Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Doumoarigatou Mr. Roboto

Anyone who knows me knows how much I am against the upcoming World Baseball Classic. That’s why I was relieved to hear yesterday that Hideki Matsui would NOT be playing in this contrived tournament. I know it had to be a very tough choice for Hideki as he is very loyal to his native Japan and he had to say no to the team’s manager, Sadaharu Oh, the Babe Ruth of Japan. But I applaud Hideki for his choice. He knew the travel between the US and Japan would be quite wearing, and could effect him during the season. I do wonder though if his being overpaid in his current contract might have influenced him. I just hope if it comes down to it Mariano Rivera makes the same decision. We don’t need Mo blowing out his arm in March for a meaningless game.

Banzai Godzilla!

I know there are many people out there in countries outside the US that don’t consider the WBC a bunch of meaningless games. These games are much more important to them than it is to the American baseball fan. I would not be opposed to these games if they were played after the World Series. Major league baseball’s, or should I say varmint-head’s, argument has been that the season is long enough and the players will be too worn out by then. HELLO! In March, most players are barely ready for the start of the season. So now you’re going to jeopardize their health, their MLB teams, by throwing them into a highly competitive situation before they’re physically ready?

Damn! It bit me

What this comes down to as does just about everything else in sports, is money. Money does make the world go around, and varmint-head loves that clinking-clanking sound as much as anyone. This tournament will not increase baseball interest in the US, and to be quite frank, I really don’t care about the impact it has on other countries. Instead of playing this ridiculous tournament, help establish baseball schools in Latin America and abroad.

On top of everything else, the US government has to stick its nose into this as well. They have denied Cuba’s right to participate. Hey, Fidel Castro may be a scumbag, but is he any more of an outrageous figure than other world leaders whose countries may participate? Did we not learn from boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow? Is the government going to deny China from playing or other countries who quell their citizen’s human rights? My thinking is that it is more likely the US has a fear of losing to the Cubans.
If anything, Cuba is the one taking the risk here since there’s always a chance a player(s) will try to defect.

I for one will not watch this tournament and I implore others to do the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tis' the Season

For freezing my behind off and for giving. The Yankees personified the latter last Tuesday night when they agreed to give free agent centerfielder Johnny Damon, a 4-yr, $52 million contract. Props to the Yankees though, especially Brian Cashman. Cash stood his ground as supreme scum/agent Scott Boras demanded a 7-yr deal for Damon. Boras’s demands started to shrink as did the demand for Damon. Boras went from commanding a 7-year deal to a 6-year deal to a 5-year deal (another variation with an option for a 6th) to a 4-year deal with an option for a 5th. Each time, Cashman said, “no”.

The Red Sox had a standing offer on the table of 4 years for 40 million and weren’t budging off of it. The only other team in the mix was the Dodgers, who dropped out when they signed veteran Kenny Lofton to a 1-yr deal. There were rumors of the Orioles becoming involved, but nothing concrete was ever revealed. Once Cashman saw this he overspent to seal the deal with Damon and Boras. Thirteen-million a year is definitely overpaying, but in a year when there were no other attractive free agent centerfielders, and teams were asking for too much (you’re to blame for that George) for average players like Juan Pierre, the Yankees really had no choice. The deal is really a similar situation to the Mets signing of Pedro Martinez last off-season. Too long, too much, but it fills a need. Damon will probably be broken down by the end of the deal, but he should provide plenty of offense until then.

The greatest concern for the Yankees outfield right now is their defense. Damon can still track a ball very well, but his arm makes Bernie Williams’s arm look like a cannon. At the very least he should be able to get to those balls in right-center that Gary Sheffield can only glance at these days.

The Yankees introduced Damon to the crowd on Friday, a pre-Christmas gift to the fans. Unfortunately for Damon, he was quite nervous and pretty much stumbled through his press conference. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the idiot reporters whose best questions were about his haircut and shave. All in all, it was a pretty dull press conference. Though nothing new usually ever comes out of most press conferences these days. Now get me a 1st Baseman!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nomar or No More?

One of the most intriguing possibilities of this off-season has been the Yankees adding Nomar Garciaparra to the mix. That’s right, an infield of Nomar (1st Base), Derek Jeter (Shortstop), and A-Rod (3rd Base) in the same infield and it’s not even an All-Star game. The much heralded “Big 3” shortstops have seen a lot of changes the last few years, especially Nomar and Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod moved over to 3rd base to work a deal to the Yankees and Nomar’s body has steadily broken down with one injury after another.

