the previous game probably bought him another start, whereas before it seemed likely that at some point Girardi would go to Brett Gardner for a game. We’ve seen the manager navigate the Jose Molina/Posada switch a couple of times now, and it hasn’t cost the Yankees. However, it remains to be pointed out that if there’s a high-leverage situation early in the game, he must pull the trigger on a pinch-hitter.
All of his fooling around with pinch-runners and incessant pitching changes doesn’t have half the potential to change the game’s outcome as putting a good hitter up with two runners on. Maybe Burnett’s comfort level is affected after such a switch, maybe not, but if you’re up by a few runs instead of trapped in a game where the score is just a run or so apart, you can pay a lot less heed to that particular issue. Plus, with the possibility of getting a nice rest before the World Series as part of the payoff for winning today, you can throw the bullpen at the Angels — which, let’s face it, Girardi was going to do anyway.
BYE BYE BLACKBIRD
Joe Torre has gone home again, and it was a bit sad to watch him try to hold back the tears at this latest disappointment. More than ever, it seems like he’s never going to get another chance to live down the 2003 World Series. Or 2004. Or Joba’s 2006 Attack of the Insect Kingdom.
Give Torre credit for surviving to manage, and manage relatively well — at least in the regular season — to the age of 69. As I said last night, not too many managers are working successfully at his age, or working at all. Unfortunately, Torre has never been a great in-game manager, and while it’s hard to pin too much of the blame on him for a series in which his pitchers had an ERA of 7.38 and his hitters put up a .287 on-base percentage, he still made numerous decisions, from starting Ron Belliard ahead of Orlando Hudson (reminiscent of his benching Tino Martinez for Cecil Fielder in the 1996 postseason) to casting Chad Billingsley into the bullpen. He emphasized a player’s short-term struggles or hot streak over longer-term results.
He didn’t show the same kind of manic hand in the postseason that Coffee Joe has displayed this year, but he never did. He just made his choices, picked his loyalties and stuck with them. This was a great asset in the days when George Steinbrenner was inclined towards a more impulsive leadership, but it’s a serious detriment when you have to shift gears on the fly, which the postseason demands. With luck, he’ll get to try again next year, assuming the strained ownership situation with the Dodgers doesn’t curtail their offseason efforts to get what they’re missing: one more starting arm, one more starting bat.
Without taking anything for granted (we all remember 2004), it seems as if we’re on the way to a Yankees-Phillies World Series. While I’m sure that some will be sorry that we won’t get JOE TORRE STRIKES BACK headlines, I’m happy that we likely won’t have to rehash all that stuff, or subject any of the people involved to the indignity of it all.
After all, Torre is no traitor — the organization chose to go in a different direction (this is the politest way of summarizing the events that led to Torre’s departure) and he helped direct the club to its most sustained run of success since the 1970s, if not the dynasty years of the 1950s and ’60s. While I was critical of his work in the later years of his tenure, an organization needs change and that can leave personnel who once seemed integral in the dust trying to keep up. When that happens, and it has happened to great leaders (Winston Churchill comes to mind), it does nothing to invalidate all the positive contributions that came before. Things change, we know that; not everyone is adaptable, and even those that are adaptable will eventually reach the point at which they are no longer flexible.
As I said, we won’t have to deal with that. Instead, what we should have to deal with, if things go the way they should, is the defending champs trying to achieve something like mini-dynasty status — pull the Yankees out of the equation and there haven’t been too many repeat winners in baseball history — against a Yankees team that, in many ways, really hasn’t been here before. Holdovers from the last Yankees World Series team include Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. That’s just five players out of 25. The rest are virginal, at least in a Yankees uniform (Burnett was on the 2003 Marlins but was hurt; Johnny Damon was with the 2004 Red Sox). Though the Yankees are a highly compensated, veteran team, and shouldn’t be rated the underdog in any matchup, they are undoubtedly the upstarts in a confrontation with the Phillies.
The Phillies would also make the most legitimate competition for this Yankees team. The Dodgers are comparatively light on offense (on one of the NLCS broadcasts, Buck Martinez called them the best offense in the National League, not sure where that came from) and their pitching staff has fallen into disarray in October. The Phillies have a team that was built to play in Yankee Stadium II, loaded with left-handed and switch-hitters who can take aim at the short porch in right field, as well as a rotation stocked with lefties who can keep Yankees hitters away from it. Sure, their bullpen is a mess, has been a mess, will be a mess, but that pile of southpaws on both sides of the ball covers a multitude of reliever sins.
