Yankees Suck postsSaturday February 21, 2015
David Cone, the '98 Yankees, and the Rewards of Self-Delusion
Reading Buster Olney's “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” (recommended), I came across this:
Before games [Tino Martinez] and [David] Cone would talk about reasons to dislike that day’s opponents, a method of manufacturing a mental edge. They might focus on a rival’s quote in the newspaper, translating benign remarks into inflammatory slights, or concentrate on an annoying mannerism. “If the opposing pitcher struck out one of our hitters,” Cone said, “and pimped around the mound a little bit, we were all over him—‘Who does this guy think he is?’ ‘Is he showing us up?’ It could be something completely innocuous.” It was an old-school way of competing, Cone thought, a method of tricking yourself into a competitive fury.
What did that remind me of? Tom Verducci and Joe Torre's bookk “The Yankee Years,” and this story from the start of the '98 season:
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. ... Like Torre, 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.
So Cone led a team meeting in which he worked himself into an angry froth over the supposed slights by the Mariners: Edgar swinging on a 3-0 pitch when his team already had a massive 4-run lead, and Jamie Moyer plunking Paul O'Neill with either his 84-mph fastball or his 68-mph changeup. And it worked. They went out and beat the M's and changed things around. The two teams respective trajectories changed after that: the M's down, the Yanks up.
Not sure what the lesson is here. Other than the rewards of self-delusion.
Cone: I can't believe Jamie Moyer would blister Paul O'Neill with that 68-mph change-up!
Just How Bad are the 2014 Yankees?
The following stats are via Katie Sharp at “It's About the Money,” a Yankees blog:
- For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Yankees will not have a player with more than 5.0 WAR, a mark that is considered the threshold for a “Superstar” player.
- For the first time since 1968, the Yankees are not likely to have a player with 75 RBI.
- For the first time since 1968, the Yankees probably won’t have a player with an average of .280 or better qualify for the batting title (Ellsbury is the leader at .273).
- Entering this week the Yankees leader in OPS+ ... was Gardner at 118, meaning his OPS is 18 percent better than today’s average player. If that holds, it would be just the second season in the last 100 years that the Yankees did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an OPS+ of 120 or higher.
When you think about it, it's rather amazing the Yankees even have a winning record.
But don't worry, Katie, you'll get your superstar next year. A-Rod's due back, right?
2014: The year of the sad Yankees fan.
How badly is Derek Jeter doing in the second half of this, his final, interminable, farewell season? I’m almost beginning to root for him.
Here are his numbers pre- and post-All-Star game:
But even that doesn’t get at how poorly he’s done lately.
On August 28, New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff asked Yankees manager Joe Girardi about the efficacy of batting Jeter No. 2 for a team that, then, still had an outside shot of making the postseason.
“Yeah,” Girardi said. “But it’s not like we have a bunch of guys hitting .300.”
Which: 1) couldn’t have made the “bunch of guys” very happy; and 2) there’s bad and there’s bad. At that point, Jeter had the worst OPS among regular Yankees, but it wasn’t a stark difference. Basically Girardi was saying, “He’s not doing so poorly, nor is the rest of the team doing so well, to move someone like him down in the order.” And he was kind of right.
But those were the good old days.
Since then, Jeter’s gone 7 for 61, a .114 batting average. He’s got one extra-base hit (a double on Sept. 4), three walks, no stolen bases. He’s scored two runs.
He’s gone from having the worst OPS among qualifying Yankees to the third-worst OPS (.596) among the 150 qualifying players in Major League Baseball. Thank god for Houston’s Matt Dominguez (.593) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (.570). Although at least Cozart is an apparent Mozart with the glove: his defensive WAR is 2.7, making his overall WAR 2.3 Jeter’s is -0.2. You could make the argument that Derek Jeter is the worst regular player in all of Major League Baseball right now.
