Yankees Suck postsThursday April 04, 2013
No One Walks Off the Island
This was waiting for me, on a sad, rainy day in which death was in the air, when I got home. It's called “Hitting Forty” by Mark Ulriksen. Anyone who knows me knows it leaves nothing but joy in my heart. It made my day. Even with Ichiro in there. And Mo, I suppose. But Mo has his rings.
It helps that the Yanks, so named for a particular form of onanism (yank ye dildo -> yankee doodle -> yankee), have started the season 0-2.
Oh, and subscribe to the New Yorker already, people. Jesus.
So Let's Root, Root, Root for a Kind of Licensing Fee to Secure All the Rights to Market a Commercial Boon
Here are two paragraphs from David Waldstein's well-researched, front-page story, “Hitched to an Aging Star: The Anatomy of a Deal, and Doubts,” about how the 10-year deal between the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez was struck during the 2007 off-season:
Ultimately, the terms of the deal would include $265 million in guaranteed salary, a $10 million signing bonus and an additional $30 million in marketing bonuses tied to landmark home runs.
For each of the five milestones — tying Mays, Ruth, Aaron, Bonds and breaking the record — Rodriguez would receive $6 million. The Yankees looked at the bonuses as a kind of licensing fee they would pay to Rodriguez to secure all the rights to market the home run chase, which would presumably become a commercial boon.
Licensing fee ... to secure all the rights to market ... a commercial boon. That's business-speak for setting the all-time HR record. Makes you want to throw up. Makes you want to stop watching the national pastime altogether.
But for a Yankee hater like myself, there's great, great joy in the article. What's the greatest joy? This: The Yankees and their fans are saddled with their most-hated player, A-Rod, and his albatross of a contract, which still involves more than $100 million, because one of their most beloved players, Mariano Rivera, convinced A-Rod to stay. Ha! Talk about a cutter.
Meanwhile, many pundits, including Tyler Kepner in the Times' print edition, are predicting that the Yankees won't just finish out of the post-season; they'll finished last in the A.L. East.
I'll believe it when I see it but for now it's a possibility. Because it's the start of baseball season, when hope springs eternal. And when every fan of every baseball team thinks that this might be the year, this might finally be the year, when the New York Yankees eat the shit of the rest of the league.
Alex Rodriguez making the second-to-last out of the 2012 ALCS. It will be his last at-bat until at least July.
Will Leitch's 'Bombers Won't Bomb' Article, with YANKEES SUCK Annotations
There's no byline to the piece, just an afterword email address for Will Leitch, so I assume he wrote it. Me, I barely got past the first paragraph. This is how it begins:
The Yankees’ payroll for this year is around $206 million, at least $100 million of which is set to vanish after this season. Some of that is for players the Yankees will want back, like Robinson Cano, but the Yanks feel comfortable saying good-bye to fellow heavy earners Curtis Granderson, Youkilis, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and the retiring Mariano Rivera.
As a devout, nationally recognized Yankees hater, I feel very comfortable saying good-bye to Mariano Rivera, too, for he is surely the most dominating figure in the postseason over the past 15 years. And what's Kevin Youkilis doing on this list? He just arrived in the Bronx. He hasn't even played one real game for the Yanks and the media and the fans and the team are happy to see him go? The Yankees say good-bye as Youkilis says hello? Hello Hello? Where is this info coming from? What front office figure?
Kuroda? Bum! Just a 3.32 ERA last year. Granderson? Sure, he hit only .232. He also smacked 43 homeruns, tied for second in the league, with the third-best OPS on the team after Cano and the now-departed Nick Swisher. These guys were horses. To the Yankees? Gift horses, apparently.
The savings from those five contracts is $64 million. ... The point is, it’s a good time to get under the luxury-tax threshold. Getting below the tax line now and staying there for a couple of years will make it a lot easier to land high-priced, game-changing free agents like Bryce Harper, who will be entering his prime as a 26-year-old after the 2018 season.
OK, seriously, this is why everybody hates the fucking Yankees. It's the sense of privilege. It's the assumption that any good young player coming through your farm system will be theirs. “He'll look good in pinstripes,” etc. It's as if every time George Clooney met a good-looking girl, he told the girl's boyfriend, husband, father, “She'll look good with me.” Assholes. And did the Cliff Lee experience teach them nothing?
(BTW: Early copyright on “The Cliff Lee Experience” as band name.)
Just spending money like crazy is no longer the optimal way to construct a championship team; the penalties are too high. The Yankees are trying to adjust accordingly—building the farm system, avoiding veterans on long-term contracts (essentially what they did to build the core four of Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte), while also making sure they can again spend like the Yankees you know and love when the time is right. It is exactly the right move.
Wait, I thought they were after the Bryce Harpers of the world. Now they want to build a core team via the farm system as they did in the early 1990s? I don't think you can do both. You get big-name free agents, you give up draft picks. What were the Yankees big free-agent signings in the 1990s? Wade Boggs at the tail-end of his career? Hideki Irabu? But nothing like a Bryce Harper. Once they started doing that—signing superstars like Jason Giambi in 2002 and Alex Rodriguez in 2004—they began to lose. Spectacularly. Gloriously.
The entire piece is about how the Yankees still look to win the AL East despite a cut in payroll to $206 million. Another reason to hate the Yankees. They think that's a cut. They think it's a sacrifice that another team is actually spending more than they are. They are truly the 1% of Major League Baseball.
The last Yankee at-bat of the 2012 season. Delicious.
Quote of the Day
“First off, there's probably not a damned thing the Yankees can do about A-Rod's contract. It was always a foolish deal, unless they had an unlimited budget and were willing to cut him when he stopped hitting. It seems that neither of those conditions apply. Not yet, anyway. Fortunately, the contract is good for Baseball, as it's ridiculous profligacy like this that keeps the haves from completely dominating the have-nots. So thank you, Steinbrothers, for paying your dreary third baseman a king's ransom. Now live with it.”
-- Rob Neyer, “Is it time for the 'A-Rod Rule'?” on mlb.sbnation.
Joe Posnanski, as always, has a nice, measured piece on the affair.
I Would Rather Have You Beat the Yankees
I WOULD RATHER HAVE YOU
BEAT THE YANKEES THAN
ANY OTHER TEAM IN THE WORLD.
AND YOU CAN. AND YOU WILL.
--a telegram (or prose poem) sent by former Pittsburgh Pirates (and St. Louis Cardinals, and Brooklyn Dodgers) general manager Branch Rickey to the 1960 team, which he helped construct, before the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees. The Pirates taped the telegram to their clubhouse wall, then won it famously in the bottom of the 9th inning during Game 7 when Bill Mazeroski hit a homerun to break a 9-9 tie. Mazeroski is still the only player in MLB history who has ever done what every kid dreams of doing: win Game 7 of the World Series with a homerun. The telegram is mentioned in David Maraniss' book, “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero,” pg. 110, which is one of seven books I bought today at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. Good thing we were only there 45 minutes.
As you wish.
Jackie Robinson: Yankees 'Got No Class"
“The Yankees always managed to emit an image of refinement but up close they could be nasty, and during the  Series they'd been hurling some of the foulest racial epithets [Jackie] Robinson had heard all year. 'They got no class,' Robinson told one black reporter. 'They hide in the dugout and shout at me. If they weren't yellow, they'd come out in the open and saying something. What are they hollering? All kinds of filth. And race remarks. I wish I knew who they are. Nobody says anything when they get on base or out on the field. If they think they can upset my playing, they're crazy.'”
-- from Jonathan Eig's book, “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season,” pg. 254.
What the Yankees Look Like Without Derek Jeter
Here's how Joe Posnanski ended his post about Derek Jeter's injury the other day:
To see him on the ground Saturday night, stretched out, not writhing in pain but instead barely moving at all, it was as if a box of memories opened up, and at the same time that the announcers wondered aloud how the Yankees might go on without Jeter, I tried to imagine how a Yankees team would even LOOK without Derek Jeter at shortstop. It's been so long, I cannot even remember.
Obviously too much attention gets paid to the Yankees because they're the Yankees, so both successes and failures are exaggerated, but this is what the Yankees looked like without Derek Jeter in the lineup:
|Game 1, 12th||3||0||0||0||0||0||2||0
They averaged a hit about every third inning. They only got four extra-base hits: Teixeira's double in the first inning of Game 2, Nunez's homerun in the 9th inning of Game 3, and Nunez's triple and Swisher's double in the 6th inning of Game 4. They scored two runs: both Nunez, Jeter's replacement, who drove himself in and then put himself on third with no one out. They never had a lead.
Meanwhile, Yankees fans, those spoiled shits, are getting screwed over by Yankees management in the new stadium. Here's a snippet from Jonathan Mahler's excellent piece in Bloomberg News:
For years, I shared a package of season tickets with a group of friends. I eventually bailed out, but they still had their tickets when the new stadium opened. In order to keep the same seats — which went from $45 a ticket to $100, in large part because they gave ticket holders access to a cheesy stadium bar called the Jim Beam Suite Lounge — they had to sign a two- year contract. My friends initially balked, but eventually relented after being assured they would have no trouble reselling tickets on the secondary market.
As it turned out, the Jim Beam Suite Lounge wasn’t such a big draw. People weren’t willing to pay a premium for the tickets, and my friends had to sell their extras at a discount. At the end of the season they informed the Yankees that they wanted to move to cheaper seats. They were told they couldn’t, and the Yankees threatened them with litigation if they didn’t pay up...The Yankees can buy all of the players they want, but they can’t make them hit. If they don’t hit, the team will lose, and Yankees fans — having emptied their wallets to see a winning team — will lash out, or simply stop buying tickets and merchandise altogether.
Last weekend, we witnessed the first rumblings of a mutiny. If things continue at this rate, the new Yankee Stadium may ultimately become just another symbol of an empire in decline.
I'd love to visit that ruin someday.
“Five more years! Five more years!”
Sad Yankees Fan of the Day
Since the fourth and final game of the ALCS was in Detroit, there weren't a lot of options for our “Sad Yankees Fan of the Day” award. But near the end of the game, as it became apparent that the Yankees would be swept for the first time in a best-of-7 series since 1976, and not even lead in a postseason series for the first time since 1963 (when they were also swept), the TBS cameras did keep finding this guy, on the right, who was apparently with his friend, on the left. At the least, they were wearing jackets that matched save for the team stitched on the front. At this moment, there's one out to go.
Final out can be seen here.
The Fall of the 2012 New York Yankees
In 1922, the upstart New York Yankees played in only their second World Series, once again against John McGraw's New York Giants, and got swept in four. The next year they'd finally beat the Giants for their first World Series title.
In 1963, the Yankees played in their 12th World Series in 14 years, once again against the Dodgers, previously hapless of Brooklyn, now of Los Angeles and led by “the Jewish Kid,” Sandy Koufax, and got swept in four.
In 1976, the Yankees, newly owned by George Steinbrenner after falling into decline under CBS ownership, made it back to their first World Series in 12 years and faced the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds. They got swept them in four.
In 1980, the “Bronx Zoo” Yanks, which won it all in 1977 and '78, during which they used George Brett's Royals as a stepping stone to the title, were not only finally defeated by the Royals; they got swept by them.