All this, however, is premature. For today we wait while the NLCS tries to resolve itself. Perhaps this speculation is premature. It’s difficult not to jump ahead, given the dominance of Tuesday night’s performance by CC Sabathia.
ALL IS FORGIVEN
Given the umpiring throughout the postseason, and particularly in last night’s game (an embarrassment, though the ball-strike calls were shockingly good), it seems to me that Don Denkinger has less and less to feel bad about. Sure, he helped give away a World Series game, but it was just one play. His professional descendants are mucking up inning after inning. Baseball games continually interrupted by instant replay is a horrifying notion, but something has to change.
MORE OF ME AND OTHER PEOPLE
Baseball Prospectus is holding another roundtable chat tonight around Game 5 of the NLCS. I should be there, assuming this kidney stone I’m still dealing with doesn’t send me off to cower in a corner somewhere. For more info or to submit a question, here there be linkage. Hope to see you then. Desperately.
I enjoyed my BP colleague Christina Kahrl’s take on the Dodgers’ acquisition of George Sherrill from the Orioles for prospective third baseman Josh Bell and righty Steve Johnson:
Torre had his talents, no doubt about it, but he did become spectacularly risk-averse in the bullpen. Most managers are, but Torre reached an extreme. As I’ve remarked before, Joe Girardi has “made” more Major League relievers in less than two years running the Yankees than Torre did in his last five years, perhaps longer.
If you’re the Orioles, you wish you could have done more than this, but the organization isn’t willing to move Brian Roberts, while Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff haven’t been productive enough to excite anyone. Still, in Bell they added the possible replacement for Mora, and none too soon. There’s some question as to whether Bell can stay at third, and the club still desperately needs help at shortstop, but this is a start.
The Red Sox made an excellent move in picking up Victor Martinez. They received an offensively talented catcher-first baseman who can spell Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, or, by pushing Youkilis to third base, Mike Lowell. Martinez can’t throw, but Varitek can’t either, so no big loss there. Martinez can belong to the Red Sox for another year if they pick up his $7.5 million option, which seems like a no-brainer. The one risk here is that Martinez has been in a severe slump; in his last 30 games he’s hit .161/.268/.279.
The acquisition of Martinez rendered Adam LaRoche redundant, so he was swapped off to the Braves for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman is the New Millennium Doug Mientkiewicz, and he’ll take on that role for the Sox. A greater role in the future will depend on this offseason. If Varitek wants to come back, he has the contractual right to do so, and that could block up the catchers’ position a bit. Mike Lowell has another year to go on his deal, and has no-trade protection. David Ortiz is also signed for another year.
The Braves made an odd deal here, picking up an imminent free agent who isn’t a great hitter for a first baseman. True, Kotchman hadn’t hit like on either, but he’s better at getting on base and is the superior gloveman. The Bravos may do well in the short term given that LaRoche is a second-half hitter, but the gain here is likely small and they may be in possession of neither player by November.
These moves will have an impact on the Yankees as they fight the Red Sox the rest of the way. The Sox have hit well in their own ballpark, averaging 5.7 runs per game in the Fens, but have hit just .252/.336/.402 on the road with an average of 4.6 runs per game. The league-average offense scores 4.7. How the addition of Martinez benefits the Red Sox depends on how they spot him to best advantage in different pitcher match-ups, and if they’re willing to cut into David Ortiz’s playing time now and again or bench Mike Lowell against the odd right-hander in road games. In addition, the deal cost the Sox Justin Masterson the versatile swingman. They might miss having him around.
In terms of the moves the Yankees did not make, it’s a bit surprising to see the long-coveted Jarod Wasburn go to the Tigers for two left-handed pitching prospects, Luke French, who has pitched seven games in the majors this year with strong results, and Mauricio Robles, an A-ball pitcher. Neither is a high-value prospect, just “interesting,” and it seems odd that the Yankees couldn’t have made a competitive offer had they wanted to do so. Now they have the choice of sticking with Sergio Mitre, pulling Phil Hughes out of the bullpen, or trying another minor leaguer, either another retread like (choke) Kei Igawa, or go with an untried pitcher such as Scranton’s George Kontos or Trenton’s Zach McAllister (currently on the disabled list with a “tired arm”). Given Mitre’s track record, they have very little to lose by rolling the dice on anyone this side of Sidney Ponson.
