Saturday, October 28, 2006

Whoops....Guess I Was Wrong....

Jeff ##%#% Weaver...goddamn.

First of all, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on their 10th World Series title. First class baseball town. First class fans. They deserve to enjoy this, in spite of the 800 books that are bound to come out genuflecting on the genius of Tony LaRussa. Or how the Midwest is where the soul of the game resides and where real Americans live. And of course...that Cardinal fans are the greatest fans in the universe.

I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not.

But love him or hate him (I don't know where I stand on TL), you can't take anything away from what he just accomplished. He took the second-worst team ever to appear in the World Series to the mountaintop. He beat a very good Mets team and a very young, but game Tigers team to get there. A Mets team that was the class of the Senior Circuit. And a Detroit team that beat the very best the AL had to offer during a year where the AL was by far the better league.

That's right. I refuse to concede that the leagues are equal. They're not and anyone who watches baseball will attest that they're not. There have been plenty of years when the NL has been the deeper league, but the AL has won the big prize. It's no accident that they've won 10 of the last 16 titles. What happened last night was no fluke. But it doesn't mean the balance of power has changed.

This all runs in cycles. In the nineties, the NL was a much deeper league because of its pitching. The only thing that kept them from running the table in the Fall Classic was Mariano Rivera. That's what separated the Yankees and everyone else. It certainly wasn't Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill. No matter what the mythmakers like Buster Olney want to spin.

In a few years, it will be the NL's day, provided all the young talent stays healthy and stays in the senior circuit. Right now, the AL is the standard.

That's what makes what the Lou accomplished so impressive. With a pitching staff anchored by Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver; they beat the best baseball had to offer. LaRussa's best managing job ever. Dave Duncan has to be considered the best pitching coach in the game for what he's done with Suppan, Weaver and the kid Wainright. Amazing job.

On the flip side, Jim Leyland did a horrible job keeping his team motivated during the long layoff. Horrible. Not to take anything away from the Cardinals, but I think the Series comes off a little differently if the Tigers weren't waiting around for a week for the NLCS to end. This was a team of kids that needed an opponent to play. They were probably too A-D-D to maintain their focus and edge for the layoff. That was still no excuse for happened. Leyland should have had them ready.

Going to Verlander at Busch instead of Kenny Rogers, also turned out to be a bad move. I understand the pine-tar incident would have made things difficult for Rogers. But you can't go to a rookie who has struggled all postseason in enemy territory when your season is on the line. This is where Rogers needed to show his worth. You're not supposed to protect him in this instance. He's supposed to protect you if he's the ace. Verlander should have been saved for game 6.

But I don't think it would have mattered, since the Tigers turned into the Royals this Series. Actually, I stand corrected. That would be an insult to the Royals.

But the Metsmaster was right. The World Series is all that matters. All-Star games, Interleague. At the end of the day, the team with the pitching wins. Every time.

I'll say this. If Jeff Weaver's smart, he re-signs with the Cardinals immediately. He's never going to be in a better situation than he is now. Fans that will love him forever. A manager and pitching coach that will keep him honest. A team that's dedicated to putting a quality product on the field every year. A chance to be a part of one of the best rotations in the league if Mulder can get healthy and Suppan re-signs. No East Coast drama. Weaver pitching like this wasn't an accident. He has always had the stuff to be a front-line starter. He just has to put down the peace-pipe and the bong during the season and focus on baseball again.

So congrats to the Lou. For making sure that someone other than the Scions of Shea get a parade next week.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Darth Marc: The Art Of War

True story that's has some relevance to what's been going with me the last couple of days.

In elementary school, there was this creature/girl named Antoinette who used to hang out with these two linebacker chicks. You have to remember that from first to fifth grade, some girls were very often bigger than boys. They generally stop growing vertically in their early teens. So while 5'6'' is hardly scary to me now, when I was 8 or 9 it was an entirely different proposition and world view.

Antoinette wasn't very big at all. She actually looked like a black Who from the Grinch that stole Christmas. Hideous little creature with the mouth to match. She and her friends would bully the boys every chance they'd get during recess. Saying the nastiest stuff. The sort of things you'd pummell a boy for saying but that girls somehow get away with.

Anyhow, Antoinette started in on me one day. Initially, I tried to ignore her. But when she started talking about whipping my ass for three days in a row, I snapped. I belted her in the chest (pre-puberty, nothing to hit) and hit one of her bodyguards in the head with my full bookbag. They were on the floor groaning in pain. I was so scared I would get detention that I bolted from the scene and started playing football with the fourth graders. Hoping that if World War III started, I'd have witnesses to back me.

Apparently they were too embarrassed by getting laid out by a mere boy that they didn't say anything to the teachers. But a couple of days later, when we were lining up to go to homeroom, Antoinette comes up to me and says;

"You know, you shouldn't have hit me. I didn't hit you and you're not supposed to hit girls."

Can you imagine the arrogance? It's ok for her to terrorize every boy on the playground. But once someone calls her bluff, she hides behind the veil of chivalry? Unreal.

But as unbelievable as her remark was, it wasn't nearly as surreal as what I said in response;

"You're right, Antoinette. I'm sorry."

To this day, I'm still sick to my stomach that I apologized to that wretched beast. I'm not condoning the beating of women in any way shape or form. But if she were a guy, she would lasted all of two minutes before getting an NWO style beatdown. But because I was raised right, she gets a pass the one time she and the Seven Blocks of Granite got what they deserved.

