Yankees Suck postsSunday May 21, 2017
O Captain Your Captain
As the stomach turns.
Wall Street Journal sports editor Sam Walker has written a book about what makes a great team captain, and, anticipating it, or publicizing it, or simply tweaking the noses of Yankee fans everywhere, he has a piece on Deadspin about why Derek Jeter doesn't make the cut—and why it's not even close. It's called “Why Does Everyone Think Derek Jeter was a Great Captain?”
It's the greatest thing I've ever read.
OK, but nearly.
He brings up stuff I know all too well but not enough apparently do: How Jeter became captain in 2003, after the Yankees' great run, meaning the team won just one World Series under his stewardship—and that thanks mostly to Jeter's bete noir Alex Rodriguez; how Jeter never suggested moving away from shortstop when a better defensive SS came along (A-Rod again), not even in his dotage when he was, by any statistical measure, a massive defensive liability. Walker also brings up that awful farewell tour in 2014, when enemy teams bestowed gifts upon him, and enemy fans stood and applauded. The stomach turns at the thought.
But this is the decisive blow:
There's another crucial piece of context to factor in, here too—money. It's true that Jeter's captaincy coincided with an aggressive new MLB luxury tax that forced the Yankees to surrender a chunk of their revenue to support the league's poorer teams, but the Yankees still had more than enough left over to maintain a sizeable spending advantage. In fact, according to payroll figures over those 12 seasons, the Yankees outspent the No. 2 MLB team by more than $1 billion.
All of that money, and Jeter's supposedly brilliant leadership, produced the same trophy haul as the Florida Marlins.
Read the whole piece. It's nice seeing this Macy's parade balloon popped.
No. 2 Circle of Hell
Yankee broadcast is advertising “50 hours of Derek Jeter-themed material.” There is a 10th circle of hell, after all. . .— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) April 30, 2017
The reason for all of those hours? Jeter, who may soon be the co-owner of the Miami Marlins, had his number retired this weekend in a lavish ceremony by the New York Somethingorothers. They now have zero single-digit numbers left. Unless you count zero.
Yankees Suck: Treating KC A's as Its 1950s Farm Club
Last week I read a not-very-good book about a very interesting baseball man, “Finley Ball: How Two Baseball Outsiders Turned the Oakland A's into a Dynasty and Changed the Game Forever,” by Nancy Finley.
Yeah, she's Charlie O's niece, and the daughter of Finley's right-hand man (the other baseball outsider of the title), and not a particularly good writer. Nor journalist. She's a “homer” in the worst sense, cleaning up after the family image. She spends way too much time, for example, tracking down dirt on poor Mike Andrews, who committed two errors in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1973 World Series, leading to an A's loss, and was then forced, by Finley, to sign a legal doc stating that he was injured and ineligible to play for the rest of the Series. Result: furor. A's manager Dick Williams objected, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn objected (and reinstated Andrews) and the Oakland players particularly objected. Ms. Finley wants to show that Andrews was injured, and knew he was injured, and kept playing anyway, to the detriment of the team. That's hardly the point. An owner doesn't show up a player (nor a manager) the way Finley did. You keep it in the clubhouse. Finley lost his players not because of Andrews but because he didn't play by the unwritten rules of baseball. The team didn't like him because he wasn't a team guy.
That said, she does give us some good dirt on the ways the New York Yankees used the Kansas City Athletics as essentially a major league farm club throughout the 1950s. Most of this isn't news to me, but it's more detailed than reports I've seen in the past:
- In 1954 [Arnold Johnson] bought the Philadelphia Athletics and moved the team to Kansas City. Johnson also had financial interests in Yankee Stadium, and he seemed to pay more attention to the Yankees than to the Athletics.
- Early on, Charlie had heard rumors that Johnson had been stripping the team of its best players and trading them to the Yankees. He hadn't completely believed it, but after he acquired the team he discovered that the rumors were true and that [Kansas City Star sports columnist Ernie] Mehl was complicit. ... Charlie immediately announced that there would be no more trades to the Yankees, a decision that could only be seen as a slap at Mehl.
