Despite Second Super Bowl Win, Eli Manning is Still Not In Derek Jeter’s NYC Status

February 9, 2012

This is a response to Mike Silva’s piece on Saturday in which he raves about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and how if he helped the Giants win Super Bowl 46, could supplant Derek Jeter as New York’s sports darling and “catapult him to the top of New York sports.”

This is not a hit piece on Elisha, either. I have the utmost respect for Manning, who has endured the typical criticism of an impatient (and terrible) New York fan base who demands a championship every season.

And even though Eli helped lead the Giants to victory in Super Bowl 46 (his second Super Bowl win), neither he nor anybody else can supplant Jeter as New York’s sports hero. Jeter is at the top because the amount of World Series titles he has won (five, one more than Babe Ruth helped the Yankees win), and also the way he lives his life off the field – no scandals, is very charitable, clean living by being a homebody and avoiding the spectacle which is the press.

Eli is the same type of person. Two titles, married and like his brother Peyton, is pretty much a homebody living a quiet and very successful, scandal-free life.

Funny how Silva says that Manning is everything Jeter pretends to be

Silva starts his piece out by saying Jeter was in the “right place/right time” when he entered the major leagues, and then mentions later in his piece that “Jeter had the Yellow Brick Road paved for his glory; Manning has laid the bricks himself.”

That is factually incorrect as Jeter is one of the hardest working players in the game. Joe Torre once said of Jeter, “I trusted him more than any other player I had managed. I trusted him to be prepared mentally and physically every day, and to prioritize winning above all else. I trusted him to say the right thing, when talking to a teammate or the media. I trusted his instincts and his calm under the greatest pressure.”

The Yankees became a dynasty team with help from Jeter and his various high leverage exploits. His 704 career postseason plate appearances produced a slash line of .307/.374/.465 with 20 home runs. Does Mike forget Jeter’s leadoff home run off Bobby Jones in Game 4 of the 2000 World Series and then homered off Al Leiter in the 6th inning to tie the Game 5 clincher? Jeter was MVP of that 2000 World Series. Does Mike remember the game winning home run in the 2001 World Series, where Jeter received the Mr. November moniker?

Remember the flip play during the 2001 ALDS against the Oakland A’s? Jeter was in the correct position to back up an overthrow because he remembered they worked on that play in spring training – eight years earlier! A player who puts the time in the practice a play which might never occur is the epitome of a dedicated, hard worker.

Jeter also was approached by Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman a few years ago to discuss ways to improve his range on defense. Jeter worked diligently all off season to get quicker, then had one of his best defensive seasons of his career.

And with five World Series rings and as a first ballot Hall of Famer, Jeter looks like he has laid the bricks himself, too. No player wins titles by himself. Even though Eli plays the most important position in all of pro sports, he would not have won the Super Bowl four years ago without a great catch by David Tyree, a solid running game, a sturdy offensive line or that great pressure defense. He would not have won his second Super Bowl with some great catches by his wide receivers, a solid running game, a sturdy offensive line and that great pressure defense.

Of course, Jeter never won a title by himself either or might not have even been the best player on his team. But with the exception of Mariano Rivera, all those other players will have to buy a ticket to get into Cooperstown. So many factors go into winning a baseball World Series title, but Jeter was a big part in each of the five World Series titles the Yankees have won.

Throughout his piece, Mike says that Eli is just being himself and that Jeter is pretty much a phony. Mike actually stated, “I don’t even know if Jeter knows who or what he is.”

Let me answer that for you, Mike. Jeter is the ultimate team player who works hard to win. He stays out of the spotlight and doesn’t promote himself or get into any trouble. He lives a nice, clean life, and does things the correct way. His humble upbringing began as a kid when he signed contracts with his parents on what type of person he should be. And he continues to live his life in that very same clean manner his parents demanded of him.

Maybe if more kids were brought up that way, and went on and lived the same clean lives Jeter has, this country would be in much better shape than it currently resides.

Mike is fond of saying that despite being the Yankees Captain, Jeter isn’t a real leader because he is not a locker room presence. It was always Jorge Posada and now CC Sabathia who are more vocal leaders. But one former Yankee noticed Jeter did hold sway in the clubhouse. Former Yankee (one season – 2003) Chris Hammond said of Jeter, “It’s his leadership more than anything. Whenever there’s a problem in the clubhouse – there are a lot of little problems on the Yankees – Derek is the first one to step in and say, ‘What’s the problem? We’ve got to cut this out.’ I really looked up to him. Playing in New York is a pressure job. It’s hard being the captain of the Yankees. But he has never stumbled.”

That sound like a guy who has tremendous respect in the clubhouse and did not need to be as vocal to get his point across.

Derek Jeter and Eli Manning do not promote themselves. Mike constantly talks about the “Jeter brand” as to implicate Jeter has a itinerary to manage his every move, with a full-time public relations department running his life. What Mike does not realize is that most players who have been built up by the media is usually the result of the players play on the field, and not the player own self-promotion. The media builds people up, and when the players reach a zenith, very often that same media desperately tries to bring that player down.

