The Yankees will be all right.

November 4, 2007

As we say farewell to the man in charge of baseball’s last dynasty, as well as the league’s best hitter, its easy to take a pessimistic look on the Yankees’ upcoming season. As the token haters start yapping, and as you entertain those thoughts of ineptitude, inferiority, and all the fights you will be forced to start in order to retain your manhood, I submit to you this, Yankee fans: Keep your head up, we got this.

It’s no secret what the Yankees have been lacking in recent years. Its what makes a good team great, and without it, you don’t stand a chance. What I’m talking about here, obviously, is Chuck Knoblauch…Shelley Duncan

But seriously, they haven’t had consistent, deep starting pitching since 2001. It’s been the cause of their unraveling postseason after postseason. Check out this list: Jose Contreras, Esteban Loaiza, Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Carl Pavano. They all have two things in common. One, they were all in the Yankee rotation at some point between ’02 and now, and two, their performance was uglier than Shelley Duncan.

With all that said, I optimistically propose that the Yankees have one of the best rotations in baseball by July ’08. My biased ass is guaranteeing it, and I offer you some marginally speculative reasons why.

Johan Santana, the best pitcher in the game, is coming to New York. He’s got no business (or intention) ruining his career with an extension that keeps him in Grim-esota, and that $30 mill the Steinbrenners just saved by losing ARod is burning a Cruise-Ship-sized hole in their pocket. The Steinbrenner family has an infamous flair for the dramatic, and what better way to forget about the league’s best hitter than by acquiring the best pitcher. The Yanks are going to have to throw a ton of talent at the Twins, but if it can be done, the Steinbrenner kids will be kicking and screaming until it is.

Lets say they lose Hughes in the deal, plus a starting position player and a nice prospect. That leaves them with a rotation like this: Santana, Wang, Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. That’s assuming Pettitte takes the $16m option and comes back, which he may or may not do ($16 mill, tough decision, really?). For the sake of my babbling, I’m going to again take the optimistic view and say he returns.

That gives the Yankees rotation great balance in a couple ways. They’ve got two lefties and three righties. I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had two lefties. The other thing that is even more exciting is the fact that the Yankees will have more young guys in the rotation than they do veterans. From a Yankee standpoint, that is unheard of. But the incredible talent that the young guys Wang, Chamberlain and Kennedy bring to the bump is even more unheard of for anybody except maybe the Marlins every 5 years or so.

Chamberlain’s stuff… –you know what, lets hold up a second. The word stuff is used a ton in baseball, and I think the word is so lame. And if you disagree with me then you are wrong… So I was just thinking of what else I could call it, and I reminded myself that Joba has Native American blood in him, and since it is coming up on Thanksgiving, from now on I’m going to refer to Joba’s stuff as his “corn, beans and squash.” If you don’t mind.

If you’ve had the chance to get a good look at him you’d see that he’s got some of the best corn, beans and squash in the game. He throws 98 mph, spots a ridonculous slider, and we’ve seen flashes of a top-to-bottom curveball, which we’ll see much more of this season since he’ll be throwing more than 15-20 pitches an outing. Corn. Beans. Squash.

Ian Kennedy is a finesse guy who’s got a 2-seam fastball at around 90, a slider, a curve, and his go-to pitch is a changeup he can spot. Both of these guys have very good potential, and it should be fun to watch them develop.

I already know how the haters will respond to this: “Oh, I JUST CAN’T WAIT to see how Yankee fans react when they have to deal with young guys who are struggling, blah blah blah.”

Well, in response to that, with the Yankee lineup, they can struggle–because a mid-4 era and the stamina to get past the 6th inning gets you about 15 wins (+/-1) with the Yankees’ ability to score runs, and that’s with or without PAY-Rod. As good as he was, the Yankees averaged only .22 more runs a game than 2006 when the Yankee third basemen had, by his standards, an off year. With ARod, the lineup was a nightmare, without ARod, the lineup is a nightmare.

In the offseason after a first round postseason loss in ’95, the Yankees hired a controversial new manager, and went into the next season as an underdog with a few young guys forced to play key roles throughout the season. The manager turned into the second winningest manager in Yankee history, the young guys turned out to be Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, and the underdog perception was a means of motivation that transformed them into a dynasty.


Joe Torre: I love you.

October 10, 2007

WARNING: The following is for educated people only, toolbox Yankee-HATERS need not apply.

