Cliff Lee Signs With the Phillies, Leaves Yankees, Rangers Searching for Answers

December 14, 2010

Well, it is finally official.

As I predicted on my nightly radio show from Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings, Cliff Lee is signed, sealed and delivered to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Including all option years, Lee was offered a total of $148 million by the New York Yankees and $161 million by the Texas Rangers. Surprisingly, the Rangers offered MORE total dollars than the almighty Yankees.

And Ruben Amaro, GM of the Phillies, is a virtual master salesman.

The Rangers brass must be devastated, while the Yankees brass (likely disappointed) are probably hard at work working the phones to try and get a veteran pitcher.

And Ruben Amaro is a genius.

How can he obtain Cliff Lee, then Roy Halladay, then Roy Oswalt and now Cliff Lee again?

And despite making three major trades for three No. 1 type starters, he still has tons of pitching talent in their minor league system with Vance Worley, Jarrod Cosart and Brody Colvin.

Not that they will need these guys any time soon, although Worley did pitch well in a brief callup in 2010. If the Phillies trade Joe Blanton, then Worley has inside tract into the No. 5 spot.

While I said that Amaro is a genius, he does make strange deals, but those deals are always when he attempts to resign his own players. Giving a three year extension to Blanton for $24 million was extremely idiotic.

Also, that extension for Ryan Howard was kind of weird, too.

When it comes to other teams guys he can work wonders.

After trading for Halladay last off season, Amaro signed the 2010 Cy Young winner to a below market extension.

Now he convinced Cliff Lee to take almost $50 million less to sign with the Phillies.

This is also not to say that Lee left all that money on the table. This new deal is supposedly for $120 million over five years with a option with easily attainable incentives.

That deal could be for $135 million or more. Plus, if his back issues hold up, Lee likely will be able to pitch after this current deal is over. That means he can make another $10-15 million.

So Lee really didn’t turn down the Yankees gazillion dollars because the Yankees didn’t even offer the most money plus Lee liked what he saw in Philadelphia when he spent half the season there in 2009.   

And now Lee gets to keep his scruffy beard.

If you want to blame Yankee GM Brian Cashman, go back to last years deadline when he refused to include Eduardo Nunez in the Cliff Lee deal with the Mariners. If Lee comes to New York last season, maybe Lee feels about his time in New York the way he felt about his time in Philadelphia.

The Phillies now possibly possess the best rotation in the National League, although the San Francisco rotation is pretty good, too. Plus they beat Halladay and Lee twice in the postseason this past year.

But the Phillies are not quite guaranteed to have a parade down Broad Street next fall. Except for the assumed Domonic Brown replacing Jayson Werth, the entire Phillies lineup is over 30 years old for 2011. Cole Hamels is the only starting pitcher under 30.

And injuries have really hit their middle infield with lower body issues to both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, while Howard and Raul Ibanez have declined.

Plus, the lineup is extremely left handed and there is no Jayson Werth to balance out Howard, Utley and Ibanez.

I am not saying they are not going to be the favorites because they are. Everybody likes big names on paper but conveniently forget about age (except when it comes to Derek Jeter).

But funny things happen over a 162-game schedule where the game is played every day.  All players over 30 years old rarely make it through the entire season.

As I said in my piece last week from the Winter Meetings, the Phillies could try and trade Hamels for a right-handed bat and some prospects. He would bring back a boatload (especially with two seasons left of control), but after the Lee trade t Seattle fiasco last year, I don’t see Amaro making that type of mistake again.

At least until next offseason. Could the Yankees be interested?

The Phillies did not get anything of current worth back in the Lee trade last season, and now give up their first round pick to the Rangers in a very deep draft. Not a problem now, but maybe down the road.

While the Phillies shocked the baseball world early Tuesday AM, they still have lots of issues.

Can Ruben Amaro work his genius again before Spring Training?

MLB Winter Meetings: Jayson Werth to Washington Nationals, Adrian Gonzalez Deal Dead?

December 5, 2010

On the ground at the winter meetings in unseasonably cold Orlando, Fla., there has been quite a bit of action already.

Actually, in much colder Boston, the Adrian Gonzalez trade is currently off, as the slugging first baseman and the Boston Red Sox could not agree on an extension. They had a window until 2 p.m. today, and while the Red Sox were willing to given Gonzalez a six-year extension, the player wanted eight years and “Mark Teixeira money.”

Many people here believe that if Gonzalez tests the free-agent waters after this season, there would be up to six potential suitors for the type of money (eight years/$180 million) Teixeira signed for two winters ago. Those teams include the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Cubs and, of course, the Red Sox.

