Yankees Suck postsSunday November 07, 2010
Jeter = To Throw Away
It’s always amused me that jeter in French means “to throw away,” although, to be fair, Derek Jeter's throwing arm has never been much of a problem. He's got a gun. It's his range that's been the problem (if you're a Yankees fan) or a secret joy (if you're not).
But I'm talking about another kind of throwing away. Of money.
What salary suits a legend most? Baseball fans have been wondering all year—particularly when Jeter's production went down and it became apparent it wasn't going back up.
In 2010, according to ESPN.com, Jeter made $22.6 million in the final year of a long-term deal, and, for all that money, this is what he gave the Yankees: career lows in batting (.270), on-base (.340) and slugging (.370). In the postseason, over 9 games, he posted a .289 on-base percentage from the lead-off position. In the last two games against Texas, as the Yankees went down and out, he never even hit the ball out of the infield.
And he's 36 going on 37.
But he's the Captain. Mr. November. Beloved in the Bronx. Most hits in Yankees history. So what do the Yankees do? And what does Jeter do?
Ben Shpigel of The New York Times wondered about this last week.
Most of what he writes is fine. One graf, though, stands out to anyone who doesn't live in New York:
If this were only about baseball and future production — and not about Jeter’s symbolic importance to the franchise — the Yankees could argue that Jeter, based on his statistics, age and veteran status, might be in line for a 2011 salary that would be half of the $21 million he earned in 2010.
Half $21 million? So $10.5 million? If he wasn't Jeter? That seems absurd. So I did some checking.
Out of the 149 major league players with the qualifying amount of plate appearances in 2010, Jeter ranked 115th in OPS, dead even with Orlando Hudson, the second baseman for Minnesota. Hudson made $5 million last year. And that salary was based on better numbers from the year before (.774 OPS). He might not make that now. And he's four years younger than Jeter.
So let's try the year before: 2009. The goal is to find a shortstop who hit about what Jeter hit in 2010, is about the same age, and became a free agent at the end of the season. And there is a guy. His batting average was higher (.284) but his OBP was lower (.316) but his slugging was higher (.389). Full-time player (656 at-bats). At the end of the season he turned 36. His name is Orlando Cabrera. He became a free agent and signed with the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010. For $2 million.
But that's unfair, too. Cabrera is a lifetime .715 OPS guy. Jeter is a lifetime .837 OPS guy. There's always the hope that Jeter's poor performance in 2010 was based upon some injury. There's the hope he can rebound in 2011.
So is there a guy with similar career numbers as Jeter who had a 2009 similar to Jeter's 2010 and then became a free agent?
Tall order. But Miguel Tejada is kind of close. His lifetime OPS is lower, .801, but he is a former A.L. MVP, a half-time shortstop, and currently only a month older than Jeter. In 2009, when he was 11 months younger than Jeter is now, he had a pretty good season with Houston. Hit .313, slugged .455, led the league in doubles with 46. An OPS of .795. Much higher than Jeter's .710 in 2010. And for all that, in January 2010, Tejada signed a one-year deal with Baltimore. For $6 million.
I have no idea what Jeter will ultimately get from the Yankees. But anyone thinking he'd get $11 million per if he had the stats of Jeter but not the cache of Jeter is in a New York state of mind.
The Fall of the 2010 New York Yankees
39 More Reasons Why the Yankees Suck
I'm hoping around 8:30 tonight, Pacific Time, the Texas Rangers will add their name to the following list:
- Seattle Mariners
- Cleveland Indians
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Anaheim Angels
- Florida Marlins
- Boston Red Sox
- Anaheim Angels
- Detroit Tigers
- Cleveland Indians
These are the teams, the Legion of Honor, the Justice League, who have eliminated the New York Yankees from postseason contention since 1995. No team has done it since midges attacked Joba Chamberlain during the calm of a Cleveland evening three years ago (oh, that was fun!), because 1) in 2008 the Yankees didn't make the postseason, and 2) last year they won it all. After Game 4, I was hoping Texas would crush the Yankees in New Yankee Stadium, which would've been sweet, a la Boston in '04, and we could've seen Yankee fans, so-called, streaming out of their $1 billion stadium like rats from a sinking ship for the third night in a row. But... not to be. We'll see what the next two days brings. If it doesn't bring victory tonight it brings Cliff Lee tomorrow. It'll also bring Andy Pettite, who, though his name means “small,” tends to play big in October.
