Monday, December 26, 2005

Hot Stove In The Bronx...The Implosion Of The Rebellion

After a month of advanced Sith training, an attempted assasination by Rebel Spies through alcohol poisoning and a Transit Strike....I am back where I the blogosphere terrifying infidel scum....

And I am vexed....I am sorely vexed....

I have to admit...the fact that the New England Infidels and the Mutts were dominating all the hot stove headlines the last couple of months.....annoyed the hell out of me.

But I'm wasn't panicking. Far from it. I understood why Cashman and company were quiet this off-season. Despite our obvious need for a centerfielder to replace Bernie Williams, there was noone available that's worth mortgaging off our future.

Juan Pierre was a nice player. A speedy Mickey Rivers-Lance Johnson type of player. But I'd have a hard time justifying a trade involving one of our top prospects or Cano and Wang for a guy with .326 OBP this year and couldn't even hit home runs at Coors Field when he played for the Rockies.

Same goes with Aaron Rowand. Nice glove and a decent bat. But for Gary Sheffield? The most feared hitter in our lineup? Not in a million years. Rowand can't begin to save as many runs with his glove as Sheff can produce with his bat. The Phillies gave up Jim Thome for Rowand in what I thought was a dumb trade. You're trading a Gold-Glove caliber centerfielder who's still in his twenties, for a broken down first-baseman/DH with a bad back. You can't give up a good young player for a guy that hasn't played a full season in a couple of years.

It's a deal the Sox could afford to make because they have a strong farm system and a surplus of starting pitching. A position that Yankees don't find themselves in right now.

The Josh Beckett trade to Boston on paper looks like a great deal for the Infidels. You traded a couple of prospects for a budding 25 year old ace. An ace that went into Yankee Stadium during the deciding game of the World Series...stared into the belly of the beast...and slayed the dragon. He has nasty stuff and the guts to match.

But if you look a little closer, you see a pitcher who has been on the DL 11 times in five years. Is he a potential ace? Absolutely. But only if he can stay healthy. I'm not willing to give up a Cano, Wang or a top prospect for somebody that hasn't thrown 200 innings in the majors. Throwing in South Beach and the NL East is one thing. Facing the Yankees, Angels and the White Sox is a whole different ballgame. The American League is as strong as it's been in years. You have no less than eight teams in the junior circuit who could end up in the Fall Classic next year. In the Senior Circuit, you have maybe four or five teams that will seriously compete in the playoffs.

The Yankees learned their lesson after investing $21 million in Jaret Wright. A tough makeup and competitive nature doesn't mean anything unless you can stay on the mound and out of the doctor's office.

That's why I'm not as horrified about the Johnny Damon signing as some of my friends in the Empire are today.

I found out about the signing when my buddy, Darth Chuck left a message saying, "Johnny Damon??? Are you f&*%&&g kidding me? We signed Johnny Damon???" I have to admit, I wasn't very pleased...particularly when I heard that he's getting four years, $52 million.

But thinking about it a bit, I realized that it's a pretty good baseball move after all.

First off, we have our first legitimate leadoff hitter in our lineup since Chuck Knoblauch. Damon knows how to take pitches, get on base and occasionally steal a bag or two when he's on. It means that Jeter can move back down to the two spot where his natural agressiveness will work in his favor. Think about this lineup.

9)DH Platoon

If 1-5 give us their typical years...and Giambi's surge last year was not a fluke, you could be looking at only the second team in 50 years to score over 1,000 years in a season.

I know pitching wins titles, but when you have bats like that, it makes it very difficult for any pitcher to navigate that lineup unscathed.

I know there are some who think we were just fine with Jeter as our leadoff guy. And you can't argue with 95 to 100 wins a year. But Jeter is not a leadoff hitter. He's learned to walk a little more and take pitches, but there were still too many situations where we needed him to take a pitch or two and he was up there hacking. A great leadoff hitter doesn't just get hits, he sets the table for others by taking pitches and letting the rest of the team see what the pitcher is throwing and how he's throwing it. Many times, a home run hit in the seventh inning was set up by what the leadoff hitter has done in first. The more you see a pitcher and what he throws, the more accustomed and comfortable a hitter becomes when he faces him. The genius of that 1998 team was their ability to take pitches and either anticipate what the pitcher was going to throw because they had seen everything and know what he likes to throw in what siutation...or to tire him out because they forced him into long at-bats. While they didn't have the most talented lineup, they were the best team because they knew how to wear down pitchers. And as awful as he was in the field with his throwing problems, one of the table-setters for that team was Chuck Knoblauch.

Damon will leadoff for a much potent lineup potentially than the 1998 version. While today's Yankees strike out a little more than their 1998 counterparts, they also hit for more power. There could be a lot of happy fans in the bleachers next year with all the souvenir balls coming their way.

It was also a great move because Cashman and company went into the heart of Infidel Nation and stole one of its folk heroes. Stealing Johnny Damon from the Red Sox was the equivalent of stealing Freddie Lynn or Carlton Fisk from those 70's Sox teams or Pete Rose from the Big Red Machine during their run. You're taking the sparkplug, the heart and soul of a team, one of the Idiots....and turning him into a member of the Empire.

Whether it be Boggs, Clemens, Tiant or Lyle...there's nothing like watching the agony on an infidel's face when he watches his former favorite player celebrating after a playoff a Yankee. Red Sox fans, two enduring memories of Wade Boggs, crying in the dugout during game 7 of the 1986 World Series at Shea...and on police horseback after winning the World Series as a Yankee in 1996.

The goal every year is to win the World Series. But if you can do that and stick it to the infidels and their fans at the same time....then life is good.

Johnny Damon is no more.....Long live Darth Damon!!!!

He's an average defender with a below average arm. And it's dangerous to give someone like him four years. But if we get two good years out of Damon and a World title out of all of this, then he's been totally worth the investment. This was a move the Yankees had to make. You have a chance to get one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball and potentially cripple your greatest rival. You make the move, stick the knife in their belly and slowly turn the blade.

For the most part, I like what they've done this off-season. They boost their bullpen strength by signing and trading for two quality lefties(Myers & Villone) and you sign a flamethrower like Farnsworth to be your eighth inning setup man. You pick up your option on Sturtze. I would still like one more quality arm just to be safe, but I like the arms surrounding Mariano. I would love to get one more front line starter as well. But this team right now has to be considered the favorite to win the East and one of the top contenders to win it all along with the Angels and White Sox.

Despite what the New York writers are saying, the Yankees don't have to win every off-season Hot Stove. Sometimes the best moves are the ones that you don't make. And I like how Cashman has approached this off-season. Very measured, spend the loot when you have to, but not giving up the ranch for anything less than a sure thing. The Mets and the Red Sox had to make bigger splashes in the off-season because they had more holes to fill. The Yankees, despite their flaws, still won 95 games and the division. There's a big difference between just having to tinker with their team like they had to and a complete overhaul like the Mets and Red Sox.

So I'm cautiously optimistic about Darth Damon. Hopefully, he won't be the reverse Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton....


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