Fast forward to Thursday night. The 97 win Mets lose to possibly the worst team ever to represent the National League in the World Series. Yes, worse than the '69 and '73 Mets. Those teams at least had Koosman and Seaver. The National League was so awful that this year, only the Scions of Shea topped 90 wins. Even without Pedro and El Duque, the Mets should have had a cakewalk to the Series. The Cardinals were limping into the NLCS as well. Their number two starter Mark Mulder was out, their closer Jason Isringhausen was on crutches after hip surgery and their second and third best players Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds were playing hurt.

This was setting up to be the ultimate nightmare for the Empire. Not only do the Yankees get a Billy Batts type beatdown from the young Tiggers. For first time ever the Mets advance further in the playoffs when both teams make it. And to top it off, they get the worst team in the playoffs in NLCS. A dark day for the empire.

To be fair, the Flushing faithful did not start in on me after we lost. But regardless of what any of them might say, the only reason why Imperial email boxes, voicemails and blogs didn't look like Beirut from all the scuds lobbed by Mets fans after we lost was because they more than anyone are aware of the importance of baseball karma. Particularly when it comes to playoffs.

They didn't want to jinx the Mets chances by heaving bombs at Yankee fans. So they held off on me. If the Mets were out of it early as in years past, I would have woken up to an email box full of Yankees Suck, Jeter blows comments and posters of whatever headlines the New York tabloids decided to print on my office door and wall.

So when Wainright buckled Beltran's knees for the third out of game seven, I was screaming like a banshee. I text messaged half the known world. I called all of St Louis friends to shout congrats to them. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief with my brothers of the Empire.

If the Mets had won, there was a very good chance that this would become a Blue and Orange town again. For those of you who have not lived through that hell, let me say that it's not fun. Those who have, know exactly what I'm talking about. But more on that in my next post.

Shortly after midnight, I decide to see if any of my favorite Met bloggers have posted. So I can wallow and feed off their psychic despair. Initially, I was going to just monitor their suffering. But after a conference with the devils of my nature, I decided...what the hell. What better time to strike an enemy than when he's at his weakest. And if he's going to be out in the open screaming, "Ow, I'm hurt!!! I need a doctor!!" then what better time is there to put one right between his eyes.

You see, Yankee fans know better. When you make the playoffs every year, you learn a couple of things. Aside from knowing what it's like to see your team celebrate a title, you also learn about how to handle being the target of scorn and ridicule when your team loses. When you're the top dog, half the world wants you to win. But half is waiting for you to fail miserably. We've learned that the hard way since 2001. If the Yankees lose in the playoffs, you know you must;

1)Turn off your cellphone as soon as the game ends.
2)If you're at the game, go straight home, unless you're going to a Yankeefan-friendly establishment.
3)Don't turn on the television at home for fear of smashing it.
4)Do not turn on your computer and check your email or blog for at least 12 hours.

If you do any of these things, you're putting yourself at risk. Particularly after a catastrophic loss.

Mets fans haven't learned this yet. They're a very touchy-feely Dr Phil sort of fanbase. They've yet to have their hearts hardened by the baseball wars. It's very endearing in someways. So when they lost Thursday, their natural reaction is to do what they always do. Go online and commisserate with one another. Find some words of comfort from their Internet faith-healers Metstradamus, Brooklyn Met Fan, Toasty Joe and Matt Cerrone.

So what do you think their reaction was when they go post on Metstradamus' site and see that I left a little calling card?

That's right, they lost it. It's like crashing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with hookers, Grey Goose and enough coke to kill the 12th Mountain Division.

You can read the horrible responses to my scuds for yourself. My favorite was from my dear friend and co-worker, the Metsmaster who wrote;

My Brothers and Sisters:

We fought the good fight and came up short. Such is life. It was a good season, the future is bright. We have nothing to be ashamed about.

Unfortunately, the time has come when something must be done about Darth Marc. He has shown his true colors with this Pearl Harbor-like attack this morning. His team went down in flames last week and was treated with the common courtesy due a baseball fan by other fans. He skulked into the office and offered his hand wishing the Mets good luck. But courtesy and good taste are foreign to him and his kind. Like the Japanese 64-years ago, while shaking the right hand, the left is stabbing you in the back. So I suggest the following action Brothers and Sisters... The Amish form of punishment towards members who offend the community is called shunning. They are completely ignored. The shunned are not spoken to or acknowledged until they prostrate themselves before the community. This is what I suggest we do with Darth Marc. Shun him. Ignore him. Cast him out of our community. Metstradamus, you have the power to expunge his comments from your site. Do it. Do it now. I make this declaration to DM (I can no longer even speak his name) may speak to me about any other subject; the weather, politics, religion, football, anything. But I will not speak to you about anything related to baseball; past, present or future. The subject is taboo. I recommend the rest of us do the same. He can talk baseball until he is blue in the face to the oher Yankee cretins from here to Wisconsin. He can write to his heart's content on his own blog, the one NOBODY reads. He can talk to himself if he chooses. But he will not talk baseball with us again. Those of us of Irish descent are blessed/cursed with incredibly long, freaking memories when we are wronged. We have been wronged.

You're dead to me Lisa......