Derek Jeter is the perfect example of that media ploy. There is nothing terrible in his past, no skeletons in the closet. Silva then has to make an issue of Jeter not going to the 2011 All-Star game or Jeter being “greedy and out of touch” regarding his last contract negotiation.

What athlete DOESN’T want to make the most money they can? Is that really out of touch or greedy? Not in any world. When the Yankees signed Jeter to his most recent deal, it was just as much for what he did for the Yankees over his prior seasons as much as what he was going to give them over the next three seasons.

Speaking of greedy, did Mike conveniently forget that Elisha and his father (also name Elisha) told the San Diego Chargers prior to draft day in 2004 to NOT draft him because he would never play for them? Both Elisha’s forced that draft day trade to the New York Giants.

I believe that is greedier and out of touch than anything Jeter has done to the New York Yankees. And like I said earlier, this is not a hit piece on Eli. I am just stating facts.

Regarding players and perceptions, Mike likes to live on the negative. When I went out to the 2010 AFL to scout many of the games top prospects, I texted Mike that I had a conversation with 2010 top overall pick Bryce Harper*. Mike’s reply asked, “Was he a jerk?” Once Mike has a negative thought process on players, he continues his negativity throughout the player’s career, especially if these players are Yankees.

*By the way, Bryce was definitely not a jerk, he was honest and forthright, and Bryce’s father, who I sat and talked with for an hour out in Arizona, was very pleasant and engaging.

Mike says, “In a lot of ways Manning is everything Jeter pretends to be.” What does Jeter pretend to be? A consistent player who is at the top of his sport, living a clean life with no drama? It is interesting that Eli “the savior” was almost run out of town in his first year. After becoming the starting quarterback, Eli struggled early then received a phone call telling him to keep his head up, keep playing hard, doing what he always has done, and things will work out.

That phone call was from Derek Jeter.

Maybe Eli can pretend to be the way Jeter really is. In fact, that article states how Eli wanted to emulate Jeter. Mike conveniently left this factoid out on his latest Jeter hit piece.

Mike then goes on to call Jeter a phony and says that Jeter’s Q-rating has taken a hit. According to this article from last season (around the time of his 3,000th hit), Jeter is the most marketable person in sports. Both Jeter and Elisha have been involved with several corporate sponsorships. The way Silva views corporations in general, I am surprised he didn’t mention that as another Jeter negative.

The fourth paragraph in Mike’s piece begins with “Even with his faults, Jeter…” Again, what faults is Mike referring? The fact that Jeter works hard at his game? That Jeter is not the demonstrative personality who gives great quotes or is constantly in the public eye? I truly find it difficult to even find one fault on this guy.

Not every player (or person) has the personality of Babe Ruth (whose birthday was yesterday), very outgoing and gregarious, loving all the attention adorned upon him. Ruth was virtually bigger than life. Those Yankee heroes of the past all had different personalities. While Ruth was the life of every party, Lou Gehrig was the total opposite with quiet consistency; Joe DiMaggio liked the nightlife of the Big Apple, but was always protected by his “friends” at his Toots Shor’s hangout, and vigorously protected his private life; Mickey Mantle was always partying and getting into trouble, while Yogi Berra was the married homebody.

Jeter appears to be a combination of Gehrig and DiMaggio, with a smattering of Mickey thrown in. He lives a bachelor’s life in the city during the season, and that hotbed of glitter, St. Petersburg, in the off season. He does go out, but avoids the popular places and the paparazzi, who primarily try to get the negative story on celebrities. Like DiMaggio, Jeter is very private about his personal life. He seems to have a few close (and trusted) friends and avoids the hangers-on, you know those types of acquaintances who helped bring down the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

Jeter stays clean and hasn’t done drugs and drank to excess like Gooden and Strawberry, or even like Keith Hernandez did during his playing days. And imagine if Jeter was known to have been drinking beer in the clubhouse like Hernandez was during Game 6 of a World Series?

Yet, despite any real negatives in his professional or personal life, Mike continuously rips Jeter, like he has a grudge against The Captain. He also has grudges against Joba Chamberlain, Brian Cashman, and to a lesser extent, Jesus Montero. Mike never passes up the opportunity to attack the New York Yankees, and especially these four individuals.

I don’t believe it is actually a grudge, but an intense jealousy of how good the Yankees have been, how good they currently are and how much better they will always be over their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets.

Over the years, Mike has been great to deal with. He has helped finance some of my baseball excursions (spring training and the Arizona Fall League), helped with credentials (Winter Meetings) and consistently has me on his radio show.

But Mike appears to have a vendetta against players who are popular players, and other who have been hyped by aggressive media.

Derek Jeter has always been No. 1 on his hit list.