Ever see a clubhouse picture of Joe DiMaggio with his shirt off? There are a few that pop up in books about the Yankee Clipper. His biceps have a bit of definition, but otherwise the only thing that really pops out at you is his ribcage — he looks as if he just came off of a hunger strike. Had I been a writer at the time, I would have been tempted to bring him bowls of pasta. Steaks. Freshly killed zebras. Joe DiMaggio was not a bodybuilder. Thank you for that, Joe.
The foregoing is an oblique reaction to Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension for failing a test for a so-called performance-enhancing drug. According to one article, that substance was a gonadotropin, a substance used to light a fire in underperforming testicles (I believe that in 10 years of writing this feature that is the first time I have typed the word “testicles”). In other words, these drugs kick off testosterone production. Testosterone helps build muscles. Muscles make you stronger. Stronger makes you… Well, we really don’t know that stronger makes you anything but stronger, but you see the reasoning that is at work here.
As always, what is depressing about this development is not its actual impact but the dishonesty that comes with getting caught. Ramirez’s statement on the matter said, “Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility.”
No, Manny, actually it’s your doctor’s responsibility too, and I fully expect that you will be suing him. Thing is, we know Manny won’t be suing, because then this tissue-paper excuse would collapse. For that matter, he would also appeal the suspension, submit medical records as proof of his contention, and make every effort to stay on the field and clear his name. That’s not what he’s doing. Rather, he’s meekly taking the rap.
Ramirez is seemingly oblivious to much besides his personal comfort level, so I don’t expect him to have much feeling for his place in the game or its history, but it sure would be nice if we had a player or two who felt an obligation to the game who had made them famous multimillionaires and exercised due caution, even excess caution, so they did not get into these situations, whether by choosing to do drugs that the public considers to be cheating, or by asking some extra questions of their physician so as to make sure they don’t get poor advice, as Ramirez supposedly did. In the end, it’s really not what the drugs do, but what the public thinks of them. Unfortunately, all the propaganda has been in the service of the Incredible Hulk Theory of PEDs (baseball has chosen to capitulate rather than educate), so rightly or wrongly, when you get caught the public starts thinking of you the way they used to think of Shoeless Joe.
As such, Ramirez now gets a seat at the table that now holds Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez. This is a hitter who, whatever controversies have surrounded him, has been an All-Star every year since 1998, who has 533 career home runs and nearly 1,750 RBIs, whose career slugging percentage is .594. Whatever one thinks of Ramirez personally, be you a Yankees fan, Red Sox fan, Dodgers fan, if you’re a fan of baseball it is disgusting and abhorrent to you that a hitter of this stature is now perceived to have fallen.
A note of sympathy for Joe Torre, a guy whom must have been cursed to live in interesting times. His team has the best record in baseball, in part due to Ramirez’s terrific start. He now finds himself suffering a violent drop in production in left field, from Ramirez to Juan Pierre. That is, to quote Tom Petty, freefallin’. The Dodgers do have some Minor League outfielders that can play a bit, including prospect Xavier Paul at Triple-A (.344/.385/.542 and a big grain of salt at Triple-A) and journeyman bat Val Pascucci.
If they choose to be more assertive than just surrendering to the Pierreness (rhymes with “unfairness”) of life they can try to patch a bit. Regardless, Torre has his work cut out for him. Needless to say, this is one of those meadership moments that can make for a good line on one’s Hall of Fame plaque — if the Old Man can pull a rabbit out of his hat.
If not, the Dodgers, one of baseball’s best teams in one of its biggest media markets, a club off to a record-setting 13-0 start at home, becomes another casualty of steroids hysteria combined with a player’s ignorance, stupidity, and selfishness. Good work, congratulations to everyone. And so we ask again, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”
Actually, if he were here, we’d probably get on him for his cigarette habit. Alas, no one is perfect.
WILL YOU, WON’T YOU, WILL YOU, WON’T YOU JOIN THE DANCE?