That's the last time the New York Yankees have been swept in a postseason. Until today, when the Detroit Tigers knocked them off, 8-1.
During the last few days I've witnessed, at least online, a lot of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling from Yankees fans.
One friend, or a friend of a friend, a die-hard Yankee fan posted this short-term-memory lament during today's game:
What would George Steinbrenner have done after watching this totally disinterested Yankee lineup?
Here are some of the answers he got:
- Kicked some a** and gotten out the checkbook
- Flirted with a bikini model in the stands?
- Probably would have fired Billy Martin
Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York has told A-Rod to hit the road, jack. He said the 2012 Yankees had no business playing for the title and asked Detroit to end their (or his) misery.
It has. For the second year in a row.
So who was the last team to do that to the Yankees? Beat them two years in a row in the post-season? That would be John McGraw's New York Giants in 1921 and 1922.
We've come full circle. Start spreading the news.
No Tears for Jeter
At first it seemed like postseason baseball as usual.
The Yankees were losing 4-0 in the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium when two recent hires, two ex-Mariners in fact, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez, both hit 2-run homeruns to tie the game and send it into extra innings. I was actually kind of rooting for Ichiro when he came to the plate with one out and a man on, because it's hard to turn that shit off. C'mon, it's Ichiro. And when Raul came up with two outs and a man on? I didn't assume homerun like everyone else. I wasn't worried. Sure, lightning strikes twice. But three times? Get out of town. When he did it, when Ibanez sent the ball over the right-field wall, I actually laughed out loud. It was so absurd. Has anyone had this kind of postseason? Ever?
It was also depressing. I assumed the game and the series were over right then. You don't give it up in the 9th inning in the postseason at Yankee Stadium and expect to win in extras. So Patricia and I began watching something less depressing, “Delicacy,” a 2011 French film about a young woman (Audrey Tautou) whose husband is killed in a car accident.
But it's a DVD so you pause, and in the pauses I'd check the score. Just to see. It was 4-4 for a while but I was sure, sooner or later, one of those pinstriped bastards would pull a Leyritz or a Jeter or a Boone. They always do.
They didn't. First, Tigers scored two. Second, Derek Jeter, Yankees captain, was helped off the field. Third, Detroit won it in 12. Wow.
It's a broken ankle for Jeter, which means the Yankees, the longest-running prime time soap opera this side of “Law & Order,” are now without their closer (Mo) and their captain (Jeter).
I'll spare the tears. You know how I feel. Jeter's had a good run. He's had a better run than any baseball player deserves. Here are the records he holds in career postseason categories:
- Games played: 158 (33 more than No. 2, Bernie Williams)
- At-Bats: 650 (185 more than Bernie)
- Hits: 200 (72 more than Bernie)
- Runs: 111 (28 over Bernie)
- Total Bases: 302 (79 more than Bernie and Manny Ramirez)
- Doubles: 32 (3 more than Bernie)
- Triples: 5 (tied with Rafael Furcal and George Brett)
- Strikeouts: 135 (26 more than Jorge Posada)
He's also third in homeruns (20), fourth in RBI (61), sixth in stolen bases (18), and first in FOX-Sports slow-motion shots of celebratory prancing and gamboling after the final out.
He's played in 38 World Series games, which isn't even top 10 (those '90s Yanks can't compete with those '50s Yanks), but it's 38 more World Series games than Ernie Banks or Frank Thomas or Ken Griffey, Jr. ever played in.
So no tears.
Here's Tyler Kepner's encomium/hand-wringing in the Times. Meanwhile, in The Detroit Free-Press, Mitch Albom reminds us that it ain't over as long as the fat man pitches.
Then there's, as always, Joey P., who gave me my first big laugh of the morning when the talked up all the big stories in the game last night—the public humiliation of Alex Rodriguez, the misplaced loyalty of Jim Leyland, the Hollywood heroics of Raul Ibanez, and, yes, Derek Jeter and his ankle—and then recounted the conversation he heard post-game on TBS:
“So what's the story of the night?” the question went.
“Delmon Young,” panelist and former pitcher David Wells said.
Exactly, see the … I'm sorry, wait a minute, what? Delmon Young? Because he hit a home run? Because he hit the ball that Nick Swisher misplayed? Delmon Young? That's like saying Johnny Two-Times was the star of “Goodfellas.”
Posnanski's ending is also true and poignant.
Is there a next gen for the Yankees? Or even a voyager?
Jayson Nix will replace Jeter at short but he's a career .214 hitter as well as a recent hire. The core of that '90s Yankees squad was home-grown and organic. This one is made up of Robinson Cano and middle-aged dudes from elsewhere: Teixeira, A-Rod, Granderson, Swisher, Sabathia.
Game 2 at 1 pm PST today. No mercy, Tigers. Derek Jeter would understand.
Sad Yankees Fan of the Day
In honor of the Yankees losing 10-6 to Baltimore last night and sole possession of first place in the AL East, here's your Sad Yankees Fan of the Day. Consider it the first in a series. Collect them all!
The shot is from “Four Days In October,” a one-hour documentary about the 2004 ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. It's one of ESPN.com's “30 for 30” documentaries. I watch it whenever I need to cheer up.
In case you don't know about that series: the Yankees were up three games to none and leading by a run in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 4 with the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera, on the mound. And then ... And then ...
No team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-7 series to even play Game 6. The Red Sox, after decades of humiliation at the hands of the Yankees, came back to play and win Game 7 and go to and win the World Series for the first time since 1918. It's not just the greatest upset in baseball history; it's, with apologies to Jesus, The Greatest Story Ever Told.
And it's currently streaming on Netflix.
OK, that was a mistake.
Yesterday I posted something nice about Derek Jeter, the man whose FOX-Sports-sponsored leaping and gamboling after another world championship haunted the dreams of every Yankee-hating son of a gun (my brethren) in the late 1990s. It was a first. Me saying something nice about Jeter.
And it led to this post on my Facebook page:
If any of you had someone on your team even a teeny bit remotely like Jeter you would be awash in sentimental plaudits. Face it - he is simply THE BEST!!! GO JETER!! GO YANKEES!
The apparent assumption in the above is that Jeter doesn't get enough attention; that, unlike this MLB poll from a few years ago, he's not the most overrated player in baseball but actually underrated.
There was a phrase I could feel in the back of my mind, forming, but I didn't wait for it to form. I simply responded with a kind of mild amusement under which something else percolated:
Well, in a ranking of career OPS, he's currently ranked 238th, tied with Harlond Clift, and 232 places away from Albert Pujols. But if you want to call that THE BEST, feel free.
That didn't stop it, of course. It escalated it. It led to a discussion of baseball being more than numbers, and how character matters, and how Jeter has character and is a leader, etc. Then this from the Yankees fan:
Because I am SO TIRED of Yankee haters waxing poetic about their own half baked players while viciously tearing down Jeter. I love baseball and any player who plays the game right. I don't respect the ones who don't no matter what team they play for. I grew up in NY and have been a Yankee fan since I was 9 years old. You know it's just jealousy, not rational baseball assessment.
At which point I should've taken a klonopin.
This was a discussion with someone who's never heard the phrase, “He'll look good in pinstripes.” This is someone who doesn't understand that the true finish to her sentence, “If any of you had someone on your team even a teeny bit remotely like Jeter...” is “...the Yankees would have taken him a long time ago.”
I kept returning to that redundant, under-the-top phrase ...even a teeny bit remotely like Jeter. I thought of Edgar Martinez, a career .300/.400/.500 with the Seattle Mariners who never made the cover of Sports Illustrated. I thought of underrated stars like Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre, Billy Butler.
Even a teeny bit remotely like Jeter...
Mildly amused gone. Buttons pushed. Erik smash.
Thirty-three comments later, we ended it.
I ended it with the phrase I could feel forming in the back of my mind at the beginning of the conversation. It's what Crash Davis says to the player who stands and appreciates his homerun after being told what pitch is coming:
That was my feeling.
I give you a GIFT and you stand there and show up my Facebook page with your Yankee rantings? Run, dummy!
Elsewhere on FB, another Yankees fan, even before last night's 6-1 loss to Baltimore, was lamenting the state of the team. I checked the standings. They were in first place in the AL East but other teams were within spitting distance. They had the second-best record in the American League but just second best. That's a time of celebration for fans of most baseball teams but a time to lament if you're a Yankees fan. Yankee fans have what Louis C.K. refers to as “white people problems.” That's where your team is amazing so you make shit up to be upset about.
I call the Yankees and their fans the 1% of baseball and they are. As the rich have no clue what it means to be poor, Yankee fans have no clue what it means to be a fan of the Kansas City Royals, or Pittsburgh Pirates, or Seattle Mariners. To develop talent only to see it taken by the Yankees. To have no shot in June, or April, or during the off-season. To have no money, or hope, or banners. They don't realize that this is what we're saying when we say: Yankees Suck.
Where on the All-Time Hits List Will Derek Jeter Suck?
The following poll is on the Baseball Nation site in a Rob Neyer article, riffing off a Joshua Prager piece, entitled: “Does Derek Jeter Have Pete Rose in His Sights”?:
Where on the all-time hits list will Derek Jeter finish?
They left out a 7th option:
Of course, if he breaks Rose's record, this ticket will be worth so much more.
Your YANKEES SUCK Historical Moment of the Day
“As an outfielder with the Yankees in the 1930s [Ben] Chapman had made a specialty of baiting Jewish ballplayers, and he'd been in a huge brawl with one of them, Buddy Myer of the Senators.”
--from Jonathan Eig's “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season,” pg. 76. Later Chapman became infamous as the race-baiting manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, who ordered his club to lob racial taunts and epithets at Jackie Robinson during a three-game series at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in April 1947. It backfired. Some credit the Phillies' behavior with helping the Dodgers finally rally around Robinson. Eig suggests it also encouraged fans to get off the fence.
I knew all of this. But I didn't know Chapman had been a Yankee. I wonder if he was the “leather-lung” Hank Greenberg referred to in Aviva Kempner's documentary, “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” who was brought up to hurl insults at hm. I certainly didn't know, until I looked it up on BaseballReference.com, that Chapman had been a four-time All-Star, who retired with a .302/.383/.440 line. Apparently he also wore No.s 6 and 7 for the Yankees. I assume there was only one other guy to do that.
The New York Yankees are the 1%
I went to the Mariners game yesterday afternoon against the New York Yankees. It was the game after the game A-Rod got hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez and broke a bone in his hand (out 6-8 weeks), and two games after Ichiro switched sides, and the teams were 1-1 in the series. For the year, of course, the Yankees were 58-39, the best record in baseball, while the M's were 43-56, the second-worst in the AL. The Yankees had a squad of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Ichiro, A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, Mark “Paul Fist-in-Your-Face” Teixeira, Eric Chavez. The M's? A Triple-A squad, basically, with some potential future stars. One of them, Justin Smoak, was now back in Triple-A after sinking below .200 again. Sinking below .200 is generally not cause for dismissal on the M's this year—see: Carp, Peguero, Figgins, Ryan, Kawasaki and Olivo—so it must mean the M's have hope for Smoak. They think he's still worth fixing.
Anyway, I went to the game without much hope. I assumed the Yankees, facing a Japanese pitcher, Iwakuma, with all of three game-starts under his belt, would pull out the rubber game.