No one is perfect, not even Derek Jeter. All people have their issues and faults, but when media members like Mike Silva have to constantly create things in his mind to denigrate one of the most upstanding and professional sports figures in the entire sports industry, his own faults come to the forefront.

That is jealousy and envy.

There is a possibility that Jeter is very protective of his quotes, career and his life because of the 24/7/365 nature of today’s society with everyone having a camera phone, ready to get the “scoop” on a celebrity behaving badly. But the Derek Jeter you see in today’s society is likely the Derek Jeter you would have seen during Ruth’s playing days.

And that is the Jeter who Jeter knows and really is.


Cliff Lee, World Series 2010: How San Francisco Giants Took Lee in Game 1

October 28, 2010

Last night’s game was not the total shock many people think. I figured the San Francisco Giants would score a couple runs early against Lee, but was surprised the way they knocked him around.

The Giants pitchers also neutralized Mickey Mantle Jr, I mean, Josh Hamilton.

The Giants game plan with those two players were the key to winning Game 1. 

1) Cliff Lee vs. Giants Hitters

The key in getting to Cliff Lee is to be aggressive in the batters box. I have long discussed that on this site. Hitters cannot continue to take early strikes, get behind in the count and then have to react to any on of four different pitches he throws with two strikes.

Lee starts most hitters off with a fastball. He then mixes in cutters, curves and an occasional change up. He is also more likely to throw his curve ball with two strikes.  

And why not? It is harder to control that either the fastball or cutter and you do not have to throw it over the plate with two strikes, just get in low in the zone and you can be successful.

But the Giants are a very aggressive group of free swingers. They like to hack at lots of pitches early in the count, both in and out of the strike zone.

Against Lee, the Giants were aggressive, but mostly on pitches inside the strike zone, more specifically right over the middle of the plate.

They did not chase the high fastball. One of Lee’s important pitching traits is that he moves the ball around, changing the eye level of the hitters.

He works low and away, then up and in. He will throw the two-seamer or curve low, then throw a normal 91 MPH fastball up, many times out of the zone.  

But unlike the Yankees hitters, the Giants lineup did not chase the pitch up and out of the zone. The right-handed hitters also did not offer at the many pitches Lee threw just off the outside corner. That is why Lee probably threw very few changeups.

This forced Lee to work from behind in the count, and then have to come over the plate with his pedestrian fastball.

And that usually gets hit…and hit hard. While there were many hard hit balls, especially in that fifth inning, there were even more fat pitches which the Giants aggressively attacked yet fouled back.

Andres Torres, Juan Uribe and Cody Ross all missed fat fastballs over the middle. Lee threw too many pitches over the middle of the plate. The Giants hitters were also looking to hit the ball the other way, with right handed hitters hitting the ball to the right side.

That allows the ball to travel deeper and the hitter can see the ball longer. Going to right field hurts Lee’s pitching game plan. He thrives on teams like the Yankees who are looking to pull the ball, but the pesky Giants hurt him. Another reason why Lee likely threw very few changeups.

The Giants aggressive nature works well with pitchers who throw lots of strikes. That is why the Giants have beaten Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and now Cliff Lee in this postseason.

Watch for the Giants to continue to be aggressive on pitches in the zone, and their key to winning is to stay off the pitches out of the strike zone. Even Uribe took two pitches before hammering his three-run home run.

Credit the Giants hitting coach, Hensley Muelens, for putting together a good game plan for the hitters last night and will likely have another good one for tonight.

Tonight’s starter, C.J. Wilson, has one of the highest walk rates in the American League. The Giants will continue to be selectively aggressive.

2) Josh Hamilton vs. Giants pitchers

Right now Josh Hamilton has a long swing. He doesn’t have very quick hands and mostly swings with his arms. Does it have something to do with his rib injury from a month ago?

Since most teams pitch him away (like the Yankees always did in the ALCS), Hamilton continuously looks (and leans) out over the plate.

But the Giants pitches have worked Hamilton differently. They have thrown lots of off speed pitches away, but they also challenged Hamilton. 

And they challenged him inside where his long swing can not catch up even with a normal major league fastball.

In Hamilton’s first at bat, Tim Lincecum had to pitch to him with men on first and second.

But Lincecum got Hamilton to meekly ground out on pitches away.

Next time up, Lincecum jammed Hamilton on an 89 MPH fastball up and in.

Third time up, Hamilton was worked outside again and weakly grounded out back to Lincecum.

Fourth time up, Casilla blew an up and in fastball right by Hamilton then got him to fly out again on a fastball in.

The Giants pitchers got Hamilton out twice away and twice in, moving the ball around and not just trying to keep the ball away all the time.

Like the Yankees did, Joe Girardi worked scared against Hamilton. Most of the hard hit balls Hamilton had were on pitches out over the plate when the pitchers were constantly working away.

Look for Matt Cain tonight to continue to pound Hamilton inside with fastballs, but also showing him some stuff away for effect.