- The cozy relationship between the Athletics and the Yankees became embarrassingly obvious. When the Athletics acquired the young slugging prospect Roger Maris in 1957, the American League president, Will Harridge—who had supported Johnson's efforts to buy the Athletics and approved their move to Kansas City—took the unusual step of publicly warning Johnson not to trade Maris to the Yankees for at least eighteen months. Johnson complied, but barely, trading Maris to New York in December 1959. The Athletics got little in return.
- “Kansas City was not an independent major-league team at all, it was nothing more than a loosely controlled Yankee farm club,” Bill Veeck wrote later. He said that he heard the Athletics general manager, Parke Carroll—a former K. C. sports writer—boast openly in baseball meetings that he had nothing to worry about by trading away so many great players because the Yankees' owner, George Weiss, had “promised to take care of” Carroll in return for his help in making those lopsided trades.
In one game in the early 1960s, Finley, a true showman, actually organized a bizarre pre-game demonstration of how the days of shuttling talent to New York were over:
The fans were chatting, sipping beer, and waiting for the game to start. Suddenly, they grew quiet. They watched as a beat-up old shuttle bus lumbered onto left field. Exchanging perplexed glances, they wondered what was going on. Then Frank Lane walked out to the bus and splashed it with gasoline. An instant later it was engulfed in black and orange flames. Then an unfamiliar voice came over the loudspeaker. It was the team's new owner. Charlie introduced himself and explained that the burning of the bus was his way of announcing that the days of shuttling Kansas City's best talent to the Bronx were over. The Athletics would no longer be the Yankees' farm team. After a pause, a few fans started clapping, and soon the stadium was filled with applause and shouts of approval.
That said, a book like this needs to embrace the beautiful outsized idiocy of Charlie O, and it doesn't quite. I like the below, for example, except she doesn't need to constantly disparage the Other in order to enshrine her uncle. It puts a slight damper on an otherwise amusing anecdote:
By the late 1950s, baseball owners formed an exclusive club of old-money boys and nouveau riche businessmen, and they looked out for each other. Charlie was a self-made millionaire, but he was just an insurance salesman—not part of the club. When it became clear that Charlie might actually acquire the Athletics in 1960, the other owners assigned the Baltimore Orioles' chairman, Joe Iglehart, to investigate him. Iglehart reported back to the owners: “Under no conditions should this person be allowed into our league.”
So anyone know of a better book on Charlie O?
A Belated 'See Ya' to the Benighted 2016 NY Yankees
I'm not exactly spreading the news here—the Yankees finally bought it for the 2016 season more than a week ago. Still, good to kick them to the curb. A shame they didn't have a losing record (they wound up 84-78) but as the man said: There's always next year.
Take 'em home, Carey:
Wait Till This Year, Yankee Haters
Still waiting on a losing Yankees season. Maybe this is the year?
From Hardball Times' article, “Damning the Yankees”:
The Yankees are boring, old and slow, and their only exciting pitchers are in the bullpen, waiting for a late-inning lead that seldom comes. They began the season 9-17, and since they won to improve to 4-4 on April 14, the Yanks have spent just one day with a .500 record — May 24, when they won to put their record at 22-22. The Bombers quickly dipped back below .500 and now stand at 27-30. ...
Saddled with oft-injured, over-the-hill former All-Stars on the tail ends of suspect-at-best contracts – Alex Rodriguez ($40 million through 2017), Jacoby Ellsbury ($111 million through 2021), Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million, final year), Carlos Beltran ($15 million, final year) – the Yankees are likely to end this season with the ignominious distinction of the worst win-to-payroll ratio in baseball history.
I also like this dig at New Yankee Stadium, which saw a championship its first year in 2009 (just like old Yankee Stadium in 1923), but not much since (unlike old Yankee Stadium):
Their ballpark is as unappealing as their play. The New Yankee Stadium is a corporatist knock-off of the House That Ruth Built – a sterile, supremely overpriced bandbox where stiffs in suits eat sushi in $1,200 seats. The home field of the most famous team in sports history has gone from hallowed ground to variety show laughingstock.
The House that Ruthlessness Built?
That said, since the article came out, the Yanks have swept the Angels and are now back at .500. It's an old team but it ain't over 'til the pretty lady sings.