The Lisa comment is a reference to an alleged Tigers fan who started in on me after the Yankees lost. I got very angry and cussed her out because 1)I've never heard her talk about Detroit before this series and 2)I never bothered her when the Yankees beat the snot of them during the regular season.

In my mind, in the world of sportsfan warfare, there are civilians and soldiers. Civilians are fans of a team who might hate a rival franchise, but aren't outwardly boastful about it. They might talk about it with their friends or write about it on their blogs. But they would never launch internet scuds via email or blogosphere. My friend Karen is an example of a civilian. She loves the Yankees and will ocassionally write of her hatred of Boston. But she never would go on Sons of Sam Horn or the Boston Globe and post nasty remarks about Big Papi and Theo.

Then there are soldiers. I'm a soldier and so is Metstradamus. We've been at war for years. From me taking particular glee when Clemens beaned Piazza to him wallpapering my wall with Rally Monkeys in 2002, we've done every horrible thing one fan can do to another. In 2004 after the collapse, He along with Brooklyn Met fan were the worst of my tormentors. I was one of his worst in 2000. Anything goes, and all is fair in love and war.

Now if I was a civilian who's gotten a pass over the years and started carpet-bombing every Met fan I knew all of a sudden. I could understand the outrage. But they know who I am. What I'm about. I make no excuses for anything I've done. I even dropped little hints about the possible storm to come after every loss. They had to know what I was planning to do.

In war, if you see an officer, you take a shot at him. When Metstra and others decided to post right after the loss instead of waiting 24 hours. I had my sniper rifle ready and took my shot.

Metstra and I had a candid phone conversation on Saturday afternoon. He wasn't angry about what I wrote but the fact that I did it right after the loss. "You couldn't give me 24 hours???", he said. He reminded me that he didn't bother me after the Detroit loss. That he gave me my space. I said that he only laid off because the Mets were still alive and he didn't want to mess with his team's karma. He denied it. I called him a liar. The conversation went south from there.

But before I hung up, I felt a little guilty and for the sake of friendship, apologized and said that the next time, I would give him until at least noon the next day until I launched an attack after the next catastrophic loss.

Looking back, I realized that that was a bad idea. Another Antoinette moment, 30 years later.

The karma issue aside, if a someone is a soldier in the Sportsfan wars, then they have no right to determine when or where his opponent decides to attack. As long as it's about the team and not personal, it's fairgame. I'm smart enough not to get on line right after an awful loss. So whether you write something five minutes or five hours after the game, it doesn't matter because I won't read it until the next day anyway. If I read it all.

If you're dumb enough to stick your head out of the foxhole, then you deserve whatever happens to you.

I got in a clean shot to the body and an uppercut to the jaw. Textbook knockout. And now, I'm supposed to feel guilty.

Never again, I tell you. Never again.

I know that I deserve whatever I get in the future. So Metstra, while I might honor your wish for a noontime embargo of hostilities....

You might want to watch out for the snipers....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Metsnarok Is Here!!!!

"The bottom line is this. [The Mets] are the red-headed step-children in this town until further notice. Deal with it."

-Darth Marc, July 13, 2006

The Team, The Time, The Choke.

Struggle all you want, infidels, trying to find a silver lining in all of this.

Here's the reality of the situation. You lost to a team that won 83 games in a year where the National League was absolutely putrid. Jeff Weaver? Anthony Wainright? Yadier Molina?

Even with your pitching problems, you should have plowed through St. Louis like Sherman through Atlanta. Instead, you let Tony LaRussa and company become the National League's sacrificial lambs in the Fall Classic.

Instead of moving the runners over with a bunt, Willie Randolph must have thought Cliff Floyd had some Kirk Gibson in him.

Debbie Gibson, maybe. Kirk Gibson? Not likely.

This is like that mid-major team who has agreat season, loses in their conference tourney and whines about not getting into Big Tournament. If you couldn't beat South Idaho state, how can we expect that you'll beat Duke or UNC?

I've been accused of being condescending to the Senior Circuit. I only called it like I saw it. The American League was by far the superior league and it showed during interleague and the playoffs.

While the Senior Circuit only had one team with over 90 wins in their final four...The American League had one team with 90 wins that was on the outside looking in and three others who didn't make it that had better records than the National League champs.

Am I pissed off that the Yankees lost to Tiggers? Hell yes! Should we have beaten them. Hell yeah. But Detroit was the best team in baseball for much of the year and despite playing awful down the stretch...still had the pitching to shut anyone down and turn things around quickly.

That's what happened with us in 2000. We lost seven in a row but came back and won the World Series. Why? Pitching, pitching, pitching. When you have four quality starters and a bullpen, you always have a chance. That's what Detroit had and that's why they won.

The Cardinals and Mets? That had to be worst group of starters in the history of the LCS.

But the Mets had the superior lineup and bullpen. They also had homefield. Both teams were missing key pitchers. The Mets were missing Pedro and Duque. The Cards, Mulder and Isringhausen. No excuses.

You're no longer the underdogs Scions of Shea. You can't say that this was a great season when you lose to a 83 win team in seven games in your own house. You're no longer an underdog when you play in the largest media market and you're in the top five in payroll. Didn't work for Sux Nation, won't work for you.

I have no problem with high expectations for my team. But I love baseball and the Yankees to get so upset when we don't lose that I don't come back. I know we can't win every year, but I know as long as we're in the playoff conversation every year, we have a chance.

