Monday, January 30, 2006

Random Notes To Start The Week

Before I get into today's lesson, a number of my friends and family have recently discovered that I do a blog and have wondered why I don't put more personal anecdotes unrelated to sports. I've been so horrible keeping in touch with some family and friends, that they wondered if I would keep sort of a online diary so they can keep tabs on my goings on.

Will never happen for several reasons.

First off, the company I work for wants to keep tabs on any employee blogs that might pop up. While I don't agree with the decision, I understand why they're concerned about all these personal blogs popping out of the woodwork. Common sense isn't all that common these days and all these idiots who are dogging their places of business or giving away trade secrets on their blogs have messed it up for everyone. As it stands now, several of my supervisors who are huge baseball fans read my blog. And we'll debate various points that are brought up during the season. Cool with me. Better to have it in the open as opposed to hiding in the weeds hoping noone gets wind of what I'm doing.

But the last thing I want is for my bosses or random strangers knowing anything about my personal life other than the fact that I work hard, play hard and love sports.

Phil Simms was once described as being "Open without being revealing" with the media. That's what I strive for in my blog entries. To give folks a little piece of me without revealing too much. Enough that you're comfortable with me but not too much that you think you know me.

Now onto to some baseball.

I thought the Red Sox were giving up a lot to get Coco Crisp. I've seen a lot of Crisp and I think he's a good ballplayer. But Mota has nasty stuff and the Sox desperately need some help in the pen...especially if Foulke can't come back. Timlin will be 40 this year and they can't expect him to shoulder the load he did last year. Fortunately for them, they were able to finetune the deal and get their man after Mota failed his physical and put the kibbosh on the deal.

But what the infidels are going to find out about Crisp is that while he's a good ballplayer, he's no Johnny Damon. He lacks the patience to be an elite leadoff
hitter and while he has good speed, he's not as good a basestealer as you might think. Crisp is a switch-hitter but he has no almost power righthanded. He's a good fielder but he's not going make anyone forget Andruw Jones.

He's probably going to get some good pitches to hit in that lineup. But a great leadoff hitter doesn't just do his job by getting on-base. They set the table by taking pitches and letting his teammates see what the opposing pitcher is throwing and what count he throws it. Jumping on the first pitch is nice, but games are often won by what hitters do to set up a pitcher in the first inning. They often bear fruit in the later innings by what displaying patience early in the game.

That's why I think the Yanks did the right thing acquiring Damon and moving Jeter out of the leadoff spot. Jeter has come a long way, but he's a natural number two hitter. With his natural agressiveness in the two hole and Damon playing table-setter...a lethal lineup becomes a virtual criminal enterprise. The new Murder Inc.

Speaking of the infidels, it looks as if the prodigal son returns as Theo Epstein returns to the fold. I wonder how long will it take for this new lovefest to explode. Epstein is very capable baseball mind and Lucchino is as responsible for changing the perception and culture of the franchise from perennial also-ran to perennial contender as anyone.

But I doubt that those two egos can co-exist in the same atmosphere for long. You would need a oxygen mask to breathe with those two in the room. The sad thing is that the two are much better together than they'll ever be apart. Together, they conquered the Empire and the baseball world. Apart, the infidels were probably looking at third place in the division.

As a member of the Empire, I was giggling my ass off when Epstein left. I was hoping he would end up in the National League, preferably out West somewhere. But cooler heads prevailed and Rebel alliance is back together. Bully for them.

Now they can die together instead of apart. Makes no difference to me. Despite the aberration of 2004. We all know how this drama ends.

Mike Piazza couldn't have gone to a worst team than the Padres. Not to say that they're a bad team. If they're healthy, they have a chance of competing for the division again this year. It's just that the Pods are a horrible fit for Piazza. Mike is no longer an everyday catcher. His body just can't stand the abuse. He's at best a platoon player. And he's playing one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. Petco Park makes Shea look like Fenway.

He would have been better off going to an American League team and DHing. But because he thinks he can still catch everyday, he's going to So-Cal. They better hope Doug Mirabelli can catch everyday because Piazza is spending at least a month on the DL. Bet on it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A-Rod Needs To Get A Spine.

I want to like Alex. I really do.

But all this politicking over what team he's going to play for for the World Baseball Classic is making me violently ill.