The Giants neutralized both of Texas‘ main weapons, Lee and Hamilton, and won big in Game 1. If they continue to play smart baseball and do the same things they did in Game 1, they will have an good time in Game 2.

Except for his high walk rate, C.J. Wilson is a similar type pitcher as Lee and can be approached the same way. Wait him out to come over the plate.

And the job of Cain and the able bodied bullpen is to bust Hamilton inside.

He can’t handle that pitch, and the Giants will continue to exploit it.


MLB Rumors: Texas Rangers or New York Yankees? Why Cliff Lee Ends Up In Texas

October 19, 2010

After last night’s performance, there is no way the Texas Rangers can let Cliff Lee walk as a free agent.

Even winning the World Series this season would not be worth it to the franchise if Lee walks, goes to a rival playoff team like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or even their division rival Los Angeles Angels*.

*I mean why not the Angels? They could sign Lee, then move the Dan Haren contract if they want. Then they would have a rotation of Lee, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero and Scott Kazmir. I say they can move Haren because I do not believe anybody would take Kazmir, or Piniero. Both are free agents after this year anyway, so the Angels would save on those contracts in 2012.

I also think Lee would get a kick out of dominating a weak A.L. West many more seasons.

But the Angels probably can use a solid bat in the middle of the lineup rather than another arm.

But how would Texas feel if Lee signed with the Yankees, as is expected by almost everybody on the planet?

Terrible. Like the rest of baseball.

That would then make the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies the odds on favorites again next season to reach the World Series.

The Rangers need Lee to have the bonafide ace at the top of their rotation, and for him to keep working with C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, three more lefties in Texas.

It is not just Lee who does well when he is there. The other young pitchers also improve. Imagine Lee with another full season working with Wilson and now Holland?

With the combination of their current roster—plus one of the top minor league systems—if Lee stays, Texas will be tough to beat over the next five plus seasons.

But, as I said, most people believe that the Yankees are going to sign Lee. After what Lee has done over the last two post-seasons, it is a head scratcher if a team like the Yankees do not sign him.

They have the big market, the bigger money (they have many, many monies!) and good friends in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett already on the roster. I even wrote a piece some time ago singing the virtues of such a marriage.

Now I firmly believe it will not happen Yankee fans.

One, Texas will want him back very badly. With their ownership situation stabilized and a new T.V. contract signed, they also have many, many monies.

And Lee being from Arkansas appears to fit in nicely with the other southern boys in Texas.

But another reason why Lee will not be in pinstripes next season is that the Yankees can’t afford him on a seven year, $160 million Sabathia type contract. How many nine figure contracts can one team have? Even if they are the Yankees?

The Yankees have $145 million already tied up for next year, add $40 million more for Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and probably Andy Pettitte. Andy is not retiring, not after a game like he pitched last night. It is very tough to leave a game you played for so long, especially when the player is still performing at a high level.

And with the various arbitration cases of Phil Hughes, Joba and others, that is a lot of cash already spent. Plus Burnett’s contract is like an albatross around the Yankees luxury tax necks.

Adding another $20 million for seven more years of Lee pushes next years payroll to $205 million. Funny, but every time I saw Lee pumped his fist and smiling last night, I envisioned him counting higher and higher during winter negotiations.

And there could be lots of dead money for the Yankees next year, too.

What last night’s game solidified for me is that Alex Rodriguez can not play an adequate third base anymore.

He literally can not move to his left one foot to attempt to reach a ground ball in the hole. Several ground balls last night were not even hit that hard and got through there without Alex getting close.

Maybe that is one reason why Jeter seems to have limited range up the middle. He needs to compensate more to his right due to Alex’s limited range to his left. I did read this year that scouts have seen Jeter position himself in different spots this year, the first time all career he has done that.

Do not be surprised if Alex has more work done this off season on his surgically repaired right hip.

So if Alex has limited abilities in the field, he will need to be a DH sooner than expected, which limits his value for the money he receiving.

More somewhat dead money.

Too many older players on the roster already, more legendary Yankees to be signed this off season and too much dead weight money for Burnett and Rodriguez.

Doesn’t sound like it would be wise to add a 33-year-old pitcher to a $160 million contract guaranteed to age 40.

Brian Cashman is smarter than that and will try and work a trade for a younger, but still well established pitcher rather than try and sign Lee.

But rest assured, he will “remain in the bidding” to drive the price up for whoever lands Lee’s services.


Cliff Lee: With CC Sabathia Leading the Way, Is Lee To Yankees a Done Deal?

August 23, 2010

A story in today’s New York Post quotes CC Sabathia after his 17th win yesterday, “I’m here,” Sabathia said. “Hundred percent.”

Sabathia is referring to the clause in his contract to opt-out after next season. CC was not sure he or his family would like the hustle of New York, and being Californians, wanted the option to go back to the west coast.

I think you know I’ve built a house here, right?” CC said. “My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.”

