Yankees Suck postsSaturday October 16, 2010
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.
Goliath Beats David
Yankees Suck but it sucks to be the Twins and their fans right now.
This is the fourth time in seven years the Yankees have eliminated the Twins in the post-season—always in the ALDS, lately in a sweep—so, inevitably, I'm reading how the Twins "choke" in these games. I've read how the Yankees get in the Twins' "heads."
This would make sense if the Twins beat the Yankees during the regular season. But they don't. In six games this year, the Twins won two, the Yankees four. And this was a good year for the Twins.
Sure, in previous division series, the Yankees, with the best record in the American League, hosted the Twins, who had the worst record among division leaders, while this year the Yankees were the wild card, giving the Twins home field advantage. But the Yankees still had the better record—95-67 to 94-68—despite playing an unbalanced number of games in the Eastern Division, the strongest division, against the Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays. That's where the money is and that's where the wins are. The Twins, in fact, had a winning record against every team in the American League but four: the Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. Put the Twins in the East and they probably wouldn't even have contended.
The Twins had the 10th highest payroll in the Major Leagues, $97 million, which isn't bad, but it's not even half the Yankees payroll, $206 million, which is $45 million more than the next highest payroll (Red Sox) and $60 million more than the third highest payroll (Cubs). In terms of money, the Yankees are in another league. They can spend as much as they need to, and do. The playing field isn't level, and hasn't been for some time.
You need to know this going in. You can't fool yourself about what you're up against.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, I think, fooled himself. In the first inning of the first game, his lead-off hitter, Denard Span, lined a single to left. What did he do? He had the next batter, Orlando Hudson, bunt. He sacrificed. He gave up one of his 27 outs to put in scoring position a runner who didn't score. He thought small, played small ball, even though he was going up against a team that averaged 5.3 runs a game, the most in the Majors. And in the three games of the Division Series? The Yankees averaged 5.6 runs a game. The same, more or less. You can't fool yourself about what you're up against.
The Twins front office fooled itself. By May, everyone knew the Seattle Mariners weren't contenders, so everyone knew their pitcher, Cliff Lee, a free agent at the end of the year, would be on the trading block. Lee wasn't just a good pitcher, he came with a pedigree: He beat Yankees. In the World Series last year, the Philadelphia Phillies only won two games against the Yankees, the two games Cliff Lee started, so if you were looking ahead to the post-season and a possible rematch with the Yankees, Cliff Lee was exactly the guy you wanted. Hell, the Yankees nearly got him. Instead he went to the Rangers. For not much, really. Couldn't the Twins afford not much? You grab your chances when you have them, and the Twins have chances now, but they didn't grab them. They let Cliff Lee go. They fooled themselves about what they were up against.
The New York Yankees represent a monstrous unfairness in the national pastime. They are the wealthiest team by far, rich enough to make up for their mistakes, and they carry a sense of entitlement. They think it's theirs. This makes it delicious when they're defeated but hardly news when they win. Yesterday was hardly news.
"Waiting for Lee, Maybe Until the Winter"—Special YANKEES SUCK Report
Waiting for Lee, Maybe Until the Winter—Special YANKEES SUCK Report
By TYLER KEPNER—and ERIK LUNDEGAARD
Published: June 29, 2010—and July 1, 2010
Cliff Lee had a free night in New York on Monday, and he spent it having dinner with C. C. Sabathia. They are former teammates, and probably future teammates, too. !@#$%^&*!!!! (Trying to swear less; nephew reads this blog sometimes.)
“We didn’t really talk about what’s coming up or anything like that,” Sabathia said before Lee stifled the Yankees, 7-4, on Tuesday. “He’s just trying to focus on his season. But I would love to see him over here.” So I can eat him.
For the moment, Lee still pitches for the Seattle Mariners, who arrived at Yankee Stadium 15 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West....and promptly beat the first-place Yankees in their first two games by a combined 14-4 score. Hopeful of contending this season, the Mariners quickly fizzled, and they have let Lee know they will shop him before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline. ...
Last season, Lee won the first regular-season game and the first World Series game at the new Yankee Stadium, then beat the Yankees again in Game 5 in Philadelphia. Good times. The Phillies thought he wanted to be a free agent, and traded him to Seattle in December when they acquired another ace, Roy Halladay, from Toronto.
Trading for Lee was a no-lose proposition for the Mariners. They wanted to win with him, but barring a miraculous turnaround, they instead will trade him for a package of prospects that promises to be better than the one they gave the Phillies. One hopes. One never knows with the Mariners' front office.
The Yankees probably have the prospects to satisfy the Mariners, who need a catcher. ...and a first baseman, and a third baseman, and a left fielder, and a DH, and a closer, and a no. 3 hitter, and a clean-up hitter, and...