Do this for decade like us or 14 like the Braves and get back to me.

Your silver lining is covered in Cardinal s**t. You've just spawned another 15 books about Tony LaRussa. Thanks a lot, guys.

But I can deal with "Three Days In June, September, May.." whatever, as long as I know one thing.

This is still a Yankee town. Until further notice. Redheads take note.

Just like Ragnarok signals the end of the world in Norse Mythology. Metsnarok signals the end of another failed Mets campaign. This is even worse than 1988. At least that team had Hershiser.

Oh glorious!! I could kiss a fat girl right now!!!

Hi Joe, Hi Ed.....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Time To Take A Deep Breath...The Return Of The King

One of the most overused cliche-phrases in the English language has to "Things like this help you put things in perspective." I throw up in my mouth whenever I hear an athlete say that. That annoys me as much as when I hear someone say, "I never thought like this could happen in neighborhood," .

I understand why people say it. Usually, we're so caught up into the minutiae of our lives that we forget the big picture. The things that at the end of the day that really matter.

But to quote Michael Corleone, "What's the point of a confession, if I don't repent?" And quite frankly, why should I? Acknowledging fully that someone's death is a bit more relevant than if the Yankees lost or not...I'm not going to be guilt tripped into feeling worse about a Yankee loss than the death of someone I don't know. Or if I had harsh words about someone before they passed away. Unless it was a family member or a loved one, I'm not going to feel a stitch of guilt because they died before we got a chance to hash things out. Just because someone dies doesn't absolve them from being a jerkoff.

Should I harbor a grudge against that person? No, because that would be unhealthy and time-consuming. But I'm not going to be guilt-tripped and start waxing poetic over someone I didn't like either. In times like this, it's better to make yourself scarce and not say anything at all.

When I heard the news that Corey Lidle died in that high rise plane crash in New York yesterday, I was as shocked as the next man. He's a few months younger than me so that definitely hit close home. He was a solid major leaguer who seemed like a decent guy. I'm glad to hear that the union will provide a pension and full benefits for his family even though he wasn't a member (he was considered a scab for crossing the picket line in 1995).

But all of this he's a great man stuff I'm hearing from Jeter and others sounds so disingenuous and programmed. Lidle could be a piece of work. He threw the Phillies under the bus after he came here and all but threw Torre under the bus with some of his comments on Saturday. He's been taken to task by some members of the media and not one of them should be made to feel guilty for doing so. How did they know he was going to die?

I had heard that some folks wanted to cancel Wednesday night's games because of his death. Why? As tragic as that accident was, it wasn't 9/11 and it wasn't the president getting shot. National tragedies are the reason games should be cancelled. And once we found that this crash wasn't terrorist-related, I'm sorry, but this didn't qualify.

Sporting events weren't cancelled because of what happened in Amish country last week. Or for Columbine. Professionals learn to deal, no matter how close to home it hits.

It's like this urge to retire the number of some player, no matter how average, who dies before his time. I thought it was a bad mistake for the Celtics to retire Reggie Lewis's number when he passed. And to be fair, I thought it was a mistake for the Yankees to retire Thurman Munson and Billy Martin's number when they died. Munson, I can at least understand somewhat, he was the captain and former AL MVP. But all Martin was, was an average player who had great post-seasons. As a manager, he could have been one of the all-greats if he wasn't a drunken maniac. In my mind, that doesn't warrant getting your number retired. Neither one of them is ever going to sniff Cooperstown.

Just so you don't think I'm going over the deep end...I think most of what has been said and written about Lidle has been respectfully tempered. That's good. It's nice to see that we can mourn someone's loss without turning them into a superhero.

Torre's Return

Let me start off by stating unequivocably that I'm glad that Joe Torre's back. He's the best man for the job and the man who can right the ship. I never wanted Torre fired. I just said that if he got fired, that he made enough questionable move during the Detroit series and the last couple of playoff debacles that George would be within his right to do it.

It was probably a bit harsh of me to write that I would not be sad to see him go. He was and is my favorite coach in any sport.

But I'm tired of fans being taken to task because they have the audacity to criticize Torre or (God forbid)don't think that George would have been out of line if he fired him after this latest playoff debacle.

Booing your own team is one thing. I don't think you should boo your own team. But honest and sometimes blunt criticism is the right and responsibility of every serious fan.

Yes, it's their livelihood we're talking about. But when you spend as much as Yankees fans do on tickets and merchandise every year; shouldn't you have the right to say that I think that the manager is doing a bad job? Particularly after losing three straight playoff series they should have won? We criticize the players. Why not the manager?

The bigger story that people seemed to have totally missed is not Torre's return. It's the emergence of Brian Cashman and Steinbrenner's Son-In-Law Steve Swindal as the powers behind the throne of King George III.

Five years ago, Torre would have been gone. But Cashman and Swindal were able to talk George off the ledge long enough to a)reconsider replacing Torre with Lou Piniella and b)get Joe a chance to fight for his job. Piniella might have done a great job, but you could also had a civil war in the clubhouse. Besides, Torre has a year left on his previous deal and he deserves a chance to right the ship. The last couple of years, he's managed like a man who has a lot to lose. Hopefully, he'll stop managing scared in the last year of his deal. His legacy assured and it's not like he'll get a new deal if he loses again.