That is great news for the Yankees, who have relied on Sabathia more this year then they even did last season. A remarkable feat indeed, considering CC won 19 games in the regular season last year, three more in the post season and was the stopper when the rotation became erratic.
Deja vu all over again in 2010, right?
What CC’s declaration also tells me is that Cliff Lee is even more likely to sign with the Yankees next season after becoming a free agent. After being traded THREE times in less than a year, Lee wants to play with what is comfortable to him.
And CC is comfort food for Cliff Lee.
They are really good friends since their days with Cleveland, and CC is perhaps the biggest cheerleader for players to come to New York. And with Lee and Yankee rotation stalwart A.J. Burnett both hailing from Arkansas and sharing the same agent, Lee is almost guaranteed to become part of the 2011 Yankee rotation.
But would it be a good idea?
Lee has not been that good since the early July trade to the Texas Rangers. In his nine starts for Texas, Lee has a 2-4 record with a 4.18 ERA, and the Rangers are 3-6 in Lee’s nine starts. His seasonal ERA has risen almost a full point from 2.34 to 3.09.
And most of this damage has come from the American League East opponents Lee has faced, the same opponents he would face in about half his starts if he were a Yankee next season.
Baltimore beat Lee up Saturday, hitting four home runs in the process. The Orioles also bombed Lee in his first Rangers start, belting three more dingers. It is interesting, but the Orioles (the last place Orioles) have scored at least one run in eight of the 15 innings they have faced against Lee.
Lee did not fare well against Tampa Bay in his one Ranger start, allowing six earned runs, and lost both his Tampa games while pitching for the Seattle Mariners. Lee dominated Boston for most of his one start as a Ranger, but blew the lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. It was a game the Rangers would eventually lose.
And that game was the first of many games Lee has allowed late leads to evaporate. On the 11th, Lee dominated the Yankees but blew up in the 7th inning, allowing four hits and two runs before leaving. His next start, Lee had a two-run lead in the 8th against the Rays before allowing five hits and four runs.
In Lee’s five starts against the AL East since the trade, the Rangers are 0-5 and Lee has a 6.22 ERA. But in his four starts versus the lowly Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s, Lee is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA*.
*Funny thing, is that Lee is dominant against all teams but the AL East and the San Diego Padres, who have tattooed Lee for 10 earned runs in 13+ innings.
Is it the vaunted issue of pitching against the AL East? If so, then it would be a major problem if Lee signed with the Yankees at a five (or more) year deal for CC type money. Similar to how the Red Sox must feel about signing John Lackey away from the comfy AL West to the powerful AL East.
Is it because certain teams approach Lee differently? In his most recent start against the Rays, Lee faced 34 batters, and has 27 of them swing at a pitch before taking a called strike. In his last start, the Orioles also were very aggressive, with 19 batters swinging at a pitch before getting down in the count by taking a strike.
Or coming off his 272 inning 2009 season, is it that Lee has just tired some during this season? He did miss the first month of 2010 with a small suspension for throwing at an opponent and then suffering a minor injury.
What ever it is, Lee has not been the same pitcher.
The Yankees would want to sign Lee for their own purposes, but to also keep him away from one of the AL contenders for the next four or five years like Texas or LA, maybe Boston if they can deal away Lackey or Daisuke Matsuzaka.
But the last time the Yankees signed a free agent pitcher to keep them away from their rival did not work out as expected, right A.J. Burnett fans?
Even though the Rangers still have an eight-game lead in the AL West, Lee’s performance has not been what they, or anyone else has expected. Lee will not have the comforts of facing the NL or AL West lineups in the post season.
Despite last years playoffs, the Yankees have scored seven runs in 15 innings against Lee this year, and Tampa Bay has beaten Lee three times this season.
Lee’s performance against the AL East playoff teams should be a huge factor regarding the value of his next contract. If he suffers through a miserable 2010 post season, would the Yankees go all-out for Lee as is expected?
CC Sabathia hopes so, and might change his mind about the future if Lee is not in pinstripes.

Why the Cliff Lee Deal Will Take the Texas Rangers To the World Series

August 3, 2010

There were quite a few trades made at this year’s non-waiver deadline, but not as many moves as I thought there would be.

With so many equally talented, but non-impact players available after the big guns—Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt—were gone, it became a buyer’s market.

Some teams, like the Toronto Blue Jays, would not trade any of their valuable commodities (Scott Downs, Jose Bautista, Jason Frasor) unless they received top dollar and/or equal return back.

Second-tier prospects do not make a good team better, and many teams knew that. Many teams also valued their young players much higher (and thus cheaper in cost) than the buying teams.

Of all the trades, however, the most important to go down was the first one: Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers. This is important for many reasons.

First, it gives the Rangers a legitimate No. 1 starter for the first time as a playoff contending team. They never had an ace in the late 1990s when they made the playoffs three times, nor any of the decent teams they had scattered throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Please do not confuse guys who had a decent year or two like Aaron Sele, Rick Helling, Ken Hill, and Bobby Witt with the term “ace.”