The Cubs were the other teams heavily involved in trying to trade for Gonzalez last week. Could talks with the Cubbies begin anew?

While the deadline for an extension has passed and the trade is now dead, it does not mean it is completely done. The teams could talk trade again (same players involved), and the Red Sox could up their offer.

I believe the Red Sox need Gonzalez so bad that they at least go to a seventh year (he would only be 35 in that last season), and this trade eventually gets done.

It gets done because of the major news today from the meetings that former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, he of the 120 career home runs at the age of 31, signed a big-money contract with the Washington Nationals.

That deal is for seven years and $126 million. Are you kidding? This deal will turn out just as bad as the deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets. Maybe it’s the name.

Well, Scott Boras did his work here and earned every penny of what he is getting paid by Werth.

But the right-hand hitting Werth was also on the Red Sox radar, to complement the trade for the left-hand hitting Gonzalez.

Now Werth is out, and the Gonzalez deal is done, for the time being. Even if the Red Sox do eventually get Gonzalez, they need another bat.

And that means going after Carl Crawford. The Sox can put a dent in the Yankees and Angels’ pursuit for CC No. 2 and improve their own lineup, too.

Let’s say the Red Sox then do sign Crawford. That means the Angels are needing to improve their team. They would like to get lineup help and want Crawford to be their No. 3 hitter.

But if Crawford signs elsewhere, the Angels can improve their team by getting better starting pitching.

And that means going heavy for Cliff Lee. What better way to crush the rival Texas Rangers, hurt the Yankees and improve your own team?

I have always thought the Angels were going to be a dark horse for Lee. However, many people here believe that Lee does not want to go back to the west coast. Valid point.

Also, the Angles aren’t hurting for starting pitching, with five starters already in the fold, including Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero, Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir. But Kazmir is mostly ineffective and could be moved, as he only has one year left before free agency. They could also move the more desirable Santana to make room.

However, money does talk (ask Werth), and the Angels will certainly be able to go $150 million for six years for Lee. That might get it done. Angels owner Arte Moreno has never been shy about spending his hard-earned cash.

Plus, I have always believed the Angels don’t really need Crawford with speedy youngsters Peter Bourjos (ready now) and Mike Trout probably ready in 2013 or sooner. Trout could be the best overall prospect in the major leagues.

Going after and signing Lee would make the Angels the leading contender in the AL West and would severely alter the Yankees pitching plans for their rotation.

If Lee signs elsewhere, what do the Bombers do then? I have several thoughts on what they could do,  but they will be held for another piece.

These possible moves are the domino effects of the Gonzalez trade being called off (for now) and Werth strictly showing us money was the only factor in signing with the Nationals.

So much has gone on here at the winter meetings, and they haven’t even officially begun.

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

July 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amaro hopes that is the case.

New York Mets Would be Foolish to Sign Jason Bay

December 12, 2009

New York Mets GM Omar Minaya is on the hot seat this winter and for the 2010 season. He is under the microscope this winter to “make a deal” that signifies to the Mets fans base that the organization is committed to winning in 2010. Minaya will also be highly scrutinized in the spring, summer and fall of 2010, because the team he oversees has not made the playoffs since advancing to the 2006 NLCS. In that thrilling series, the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals on their own home field in a thrilling Game 7.

That season marked the only time under Minaya’s reign that the Mets made the playoffs. In fact, the Mets have made the playoffs only once since their 2000 World Series appearance. The low point under the Minaya regime came last season when they finished mired in fourth place with a 70-92 record, 23 games behind their chief rival Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies went to their second straight World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees – the Mets other chief rival, if only for respect within the same city.

Many people blamed last season on injuries, David Wright’s power outage and/or adjusting to their new stadium.

I say it is mostly the GM and his method of maneuvering. I have said before and will say again that Minaya is the worst GM in baseball, and goes for the big headline deals instead of building from within.

Signing Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez while trading young players for Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana and Brian Schneider/Ryan Church.

All these big money free agents and trades for established stars has resulted in absolutely nothing but two September collapses and one post season appearance in nine years.

Now all the Met fans, media and bloggers are saying the Mets need to go down this road once again and sign a power bat for left field, two starting pitchers and maybe a first baseman.

They say that the definition of stupid is doing the same moronic thing over and over again, expecting to get different results. But that is exactly what the Mets, via their GM, are doing this off season.