The King is dead....Hail to the King...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Departed

That's the the name of the movie, that I saw after that debacle that I will not speak of on Saturday night. Best movie of the year and the best thing Scorsese's done since GoodFellas, by the way.

It's also what we'll be calling this season, Joe Torre and a host of other characters who helped make this debacle that I will not speak of possible.

Please forgive me if I'm sounding a little redundant from you might have read or heard this weekend. I've only picked up one paper and that was the Daily News Monday morning.

The irony was not lost on me that Jeremy Bonderman, the prospect thrown in to make the Ted Lilly-Jeff Weaver happen for the A's and Yankees; was the pitcher who possibly ended the Joe Torre era in the Bronx. Hopefully, the same prospect that made A's GM Billy Beane throw a chair through a wall when they picked him will end Oakland's season as well.

I've been a fan of Bonderman for a couple of years now. Jim Kaat used to say that if you've lost 19 games and they keep throwing you out there...then you must be pretty good. He was more than just "pretty good" on Saturday. He spinned a gem with nasty hard stuff that left the Yankee hitters baffled all afternoon. He more than anyone showed the world what the Yankees are right now. A richer AL version of the Atlanta Braves.

That's right. An idiot can see the parallel between the two teams. Start up a dynasty with smart trades, free agent signings and homegrown players. Dominate for over a decade because of pitching. Go the big bopper approach when the core of the staff gets old. Try to stay competitive with retread pitchers. Fail miserably early in the playoffs in successive years. The big difference between New York and Atlanta is money, so they can afford the big ticket free agents that might be available. That gives them the veil of being a championship contender, but not the horses need for a sustained run.

This is what quality pitching does for a team. It not only affects the opposing offense but the opposing pitcher as well. When your guy is putting zeroes on the board, it forces the other guy to do the same. If the other guy is bigtime, then you have a pitcher's duel. If not, then he presses a bit, tries to make too fine a pitch and you have what happened on Saturday. Bonderman was playing with house money. Leyland told him, hey, throw your best stuff, dare them to hit it. Challenge them early in the counts.

When a guy with his stuff, a mid-nineties fastball and biting slider, decides to do that, you're in for a long day unless you have a ace to respond in kind. Jaret Wright is no ace. I can't kill him for being what he is. A number five starter or a long relief guy. That's all he is right now. Maybe if we had the Wright of 1997 we might have had a chance. But that guy is long gone.

There have been questions about bringing back Wang on three days rest. Not holding him for a possible game 5. That's a question that I'll address later when I talk about Torre. But I will say this, Wang has never pitched on three days rest so it's hard to say that how he would have responded in that situation. But I'll deal with that a little later.

What happened in Detroit was not an accident. You have a rotation of young arms and a veteran pitcher who was willing to play mentor. You have a lineup that absolutely destroys bad pitching. And you have a battle-tested manager who runs a game and a clubhouse as well as anyone. As I said wrote recently, they didn't win 95 games by accident.

This Yankee debacle was six years in the making. When your minor league system only develops one quality starter in 10 years (Andy Pettitte....Wang was an international free agent) it's going to come back to haunt you. You can't continue to go to the free agent well and not expect to get burned. At some point, you're going to have to develop arms from your own system. A free agent or trade, here or there, is fine. The Mike Mussina signing was a good one for the most part. So were the moves to get Key, Cone, Clemens and Wells. But you can't keep throwing money at the problem. At some point, your scouts and farm system have to develop some arms to step in and carry the load.

It's so frustrating to see the A's, Tigers and Twins with all of these strong young arms. While we have to keep going to these retreads. You know they're going to go hard after Zito. But unless they offer him a ridiculous amount of money, I think he goes to the Mets. Think about it, he still has a chance to play with a perennial contender, he's reunited with his old coach Rick Peterson and has a chance to become a potential hall of famer facing those DH-less National League lineups. Plus, the atmosphere that Omar and Willie have created in New York is much looser than the one in the Bronx. Something that might be very appealing to Zito's West Coast flakiness.

Or he might go ahead and stay in Cali and go to the Padres or Dodgers. All the NL benefits without the East Coast drama.

But even if they do get Zito....Does a rotation of Wang, Zito, Moose (if he resigns), Johnson and Pavano (assuming he's there) put any fear in your heart? With this team's offense, it's probably good enough to stay competitive during the regular season. But what happens in the first round next year? If there is a first round, that is?

What makes the arms issue even more depressing is that Phillip Hughes, their one stud pitching prospect, is being brought along at a snail's pace. According to Bill Madden, scouts who've seen Hughes in Trenton, think he's ready for the majors, but for some reason he's still in Double-A. He was shut down after less than 150 innings of work. He should have finished the season in Columbus. Instead, Hughes is going to probably start there next year, rather than possibly getting a chance to break into the rotation. The rest of our arms are at least three years from being away.

As for the talk about Torre and the lack of intensity from the team. Well, Torre's always been stoic and his cool demeanor under fire was perfect for past Yankees teams. I don't know if it's the right approach for this one. Those nineties teams was full of young, hungry scrappers and established veterans who had no trouble getting in your face and say that you need to step it up. This team has a captain who refuses to even embrace the best player on the team during his troubles and apparently only want to be captain for players he likes. And when Torre does make moves to motivate Alex, like batting him sixth and eighth, they come off as clumsy and obvious.