Lee is a true ace, a pitcher who will go up against the best. He has stacked up against some of the best teams so far, including the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox, and pitched well.

His performance for the Phillies in last year’s playoff push and postseason classified Lee as an ace.

Second, an ace on top of the rotation takes a team to different heights, pushing them to play better and feel more confident. For example, when your team’s ace is starting, don’t you feel better about that particular game?

So do the players playing behind him.

I remember when Ron Guidry was pitching in 1978, and every time his turn came up in the rotation, you just knew the Yankees would win. And they usually did.

I specifically remember one day a group of us were playing stickball and someone asked who was pitching for the Yankees that night. Another kid said “Guidry” and I said out loud, “Well, that’s another win for the Yankees.” After all, Guidry was 13-0 at that point in early July.

Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Brewers beat up on “Louisiana Lightning”, and handed Guidry his first loss. While the Yankee starter was mentioned, no one bothered to say that Yankee-killer Mike Caldwell was pitching for the Brewers that night.

I might not have proclaimed a Yankee victory that quickly.

Steve Carlton had that same knack with his teams playing better behind him. How can you explain that his 1972 Philadelphia Phillies team? That year the Phillies won a total of 59 games, but managed to win 27 of his starts that season.

When pitchers throw strikes and work quickly, they keep their fielders in the game. And when fielders are happy and not bored in the field, they usually perform better.

Despite Lee only being 1-2 in his five Rangers starts, the team has picked up 3.5 games on the second-place Angels since Lee’s arrival. The arrival of Lee has set a different tone for this franchise and its players.

They have more overall confidence and know they are a true contender.

Third, the Rangers made this move FOR the playoffs, not to get to the playoffs. Although they have increased their lead with Lee in the fold, I still believe the Rangers would win the AL West regardless of if they acquired Lee or not.

This trade is similar to when the Angels traded with the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira prior to the 2008 trading deadline.

The Angels had a great lead that year, but wanted to bolster their lineup for the potential matchup against one of the behemoths from the AL East. 

The Lee trade will work out much better than the Teixeira deal did for the Angels. As a proven, dominant ace, Lee will have a more influencing force upon a playoff series than does a single hitter in a lineup.

Lee has already shown he can dominate a World Series-winning lineup like he did last season against the New York Yankees. Overall, in four postseason starts, Lee was 4-0, with a 1.56 ERA and 0.818 WHIP, including two victories over the Yankees.

Lee will start two games in the first round, and depending how the games play out, could go three games in each of the seven-game series rounds.

If he pitches like he is capable (and why even doubt it?), an opponent has to pretty much guarantee it will win all the other games Lee does not pitch.

And with Lee in the No. 1 spot, all the other good Rangers pitchers slide down into the No. 2 and No. 3 roles.

Yankee fans? Do you feel confident with AJ Burnett going up against Rangers young 8-1, 3.31 ERA dynamo Tommy Hunter* with a Lee win already in the Rangers’ pocket? How about the rejuvenated C.J. Wilson firing BB’s against the lefty-suspect Yankee lineup?

New Yankee Austin Kearns better have a great night that game on National TV! No, I don’t believe he is up for that challenge.

*Hunter is a pretty darned good pitcher who breezed through the Rangers minor leagues. He was the ace at the University of Alabama when David Robertson was the Crimson Tide closer.

In fact, K-Rob blew the Super Regional against North Carolina in the ninth inning of a game which Hunter started and somewhat out-dueled Daniel Bard.

Just like how a good hitter acquired lengthens an already good lineup, Lee lengthens the pretty good starting rotation the Rangers already had.

That spells trouble for the opposition.

Fourth, as an economical pitcher who throws strikes, Lee regularly will pitch into the eighth and sometimes the ninth innings. For example, last year in his four postseason games, Lee threw two complete games, reached the ninth inning one start, and into the eighth in the fourth.

That means that in the other games Lee does not start, the Rangers will have a rested bullpen. And this side of the San Diego Padres, the Rangers have perhaps the best bullpen in the major leagues.

Lastly, Cliff Lee wants the damn ball.

He will not be babied by Ron Washington like a young hurler on an innings limit or pitch count. The Rangers know this is their window to the World Series, as Lee will likely not re-sign with Texas after this season.

And he will not ask out of a playoff game like Johan Santana did as a member of the Minnesota Twins back in 2004 against the Yankees. An elimination game, no less!

You might have to pry the ball out of Lee’s hands this postseason.

And what about coming to the Rangers in the July 9 deal?

“You want to pitch against the best teams,” Lee said. “You want to be the guy that’s expected to take the ball. You want that challenge. It’s a challenge. It’s the highest level. It’s playing against the best. It’s what you should want to do.”
I like that confidence.
The Rangers already had a great offense led by Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Young. They already have a great bullpen with Neftali Feliz, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver (two Darren’s make me want to watch a Bewitched marathon), and Frank Francisco.
And their starting rotation with Hunter, Wilson, and Colby Lewis was pretty good, too.
But the trade for Lee makes the Rangers the team to beat in the American League, and quite possibly in all of baseball.