I'm currently adding to my list of Reasons Why the Yankees Suck, which was written nearly 10 years ago and includes 10-year-old gripes, but haven't decided yet whether to update the original or write a whole new report. In the meantime, here are some of the contenders. Feel free to add your own in the comments field:
- Killing the hopes of Twins fans everywhere (2009, 2008, 2004, 2003)
- Killing the hopes of Mariners fans everywhere (2001, 2000)
- Killing the hopes of Rangers fans everywhere (1999, 1998, 1996)
- Killing the hopes of Royals fans everywhere (1978, 1977, 1976)
- Killing the hopes of Dodgers fans everywhere (1978, 1977, 1956, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947, 1941)
- “He'll look good next year in pinstripes.”
- A-Rod—swatting a baseball.
- Derek Jeter—“hit by pitch.”
- Robinson Cano—“hitting a homerun” (2010).
- Derek Jeter—“hitting a homerun” (1996)
- Yet another article about where Jeffrey Maier is now.
- GMS patches
- That Steinbrenner monument—dwarfing the monuments of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle.
- “Win one for the Boss.”
- 1998: The last year the Yankees didn't have the highest payroll in baseball. (They were second to the Orioles).
- That monthly New York Times column wondering when the lastest small market superstar (Mauer, Greinke, Lee) will become a Yankee.
- “Got rings?”
- Ken Burns interviewing no Pirates or Pirates fans, only Yankees and Yankees fans, about the Pirates' thrilling, come-from-behind victory over the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.
- Ken Burns interviewing no Diamondbacks or Diamondbacks fans, only Yankees and Yankees fans, about the Diamondbacks' thrilling, come-from-behind victory over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series.
- Roger Clemens' 15-strikeout, one-hit performance against the Seattle Mariners in Game 4 of 2000 ALCS.
- Manager Joe Torre saying of Clemens' performance, “It was total dominance.”
- Clemens' total dominance revealed to be steroid-enhanced.
- David Cone complaining about light-throwing Jamie Moyer's “brushback pitches” against Paul O'Neill.
- David Cone complaining about Edgar Martinez swinging at 3-0 pitches “when they're up by about 10 runs”...when in fact they were up by 4.
- Tom Veducci attributing this “Speech of Lies” to turning the Yankees' 1998 season around.
- Lance Berkman striking out on a fastball down the middle in Game 2 of the 2010 ALDS.
- The pitch being called a ball.
- Berkman hitting a double on the next pitch.
- The Yankees in the postseason 15 of the 16 years since 1995.
- This success attributed to keeping together a core group of players—Jeter, Rivera, Pettite, Posada—unlike other, lesser teams, who let their best players go.
- The Yankees keeping together this core group of players only because they don't have to worry about the Yankees taking them away.
- Joe Posnanski: “The Yankees are not a big-market team. They DWARF big-market teams.” (More here.)
- Jim Caple: “We don't need another World Series with a team so rich and smug that the New York mayor announced two weeks ago that he already was planning its world championship parade route.” (More here.)
- The fact that any Yankee postseason victory by definition removes magic from the world.
- A payroll $45 million higher than any other team in Major League Baseball (2010).
- A payroll $52 million higher than any other team in Major League Baseball (2009).
- A payroll $72 million higher than any other team in Major League Baseball (2008).
- A payroll $85 million higher than any other team in Major League Baseball (2005).
- “I'm tired of all this bitching about the Yankees buying championships.”
Coming From Ahead: A Yankees Suck Report
I couldn't sleep last night.
Walking home from a movie in downtown Seattle, Patricia and I, just outside of St. James Cathedral a few blocks from our place, heard the screech of brakes and turned to see a car stop short and an elderly woman fall. Had she been hit? We couldn't tell. The elderly woman said she'd been hit, the woman driving the car said she didn't think she hit her, but we stuck around for the fire-department ambulance, then the other ambulance (AMR? American Medical Rescue?) and finally the cops. The men from the fire department were particularly impressive. The other witnesses, or non-witnesses (nobody had really seen what happened), were impressive as well. Most were nurses and they knew what to do and did it. Patricia and I were largely superfluous but we stuck around because we weren't sure how superfluous we were yet. We waited for the cops to dismiss us.
But that's not why I couldn't sleep.