Giambi shouldn't be the one telling Torre that he's coddling Rodriguez. Just as Giambi shouldn't be the one telling Alex to get big hits and that they need him. He's not good enough and he still has the stigma of being a cheater. But the problem with this team is that unfortunately, they take their cues from Torre and their captain. Two of the coolest men in baseball. Unfortunately, when you need a fire lit under your ass, cool isn't going to get it done. And if Jeter or Torre won't do it, then noone else will.

I agree with Larry Bowa when he says that if you need motivation to play in the playoffs, that you probably need to hang it up. He's right. But there's nothing wrong with letting the men know what the stakes are and articulating what it means if they lose. I'm sure the kids on the 1980 US Hockey team knew how important it was to win a gold medal. But it didn't stop Herb Brooks from telling them before their final with Finland, that beating the Russian will have meant "nothing" if they don't win the gold medal.

I know, I know. I'm dancing around the obvious question. Should Joe Torre be fired? My heart wants to say no. But when I look at the results, my head says something else. A manager can mean the difference between 10-15 wins a year. I look at this team and I say, as flawed as it might be, there was no reason why they should have lost to the Tigers. Even with their pitching limitations, the Yankees should have won this series in no less than four games. I said the same thing last year in Anaheim as well as in 2003 and 2004. Each time, the Yankees faced an opponent that they should have beaten, but for some reason did not. In each case, I thought there were things that Torre could have done to spark the team and put them in a better position to win.

Yes, the team has to perform, but in some cases, the manager has to make moves that put his team in the best situation to win. And in the playoffs, you have to get the win when it's there. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. If you go into with that mentality, your troops will do what they have to get it done. Look at the Red Sox in 2004. They did what they had to get across the finish line. They paid for in 2005, but they got their one. The Mets with their pitching limitations are doing it now. The Yankees need that sort of reckless abandon in the playoffs. They had that in 1996. And I'm sure they'd answer the call again if the manager were to make the call.

So as painful as it is to admit, I would not be sad to see Torre go. It's time. Grace under fire is fine, but we need someone who's not afraid to manage by the seat of his pants every once in a while. Torre used to do that when he had Zimmer by his side. Zimmer was insane but he knew the game as well anybody. Now it's almost like managing by numbers.

Having Wang go in game four is a huge risk. But if you're facing elimination, you have to go with your best guys because oblivion is just around the corner. Tomorrow be damned. Everyone's on deck, we'll figure out game five when we get there. That's what I loved about Francona in 2004. F**k playing it safe.

Say what you want about LaRussa, he's never been afraid to manage his game and noone else's. He's always thinking of a way to outfox his opponent. Does he overdue it on ocassion? Hell yeah. Does it blow up in his face sometimes. Hell yeah. But you don't win over 2,000 games in the big leagues by just being lucky.

Same with Bobby Valentine. The mind games got old, but his teams were always better because he was managing him. I don't think you can say the same about Torre.

As for what I would do about the 2007 Yankees; here's a little sampling.

If you're going fire Torre and bring in Lou, fine. But do it quickly. Don't make this out a long drawn affair. Torre deserves more respect than that.

If I were Lou, I'd fire Mazilli and make Larry Bowa my bench coach. Bowa is probably too crazy to manage the Yankees but he would a helluva number two man.

I would have a serious heart to heart with Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson. With Carl, to get inside his head to see if he really wants to pitch here. With Randy, to see if he's going to be healthy enough to help this team next year. If I found either of them lacking....buh-bye. I'd see if I could buy either of them out. If it means shelling out 20 or 30 million dollars and throwing the salary cap out of whack for a year, I'd do it. Luxury Tax be damned. The sooner they're gone, the better.

I'd see about signing Wright and Mussina. but for a reduced rate. And only if Wright would agree to come out of the bullpen. He's of no use to us as a starter anymore. But he has the stuff and makeup to be a pretty good reliever. With Moose, he'd be coming back as a back of the rotation guy. He's never been a ace. Always a good number two. Now he's a number four starter on a good staff. Aces aren't six inning, 100 pitch guys. He's a little better than Glavine at this point of his career. But not by much. If either of them had a problem with what I offered, I'd kick them to the curb as well.

I would invite Philip Hughes to Spring training to see if he's ready. If he is, he's coming up with the big club. He might get knocked around a little bit at first. But so did Melky. The seasoning would do him some good. If he's not quite ready, then I would start him off in Columbus and throw the pitch counts out of the window. He needs to learn how to get out of his own jams when he's tired. And you can't learn that by only going five innings.

I'd have Guidry and Billy Connors work with Wang to learn an out pitch. At the end of the year, he seemed to be fiddling around with a slider and changeup to strike guys out. That's what I'd have him working on all winter. Maybe play some Winter ball to fine tune some things. They say he has an amazing aptitude to learn pitches so I would definitely test that. He won 19 games this year. But to be a true ace, he has to be able to strike out more than 76 batters over 218 innings. If he's able to average two more k's a game, that's over a 140. Not exactly Clemens, but it is about what Tom Glavine has averaged over his career. And Wang throws much harder than Glavine ever did so he could quite possibly average even more. Then you have an ace. An anchor for your rotation.

If someone blows you away for A-Rod, do it. But do not give him away. If the Angels were willing to offer Ervin Santana, another top arm in their system and Scott Shields. I might listen. But nothing less than that. If you put him on the block, you let everyone know that unless they're willing to part with blue chip arms, there's no discussion. And noone who isn't either major league ready or a year away at most. No long term projects.

