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.


Derek Jeter to Get Off Season Tutorials From Kevin Long…As I Predicted

December 12, 2010

As was written here by New York Post columnist Joel Sherman, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will work with Yankees hitting guru Kevin Long sometime after the New Year.

This is the first time in Jeter’s 15 year career he has worked with any hitting coach during the off-season.

I had predicted this would happen in this article.

This is an excerpt:

Jeter is too much out of control when he swings as he brings his upper body forward and too far over the plate. That is causing all the weakly hit ground balls.

What you do not want to do is lean forward when you begin the swing process as this brings the hands forward with the upper body. A hitter can jam himself on inside pitches by doing this. When hitters “can’t catch up with the fastball,” bringing the hands forward with the upper body is one of the faults which contribute to that.”

….BREAK….

Jeter needs to begin to alter his swing and keep his upper body back more. That will help him become a better hitter by using his legs more to get around on that inside pitch. Early in the count, Jeter might want to begin to become a “location hitter.” When he is looking for an inside pitch, Jeter usually gets around on it and makes better contact.” 

….BREAK….

There have been stories that Jeter still wants to hit his way, and does not seek much guidance from Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano eat up all the info from Long, but Jeter goes about things on his own.

That will change.

Seeing the effect that Long has had on all the above guys, and with the recent quick results with Curtis Granderson, I bet Jeter works with Long over the off-season and comes back strong again next year.

Just like he got better two seasons ago with his defense by getting in better playing shape. Jeter’s pride to become better and not fall off will be too much not to seek Long’s help. Jeter has his pride, but is too smart to continue to let that get in the way of improving.”

According to Sherman, Long will likely travel to the Yankee facility in Tampa and begin working with Jeter. They will continue the work that Long and Jeter did in August (a few days after I wrote the original piece), where Long worked with Jeter to straighten his stride to go more directly to the pitcher rather than towards home plate.

That little switch will help Jeter from cutting himself off on inside pitches, which he clearly showed he could not handle last season.

As I said in my piece, Jeter needed to keep his upper body on top of his legs, and that he should look to pull the ball more.

Here is what Long said from the Sherman piece: “Might he pull the ball more, especially get it to center and left-center, yeah, if we do this right.”

Sounds familiar, right?

Long will get Jeter to keep better balanced and to drive the ball more to the pull side. When Jeter stays on top of his legs and uses his lower body he hits the inside pitch very well. But when he leans over the plate (and cuts himself off), making contact ends up with pop ups and infield dribblers.

That will kill your BABIP.


Derek Jeter: Why All The Concern Over His Current Play?

September 6, 2010

A recent article by John Harper of the New York Daily News quoted two former players saying that Derek Jeter will play hardball with the Yankees over his next contract.

I am asking why would Derek Jeter need to play hardball?

Is he going anywhere else?   No.

Will he ever wear another uniform?   Of course not.

Jeter has said he eventually wants to be a part owner of the Yankees. Do you think that will ever happen if he ever play for another organization? I have said countless times that he is today’s Joe DiMaggio. Great on the field, a multiple World Series winner and quiet icon off the field.

So what is the worry? Is it that Jeter has been in a 5 for 47 slump over the last dozen games? If so, what have the Yankees done in those 12 games? They have won eight of those 12, and now have a 2.5 game lead over the sturdy Tampa Bay Rays.

The idea is to win games, and the Yankees are winning games. In fact, they have won more games than any other team in baseball – even with a slumping Jeter and little consistency in the rotation after CC Sabathia.

Jeter is now hitting .264 on the season, a full 70 points lower than he did last season, and his OBP is 75 points lower. People are now claiming Jeter is on the downside, because he is older and most other non-steroid hitters have all suffered the same fate.

It is one season. Infact, it is really only a couple months. Besides not having his share of home runs and opposite field singles this season, everything else is pretty much the same offensively. Jeter is on pace for the same amount of runs scored, doubles, RBI, and almost as many walks.

It is mainly his lack of his trademark singles, that liner into right field or the hard ground ball which gets through the infield. Those extra hits have wreaked havoc with Jeter’s OBP and SLG. Yes, singles hurt slugging percentages. 

Jeter is second among active players with 2,139 singles, and has been first of second in the AL insingles eight times in his 15 full seasons.

I have seen the articles and heard the talking heads discussing Jeter’s demise, how is on the downside and how the Yankees can not give him a long-term deal and big money after a “terrible” season like this*.

*No matter what Jeter’s season ends up as, and he could still have a great September and postseason, I give Jeter what ever he wants money wise. As I wrote earlier this year, I give Jeter a 10 year deal for $180-$200 million.

As I have said many times, Jeter is a prideful guy and would want Jeter-type money, even if he is continues to hit like he has so far this season. But, Jeter is also like DiMaggio, in that he will leave this game on top and not with his skills clearly eroding for everyone to see, even if millions of dollars are still on the table. 

Guys like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays suffered at the end of their careers. Mantle stuck around for a  year too long trying to help the Yankees fill seats at the Stadium. Mickey stayed on a year plus after he hit his 500th HR and eventually saw his career average fall below .300. Letting that average fall below that magic .300 number was always one of Mantle’s big regrets after his career ended.

Mays was a shell of himself when he played in New York for the Mets. Yes, he did play in one more World Series, but the last thoughts of many baseball fans was Mays floundering around in that 1973 Series, showing his true age. For all intents and purposes, Willie’s last season should have been 1971. Lucky for him his career average stayed above .300 after his final seasons.

Jeter will leave the game well before he is toast. It could be two years or could be five years, but either way he will not stay around just for the money. And playing baseball for a living is not like other occupations.  People in most other occupations do not have their skills erode to the detriment of millions of fans.

If YOU were guaranteed a 10-year deal with your company, you would definitely stay on the job because you DO need the money and have no pride to stay around if you couldn’t do the work anymore. You would be George Costanza staying on at the playground ball company Play Now

Jeter is not like that, he does not need the money and will not stay around just to collect a check.

And when Jeter does leave the game, the Yankees will not be liable for the balance of his contract. (Although I believe the Yankees will have Jeter on a personal services deal immediately after he retires) It is the only time a MLB players contract is NOT guaranteed. Salomon Torres retired two years ago from the Milwaukee Brewers and left $3.75 million on the table.

What I haven’t seen or heard (especially from sabermetric guys) is how Jeter might be UNLUCKY this season. You know that thing saber guys use when they can’t explain why things happen on the field of play?

Why isn’t Jeter just plain unlucky? I showed above how all his other stats (besides HRs) are the same.

You see, Jeter’s BABIP has always been over .300 and last year it was an incredible .368, but this season it is only .298, below the norm of .300 and well below last season. His career BABIP is .356!

That means he is unlucky compared to last year and pretty much his entire career. So this year it will “even out,” to what Jeter’s norm is, right? LOL.

So why I haven’t read or heard about how Jeter is unlucky? Is it because since Jeter’s BABIP this season is around the norm, this is what Jeter really is, a .265ish type hitter with little power? In fact, the Jeter detractors would probably argue that Jeter might considered extremely lucky for his career!

Yeah, most guys who have 15 plus year Hall of Fame careers are always lucky when their BABIP’s are higher than .300, the major league average on balls in play. But it is only an average and many guys do have higher BABIP’s and some have lower ones.

But what I have seen that for the most part, guys who are really good hitters usually have higher BABIP’s. They have better approaches and hit the ball harder more often.

 Sure, hard hit balls are sometimes right at fielders and little bloop hits fall in and “find grass.”

But good hitters do not get themselves out on the hard inside pitch by getting jammed all the time, they don’t swing at too many pitches outside the zone on the inner half and don’t flail-swing at many bad pitches on the outside part of the zone trying to compensate for a slower bat.

Three things Jeter is doing this season, more often than he has before.

Good hitters, however, adjust their swings according to how they are performing and how they are being pitched, but Jeter does NOT do that and it is causing him problems.

I have seen him all season. He still hits the same way he has his entire career, and has not changed a thing**. He leans over the plate too much with his upper body. He is out on his front foot much more this season, and when your bat slows down (and Jeter’s has), leaning over the plate and being out on your front foot is not a good combination.

**Unbelievably, Jeter even uses the exact same model bat, same length and weight, that he did his first year in the majors.

The swing is two distinct parts, working in tandem. First you step and then you swing. When I mean step, it could be an actual step, a toe tap or just an inward rotation of the front foot. When this happens, the hands move back to gain some separation. Then the hips turn, the hands bring the bat forward and through. 

The back side and front side are working together, but the bottom and top also need to work together. Think of your stance as a building with the waist as the midpoint, with the legs being the foundation and the upper body the steeple. The steeple needs to stay directly on top of the foundation for control and power.

Jeter is too much out of control when he swings as he brings his upper body forward and too far over the plate. That is causing all the weakly hit ground balls.

What you do not want to do is lean forward when you begin the swing process as this brings the hands forward with the upper body. A hitter can jam himself on inside pitches by doing this. When hitters “can’t catch up with the fastball,” bringing the hands forward with the upper body is one of the faults which contribute to that.

When pitchers are pounding you inside early in your career, your quick hands can guide the bat through the zone and you will get those extra hits to right field and up the middle. But when your hands and bat slow down, those extra hits become dribbling ground balls and weak pop ups.

When I played in my late 30′s – early 40′s, my bat became slower and I had to compensate for my slowness by being more of a location hitter and starting my swing early. Since these college pitchers (and catchers) were throwing me inside, I had to “cheat” by looking inside and committing earlier than normal.

In college and up into my mid 30′s, I was a gap-to-gap guy, but ended up more of a pull hitter later in my career.

While it will not happen this year, Jeter needs to change his hitting approach after this season.

Jeter needs to begin to alter his swing and keep his upper body back more. That will help him become a better hitter by using his legs more to get around on that inside pitch. Early in the count, Jeter might want to begin to become a “location hitter.” When he is looking for an inside pitch, Jeter usually gets around on it and makes better contact.