Yanks lost.  Besides ’04, I haven’t felt worse.  It hurts me because this was my last shot at pride living in the city of Boston.  I won’t go on and on about being a Yankee fan in Boston, but for those who haven’t: going to a bar with a Yankee hat on is like going to church with a big scarlet A on your chest (See Hester Prynne), except Hester didn’t have to listen to drunken idiots with a bloodline flooded with losing impulsively chant “Yankees suck! Yankees suck!” after a Manny Ramirez walk-off homerun in the playoffs.  Losers.  A particularly tolerant constituent of “Red Sox Nation” sincerely asked me the other day, “How can you go to school in Boston and be a Yankee fan?”  Well, there’s an easy answer to that, and here it is: Because I’m not a tool, like you.

This conversation inspired me to speak a little further on the subject, so here’s a message to the more casual (by casual I mean 90% of Boston-area college kids) citizens of Red Sox Nation who just love to spout verbal poopy from their faces:

It is no longer cool to hate the Yankees.  Your “A-Rod sucks the Big Unit” shirt was never funny, and to help update your wardrobe, here’s some suggestions for a replacement: “I couldn’t name one guy in the Red Sox infield.” or “I call runs points.” or “I know nothing about baseball.”

So as you sit at the bar, comparing biceps with your homies, just remember: legitimate Red Sox followers have no respect for you and wish you didn’t exist.  And the louder you are, the dumber you sound, so if you’ve had a few Twisted Teas and you feel the urge to start a “Jeter sucks A-Rod” chant, please, resist, for all of our sake.

Moving on.

In the wake of the loss, and the potential disassembly of the Dynasty’s last pieces, I’m in a reflective mood.  So here I go.

Torre and Rivera

I would love nothing more than to see Joe Torre win a World Series with the Yankees.  To see a guy as classy and genuine and honorable as him get his 5th would be the sweetest one in my lifetime, and I’m sure his too.  Not only was this guy a hell of a player and one of the greatest managers ever, he’s a hell of a man, who has seen his brothers through their darkest hours and survived cancer himself, and has been a very charitable man, while having unprecedented success as Yankee manager, the toughest job in sports.  Don’t think I’m trying to make him into a war-hero, just understand that he is a respectable man.

Last night, he talked about his players like they were his own kids, “If you have children growing up, maybe some of them will make A’s, other will make C’s, but they work their ass off either way and you hug them.  That’s basically the way I feel about those guys.”  This is a guy who managed $200 million dollars worth of the most hyped, most drooled-over lineup in the sport year after year, and his character and presence elicits so much respect that these national superheroes (or villains) call him “Mr. Torre.”  We’re talking about a mini-van full of first-ballot Hall of Famers, Jeter, Clemens, Rodriguez, Rivera, Posada, not to mention a bus load of guys with legitimate Cooperstown resume’s right behind them.  And these guys lived and died with him for 13 years without a peep of displeasure from anybody who mattered.

Should he lose his job?  Yesterday, I’d have said yes.  But I also would have said that there was no reason for me to live, and sometimes when things don’t go our way, we start to think less rationally than we would if we would just stop and give it some thought.  Steinbrenner acted just like I was last night when he gave that ultimatum.

The Yankees’ seven-year drought is not a matter of coaching.  Its a deviation from the formula that made them a Dynasty in the late 90s, a deviation that can be attributed to the same post-loss irrationality that might just dig the Yankees that much deeper if they let it consume them in the coming months.

The Yankees won four rings with one essential ingredient: Team, above all.  Chuck Knoblauch didn’t sit out with a sore ass.  Scott Brosius wasn’t involved in an adultery scandal with a stripper.  David Cone didn’t demand a “Only-Show-Up-For-Games-I-Start” clause in his contract.  Jeff Nelson didn’t cry when he didn’t get the ball in the 8th inning (or about anything else for that matter, Farnsworth).  Paul O’Neill didn’t make up stories about Torre being a racist.

No one was above the team, and they played for the Yankees, not for themselves.  That’s got nothing to do with coaching, that’s just a personnel issue.  The demise of the Dynasty rests in the hands of Steinbrenner, who after the 2001 World Series, the greatest World Series ever played, immediately started breathing down Brian Cashman’s neck to write a check to any big name free agent whose name he could spell.

And the influx of overpaid hype meant the departure of overachieving performers.  Jason Giambi in, Tino Martinez out.  Aaron Boone and Alex Rodriguez in, Wade Boggs and Scotty Brosius out.  Javier Vazquez in, David Wells out. Carl Pavano in, Andy Pettitte out.  Octavio Dotel in, Mike Stanton out.  Kyle Farnsworth in, Jeff Nelson out.  Johnny Damon in, Bernie Williams out.  Bobby Abreu in, Paul O’Neill out.  The list goes on.  And not that these guys were the immediate replacements, and not that any one of them are bad players or were the reason for the team’s failures, but there is an unmistakable trend here that cloaked the franchise from the beginning of the 21st century.  Individual superstars replaced self-motivated winners, and paper champions replaced a team of intangibles.