Is this how he goes, toothless and hitless, a burdensome lightweight at the top of the Yankees lineup? He makes the rounds, accepts the gifts in opposing ballparks, smiles for the crowds. He plays gags with reporters’ phone. He gets written about again and again. Meanwhile, his team is dying on the vine. Jeter was always considered the ultimate team player but from a distance he’s never seemed like the ultimate team player to me. It was A-Rod, after all, who agreed to switch positions. Jeter, at 40, is still out there at short. I get the feeling he’ll show up next year, too, to everyone’s embarrassment. He’ll be the Bartleby the Scrivener of shortstops. Leave? “I prefer not to.”
As a longtime Jeter hater, I assume his hitlessness won’t last. I assume, shortly, Jeter will get hot again, or at least lukewarm, because he always does. As I said, I’m almost rooting for it.
Derek Jeter posing with the best team in baseball.
A Blah Baseball Year Everywhere, Roger? Or Just in New York?
The New Yorker put Derek Jeter on its cover last week with a nice illustration by longtime contributor Mark Ulriksen. It's the classic, from-behind, baseball farewell shot. It's how we've done it ever since Nat Fein of The New York Herald Tribune captured this shot of Babe Ruth, dying, in 1948. It's also, not coincidentally, the look they give us as they exit the field: their back, their number, then gone.
Roger Angell also has a piece on Jeter in the issue and so I saved it for the weekend, assuming it was a feature. It's not. It's a “Talk of the Town” piece. Maybe Angell, in his 90s now, ready for his own farewell photo, doesn't do features anymore. Maybe The New Yorker had already done enough features on Jeter. Whatever the reason, it's short, an easy read. Angell describes Jeter's pre-batting ritual well (“the cop-at-a-crossing right hand ritually lifted astern ...”) and the extent of his celebrity. But then he gives us this:
He's not having a great year, but then neither are the Yanks, who trail the Orioles ... It's been a blah baseball year almost everywhere, and, come to think of it, watching Derek finish might be the best thing around.
A blah baseball year everywhere? I don't know, Roger. Tell it to fans in Baltimore. Tell it to fans in Washington, D.C., or Anaheim or LA. Tell it to me and my friends in Seattle, who are discussing the Mariners in August and September for the first time in more than a decade. Tell it to the long-suffering Kansas City Royals fan, whose team, Tyler Kepner reminds us today, hasn't been in the postseason since Derek Jeter was in sixth grade. Tell it to Joe Posnanski.
In fact, I think you've got it backwards. Any year in which the Yankees flounder and don't make the playoffs is an exceptional baseball year almost everywhere else.
New York Jeters Honor Jeter at Jeter Stadium
Yesterday was Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium. There was a pregame farewell. It went long. Fans kept applauding. Then the Yankees went out and lost to the Kansas City Royals 2-0.
In his piece on the day (“Yankees Honor Derek Jeter as an Icon of his Generation” according to the URL; “Celebrating Glory, with Little Hope to Add to It,” according to the headline), Tyler Kepner gives us this startling bit of math: “The Royals have not reached the postseason since Jeter was in sixth grade, but they shut out the Yankees twice in three games.”
Sixth grade? Can that be right? That was in 1985 and Jeter started in the Yankees minor league system in 1992. Can only seven years separate sixth graders from minor leaguers? I guess.
The line that made me laugh out loud, though, was this:
The Yankees removed the Royals’ flag — and the flag of every other major league team — from atop Yankee Stadium, ringing their imperial palace with Jeter flags. His No. 2 flapped overhead while adorning the Yankees’ sleeves and caps down below, as it will for the rest of the season.
If this all seems a bit much, the players would never complain.
Removing the rest of Major League Baseball from your stadium? To honor one 40-year-old man? Why would anyone complain?
Indeed, maybe flags and patches aren't enough. Maybe the Yankees should rename the team for Jeter. Maybe they should rename the stadium for Jeter. Here's the question you need to ask yourselves: What have *you* done for Derek Jeter lately? Because he's retiring you know.
Jeter (left) with another retiree last month in Texas.