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.

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New York Yankees: Top Five Replacements for the Great Mariano Rivera

July 14, 2010

Well replacement might be a tough word, because no one is going to ever replace the supreme production supplied by Mariano Rivera.

Replacing someone was as great as Rivera in their own line of work is the ultimate no-win situation. It rarely works out the same way, and no one usually remembers the replacements.

Quick: Who replaced Lou Gehrig at first base? Who replaced John Wooden at UCLA? Answers below.

Mariano is the greatest closer of all time. Not the greatest relief pitcher (that would be Rollie Fingers because of his multiple inning durability), but Mo is the one pitcher you want on the mound for three ninth inning outs holding a one run lead.

Finding a new closer is going to be a difficult challenge as no one knows how long Rivera will continue to want to pitch.

At age 40, Rivera has shown no signs of vulnerability. He still sports one of the best closer ERAs with 1.05 and 20 saves, and a WHIP of 0.641. He also retired an incredible 24 straight batters in the month of June.

Still highly effective, how long will Rivera want to pitch? Similar to Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees will allow Rivera to make up his own mind when he wants to leave the game.

Rivera has mentioned that signing a series of one-year deals (similar to what Pettitte has done) would be acceptable to him.

I believe Rivera will pitch at least two more seasons after 2010. The “Core Four” will begin to gradually leave the team after this season (Pettitte retiring) and after 2011 (Jorge Posada not being re-signed).

If I were Mo, I would not want to retire the same season as another long time Yankee does.

I believe Rivera will then leave after the 2012 season, which makes getting my preferred replacement very difficult, as that guy is available sooner than the 2013 season.

Here are the five top candidates for the eventual new Yankees closer spot, and Joba Chamberlain is NOT on the list.

Answer to above questions: Gene Bartow replaced the Wizard of Westwood, and Babe Dahlgren replaced Gehrig at first base after his 2,130 consecutive games streak ended.

5 – Mark Melancon, Yankees Scranton AAA team

If they ever give this guy a chance of more than a couple mop up appearances, then he will show the Yankees that he will be the eventual closer.

Mark Melancon was drafted in 2006 with the idea of becoming the eventual Yankees closer. He was the very effective closer for the University of Arizona, a pitcher with a great mound demeanor and a bulldog want-the-ball attitude.

He has done everything you could ever want and need in the minors, including some dominating times in Triple A.

Melancon does three things you want in a relief pitcher: 1) He throws strikes, as he only walked 35 batters in three minor league seasons coming into 2010; 2) he strikes out hitters with his 95 MPH fastball and knee-buckling curve; and 3) he can go multiple innings.

He has struggled a little this season, but most of the damage has come in a few different games in his 34 appearances this year.

He deserves more of a major league opportunity than Chad Gaudin or Dustin Moseley. 

And when he gets more of an opportunity, he will show the Yankees that he can and will perform the function that he was drafted for in 2006.

Being the Yankees future closer. 

Odds of being the next Yankee closer – 50:1

4 – Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

Valverde was a relatively unknown closer who toiled for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros for five and two seasons respectively, before signing with the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2010 season.

Valverde saved 47 and 41 games in 2007 and 2008, and has not slowed down since joining the senior circuit.

He sports a miniscule 0.92 ERA this year, allowing a scant four earned runs in 39 innings. Valverde has a WHIP of 0.821, walking 3.7 per nine innings, but allowing very few hits. Hitters are batting .125 off of him this season.

His strikeout rate has steadily declined over the years from a high of 12.6 per 9 IP in 2006 to a “measly” 8.3 per 9 this season.

Have no fear as Valverde usually gets two strikes on most hitters he faces, and finishes them off with a strikeout or weakly hit ground ball off his devastating splitter.

But one thing hurts Valverde’s chances of becoming the next Yankee closer.

Mariano will likely pitch two more seasons after 2010, and Valverde will be a free agent after 2011.

With the lack of quality closers available, some team will overpay for Valverde, and it is very likely he re-signs with the Tigers.

At the grand age of 34 when he becomes a free agent, I do not see Valverde accepting an eighth inning role for a year or two so he can eventually close with the Yankees.

And unless Rivera retires after one more season, I do not see the Yankees aggressively going after Valverde.

Odds of being the next Yankee closer – 20:1

3 – Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers

He is the current Los Angeles Dodgers closer.

Broxton is big and strong (6’4″ and close to 300 lbs!) with a massive lower body that screams high heat. He can register the guns all the way up to 100 MPH, and regularly hit 98-99 on the gun in closing the All-Star game out last night for the National League.

Over the last two seasons (his only two full years as a closer), Broxton has struck out about 13 hitters per nine innings, while having a WHIP around 1.000.

Those are two great traits for a dominating closer.

Like Jose Valverde, the only issue is that Broxton can become a free agent after the 2011 season, and will have many suitors vying for his work.

If Rivera wants to continue pitching, will the Yankees fork over big money for Broxton over four years, using him as a very highly paid set up guy for a season or two, then letting him close once Rivera retires?

This could happen as Broxton will only be 28 when he reaches free agency.

Will having the opportunity to eventually close for the New York Yankees be enough of a luring card for Broxton to forego his closer role for a year or two?