Steinbrenner just this year admitted his mistake and gave the reins back to Cashman, and besides A-Rod’s historic year, it is that decision that saved us from missing the playoffs.  Guys like Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera, these are guys that would have been dealt if it were up to Steinbrenner, but thankfully, Cashman managed to salvage them and the talent and winning attitude that they all show.

When Steinbrenner first bought the Yanks for $9 million dollars in 1973, an astute businessman, he recognized his abilities and his boundaries, and his first statement as owner resonates today, as the Evil Empire seems to have fallen to its rock bottom.  Understanding the need for front office decision-makers with a knowledge of the game, Steinbrenner said, “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships… It’s important to me, it’s important to all of us, and it’s particularly important to New York and to the Yankees, that the group that gets behind the Yankees at this point has the where-with-all and the interest to get the kind of job done that the sportswriters, that the fans, that the city and the media in New York deserve.”

Its not Joe’s fault, its not A-Rod’s fault, its not Jeter’s fault, its not Cashman’s fault, its not the media’s fault.  Its Steinbrenner’s irrational temperament and impulsive trigger finger that has destroyed the Yankee Mystique that Red Sox, Mets, and Braves fans were so sick of, and that Yankee fans were so proud of.

So, George, here’s what I propose, as a Yankee fan and a baseball fan:

Flip your turtleneck over your mouth and bite it, and let the best Manager and General Manager in the world figure it out, and you just stick to ships.

Barry Bonds Juicing: Best thing that ever happened to Hank Aaron

August 9, 2007

First thing’s first.  Barry Bonds has hit many baseballs an incredible distance, and that is something I am and will be in awe of for the rest of my life.  In his career, he mastered a skill that is more difficult than any occupational task, and made it a routine.

However, I don’t like Barry Bonds (I don’t use hate because I don’t care that much).  Did anyone listen to his speech? If you missed it, I’ll catch you up.  Imagine the sound of ten baby’s crying in harmony as several pairs of acrylic fingernails screech down an old chalkboard, and right when all that finally stops, your girlfriend farts.  That’s exactly what it sounded like.

So now that you’re caught up, I wanted to make a couple comments on the post-home run celebration.  The guy is empty.  Soulless.  Go on ESPN or youtube and check out what he does immediately after he touches homeplate.  His son, who is waiting at home plate, wraps his arms around his dad to give him a hug, an embrace that we peasants couldn’t dream of… 

Now, I can’t speak for everybody, but when I think about my father, I think of him taking me down to the park after school, throwing me batting practice, telling me to grip the bat tighter when it was cold and it hurt.  I think of him hitting me thousands, maybe millions of flyballs.  I think of him running out to give me five when we won our first championship.  When I think of my dad, I think of baseball.  I have no stronger connection with my father than the one we have on the baseball field.

…and with all of this coming to a climax, possibly the GREATEST FATHER-SON MOMENT OF ALL TIME, Bonds raises his arms to the sky to point towards nothing (like most pompous assholes do), doesn’t touch, acknowledge, or look at his son, and turns away.  He didn’t even know he was there.  This was pretty sad, and I felt for the kid, who probably loves his dad a whole lot more than any of the airline passengers Bonds pointed towards.

To briefly add, the speech was condescending and transparent and he barely hugged his mother.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

 But here’s the positive spin: as I was watching Hank Aaron’s honorable message to Bonds, I realized that this might be the best thing that could have happened to Aaron, and here’s why (I will list because I’m tired of paragraphs):

1. There are only two remaining sects of people who still believe Bonds is/was clean:

               Potheads in San Francisco

               The Bonds Family (I decided to add them because to imagine the distorted perceptions they hold, even Barry himself, is frightening).

2. Running off that point, anyone else with a grade school education knows Bonds cheated.  So, in the fan’s mind, Hank is still the king.

3. Plus, considering how culturally powerful the words “Home Run King” have become, and how awesome a title it must be, I still think that having that brand degraded Hank Aaron as a player.  And I know the experts know and you guys will all run to and start spewing numbers like you had them tatooed backwards on your face, but let me save you the trouble, and you may be surprised, just like me.

—A lot of people say Hank broke the record because he played so long and he never hit that many homeruns in a season blah blah blah.  Aaron hit 40+ 8 times. 8.  Only one guy did it more than him, ever–his name was Baby something-or-other.  Mark “Where have you gone?” McGwire only did it six times, and he cheated.