As ill as one gets watching the Giants get raped in their own house a couple of weeks ago? Not quite. But as ill as one gets when he sees players from his favorite team playing Tricky Dick.

Personally, I hate this competition. I think it's pointless. MLB would be better served promoting the game in our inner-cities than in Latin America and Asia. Yes, you potentially open up new markets around the globe. Which means more money for the league. But how many hall of famers do you think will come out of Nicaragua? Or Japan? Or Taiwan?

Now conversely, how many hall of famers do you think will come out of Houston? Or Oakland? Or Harlem? Or Philly?

The way that baseball has neglected the country's black community...the same fan base and community that helped make this game as great it sickening. I understand the economics of it. But it still stinks.

Look at how football and basketball have blossomed by marketing and recruiting black athletes. Both following baseball's lead. The best athletes used to play baseball. Today, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson would have probably have played football rather than baseball. Ugh...

But that's another blog for another time. This blog is about the invertebrate named Alex Rodriguez.

Like I said before, I hate this tournament. But I do believe one thing. If you were born in NYC and raised in Miami, you should not be playing for Dominicans. Your passport says United States, so you should be playing for the U.S.

But while I would have disagreed with him, I would have respected A-Rod's decision to play for the D.R if it was for his parents.

But all this flip-flopping is making me nauseous. Because of outside pressure, he initially bowed out. Now, however, he says he's playing for the U.S. Lovely.

Bill Madden's nailed my feelings on this melodrama in Sunday's Daily News column...

So Alex Rodriguez has finally ended his Hamlet performance and agreed to play for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic and the world can finally begin spinning on its axis again. After reading his explanation last week — "At the end of the day, with my status in the game, I realized how important it was for me to participate" — it was easy to see just how much of a burden it is being A-Rod. You know, having to work out every morning when his teammates are taking their kids to school. Those kinds of things. Anyway, A-Rod's self-acclaimed self-importance brought up one other thought: Can you imagine Mickey Mantle or Sandy Koufax ever saying something like that?

If you ever wondered why people hate you Alex, why you'll never be as popular as Jeter...that statement encapsulated why. Play, don't play. But whatever decision you make, make sure it's your own and not your agent or a consultants.

Say what you want about Sheff...he told the world that he thought this tourney was a farce and he wanted no part of it. He didn't wait to hear what his agent thought about it. He said the Yankees pay him and that plays for them, not a made up tournament. Olympics, yes....WBC, NO. You might not have liked it. But at least he was honest. He wasn't telling folks what he thought they wanted to hear.

Jeter said he would love to be a part of the tourney if he was picked and he stuck by it. All folks want is honesty. Not some Madison Avenue spun superhero.

I was hoping A-Rod was going to grow out of this whole image is everything phase. But I realize now that this is the same guy who wouldn't sign a waver after getting Punk'd by MTV and Ashton Kutcher. As a result, the episode never aired.

I wish him well on the field and hope he leads our guys to another title. But anyone who take himself that seriously that he can't laugh at himself...will never have a place in hearts of the fans.

You better do it on the field, Alex. Because you'll never win the fans over with your personality.

Leave the politics to Bubba. He's better at it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Goose Gets Fleeced As Sutter Gets In The Hall.....

You wonder what Goose Gossage and Jim Rice have to do to get to Cooperstown....

Bruce Sutter was elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, just the fourth relief pitcher given baseball's highest honor.

Sutter, the first pitcher elected to the Hall with no career starts, was listed on 76.9 percent of the ballots cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The split-finger pioneer collected 400 of a record 520 ballots.

"It was a call that you always hope for, but you never really expect it to happen," Sutter said, adding that he cried when he received the notification. "I didn't think it would affect me or hit me as hard as it did."

Players needed 390 votes (75 percent) to gain election. Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice fell 53 short, finishing second with 337 votes (64.8 percent), one ahead of reliever Goose Gossage.

Sutter was on the ballot for the 13th time, the first player elected so late since Ralph Kiner in 1975. Rice was appearing for the 12th time and has three years remaining on the writers' ballot. Gossage was on the ballot for the seventh time.

It might be difficult for Rice and Gossage to gain votes next year, when Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire appear on the ballot for the first time. Each voter may select up to 10 players.

The other players in the Hall who primarily were relievers are Hoyt Wilhelm (elected in 1985), Rollie Fingers (1992) and Dennis Eckersley (2004).