It began poorly, too. I'm not talking Derek Jeter's homerun in the first inning to put the Yankees up 1-0. I'm talking about walking around before the game even began. Everywhere you looked you saw Yankee fans, dressed in their JETER jerseys, or their MANTLE jerseys, or their A-ROD jerseys (OK, just one of those.). They overwhelmed Safeco Field. They strutted around like they owned the place.
I went with my friend Andy and his family. Andy's from Bremerton, Wash., but now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, and he's visiting family for the summer. He thought the Mariners were family, too, which is why we all went, but he came not knowing one player on the team. The Yankees he knew.
One of my favorite stories about Yankee Stadium comes from Andy. He went, fairly innocently, to an M's-Yankees game in the mid-1990s, back when there was a real rivalry between the teams, and sat in the right-field bleachers wearing a Mariners cap. As the game progressed, as the abuse that rained down on Mariners right-fielder Jay Buhner got more scatalogical and homophobic (“Buhner takes it up the ass, no va-so-line!”), several leaders of the loudmouth crew began pointing out fans in the stands who were wearing the caps of other teams. Mets fan in particular were singled out. And whenever an apostate was found, the entire bleachers serenaded him with this chant: “Assss-hole, assss-hole, assss-hole.” Eventually Andy was discovered, got his chant, and turned and doffed his cap good-naturedly to the crowd. Then everyone went back to concerning themselves with Jay Buhner's rectum.
I've actually heard worse stories about the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium: caps being taken away and ripped apart. Fistfights. Playoff games being decided by fans turning flyouts into homeruns. You know.
I get the idea: Yankee Stadium is their home park and you enter it at your own risk. But increasingly Yankee fans have invaded other stadiums, with their JETER and MANTLE and GEHRIG jerseys, and take over. They're like Rome in the days of Caesar. They're like Nazi Germany circa 1941. They're like that table full of Nazis at Rick's Cafe Americain in “Casablanca,” singing German songs while everyone around them, all the Free French, sit in disgust and contempt and a pure, burning hatred.
I tried to ignore them during the game. We sat 300 level behind homeplate, and, besides Andy and me, we had grandparents, a mother, and three kids. Plus Patricia. It was no place to start an “asshole” chant.
Besides, for most of the game, the M's were winning. In the bottom of the first, with one out, the M's strung together a single, a single, two walks and a groundout to take the lead, 2-1. The Yankees had a man in scoring position every inning of Isukawa's five innings of work but plated no one besides Jeter, who plated himself. They went hitless in the sixth and seventh. So we were still up, 2-1.
But I kept reminding everybody. In the fourth: We haven't had a hit since the first. In the sixth: We haven't had a hit since the first. In the eighth: We haven't had a hit since the first.
By that point, in the top of the eighth, the Yankees had loaded the bases, and pinch-hitter and backup shortstop Jayson Nix cleared them with a double, and the Yankee fans around me and in the stadium, invaders all, the Nazis at the table in “Casablanca,” roared their approval. They began a “Let's go, Yan-kees!” chant, which M's fans, tepid on a normal day, tried to drown out. It worked. Kinda. Then with two outs, Russell Martin singled to plate Nix, and Maj. Strasser and the Nazis around the table roared some more and sang their songs and chanted their chants.
And that was my “All I can stands, I can't stands no more” moment.
I went to a nearby group of Yankee fans, no doubt from Idaho or Montana, and laid it out for them. “The game's already over,” I said. “You've already got a two-run lead. The M's aren't going to come back from that. Basically you're cheering to keep the game going longer.”
One of them, the near one, said something like, “Way to have faith in your team, dude.”
I looked at him. I told him I did have faith in my team. On the road. I said they could hit on the road. But they had trouble hitting at Safeco. Why ignore what was true?
It was a bad response. I should've responded this way:
Faith in my team? In this team of Triple-A kids playing that team of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers? My team with its $70 million payroll playing your team with its $200 million payroll? My team with its idiot management who just wants to remain competitive within its division, and can't even manage that, versus your team for whom losing the World Series is a bad season, and who then open up the coffers again because they can afford to? Faith in my team? Do you have any fucking idea what it's like for the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball, you douchebag, you fuckstick, you oblivious cunt? Your team wins a rigged game. Do you get that? They win a rigged game and then attribute their success to “hard work.” They're the 1% of Major League Baseball. They think they're winning the game but they're ruining the game as surely as the 1% is ruining democracy.
I know. Not exactly 'La Marseillaise.“
Either way, I should've said more, or less, because I carried all I didn't say, all of that hatred, with me from the game, and on the bikeride home, and into a tawdry dinner that tasted like ashes, and then into a restless, headachey sleep.
The New York Yankees, with their $200 million payroll, came into town, took our franchise player while holding their noses, and won two out of three games against a team of Triple-A kids, including the last game, 5-2. Their fans in the stands cheered like it meant something. Like it was news.
”And here ya are. And it's a beautiful day."
Really, Direct TV?
Here's an ad that Direct TV uses to promote its Extra Innings deal. It's located by the bus stop in front of the Uptown Cafe in lower Queen Anne in Seattle, Wash.:
Favorite team? The Yankees? Favorite player? A-Rod? In Seattle?
Seriously, Direct TV. Do you use just one image for the entire country? Because I can't think of a worse way to appeal to baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest than a heroic image of the most hated former Mariner of them all. You might as well promote basketball packages in Cleveland with LeBron James. You might as well promote the safety of investment banking with Bernie Madoff.
No surprise that A-Rod's face in the ad has been defaced. Wouldn't be surprised if it got worse before it got better. Because, again, the ad is located by the bus stop in front of the Uptown Cafe in lower Queen Anne in Seattle, Wash.
Last week I bought the book, “Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (and Hated) Team,” edited by Rob Fleder, from Amazon.com. This morning I received the following email message from Team Bezos:
Oh, you sad little algorithms. “Customers who showed an interest in the New York Yankees might like to see autographed jerseys, trading cards, and more...” Right. Or they might like to see the New York Yankees in last place for the rest of the 21st century. They might like to see Derek Jeter trip and break his face. They might like to see Yankees fans forced to publicly apologize for their overall loutishness and general lack of hygiene.
It all depends, you see, on how you read the title Damn Yankees.
Spider-Man's Uncle Ben: Yankees Fan?
I was rewatching Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man” the other day, in anticipation of somethingorother, when, two-thirds of the way through, as Aunt May prays at night, just before the Green Goblin shows up, we get this shot of a framed photo of the now-deceased, gentle, beloved Uncle Ben Parker (Cliff Robertson):
What's that on his head? That can't be ... It's not...
Say it ain't so, Uncle Ben! The man who taught us the greatest lesson in comic books, that “with great power comes great responsibility,” is actually a Yankees fan?
How does that work exactly? With great power comes the ability to cherry-pick other teams' best players? With great power comes asinine behavior? With great power comes loud, douchebag fans?
Thank God for the reboot.
Quote of the Day
“The New York Yankees have their own cologne. It's made from the most expensive ingredients of all the competing colognes.”
Yes, Virginia, it's 2012 and the Yankees Still Suck
Are any sports fans as blinkered as Yankees fans? Is any major publication more willing to print their obtuse thoughts than The New York Times?
Yesterday in the Times, in a kinda sorta baseball-preview sports page, obit columnist Bruce Weber reflected on entering his second half-century of Yankees fandom with a bit of a ho-hum. He certainly likes the current team's “gallant old stars,” such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and never liked George Steinbrenner, whom he calls “egregiously self-aggrandizing and vulgar,” but he admits the Yankees in the post-Steinbrenner era are a little dull.
Then he makes the kind of vast presumption only a Yankees fan could make:
It’s no longer possible, as it was in Steinbrenner’s heyday, to rail against the Yankees as the evil empire that dominates the game because of its financial advantage.
Weber reminds us there are several other wealthy teams (Red Sox, Phillies, Angels) who regularly write big paychecks to stars. He reminds us that the team to vastly overpay A-Rod the first time wasn't the Yankees—they did it in 2007—but the Texas Rangers in 2000. He adds:
So if I’m not having as much fun rooting for the Yankees as I used to, I imagine it can’t be as much fun to disdain them as it once was, either.
No, Mr. Weber, it's still fun. And I still seethe.
True, last season, the Yankees' $30 million advantage in payroll over the second spendiest team, the Philadelphia Phillies ($202m to $172m), was, for a change, actually less than the entire payroll of the least spendiest team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals, which had a $36 milliion payroll. This hasn't happened since 2002. Check out the chart below. The second column is the Yankees' payroll advantage over whomever the No. 2 team is. The third column represents how many teams' payrolls this difference is greater than:
|Year||> No. 2 Team||> MLB Payrolls|
Look at 2004-06. There were years when the difference between the Yankees' payroll and the second-largest payroll was greater than the overall payrolls of more than half the teams in Major League Baseball. You think that's forgotten and forgiven, Mr. Weber, just because the Yanks in 2011 had a mere $30 million advantage over the next spendiest team?
You think because they haven't won the World Series since way back in 2009 that all is forgotten and forgiven?
You think 27/40 is forgotten and forgiven?
You think we've forgotten Jeffrey Maier and A-Rod's slap and Jeter's “hit by pitch” and GMS patches and Steinbrenner monuments and Wade Boggs on a horse and Paul McCartney in a Yankees cap and “fat pussy toad” and “He'll look good in pinstripes”? You think Twins fans have forgotten 2009, 2008, 2004 and 2003, and Mariners fans have forgiven 2001 and 2000, and Rangers fans have forgiven 1999, 1998 and 1996, and Royals fans have forgiven 1978, 1977 and 1976, and Dodgers fans have forgiven 1978, 1977, 1956, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947 and 1941?
You think our hatred knows bounds?
Looking forward to a little more of this in 2012.
Start... Spreading... the News...
OK, here's your YANKEES SUCK post of the day.
I encourage all opposition baseball teams to play the slow, haunting version of “New York, New York,” from the film “Shame,” and performed by Carey Mulligan (whom I love), whenever the Yankees come to town and LOSE. Or at the very least during every Derek Jeter at-bat. There's more heartbreak in that city than triumph, after all. This version reflects that perfectly.
Full audio version here.
Quotes of the Day: The Fall of the 2011 New York Yankees and the New Curse of the Bambino
I'm disappointed that we didn't get better articles about the Yankees' quick postseason exit from stalwarts Rob Neyer or Joe Posnanski. But the Internet's a big place and good comments could be found. My favorite is listed last. Enjoy.
“It hurts. It hurts for the Yankees to lose in the playoffs and for their season to end. I once knew a therapist who said that sports were a leading cause of depression among men – trailing behind events like losing a loved one or being fired from one’s job. I take these losses seriously. I also know that the closer your team comes to winning it all, the harder it is to have them lose. I remember 2001. I know this might sound like self-entitled nonsense to fans of teams like the Cubs who haven’t sniffed a World Championship in eons. But every Yankee fan is also a fan of less successful teams. My California Golden Bears haven’t seen a Rose Bowl since Eisenhower was President, but it didn’t hurt that much when they gave up 29 unanswered points to Oregon last night.”