But the Yankees’ rotation is strong, and they are much more likely to wait until the winter to sign Lee, without losing any talent... I don't know if I've read a sentence with a greater sense of entitlement and privilege than this one.
There is no reason to believe Lee will forgo free agency, and when he hits the market, other teams might as well back off. Unless it's this sentence. Wow. I hope Theo Epstein reads this. I hope every MLB GM reads this and gets their collective backs up. Every factor points to Lee’s joining the Yankees. Every factor, Tyler?
Two of their starters — Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez — are unsigned past this season, so the Yankees have a need. Me wants. They are always flush with cash. Me has money. They have seen Lee dominate on the brightest stage. He purty. And Lee is friends with Sabathia and A. J. Burnett, a fellow Arkansan who shares an agent and affectionately calls him Cliffy. Friend good.
“I’d tell him he would love it here,” Sabathia said. “I know he would, just knowing his personality and the spotlight of playing in big games. That’s what he wants. This would be the perfect place for him.” Except his greatest games have involved beating the Yankees. Destroying them. People cheer for him because he's David but they would hate him if he joined Goliath. That's the question that Tyler "Every factor" Kepner doesn't ask. Why would he want to join Goliath? Is he so scared of Goliath that he needs join them? Is that he that much of a coward? Like all of those other Goliath-joining traitors?
After the game, Lee stressed that he was comfortable with the Mariners and focused solely on pitching well for them. He did acknowledge that he liked to pitch at Yankee Stadium, as Sabathia suggested....and beating them.
“You’re going to have a sellout pretty much all the time,” Lee said. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching here. They’re knowledgeable fans that understand the game and get into it. As a player, that’s what you like and respect.” They get into winning. They get into treating the rest of the league like it's their own farm system. Give the Yankees a $50 million payroll and see how much Yankees fans "get into the game."
But where will Lee make his stopover before free agency? Contenders like the Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers need an ace, but many people in baseball doubt they can add payroll. Really? Half of $9 million?
The Mets would love to have Lee, but the Mariners have not yet asked for specific players. That's true of every team. Why just bring this up with the Mets? If they demand Ike Davis or Jon Niese, the Mets will probably decline. Ah. To shoot down the Mets. They would also be hesitant to deal Angel Pagan because of the uncertainty surrounding the still-recovering center fielder Carlos Beltran. And Pagan is 29 tomorrow. Hardly a prospect. The Mariners need future, not present.
The most likely landing spot could be the Minnesota Twins I've been arguing this for months..., who have insurance on the contract of the injured closer Joe Nathan that gives them financial flexibility. The Twins are in a tight race in the American League Central, and because their franchise player is a catcher — Joe Mauer — they could easily part with their top catching prospect, Wilson Ramos... Months, Tyler.
General Manager Jack Zduriencik was guarded on Tuesday, saying the Mariners were concentrating only on winning right now. Soon enough, the focus will change, and Lee will be one step closer to calling Yankee Stadium home... God, you're insufferable. God, Major League Baseball is screwed. The lack of a level playing field in this sport is ruining this sport. Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for Goldman Sachs.
“The Yankee Years” by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci: Special YANKEES SUCK Edition
The New York Daily News called it “One of the best books about baseball ever written,” while The New Yorker named it one of its BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR, but for the rest of us, “The Yankee Years,” by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, seems awfully schizophrenic.
It's a mostly plodding hagiography of the 1996-2001 New York Yankees and their even-keeled manager, Joe Torre, but Verducci keeps pushing in directions that undercut the hagiography. He includes a chapter on steroid abuse, for example, that renders irrelevant the team's accomplishments. Clemens blew the Mariners away with one of the best performances in post-season history. (Yay!) But while he was on steroids. (Boo!) Oh, but don't worry, the steroids don't matter. (Huh?) He lists off the ways Michael Lewis' Moneyball changed the game—with teams like the Red Sox valuing previously undervalued stats, like On-Base-Percentage, and prospering as a result. But while Yankees' GM Brian Cashman became a quick if sloppy convert, Torre, the book's hero, never did, continuing to focus on less-measurable aspects of the game like personality and heart.
We're reminded, again and again, of the four titles Torre helped bring to New York, as if the book were written for the Steinbrenners and Cashman, who unceremoniously cut Torre loose after the 2007 season. We're reminded, again and again, of the grinding qualities those late '90s players, such as Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez, brought to the team, and how newer players, such as Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, didn't have that same heart, and didn't care enough about the team, which is why, according to Torre, the Yankees stopped winning World Series. But this construct, which is Torre's construct, is later refuted by, of all people, Derek Jeter, who mostly blames lack of pitching for the non-title years. Verducci then backs up Jeter with stats. So which is it? Or which is it mostly? No attempt to clarify this apparent discrepancy is made.