And Jeter will not be dropped in the batting order, either. Joe Girardi is NOT like Joe Torre. If Girardi did not drop Mark Teixeira in the lineup earlier this season, there is no way he drops Jeter. You play with the guys who have gotten you here (best record in baseball) and you let them play.

There have been stories that Jeter still wants to hit his way, and does not seek much guidance from Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano eat up all the info from Long, but Jeter goes about things on his own.

That will change.

Seeing the effect that Long has had on all the above guys, and with the recent quick results with Curtis Granderson, I bet Jeter works with Long over the off-season and comes back strong again next year.

Just like he got better two seasons ago with his defense by getting in better playing shape. Jeter’s pride to become better and not fall off will be too much not to seek Long’s help. Jeter has his pride, but is too smart to continue to let that get in the way of improving.

He will improve his game over the winter, the same way he has done it over the years. He is the perfect player, not doing much anything incorrectly.

He is so good at being a professional that the media took to having to rip him for not showing up to Bob Sheppard’s funeral. There was nothing else…until now with this late season hitting slump.

I believe it is that many people really want Jeter to fail, to have his skills erode so they can write him off. Jeter is the perfect player who has succeeded at most everything his entire life. He is a winner, a guy you can’t quantify via “advanced” statistical analysis.

Derek Jeter is a guy who has many big hits and great moments in his career, but according to his critics might have been nothing more than a singles hitter with limited range on defense.

Overrated they say. But overrated players do not help their organization win five World Series titles, get to two others and compile over 3,000 career hits over a 15 plus year HOF career.

As Yankee fans our BABIP has been high because we are “lucky” Jeter played in pinstripes all these years.

He will continue to do so in the future, for as many years as he wants.

Just let him play, finally adjust, and do his thing.


The New York Yankees: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Segment No. 5

June 28, 2010

This is the latest installment of the 2010 New York Yankee progress, honoring the epic Clint Eastwood movie of the same name.

MOVIE TRIVIA: Given that the Italian Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo literally translates to the English: The Good, the Ugly, the Bad, reversing the last two adjectives, advertisements for the original Italian release show Tuco (Eli Wallach – the Ugly) before Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef - the Bad) , and, when translated into English, erroneously label Angel Eyes as “The Ugly” and Tuco as “The Bad”.

Now I know why beat reporters who work on deadlines get very frustrated.

I had the following paragraph all ready during the 9th inning of last night’s Yankees – Dodgers clash.

“Since my last installment (No. 4), the Yankees have played 12 games, resulting in a 6-6 record. What is more important is that the Yankees still have themselves the No. 1 record in the major leagues at 46-29, a game up on the pesky Boston Red Sox.”

After the stunning comeback last night over the Dodgers, correct that to a 47-28 record and two game lead over the injury-depleted Red Sox.  

The Yankees have been 16-8 in June, with a split of their just completed, six game West coast Inter-league trip through Arizona and Los Angeles. During the last 12 games, the Yankees lost three in a row once (two to Philadelphia and the opening game versus the New York Mets).

All numbers are from the last 14 days, unless noted.

THE GOOD

CC Sabathia – with all the hub-bub over AJ Burnett’s disastrous June, have you noticed that the only pitcher the Yankees should have signed two season’s ago, is 5-0 in June? Sabathia became the third pitcher this season to win five straight starts while going seven plus innings in each?

The other two? See below.  

CC was 3-0, 1.57 ERA over the three starts the past two weeks. Simply dominant.

Phil Hughes – because of his innings limit skipped start out west, he only made one start over the last weeks. Phranchise made it his 10th win, going seven strong over the New York Mets, avenging his only loss to the Mets and Mike Pelfrey.

Robinson Cano – hit .298 BA/.365 OBP/.489 SLG/.855 OPS with two runs, which isn’t exactly Canoesque as we have been programmed to see. But he continues to come through with huge hits, culminating in last night’s extra-inning, game-winning home run off of left-handed reliever George Sherrill.

He also has a string of 60 errorless games. Interestingly, his throwing error was during Dallas Braden/Alex Rodriguez “don’t cross my mound” game.

Alex Rodriguez – starting to get the power stroke back with three home runs this past week. He slashed .256/.362/.564/.926 with the three HR’s and 11 RBI. All three home runs were huge, giving the Yankees the lead in this game and this one.

His home run last night got the Yankees on the board with his fifth inning two-run shot off of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

I am concerned with Alex’s hip/groin issue as it has made him much slower in lateral movement. It also has eliminated his ability to steal a base.

Brett Gardner – until getting hurt last night, Gardner was hitting .342/.419/.395/.813 while continuing to play great defense. He still leads the other New York left fielder, Jason Bay, in OPS this season (.821 vs. .791), while making considerably less money.

Colin Curtis – due to inter-league games in NL parks, he made his major league debut this past week. When Jorge Posada was catching, Curtis was the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench.

He had a few hits in six at bats, driving in four runs. His great at bat last night led to a RBI ground ball.

He has shown a good knowledge of the strike zone, takes great swings and can play better than average defense.

Read more about Curtis here in my 40 man roster advice from last season.

Good video of Curtis here on the biggest challenge of his life.

Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all.

He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember in 2008, after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season.

He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

In that Series, he faced Joba Chamberlain and former Yankee Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

Chad Huffman – like Curtis, Huffman got his first major league hit within the last two weeks. He also had that big two-run single in Sunday night’s stirring comeback against the Dodgers.

And he hustles all the time.

Mariano Rivera – A great move by Joe Girardi in bringing in Mo into a tie game on the road again last night.

Two times in one road series, and two wins. I guess Girardi can learn from his mistakes when he did not use Rivera in that June 5th extra-inning road game at Toronto.

As I tweeted last night, Rivera is like an elite piece of real estate – location, location, location. When he hits the corners, he is unhittable.

David Robertson – he continues his really good pitching after a disastrous beginning to 2010.

In 5.2 innings over the last two weeks, he allowed a single cheap run. His overall ERA is now 5.04 (it was over 14 in early May!), but in June he has pitched to an ERA of 1.00.

People wanted to dump him to the minors in early May, but he is now the most consistent bullpen arm not named Rivera.

Yankees rookies – very interesting, but four Yankee young players have gotten their first major league hit this season; both Curtis and Huffman, plus Greg Golson and Kevin Russo. And Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez pitched well earlier when the bullpen needed a few new arms.

Sure, the team’s payroll is around $200 million, but the organization is doing a much better job at bringing up their young players and letting them play.

Joba, Phranchise, Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson, and even when they started this new trend by bringing up Cano and Chien-Ming Wang in 2005.

THE BAD

Mark Teixeira – I am sorry, but Teixeira needs to change his approach from the left side to stop being a complete pull hitter.

But from what I hear, Teixeira is not a willing participant in the adjustment game, and thinks “he will come out of it on his own.”

He won’t by continuing to try and pull every pitch when he hits left handed.  

With pitchers getting better, Teix getting older and the usual big shift, Mark’s split against RHP is a terrible .228/.333/.386/.719.

I do not see him improving unless he makes some changes.

Jorge Posada – he is beginning to look old, with a slower bat. But it might just be him getting back into the groove of playing every day.

Posada will get more consistent at bats as the Yankees are finished with the National League parks and Jorge can DH a few days a week.

Last night’s 9th inning ten-pitch at bat against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was the Posada we know.

If he hits the way he can, the lineup can withstand the continued year-long slump from Teixeira.

Joe Girardi – even though I am a big fan of his Mariano Rivera move, Girardi still tries to show everyone that he is a National League manager. Too many double switches by pulling Swisher out of games, and leaving his bench very vulnerable.

But the NL park games are over.

He was gong to pinch hit Ramiro Pena at Arizona in the Mariano game. I would rather see CC Sabathia pinch hit then Pena, especially after using both catchers. Pena is the emergency backup.

Then with first and third, with one out in LA, and Gardner on first base, Girardi elects to have AJ Burnett bunt over the runner to second.

Why not have Gardner steal second instead? If he gets thrown out, and AJ makes an out (very likely), then Derek Jeter leads off next inning.

I am a big fan of the bunting game, but with one out, giving away an out when AJ isn’t moving over two runners is a big mistake.

THE UGLY

Derek Jeter – whew! That three strikeout performance Saturday night was brutal. His slash line over the 12 games is worse – .244/.358/.289/.647 with ZERO extra base hits and no RBI.

Chan Ho Park – a .400/.444/.680/1.124 slash line is great if you are a hitter, but just brutal if you throw the ball for a living. Many have pointed out that it is usually his second inning which causes lots of damage, but some of his single inning appearances aren’t great either.

I do not believe it is Park’s durability which is an issue, as he was a starter and has several successful multi-innings appearances this season, including April 7th at Boston and June 5th at Toronto.

But after a really good 2009 season, maybe Park isn’t that good this season. This is typical of many relief pitchers.

But if the Yankees only pitch Park for a single inning, then he needs to go. Other pitchers can go the one inning route, but an effective bullpen needs lots of guys who can go multi-innings.

When Alfredo Aceves comes back, Chad Gaudin is gone, but Park is not far behind. The Yankees have lots of patience with ineffective relievers (see Damaso Marte last year), but if Sergie Mitre comes back, too, Park could be gone.

AJ Burnett – it is not Dave Eiland’s month off, lack of in your face, walk-off cream pies, or Jorge Posada catching him.

It is AJ Burnett. He is not that good.

I was against him coming here in the first place, and have never wavered off my thoughts. I still believe he will eventually be on the disabled list.

He can not throw strikes to specific spots, thus leaving the ball out over the plate, where it gets roped all over the park. Except for his really good 2008 season, Burnett is basically a .500 career pitcher. There is a reason for that.

He is not that good. When you can not command your pitches, you will never pitch well. And it does not appear he concentrates on every hitter in every situation.

Never a good combination.

ANSWER: The other two pitchers in 2010 besides Sabathia with five straight starts, five straight wins and each win going seven or more innings is Ubaldo Jimenez and Nick Blackburn.