—Hank Aaron did some other cool stuff while he was out there, too.

            -He drove in 2,297 runs, more than you (regardless of who you is)

            -He had 1,477 extra base-hits, more than you (regardless of who you is)

            -He accumulated 6,656 total bases, more than you (regardless of who you is)

            -He got 3,771 hits, probably more than you (unless you is Ty Cobb or Pete Rose)

            -He scored 2,174 runs, probably more than you (unless you is Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, or Barry Bonds)

            -He played in 24 All-Star games, more than you (regardless of who you is)

            -He finished in the top 3 in MVP voting 7 times, probably more than you (didn’t have time to look it up, just let me know if you did that more than him and I’ll take it out)

 My point here is that maybe Bonds hitting this homerun is a good thing (and not just for that dude from Queens).  In my opinion, for Aaron, the homerun record almost became a handicap, making him seem like a one-dimensional guy.  Shedding the title might help people to look at Aaron not just for being the greatest power hitter of all time, but for what he really is, one of maybe three guys that are the greatest baseball players of all time.

 Stay fly.

Cars, and anything else I can think of.

July 27, 2007

I work for a car company, so I’m sorry if my blog occasionally favors related topics.

First topic: Chrysler 

Chrysler just announced a LIFETIME powertrain warranty on all their cars.

...And bankruptcy comes soon.

 Translation: From today, July 26, 2007, on, if anything goes wrong with any of their cars’ engines, transmissions, anything under the hood or within the structure of the car, it’s on them. (Jeep, too.)  I haven’t read the fine print, so I’m not sure how it REALLY works, but does this mean that I could buy a Chrysler, and keep having the car fixed on Chrysler’s dime for all eternity, and drive that car forrrr-ehhh-verrrr?  This seems ludicrous.

Translation: Chrysler can’t sell a car.

Next topic: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Maris…

Listening to mike&mike on the way in to work today (I would have rather had John Mayer, but I left the player in my mom’s car, a red Cobalt, which p.s. if you like fly mature hunnies, this is the car; I got 2 compliments yesterday from celebrities)…

Anyways, I’m listening and they’re talking about McGwire and Bonds and homeruns and Curt Schilling’s recent interview on the topic.  This is where things got crazy…Curt Schilling actually said something worthwhile. 

He commented on the fact that both of these guys have been called out by the public (Bonds on numerous counts but namely in that book, Game of Shadows, and McGwire in front of a grand jury), and had nothing to say.  Their respect, fame, livelihood was challenged in front of their peers, fans, and anyone else who really matters within the culture, and neither of them had anything to say.  McGwire “didn’t want to talk about the past,” and Bonds whines incessantly about being persecuted by the world to disguise the fact that he’s easily the biggest chooch/cheater American sports has ever seen (see most revered record in American sports-prove me wrong).

And Schilling’s point was that by not saying anything, it was a passive admission of their guilt.  I couldn’t agree more (though it pains me).  So here’s what I propose, and feel free to comment on this because I’m interested to see how crazy I sound…Both of these guys, after they both retire, should be erased from the Major League record books, same with Palmeiro, Canseco, Giambi, Juan Gonzalez, and whoever else that breaks a record or wins an award while being reasonably suspected of cheating.  And it should be known that they no longer hold records because they did not play by the rules, and when you don’t play by the rules, you can’t hold records.  And then say, OK, to any of you who have a problem with this, come forward and speak your case, and let the baseball community be the judge.

And your argument against this can’t be well that’s not fair because you can’t prove it.  Sports record books are not legal documents, they’re not decided in a court of law, and these guys don’t have any kind of right to be in the “books.”  Hank Aaron didn’t fill out some kind of paperwork before he hit 715.  Joe D didn’t have to draw up a title deed when he broke George Sisler’s (I think) 40-something game hit streak.  Records are just held in the minds of people who love the game and respect it.  The people who decide these things is a community made up of coaches, players, and fans-we are the judge and the jury.  So if the baseball community, as a whole or otherwise, don’t feel like calling you the guy, then plain and simple, you’re not the guy. 

The fans, the people who grow up playing, we are the pulse of the sport, without us, there is no game, no history, no record book.  So I, or anyone who doesn’t feel like it, doesn’t have to let these guys walk away with a needle in their ass and our crown on their heads, because these things are intangibles, and ours to give away when we feel comfortable with it.  And I don’t feel comfortable with it.  So, Maris is still my guy, and Hank is still my guy, and when its said and done, what else really matters?