That’s the question being asked about Chien-Ming Wang today, as the Yankees ponder what to do with their unpleasantly elevated groundballer. Despite yesterday’s extended Spring Training action, which featured an uncharacteristic 11 strikeouts, the Yankees’ brass were not impressed by Wang’s work against the Phillies’ most minor Minor Leaguers. Reports from the front suggest that Wang’s velocity was down and his sinker was still not operating at its proper depth. Every human capable of typing is now intimating that Phil Hughes (3-0, 1.86 ERA in 19.1 innings, three walks, 19 strikeouts) will take his scheduled Tuesday start against the Tigers.
This is as it should be. You can throw out Wang’s strikeouts against toddlers and tyros in the Minor League depths — however screwy Wang’s main offering is right now, a Major League-quality slider and changeup is tough for a kid to beat. The Yankees weren’t looking for an artistic success here, they were looking for sinking heat, and they didn’t get it, at least not to their satisfaction. The Yankees are talking about building up Wang’s arm strength, but one wonders what they can truly do about it if Spring Training wasn’t a good enough opportunity for Wang to recoup. Further, if Wang’s arm doesn’t snap back, can Wang find a way to be successful at a lower velocity?
As I pointed out in a previous entry, despite the groundball fillip in Wang’s very vanilla game, history is working against him. It is very unusual for a pitcher with such a low strikeout rate to survive for any length of time — everything has to work perfectly for the balls they allow in play not to kill them. The only pitchers to throw over 1,000 career innings since 1990 with a strikeout rate of 4.5 or lower: Carlos Silva, Kirk Rueter, Ricky Bones, Bob Tewksbury, Brian Anderson, Zane Smith, Mike Moore and Steve Sparks. Pitchers with a lower strikeout rate relative to league in 500 or more innings, 1990 to present: Aaron Cook, Jimmy Anderson, Rueter, John Doherty, Silva and Horacio Ramirez.
Entering this season, Wang had the lowest ERA of any of these pitchers by more than half a run, though if he pitched at sea level, Cook would probably be right there with him. Ironically, Cook has also been battered this season — not to the extent that Wang has, but a 10.22 ERA still qualifies as a battering — for the same reason: his previously healthy groundball/fly ball ratio has crashed, presumably because he too is elevating his pitches.
The great advantage that Wang had was that, in allowing only about six percent of hits against him to go for extra bases, it was very difficult for the opposition to build a rally. He took doubles, triples, and home runs out of the game, meaning that in order to score even one run in a frame, the opposition had to hit three to four balls through Derek Jeter before Wang got three outs. With Wang having lost or misplaced this skill, the opposition has the potential for explosive innings restored. We should emphasize “lost” before “misplaced,” because this season’s breakdown may only be the culmination of a breakdown that was forming right from the beginning. Wang’s line drive rates have been rising and his groundball rates falling consistently since 2005.
Hughes is a strikeout pitcher. He took his lumps last year and he may take them again, but that is the way of young pitchers. John Danks was 6-13 with a 5.50 ERA as a 22-year-old in 2007. Last year he went 12-9 with a 3.32 ERA. Jon Lester’s ERA in his first 27 appearances was 4.68 … Jim Palmer’s ERA in his first two seasons was 3.54, which sounds great, except that the league ERA was lower than that.
Hughes will reward patience, be it for the Yankees or some other team in the event that patience is in short supply. Should he be able to avoid a permanently stuff-altering injury, his ability to get batters to swing and miss means that someday the length of Wang’s entire career will fit within the span of his, and that will be true if Wang can fix himself now or not. It will also give the Yankees a pitcher better adapted for postseason action. In evolutionary terms, Wang’s overspecialization limits his horizons. If Tuesday does turn out to belong to Hughes, it could, finally, represent the dawning of a new age.
THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
? Joe Torre may have another special team on his hands in Los Angeles (though it might not be too difficult looking special in this year’s NL West), and if they succeed, he’ll have the last argument in his already-signed, sealed, delivered Hall of Fame bid: that he couldn’t work with young pitchers (Chad Billingsley, for starters, is putting the lie to that). I’m still not convinced he wouldn’t get suckered in by Juan Pierre if Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier weren’t all hitting like it was 1930. Still, that’s my inference, not his action, so all credit to him. Also all credit to him for going to Jonathan Broxton for a 1.2 inning save in a close game (2-0) at Houston last night.