When we left dinner at the sushi place at 7:00 to go to the movie, the Texas Rangers were leading the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series 5-0. The Rangers looked young and tough, the Yankees looked old and bad, C.C. Sabbathia looked like he was feeling every bit of his 300 pounds. I still assumed the Yankees would win their 41st pennant, just as I assume the candidate with the most money will get elected to office regardless of the message. Money talks. But for a moment life was good.
Then I got home and navigated to ESPN.com and saw the final score of the game. “In a New York Minute,” I read. “6-5, Yankees,” I read. You're fucking kidding me, I thought.
That was the reason I had trouble sleeping. I didn't see the last half of the game, and I only glanced through Rob Neyer's report of the bad decisions made by Texas manager Ron Washington (see: Darren Oliver), but, as I began to drift to sleep, images in my subconscious welled up. Brett Gardner just barely beating a throw to first. Derek Jeter stroking a double to plate him. Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira doing whatever they did. (I didn't read far enough to find out.) The Yankees coming from behind to steal another victory.
That's the part that really pissed me off: “Coming from behind.”
A team with a $207 million payroll plays a team with a $55 million payroll; and somehow they “come from behind.”
The Yankees never come from behind. They always come from ahead. They're ahead by $70 million or $100 million or, as in this case, $150 million. But they're always ahead. Coming from behind is just an illusion.
So at midnight I got up, had a glass of wine, read. It helped a bit. I was finally able to get to sleep. But even in the morning light the news is sad and bitter. The Yankees up 1-0 means business as usual. It means money keeps talking. It means a little bit of magic that would've been in the world with a Texas victory is gone. The Yankees are good at that. They kill magic.
Help Me Update 61* Reasons the Yankees Suck
Tonight is Game 1 of the 2010 American League Championship Series. While some of my baseball-watching friends are shrugging their shoulders, unable to support a team like Texas, which is affiliated with a former president like George W. Bush, I know who I'm rooting for. In particular I know who I'm rooting against. I have three favorite teams: the Mariners, the Twins, and whoever is playing the New York Yankees. One of these teams, unfortunately, is still alive in the post-season.
Nearly 10 years ago, for the Mariners alternative program The Grand Salami, I wrote a piece listing off “61* Reasons Why The Yankees Suck.” I'm going to update it soon but suggestions are welcome. (You can always check out the “Yankees Suck” section of this blog.)
I'll probably begin similarly:
- They win: 40 pennants and 27 World Championships in the 90 years since 1921.
- They spend tons more money than any other team to ensure that they win.
- They keep in place a system that allows them to spend tons more money than any other team to ensure that they win.
Look at that: 40 out of 90. Nearly half our time we're watching the Yankees in the World Series. Nearly a third of the time they win it all. In a rigged world, in which sports like baseball are supposed to provide a level playing field, they play a rigged game, then act like they've done something special when they win.
How rigged is it? I'll probably list off the following, too:
- A payroll $45 million more than any other team in baseball (2010)
- A payroll $52 million more than any other team in baseball (2009)
- A payroll $72 million more than any other team in baseball (2008)
That gap is shrinking but it's still a Snake-River-Canyon-sized gap. Even Evel Knievel would have trouble jumping it. Put it this way: the 2010 gap between the Yankees, at no. 1, and Boston, at no. 2, is almost the entire payroll of the team the Yankees are playing in the ALCS: the bankrupt Texas Rangers, who have a $55 million payroll. Maybe that's why baseball is our national pastime: it's as unfair as any other aspect of American life. Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for Goldman Sachs.
Other thoughts for the list:
- That sense of entitlement
- Steinbrenner's monument
- GMS patches
- “Got rings?”
- “He'll look good in pinstripes next year.”
That last one is the one that really pisses me off. It's an acknowledgment of the Yankees' real power, money, even though the Yankee fan saying it, or taunting another fan with it, will dismiss the monetary argument by bringing up the Mets or Cubs: teams that, yes, spend a lot, but a good $60-75 million shy of what the Yankees spend. They don't spend enough, in other words, to make up for their own stupidity or bad luck, as the Yankees do.
Looked at a certain way, though, no matter what happens in the next few weeks, we can't lose. The Yankees are Goliath, strutting around and beating their chests against baseball Davids. If they win, it's hardly news. If they lose, it's delicious. And Yankee fans, toadies to the last, supporters of illicit gains and rigged pastimes, will never know that feeling.