Minaya has made a 4 year, $63 million offer to free agent LF Jason Bay (whom Minaya once traded away), and is expected to go after right handed pitchers Joel Piniero or Jason Marquis. Both veteran free agent pitchers are expected to command (at minimum) three year deals for over $30 million.

That is almost $100 million on players who WILL NOT help the Mets win in 2010 or beyond.

Minaya will continue to spend other people’s money because it is the easiest thing to do, and his job is on the line. He is not interested in the long term well-being of the franchise, but in saving his own reputation so when he does finally get fired by the Mets, he will be able to land another job within baseball.

What they Mets need to do is not sign more overpriced free agents, but to build the new team around their new expansive stadium with pitching, defense and speed. Bay is not the best fielder in the world, and has been supported by the Green Monster in Fenway the last year and a half. Not having to worry about balls being hit over your head makes the job much easier. I wonder how Bay would fare in Citi Field’s expansive outfield.

But, Minaya and the Mets hierarchy are just spinning wheels as Bay will never sign with the Mets. Bay and his agent are using the New York market to coax another year and more money from other teams. He has other suitors in Boston and Seattle, plus a few other teams desperate for a bat like the Los Angeles Angels (to replace Vladimir Guerrero) and maybe San Francisco (to protect Pedro Sandoval).

But the Mets would be foolish to sign a big name free agent. One of the reasons they floundered last season after the injury bug hit (the bug was so big, it makes the swine flu look weak and pitiful), was that the Mets system had no ready replacements for the injured players.

With all those seasons of Minaya signing other teams high priced players, the Mets have lost first round picks in 2007 (signing Wagner) and 2008 (signing Alou). To add insult to injury, the player the arch-rival Phillies signed in 2007 was Kyle Drabek, their highly sought after top starting pitcher prospect. Drabek could conceivably be pitching in the majors this season or traded for Roy Halladay.

I mentioned earlier that the biggest rivals for the Mets are the cross town Yankees and the intra-divisional Phillies. Those teams are two of the six major league teams which have made the playoffs in three of the last five seasons. The other teams are the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. All but the Phillies have made the playoffs in five of the last eight seasons, too.

What do those six teams have in common? Most of their core group of players were from their owns systems, either drafted or signed as amateurs and developed through the minors. Or, the teams (especially the Cardinals) have made great trades to bring in good players. The Cardinals and Red Sox are especially good at getting quality, winning players via the trade route.

The Cardinals picked up Adam Wainwright, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa via trades while the Red Sox recent run included trade acquisitions Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Jason Bay and Victor Martinez.

But the cores of most teams were developed within. The Yankees run last season with three high priced free agents is highly unusual in that they helped propel the team to a title, but most of their team was built from within. Same with Philadelphia.

Who makes up the Mets homegrown core? Jose Reyes and Wright, with a sprinkle of Mike Pelfrey.

The Mets do have some young players like Daniel Murphy, Fernando Martinez, Jonathan Niese and Ike Davis who could make impacts in the next couple years, but most will never get the full opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Signing Bay is a bad move for the Mets long term success. This is not an indictment of Bay or any other big name free agent. They are all good players and will all sign somewhere. My money is on all three big names this off season (Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and John Lackey) will all sign with their existing teams.

The Mets would be better off in the long run to promote more younger talent and stop buying players on other teams. But Minaya is trying to save his own neck and will never think of the Mets future, only his present.

It is ironic how Minaya now thinks Bay is a good enough player after trading the young power hitting minor leaguer in 2002 as the Montreal Expos GM. Bay would have been a perfect fit four years ago when Minaya traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. Another power bat in 2006 would have put them over the top that season.

And then Minaya and the Mets would probably already have Bay in the fold as a member of the team,  more playoff appearances and a secure job.

Roy Halladay trade to NL was best thing for both Red Sox and Yankees

December 7, 2009

The title to my original piece was “Roy Halladay Should NOT be in the Yankees 201o Plans.” However, as usual, the thoughts are in my head, and in my notebook (with generous amounts of information and facts to back up my thoughts) but the time to get it all down was non-existent.

Then with the big whopping four-team, 175 player trade went down last week, and I thought that I HAD to get something down.

Halladay being traded outside the American League was the best thing to happen to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

But not only because each team does not have to face him 3 or 4 times per season, even though historically King Roy has performed well against the Yankees and more recently, the Red Sox.  And not even because the Red Sox were worried the Yankees were going to get him, or that the Yankees were worried the Red Sox were going to trade for him.

But because if either the Yankees or Red Sox traded for Halladay, then both teams would have had to empty the farm system of ready-to-star major league talent. And despite the seemingly deep pockets of both franchises, both teams NEED to keep developing younger, cost-effective talent to compete.