Jimenez was the easy choice, but Blackburn was tough. He has had a terrible April and June, but sandwiched them around an amazingly dominating May.

I guess he is destined for a really good July?


The New York Yankees: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Segment No. 4

June 15, 2010

This is the latest installment of the 2010 New York Yankee progress, honoring the epic Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. According to the astute readers of imdb.com, the Baseball-Reference of the movie and T.V. industry, “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ” is ranked as the No. 4 movie of all time .

What is more important is that the Yankees have vaulted themselves into the No. 1 record in the major leagues. With Sunday’s 9-5 win over the Houston Astros, combined with Tampa Bay’s 6-1 loss to the Florida Marlins, the Yankees and Rays are tied atop of the AL East with identical 40-23 records , the best record in MLB.

The Yankees have been 9-3 in June, fattening up on the Baltimore Orioles (5-1) and the Houston Astros (recent three game sweep), while losing two of three to the pitching-rich Toronto Blue Jays.

All numbers are from the last 14 days, unless noted.

Il Buono

No. 1 Robinson Cano —has slashed .395 BA/.469 OBP/.605 SLG/1.074 OPS, with three doubles, two homers, seven RBI and 13 runs scored. Even more impressive are his numbers over the last month at .443/.476/.660/1.136.

During one stretch of his recent 17 game hitting streak, Cano had multiple hits in eight straight (19-33, 3 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI).

Simply ridiculous, and at the top of the leaderboards for American League MVP.

No. 2 Brett Gardner —How can you not love Brett the Jet?  After a mini-slump which brought his numbers down considerably, Gardner began to hit again (and walk), by slashing .455/.552/.773/1.324 over the last week. Included were a double, triple, and his third home run.

Until Sunday, that homer tied him for the New York city left field lead with the New York Mets Jason Bay, he of the $66 million contract. Bay hit his fourth home run Sunday, but Gardner still leads the very wealthy Bay in OPS (.822 vs. .806).

No. 3 Derek Jeter —Do you really think he was going to stay on the bad list forever? After going through a long funk at the plate and in the field, which prompted the annual “Is Derek Jeter Done?” articles, Jeter has ripped a .333/.391/.514/.906 line over the last month.

While many do not like it when Jeter goes after the first pitch, he is hitting .404 with a .908 OPS when hacking at the first offering. The key is swinging at good strikes.

No. 4 Curtis Granderson —While Granderson’s overall numbers since returning from the disabled list are not great, the team has picked up its pace since Curtis returned to the lineup and his position in center.

That is because we saw less of Randy Winn (before being released), Marcus Thames and rookie Kevin Russo.

The Yankees are 12-4 since his return, but were only 7-11 in the last 18 games he was out of the lineup.

I would still like Granderson to sit back more when he swings, as he is often out in front on the right leg during swings and misses.

No. 5 Nick Swisher —He is turning in to one of my favorite Yankee players. I was not a fan of the trade which brought him here, but he has done very well, and has been instrumental in the lengthening of the 2009 and 2010 lineups. Has hit a very consistent .308/.402/.495/896 with 19 runs, eight doubles, three homers and 16 RBI over last month.

No. 6 CC Sabathia —What? He is struggling, right? Well, he is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in his two June starts. A 6-3 record thus far should be 8-3, but CC lost a win at Boston because of a rain delay and another when Joe Girardi pulled CC early against the Sawx and the bullpen blew the game.

This is a durable pitcher who should be allowed to throw 125-135 pitches each start.

No. 7 Andy Pettitte —Happy Birthday to Pettitte, who turns 38 today. Imagine on Thursday when Pettitte faces Jamie Moyer, who is seven years older than Andy?

Age is no factor for Pettitte, who is still dominating lineups by changing speeds and hitting corners. Again, why do scouts always worry about velocity and arm strength when a guy who does not top 90 MPH can consistently get guys out?

No. 8 Yankee bullpen —Over the last two weeks, the main part of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera, Joba, D-Rob, Chan Ho Park and Damaso Marte have been outstanding. They have thrown 21 innings, allowing 12 hits, five walks, and struck out 23. That is a WHIP of .809 and the one earned run allowed leads to a miniscule 0.43 ERA.

No. 9 Javier Vazquez —He is 4-1, 3.03 ERA over the last month with a 0.918 WHIP. While he has allowed five home runs, Javy has only walked five over his last 33 innings. He has been the most consistent starter this side of Pettitte.

He is similar to Andy by changing speeds and hitting that outside corner to RH hitters with his curve ball being the key to his success.

Il brutto

No. 1 Francisco Cervelli— Wow! He has come back down to earth faster than the Space Shuttle. Over the last month, the Cisco Kid has hit under .200 with an OPS of .522. He still dos come through with key RBI singles.

His 13 hits (all singles) over the last month have produced 12 RBI. He is still a force on defense and calls a great game.

I love the way he watches the batter before he puts down the sign. Concentrate on Cervelli during a couple at bats tonight and you will see what I mean.

No. 2 Alex Rodriguez —it has nothing to do with his lack of power, because he is still hitting the ball hard. But his injury could be more severe than a few missing days. Any long term time missed could hurt the Yankees lineup at a time when it was finally complete. (I do not count Nick Johnson).

No. 3 Jorge Posada —Two swings doesn’t make a season. Posada was brutal before his two grand slam weekend, but he also swung the bat better in other at bats during the Houston Series.

Posada gets into a taking pitches groove once in a while, taking good hitting strikes. This leads to indecisiveness and too much thinking at the plate.

When Posada is aggressive and still taking his walks by not swinging at balls outside the zone, he is a much better hitter.

Stay aggressive and hit good pitches, Jorge!  

Il cattivo

No. 1 AJ Burnett —An 0-2 record with 7.11 ERA in June with four home runs allowed in two games. Combine that with five walks and 14 hits in 12.2 innings pitched, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Bad AJ go home, but tell your twin brother, good AJ, to come back out and play.

No. 2 Marcus Thames —basically it is the entire bench which stinks, but since I think Thames never should have made the team in the first place, he is my poster boy.

Thames is 2 for his last 22 with eight strikes out and an OPS of .322. By the time his injury heals, I hope Chad Huffman (or Jorge Vazquez from Triple A) takes his roster spot – for good.

Combine Thames with Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo and Chad Moeller, and the bench is 14 for 81 with four doubles and six RBI over the last month.

That is why Alex needs to be back in the lineup soon.

No. 3 Chad Gaudin —There is no conceivable reason why Gaudin actually pitches in games or is on the roster. He stinks!

Having been released twice already this season, once by the Yankees should only reiterate how bad this guy is.

There is no reason why Gaudin should have been in the June 5th game in the bottom of the 13th in a tie game at Toronto. It only took nine pitches before the Yankees were walking off the field.

That 13th inning rundown: Batter One – leadoff walk on FOUR pitches. Batter two – sac bunt on second pitch. Batter three – game winning single on an 0-2 count!

No way the Yankees should lose on the road to a division rival without using your best relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera.

Get rid of this loser, Gaudin, and bring up Mark Melancon for good.


Ten Keys to Success in the Major League Baseball Draft

May 24, 2010

With the major league baseball draft about two weeks away, there are many teams still scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.

High School versus college? Power bat versus pitcher? Immediate help or projection player?

High school or prep talent is looked upon as what is their ceiling. There is a lot of projectability here, whereas college talent usually has almost all their tools in order. They basically need some refinement.

Those teams which usually pick at the top of the draft (also known as the worst teams) usually go for the best talent but longer term projects, since one player is not likely to help the parent club very soon.

But like the Tampa Bay Rays of three years ago, you can build a nice foundation with picks, get better, and still have that one last top pick to put you over the top.

The Washington Nationals have that opportunity this draft with their second No. 1 overall pick in consecutive seasons.

Top high school players could take up to five or six years to make an impact, whereas many recent top picks have shown that highly rated college players (namely pitchers) can make a parent team better much sooner.

Because of the time involved in development, the MLB is more of a crap shoot, as players need to master various levels before making “The Show,” and then comes the biggest test of all.

Many more “can’t miss” prospects taken very high in the draft often miss badly, sometimes due to lack of ability to adjust to the many levels and just plain not having the ability to actually play baseball.

That means no baseball instincts. I feel it is always better to take the best baseball player over the best talent over athleticism.

This years draft presents a plethora of prep talent, but also word that many teams will try to take lesser talent in hopes to sign them on the cheap.

Presented are some keys to developing a major impact through the draft.

1) Everything Being Equal, Take the Hard Worker

 Eric Duncan, the New York Yankees 2003 first round pick (27th overall), was a great hitter in high school for one of the best baseball teams in the state of New Jersey.

He has a quick, power bat, but a swing with lots of holes. Those holes did not get taken advantage of in high school or the lowest level of the minors.

But the higher Duncan rose in the system. the tougher the pitching became via pitch command, and those holes in Duncan’s swing were magnified.

Duncan was informed this in the low levels of the minors, and was told he would not make it unless he worked to correct a few hitting flaws.

The former first round pick did not take heed of this advice, preferring to “stick with what got me here.”

Well, “here” is not the major leagues, and Duncan now finds himself back in Double A, but with another organization.

His inability to listen to his coaches early in his career and work hard to correct any inefficiencies in his swing did not allow his game to improve.

He is one of many highly rated players who thought that talent alone would get them to the majors.

Talent is needed, but so is hard work.

Just ask any player who hits the cages earlier than other hitters, and stays later watching video of his swing.

When a player goes onto a baseball field, they never come off the field as the same player. They either get better or get worse.

The hard-working player will get better.

2) Take the Pitcher with Command over the Power Arm

Mike Leake was drafted out of Arizona State University eighth overall in the 2009 draft. He was considered the most polished college pitcher coming out of the draft since Tim Lincecum was taken 10th overall in 2006.

Leake made the Cincinnati Reds out of his first spring training and has never pitched in the minor leagues.