? Good for the Angels, beating the Tigers despite requiring a spot-start from extreme journeyman Matt Palmer, 30, after Darren Oliver hit the disabled list.
? In spite of myself, I am starting to believe that Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz — .320/.407/.622 in 46 games between this year and last — is for real.
? I think we owe it to Adam Eaton to point out his rare good starts. Last night he pitched 7.1 innings against the White Sox, allowing two runs, walking none, and striking out nine. The O’s should trade him while he’s hot.
A COUPLE OF VERY QUICK NOTES AS WE HEAD INTO THE WEEKEND
? Too bad that Andruw Jones turned down the Yankees’ non-roster invite. The Yankees had nothing to lose by making said offer, and Jones everything to gain. I’d like to have an actual Andruw sighting, preferably of him in fighting trim, before I would be inspired to offer him anything more substantial than that.
? Despite rumblings of “collusion” in the land, I prefer to look at many of the free agents still without deals as evidence of the financial crisis putting pressure on general managers to be smarter. Every one of the remaining players has serious flaws, whether it be Manny’s character issues or Adam Dunn’s defense or the general downward trend of Bobby Abreu’s game or the potential that Orlando Hudson won’t hit outside of Arizona. Those players could help their ultimate teams, and probably will, but it’s not unreasonable for clubs to try to drive a hard bargain with them. That should have been true in any economic environment, but it’s particularly valid now.
? It’s fascinating how the Joe Torre book is going to boomerang on Torre. Anyone (apparently, including my YES classmate Michael Kay) with a negative story on Joe is now going to feel free to retail it, with the knowledge that he gave them implicit permission to do so. In the coming years, his reputation is going to be almost continually assailed, to the point that the very nature of his impact on his best teams is going to be called into question. I said last week that this book, on its own merits, was a great example of a man destroying his own reputation, but let us go a step further and say that the aftermath of this book will lead to an even greater savaging of the man. He put everything on the table, seemingly without restriction (whatever his protestations to the contrary), and it will be open season on him as well. And here’s the thing, Joe, and this is something I know very well from studying the life of Casey Stengel: the players are going to outlive you by a long, long time and will be commenting on you long after you’re gone. You’re not going to get the last word in, so you might as well mend fences if you want history to paint a fair picture.
? A transcript of today’s chat can be found here.
? With the conclusion of the Yankees Hot Stove show’s run for this season, I’d like to thank the entire cast and crew for having me on. Enjoy Florida, guys.
OZYMANDIAS: THE MEMOIR
I’ve been reluctant to offer much conversation on the Joe Torre-Tom Verducci book because I’ve not read the thing (get your act together, Doubleday publicity!) and of all the things the world needs, it’s not another uninformed commentary on that bloody book. Nonetheless, I feel like I can’t let the Greatest Story of Our Time pass without a few words, at least until I get hold of the holy pages. Given what I’ve heard so far of the “controversial” passages, I feel validated.
Longtime readers know I jumped off the Torre bandwagon a few years before he actually left town. I was a convinced fan of Torre’s after the buttoned down and seemingly know-nothing Buck Showalter epoch. However, as I wrote here many times, I became convinced that Torre had outlived his usefulness. He was not a builder and he wasn’t a strategist. His main skill was creating a professional atmosphere, something that the organization had proved incapable of doing over a period of nearly two decades.
However, Torre’s ability to do that ebbed, and now the new book suggests that this ability was largely mythological. Torre seems to blame Brian Cashman for foisting too many irregular-size players on him, but this gets into circular, chicken-and-egg territory: were Cashman’s players unable to blend, or did Torre fail to blend them? For every end-of-the-line gamble Cashman took, like Kevin Brown, where no manager would have been able to save the situation, there have been others who left New York and went on to productive work. Perhaps more importantly, in 2008, Joe Girardi minted more Major League relievers than Torre did in his entire 12-year stay.
Torre’s failing judgment climaxed with Alex Rodriguez. When Torre batted A-Rod eighth in the fourth game of the 2006 ALDS, he publicly demonstrated that his usefulness was at its end. That was actually the second such gesture that year, and the first of his self-immolating collaborations with Verducci, when he conspired in the swift-boating of his own third baseman in the pages of Sports Illustrated. If you will recall, A-Rod had slumped that August, the boos were again raining down and Torre was at a loss. At that point, Torre enabled the Verducci story, which then waited like a time bomb for Rodriguez to emerge from his slump and enter the playoffs. It went off just in time to kneecap A-Rod at the most important moment of the season.