Roy Halladay IS one of the top 5 best pitchers in baseball, is very durable and is tough minded with a bulldog attitude on the mound. He will be good for 30+ starts for the next 5 years, as his mechanics are phenomenal. These strong mechanics put less wear on his elbow and shoulder ligaments.

Contrary to popular negative perceptions on pitch counts and innings totals, mechanics are the primary determinant to how durable a pitcher will be. The only time Halladay missed time due to arm issues was back in 2004 when he experience shoulder soreness. He stopped lifting weights in the off season and the shoulder issues were gone.

Since his AGE 25 breakout season in 2002 (Joba’s age during the full 2011 season), King Roy has amassed a record of 130-59 with a 3.13 ERA over 1710 innings, and won the AL CY Young award in 2003. That season saw “Doc” at his best, going 22-7, 3.25 ERA with an incredible 6.38 SO/BB ratio.

And that solid control has been the key to Halladay’s success. While allowing a measly 8.56 H/9 during that eight-year span, he also has only allowed 1.6 BB/9 for a WHIP of 1.19. That walk rate is Curt Schilling like; even Greg Maddux like.

Notice the trend of winning pitchers and low walk rates? There is no indication that Halladay is going to decline in this category. His season last year produced better numbers at 1.3 BB/9. He has successfully converted from a power pitcher to more a ground ball threat, and he always seems to hit his location when he needs an out.

Also contrary to popular sabermetrician negativity, pitchers can pitch effectively while not striking out hitters. Getting the baseball on the non-fat part of the bat is an art form, and Halladay has that mastered.

But the New York Yankees (specifically Brian Cashman) showed a couple of seasons ago with Johan Santana that they will not pay top prospects for top talent, and then pay an exorbitant amount of money, too. The money is not the issue as they passed on Santana, but then signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira the next off season. But Cashman will not offer up top talent no matter who that player was, even Halladay.

And neither will Theo Epstein of the Red Sox.  If Theo really wanted Halladay, he would have had to definitely give up promising starter Clay Buchholz, probably High A minor league pitcher Casey Kelly (many scouts think he could enter the Sox pen in 2010), and maybe OF/DH prospect Ryan Westmoreland and/or 1B prospect Lars Anderson. Remember, this was before the Jays made the Halladay trade and did not yet have Brett Wallace, their new 1B of the future) in their system.

From the Yankees, the Blue Jays were seeking top hitting prospect Jesus Montero and either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Also, seeing the Yankees give up three Major league talented players for Curtis Granderson, new Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos probably would also demand AAA starter Zach McAllister or a younger left handed pitching stud like Manuel Baneulos.

And for both the Red Sox and the Yankees, that is too much to give up, even for Halladay.

Epstein is adamant about not giving up Kelly or Westmoreland and knows he might need Buchholz for more offense down the road, while Cashman usually trades secondary talent for needs but rarely ponies up stud prospects (see Johan Santana).

After trading lots of players for Victor Martinez, Epstein is also learning this tactic. Instead of Halladay, Theo tried for Bay, then Holliday and settled for John Lackey, somewhat of a Halladay-lite. All three of those guys were free agents, where it is just money, no players. If Epstein will never give up Kelly, then San Diego Padre first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also will never get to Boston.

While the Yankees have a deep farm system, with influential players at each level, the Red Sox don’t have many future impact players in their system. In Triple A, the Sox have pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden, in Double A there is Lars Anderson and OF’s Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick, while in Single A there are the aforementioned Kelly and Westmoreland.

While the Sox have continuously paid over slot for amateur talent, they really don’t have much in the system ready to contribute. Most of their top guys are former high school kids, and are still in the 19-22 age range. And if they trade away the few remaining players other teams covet, they will have to pay top dollar for future players.

While the core of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, etc is signed for several more seasons each, the Red Sox need to replace (or re-sign at insanely high prices) Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and JD Drew over the next year or two. That is a lot of offense to replace. Even the Red Sox don’t have that much money to throw around. They need to keep those young prospects in their system.

Same with the Yankees. The Yankees have  a few important contracts to rework soon including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but it is not as severe as the Red Sox need to replenish. Even Cashman has had “budget” the last two seasons.

That is why the Red Sox and to a lesser extent the Yankees, both needed to refuse to trade for Roy Halladay. Even though each team knows they are in direct competition with each other, they also know there is a finite amount of resources available. Each team needs to be prudent with who they sign long term, and must continue to supplant their roster with more younger, home grown talent.