Leake does not overpower hitters with blazing speed or fancy pitches. His highest velocity is only in the upper 80′s.

However, he can throw the ball where he wants and the ball always has some type of movement.

Sounds like Greg Maddux.

Compare his success with guys like Dewon Brazelton (2001 No. 3 overall to Tampa Bay) who had a big-time arm and threw gas, but did not know where the ball was going.

There are tons of those types of guys in the first round who never made an impact.

When you have command AND velocity, however, now you are really talking.

Guys like Roger Clemens and Stephen Strasburg are/will be great because they has tremendous speed but could throw the ball wherever they want.

You know what they call that?

Unfair.

While guys like Clemens and Strasburg are a very rare breed, the guy with command of his pitches and command of the strike zone will most always be the better prospect over those throwers who have the big arm.

Location, location, location is the motto for real estate, but also for a quality pitcher.

3) Take the Baseball Player Over The Toolsy Athlete 

“The New York Yankees with the 17th pick in the 2005 major league baseball draft select Carl Henry, “toolsy” high school outfielder from Oklahoma.”

Henry never made it above High A, where he really struggled.

This guy was the five-tool player who can run, throw, hit, hit for power, and field. It was all great on paper, but the athletic talent could not translate to the baseball field.

Baseball is such a difficult game that toolsy and athlete really don’t matter when the game begins. The Rays are still waiting for former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham to play baseball, and not show all his talent.

Also, one of the greatest athletes in the world, Michael Jordan, couldn’t make it on the diamond, but was tremendous on the hardwood.

Why do the scouting directors continually believe that tools will bring benefits?

They mostly won’t.

That is just as bad as drafting someone based upon “upside.”

4) Draft Eligible Sophomore’s – Go for the Gusto!

The Yankees took the best college closer in the 2006 draft in the 17th round.

Yes, I said the 17th round! Then David Robertson, who closed at the University of Alabama, went on the win MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod Summer Baseball League.

Then he signed for well above slot money for a chance at pro baseball.

Why did the Yankees get such a talent in the 17th round and why did they have to give him earlier round money?

He was a draft eligible sophomore (DES), a four-year college player who turned 21 within 45 days of the draft. The reason why many DES are not taken is signability, as they have negotiating leverage with the selecting team.

Because they have the opportunity to go back to school for their junior year and re-enter the draft the next summer, DES have more negotiating leverage than most college draftees.

That is why teams must give much bigger bonuses to these selections.

But these DES are well worth the money and investment.

The talent is there. Go get them.

5) Draft Committed Major High School Talent In Later Rounds

The Yankees have done a great job at this.

They target major high school talent which has been committed to major Universities. Guys who have pretty much said they will go to college.

Taking these guys in much later rounds and giving them well above bonus money (many times into the high six figures to over a million bucks), could translate into getting that committed guy to sign to go pro.

The Yankees did this with Dellin Betances in 2006 (Vanderbilt), Carmen Angelini in 2007 (Rice) and Garrison Lassiter 2009 (North Carolina).

While these three examples have not yet materialized for the Yankees, it is good if the major league team hits on one of these.

This also works in taking high first round types who might fall into the late first round due to their college commitment.

They also took Gerrit Cole low in the first round in 2008 (he was a top five type player), knowing he was going to be a difficult signing, and Cole ended up going to college at UCLA.

While that did not work for the Yankees, this tactic did work for the Detroit Tigers who selected consensus first overall pick Rick Porcello with the 27th pick in the 2007 draft.

Porcello dropped due to his commitment to North Carolina and his advisor being Scott Boras.

Just like when a football player drops for unknown reasons, take the best talent.

If a top pick falls into your lap, draft him. It will only cost money.

6) If Thinking Long Term, Draft High End Prep Talent

Going over the 2001-2006 drafts, the numbers reveal that 35 of the 76 players drafted out of high school in the first round have reached the major leagues.

And a couple more are right on the doorstep.

That equals 46 percent, and includes some great names such as Zach Greinke, Prince Fielder, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley and some guy named Joe Mauer.

College first round picks totaled 103 during this span with 45 making the major leagues. That equates to 44 percent, a smaller percentage than high school talent.

But 88 percent of that high school talent which made the majors were starting pitchers or everyday players compared to 79 percent of the college talent.

While high school talent takes longer to reach the majors, the results are well worth it, especially for teams which have the time and patience for the maturation process.

7) Draft Heavy in Key Positions Most Other Teams Need

Most teams need up the middle positions. They are the backbone to a team’s defense.

Guys who are steady glove men at these historically defense-oriented positions who can also rake are the ultimate prized possessions.

That is why Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer were two of the best draft picks ever. Both the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins received tremendous offensive production and good defense at the shortstop and catching positions.

Most teams do not have a good major league catcher who is adequate defensively but can also hit.

The Yankees have stockpiled catchers in their system with drafting Austin Romine and JR Murphy but also signing Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez to International free agent contracts.

When Mauer went down with an injury in early May, the Twins called up 22-year-old Wilson Ramos, who provided adequate support behind the plate.

The Yankees also have an abundance of pretty good second basemen in their system who can play the field and hit for average and gradually improving power.

They also have about 15 good arms in their minor league starting rotations, highlighted by Zach McAllister at Triple A, David Phelps at Double A and Adam Warren and Graham Stoneburner at High A Tampa.

The major league club has Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli manning the plate, Robinson Cano shackled at second base and 60 percent of their starting rotation signed at least through 2011.

The possibility of another free agent pitcher signing next year exists when Cliff Lee becomes available.

Since all other teams needs up the middle personnel, the extra catchers, second basemen and starting pitchers provide adequate trade chips for the major league team to trade for needed talent at other positions.

The Twins have that same issue with their young catcher who could be turned into a key piece for the 2010 pennant chase.

Keep the backbone strong and the body will take care of itself.

8) Unless a Top Five Type of Pick, Avoid Prep Pitchers

I believe maturity is the biggest issue here.

Once a top prep pitcher is taken and signs, it is probably the riskiest pick type in the baseball draft.

Within the age years of 17-22, the biggest increase in maturity exists for young men. This is the time period where they could be drafted into the armed services, they can legally drink alcohol and they become more physically able to withstand the rigors of more stress.

Stress of the pro baseball scene in both the physical and mental aspects.

Taking a kid out of high school and putting him cross-country into an instructional league, then full season baseball can lead to more blowups than any other type of drafted product.

And with pitching being the prime baseball position, if these types blow up it can push back a franchise several years.

The recent drafts have produced some pretty good young prep pitchers such as Zach Greinke, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Phil Hughes, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw.

What those guys all have is a tremendous secondary pitch to complement a pretty good fastball. High school hitters can’t catch up to the good fastball, but pro hitters can.

These prep pitchers need a good second pitch to succeed, and if it takes a few years to develop one, the confidence level and commitment can waiver for the teenager.

But unless the maturity level is already there, for every Cain, Hamels and Greinke there is a Jeff Allison, Chris Gruler, and Clint Everts, plus many more unrefined prepsters.

Even Greinke contemplated quitting baseball at the age of 20 because of anxiety issues.

The maturity level is simply not there to take such a gamble.

9) If Thinking You Need to Win Soon, Draft College Talent

The Washington Nationals had begun to build a pretty good young team prior to the 2009 draft.

They had a cornerstone position player in Ryan Zimmerman, and a bevy of young arms ready to get major league experience. They weren’t ace material, but the talent was there.

The team needed an ace to eventually carry the staff, and the Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg No. 1 overall. He has done nothing to make the team worry about its pick in dominating every level thus far, now one step from the major leagues.

The Nationals also had another pick in that 2009 draft and selected the best relief pitcher available, projecting him to reach the majors very quickly.

Drew Storen, drafted 10th overall, has arrived in the majors and has already helped to fortify the Nationals bullpen, ranked last in baseball in 2009.

With the Nationals ready to draft another college player No. 1 overall in the upcoming 2010 draft, they might begin to contend as early as 2011.

Tim Lincecum made the same impact on the San Francisco Giants less than two-year after being drafted, as did Evan Longoria and David Price for the Tampa Bay Rays, Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies plus Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles.

No less than eight college drafted players from the 2008 draft have made it to the major leagues.

The college players are more polished, much more mature and ready to produce now in the majors.

And with the 24 hour news cycle available to all people, many teams feel the need to win now.

10) Don’t Cheapen Out

Set aside lots of cash for the draft. And spend it.

There are many instances where teams with money issues have cheapened out on their top pick, taking a player of lesser talent, with that player being easier to sign.

It will cost less in bonus money to sign lesser talent. But you get lesser talent than what is available.

The prime example of this tactic was when the San Diego Padres decided not to pay Justin Verlander’s big money demands when he was coming out of Old Dominion University.

Armed with a 99 MPH fastball and good command, Verlander was easily the best player in that draft, and his success thus far in his major league career has confirmed that suspicion.

Instead of taking the sure-thing Verlander, the Padres decided to go cheap, taking a very immature prep player named Matt Bush No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft.

(Remember our rule earlier about immaturity in high school kids)

Interestingly, while the Padres thought Verlander’s money demands were going to be very steep and out of their price range, Bush actually received a slightly higher bonus than did Verlander.

Too many teams can not compete with the big market clubs in the signing of available big-money free agents and are never able to trade for established stars already making lots of money.

The way these smaller market teams can compete is with the draft, not having to compete with other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees on players they draft.

Highly drafted players demand large multi-million dollar signing bonuses. That is a fact which is likely not going to go away.

Those who reach the majors pay for themselves as they are under team control at much reduced salary structure, while producing at the major league level.

That is saving money in the long run.

There is an old money adage that says, “You need to spend money in order to make money.” Many large companies need to invest in Research and Development in order to create many new products.

Baseball teams need to invest in highly prized drafted players in order to put a good major league team on the field.

But word is that many organizations this year will punt on certain players, and less talented kids in order to save money in bonuses.

Teams that win in the draft do not skimp on signing bonuses or punt on the best players available.