With this helpful stab in the back, Rodriguez was “motivated” right back into his slump.
Not satisfied, Torre then jerked the future Hall of Famer up and down the lineup throughout the short series. Where a player hits over the course of four games isn’t all that important, but the psychological impact of those moves is. Rather than leave Rodriguez alone, and minimize the stress on his player, Torre did everything he could to make him the story.
If Torre wasn’t an Xs and O’s manager, if he couldn’t get young players into the lineup, and he was unable to communicate with the players the GM was giving him, no matter how difficult, then what did he bring to the table besides an increasingly illusory and irrelevant gravitas? Again, not having read the book as of yet, I cannot draw any firm conclusions, but from A-Rod to his bitterness about not getting Bernie Williams back in 2007 (another example of hideously poor judgment, one he apparently tries to excuse by character-assassinating Carlos Beltran, the player who would have displaced the beloved Bernie) this tome seems to be one of the greatest examples one can think of a man doing all he can to destroy his own reputation, the myth of his own greatness. Instead of proving his indispensability to the Yankees, Torre has made a persuasive case for why they had to let him go.
I said a good deal of what I wanted to about the return of Andy Pettitte in yesterday’s installment, and you said what you had to say in the comments. Then, in Brian Cashman’s phoner after the deal was announced, he echoed some of your comments about depth and how at some point the Yankees might still need to call upon one of their younger pitchers.
Still, Phil Hughes (pictured) and pals have clearly been relegated to Plan B, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Yankees are well fixed for Minor League pitchers, so depth was unlikely to be an issue. More pressing is the need to give those pitchers Major League experience so that when Chien-Ming Wang gets hurt again, or Pettitte’s always troublesome arm acts up, or A.J. Burnett experiences whatever happens to Burnett, they are ready to step in with more consistency than they showed in 2008. It is not overly optimistic to think that last year was the growing pains year for Hughes and Ian Kennedy, while 2009 could be the year they begin to deliver. Yet, that possibility seems to have been aborted.
Yet, there is no reason to be glum. On paper, the Yankees have put together a team that is going to be very tough to beat. If everyone does what they’re supposed to do, the rotation will be the deepest in the game, the bullpen will be solid, and the lineup… Well, the lineup may still have some problems, even if Jorge Posada is healthy. Robinson Cano needs to snap back, Derek Jeter needs to find the Fountain of Range — I mean Youth, and the outfield could be a complete wipeout.
That leads me to the question of the day, and one which I will probably center my Hot Stove show comments around this Thursday: on the phoner, Mr. Cashman was asked if he was now ready to retire for the winter. “I wouldn’t expect anything further at this stage, or anything significant,” he said.
Here are my questions: Should the Yankees be done? Has Cashman done enough? How would you evaluate the job that he and the Yankees did in preparing the team to contend this year? I’m not sure what the structure of this week’s show will be, but if it all possible I will read selected answers and respond on the air.
I’m holding my comments on the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book until I’ve actually read it, but it’s worth briefly revisiting Alex Rodriguez’s supposedly un-clutch performances. I can’t defend the guy’s personality or his teammates’ perception of it. That’s a different matter from what he does on the field. The fact is, except perhaps in very limited cases of piling on, all the runs generated by a player count. We make judgments as to a hit’s value using information that we could not possibly know at the time, which is to say the game’s outcome. It is true that if an A-Rod hits a home run with his team down 5-0 in the seventh, it’s likely that the home run won’t have any impact beyond the back of his baseball card.
However, game conditions change, and scores affect player behavior and managerial decision-making. A three-run shot with a 3-0 lead moves a game from in doubt to safe. That single tally in the face of a big deficit may bring a closer into the game who otherwise would have rested, or serve as the foundation block of a rally. You can’t really know until it’s all over. Naturally, it would be preferable if A-Rod chipped in a few more two-run shots when the team was down 1-0, but it is incorrect for anyone to imply that his stage fright in some of the big spots means that the rest of his contribution is without value.