Trading for Halladay would not just cost resources now (via prospects and cash), but down the road when more higher priced free agents need to be signed because you traded your best impact replacements.

Yankees’ Damaso Marte Becoming the New Graeme Lloyd

November 2, 2009

In the 8th inning of Saturday night’s New York Yankee victory, manager Joe Girardi summoned left handed reliever Damaso Marte to begin the frame. At the time, the Yankees led 8-4, so the game was still within reach of Philadelphia, especially with the middle, power-part of the Phillies hitters due up.

It was a good move by Girardi (one of many he has made this post season), getting the lefty Marte to face Phillies slugger Ryan Howard leading off the inning.

Marte dispatched Howard on five pitches (all strikes), continuing the terrible World Series by the big first baseman. What was uplifting though is that Girardi left Marte in to face the right handed Jayson Werth, who already hit two monstrous home runs in the game.

Marte also struck out Werth (who looked at three called strikes) and then quickly got another lefty, Raul Ibanez, to hit a weak liner to Alex Rodriguez at third base. Marte threw 15 pitches, 13 of which were for strikes.

With Phil Hughes, David Robertson and lefty Phil Coke all available, Girardi could easily have brought in Marte to face Howard, brought in Robertson to face Werth, and then wear out the path to the mound one batter later to bring in Coke to face Ibanez.

And that is what Girardi WOULD have done if he didn’t have a change of attitude during the ALCS.

In Game Three of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels, Girardi removed an effective Robertosn in the 11th inning to bring in Alfredo Aceves. Aceves promptly gave up two straight hits and the Yankees lost. Girardi used EIGHT pitchers in that game and was roundly criticized for making too many matchup moves.

Since then, Girardi has been more economical with his pitchers (except for Mariano Rivera), and was the reason for leaving Marte in for the entire 8th inning last night.

As many readers of my writings can attest, I have never been a big fan of Damaso Marte, and was highly critical of the last season’s trade , which brought Marte (and OF Xavier Nady) to the Yankees.

But last night, Marte combined an unusually high mid-90’s fastball (topping out at 95), with his precision placed slider. The key with Marte is that he is locating his slider (and his fastball) very, very well.

In this postseason, Marte has now retired the last nine batters he has faced. He is being used in bigger situations as Girardi begins to gain more trust in the veteran left hander.

He is becoming the next Graeme Lloyd, a former Yankee outcast who made the postseason roster due to being the only other lefty available, but then coming through all postseason long.

Lloyd was a tall Australian who was acquired by the Yankees in Aug. 23, 1996 for durable reliever Bob Wickman and OF Gerald Williams. The Yankees needed another lefty for their bullpen to complement…well, to complement no one because the Yankees had no effective lefty bullpen arm the entire 1996 season.  

Lloyd was not particularly impressive after the trade, giving the Yankees 5.2 innings while allowing 12 hits, five walks and 11 earned runs. His ERA was 17.47 and his Yankee WHIP was 3.000.

Still, Yankee manager Joe Torre kept Lloyd as his lefty specialist for the 1996 post season. He responded by throwing 6.1 innings, allowing a single hit, no walks while striking out five hitters. Lloyd continuously faced tough lefty hitters in big situations and proceeded to come through each time.

The big moment of his post season that year was in Game Four of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves

Tied at six entering the bottom of the 9th inning (in the same game Jim Leyritz hit the big three-run homer off of Mark Wohlers), with one out, Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera allowed a single to Mark Lemke and walked Chipper Jones.

Torre replaced Rivera with Lloyd* to face Braves lefty slugger Fred McGriff, who had homered earlier in the game. With the game and series on the line (if the Braves won they would have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead), Lloyd induced McGriff into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

The Yankees would then score two runs in the 10th inning and go on to win Game Four (Lloyd was credited with that win) and eventually win the World Series.

Marte has become the 2009 version of Graeme Lloyd. Marte was injured for most of the season, and when he was available, was largely ineffective and mostly ignored late in the season. His season ERA was a Lloyd-like 9.45 and Marte only appeared in mop up duty in September.

Many people, including me, thought Marte was not going to be on the post season roster, but like Torre did 13 seasons earlier, Girardi showed faith in the veteran Marte and kept him around for his left-leaning ways.

Marte has also been Lloyd-like in this post season, retiring all nine of the batters he has faced in the ALCS and World Series, and has become a thorn in the side of Philadelphia’s left handed hitters Chase Utley, Howard and Ibanez. With the struggles of Phil Hughes, it has been interesting to see both Marte and Joba Chamberlain being used more in later inning situations.