New York Yankees Next 35 Games Are Of Extreme Importance

May 24, 2010

The Yankees began a crucial 35-game stretch Thursday night with a 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers then have split the first two games of the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets.

The Rays showed just how much better they are than the Yankees, with better pitching, scoring early and having a back end of the bullpen which did not blow games.

They also out-scouted the Yankees, using defensive positioning to help defend Mark Teixeira and surprisingly, the newly-promoted Juan Miranda. 

With all the injuries and the starting pitching not performing well (at least the last turn through the rotation), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees respond to this upcoming stretch.

After concluding their three-game set at the Mets, the Bombers travel to Minnesota, then home for seven games against second division teams Cleveland and Baltimore. The Yankees go on the road, seeing for the first time the pitching-rich and homer-friendly Toronto Blue Jays.

Interleague play continues with three against the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series opponent Philadelphia Phillies and another series with the Mets.

The Yankees go west for the second time, including visits at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees renew friendships with former Yankee skipper Joe Torre and former pitcher (and first-round pick) Ian Kennedy.

It is about this time where Jorge Posada should be ready again, out for about a month with a stress fracture in his foot. The foot injury is devastating for any catcher who continually squats down and flexes his feet.

However, with the defense which Francisco Cervelli is displaying, Posada mostly could be used as a DH with occasional catching duties.

While Cervelli has certainly been impressive, it has mostly been as the “backup” catcher. Despite playing the majority of the last 10 days behind the plate, it was not until Posada actually went on the disabled list (DL) that Cervelli became the “starting catcher.”

While no one expects him to become the next Yogi Berra, the pressure is now on Cervelli to keep playing well. If he doesn’t, there is no one behind him to help carry the load. He has only hit .227 over his last six games, the time which Posada has been out.

Nick Swisher is back and hitting. Curtis Granderson has begun a minor league rehab assignment, and the Yankees could have a full complement of starting position players (minus Posada and the easily replaceable Nick Johnson), within a week.

After being swept by the Rays, the Yankees need to win 20 or more of these 35 games over these next five weeks, before they get Posada back.

At least keep the distance manageable from the Rays, but these upcoming games are not important due to catching the Rays, but because the Yankees are looking to keep distance between them and the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Minnesota has the same record as the Yankees while Detroit is only two games back of the Yankees entering Sunday’s schedule.  

Both those AL Central teams have good starting pitching, with the Twins complementing that with a really good, powerful lineup.

The Tigers are riding veterans Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and have had immediate success with rookie outfielders Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. They did recently take three of four from New York.

Lots of question marks remain relative to the Yankees starting pitching, relief pitching, recent offensive woes and some defensive issues with Alex Rodriguez and his throwing. 

Is that all?

With certain guys still out, it is imperative that veterans Mark Teixeira (1 for his last 20) and Derek Jeter begin to improve their strike zone discipline and the starting pitchers work more efficiently to keep the weak middle relief off the field.

With all the other issues, the Yankees can ill afford to further their recent skid which has seen them drop nine of their last 14 games.

Other teams are lurking.


The New York Yankees: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Segment No. 3

May 19, 2010

We are here with our third installment of the Clint Eastwood crusade regarding the New York Yankees. If you missed the first installment, click here .

Second installment? Click here .

The Yankees record is 25-14, three games behind the American League East leading Tampa Bay Rays. And the Yankees are home against Tampa for the next few games, then have a short road trip (across the river) to face the New York Mets for three games, and then on to Minnesota.

While the Yankees did not get into first place after Tampa’s dominant nine-game West Coast road trip earlier in the month, they have a chance to make up two games quickly.

After the Yankees, the Rays head to Houston where they luck out against the worst team in baseball.

THE GOOD

Brett Gardner

He has been really good in his time as a starter . Gardner has put up a line of .280 BA/.345 OBP/.380 SLG/.725 OPS with two doubles, a homer, 3 RBIs and 4 stolen bases. He also scored 10 runs. In February, Yankee fans would have signed on the bottom line for those slash numbers for the entire 2010 season. Currently at .321/.399/.412/.811, Gardy has surpassed all of our expectations.

Alex Rodriguez 

After there was talk about his lack of power, he comes up and wins one game with a grand slam , and ties another with a two-run shot in the bottom of the 9th. Even if he wasn’t hitting home runs, I remember lots of stinging line drives ripped all over the field. His OPS is 1.064 over the last two weeks.

Mark Teixeira

The three and four hitters are finally cranking. Tex has raised his season average to .219 with a two-week spurt of .300/.375/.640/1.015 OPS with five homers and 16 RBI. Although, during the last two Yankee losses, he has come up in the last inning with runners on base and made out both times.

Francisco Cervelli

A total pleasure to watch play the game. No HR’s so far (tied with Ben Zobrist in that category). Enthusiasm, ability to call a game, sets up hitters well, and really comes through with RISP. He slashes .647/700/.882/1.582 in that situation with 15 RBI.

I like his aggressive hacks at pitches in the strike zone. Good to see that aggressive nature in this take a pitch down the middle world we live in.

Juan Miranda

Huh? Why? Well, despite his .231 average, Miranda has a .872 OPS with a long double and booming home run. I love the way he attacks the baseball, looking to hit. But while he is aggressive, he does not swing at too many bad pitches.

I have noticed his tendency of being pull happy, trying to pull fastballs on the outside corner. Even the HR he hit last night was on an outside fastball, but he did try and pull a similar pitch in the 9th inning, too.

He must only like the pitch over the plate because he takes too many fastballs on the inner half.

I truly believe the Nick Johnson signing was a waste of $5 million, when Damon or Miranda could have been had for about the same money.

Young pitchers

Because of injuries to Chan Ho Park and Alfredo Aceves, the Yankees had the Chris Britton memorial shuttle to Scranton working overtime. They needed arms and brought up Romulo Sanchez and Ivan Nova to the majors.

Both players responded very well, combining for 6.2 innings of no run ball, allowing five hits, a walk while striking out four.

Nick Swisher

I was not a huge fan of the trade for Swisher , not because of his talent, but when the Yankees got him they had a glut of 1B/DH/RF types already on the roster.

But since the injuries to Curtis Granderson and now Swisher, you really see how Swisher’s presence is missed in the lineup and in the outfield. His new mentality in the batters box really lengthened the Yankee lineup.

Phil Hughes

Despite the not so bad start Monday, Hughes still had a good two weeks. He made three starts, going 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. He only walked three batters in 19 IP, a very impressive number.

Andy Pettitte

One start after being skipped and it was more of the same from Andy. 6.1 IP, no runs, good stuff and his fifth victory.

Javy Vazquez

He is moving up the charts quicker than a Taylor Swift single. He was impressive in his two outings, one a start, and one a relief appearance. He pitched seven solid innings in Detroit (but lost a tough one), and entered Monday night’s game to face Kevin Youkilis, and got him swinging with two men on.

His curve appears to have that good break and location, but he needs to keep the fastball on the corners, not in the middle of the plate.

THE BAD

Robinson Cano

He is beginning to swing at non-hittable pitches, getting himself out in the process. His last two weeks have produced .239/.327/.326/.653 OPS with six strikeouts.

CC Sabathia

Three starts, no wins, 5.09 ERA. I know he was ripped off by the bullpen last night and should have gotten the win in Boston before the rain fell, but he is the ace and he can not go three straight starts without a victory.

If I were him, I would sit down with Joe Girardi and tell him, “Unless I am getting knocked around, I want to go eight or nine innings every start. No more of this seven inning garbage.”

AJ Burnett

Two starts, 0-1 record and 8.18 ERA. He is back to Bad AJ, issuing seven free passes and 16 hits in two starts. Almost Ugly. If he has no control of the curveball, he is useless.

David Robertson  

He is improving, but he still walks too many. Six walks in five plus innings, but seven whiffs. He should throw his curveball more for strikes early in the count. No one swings at it and if they do, it isn’t a hittable pitch.

Marcus Thames  

I really would not care if this guy hit five game winning home runs last week, he stinks. The only reason he is not part of the ugly group is the one game-winning home run.

He obviously can’t field, can’t throw and can’t hit righties. He is the ultimate one-dimensional player.

And with a team beset by injuries, that is the worst type of position player to have on the roster.

THE UGLY

Derek Jeter

If I see one corpuscle of blood come across the hall…I mean one more weak ground ball to short, I am going to freak out. FREAK OUT!  

Last night, I had more confidence in Juan Miranda coming through in the ninth inning than I would have if Randy Winn got on base and Jeter came up with a chance to win the game.

He takes too many fastball strikes, can’t hit with authority with the ones he does swing at, and flails at WAY TOO MANY breaking pitches outside the zone.

Jorge Posada

He needs to play or go on the DL. It is a waste to have him on the roster without using him.

If a limping Kirk Gibson can go to the plate in the 1988 World Series against Dennis Eckersley, then Posada could have pinch hit for Winn in the bottom of the 9th inning in Tuesday night’s game.

Posada is showing his age with all the nagging injuries. As I said, either DL him or play him.

Boone Logan  

Boone Logan stinks. Why is Girardi the only one who does not see this? In 6.1 innings this season, Logan has allowed ten runners! Lefties are hitting .357 off him with a .500 slugging percentage.

Send him out and bring up a versatile position player like Kevin Russo, who is now playing outfield in Scranton.

Joba Chamberlain

Whew! Not much to say, we all saw the two games.

Joe Girardi

I pretty much said a couple things about Joe already, but for him to need another pitcher by sending down a speedy outfielder like Greg Golson when Nick Swisher is unavailable, this might be the dumbest move I have seen all year. 

Except when Girardi brings Logan into a game.

Girardi has this penchant for resting certain guys as DH’s, giving them a half day off. That is stupid. Either give them the full day or play them in the field. Have a set DH.

The revolving DH has pushed the Yankees into a non-DH situation three times recently where the pitcher would need to hit, one which was Monday night when there were no bench players left. If the game went into extra innings, then Vazquez would have had to hit.