--ItsAboutTheMoney.Net, “A Rational Goodbye to the 2011 Season”
* * *
Dear Mr. Manners,
I'm really enjoying the fact that the Red Sox choked to miss the playoffs and that the Yankees lost in the first round. Is it poor manners to root against them and mock the teams and their fans?
-- United S. (of America)
Dear United Schadenfreude of America,
Normally it is poor manners to find joy in the failure of others, but rooting against the Yankees and Red Sox is as American as mom, apple pie and baseball teams trying to buy championships. I have no problem reveling in their defeat. However, I would encourage you to balance your ridicule with a positive comment to show that you are a person of refined manners.
Say: “Keep your chin up ... so you can see the scoreboard, which is the official record of you being a loser.”
Or: “Hey, no one wins them all. In fact, some teams only win one of them in 11 years, which is almost impossible if you think about it, considering they had the biggest payroll in every one of those years.”
--D.J. Gallo, “Mr. Manners' Etiquette for Sports World”
Keep your chin up...
* * *
“Not enough fans understand that the baseball playoffs are a crapshoot. Since 1990, you know how many teams with the best regular-season record have won the World Series? Three — the '98 Yankees, '07 Red Sox and '09 Yankees. If you make the playoffs, you essentially have a 1-in-4 chance of reaching the World Series. If you get to the World Series, you have 1-in-2 chance of winning. So if you make the playoffs every season you should win a World Series once every eight years. In their past eight trips to the postseason, the Yankees have reached two World Series and won one. Exactly what the odds would predict.”
-- David Schoenfield, “The Day After: Yankees Postscript”
* * *
And my favorite...
To the Sports Editor:
The Yankees’ postseason failure over the last two years suggests the possibility of another Curse of the Bambino. Its predecessor never made sense: why would the Babe have been anything but thrilled to be sent from Boston to the greatest sports stage of the era? Overshadowing Ruth’s monument with the huge tribute plaque to George Steinbrenner? Well, that just might be cause for vengeance. So here is the new curse: the Yankees will never win another World Series until the plaque is moved to a more appropriate site.
-- Charles E. Knapp, Scarsdale, N.Y., “At a Loss in the Bronx”
Magic, Maier, gone.
The Fall of the 2011 New York Yankees
For the second year in a row, the season ended for the New York Yankees with a strikeout from Alex Rodriguez. I should be happy, since I think the Yankees are bad for baseball, and since A-Rod exemplifies this with his $252 million contract and subsequent demands to be traded to a contender like the Yankees, but I can't help feeling sorry for the guy.
Earlier today, a friend sent me a link to a Sporting News article on the most disliked player (by the fans) for each franchise. A-Rod was most disliked in Texas. For the Mariners it was Bobby Ayala and for the Yankees it was Carl Pavano, but you could make the argument that it's A-Rod on all three teams. He still gets booed here in Seattle. And no one was ever booed like A-Rod was booed when he returned in April 2001 with the Texas Rangers. Man, we let him have it.
How sad is that? He's one of the best ever at what he does, a thing that almost every American boy would love to be able to do; he gets money, fame and women; and yet.. and yet... so disliked.
Posada had a helluva series, didn't he? Like he knew it was his last shot. Cano emerged as the scariest guy on the team. Granderson was unbelievable, Gardner kept getting basehits from the nine hole. Jeter ran out of magic.
Here's the honor roll:
- 2001: Arizona
- 2002: Anaheim
- 2003: Florida
- 2004: Boston
- 2005: Anaheim
- 2006: Detroit
- 2007: Cleveland
- 2008: UNNECESSARY
- 2009: n/a
- 2010: Texas
- 2011: Detroit
Go Tigers. Keep going, Tigers.
ADDENDUM: Nice piece on Game 5 by ESPN's David Schoenfield.
Catch of the Day
Facebook conversation last night:
Me: I hate the Yankees like I hate Republicans, but man that was a helluva catch by Granderson.
FB Friend 1 (Yankees fan, Democrat, affronted): Is there a bluer fan base in baseball than NY? Just sayin.
Me: Is there a richer 1% in baseball who fight to keep the system tilted in their favor? Just sayin.
FB Friend 2 (Mariners/Rockies/Cardinals fan, Democrat): I would venture a guess that the Bay Area is a bluer fan base. And Granderson had two great plays tonight, I really like that guy. Was a sad day when he was traded to the Yankees.
Yep. See the catch (or catches) here.
ADDENDUM: Nice piece by Grant Brisbee on Granderson's two catches, and the one Austin Jackson couldn't quite make.
Mariano Rivera, Career Saves, and another YANKEES SUCK article from The New York Times
Now that Mariano Rivera has become the career saves leader, surpassing Trevor Hoffman's 601 last week, The New York Times' Dave Anderson, in a special YANKEES SUCK article entitled “Mr. Young, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Rivera Will Be Joining You,” sees something historic in the stat. He writes:
His record 603 regular-season saves deserve a monument alongside those honoring Cy Young’s 511 victories and Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts and 7 no-hitters.
Why does Anderson feel this way? You have to dig to find it. Cy Young's victory total is far ahead of the no. 2 man, Walter Johnson, who won 417, while Nolan Ryan's strikeout total is far ahead of the no. 2 man, Randy Johnson, by 839 Ks. Each dominated his stat. They had no rival. Just like Rivera.
But wait. Isn't Mo only 2 saves ahead of Trevor Hoffman? That's hardly “far ahead.” Both relievers, to be sure, are far ahead of the no. 3 man, the former saves leader Lee Smith, who retired with 478. But Rivera isn't out there by himself. Hoffman is with him.
Anderson solves this with a bit of subterfuge:
... even if the 41-year-old Rivera were to retire soon, his postseason numbers would separate him from any and all bullpen challengers.
It's a stupid article. The objective greatness of Mariano Rivera isn't in the career saves stat; it's in his career ERA, for which his only rivals are dead-ball pitchers from 100 years ago, and in his post-season record, which is unprecedented.
Anderson actually downgrades the man he's trying to elevate. Rivera isn't honored because he has the career saves record. The career saves record is honored because it now belongs to Mariano Rivera.
If Mariano Rivera Notched His 600th Save at Safeco Field, Would Anyone Notice?
Yesterday I gave the New York Times' David Waldstein a hard time for his column complaining about the lack of attention paid to Mariano Rivera, who was closing in on the all-time saves record: 601 by Trevor Hoffman. Rivera was at 598 at the time the article was written. (Specifically, I gave Waldstein a hard time for his “even Jim Thome” comment.)
Was Waldstein at Safeco Field for Mo's 600th tonight? I assume so. He wrote up the game for the Times. I was there, too, one of 18,306 announced, but probably half that from the empty seats, and my friend Jim and I began talking up the possibility around the 6th inning, when the Yankees went up by a run. Initially, we weren't sure if Rivera would be going for 600 or the tie (601), but a quick iPhone search gave us the answer. And even though it was the Yankees, who deserve 100 years of hand-wringing and despair, come-from-behind losses, last-place finishes and rending of pinstripes, it would still be baseball history.
But we were the only ones talking it up.
No one seemed aware that baseball history was being made: not the fans around us, including many Yankee fans in their idiotic Yankee paraphernalia, who said nothing (some even left early); not Ichiro, who was thrown out attempting to steal second to end the game (taking the bat out of the hands of the M's best hitter, Dustin Ackley); and apparently not the Mariners organization, since no acknowledgement was forthcoming. After Ichiro went down at second, the scoreboard lit up with THANKS FOR ATTENDING. The PA announcer gave us the details of the game thus: “Save, Mariano Rivera, his 41st.” The ushers smiled their thanks as we walked up the steps and onto the concourse and out onto Royal Brougham.
600? What 600?
And it's not like the M's never talk up the opposition. Every game, the second time through the opposition lineup, we get inconsequential tidbits on the scoreboard such as “Derek Jeter is hitting .329 over his last 12 games.”
But 600? What 600?
The Yankees most certainly suck. But so does the Mariners organization.
More on Mo here.
No. 600. Apologies for the quality. I was surprised by Ichiro's attempted steal.
Newsflash: New York Yankee Receives Less Attention than Other Ballplayer
Apparently Mariano Rivera, the great closer for the New York Yankees, is nearing the career mark in saves, and the sports press isn't jumping up and down. The New York Times, in the person of David Waldstein, scratches its head:
... there is little national focus on his accomplishment. The baseball world seems to be taking the event for granted.
He makes a few guesses. Is it because Mo has already been crowned the king of closers? (Eh.) Is it because saves is a relatively new stat, added in 1969, and people don't care about it so much? (Bingo.)
Then he puts his foot in it:
[Being first in saves] does not carry the cachet of home runs or hits, so the attention surrounding Rivera’s quest to become the saves leader is mild compared with Derek Jeter’s drive to become the 28th player with 3,000 hits, or even Jim Thome’s quest to become the eighth player with 600 home runs.
“Even” Jim Thome.
It's one thing to receive less attention than Derek Jeter, a fellow Yankee, and the 28th man in baseball history to do a thing (get 3,000 hits); but for a career Yankee to receive less attention than even Jim Thome, who was the 8th man in baseball history to do a thing (hit 600 homeruns), but who was never a Yankee, well, that's just not cricket. Or baseball. Or Yankees baseball.
Of course Waldstein never questions why the 28th man to do a thing would receive more attention than the 8th man to do a thing, because that would require thinking outside the box. Or the Bronx.
Mathematically, it reads like this: 1/28 > 1/8 <==> YANKEES SUCK.
Rivera's saves are receiving less attention than “even” Jim Thome's 600 homeruns.
Facebook Dialogue of the Day
Ross: Face it, every Derek Jeter hit from now until the end of his career will be a major production.
Me: I think it'll die down after 3,000. Besides, even NY can only get so excited about singles...
Ross: They're not just singles, they're LEADERSHIP.
--Back and forth between me and fellow editor Ross Pfund after I posted a link to Roger Angell's New Yorker article on Jeter and 3,000 hits. (Read all the way through for a great quote from Lou Brock...)
Yankees Suck on Occidental Avenue and in Safeco Field
I went to the M's game Friday night at Safeco Field. It was my fourth game of the year. I'd only anticipated going to one game by this time but apparently I have friends, monosyllabic friends with tickets (Bill, Joe and Tim), so I'd seen the M's three times already, all on overcast evenings with temps in the 50s, and seen them go 3-0. But now we were playing the Yankees, the hated Yankees who famously suck; and even though we had the kid on the mound, Big Michael Pineda who'd been tearing up the league, it was still the Yankees, the hated Yankees who famously suck, so I was anticipating a loss. The odds alone, my 3-0 odds, seemed to demand it.
I was also anticipating Yankees fans. The M's aren't drawing M's fans, who want winning, and the other tickets, I assumed, would go to all those losers who need to flock to winners to feel like winners, no matter how the winners win.
What I didn't anticipate was seeing this on Occidental Avenue, the road leading to Safeco:
No, no, no.
Did this caravan follow the Yankess around, city to city, to sell to those losers who needed to feel like winners? All the bald, flat-assed Derek Jeter fans of the world?
It was actually local, the nearby sporting good shop, Sodo Sports, also of Occidental, who were rubbing M's faces in it on the way to the game. Apparently they do this all the time when big teams come to town: Red Sox, Blue Jays (Canadians), Dodgers for interleague games. This season they're getting ready with Phillies and Braves memorabilia in June. They figure they'll sell more Phils stuff than Miguel Olivo or Michael Saunders jerseys. They're right.