While I have not been a fan of Marte’s since his arrival in New York, I have written that if he does come through in the 2009 post season, that trade will have a modicum of redemption .

His continued post season success is critical for the Yankees in their drive towards another World Series title.

Who would have thought Graeme Lloyd could be reincarnated?

*Interestingly, Lloyd also appeared in Game Three, also coming in for Rivera, who eventually became the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Imagine replacing the great Rivera in back-to-back World Series games.

Alex Rodriguez Must Adjust His Hitting Approach

November 1, 2009

An in-game analysis of Alex Rodriguez hitting approach:

In the second inning of tonight’s game, Alex was hit in the upper back by a pitch from Joe Blanton. It was the third time in the last five at-bats Rodriguez was hit by a pitch.

After a conference between the umpires, they decided stupidly to warn both benches about retaliation. Alex exacerbated the situation by telling home plate umpire Mike Winters it was obvious the Phillies were throwing at him.

I disagree with Alex. The Phillies are not throwing at Alex, but are following the game plan all teams have this postseason.

Throw Alex fastball inside on the hands to get two strikes on him, then go away with junk to get him out. Pedro Martinez worked this to perfection in Game Two. When the Phillies pitchers miss on that inside pitch, they are missing inside off the plate, and a couple of those errant pitches have hit him. With any power hitter, if you miss inside, you better miss off the plate.

This approach by the Phillies has retired Alex most of the series, as he has only one hit (albeit a big one last night) with six strikeouts.

But Alex has to change his approach this game, and this game only. Due to the warning to both benches, The Phillies will not be able to pitch him inside with hard stuff as consistently. Rodriguez’ next two at-bats after being hit resulted in a few token inside pitches, with most of the stuff form Blanton being off-speed stuff right over the plate.

For example, the first pitch in his third at-bat (with two men on and two outs), Blanton threw Alex a “hit me” curveball right over the middle. Alex took it for a called strike and went immediately behind in the count.

Because he is so conscious of being pitched inside, Alex is pulling out early and basically waving at the slow stuff middle out.


He can avoid looking inside this game because of the pitchers’ fears of being ejected of coming too close.

By looking to be aggressive early in the count on pitches over the plate, Alex can become a factor late in the game.

But that all changes again tomorrow when a new set of rules will apply, and Cliff Lee will again be pounding the inside corner with fastballs—before looking to get him out away with soft stuff.

One reason why the little guys like Mark Lemke for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, Brian Doyle for the Yankees in 1978, and Al Weis for the New York Mets in 1969 were successful in the World Series is the opposition goes to great lengths to attack the big hitters. Sometimes, the little guys slip through the cracks because the concentration level is not that high for each of their at-bats.

The concentration level for all the Phillies pitchers is very high when Alex is up at bat, and it shows this series.

Alex needs to adjust for every at-bat, but especially this Game Four.

Charlie Manuel’s Starting Pitcher Decision Gives Yankees World Series Title

October 31, 2009

He was dominant in game one at Yankee Stadium, shutting down the vaunted New York Yankee lineup in a complete game victory. In going the distance, Cliff Lee struck out 10 hitters (including Alex Rodriguez three times), allowing only six hits and a single unearned run.

He is in his prime and is basically a win waiting to happen every time he takes the mound. The best bet for Philadelphia in winning this World Series is to have Lee pitch as often as he can.

But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has other ideas. He will start right handed pitcher Joe Blanton in Game Four, he of the 0-3 record and an over eight ERA in his career against the Yankees. In 22 career innings, Blanton has allowed 22 hits, 20 ER’s, five home runs and has issued 12 walks.

Not the greatest of numbers. And the Yankees biggest hitters, both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have the best numbers against Blanton. Tex is nine for 27 with three home runs, seven ribbies with an OPS of 1.061.

Alex is even better with four hits in seven at bats, but has two homers and five RBI’s. His OPS is a staggering 2.298 when factoring in his three walks.    

Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui (though not likely to start) also have homers versus Blanton, and hitting against Blanton in cozy Citizens Bank Park just adds to the pressure on Blanton to be perfect with his pitches.

Manuel’s reasoning is that Lee has never pitched on three days rest, and he trusts Blanton who pitched well this season and had a win in last years World Series.

However, Lee needs to pitch as often as possible, neutralizing the Yankees and ace CC Sabathia who surely will start game four. Maybe Manuel figures Lee is a lock win on Monday in game five against possible Yankee fourth starter Chad Gaudin.