If A-Rod does stay. Then I'd sit A-Rod and Jeter in a room and have them hash out whatever BS needs to be discussed. No more coddling. If Jeter's going to be the captain, he's going to have to be the captain for everyone, not just the guys he likes. I might just take the captainship away just to send a message. That everyone is on notice.

I'd make Proctor the eight inning guy and Farnsworth the seventh. I'd also monitor his back in the off season and early spring training. If he goes lame again, cut him a check and tell him to bounce. It's quite clear that this guy is not heir apparent to Mariano. But Proctor has the stuff and the makeup to possibly fill the void if you don't blow his arm out. I'd also make it a priority to rebuild my bullpen. Myers and Villone are fine. And I like what I saw out of Bruney and Veras. I'd have Wright as my long relief or fifth or sixth inning guy. If he doesn't want to do it. Show him the door. When you see what Detroit, Chicago and Anaheim have done with their pens, there's no reason why we can't do the same.

I'd show Sheffield the door. I don't think he's as bad as some folks in the media have portrayed him. I just don't think he fits in with what the team should look like. He's 38 years old and a liability on defense. We don't need another DH.

I'd find a spot for Melky Cabrera. I don't know what kind of player he's going to be. But I want to find out. He's exactly what we've been missing the last couple of years.

I'd plan on Cano being my second baseman for the next 10 years. But only if a front-line starter isn't available. And I'm talking a proven commodity all star. Not Jeff Weaver.

There's not much you can do with Giambi. He just clogs everything up because he's a defensive liability. So I'd probably platoon him and Matsui at DH to get them both some rest and to get Cabrera some at bats.

As for the rotation, well, the early returns say it would probably be, Wang, Pavano, Johnson and Moose. Which is the reason why any chip you can use for pitching you should use. It's also the reason why Hughes starts in Columbus, but as soon as he's ready, I'm bringing him up for seasoning.

The long and short of it is that I'm willing to sacrifice 2007 for the future. I'd rather not make the playoffs than lose like that again.

Thank god for the Giants on Sunday.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

MotherF##k The Gambler

"So NOW Kenny Rogers learns how to pitch in the postseason." Met blogger Ed From Westchester.

That what every New York baseball fan is saying right now. Talk about busting out of a slump. This was like not getting laid for 10 years and then scoring a night with Halle Berry.

I purposely haven't picked up a paper or turned on the tube since last night's debacle. What am I going to read or hear that I don't already know?

F***ing Kenny Rogers pitched the game of his misbegotten career and has put the Yankees on the brink of elimination. That's all I need to know.

We all know that this guy isn't a rag-arm. But I've never seen him look that good. Not even his during his perfect game. This guy took 10 years of anger and frustration and channeled it into a masterpiece. He managed to make the best lineup in baseball look like the Bad News Bears. Without Tatum O'Neal.

Alex should take notes on this. Don't get mad. Get even.

Speaking of A-Rod, a friend of mine just told me that Torre is batting A-Rod eighth and inserting Melky into the lineup. What the hell does he expect all this tinkering to accomplish? I just don't get it. It's not as if guys aren't trying. They just stink right now. Knocking him down in the order makes it seem like he's the problem when that couldn't be further from the truth. He wasn't one of Rogers eight K's last night.

I've got tickets for tomorrow's Giants-Skins game as well as tix for a possible game 5. It's setting up to be a very great or a very horrible sports weekend right now.

At least I won't be alone on the ledge.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Grrr...I No Like Tiggers...

"Everyone has a plan until they get hit," George Foreman

Now we find out what Joe's plan is....

I hate watching games at, because you have actually stop watching the games and do, you know, work....two, if you lose, you have every Infidel Yankee hater miscreant (although I say that with the utmost love and respect) hoping you're going to overreact and jump off the proverbial ledge. They pop in your office asking if you're ok, like they really give two s**ts....and three, you have people who know nothing about baseball are all of a sudden, the "biggest Tiger fans in the world."

We lost a playoff game. It sucks. Series tied 1-1. Let's move on.

Games like this really show who knows anything about the game and who's a pretender.
I'm wondering what the beat writers who will be crucifying A-Rod tomorrow for striking out three times will bother to mention that Sheffield looked just as bad. But what do you do when Verlander and Zumaya are throwing in triple digits with nasty breaking stuff in mid-eighties? Nasty.

Tip your hat to them and look to Friday's game. I'm never happy when the Yankees lose, but it's not the worst thing in the world when you think about it. Every playoff run, a team needs to get punched in the mouth and mussied up to let them know what's at stake. If you're going to win a title, you're going to have to win a few games on the road anyway so you might as well get it started early.

If I'm going to blame anyone for this loss, it's Moose. He was given a 3-1 lead against their ace and he couldn't hold it. The bullpen did its part in holding the Tigers at 4-3. But he has to hold them at bay until the Yankees can scratch through a couple. 3-3 is totally different than 4-3. Zumaya and Jones were letting it fly with a one run lead. Don't know if it's the same if it's tied. Moose has to hold them at bay there.