Still stung. Still pissed me off. It was like seeing my local credit union selling Bernie Madoff T-shirts in the lobby. Shouldn't we be better than this?
Worse, Pineda didn't have it that night. He gave up a solo homer to Mark Teixeira in the first. He kept walking guys. His fastball began to pop but his control for his breaking ball wasn't there. He would've given up another homer in the fourth to Nick Swisher but Franklin Gutierrez went over the wall, bad stomach and all, to rob him. Then in the fifth with two outs: walk, single, wild pitch (passed ball, Miguel) to plate one, single to plate another. Now we were down 3-0.
I turned to Tim. “So much for that.” He laughed.
A funny thing happened on the way to that loss. The M's, the team with the worst offense in the Majors, came back and won. They scored four runs without an RBI hit.
In the bottom of the fifth, we got a clean single from Brendan Ryan, a weak, left-field chalkline double from Ichiro, a groundout to plate Ryan, another groundout to plate Ichiro.
In bottom six, Kennedy singled, Olivo singled, Peguero walked. Bases loaded for Ryan. Who grounded out to plate Kennedy. Then Ichiro grounded out to plate Olivo.
Four runs on four groundouts. Ha!
And that's how we beat the mighty Yankees. Ha!
4-0. The odds rage. My next game at Safeco is scheduled for June 13th against the Angels, if you're a betting man.
Yankees Suck Quote of the Day
“I was at a family function over the weekend and spent much of it talking baseball with my wife's uncle, a huge Yankees fan. The short version of his analysis: He's not too concerned about the state of the team because he's convinced the Yankees will make a few trades.
”You know ... like for Felix Hernandez. Everybody in New York still thinks the Yankees can just trade for Felix because ... well, I guess because they're the Yankees. Now, let's repeat something we've said several times:
“The Mariners aren't going to trade Felix Hernandez.
”Repeat: The Mariners aren't going to trade Felix Hernandez.
“Now, my wife's uncle says that's OK, because the Yankees will just acquire Mark Buehrle instead. Now, maybe the White Sox will eventually fall far enough out of the race that trading Buehrle will make sense. But it doesn't now.”
-- David Schoenfield, “Sweet Spot” column, ESPN.com
Johnny Damon for 3,000 hits and the Hall?
Tyler Kepner had me smiling with the first part of the first sentence of his Sunday New York Times article about Johnny Damon and the pursuit of 3,000 hits:
Reverse the letters on the back of Johnny Damon’s jersey...
I did it mentally. “Nomad,” I thought. “Nice. He's been with so many teams over the last few years.”
Kepner then lost me with the first sentence of the third graph:
Damon has played for six [teams], but he will always be identified mostly with the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, his teams for four years apiece.
Really? No one thinks of him with the Kansas City Royals anymore? His rookie team, and the team he played on for six seasons? Am I that old? Is Tyler Kepner that young? That New York-centric?
As for the thrust of the article? Damon has his eye on 3,000 hits and then the Hall of Fame:
If he gets 150 hits this season, he would have 2,721. Two more years of 140 hits each would then put him at 3,001.
Damon turned 37 last November. So he'll have to do this at 37, 38 and 39. It can be done but he'll have to remain healthy and in the American League, where he can DH. He'll also have to hit well enough for a team to want him. In the last four years, his batting average has gone from .303 to .282 to .271 to, so far this season, .254. His On Base Percentage this season, perhaps reflecting his drive to get hits and only hits, is an abyssmal .289.
But the most interesting aspect of the article is Damon's talk about how the pressure of playing in New York might have kept previous Yankees, before Jeter, from getting to 3,000 hits:
“I mean, I commend people who can play in those markets [New York and Boston] their entire career. I guess that’s why there’s never been a 3,000-hit guy for the Yankees. The city adds a couple of years on them. Even though it’s the best city in the world, there’s that grind. When you leave for the ballpark, you’re like, ‘O.K., it’s time to be on.’
Initially I blanched at this, too. C'mon, I thought. Ruth didn't do it because he pitched for Boston for five years and then as a position player walked all the time, and Gehrig, of course, stopped playing at the age of 35, and DiMaggio lost years to World War II, and Mantle, he had all those injuries, plus he drew walks as well, and Mattingly, I guess he never did come close, did he, and Bernie Williams was never really close, either, and ...
I stopped for a moment. Is it the pressure? Or is it the fact that getting 3,000 hits for any one team is pretty difficult? Only 27 players have managed 3,000 hits in baseball history—many are recent additions aided by the DH rule—and of those 27, only 15 accumulated more than 3,000 hits for any one team. Two of those teams are twice represented—the Pirates (Wagner and Clemente) and the Tigers (Cobb and Kaline)—which means only 13 of the 30 Major League teams have had a player who accumulated 3,000 hits solely for them. Less than half. Not easy.
Of course the Yankees are one of the original 16 teams, and a storied franchise. One would think they'd have had a player do it by now. But you'd also think that of the Dodgers, too. And the Phillies. And the White Sox, Athletics, Indians and Senators/Twins. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. Of the original 16, just nine have had 3,000-hit players. Jeter, with the Yankees this year, will be the 10th.
After that, no team is close. Vizquel split playing time. Same with I-Rod and A-Rod. Maybe Ichiro with the M's but that's still a long haul. Maybe Pujols with the Cards but he's a free agent at the end of the year. Plus they're already covered. Musial.
So I don't know if it's tougher in New York — although I wouldn't be surprised since many things are tougher in New York. At the least, though, highly touted prospects should keep this in mind before signing with the Yankees. They should keep in mind Johnny Damon's thoughts about leaving New York after the 2009 season:
“Being in Detroit last year kind of made you sit back and say, ‘Wow, baseball could be actually pretty fun and enjoyable.’"
The Third Greatest Yankees Hater in the World
- Go to Google
- Type in “Yankees Suck”—with our without quotes
- Look at the results
If there's no “News” info, the first two results will be websites specific to baseball. Then ads, then videos. The fifth result, only the third website, will be this one. It'll be this page: “61* Reasons Why the Yankees Suck.” It'll be me.
I discovered this on Saturday and have been tickled ever since. I will wear the mantle proudly.
The 20 Greatest Games, Cont.: YANKEES SUCK Edition
Last month I counted down, with MLB.com, 20 through 10, of the 20 greatest games of the last 50 years.
Now, as Kasey used to say, on with the countdown.
9. Game 7 of the 2001 World Series: Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2. Yeah, I know I'm a Yankees hater, so I glory in this game, but I think for aesthetic and storytelling reasons alone it should be higher. For these reasons:
- It was Game 7.
- Of the World Series.
- The winningest team in baseball history, which had won the World Series three years in a row, was leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning.
- That team, the winningest team in baseball history, had the best closer in baseball history on the mound.
Plus this from the D-back side: No team in baseball history had ever been losing in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, then won it that same inning. It had never been done.
Mazeroski's homer in '60? Tie game. Carter's homer in '93? Game 6 (and the Jays were essentially the Yankees of the early '90s). Marlins vs. Indians in '97? Marlins tied it in the bottom of the ninth (against a crappy closer: Jose Mesa), and won it in extras (against a hapless franchise). Yet the Diamondbacks did it. Against the best closer in baseball history pitching for the winningest franchise in baseball history.
This may be my no. 1. And yet it's stuck at no. 9. Plus the MLB Network really needed to bring on some Diamondbacks (or me) to hoorah a bit. Poor Joe Torre's talked enough, hasn't he? And with Tom Veducci. Let him rest. Let him rest.
8. Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS: Red Sox 7, Angels 6. The Dave Henderson/Donnie Moore game. But I'd forgotten that Hendu hadn't started this game, and that he'd helped over the fence a two-run homer earlier in the game. Classic goat to hero stuff. I'd also forgotten the back-and-forth. Boston 2-0 after 2. Boston 2-1 after 3. Angels 3-2 after 6. Angels 5-2 after 7. Red Sox 6-5 after top of 9. Tie game after bottom 9. (Angels came back!) Red Sox 7-6 after 11. (Angels didn't come back.) “You're looking at one for the ages here!” Al Michaels said. Heartbreak for the ages, too. Poor Gene Mauch. One strike away.
7. Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS: Marlins 8, Cubs 3. Speaking of heartbreak. Bob Costas is pretty poignant on Steve Bartman here. He points out it wasn't fan interference. He points out he didn't lean over, as Jeffrey Maier did in '96, to give Derek Jeter a homerun. He talks about the problem of Moises Alou's reaction. He points out how Bartman hasn't, in our cruddy culture, tried to cash in on his notoriety. He talks about Alex Gonazalez's error a few batters later. Me, I'd talk about Dusty's Baker's culpability in the pitch counts for Mark Prior—in this game and his previous game. But as interesting as all this is, I wouldn't have this game this high. 8-3? Is any game's final score in the top 10 going to be less close?
6. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS: Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. They'll be airing this next week, so video isn't available yet. Doubt I'll be posting it. Or watching it. Consider it a protest. The Aaron Boone game? Seriously? The sixth greatest game of the last 50 years? Did Yankees fans stuff the ballot boxes?
So what are the remaining five games? These four, one assumes:
- 1975 World Series, Game 6: Fisk.
- 1986 NLCS: Mets in 16.
- 1986 World Series, Game 6: Buckner.
- 1991 World Series, Game 7: 0-0 in the 10th.
Plus ... 1972 NLCS Game 5? Chambliss' homer? Reggie's three homers? Sid Bream in '92? Halladay's no-no? Game 7 in '62? I'd love to see this last one. What game inspired a greater cultural artifact? (R.I.P., Sparky.)
“Why couldn't MLB have picked the D-backs game just seven places higher?”
Kepner Quotes of the Day
“There is no reason to believe [Cliff] Lee will forgo free agency, and when he hits the market, other teams might as well back off. Every factor points to Lee’s joining the Yankees.”
—Tyler Kepner, “Waiting for Lee, Maybe Until Winter,” New York Times, June 29, 2010
“Lee was their guy, and the Yankees believed he had the stuff, the makeup and the experience to succeed in pinstripes. But, really, Lee was never their guy. He wanted to go back to the Phillies all along, and has taken far less money to do so.”
—Tyler Kepner and Michael S. Schmidt, “Cliff Lee Accepts Late Bid by Phillies,” New York Times, December 14, 2010.
Mea culpa? Nowhere. Not even on Twitter, where, on Dec. 10, he wrote, “Still think Lee will go for highest offer, which is Yanks' 7 yrs/$161M. But sense I get from people involved is he feels pull toward Texas.”
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.
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.
Bottom of the 10th
I still can't decide if the second half of Ken Burns's "Tenth Inning" doc, about the 2000s, made up for some of the problems in the first half, about the 1990s, or if, because the aughts corrected some of the '90s excesses (performance enhancing drugs; Yankees world championships), such a turnaround is inevitable.
What Burns does works. But he's still presenting the narrative of the time ("Wow, look at all these homeruns!") with only a bit of foreshadowing (psst: chemicals may be involved). John Thorn still says with a straight face: "You can forget about the debate... the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball is Roger Clemens." Tom Veducci still says of Barry Bonds: "This is the most feared hitter who ever lived." The metaphor I brought up last time still works. It's as if Burns is reveling in the Cincinnati Reds amazing upset over the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series before coughing and adding the historical perspective: "Oh, by the way: the Sox were paid to lose."