Now comes talk that the Yankees are one of four finalists that Nomar and his agent are deciding on (the others are Houston, Cleveland, and possibly, the LA Dodgers). Times have certainly changed for Garciaparra since he mistakenly turned down a 4-year, $60 million deal from Boston. Now he can’t even get a single year deal in double digits. Nomar’s supposedly looking for a one year deal for eight-million. Much like the deal he signed with Chicago last year in hopes of getting a long term deal in this off-season. A shredded groin ended those hopes. That’s where my concerns come in.

Nomar is a great athlete, whose time may have passed. We’ve seen the best careers cut short or their quality lessened by injuries (see Don Mattingly). I am not opposed to giving Nomar a one year incentive laden deal, but I am concerned about his ability to be in the lineup on a consistent basis. Also, a combination of Nomar and Jason Giambi at first base doesn’t fill me with visions of gold gloves. For those of you thinking Nomar in centerfield, please STOP right there. I am tired of that talk. (Give me a guy out there who knows what he’s doing -- but that is a discussion that has been done.) The idea of the 1999 Nomar in the lineup is awesome, except if he were the 1999 Nomar we’d have no shot of getting him.

I’d really rather see a Travis Lee/J.T. Snow type backing up Giambi, but I do recognize that pickings are slim. Hopefully, if the Yankees land Nomar he’ll spend more time on the field and less time in ER.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I can be Centerfield

John Fogerty sang it, and he has as good a chance as anyone else to play Centerfield for the Yankees on opening day. Getting a full-time centerfielder has been a long and boring process this winter. Brian Cashman has tried to give us the biggest snow job of the season by stating he’d be comfortable with Bubba Crosby in centerfield. Yeah and why not let Jason Giambi play shortstop. Okay, so maybe the idea isn’t as drastic as that, but to be honest I don’t even want Bubba on the team. I’d rather have an extra outfielder who can hit more than the average National League pitcher.

Bernie Williams. I love Bernie Williams -- in a beer drinking, ass-scratching kind of way. Bernie has had a superb Yankee career. He’s been a model citizen in addition to being one of the best players during his era. He’s been here so long; I can't even remember who the last regular CFer was before him. Okay, now I am embarrassed. I actually to look at to remember it was Roberto Kelly, or “Bobby” Kelly as Hawk Harrelson used to like to call him. The point being is that Bernie has been a Yankee great, but now he’s learning more towards has-been. It really hurts to say that. I’m somewhat glad Bernie is coming back for 2006, but I am concerned that Joe Torre’s loyalty is going to lead to Bernie playing too much CF. Bernie can still get some clutch hits, but his tracking ability is not what it once was, and his arm never was.

The choices out there are few and far between. Early in the off-season we heard rumblings of a Robinson Cano for Torii Hunter deal. It was more rumor mill than anything else. Thus far the Yankees have been unwilling to part with either Robinson Cano or Chien-Ming Wang -- how times have changed. There were rumblings about Juan Pierre, who gets mixed reviews, before he was ultimately shipped to the Cubs. Johnny Damon is out there, but he has super-scum Scott Boras wanting a 7 year contract. Boras will probably get Damon a guaranteed 5 years, but does any team really want to invest that much money in Damon? I don’t. This morning’s NY Post spoke of a 4 year deal being put together by the Yankees. That’s about the limit I would go. For that matter I wouldn’t go more than 3.

Can Johnny hit without his hair?

I am more than willing to look for short-term help and go looking for a better CF option next year. I like Brad Wilkerson, Brady Clark, or Gary Matthews for such cases. One solution with a longer impact would be Laynce Nix.

I’m not convinced that Melky Cabrera cannot be the Yankees eventual CFer, but I was very angry at the way this kid was rushed to the majors last season. It made no sense. He never played above ‘A’ ball, but they start him at ‘AA’ Trenton, which was fine, but then rush him through Triple-A and into the bigs. He was clearly overmatched. So much so, that he ended up back at Trenton after a brief, poor showing at Columbus. Hopefully he forgets about it and works hard this winter and comes out solid next year. Hopefully he’s watching a capable centerfielder manning centerfield for the Yankees.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Christmas is a mere 2 weeks away, which means Spring Training is about 8 ½ weeks away. Not exactly around the corner, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s an especially comforting thought with temperatures getting ready to dip into the single digits this evening. Spring Training and baseball for me, means New York Yankees baseball. It’s in my blood -- from Father to my brother, my sister, and me. Through osmosis, if that’s what you want to call it, to my wife. I was born in 1961, the year of the great Maris-Mantle chase at Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Though the very first game I went to was actually Reds-Mets at Shea Stadium in 1969 (hey I was 7 1/2, tickets were free…I didn’t know any better), I have been a Yankee fan as far back as I can remember. My first game was Yankees-Twins in 1970. The image of Thurman Munson scampering after a wild pitch still is vivid in my mind.