Andre Dawson was fourth with 317 votes, followed by Bert Blyleven (277), Lee Smith (234), Jack Morris (214), Tommy John (154) and Steve Garvey (135).

Let me start off by saying that Bruce Sutter's indcuction was long overdue. He was the best closer in the National League in late 70's and early 80's. He was a innovator as well with his use of the split-fingered fastball. A pitch that made virtually unhittable. The only thing that kept him out was the voters ridiculous bias against relievers.

Jim Rice's situation, I understand. If there was a Scumbag Hall Of Fame, he'd be a charter member for the way he treated the media. If he was as good a player as he was a jerk, he would be a first ballot HOFer.

Because his career stats weren't overwhelming, many of the younger voters won't remember the fact that he was the most dominant hitter in the Junior circuit and just look at the stats which in this post-1994 era are hardly overwhelming. Writers who do remember how good Rice was but can't stand him will focus on Rice's inability to reach 500 homers and 3,000 hits....two marks that guarantee induction. If you're a borderline case (ie: Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez), you better have had a good relationship with either the community, the writers or both. Rice had neither so it looks like voters are going to make him sweat just a little bit longer.

The same goes for Bert Blyleven. His 287 wins, 3,700 k's and 60 shutouts count for something with some voters. But his aloof, obnoxious personality as a player has put off enough voters to keep him out as well.

I think the "Hawk" Andre Dawson will eventually get into Cooperstown. He was one of the best all-around players in the National League for a decade and his stats and multiple gold gloves compare favorably with other recent inductees. Why he's not in already is a mystery to me.

But Gossage's omission baffles me. He was the best closer in the American League in the late 70's and early 80's. Even more impressive considering that back then closers went two or three innings to save games and pitched over 100 innings in a season. He won a world championship in 1978 with the Yankees. He has better career stats than Sutter despite having to contend with the DH (Sutter never faced a DH).

To my knowledge, he had a fairly cordial relationship with the press. He played in as high-profile situation as you can have playing here in the 70's and 80's. My only explanation is the media's continued bias against relievers. Which is stupid.

With sure things Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken up to bat next year, it's going to be tough for Goose and the others in '07. Hopefully the Steroid backlash will turn enough voters against Mark McGwire that they'll give Goose and company another look.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Merry New Year!!! New Bones To Pick With The World....

For those of you who got the Trading Places reference, bless you. For those who didn't...well, there's a special place in hell for you.

I probably need a life...but it burns my arse when I hear people mess this up...The random Star Wars references need to stop if you don't know what you're talking about.

To clear up any discrepancies....Here's the Readers Digest of version of Star Wars/Yankees analogies.....

Anakin/Darth Vader: Johnny Damon is not Anakin There is only one player who fits the status of the Chosen One. Babe Ruth is Lord Vader/Anakin. He was the one that changed sides and the shifted the balance of power between teams. He's the one that changed the game and saved the sport. Just like Vader helped Chancellor Palpatine create the first Galactic Empire, Babe Ruth helped to create the Empire that is the New York Yankees. The number one brand name in sports. Johnny Damon? He's a minor player in all this. A mercenary. More on them later.

The Death Star: That's easy, Yankee Stadium. What other place inspires such fear and dread in their opponents like the Stadium? A bigger than life monument to the Empire. That's why when the infidels finally won in 2004, Metstradamus wrote, "The Death Star Exploded?" Because metaphorically, it did.

The Rebellion: The Red Sox, Indians, Mets, Mariners and any other team and their fanbases who have tried and failed miserably to take down the Empire. Teams whose hatred of the Yankees borders on the pathological. Any team that has "Hate a Yankee Hanky" nights and sell Yankees suck paraphenelia when they're playing the Devil Rays deserves to be destroyed.

Bobba Fett and Jingo Fett: All the mercenaries who have come here for the money and rings. Reggie, Damon, Boggs, Johnson, Clemens, Sheffield, A-Rod etc would fit in this category. You might not like them, but they do serve a purpose. I will always have a place in my heart for players born into the empire. But sometimes the Fetts are a necessary evil.

The Empire: Yankee organization and its fans. Nothing else needs to be said. We are the glue that keeps it all together. What makes the world love and hate us at the same time. Like it or hate it, learn to love it because it's the best thing going.

Here endeth the lesson....