None of the talking heads are angry enough about steroids, either. The record books are meaningless now. Trust in the game is meaningless. There's a discussion at the end about the asterisk next to Bonds' homerun record, the career one, 762 homeruns, and most of the talking heads—not wishing to sound like Ford Frick on Roger Maris—say of course not, no asterisk, before adding that, yes, there is a metaphoric one. "The asterisk is whatever exists in the minds of fans," Dan Okrent says (dismissively?). Yes, it is. But it's not just with Bonds' record; it's with the entire era. The last 20 years of baseball has an asterisk. What's legitimate and what isn't? What counts and what doesn't? Albert Pujols has the best first five seasons of any player ever. Is he juiced? Jose Bautista, this year, at the age of 29, hits 54 homeruns, when his career-best had been 16. Do alarm bells go off? Did anyone in the pre-steroid era make such a leap? The tragedy isn't Barry Bonds, it's all of baseball. Everything is tainted. And the taint ain't over.
For a time I thought Burns's narrative should've focused on the great players who didn't partake (Ken Griffey, Jr.; Frank Thomas), and who were subsequently overshadowed by those who did (McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, A-Rod), but of course we're back to the impossibility of proving a negative. We don't know that Griffey and Thomas didn't partake; we just assume it from their career trajectories.
But if they didn't, isn't that the tragedy? The overshadowing of the legitimate by the illegitimate? The doc says the inflated players were a reflection of the inflated times (stock market; housing market) and excuses them. That's a cop-out. Baseball should not reflect the worst of our society; it should be an oasis from the worst in our society.
- The hyperbole: Pedro Martinez "made himself into one of the greatest players the game had ever seen." Mariano Rivera became "the most successful closer of all time." Randy Johnson was "the most feared left-hander of all time." The Yankees were led by Derek Jeter, "one of the most popular and respected players in baseball history." It's not that I don't agree with some of these statements; it's that they're a) hard to prove (and thus meaningless), and, b) a bit much when strung together. It feels like lazy writing.
RJ: feared. Pedro: great. Jeter: respected.
- Turning the New York Yankees into underdogs: Here's Tom Boswell on the 2001 World Series: "Johnson and Schilling are more dominant now than anyone in the history of baseball. And that's what the Yankees are up against." I suppose this could go under hyperbole, too. (More dominant than Koufax/Drysdale?) But it's worse than the average hyperbolic statement because it's turning a team that has won three World Championships in a row, and 26 overall, and has the highest payroll in baseball, into the underdog.
- Turning the New York Yankees into "America's team": Voiceover on the 2001 World Series: "The New York Yankees, the team much of America was rooting for, had lost." Another narrative of the time that I didn't buy at the time and don't buy now. Where's the evidence? Maybe among the general population, maybe among non-baseball fans—the kind of people who only know from Willie Mays and Derek Jeter—sure, why not? Post-9/11, with all the NYPD caps and NYFD caps and shots of Rudy G. sitting in the stands, the Yankees were probably less hated than normal. But among baseball fans? Who had just suffered through three years of Yankee celebrations and 26 in all? Who suffered through Yankee fans talking up rings as if they owned them? I remember bottom of the ninth in Game 7 when Mark Grace led off with a single and David Delucci pinch-ran for him and then Damian Miller laid down a fat bunt in front of Rivera who opted to go for the force at second. Delucci came in hard, safe, and Jeter, covering the bag, grabbed his ankle, which was already injured. And I got up close to my TV set and yelled, "Writhe, Jeter, writhe!" Admittedly I'm a special case. But America's team? Only in the way that Goldman Sachs is American's investment bank: big and bloated and known and despised.
- Turning the spectacular losses of the New York Yankees into tragic events: Burns did this in his original doc with the 1960 World Series. Bill Mazeroski hits one of the most famous homeruns ever hit and who do we hear from? The Pirates and their fans? No. We hear from the Yankees and their fans. Billy Crystal: "I still hurt," etc. Same here. On 2001, do we hear from the Diamondbacks and their fans about this improbable, beautiful, spectacular, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning victory over Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees? Nope. Cue Billie Holliday's "God Bless the Child" and cut to Joe Torre saying, "That night was about as sad as it gets." Oh, boo hoo, motherfucker. Just four rings in your pocket instead of five. If Ken Burns, a supposed Red Sox fan, doesn't realize that every Yankees loss is a moment for celebration then he shouldn't be baseball's documentarian. I mean: Billie Holliday? The song's about poverty, Ken. God bless the child that's got a $200 million payroll.
- VORP? OPS? One of the biggest stories of the 2000s was the acceptance, after decades of knocking at the baseball door, of Bill Jamesian stats, by Oakland GM Billy Beane and others, which helped transform the game. It's part of the reason why the Yankees stopped winning and the Red Sox started; and it's part of the reason why the Yankees began to win again. Brian Cashman did his work. He read Moneyball and changed his ways. So why not an interview with Bill James, Rob Neyer, Michael Lewis? Why not Billy Beane or Theo Epstein or Brian Cashman? Instead we get Jon Miller channeling Sid Dithers. Vas you talkin' to me? It's like Ron Paul explaining why big government is necessary.
- "The popularity of the sport is just enormous." This is Commissioner Bud Selig, one of Burns's talking heads, trotting out his company line. And measured by attendance, sure, there's some truth in it, but that's only because baseball has been turned into a family event. The appeal is as much the mascot and the fireworks and the various races (hydro/presidents/sausages) as the game itself. Maybe it's more than the game itself. The answer to his comment is in World Series ratings, which drop and keep dropping, in a way that, even in this fragmented, internetted age, the ratings for the Super Bowl don't. The Super Bowl is still central to our culture. The World Series isn't. In baseball, fans root for their team but not for the game, and that's part of the problem. Maybe that's the whole problem.
- "Bonds hits it high! He hits it DEEP! It is...outta here!" I didn't need to hear this as often as I heard it.
But the doc got right that dispiriting, record-breaking 756th homerun. "The whole thing was a joyless march toward the inevitable," Bob Costas says. "Baseball powerless. Selig with his hands in his pockets..."
It was smart tapping ESPN's editorial director Gary Hoenig as a talking head. He had great comments throughout but my favorite was on Mark McGwire's testimony before U.S. Congress: "And you could just see him deflate like a giant balloon in a Thanksgiving Day parade..."
And it got right the sheer, magical joy of the Red Sox thumping the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. "It was," announcer Keith David intoned, "the greatest comeback in baseball history."
And for once, that wasn't hyperbole.
"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.
What "Yankees" Really Means
"Detailed early maps of Newfoundland show a body of water called Dildo Pond, named for its shape by the British garrison stationed in North America more than 300 years ago. In the colonial period, the word dildo evolved into doodle, British barracks slang for male genitalia. And to yank something meant exactly what it means now. Thus, to the British, a Yankee Doodle was one who yanked his doodle. A Yankee Doodle was a first-rate greenhorn—too thick and dim to realize the joke was on him. The Americans didn't recognize the English slang, and, to the astonishment of the British, instead made 'Yankee Doodle' their anthem. Then the Americans began calling themselves Yankees generally, and eventually [that became the name] of their greatest baseball team."
—from "The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad" by Robert Elias
Which means the New York Yankees should really be called the New York Jackoffs. As we suspected all along.
The Rigged (National) Game
Since the New York Yankees and their $208 million payroll won the 2009 World Series in six games over the Philadelphia Phillies and their $111 million payroll, there’s been renewed debate among fans and journalists about how much money matters in baseball.
One side reminds us that for all the money the Yankees spent this decade—and they spent a ton—they only have two titles to show for it. There was even one year, 2008, when they didn’t get to the post-season. So how can money matter so much? Just look at the Mets. They’ve been the biggest spenders in the National League every year since 2003 but made the post-season just once, in 2006, and didn’t even get to the World Series that year. Yankees smart, Mets not, and even money-plus-smart guarantees nothing, so everyone quit your bellyaching.
The other side, led by folks like Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated, reminds us that it’s less a matter that the Yankees are outspending other teams than by how much they’re outspending other teams. The Mets may have outspent the Cubs (no. 2 in the N.L.) by $15 million in 2009 but the Yankees outspent the Red Sox (no. 2 in the A.L.) by $80 million. They outspent them, in other words, by the entire Toronto Blue Jays payroll. That $80 million difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox is the difference between the Red Sox and, well, no other team in the American League, because no other team in the American League had a payroll $80 million less than the Red Sox. (The Athletics were $59 million behind.) In terms of payroll, in other words, 1st and 2nd are further apart than 2nd and 14th. That’s the new math in baseball.
Posnanski also reminds us that baseball is a game where dominance can be obscured. The best teams lose a third of their games, the worst teams win a third, so the real battle is for that final third. Add in the two tiers of playoffs, including a best-of-five division series, and almost anything can happen.
Unfortunately it usually doesn't. Yes, this decade the Yankees spent and spent and have only two World Series championships to show for it; but just one other team, the Red Sox, won as many. It’s “only” two championships if you’re the Yankees. It’s “only” four pennants if you’re the Yankees. It’s “only” eight division titles and a wild-card berth if you’re the Yankees. Eight division titles and a wild-card berth would look pretty good in Kansas City.
How much does money matter? Here’s a chart of how often American League teams, ranked by payroll, made the playoffs since 1995:
No. of A.L. Playoff Appearances By Payroll Rank, Since 1995*
*based on payroll numbers presented in USA Today
Teams that spent the most money went to the playoffs 12 of the 15 years, teams that spent the second-most went 9 times, and so on. Half of the 60 playoff slots have been filled by whatever three teams were the spendiest teams that year. The 11 remaining teams fought over the other half.
Sure, there are certain years, such as 2000, when only one team among the top seven spendiest teams made it (psst: the Yankees). Plus you have certain teams, like the “Moneyball” Athletics and the Gardenhire Twins, who, for a time, can consistently make the playoffs despite low, low payrolls. But that 2000 Yankees and their no. 1 payroll wound up winning the pennant against the upstarts, while the “Moneyball” Athletics and Gardenhire Twins, despite five post-season appearances each this decade, have yet to win even one pennant. So even here, “money” generally matters more than “ball.”
What’s particularly troublesome is how consistent—almost codified—things have gotten recently. In the last six years, the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels, have each been to the post-season five times. During those six years, they were 1-2-3 in league payroll four times (2004-2007), 1-3-5 once (2008, behind Detroit and the White Sox), and 1-2-4 once (in 2009, when the Tigers outspent the Angels by $1 million). The true wild card in the American League is thus whomever wins the Central. That other wild card? It’s ensconced in the East (11 out of 15 times), and, in recent years, it’s almost always the Boston Red Sox.
By the way, if you’re curious about how payrolls and post-season appearance correlate for National League teams, here you go:
No. of N.L. Playoff Appearances By Payroll Rank, Since 1995*
*based on payroll numbers presented in USA Today
The discrepancy between the haves and have-nots of the N.L. post-season isn’t as dramatic—because the discrepancy between N.L. payroll isn’t as dramatic. Yes, it helps that the wealthiest N.L. teams (Mets, Cubs, Dodgers) have sometimes mismanaged their wealth; but it helps more than there's not one team willing or able to outspend every other team by an embarrassing amount in order to cover these mistakes.