Bobby Murcer was my favorite player growing up, though I held The Mick in extreme awe as well. One of the worst days of my childhood was when the Yankees sent Murcer to the San Francisco Giants for Bobby Bonds. In those days Eyewitness News on Channel 7 used to have a headline board behind the anchors. One read, “Bobby for Bobby”. I remember saying “uh-oh” out loud. It was too true. Happy would be an understatement to describe how I felt when the Yankees reacquired Bobby in 1979. That was tempered very quickly by the tragic passing of our captain, Thurman Munson.

1977 brought the first World Series win in my memory (I couldn’t grasp what was going on in ’62). Reggie’s three home runs, Sparky’s magnificent pitching, Nettles’s incredible glove work at third, and just a balls-to-the-walls attitude for the whole team.

1978 was the great comeback. 14 ½ down to the hated Red Sox in July, only to comeback, take over 1st place, fall back into a tie, and ultimately win the division on the 163rd game of the season, October 2nd, 1978. Bucky “bleeping” Dent hitting his 3-run shot into the monster breaking the hearts, once again, of “those” fans. Goose Gossage walking the tightrope as the Sox battled back to trail 5-4, and then Mr. Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski popping up to Nettles to end the game.
1978 was also the year of the Gator, Ron Guidry. He had the greatest single season pitching performance I have ever witnessed. 25-3, with a 1.74 earned run average. Gator won his first 13 decisions before losing to Mike Caldwell and the Milwaukee Brewers (ironically, Guidry lost his 3 games to pitchers all named Mike - Caldwell, Flanagan, and Willis). Guidry also blew away 18 California Angels one summer night that started the tradition of fans clapping when there were 2 strikes. There were many “Holy Cow”’s from the Scooter that night.

Then the dark and darker days came. Munson’s death in 1979, winning 103 games in 1980 only to be swept in the playoffs by Kansas City, and George Steinbrenner making one of his many poor decisions by firing manager Dick Howser. There was the strike shortened season in 1981, with a World Series loss to LA to boot. Then the drought came. The Yankees went without a championship for the first 15 years of my life. They would go another 18 between Thurman Munson catching Ron Cey’s foul pop to end the 1978 series and Charlie Hayes’s grab of a Terry Pendleton foul pop in 1996.

The 1980s were horrible. We, the fans, were constantly reminded by Steinbrenner how the Yankees had the most wins in the decade. Big deal Georgie Porgie, series titles are the only thing that matter. The 1990s didn’t start much better until Steinbrenner got suspended for the 2nd time by MLB (the first time was for illegal campaign contributions to that other crook, Richard Nixon). Seems that George hired a scumbag by the name of Howie Spira to get some dirt on George’s nemesis Dave Winfield. During the ensuing suspension, Gene Michael took over the day-to-day operations and put the house back in order. Young players like Bernie Williams were kept, hard nosed players like Paul O’Neill were brought in, and egos like Mel Hall were sent packing. The Yankees were on the brink of returning to the playoffs in the summer of 1994 when yet another player stoppage halted the game. We all thought they would be back. We never thought that the owner masquerading as commissioner would cancel the season and the World Series. We were wrong. 1995 brought renewed promise - once the labor situation was finally resolved. Don Mattingly would finally make it to a playoff, though it would end in heartbreaking fashion.

The Joe Torre/Derek Jeter Era was ushered in to the Stadium in 1996 with the first of four world championships, and six pennants. Yankee fans grow impatient again though. When October of 2006 rolls around it will have been 6 years since the last championship. Is this just a quick blight or another declinasty?
This blog is to chronicle the journey to next October. To discuss my beloved Yankees and the game that I love so much. I hope you enjoy what you read. You may not agree with it, but I hope it makes you think and appreciate everything that is Pinstripe. And if you’re not a Yankee fan, go **** yourself...only kidding….kind of ;)