And if Posada can not play, then Cervelli is the only catcher with Ramiro Pena as the back-up. But when Pena was removed from the game the other day (Alex went in), the DH was lost and not only did the Yankees have no one to pinch hit, they had no backup catcher at all!

Girardi needs to have much better roster management. With too many guys unavailable, but still on the roster, they need versatile guys and a set DH.


New York Yankees: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

April 21, 2010

One of the best Clint Eastwood movies from his Western days was “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Fantastic. Rent it if you have not seen it. In fact, get a bunch of Clint movies one rainy day and park yourself on the couch.

This movie title is going to be the same as this Yankee theme. It will be a bi-weekly segment on the most recent Yankee two week stretch of games.

Don’t look now, but despite Javier Vazquez, the Yankees enter Wednesday at 10-3, a half game ahead of Tampa Bay and Minnesota for the best record in baseball.

With a record that strong, the Yankees obviously have much which is good about their team. Veteran Yankees like Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have performed well, while CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have not suffered the Yankee sophomore jinx.

Newcomer Curtis Granderson was well documented in his inability to hit left handed pitching, but has hit well enough against southpaws. He was also supposed to have bad routes to the ball in the outfield, but appears to do an admirable job with the leather.

They have the best offense, and best starting pitching in the American League.

Here are my opinions on various players over the first two weeks:

THE GOOD

1) CC Sabathia —He continues to be the defined ace. A 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA and 0.737 WHIP including two dominant starts. The Yankees likely will not have a long losing streak (5+ games) as long as CC is pitching. The thought of removing him in his near no-hitter is dumb . Let this guy pitch and pitch often.

2) A.J. Burnett —I was not a big fan of his signing last year, but, after a nice rookie Yankee campaign, he has also produced this season. Has thrown the same amount of innings as CC with a better ERA (2.37 vs 2.84).

3) Andy Pettitte —Why do too many scouts and baseball people continue to stress high velocity for young starting pitchers? True that extra speed will let you get away with some mistakes, but Pettitte has showed over the last year and this April that a starter can win with movement, changing speeds and location. He didn’t top 90 MPH all day Sunday and still dominated a strong Texas Rangers lineup.

4) Robinson Cano —His hitting for early power has dramatically boosted his lineup presence. Hitting in the No. 5 spot is paying off early and his good start has helped temper the slower starts of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

5) Brett Gardner —Brett the Jet has gotten on base at a .410 clip, and has shown what he can do when on the bases with seven steals, tied for the league lead. Still needs to improve his swing, as it is still a bit jumpy. Amazing that he went from first to third last week on a single by Derek Jeter to left field.

He should be in the lineup most every day, and leave the pinch hit duties for Marcus Thames, whose defensive skills are brutal. There is enough offense in that lineup that Thames’ right handed bat is not needed every time a lefty pitcher starts.

6) Curtis Granderson —He has performed about as well anyone could have hoped. He has hit for average (.313 BA), hit for power (.563 SLG) and also hit better against LHP (.263 BA). A good guy in the clubhouse, who has given the Yankees good early returns playing under the bright lights of New York.

7) Overall offense —First in runs scored, first in OBP, SLG and OPS, and second in batting average. They has also knocked in those runners once they get on base, hitting .291 with RISP.

8) Joe Girardi —Seems to be even better this year, but does have a little Sparky Anderson in him pulling pitchers too early. I still do not know why he removed David Robertson entering the seventh inning of game one in Boston .

Robertson did give up the game tying hit to Adrian Beltre in the sixth, but then got two weakly hit ground balls for easy outs. No way you burn K-Rob after only six pitches to bring in Chan Ho Park.

Unless it is for Mariano Rivera, never take out a pitcher who is doing well. You just do not know how the new pitcher will be, but you already can see how the current guy is throwing.

THE BAD

1) Robinson Cano —Huh? How is Cano good and bad? While Cano has had a nice start, most of his damage is still with the bases empty. He is only hitting .214 with RISP, and .227 with men on base. He also has a .100 average (1 for 10) in high leverage situations .

Cano still swings at too many bad pitches, getting himself out on pitches out of the strike zone or on good pitchers pitches.

I like his aggressiveness but he needs to be more tempered and selective during big at bats.

2) Nick Johnson —I really don’t care about his high OBP, he takes too many pitches which are good pitches to hit. That working the pitcher stuff is crap. When a hitter works the count against a pitcher who throws strikes, pretty soon you are down in the count and sitting on the bench very quickly.

Johnson struck out looking three times in Sunday’s game!

If it is a good pitch to hit, then hit the ball; especially with a struggling Teixeira hitting behind you. There are certain times to take a walk (bases empty, man on first), but other times where you need to swing the freaking bat and drive in runs.

If Teixeira was swinging the bat well, then NJ can walk as much as he wants. But when Teixeira, and Alex early on, were struggling, with men were on base and good pitches pumped down the middle, a hitter has to adapt to the situation and swing the bat.

3) Derek Jeter —The Captain is hitting .345/.368/.545/.914 OPS with three home runs, nine runs scored and nine RBI. Why is he bad?

Jeter is resorting again to his early pitch swings at balls he has no business swinging at. Like first pitch fastballs on the inside corner. That is not his pitch. He should only be swinging at inside fastballs if he has two strikes in order to protect. Otherwise, wait for a pitch near the middle or outside and drive it up the middle of the other way.

On good pitches for him to hit, Jeter is magnificent.

His bat seems a bit slow, though, and all those weak ground balls to short stop are an indication and the result.

Also, he has looked a bit tentative defensively, making one error and booting several other balls which were deemed hits by overly friendly official scorers.

THE UGLY

1) Mark Teixeira —We know he will hit, but when will it begin? It appears he has bad approaches at the plate in that he knows he is a slow starter and is waiting for May to begin.

But, he is playing extremely well in the field, and there is no one else I would rather have as the Yankees first baseman. This team is so good, that is can get off to a 10-3 start with your #3 hitter looking like Bob Buhl  most of the first two weeks.

UZR Warning – Teixeira’s UZR took a hit early in the season when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled down the right field line. Doesn’t matter that Tex was playing Ellsbury (who doesn’t pull the ball down the line much) over in the 3.5 hole. A ball hit into his zone was not turned into an out.

2) Javier Vazquez —Up until last night I was going to include a REALLY UGLY category, but Vazquez got on the board with his first Yankee W in 2010. As in his first two starts, Vazquez puts up ZEROES most of the innings he works, but then gives up the big (2+ run) inning.

With Travis Buck solo HR in the 5th inning, it was the first time Vazquez worked an inning where only one run was scored. It is usually two-plus runs or zeroes. That was the pattern when Kurt Suzuki took him deep an inning later, resulting from the miscommunication on a lazy pop up behind second base. 

How many UZR were affected by that ball?  

Neither HR hurt as the Yankees had the big six run lead. In fact, Buck’s HR came on a 3-2 pitch with the bases empty. With a six run lead, Javy did what pitchers are supposed to do: throw it down the middle and hope for the best. But why not throw all the pitches down the middle at that point?

And as Pettitte has shown this year, you do not need 92+ fastballs to win in the league. So no worries here about Javy’s reduced velocity from last season.

THE END

The Yankees are stacked, having the best hitting in the league and the best starting pitching, too. Even the bullpen has been good, with Chan Ho Park’s Boston meltdown the only blemish. Bullpen ERA’s can get inflated with a blowout loss, so Robertson’s four-run inning while the Yankees were already losing late is not an issue.

But when the pen needs a big pitch, they are usually getting it—like Joba Chamberlain did last night by striking out Kevin Kouzmanoff with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

What will happen in the next two weeks? Teixeira will hit, someone else will then slump (that’s baseball), Jeter, and CC and Posada will do their thing and Nick Johnson will continue to take pitches down the middle.

You can pitch count on it.


Top 20 Rookie of the Year Seasons Over the Last 35 Years

April 15, 2010

Atlanta Braves 20 year old outfielder Jason Heyward made the opening day lineup and has begun to produce immediate results with three home runs and ten runs batted in.

Other recently drafted, under-25 players such as Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles, Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays and Alcides Escobar of the Milwaukee Brewers began the 2010 season in the majors.

But other young players such as Washington Nationals RHP’s Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, San Francisco’s Buster Posey, Texas’ Justin Smoak, Cleveland’s catcher Carlos Santana (.423, 4 HR’s, 8 RBI’s) and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, started the season in the minor leagues but expect to contribute to their parent clubs in 2010.

With the influx of solid young talent, and many teams willing to give these youngsters a good opportunity, it reminds us here at Bleacher Report of the best and most influential rookie seasons over the last 35 years.

With 70 different Rookie of the Year (ROY) winners over this term, there will be plenty of arguments on what are the best rookie seasons.  Also, these “Best Seasons” include only those for winners of the ROY, so Chipper Jones’ great 1995 season is not included, neither are Troy Tulowitzki’s 2007 season, Todd Helton’s 1998 season, Kent Hrbek’s 1982 season or Tim Raines’ 1981 initial season.

All those players finished second for ROY.

But the winners of the award in all those seasons are included.

Many of the ROY winners here were dominant in their leagues that season and made this list. However, others who made this list might not have had a great season, but those players began a trend or their arrival began a nice run of success for their teams.

It is definitely not solely about numbers, but also about influence and importance.

Winning the Rookie of the Year award is not an indication of future greatness. Only 15 of the 124 ROY winners have made the Hall of Fame, but about a half dozen others are likely to enter.

Enjoy and let the arguing begin.

 #20 Dontrelle Willis - 2003 Florida Marlins

Dontrelle started 27 games in 2003, fashioning a 14-6 record to go along with a 3.30 ERA. The 21-year old Willis was important to that 2003 Marlins team, giving them five quality starters all under the age of 30, eventually helping the Fish to an improbable World Series title against the mighty New York Yankees.

Willis’ highlight year came two seasons later when he went 22-9 and finished second in the 2005 National League Cy Young voting.