All in all, the National League looks like the kind of system that people could defend as “fair enough.” But that’s the system without the Yankees in it. The one with the Yankees is decidedly more skewed.
These are just stats, of course, but they confirm what most of us feel: that baseball, particularly as it’s played in the American League, is a rigged game. In his post-World Series column in The New York Times, William Rhoden wrote the following:
The Yankees are widely despised because they buy players, but as Jeter pointed out, their cornerstones are homegrown: Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and himself. “We’ve played together for 17 years, including the minor leagues coming up,” Jeter said... “You don’t see that too often, especially with free agency and then guys staying together.”
This argument is often used by supporters of the current system to refute the Yankees’ financial domination. It actually demonstrates it. Four All-Stars, two sure Hall-of-Famers, on the same team for all (or most) of this time? Jeter’s right: You don’t see that too often. And why don’t you see it too often? Because for most teams, there’s always another, bigger team hanging around, checking out its best, young players, and declaring, after a moment or two, and maybe with a nod of appreciation, “He’d look good in pinstripes.” The Yankees kept Jeter and Rivera and Posada, in other words, because it didn’t have to worry about the Yankees.
Every fan of every small- or medium-market team knows this. We develop even one good player—a Joe Mauer, a Zack Greinke, a Felix Hernandez—and the question is always: How long do we get to keep this guy? The answer is usually: Not long. In this way, 20-25 teams feel like farm systems for the other 5-10. For fans, it’s a feeling of increasing helplessness and hopelessness, and it’s destroying the game.
Rhoden ended his post-World Series column in The New York Times this way. It's kind of tongue-in-cheek but mostly cheek:
If Matsui or Johnny Damon do not return, the Yankees may go after St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday. Need one more starting pitcher? Why not go after the Los Angeles Angels’ John Lackey? Posada has two years left on his contract. Who is to say that as Posada winds down, the Yankees won’t go after Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer? The franchise has its shopping cart out.
Beware. With checkbook in hand, the Yankees may be coming to a neighborhood near you.
That’s so New York. As if he had to tell us to beware. As if we didn’t already know.
Lancelot Links—World Series edition
- Let's start out with Joe Posnanski's Sports Illustrated piece, “The Best Team Money Could Buy,” since it's the best piece I've read on the Yankees and their $208 million payroll, and what this means year after year for fans of Major League Baseball. Posnanski writes about why we need to talk about this. (Because it's been so-talked-about we've stopped listening.) He writes about why the payroll issue gets masked. (Because baseball is a sport where even the best teams lose a third of their games.) And he talks about why it's the Yankees in particular that are the problem:
- “The Yankees are not a big-market team. They DWARF big-market teams. They are quantitatively different from every other team in baseball and every other team in American sports. They don't just spend more money than every other team. They spend A LOT more money than every other team. The Boston Red Sox spend $50 million more than the Kansas City Royals? Who cares? The Yankees spend $80 million more than the Boston Red Sox.”
- Keith Olbermann isn't just for stentorian and (let's face it) often pompous putdowns of (let's also face it) wackjob Republicans; he's also a baseball fan. And in this piece, in honor of Johnny Damon's double-steal-without-an-error in Game 4, he counts down the nine smartest plays in World Series history. Couple things I like. He doesn't number them, or bold-face them, so he forces you to, you know, actually read them. Plus, most such pieces tend to focus on recent years, but Olbermann, like a great centerfielder, ranges wide, going from '55 to '46 to '07 (1907) to '69 to '72 to '60 to '88 to '91 to, finally, last Sunday. When he first raised the subject I immediately thought of '91. But I haven't really thought about what might be missing. Anyone? Anyone?
- Last Monday after Game 5, on the Facebook page of friend, a Yankees fan, I wrote the following: “What's interesting is that the Series is playing out like I feared it might: two even teams with uneven closers. Switch closers and the Series might already be over. In other words, no matter who they give it to, Mariano Rivera is always the Yankees' post-season MVP.” Here's dramatic evidence just how true that is. Rob Neyer even adds: “Purely in terms of increasing his teams' chances of winning, [Rivera] must be the most valuable pitcher in postseason history.”
- Here's even better evidence: The New York Times offers this cool, interactive chart on every batter Mariano Rivera has faced in the post-season: from Jay Buhner's swinging strikeout in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS (so that's why we lost that one) to Shane Victorino's ground-out to second base Wednesday night. I already knew one of the two post-season homers Rivera's given up—to Sandy Alomar in '97, which changed that ALDS around—but didn't know the other: to Jay Payton, with two men on, in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. Overall: 397 outs, 82 hits, 14 runs allowed. Marquis Grissom scored the first run in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series (triple, single by Mark Lemke), and Chone Figgins scored the last in Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS (single, moved to second on ground-out, single by Vladimir Guerrero). Rivera's worst post-season for runs allowed? A tie: between 2000 and 2001 (4 each). Every other post-season, the most runs he's ever given up is 1. The good news? He turns 40 this month. The bad news? He wants to play five more seasons.
- After all that, I figure you might need a laugh. The Onion gives it to you. Their headline says it all: “95-Year-Old Yankees Fan Afraid He'll Never Get to See Team Win 27 More World Series.”
- Not good enough? How about some good, old-fashioned anti-Yankees moments? Here you go, courtesy of MLB (sorry for all the ads for the U.S. Marines. They may be few and proud but they're hardly brief):
- October 17, 2004: David Ortiz's walk-off homer in the 14th inning beats the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS. The Yankees still lead 3 games to 1.
- October 18, 2004: David Ortiz's walk-off single in the 14th inning beats the Yankees in Game Five of the ALCS. The Yankees still lead 3 games to 2.
- October 19, 2004: Curt Schilling and his bloody sock mow down the Yanks in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Series is now tied.
- They don't have Game 7 up? Damon's grand slam? For shame! But here's a “Baseball Tonight” rundown of the greatest ALDS moments. Ignore #s 8, 6, and particularly 2. Pay attention to #7 (Joba Chamberlain and the midges in Cleveland in 2007), #4 (Sandy Alomar homers off Rivera in 1997), and particularly, yes, #1, baby, a game I was at (Swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit! Here comes Joey! Here's Junior to third! They're going to wave him in! The throw to the plate will be...LATE! The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! I don't believe it! It just continues! My oh my!).
- Before the Series ended, Tyler Kepner wrote a nice piece on why the final moments in baseball are more memorable than in other sports. Yes, it has something to do with baseball's timelessness. More importantly, he doesn't even mention Bill Mazeroski, Gene Larkin, Joe Carter or Luis Gonzalez. Instead he writes about your Eric Hinskes and Sal Yvarses, your Jackie Robinsons and Joe Jacksons. And your Jorge Posadas. That one was sweet. But not as sweet as Gonzalez's.
- Finally, if you're looking for a good, hot-stove-league song, I'd recommend “Cooperstown” by the Felice Brothers, about Georgia in 1905, and Ty Cobb and baseball. It gets better every listen. Something about the last line below in particular gets to me: “And tomorrow you'll surely know who's won.” I keep coming back to it. I don't know what it means but it feels so right. Maybe because it suspends the action. It lays open all possibilities in the present and leaves true knowledge to tomorrow. And even then it doubts it. “Surely” implies that it's not sure at all:
I'm on first
And you're on third
And there are wolves all in-between
And everyone's sure that the game is over
The catcher's hard
He's mean and hard
And he nips at the batter's heels
And everyone's sure that the game is over
And the ball soars
And the crowd roars
And the scoreboard sweetly hums
And tomorrow you'll surely know who's won
Live-Blogging Game 5 of the ALCS
5:12: The Yankees begin the game with two hits and Joe Buck begins the game by saying, ominously, "And here comes New York!" And then there went New York. Out out out. Question: Is Mark Teixeira going to be the new Alex Rodriguez? The guy the press says folds in the clutch on a small sample size? A-Rod was the new Randy Johnson (remember before 2001?) who was the new... Willie Mays? Ted Williams? Take your pick. It's a tired storyline. I'm actually glad A-Rod's doing well this post-season so I don't have to hear that crap anymore. By the way: Nice to see sun. But what's with the empty seats down the right-field line before gametime? C'mon southern Cal: Represent!
5:17: Walk and double and now my man Torii Hunter comes through for two! Off his bat I thought Jeter had it, but I guess Jeter had him played wrong. Wow, and now Vlad with a double in the gap! 3-0. Was Torii limping around the bases? Did I see that? Hope not. This is fun! Yanks get the first two guys on and 10 minutes later, it's 3-0, Angels.
5:18: 4-0, Angels. One wonders when New York is going to warm somebody up.
5:25: The Spanish for "liner" is ligne? Thanks, Tim McCarver. And the Angels have been waiting for an inning like this, Joe Buck? I've been waiting for an inning like this. Doesn't matter, though. The Angels could be up 10-0 and I'd still be worried. The Yankees are Freddy Kreuger to me. They're Michael Myers. Just when you think they're dead, they rise up. They're their own horror movie.
5: 35: Cano not doing well in the post-season. Swisher. Teixeira. One wonders how the Yankees have won anything. And now they're giving us the John Hancock question of the day: Who are the only three LCS MVPs to come from losing teams? Wasn't one of them George Brett back in the '70s? And doesn't this go against the usual nomenclatural argument against the regular-season MVP? That you can't be "valuable" on a team that doesn't win? Surprised McCarver doesn't mention that. I never buy that argument, by the way. You can be valuable, even most valuable, on a team that doesn't go to the post-season. Three definitions of valuable: 1) Having considerable monetary or material value for use or exchange; 2) Of great importance, use, or service; 3) Having admirable or esteemed qualities or characteristics. Nothing in there about winning.
5:47: Uck, that tomato alfredo in the Olive Garden commercial looks awful. And what's with the Chris Farley Direct-TV ad? Isn't that a little creepy? He's been dead for 12 years now and they're trotting him out to... What? Are they saying you should get Direct TV so you don't have to watch Chris Farley? That would be pretty gross. On the other hand, at least it's not that damn Viagra ad with the guy talking to himself or the Black Eyed Peas commercial where the girl is remaking "A Midsummer Night's Dream" while the dude is walking on the moon with a camel.
6:00: Torii Hunter's stolen base in the bottom of the third was pretty funny. Don't know if I've ever seen that before—where a baserunner was halfway down to second before the pitcher even threw the ball to homeplate. And now he's at third with only one down. Ah, but then nabbed in a rundown. McCarver: "That's why you bring the infield in." No shit, Sherlock. You could almost see Torii calculating, to see how long he could run back-and-forth before Vlad got to second base. And he almost got back to third anyway. But the Angels gotta get some more runs here. Freddy Krueger ain't gonna play dead forever. Those eyes are gonna pop open.
6:19: Here's the answer to that John Hancock question: Fred Lynn in '83, Mike Scott in '86 (of course!) and Jeff Leonard n '87. All within a five-year period. Wonder why? Also: John Hancock signs his name big and over 230 years later we're asking trivia questions in his name. Cue Yakov Smirnoff.