As a result, the book is a fascinating mess. It's also annoying for anyone who hates the Yankees. That's most of us.
- “The  postseason became a 15-game version of their regular season. The Yankees capitalized on any opening...” (p. 15) ...particularly the opening of Jeffrey Maier's glove.
- “After five games, the 1998 Yankees were 1-4, in last place, already 3 1/2 games out of first, outscored 36-15, at risk of losing their manager and letting teams like the Mariners kick sand in their faces.” (p. 42) Teams like the Mariners? How awful. I'm reminded of that Charles Atlas ad. “That team is the worst nuissance on the beach!”
- “Like Torre, [David] Cone was angered by what he saw the previous night. He watched Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez, batting in the 8th inning with a 4-0 lead, take a huge hack on a 3-and-0 pitch from reliever Mike Buddie—five innings after Moyer had dusted [Paul] O'Neill with a pitch.” (p. 44) Wow, Moyer dusted someone? And apparently Edgar violated one of the unwritten rules of baseball: Swinging on a 3-0 pitch when up by four runs in a stadium where David Cone threw 148 pitches and walked in the tying run in the final game of the 1995 ALDS. Edgar should know better than that.
- “'You have to find something to hate about your opponent,' [Cone said in a pre-game speech to his teammates.] 'Look aross the way. These guys are real comfortable against us. Edgar is swinging from his heels on 3-and-0 when they're up by about 10 runs!'” (p. 44) Give or take six runs.
- “At some point over the 2000 and 2001 seasons, according to the Mitchell Report, Radomski provided drugs for [Yankees] Grimsley, Knoblauch, pitcher Denny Neagle, outfielders Glenallen Hill and David Justice, and later for pitcher Mike Stanton. In addition, the 2000 Yankees included three other players who later admitted their drug use (though not necessarily specific to that particular year): Jose Canseco, Jim Leyrtiz and Andy Pettitte. Most infamously, the 2000 Yankees had a tenth player who would be tied to reports of performance-enhacing drug use: Clemens.” (p. 105) We're back to the Charles Atlas ad. Mariners kick sand, Yankees beef up. “The INSULT that made steroids users out of 'Yankees'!”
- “'Andy [Pettitte] was great,” Torre said. 'I think he taught Roger how to pitch in New York. And Roger taught Andy how to be stronger.'“ (p. 77) ”Stronger.“
- ”Pettitte was a churchgoing, God-fearing Texan, known in the Yankees clubhouse for his integrity and earnestness. If Pettitte was going to cheat, who wouldn't?“ (p. 111) Atheist bastards from Massachusetts?
- ”'It's like Bob Gibson said: “To win a game you'd take anything,”' Torre said. 'We'd all sell our souls. Winning is something that was first and foremost and that's what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, now what stimulates the need to do this is individual performance and not winning.'“ (p. 113) Ah, for the days when players took illegal substances for the good of the team.
- ”There was so much going on, so much in his head, so much emotion coursing through his body, that Clemens could not process the inventory of what was happening at that moment [when Piazza's bat shattered during the 2000 World Series] quickly enough.“ (p. 134) ”...so many steroids coursing through his body...“
- ”The Steroid Era was baseball's Watergate, a colossal breach of trust for which the institution is forever tainted. It floats untethered to the rest of baseball history, like some great piece of space junk, disconnected from the moorings of the game's statistics.“ (p. 117) Including championships in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000?
- The [Fenway Park] crowd arrives with the meanness and edginess of a mob.” (p. 80) Yankee crowds, bless them, arrive with smiles and pic-a-nic baskets.
- “Intimidation, and the mere threat that he could go off at any time, was part of Steinbrenner's personal and leadership package.” (p. 122) “Leadership.”
- “No 2000 World Series rings were forthcoming for the scouts, numbering about two dozen. Morale worsened when they were instructed not to bring up the subject of World Series rings at organizational meetings. It worsened still when they saw Steinbrenner cronies such as actor Billy Crystal or singer Ronan Tynan wearing World Series rings.” (p. 143) “Leadership.”
- “[In Steinbrenner's office, there was] a picture of General George S. Patton, given to him by a member of Patton's staff. It was not your typical military portrait. Patton is seen pissing into the Rhine.” (p. 467) Patton: Rhine; Steinbrenner: Baseball.
- “When Jeter was 24 years old and after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series, George Steinbrenner gave a book to him as a present: Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare.” (p. 159) No bastard ever got rich by going long on subprime CDOs. He got rich by making the other poor dumb bastard go long on subprime CDOs.