But if the Yankees win Saturday night, a Blanton/Sabathia Game Four can easily become a 3-1 Yankee series lead.

And Gaudin might not even get the opportunity to start a game five. Word out of Yankee world is that AJ Burnett is itching to go on three days and prove his mettle again after his great game two start. Yankee manager Joe Girardi is considering just that, especially now that Pettitte and the Yankees won game three.

And if Sabathia gives the Yankees a deep inning win in game four, and Lee likely wins a day later, Pettitte could go Wednesday’s game six, although on three days rest, too.

Even if Pettitte gives them five or six decent innings next Wednesday, like he did last night, the Yankees would have a fully rested bullpen, and the cce in the hole, Sabathia again for game seven.

If Girardi decides on Burnett for game five, the adrenaline would surely be flowing in Arkansas Monday night as both potential starters Lee and Burnett are from the Razorback state and share the same agent.

That agent, Darek Brauneker, made a fortune last off season with Burnett’s deal, and surely will not need to fund a 401K when Lee signs his next deal.

While I love the fact that Manuel is loyal to his players (one reason why he is a good manager) this time loyalty should take a back seat to common sense.

The decision to go with Blanton over Lee for tonight’s game gives the Yankees the World Series title.

The way Lee threw the ball in game one, the big Yankee bats having prior success against Blanton and the Yankees 2-1 lead in the series, Manuel needed to wait until last night after the game to make his game four decision. The Phillies need to win both of the remaining games in Philadelphia and hope to take one game in New York.

Losing tonight and hoping to take both game in New York is going to be very tough.

Just ask the Los Angeles Angels.

A Dominant World Series Performance while on the Mound at Yankee Stadium

October 29, 2009

An in-his-prime Cy Young Award winning pitcher was making the start in Game One of the World Series on the hill at Yankee Stadium (one of the few stadiums left that does not receive money for naming rights). He completely dominates the Bronx Bombers power laden lineup, and out dueled the Yankees ace left handed pitcher.

Having won the prior years World Series, his team was seeking to become the first National League team since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76 to repeat as a World Series Champions. The Yankees meanwhile, had not been to the Series in years and were looking to continue their comeback kid way of the prior playoff series.

However, on this Game One night only the Yankee shortstop and lead off hitter, Derek Jeter, crossed the plate, while a former Boston Red Sox hitter batting second for the Yankees had one of the few hits allowed by this veteran stud pitcher. 

A young slugger for this pitcher’s team hit two home runs, one a mammoth shot whose sound of bat meeting ball reverberated throughout the stadium, that is until the entire stadium went quiet. After the second home run in as many at bats, the way this starter was pitching, it was apparent to Yankee fans knew the game was likely out reach.  

Even this Yankee fan predicted that the Yankees would win Game One.

And on this night, the Yankee bullpen put gasoline on the fire, doing their part to allow that loss to materialize.

This pitcher had the Yankees waving at pitches all night, continuing his utter dominance in the post season. Up to this game, the pitcher started Game One in both prior series, was undefeated with a ridiculously low ERA and WHIP, handily defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers along the way.

His great start and solid offense from his teams lineup gave the Yankees thoughts that the Series might not go as they expected. They knew that even if they won the next couple games, they would have to face this ace once again.

After Game One, a Yankee hitter lamented that the next time his team “might have to beat that guy 1-0 or 2-1 the next time they face him.”

Could the Yankees beat this guy the second time around, likely going head to head again with that lefty Yankee ace on the hill?

Of course they can…and they already did! And that pitching rematch was one of the classic duels in World Series history, and the Yankees went on to win the World Series title.

Cliff Lee and 2009? Hardly.

We are talking about John Smoltz and 1996. He tore through the playoffs that season, and beat the Yankees in Game One , with Andruw Jones smacking the ball over the fence twice. Smoltz and Andy Pettitte both came back again in Game Five with masterful performances, only to see the Yankees win that duel 1-0. 

And that was AFTER the Yankees lost Game Two at home to a magician on the mound named Greg Maddux, similar to a magician the Yankees face tonight in Pedro Martinez.

So, all those prognosticators who think this 2009 Series has already taken a bad turn for the Yankees because of Lee’s dominance should look back at 1996. There was nobody better than Smoltz that season, and the Yankees beat him 1-0 the second time around.


Anytime a ball is hit in the air within the infield, it is the runners job to get back to the bag. If the ball drops, it is the batter’s job to hustle down the first base line to beat a throw. Do your job and don’t worry about the other guy.