While Willis’ career has fizzled in recent years, he is expected to make a push this season for Comeback Player of the Year for the Detroit Tigers, winning a starting rotation spot out of spring training.

He is a solid fifth starter who is still only 28.

#19 Andrew Bailey – 2009 Oakland A’s

Bailey came out of nowhere to become the 2009 closer for the Oakland A’s. A team struggling to fix a newly designed bullpen, Bailey found his role as former closer Huston Street was traded to Colorado. While several other pitchers were ineffective, Bailey dominated in March and made the team out of spring training. 

He continued his dominance during the season, posting a 6-3 record, 1.84 ERA, 26 saves and miniscule 0.876 WHIP.

This rookie season is important in that a pitcher who nobody ever heard of prior to 2009, makes the majors out of his first spring training and dominates a hitting friendly American League in a pressure packed role.

Bailey was the top rookie in an impressive crop of 2009 first year American League players, and won the ROY award beating out other outstanding freshmen such as Elvis Andrus, Rick Porcello, Jeff Niemann and Gordon Beckham.

He has continued his impressive major league career by not allowing a run in four appearances thus far in 2010.

#18 Andrew Dawson, Montreal Expos/Eddie Murray, Baltimore Orioles - 1977 Rookies of The Year

This spot goes to the two rookies of the year in 1977, Andre Dawson of the Montreal Expos and Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles.

This is the only third time that both ROY winners in an individual season have become baseball Hall of Famers. The other seasons were in 1956 with Frank Robinson of the Cincinnati Reds and Luis Aparicio of the Chicago White Sox; and in 1967 with Tom Seaver of the New York Mets and Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins. 

While Dawson and Murray were the third rookie of the year duo to make the Hall of Fame, they will not be the last as a few other possibilities exist, including one virtual lock.

Dawson will join the others in Cooperstown later this year when he is inducted into the Hall this August.

#17 Justin Verlander – 2006 Detroit Tigers

This former #2 overall draft pick has cemented himself as one of the top pitchers in baseball. The only reason he is with Detroit is that San Diego did not want to deal with Scott Boras, but Verlander’s father stepped into the Tigers negotiations and hammerd out the deal.

Verlander has never looked back.

Justin was promoted very quickly up to the majors, and dominated at times during his first full season in 2006. Not only did he fashion a 17-9 record with a 3.63 ERA his rookie season, but spun a complete game shutout at Kansas City.

More impressively, Verlander allowed one or fewer runs in 15 of the 30 starts that year and had the most wins and lowest ERA on a World Series team. He was nearly a unanimous AL ROY beating out Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Liriano.

Verlander has extremely clean mechanics which will allow him to consistently put up 33 start, 220+ inning seasons without injury.

His future as a dominant pitcher should last for another 10 seasons or as long as Verlander wishes to continue.

#16 Bob Horner – 1978 Atlanta Braves

Bob Horner was the 1977 College World Series MVP and the first ever winner of the Golden Spikes award as the best collegiate player in the nation.

Horner was a major power threat and he set records for most home runs in a collegiate season (25) and in a career (58).

He was drafted first overall pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 1978 draft, and played his first major league game a few weeks later. In his first game, Horner homered off of Bert Blyleven. He finished his first abbreviated major league season with 23 homers, 63 RBI’s and won the NL ROY award over Ozzie Smith.

Horner never played a single game in the minor leagues.

Horner went directly from the Arizona State University campus to the major leagues, switching from metal to wood bats, and never mised a beat.

His 1978 rookie season was a classic season, which he became the first position player to go directly from college to the major leagues since Dave Winfield five years earlier.

A career 124 OPS+ indicates his impressive power ability, while his 162 game average season was for 35 home runs and 109 RBI’s in 600 at bats.

Although injuries (including breaking his right wrist twice) curtailed a HOF caliber talent, when Horner was healthy, he teamed with Dale Murphy (who came up a season earlier) to form the most feared 4/5 hitters in any lineup.

#15 – Ichiro Suzuki – 2001 Seattle Mariners

It is amazing to realize that Ichiro (the only player who has his FIRST name on the back of his jersey), has been in the major leagues now for ten seasons.

Although I really do not consider major league players from other countries as rookies (and thus should not be eligible for ROY), this was Ichiro’s first year in the majors after nine seasons in Japan’s Pacific League.

In 2001, Ichiro led all players with 242 hits, and hit .350 while stealing 56 bases.

His first year in the U.S. major leagues is important because Ichiro became only the second position player to make the Japan to U.S. transition, but was the first player to succeed in America.

This success paved the way for other foreign born postion players to play in the United States.

Ichiro is the first Japanese player in the U.S. to make the Japanese Hall of Fame, and is a virtual lock for the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

#14 Cal Ripken, Jr. – 1982 Baltimore Orioles

Cal Ripken is the rare player who grew up in the shadows of his hometown team, was drafted and became a superstar for that same team.

As a Baltimore Oriole for his entire career, Ripken went on to a member of the 400 HR, 3000 hit club, and became a first ballot HOFer.

His rookie year was sensational with 28 home runs, 93 RBI’s which led to a Hall of Fame career, only the fifth American League player (and thus far the last) to win the ROY award and enter the Hall.

Coming up as a tall (6″4″) power hitting shortstop, Ripken revolutionized the shortstop postion. Up unilt Ripken cam eup, the shortstop position was very much an all-field, very little hit position.

Ripken’s success lead other teams to begin developing similarly built shortstops, which permeate the major league landscape even to this day.

Cal is the rare player to play entirely for one team, and one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.

#13 Huston Street

The 2002 draft was the last big high school draft. That season saw eight of the first 11 players taken were high school guys. After that season talent evaluators began to think more of drafting college players.

Entering the 2004 draft, Huston Street was the most accomplished college relief pitcher of all time, and in 2002 he was voted College World Series MVP as he led his Texas Longhorns team to the title.

Street made the majors ealry inthe 2005 season, becoming the AL ROY with a stellar 5-1 record, 1.72 ERA and 1.009 WHIP. Only Mariano Rivera had better numbers that season as a closer.

Street’s rookie year success began a resurgance in recent college draftees being promoted to the major leagues very quickly. Other players like Troy Tulowitski, Justin Verlander, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, David Price and Matt Wieters made similar early jumps to the major leagues after Street’s meteoric rise.    

Currently on the disabled list with an arm issue, Street will eventually be back to his old form, but Street began the standard for the drafting of college players to make and immediate impact on major league rosters.

#12 Hideo Nomo – 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers

Hideo Nomo played major league baseball in Japan for five seasons before becoming the first Japanese player to play in the major leagues in 30 years.

His rookie year saw Nomo go 13-6, 2.54 ERA and 1.056 WHIP. His deceptively delayed delivery and tremendous fork ball allowed Nomo to strike out 236 hitters in only 191 innings.

Currently retired, Nomo’s success in the United States prompted many more Japanese stars such as Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and Diasake Matsuzaka to come over and play in the U.S.

#11 David Justice – 1990 Atlanta Braves

When David Justice came up to the Atlanta Braves in 1990, it is no coincidence that the Braves made the playoffs a year later in 1991, beginning a streak of 14 straight playoff appearances. Justice’s arrival in Atlanta added power to a lineup which only had Ron Gant to provide home run production.

He did win the NL ROY award in 1990 with his .282/.373/.535/.908 OPS line, at that time one of the highest OPS marks for a first year player.

The Braves did win with pitching as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and then Greg Maddux dominated lineups, but Justice provided power and an ability to get the huge hit for a team which was built on pitching and defense. 

Justice was an outspoken leader throughout his career, helping six teams get to the World Series, winning the title twice. His arrival in Atlanta helped that franchise win for the next 15 seasons.

#10 Bob Hamelin – 1994 Kansas City Royals

Throughout the 1994 season, the Royals though they had their power hitting first baseman of the future. Hamelin was a slugger who also hit for average.

Hamelin’s rookie line of .282/.388/.599/.907 OPS was very impressive with his 23 home runs and 65 RBI’s, winning the 1994 AL ROY award over some guy named Manny Ramirez. 

But Hamelin went on to have various leg injuries and only hit 41 more home runs in his career.

The Royals has three AL ROY winners from 1994 through 2003, with Carlos Beltran winning in 1999, and Angel Berroa taking home honors in 2003.

But typical of the Royals over the last twenty years, they develop a decent player and either they fizzle out like Hamelin and Berroa or succeed like Beltran, but then are traded away.

Hamelin was the first of the Royals rookie stars to fizzle out, leading to a continuation of bad seasons for a once proud franchise.

#9 Kerry Wood – 1998 Chicago Cubs

Wood was a top draft pick (#4 overall) in the the 1995 draft, and three seasons later was the top starting pitcher on an almost comletely veteran staff.

Wood started 26 games, striking out 233 batters in 166 innings, with a 13-6 record, 3.40 ERA and 1.212 WHIP. His fifth start in the big leagues tied a record with 20 whiffs in a single game. It is considered one of the msot dominant pitching performances of all time.

Wood was shut down late inthe season with elbow soreness, but still did well enough to garner the ROY award, beating out Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton.

The elbow injury proved more severe as Wood underwent TommyJohn surgery in spring training 1999, missing that entire season. He came back to dominate again in 2003, teaming with Mark Prior to lead the Cubs to the 2003 NL Pennant.

After that season, Wood and Prior suffered sever arm injuries and neither player would regain his dominant starting stuff.

Many people blame manager Jim Riggleman’s use of Wood in that 20 strikeout performance (Wood threw 122 pitches) as the beginning of the babying of starting pitchers via pitch counts and innings limits. Wood would throw seven more games of more than 120 pitches that season, with a 133 pitch performance in his penultimate start before his elbow issues surfaced.

Because of these injuries, which I believe are more the result of Wood’s violent delivery than overuse, Wood never fulfilled what was a promising power-pitcher, major league career.