Ruben Amaro Knows How to Deal FOR Top Ranked Players but Not in Trading Them Away

July 31, 2010

When it became apparent that Roy Oswalt was finally dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for J.A. Happ and two mediocre minor leaguers, my first reaction was why didn’t GM Ruben Amaro just keep Cliff Lee?

The Phillies today are a better team with the acquisition of Oswalt, but it is a deal which should never have been done.

Amaro should never have traded away Cliff Lee  to the Seattle Mariners. 

After he traded for perennial Cy Young contender Roy Halladay last off-season, Amaro thought the organization needed to replenish their minor league system. They had traded four players for Lee during the 2009 season, and three more highly rated prospects for Halladay.

That was a huge mistake. Minor league prospects are developed for two reasons: to bring up and become productive major leaguers and to trade away for pieces of the major league puzzle.

Amaro jumped the gun in thinking he needed to replenish the farm.

In addition to Low A pitcher Jason Knapp,  Amaro did trade away major league ready players in P Carlos Carrasco, INF Jason Donald and C Lou Marson for Lee. He also dealt RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and C Travis D’Arnaud for Halladay.

That is a lot of middle market talent, but only one player in Drabek who really would have fit into the Phillies long-term plans. Taylor is a pretty good player, too, but the Phillies liked OF Domonic Brown much better overall.

Therefore, the Phillies traded one guy who could be an impact player in Drabek and a bunch of non-impact talent for two of the top five pitchers in baseball in Lee and Halladay.

That would have made a great one-two punch for the Phillies during the regular season, and presumably, the post season. If Lee and Halladay were leading the Phillies rotation this year, they likely would be in first place in the NL East instead of a 3.5 games behind Atlanta.

So why trade baseball’s best big game pitcher? Prospects, LOL. The Phillies have a roster full of veterans at every position, and only needed to replace Jayson Werth, who would be a free agent after 2010.

Enter the young, talented Mr. Brown, who is already playing well in his first few games.

And it is not like Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez, the three players received for Lee are tearing it up this season, except if you count Gillies hamstring, which has kept him on the disabled lis t most of the 2010 season. When healthy, Gillies was not hitting well at all after performing admirably in the hitter friendly High A California League.

Aumont (the key as he was to “replace” Drabek) was terrible in AA Reading and was demoted to the High A Florida State League.

And if money is the issue, then why the long-term deal in January 2010 for the mediocre starting pitcher Joe Blanton for three years/$24 million? That money could have been used to keep Lee, and you still would have had Blanton for this season. No need to give him that money which was better designed for Lee.

Obtaining prospects? Money issues? Doesn’t anybody besides the New York Yankees want to win World Series titles anymore? The idea is to win championships, not worry about minor league talent, “team control” years or what your team might look to be two seasons down the road.  

Then by turning around and getting Oswalt as a high need, Amaro gave up three more prospects in current major league pitcher J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar, basically a swap of Oswalt and Happ. Assuming the Phillies pick up the 2012 option on Oswalt’s contract, they are now taking on $28 million in over the balance of the contract.

Add in Blanton’s $16 million due over the next two seasons, and that makes $44 million in money which could have been paid to Lee after this year. That would equate to the first two years of a four-year deal.

Amaro has made three unbelievable moves in trading almost no impact players (Happ and maybe Drabek) for three former Cy Young winners in less than a year. But the worst deal was trading away a virtual playoff spot and get to a third straight World Series appearance by trading away the best of the three.

He admitted his mistake by trading for Oswalt, and the question remains whether Roy II can pitch big games down the stretch, like Lee did last season for the Phillies.

Amaro hopes that is the case.


Lou Gehrig: An Underrated New York Yankee Legendary Ballplayer

June 23, 2010

The term underrated is thrown around quite frequently. It can be used to describe pretty much any situation, but is most often used for sports figures and their on-field exploits.

Yesterday, June 21st, was the 71st anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s retirement. While Gehrig removed himself from the Yankee lineup prior to the game on May 2, 1939, he remained with the team as captain for another six weeks.

Gehrig was one of the greatest all-around baseball players of all time, but much of his greatness was often overshadowed by the great Yankee teams and players. He was part of the first Yankee dynasty’s back in the mid-to-late 1920’s through the mid-1930’s.

He is widely considered the greatest first baseman of all time.

His records are numerous. He has the most grand slams with 23, has the most seasons with 400+ total bases with five (only four other players have two or more—Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx all had two, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Chuck Klein has three), and Gehrig AVERAGED 147 RBI per season.

Since Gehrig retired in 1939, only 16 times has 147 RBI in a single season even been eclipsed! It has only happened 52 total times, with Gehrig attaining this level seven times himself.