No matter what happened to that mini-pop up hit by Robinson Cano last night, Hideki Matsui should have been on first base immediately after the ball was hit. He never would have been safe on second anyway! Cano hustled down the line and thought he beat the relay throw, but he was actually out on the catch. Matsui needed to be back to the bag (and not on the infield grass!).

And where was the first base coach during all of this? Why was he not yelling to Matsui to come back to first? Stupid play all around and it goes to show that some ballplayers live on talent, and not on brains.


Many times last night the Yankee hitters were consumed with home plate umpires Gerry Davis strike zone. Most of the times the strike zone was too tight as Cliff Lee, Phil Hughes and David Robertson were all severely pinched, but Cano and Melky Cabrera showed displeasure when strike calls were made.

Showing disgust toward the ump will get you no sympathy as the umps usually have long memories. As a hitter you will not get many calls your way after complaining.

Disgust on the field also takes the hitter out of his approach at the plate. While now a hitter is thinking about the SOB calling balls and strikes, the hitter should be concentrating on the pitcher and the count.

Don’t ever let the umpire dictate how you approach the at bat. If the zone is bigger than you thought, don’t swing at bad pitches early, but expand the zone with two strikes.

But players need to feel out the umpire and adjust accordingly. I would much rather see hitters voice displeasure than pitchers get squeezed. A bigger zone puts more balls in play. When I first began umpiring (now doing high school and college level baseball), I was told to start out thinking every pitch will be a strike, then after the ball is thrown find a good reason why it should not be.


Rogers Horsnby was the greatest right handed hitter ever . His 1921-1925 seasons were absolutely sick. His first mantra was to GET A GOOD PITCH TO HIT. Ted Williams stuck to this mantra his entire career.

But now the game has changed to taking good pitches to hit. That is a bad move.

The Yankee hitters were taking too many fastballs down the middle early in the game. Do the Yankees really think they are going to pitch count Lee out of the game? This working the count is the biggest crock in baseball, especially the World Series game one. If the game was tight near the end, Charlie Manuel was NEVER going to pull Lee out of the game. He learned that lesson in the NLCS when he pulled Pedro too early and lost Game Two in Los Angeles.

The way to get Lee out of a game like that is to knock him around by spraying balls all round the field. And you do that by going after good pitches to hit early in the count.

You hear the announcers all the time saying, “So and so should be able to go another inning because he has a good pitch count.” Go another inning?

How about demanding to you manager that you will go nine innings and then shove the ball down the oppositions throat. Intimidate the other lineup by letting your ace dominate. Tell the other team, you can’t beat me and I won’t let you ease your minds by allowing the bullpen to come in this game. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa made that mistake in the NLDS by removing Adam Wainwright after eight brilliant innings against the Dodgers.


There was almost another umpire mistake on the Cano infield pop up, but the correct call was eventually made. But the real problem is not the lack of umpire knowledge, but that umpires do not like to break that cardinal rule of overruling another umpire, especially a veteran guy.

After the second base umpire called Cano out on Jimmy Rollins’ catch he should have called Matsui out also when he saw Ryan Howard tag out Hideki. He should have rules on the out at first immediately EVEN IF IT IS NOT HIS CALL. he is the only one who clearly saw the catch made, so he should have the say on the first base call, too.

It appears these umps are too timid to make an immediate call, and replay on everything will only make that worse. Umpires should run the game and not worry about feelings or god forbid, worry about the media.

And in the next TV contract negotiations, Major League baseball should tell the networks that the strike zone F/x garbage shown on every pitch should be outlawed. It leads to too many psuedo-baseball fans complaining about every pitch.


I have read many pieces today that all the pressure is on AJ Burnett to live up to that $80 million contract and pitch the Yankees to victory.

Fans at the game should just let the guy pitch tonight without putting more pressure on him. He gets out of whack quickly and fans jumping down his throat will only aggravate the situation.

That is such garbage. Sports contracts are like investments and those disclaimers at the bottom of the prospectus or spoken really fast at the end of a commercial. These disclaimers say that “past performance is not indicative of future results.”

Burnett was paid that money based upon what he did last season, pure and simple. It does not indicate how he will pitch in “big spots” or “pressure games.”

Big contract’s don’t force players to play better. If that was the case, would giving CC Sabathia another $100 million last winter forced him to pitch better last night?

So, before Yankee fans boo every ball out of the strike zone thrown by AJ and boo every out Alex Rodriguez makes, just remember that these guys will be here many more years and as a fan, you are not making it any better or easier.

Let these guys play and leave them alone.

Yankees win tonight 7-3 as Pedro gets knocked around.