6:27: Melky Cabrera gets on base with one out in the top of the 5th. There goes Molina back in the dugout and here comes Posada out of the dugout...and he goes down on strikes. Does this mean A.J. Burnett is gone, too, since Molina catches Burnett? Angels need runs. They haven't scored since the 1st. BTW: I like how Mathis, the Angels catcher, pounces after that ball when he's behind the plate. He really moves. C'mon, Lackey, strike Jeter out already. Yes! Made him look ba-yad, too.
6:37: "That's outside!" Gotta love an ump you can hear. I also like this guy's strike zone so far. Seems on. A solid base-knock from Torii. Let's see if he tries to steal again. And yet another throw over to first base. You embarass me and I will bore everyone to make sure you don't embarass me again. Joe Buck: "Hunter's getting worn out over there." CUT TO: Hunter, smiling.
6:48: Two-out double from A-Rod. Did he think it was a homerun? It took him awhile to get to second, but then Torii played it well off the wall, too. Again, I'm happy for A-Rod as long as it doesn't lead to any runs here. And...? A walk. Joe Buck: "And with Cano coming up, with one swing of the bat he could change the complexion of the game." Oh, shut up! Nope, force at second. Yanks have 9 outs left.
7:00: Some doofus dunks himelf in the fake pond in centerfield and for some reason FOX shows it. For a long while, too. I thought the networks weren't supposed to show this crap, so they don't encourage the doofuses of the world. Then again, FOX is used to broadcasting, and encouraging, the doofuses of the world.
7:17: It's a good feeling when a ball, that might be trouble, is hit to a guy, and you're not even worried. That's how I feel when a ball is hit to Torii Hunter. But overall I still don't like this. It's top of the 7th and the Angels are just sitting on this lead. And now a third strike to Posada is called a ball? Joe Buck: "What will that lead to?" Oh, shut up. And now Jeter walks to load the bases. The tying run, Johnny Damon, comes to the plate for the Yankees. Joe Buck: "Damon has homered in two straight games... One memorable Damon grand slam in LCS play..." Oh, shut up! But Damon flies out. So... two outs. But the tying run is still at the plate: Mark Teixeira. And there goes Lackey with 7 outs still to go. And here comes Darren Oliver. And there goes the mothercreepingfreakingflugging ball! CRAP! One pitch from Oliver, three runs score. How big is that missed called third strike by the ump? The Yankees always seem to capitalize on bad calls. Now a Matsui basehit. Tie game. This is not a good feeling.
7:20: Is there a more obnoxious commercial than that Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad? It's the Yankees of ads. It also feels slightly racist. "Don't worry, Punjab, I'm here."
7:25: 6-4, Yankees. I hate life. But the inning finally ends, thanks to Nick Swisher. The Angels still have nine outs, but if this is the end of their season, if we're done with the LCS, the Yankees and Phillies have to wait a whole freakin' week while the earth moves further and further away from the warmth of the sun. Nice schedule, Bud. Of course, if there's one team that deserves to play in the cold and awful of November, it's the Yankees.
7:32: McCarver's talking as if the pitching change (Oliver for Lackey) happened when there was one out. There were two outs. There, he corrects himself.
Seventh inning, Angels! This is your inning! The eighth means the only pitcher with VETO power in the Majors, Mariano Rivera, can come in, and we don't want that. Jesus, I just realized the Yankees got their half-dozen runs without a homerun. In fact, no one's hit a homerun in this game. 10 runs, no homeruns. A walk to Eybar, the man with cheekbones you can cut yourself on, and there goes Burnett. And here comes the top of the Angels order. Time for a homerun, Angels! But Chone Figgins...drops a bunt? I don't know. I'm not a fan of the sacrifice. You just gave up one of the nine outs you have left in the season.
McCarver calls Yankees reliever Damaso Marte the most "volatile" of the Yankee relievers. In terms of temperament? In terms of performance? What does he mean? Ground-out from Abreu scores a run. 6-5, Yankees. And here comes a new reliever. Phil Hughes vs. Torii Hunter. 1-0 count. Tying run at third. 2-0. Hitter's pitch. 3-0. Do you greenlight him? Why not? See if he can send it deep and put the Angels ahead. He walks anyway, so it's time for Big Bad Vlad.
Wow, after that second strike I was ready to give up on Vlad, but thankfully Jeter can't go to his left, and it's a basehit and a tie game! Now 12 runs without a homerun. Time for a homer, Kendry! 3-1 count. And the ball's ripped into right field! "And here comes Torii Hunter! And the Angels are back on top!" Izturis is up but McCarver's still questioning the 1-2 fastball to Vlad.
7:58: Top of the 8th, 7-6, Angels, and Jared Weaver's knocking 'em down. If he keeps doing it, they should let him stay in. Love the Angels' fans booing Jeter every time he comes up. Yanks got four outs left. Yes! Fastball down the pike and Jeter coudn't catch up! Three outs left. LEAVE WEAVER IN!
8:09: So nice to see Joba the Hutt. And it's a lead-off double! Hope the Yanks don't bring in VETO power. Might not matter since the Angels continue to bunt away outs. If they can get the bunts down. And now Eric Eybar sends one up the middle but Cano gets to it. Can't get Eybar at first but it prevents a run from scoring. And, uh-oh, VETO power is up and throwing. So the Yankees stall...and stall... and stall... and then bring him in. The last no. 42 in Major League Baseball. Let's see if the Angels can at least get that one big run in.
8:14: "10 earned runs in 125 1/3 innings pitched in the post-season." If Rivera isn't the real reason for the Yankees' success these past 13 years... OK, Rivera and $$$$$$$$. Hey, good move by Eybar, stealing second with the infield in. And McCarver just mentioned what I just thought: Luis Gonzalez in '01 hitting that bloop single off Rivera to win the World Series with the infield in. McCarver called it correctly then, hope he's called it correctly here. Nope, fly ball...and the guy on third doesn't even score! Crap. That was about as solid a hit as you can get off of Rivera. Pop fly ends the inning. So now it's 10 earned runs in 126 innings pitched in the post-season. And here comes Fuentes. He's going to have to face A-Rod again, isn't he?
8:34: "Johnny Damon...how I hate him.. now that he's with New York..." A rocket to first but out. And an easy fly out from Teixeira. Two gone. And now... A-Rod. Do you walk him? No. Pitch to him! But they don't. They intentionally walk him. I know it worked before but that's a little too much respect for a guy who makes an out 2 every 3 times. Poor A-Rod. First they walk him, now they pinch-run for him. Won't anyone let him play?
And now it's 3-1 to Matsui. And now it's 3-2 to Matsui. And now Matsui walks. Runners at first and second, and two out, and Robinson Cano at the plate. And Fuentes hits him. Bases juiced. Joe Buck: "And Nick Swisher, who does not have an RBI this entire series, will be the hitter." Shut up! But a quick 0-2 to Swisher. Now 1-2. Now foul. Now 2-2. Joe Buck: "It's a situation like this that makes this game great." Sure, but only if the Angels win. Otherwise it's like Goliath beating David and that's hardly news. Now it's 3-2. With the bases juiced and a one-run lead. But Swisher swings and it's a high popup!...And Eybar's got it!... And we're going to New York for Game Six.
Interesting experiment but doubt I'll repeat it anytime soon. Too difficult to say anything interesting in the time-span allowed. It's vaguely interesting, because you get to see what you thought an inning or two or three earlier, but overall... It's typing, not writing, as Truman Capote once said of Kerouac.
Look Bronxward, Angels.
ADDENDUM: Turns out that after his 3-RBI double in the seventh, Mark Teixeira isn't the next A-Rod; Nick Swisher is. Rob Neyer sensibly asks everyone to shut up already about this crap.
Jeter Sucks! (On the Yankees Anyway)
Quick baseball trivia question for you. Derek Jeter's name has been bandied about for the American League MVP award. But where does he place among qualifying Yankees in terms of OPS—On-Base Plus Slugging—which is generally regarded as one of the best indicators of a player's hitting prowess?
Seventh. As of this morning, he has the seventh-best OPS on the Yankees.
What's more remarkable? Jeter is still 24th among the 74 American League players who have the requisite number of plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Meaning seven of the Yankees' nine hitters are among the top 24 hitters in the league. Ouch! Here they are:
No other team is close. Among the top 24 players in OPS, the Rays have four (Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena), Boston has three (Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, J.D. Drew), the Twins have three (Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau), Texas has two (Nelson Cruz, Michael Young), and the Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays, Mariners and Indians all settle for one a piece (Miguel Cabrera, Kendry Morales, Adam Lind, Russell Branyan and Shin-Soo Choo). White Sox, Royals, Orioles and A's get zilch. Especially the A's.
The Yankees, again, have seven. That's gotta be worrisome for anyone playing them in the post-season.
New Yankee Stadium—so nice you get to homer twice—has, I'm sure, helped the Yankees accrue the best team OPS in the Majors, .842, 40 points higher than second-place Boston (.802). At the same time, didn't it destroy their pitching staff? Their pitching OPS must suck.
Not really. Here's how the 30 teams in the Majors stand when you add their batting OPS ranking and their pitching OPS ranking. Current division and wild-card leaders in bold:
|Rank||Team||OPS bat. rank||OPS pit. rank||Total|
|Chicago White Sox||16||8||24|
What is this measurement worth? Not much. For one, teams have reconfigured for the season. The good and the rich are better, the mediocre and middle-class are worse. No way, for example, that the Marlins and White Sox are equal to the Phillies, who are my gut pick for NL champs. No way the Angels are that bad. Even so, I was surprised that the only other team in slngle digits in both categories—besides the Yankees—is the Colorado Rockies. Ninth in the majors in opposition OPS? Wow.
Yes, as an avowed Yankees hater, none of this is exactly good news, but stats are stats. Put it this way: the Yankees are overbudget, filled with lousy actors, get too much attention...but they're good. “Transformers 2” is all of those things and it sucked. That's how bad that movie was. It makes the Yankees look good.
A gentle reminder to Yankees fans everywhere that, as of this moment, their team is the losingest team in the history of New Yankee Stadium. Yesterday afternoon, in their $1.6 billion stadium debut, they got drubbed by the Cleveland Indians, 10-2. Some firsts at the new park:
- First pitch: by C.C. Sabathia, a ball, at 1:09 PM eastern time
- First batter: Grady Sizemore, groundout to first
- First strikeout: Victor Martinez, by Sabathia, in the top of the 1st
- First Yankees batter: Derek Jeter, fly out to center
- First basehit: Johnny Damon, single, bottom of the 1st
- First extra-base hit: Ben Francisco,Cle., double in the top of the 2nd
- First run: Ben Francisco,Cle., who scored from first on a two-out double by Kelly Shoppach in the top of the 4th
- First homerun: Jorge Posada, NY, nobody on, bottom of the 5th
- First grand slam: Grady Sizemore in the top of the 7th
Not exactly names that might ring through the ages, right? Francisco is 27 and his double was the 38th of his career. Shoppach is 28 and the RBI was the 103rd of his career.
The inning was so bad that by the end of it, some fans shouted, “We want Swisher!” — as in Nick Swisher, the outfielder who tossed a scoreless inning in a blowout at Tampa Bay on Monday.
May the streak continue.
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