Or, since Rivera will be 42 in 2012, could both he and Rivera alternate as closer two years from now?

Broxton is the perfect fit for the Yankees, but what does scare me is his arm action, which is shown above. This type of action is ripe for injury, and not something which should be taken lightly, especially for a guy who throws as hard as Broxton does.

He is the perfect candidate to step right in as the future Yankee closer, but the timing of his free agency hurts his overall chances.

Odds of being the next Yankee closer –  7:1.

2 – Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

Since he closes for the lowly Kansas City Royals, Soria is the best closer in the game that no one really talks about.

But people have been noticing him work lately as many have Soria pegged as possibly being traded to the Yankees as a set up man to Rivera for 2010.

Soria has put up dazzling numbers with a 162 game average of 2.13 ERA and a 0.994 WHIP with 37 saves. He walks only 2.5 per nine IP while striking out over 10 per nine IP.

He is signed through the 2011 season, with three club otions for 2012 ($6M), 2013 ($8M) and 2014 ($8.5M).

I do not believe the Royals will be wanting to pay Soria $8 million per in 2013, and could trade the closer to the Yankees sometime in 2012. If Soria is still effective two years from now, the Yankees will certainly have enough trade chips to whet the Royals’ appetite.

And two years after 2010 is when Rivera is likely to retire. But his odds decline a little as another team needs to be involved, and it is not just a straight free agent signing.

Odds of being the next Yankees closer – 5:1

1 – Huston Street, Colorado Rockies

Basically this deal works timing wise more than anything.

Huston Street will probably be a free agent after the 2012 season, just when I believe Mariano Rivera will retire.

When healthy, Huston is nothing less than very effective. He throws strikes, changes speeds and strikes out hitters at a good (although not great) rate.

Street just does not allow many hitters to get good contact off him. His career WHIP is 1.023 in 343 career innings.

Street is signed through 2012, but has a player option for $9 million in 2013. Assuming he is healthy and still effective at the then age of  28, if Street knows Rivera is retiring and the Yankees (among others) need a closer, Huston would be smart to decline the option and become a free agent.

The Yankees could easily give him a multi-year deal at $10 million per.

Street was rumored to be coming to the Yankees near the 2009 trade deadline, but the Yankees will have to wait a few seasons for his eventual arrival.

Odds of being the next Yankee closer – 3:1.

Honorable Mention – Current Yankee Farmhands

I would always allow a younger player to get an opportunity over a major league free agent, but the future job of Yankee closer is going to have so much scrutiny, it might not be a good idea to have a young player in that role.

It would not be fair to that youngster, and not fair to the fans, who would demand instant success. The role of closer is not allowed to have any failures, especially coming off the retirement of Mariano Rivera.

But the Yankees do have an abundance of young pitchers with strong arms, routinely hitting 95 MPH, with good control and two out pitches.

If the eventual closer was from the current ranks of farmhands, one of these young pitchers would likely be the next one:

Andrew Brackman – this 25 year old stands 6’10” and has finally become the prospect he was once destined.

Now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Brackman has been successful this year as a starting pitcher at High A Tampa, andwas then promoted to Double A Trenton.

He finally harnessed the one negative in his game—pitching control. Cleaning up some mechanical issues has allowed Brackman to reduce his walks to only 16 in 80 innings in 2010.

During the debacle which was his 2009 season in Low A Charleston, Brackman’s only success was when he was sent to the bullpen. While better than normal his first handful of relief appearances, his last four stints were stellar.

He did not walk anyone over those ten innings, allowing only six hits with no runs, HBP, or wild pitches while striking out nine.

Here is my report last year on his bullpen success.

Brackman has now begun to throw a sharp slider at 87 MPH to go along with his hammer curve and fastball which has now hit 96 MPH.

With all the Yankees’ starting pitcher prospects in the system, Brackman might be better suited in the bullpen.

History has already shown he can succeed there.

Graham Stoneburner – this guy has what it takes to be successful as a major league bullpen arm. He has a fastball at 95-96 MPH and a nasty slider which generates lots of swings and misses.

Here is my report on him from one of his Charleston starts.

He walks relatively few hitters, allows few hits and has one of the best WHIPs in the entire minors. He has also struck out exactly a batter per inning so far in 2010.

He was promoted so far this year from Low A Charleston to High A Tampa and likely will stay in steamy Florida State League all season.

It is only Single A baseball, but Stoneburner continues to impress the Yankee brass with his stuff and mound presence.

If he does not consistently generate a third pitch, like his improving change up, Stoneburner could make his major league debut in the bullpen as soon as next season.

Tim Norton – a real long shot as this 27-year-old has spent most of his career on various disabled lists, including missing the entire 2008 season with a shoulder injury requiring surgery. 

But I have liked his pitching style since seeing him in short season Staten Island in 2006.

But when he recently returned this season, he was nothing short of dominant, striking out well more than one per inning and having a WHIP well below 1.000. Norton has scrapped his splitter, which I have always said harms shoulders more than any other pitching factor.

But Norton, who has a serious nasty pitching mentality to dominate, is hurt again and on the Double A Trenton disabled list.