He hit 493 career home runs, accumulated a staggering 1,995 RBI, scored 1,888 runs, and had a career batting average of .340. At the time of his retirement, Gehrig was second all time in home runs, third in RBI, and third in runs scored.

But how can the greatest first baseman of all time, and the best run producer baseball has ever had, be underrated?

Easy. The biggest reason was the player he is most associated with, Babe Ruth.

Gehrig was overshadowed his entire career by the hitters who hit in front of him.

Gehrig wore uniform No. 4 because he hit fourth (cleanup) in the Yankee lineup. The player before him, Babe Ruth, wore uniform No. 3 because Ruth hit third, just in front of Gehrig.

Gehrig put up all those great production seasons even hitting immediately behind the other big run producer of that era. In 1927 when Ruth hit 60 HR’s and drove in 164 runs, Gehrig came to the plate at least 60 times with the bases empty.

But Gehrig made the most of his men on base opportunities, driving in an amazing 175 runs that 1927 season hitting behind Ruth. On a continuous basis, Gehrig was denied many opportunities to increase his statistics, and yet, still was the eras top RBI producer.

And it was not only Ruth, because two seasons after Ruth left the Yankees, they acquired Joe DiMaggio from the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals. The young Yankee Clipper phenom hit third in front of Gehrig for the remainder of Lou’s career.

Play on the field was not the only way both Ruth and DiMaggio overshadowed Gehrig.

Both Ruth and DiMaggio were huge personalities; Ruth very gregarious while Joe D. was a more quiet celebrity who was a private person, but certainly relished the New York nightlife.

Gehrig was more reserved, a quiet family man. He did not fraternize with others during the train rides or when they were on the 1934 Tour of Japan. He had Jan Brady syndrome, the middle child between big brother Babe and the young, talented brother DiMaggio.

While Gehrig was renowned as a slugger, his fielding and speed on the bases were vastly underrated.

Gehrig was swift around the first base bag, with quick feet and an innate ability to position himself correctly. His good footwork could have been a product of his time as a fullback for the Columbia University football team.

Gehrig had a career .990 fielding percentage at first base. Two of the best recent defensive first baseman in New York were Don Mattingly (.992) and Keith Hernandez (.994).

With terrible field conditions compared to the modern era and comparably deficient equipment, Gehrig still held his own percentage-wise compared to the first basemen of today.

Still, for a big guy, Gehrig had great speed. He did not steal bases, but in reading reports of that time showed Gehrig was one of the most fearless baserunners.

He scored from first base most of the time on doubles, accumulated 163 career triples, and hit six inside the park home runs. In 1926, he led the league with 20 three-baggers.

He also stole home an amazing 15 times in his career. Lou Brock never stole home.

Yet, even though Gehrig was an all-around ballplayer, not just a slugger, he is often overlooked when “the best players in history are discussed.”

Lou Gehrig played in seven World Series with the Yankees, with his team winning six titles. Gehrig dominated these contests, hitting .361 BA/.477 OBP/.731 SLG/1.208 OPS with 10 home runs and 35 RBI. All numbers which are considerable better than his career stats of .340/3447/.632/1.075 OPS.

His only “bad” series could be 1938, with the ALS disease already ravaging his body, when he only hit .286 with no extra base hits. Gehrig scored eight game winning runs in World Series competition. Yet it is Ruth’s gigantic 1928 Series against the Cardinals, and Ruth’s 1932 Game Three “Called Shot” which always got the headlines.

With his unknown deadly disease crippling him, Gehrig continued to play. His consecutive game streak is now toppled, but the stories are still there. Future X-rays of his hands revealed many broken bones which he played through, and he came back from a beaning in 1933, staying in that game.

It has been documented that once a person is diagnosed with ALS, the disease which now carries Gehrig’s name, the person usually lives about five years.

Gehrig lived only two years after diagnosis, indicating he played major league baseball at a high level with the disease for three seasons.

Yet he only thought about others. When he went to manager Joe McCarthy before taking himself out of the lineup, Lou said, “I’m benching myself for the good of the team.”

The consummate team player.

He was a great slugger, but also a great runner, fielder and person. Overshadowed throughout his career by Ruth and DiMaggio, many people only remember “The Iron Horse” from his consecutive game streak and the disease which took his life.

On June 3, 1932, Gehrig was the first 20th Century player to hit four home runs in one game, and would have had five if Philadelphia A’s center fielder Al Simmons did not rob Gehrig of another with a great over the shoulder catch.

With Shibe Park’s 470 foot distance to that area of the field, it probably would have been an inside the park homer.

After that game, McCarthy said to Lou, “Well, Lou, nobody can take today away from you.” On the same day, however, cross-town manager John McGraw announced his retirement after thirty years of managing the New York Giants.

McGraw, and not Gehrig, got the main headlines in the sports sections the next day. 

A typical occurrence for one of the most underrated players in baseball history.


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