This is why real baseball fans should install a media blackout for all local tabloids for the remainder of the playoffs. There's nothing useful you can learn that you can't get off the internet sites. And without the negative spin. In spite of their recent struggles, Detroit didn't win 95 games by accident. They were the best team in baseball for much of the season. Much better than anyone in the senior circuit except for the Mets. The only team to give them serious pause this year were the White Sox and the Yankees. So while all this best lineup ever stuff is nice. That's a good baseball team over in the Motown. I would have love a 11-2, 10-1, 9-0 sweep, but with the way they pitch, that probably wasn't going to happen.

On the flipside, now the Mets are up 2-0, and the whole world is shocked. Why? They're a superior team playing in a weak league. They should be beating up on the Dodgers. Pedro gone and so is El Duque, who is 900 years old. So what? They still have enough to get through these pitiful teams. The Dodgers are the best of this sorry lot. Do you honestly think that the Padres or the Cardinals can beat the Mets in a seven game series? Please. They didn't win 97 games by accident either.

The first real test the Mets will get will be in the Fall Classic. Where any of the remaining AL teams can hold their own or beat them. Not to say they should overlook anyone. But if they stay focused, there's no reason why they shouldn't be in their second World Series in six years.

Even with the Death Star lineup, the Yankees were going to have a tougher road. Every AL team left can pitch, hit, run and close out games. Braeden Looper isn't the setup guy in any of these games and Jeff Weaver isn't starting any of them either. The Tigers and A's have the deepest rotations left in the playoffs. The Yankees should have enough pitching to win, but they are going to have to bludgeon their way to a few wins. With arguably the best playoff lineup ever and Mariano Rivera, noone is going to cut the Yankees any slack if they don't win it all. Nor should they.

But they shouldn't expect a cakewalk either. I could see the Twins winning tonight and making a series of this, just as I can see the Yankees being taken to five games. This is a legitimate four horse race.

So while the press clippings are nice, I'm sort of glad the Tiggers gave the Yankees Jimmy Walker lips yesterday. This team has always responded well when challenged or cornered this year. No reason to think why they won't respond favorably tonight. Kenny Rogers has never pitched well against the Yankees or in the playoffs. Why should they let him start now?

Hail Yankees. Hail to the Empire. Get off the ledge.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Captain Clutch Successful In First Wave Of Assaults

Thats the devil, they always wanna dance. Snoop

And that's the way you begin a playoff run.

When you're at the deep end of the pool, you better know how to swim. Not to say that the Tigers don't have some fight in them. But I don't think this Yankee team is going to let up on them for a minute. This team is on a mission. I think it's going to be even worse tonight if Verlander doesn't bring his best.

I'm a little concerened with the LaRussaitis that seems to have inflicted Joe Torre during game one. Wang had a bumpy middle, but seemed to have settled down by the seventh. He had retired six straight batters when Torre came with the hook. It was going to be his last batter since he was at 90 plus pitches. You're up 7-3, why not let him finish the inning?

I would have had a problem with it even if Myers didn't give up that bomb to Granderson and Proctor didn't scuffle a bit. Anytime we can conserve our bullpen is a good thing. Proctor's logged over a 100 innings this season. Farnsworth has a balky back. Mo has a finicky elbow. I don't expect complete games out of the starters. But if we have comfortable lead and the starter seems to be in a groove, let him finish the inning instead of bringing him in in the middle of a frame.

Let me understand something; if you hit the ball hard three times and end up with one hit, you're struggling? I understand getting on A-Rod when he's stnking up the joint. This pitting A-Rod's day against Jeter, Abreu or anyone else's is demeaning to the readership and will lose more readers than gain new ones.

I would have been so pissed if I had tickets last night. And I would have had a serious case of the flu today...cough, cough.

More's on...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Death Star's First Stop: Tiggeran

Tiggers are wonderful things.

As long as they don't look like that after Sunday.

I was surprised to hear Sunday from my friend and diehard Detroit fan YDB, that we were playing. I was sure they'd win the division and start the playoffs at Comerica against the A's. I thought that their Cinderella story would end in the ALCS at Yankee Stadium in a week or so. A nice way for the season to end for a fanbase that's been starving for a winner for a while.

Now, on top of their late collapse that cost them the division, they're going to be the first postseason victim of the Yankees Death Star lineup. Sad, quite sad.

A lot is being made of Alex Rodriguez batting sixth in the order. This is a bad thing? You can invert that damn thing and it wouldn't matter. I believe Joe when he says that he wants to split the lefties up. But I also think Torre did this to give Alex a little kick in the ass for the beginning of the playoffs. Give him some food for motivation. A pissed off A-Rod is not something an opposing pitcher wants to see this postseason.

Detroit's rotation concerns me to be sure. Even Rogers. I know everyone wants to dog him after 1996 and 1999. But he was hurt in 1996. Plus, Leyland, being the great manager he is, decided to pitch him at home rather than at Yankee Stadium. I think he always planned to do this. Which is why he threw him in relief on Sunday.
I'm just glad we don't have to see Oakland until the second round. In a long series, I think we win. A short series is a lot harder to predict, particularly with that rotation. Zito just outdueled Santana and he doesn't even have the best stuff on that staff. Whoa.

This postseason is not a given for the Yankees. I love our lineup and bullpen. But if we had one more starting pitcher that could give us a consistent seven, I'd be ready to book a trip down the Canyon of Heroes. It's now going to be more of challenge for New York with two starters and a gimpy Randy Johnson.If you want to be mad at someone, get pissed at Pavano. Having another experienced postseason arm on the roster could be a huge difference maker. Ask the Mets.

More to the game.