#8 Derek Jeter – 1996 New York Yankees

The Yankees had a good team in 1994 and 1995, but lacked strength up the middle. Tony Fernandez (SS) and Pat Kelly (2B) were good defensive players but more offense was needed.

Enter Mariano Duncan for Kelly, and 21 year old Derek Jeter for Fernandez. Jeter began his rookie campaign with a home run off of 245 game winner Dennis Martinez,a nd a great over the shoulder catch in shoret left field.

That type of catch would become one of Jeter’s trademark defensive plays.

Jeter went on to hit .314/.370/.430/.800 OPS with 10 home runs and 104 runs scored. He was a unanimous selection for ROY.

His early success helped the Yankees win their first World Series title in 12 seasons, and Jeter was the main position player during a 15 year run of excellence that rivals the best teams of all time.

Jeter is approaching 3,000 career hits and shows no signs of slowing down. If healthy, Jeter could get into the top 10 in career hits, and possibly top 5. He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer and could better Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan’s percentage of Hall of Fame votes of 98.8%.

#8 Ryan Braun – 2007 Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun was a high draft pick (#4 overall) for the Brewers, and moved up to the majors leagues after only 340 at bats above Class A minor league baseball.

His bat was a terror for National League pitchers in his rookie 2007 season, and Braun put up a torrid line of .324/.370/.634/1.004 OPS with 34 home runs and 97 RBI’s. His .634 slugging percentage  (SLG) led the NL in 2007, and was the highest slugging percentage for any rookie in baseball history.

If it wasn’t for fellow 2005 first round draft pick Troy Tulowitzki, Braun likely would have been a unanimous ROY selection.

Braun’s presence in the Brewers lineup gave them a potent lefty – righty duo with Prince Fielder, and help lead the Brew Crew to their first playoff appearance in 26 years a season later.

Braun has all the potential to be a major offensive force for the next 10-12 seasons where he has the potential to hit over 500 home runs with better than a .300 career average.

Only nine other player in history have done that.

#6 Mike Piazza – 1993 Los Angeles Dodgers

A rookie year line of .318/.370/.561/.932 OPS with 35 home runs and 112 RBI’s. Not bad for a former 62nd round draft pick, right?

Mike Piazza made the most of his late round drafting as a favor to his brothers godfather, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Mike was the second of a record five straight ROY winners to come from one team, the Dodgers. It ws not the first time the Dodgers had a string of winners as they also has a run of four straight ROY winning seasons from 1979-1982.

What Piazza’s (and the other four winners did) was establish a base of young talent for the Dodgers, allowing the team to win two division titles and finish second twice. That is what good teams do; they develop their own talent. It works to set a foundation for winning.

Piazza is widely regarded as the best hitting catcher of all-time, with Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra all fighting for second place.

He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

#5 – Mark McGwire – 1987 Oakland A’s

Long before the steroid allegations, and subsequent admission, Mark McGwire was a power hitter extraordinaire. During his rookie season in 1987, Big Mac hit a record 33 home runs before the All-Star break, and, ironically, there was a tremendous amount of talk whether McGwire would break Roger Maris’ long held record of 61.

But while McGwire quieted down from the long grind of a baseball season, he still managed to hit 49 home runs, breaking the rookie home run record. Mark also drove in 118 runs and slugged .618, a rookie record until Ryan Braun came along.

Mac helped the Oakland A’s to three straight World Series appearances, winning the earthquake interrupted 1989 Series.

Whether HOF voters allow Big Mac entry into Cooperstown’s hallowed Hall remains to be seen, but his recent admission of such steroid use basically eliminated all the questions.

As with his rookie HR record, Big Mac has set the standard with voters during the steroid era. I doubt that he will see entry anytime soon, thus indicating how the voters will react to the entire steroid era.

#4 Dwight (Doc) Gooden – 1984 New York Mets

Similar to the #2 season, Dwight (Doc) Gooden was a young pitcher who burst upon the major league scene in dominating fashion. Brought up to the majors as a 19 year old rookie in 1984, Doc used a power fastball and knee buckling curve ball to set a rookie pitching record of 276 strikeouts, breaking Herb Score’s record set 30 years prior.

Gooden’s arrival transformed the Mets from 6th place also rans in 1983 to a strong second place finish in 1984. The Mets then went on to finish first or second for seven straight seasons after Gooden’s arrival, including winning the 1986 World Series Championship.

Off field issues curtailed what was definitely a Hall of Fame career, but when Gooden was young, and that fast ball was popping and that curve ball was snapping, at the time there was no one better.

He was the Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax of his era. 

Similar to the #2 season on this list, Dwight (Doc) Gooden was a young pitcher who burst upon the major league scene in dominating fashion. Brought up to the majors as a 19 year old rookie in 1984, Doc used a power fastball and knee buckling curve ball to set a rookie pitching record of 276 strikeouts, breaking Herb Score’s record set 30 years prior.

Gooden’s arrival transformed the Mets from 6th place also rans in 1983 to a strong second place finish in 1984. The Mets then went on to finish first or second for seven straight seasons after Gooden’s arrival, including winning the 1986 World Series Championship.

Off field issues curtailed what was definitely a Hall of Fame career, but when Gooden was young, and that fast ball was popping and that curve ball was snapping, at the time there was no one better.

He was the Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax of his era. 

#3 Fred Lynn – 1975 Boston Red Sox

Despite the success the Boston Red Sox have had this last decade, there were various times the franchise was terrible. They made the World Series in 1967, but finished no better than third in five of the next seven seasons. It was not until 1975, and the arrival of 23 year old Fred Lynn, that the Red Sox again made the World Series.

Lynn put up a rookie line of .331/.401/.566/.967 OPS, leading the league in slugging and OPS, and finishing second to Rod Carew in batting average. He also made a couple dozen spectacular catches in center field and won the Gold Glove that year and in three other seasons.

Not only did Lynn win the 1975 AL ROY award, but was also a runaway winner for the 1975 AL MVP award, too.

The 1975 season was the height of my baseball life as a kid (I was 11) and Lynn was very special, seemingly winning games for the Sox via a big hit or amazing catch.

Despite an injury bug which did not allow Lynn to play in more than 150 games in any season, he still had a very good career including the Joe Mauer Triple Crown in 1979, leading the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

A very solid career for Lynn, with just over 300 home runs and 1111 RBI’s, but many wonder what could have been.

#2 Fernando Valenzuela – 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers

You had to be there to appreciate the control that Fernando Valenzuela had over the hitters in the National League AND the entire baseball world.

He was similar to Babe Ruth in stature, both in his popularity and in his physique. Like the Babe, Valenzuela was also a pretty good hitter

After being signed out of the Mexican League, Valenzuela was promoted in late 1980 during the Los Angeles Dodgers pennant run, where he posted a 2-0 record, 1 save, and a 0.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances (17.2 innings). 

Fernando followed that up with greatest eight start stretch to open a major league baseball season. In his first eight starts of the 1981 season, Fernando threw eight complete games, including five shutouts! Two other games he allowed only one run and after eight starts his ERA stood at 0.50.

And as a strikeout pitcher (four of his eight starts were double digit strikeout games) Valenzuela likely threw over 120 pitches in each start. Surprisingly, even by throwing his devastating screwball most of the time, his arm did not fall off.

Joe Girardi and other current managers should take note.

Add in the two wins and 17.2 scoreless innings from late in 1980, and after his first 18 major league appearances, Valenzuela had a 10-0 record with a 0.37 ERA.

His success spurred a phenomenon called Fernandomania, and while the Los Angeles Latino community were already big baseball fans, after “El Toro” (Valenzuela’s nickname) came alive, the Latin fans were now out rooting in full force.

Fernando’s patented delivery (see photo) included him “looking to the sky” before every pitch was in itself a separate phenomenon.

Fernando only went 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA, but he missed two months worth of starts due to the 1981 players strike.

His rookie year was amazing and I remember my junior year in high school, hanging out with friends at someone’s house on May 8th, watching that Friday night game Fernando pitched against the New York Mets.

A bad Met team (managed by Joe Torre) drew almost 40,000 fans that night to see Valenzuela and he did not disappoint, posting his 8th straight win and fifth shutout.

While he was only a 173-153, 3.54 ERA pitcher for his career, those first seven seasons were tremendous including a 21-11 mark in 1986. While he was dropped from the Hall of Fame voting in 2004, his early career, and the madness which ensued, were definitely Hall of Fame worthy.

#1 Albert Pujols – 2001 St. Louis Cardinals

For the young fans who wish they saw Ted Williams hit in his prime, you really are, but he hits from  the right handed batters box and he goes not by the nickname of “The Splendid Splinter,” “The Kid” or “Teddy Ballgame” but by the nickname of “Phat Albert,” “King Albert” or “The Machine.”

Similar to Ted Williams, Albert Pujols has several nicknames.

It is amazing to think that in Spring Training of 2001, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa wanted to send Pujols down to the minors for more seasoning. But while Mark McGwire was petitioning LaRussa to keep Pujols, the Cardinals third basemen, Bobby Bonilla, was injured and Albert started the season at third base.

He would play four different positions that rookie season for the Cardinals, starting 32 or more games at third base, first base, left field and right field. He also batted .329/.403/.610/.1.013 OPS with 37 HR’s and 130 RBI’s.

Pujols was a unanimous choice for NL ROY.

Albert has continued his dominance over the next decade, winning three NL MVP awards and finishing second three times. In two of those three runner up seasons Pujols finished behind Barry Bonds.

Make your own judgments.

Only Williams, Joe DiMaggio and maybe Frank Robinson have had similar offensive beginnings to a career, dominating from thier first major league season. But unlike Williams, Albert Pujols has helped bring home a World Series title for his team, while Robinson has two titles and DiMaggio has an unbelievably amazing nine such championships.

When his career is over, Albert Pujols will be considered one of the greatest players of all time (likely top seven), and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, probably recieving 95% or more of the vote.

But he needs to help the Cardinals win another World Series title to fulfill his career. This 2010 season could be the year.


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