- “Jeter requires fierce, unqualified loyalty from friends and teammates.” (p. 245) Baby.
- “The Yankees [after 9/11] had become not just New York's team, but also America's hometown team.” (p. 148) Fuck you.
- “So it came down to this: Mariano Rivera on the mound with a one-run lead against the bottom of the Arizona lineup [in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series]. Steinbrenner was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, combing his hair, preparing to soon accept the Commissioner's Trophy for a fourth straight year.” (p. 157) Ha!
- “The [2003 World] Series could have gone either way. A sacrifice fly here, a hit there, a little back and core maintenance there, and who knows?” (p. 237) A roided-up pitcher here, a Jeffrey Maier catch there...
- “'They always play Yankeeography in New York on the videoboard. As a visiting player, you see that they get music to hit to and when we come up we get Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle all the time,' [said Kevin Millar]. Millar walked into the office of [manager Terry] Francona [before Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS]. 'We're not hitting [batting practice] on the field today, Skip,' Millar said. 'We're not falling for any of that Yankeeography crap.'” (p. 304) Ha!
- “The Yankees were saddled not only with the worst collapse in baseball history [in the 2004 ALCS], but also the insult of having the hated Red Sox spill champagne in their stadium.” (p. 311) Ha!
- “Cashman didn't want [Ted] Lilly. He preferred [Kei] Igawa, though Igawa would cost the Yankees more money over four years ($46 million, including the $26 million posting fee)...” (p. 376) Wait for it....
- “'I caught Kei Igawa,' [bullpen catcher Mike] Borzello said... 'He threw three strikes the whole time. His changeup goes about 40 feet. His slider is not a big league pitch. His command was terrible.'” (p. 377) Ha!
- “Just the memory of [the 2003 World Series] pained Pettitte...especially that last night when Beckettt beat Pettitte and the Yankees, 2-0, in what would be the last World Series game every played at Yankee Stadium.” (p. 386) “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest [Yankees] thought” —Percy Shelley (with help from Erik Lundegaard)
- “Damon's teammates grew so frustrated with him [in 2007] that several spoke to Torre out of concern that he was hurting the team. One of them visited Torre one day in the manager's office and was near tears talking about Damon. 'Let's get rid of him,' the player said. 'Guys can't stand him.'” (p. 395) Pssst...Jeter.
- “[Joba] Chamberlain, glistening from the spray and his heavy sweat, was a midge magnet. ... Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, New York's $43 million left side of the infield, were constantly waving their gloves and throwing hands at the little midges. Fighting for their playoff lives, the most expensive team in baseball had developed into a vaudeville act.” (p. 438) This game almost made me believe in God. Or at least plagues.
- “It was 11:38 p.m. when the end came. Jorge Posada swung and missed at a pitch from Cleveland closer Joe Borowski for the final out of a 6-4 Yankees loss. It was the last pitch of the last postseason game ever played at Yankee Stadium.” (p. 462) Jor-ge! Jor-ge! Jor-ge!
- “'Guys, you're playing for the best manager you could possibly play for,' [coach Larry] Bowa told the players. 'He never rips you. He sticks up for you whether you're right or wrong. He gives you the benefit of the doubt on anything...” (p. 405) Until this book, in which Torre basically rips, among others, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon, Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez.
- “In another era, the Yankees might have cherry-picked elite pitchers in their prime from organizations that could not longer afford them, in the same way they had plucked David Cone from the Blue Jays in 1995 and Mussina from the Orioles after playing out his contract in 2000. Instead, the Blue Jays locked up Roy Halladay, the Indians locked up CC Sabathia, the Brewers locked up Ben Sheets, the Astros locked up Roy Oswalt and the Twins locked up Johan Santana—all small-market teams who suddenly had the cash to keep their ace pitchers off the trade and free agent markets. The kicker for the Yankees was that under the revenue-sharing system they were financing some of the newfound solvency of those teams.” (p. 421) Has a more self-absorbed paragraph ever been written? The Yankees feel sorry for themselves because they can no longer treat the rest of the Major Leagues like its own farm system? Worse, it's all wrong. The true kicker, not Verducci's kicker, is that all of these pitchers, save one, are not only not “locked up” but now with other teams—including Sabathia with the Yankees. Only Oswalt is still with the Astros...and he wants out.
- “Cashman and the Yankees [in the offseason leading up to the 2009 season] only had just begun to change the story. In 12 days they spent $423.5 million on Sabathia, pitcher A.J. Burnett, who was 31 years old at the time, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, who was 28. ... All told, the Yankees spent $441 million on free agents in that one winter. The rest of the league combined spent $176 million.” (p. 486) The rigged game continues. Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for Goldman Sachs.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard