Friday, March 30, 2007

Mark Prior is a Bitch

Let's all take a quiet moment today to give thanks that Mark Prior didn't sign with the Yankees when they drafted him out of high school.

The former wunderkind has been sent to Triple A to start the season, and he's not handling it very well.

When he first received the news, Prior left the clubhouse quickly, brusquely sidestepping reporters. At long last, though, The Great One has spoken:

''The goal now is to go down and help that team win and try to make the Triple-A All-Star team,'' he joked. ''Maybe I'll get invited to the Futures Game or something. I'm still 26.''

"I'm under their control until I'm not under their control. It's up to them whether they want me. I'm just an employee.''

Oh, I'm so sorry we hurt your feelings, your Highness. Of course, the powerful, brilliant Mark Prior deserves a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation at all times, even when he can't top 85 on the radar gun. Even when he struggles against spring lineups comprised of a hodgepodge of legitimate major leaguers, bench stiffs and low-level minor leaguers. Even when he hasn't shown he can pitch effectively in two years. Even when he hasn't shown he can remain healthy in four years.

Our deepest apologies, sir, on behalf of the entire Cubs organization. Forget the minors, you're starting opening day. It doesn't matter if you give up seven runs in 2 2/3's your birthright. Your sparkling wit has shown us the light. How dare anyone send Mark Prior to the minor leagues? This is MARK FUCKING PRIOR we are talking about. He was good in 2003! He was a very high draft pick!

I'm sure Prior's teammates on the Iowa Cubs found it hysterical that he belittled their team, and slammed their all-star game. I hope someone punches him in the vagina when he gets there.

April 3: Des Moines, Iowa (Reuters) - Mark Prior (Iowa Cubs) has been placed on the 60-day DL with a concussed vaginal area.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Carl Pavano is a Zombie

There have been rumors to this effect before, but I'm pretty sure the Yankees have somehow turned Carl Pavano into a zombie.

In today's New York Post, Joe Torre says of Pavano, "I thought he competed well. He has come a long way and we are pleased with that."

Later, speaking of his last spring start, the article continues, "'That's part of competing,' Pavano said of getting eight outs on four grounders. 'Competing is what's on your mind.'"

What? That makes no sense unless Joe Torre has somehow turned Pavano into a zombie, and "competing" is his trigger word. Whenever Torre says "competing," Pavano forgets what a pussy he is, forgets how much his buttocks hurt, and his mind is cleansed of all thought except how to throw a two-seamer and the thirst for human flesh.

There is no other acceptable explanation for why Carl Pavano is starting opening day for the 2007 New York Yankees.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Freddy vs. Jason

When Curt Schilling butts heads with the Boston media, who loses?

We all do.

Dan Shaughnessy is a shameless, petty, grudge-carrying, pathetic excuse for a would-be journalist. Curt Schilling is a self-aggrandizing, attention-seeking, politically-fucking-nuts, mildly overrated media whore. So who's right? They both are. And who's wrong? So, so, so fucking wrong? I think you know the answer to that one, kids.

If only we could manage to escalate the Schilling-Shaughnessy cold war into a full-scale armed conflict, complete with mutually assured destruction.

Perhaps Curt "And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week" Schilling should join his hero's war in Iraq. It's a win-win: the Red Sox pitching staff grows weaker, plus it's much harder to get yourself in the papers every day from the middle of the desert.

Then, Shaughnessy would have nothing left to write about, and he'd just sit around staring at the secret shrine to Schilling above his toilet, longing for the salad days of their sexually charged feud.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Everybody will not Wang Chung Tonight

Chien-Ming Wang is out until late April. Not good times. Jeff Karstens is hurt too. So, to open the season, the mighty Yankees will feature a starting rotation of:

Mike Mussina
Andy Pettitte
Carl Pavano
Kei Igawa
Darrell Rasner

As it stands, that might be the fourth-best rotation in the division. I know it's only temporary, and the injury to Wang was unforeseen, but how can a team with a payroll this big not have a better backup plan? Brian Cashman supposedly had a great off-season, but he didn't get one major league-ready pitcher in return for Gary Sheffield, Jaret Wright and Randy Johnson. Is salary relief really that important to Cashman? By most accounts, the prospects he brought back in those trades are good, not great. Much was made this spring of the team's improved depth from within at starting pitcher. But when two of your pitchers are well on the wrong side of 30, and a third is named Carl Pavano, depth is a necessity, not a luxury.

The Yankees seem unprepared for the likely event of multiple SP's going down to injury at once. Maybe it would be a different story if Phil Hughes had blown everyone away in Tampa like he was supposed to. But right now, Jaret Wright's 5 innings of mediocrity don't look so horrible.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Predictions: N.L. West

If the N.L. East has been the league's most confusing division, and the Central the most pathetic, then the N.L. West has clearly been the most boring. The Padres or Giants win the division by a close-but-not-exciting margin, sneak into the playoffs, and get swept by a better team in the first round. But at last, hope emerges. Exciting young talent in San Diego, Arizona and (eventually) Los Angeles portends brighter days ahead on the West Coast. Somewhere, Tupac is smiling.


If Jake Peavy ever stops rubbing IcyHot on his crotch in an effort to be Roger Clemens, and actually learns how to pitch with two strikes, he can become the second best pitcher in baseball. Even failing that, he's in the top ten at worst. The rotation behind Peavy is solid, with Chris Young, Greg Maddux, Clay Hensley and Gouty McDiabetic ("Hi, I'm Wilford Brimley, and I have diabetes.") The offense is not very good, but the additions of Marcus Giles and Kevin Kouzmanoff should help. Trevor Hoffman anchors a stable bullpen, which can afford to lose Scott Linebrink in a trade to bring in another bat.


Craig Counsell can go fuck himself. And that's all I have to say about that.


Jason Schmidt was a good signing, given the insanity of the current pitching market, but the rest of the off-season was a disaster that seems to be going largely unnoticed in the media. Juan "The Out-Maker" Pierre? Luis Gonzalez? They're holding up giving big league at-bats to Loney, Ethier and Kemp for these piles of human garbage? The Dodgers have the resources to make improvements during the season, which is the only reason I'm not picking the Giants to finish ahead of them.


Is there anyone outside the Bay Area who thinks the Giants wouldn't have been better off cutting ties with Barry Bonds for good? The team obviously had second thoughts after initially agreeing to terms, and they should have listened to their doubt. Sure, they'd be short a power bat in about 120 games, but they would be free of the distractions, bad karma and bad defense Bonds brings to the table. How long until he claims Matt Cain raped him, and his seminal fluid contained "the clear"?


When contraction talks pop up again in a few years, allow me to humbly submit the Rocks for consideration. Discussion of altitude and failing curveballs and humidors has grown tiresome. Close up shop and admit their best shot wasn't good enough in Denver. Denny Neagle could perform his hilarious patented train whistle sound at the closing ceremonies of Coors Field.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Predictions: N.L. Central

The National League Central: ugh. By far the worst division in baseball, riddled with parity and mediocrity, this division has no redeeming qualities beyond schadenfreude and waiting to see if the Brewers' young players ever put it all together. The 83-win Cardinals, who are only world champions the way George W. Bush is president, actually got worse...but I'm still not sure any other team did enough to catch them. If any team in this division wins 90 games, I'll attend the first Nickelback tour to hit town once the season's over.


This is a "what-the-fuck" pick. I'll take the Brewers because they're the only team in the Central I can possibly imagine being interesting, and this will give me an excuse to root for them even though my chief fantasy rival owns Ben Sheets. If Sheets puts together a full, healthy season, I just might be buying myself some earplugs for that Nickelback show. Otherwise, forget about it. Rickie Weeks is reaching a now-or-never stage of his career. If he doesn't perform, he risks becoming a toolsy prospect who never develops into what scouts think he can be. Ryan Braun will be up by May 15. Still, fuck Bud Selig.


Pujols and Carpenter and pray for an apocalypse. Despite the monumental heart, grit, soul, determination and whiteness of David Eckstein, the Cards just aren't very good. They would probably have been better served re-signing Jeff Weaver, who in the National League is just awful as opposed to historically bad, and leaving Adam Wainwright in the closer's role. Isringhausen seems done. At least Tony LaRussa and Scott Rolen are speaking to each other this year. Phew!


Jim Hendry's unprecedented spending spree was probably just enough to get the Cubs to average. Still, holes abound. Outfield defense is a clear problem, as is on-base percentage. And the back end of the rotation. And the bullpen. Hmmm...maybe average is a bit of an overstatement. "Not quite as grotesque"? Let's go with that. Mainly because Derrek Lee is back and healthy and has another monster year in him.


Houston lost Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and replaced them with Jason Jennings. I'm no sabermetrician, but I'm guessing that's a net loss for 2007. The Astros are struggling to find an identity in the post-Bagwell era, and it would help if Biggio would up and quit too, giving up his quest for 3,000 hits but freeing up at-bats for the likes of Jason Lane. And until Brad Lidge has a 40-save season, no one can ever convince me that the Pujols home run didn't destroy his psyche. At least he hasn't pulled a Donnie Moore yet.


Harang and Arroyo form a solid front two in the rotation, but the back end is Nationals-esque. The bullpen is dreadful and without a clear-cut closer, at least until Todd Coffey shows he can step up. The offense will not improve over the 2006 version that allowed the Red to creep into contention. Adam Dunn is a great player, but he's not getting any better. Brandon Phillips is going to be worse. Edwin Encarnacion should improve, but not enough to withstand the gaping holes in the pitching staff. If Wayne Krivsky has a master plan, aside from "pray Homer Bailey is the answer", he needs to start enacting Phase II.


Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

I am Tired of Second Guessing

Every year in late March, a certain argument makes the rounds among sportswriters and fans. And it goes a little something like this: Because Team X and Team Y did so well/poorly in the NCAA tournament, that proves the selection committee was brilliant/retarded in their seeding and at-large bids.

What happens after the fact cannot be used retroactively to justify a decision. For example, this year, people are claiming that because most of the high seeds advanced, the selection committee did a great job, and really had their finger on the pulse of the college basketball scene. That's ridiculous. If every #1 seed had lost in the second round, the selection committee did just as good, or just as poor, of a job with seeding and selections.

You can only logically judge a decision with the information available to the decision-maker at the time. Wisconsin deserved a two seed based on their regular season resume. Losing to UNLV doesn't change that. Just as Syracuse deserved a bid, and losing to Clemson in the NIT doesn't change that.

I'm completely in favor of first-guessing, and tearing sports figures apart when they make idiotic decisions (e.g. leaving Syracuse out, letting Arkansas in). But it's unfair to second guess based on new information, particularly in a situation like the NCAA tournament where luck plays such an enormous role in the outcome. It's just an opportunity for fans to appear more intelligent than they are in bar arguments, and another excuse for writers to churn out a meaningless conjecture-based article to try to earn a paycheck.

To this day, I think Grady Little made the right decision leaving Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (the bullpen had sucked all year, Pedro was done but he was still their best guy). A bloop hit by Posada doesn't change the fact that he made the right call, and was then raped and scapegoated by an entire city.

So, my point is....fuck Boston.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Open Letter to Sportswriters

If you are a sportswriter for a major media outlet, not a blogger, and not Bill Simmons, please please please please please do not write about music, films, television or anything else not involving bats, balls and sticks.

Peter "Prince, Schmince" King is most notorious for revealing himself to be a douche of such epic proportions through pop culture commentary that it's impossible to take anything he says about sports seriously. But he is not alone.

Peter Gammons, I used to admire you. I really did. I thought you were a wise old Andrew Jackson-looking sage put on this earth to reveal titillating trade rumors and bestow unto me amazing fantasy sleepers. But things have changed. I respect your love for music, but no one wants to hear your opinion of the latest Pearl Jam album.

Now comes this: "Barry Levinson's list of film credits reads like Henry Aaron's Cooperstown resume. 'Diner.' 'Rain Man.' And-on-and-on-and-on-and-on."

Think about this for a minute. Gammons is claiming that Barry Levinson is the Hank Aaron of directors. One of the two or three greatest of all time.

"Man of the Year." "Wag the Dog." "Jimmy Hollywood." "Sphere." "Toys." "Disclosure." And-on-and-on-and-on-and-on. What a resume.

Find me Hank Aaron seasons that are the equivalent of "Jimmy Hollywood."

Oh, and Peter? I do not give a fuck that Levinson thinks Josh Hamilton is the real-life Natural. Write 50 straight Theo Epstein dick-sucking columns for all I care. Just write about baseball.

Levinson says, "Hamilton is what Roy Hobbs was all about. Everyone deserves a second chance. If the kid is an example for other young people with problems, he can be a hero. The second chance is what America is about."

I'm pretty sure they were saying the same things about Lawrence Phillips a few years ago.

There are Legitimate Reasons This Isn't a Women's Basketball Blog

Predictions: N.L. East

The slow yet sudden demise of the Braves' dynasty created a chaotic quagmire in the National League East. This division is filled with strange, confusing teams...not the least of which is the once-mighty Atlanta squad itself. With the N.L. East, more than any other division, I'm basing my predictions on hunches rather than stats. Something about this division just feels a little bit off. Plus, going by the stats, the Phillies should be the five-time defending champs by now.


OK, the Mets have absolutely no starting pitching. None. The decaying corpse of Tom Glavine might be good for 12 wins, but he's not an ace by any stretch of the imagination. Pedro might be be back for the second half, but if he is, who knows what's he'll actually be? I won't even mention any of the other starters by name for fear of insulting legitimate major league starting pitchers with guilt by association. By all rights, the Phillies should win this division. However, the Mets' pitching wasn't much better last season, and they ran away with the title. Moreover, Omar Minaya has a ton of money to spend on in-season acquisitions, should any opportunities present themselves. Failing a trade, I expect Willie Randolph to make a piecemeal rotation work, move Aaron Heilman into a starting role, or pull some other rabbit from his cap. D-Dubs and Reyes will do the rest.


Everybody's favorite underachievers. The Freddy Garcia trade should help. Howard and Utley should be beasts again. The starting rotation should be deep and could be spectacular if Cole Hamels hits. I like the Phillies for the Wild Card, but they'll find a way to screw up the division race. They always do.


The Braves will be better, but not good enough. The LaRoche and Ramirez trades rebuilt a shaky bullpen, but Bob Wickman remains installed as closer. Which is not OK. A lot depends on the production, or lack thereof, the Braves receive from Scott Thorman and Kelly Johnson. Jeff Francouer is still a waste of humanity. I hope Mike Schmidt rapes him, screaming into his ear about the evils of strikeouts the entire time. The bottom line...not even close to enough starting pitching to seriously contend.


This team's chances would be a lot better if Joe Girardi were still the manager. And if their owner, the Prince of Darkness, fell into a sinkhole. The Marlins will be feisty and cute, but not all that good. The gaping hole in centerfield isn't going away. Bullpen problems will linger on all year. Uggla will turn back into Uggla. Hanley Ramirez might regress as well. The starting pitching will be exciting, inconsistent and injury-prone.


By mid-June, the Nationals are going to officially change their name to "The Woeful Nationals." There is no worse team in baseball, and some AAA teams might give the Nats a run for their money. The Nationals problems are twofold: 1) They aren't even close to recovering from the years of MLB's inept ownership of the franchise, which destroyed the farm system and the major league roster, and 2) Jim Bowden is a ree-ree. Not trading Soriano at the deadline last year bordered on criminal neglect. Washington won't see a fourth-place finish any time in the next three years, at least.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tom Ver-douche-i

SI's Tom Verducci has written an absolutely pointless piece criticizing the Yankees' organization for wanting to win the World Series every year. According to Verducci, the desire to win every year is "outdated," and the Yankees should simply accept that they are unlikely to win a championship in any given year. What the fucking fuck?

Verducci makes a whole bunch of arguments about why it's harder to win a title than it used to be, some of which make a little sense, but most of which are inane:

  • The postseason is based largely on luck. (True. Always been true. The vagaries of fortune and game theory haven't changed in the last decade.)
  • The team with the best regular season record usually doesn't win it all. (Again, true. But not because there is some voodoo hex on them. It's because there are eight teams in the postseason, and anything can happen in a short series.)
  • There is more parity in baseball today. (There is no evidence to support this at all, despite Verducci's claim that "in the late '90s there were maybe four or five teams that could possibly have won the World Series," compared with 15 or more today. Interesting, considering that there were still eight playoff teams in the late '90s.)
  • Quick franchise turnarounds are common. (Always have been. Remember the '91 Twins and Braves, Tommy?)
  • Experience is overrated. (Championships are now won by teams with "young legs." That's just fucking asinine. As opposed to the ancient, crippled legs of the '96 Yankees led by Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera? If you want to argue that the Yankees' current regulars are declining and injury-prone, that's fine, but to claim that you can't win a World Series without "young legs" is ridiculous.)
So, I was wrong earlier...none of these arguments make any sense. But even if every single one of them was spot on, the entire premise of the article is flawed. How is expecting to win a championship outdated? Of course the Yankees are unlikely to win the World Series each year. That has always been the case, which makes the Yankees' prolonged runs of success even more remarkable.

Tom Verducci needs to write a follow-up article in which he outlines what the new organizational philosophy should be. Happy-go-lucky and carefree? Depressed and resigned to Division Series flameouts? Raging at the gods for daring to make it difficult to win a World Series?

Predictions: A.L. West

The A.L. West has been a two-team division for several years now, essentially since the Mariners' 116-win campaign in 2001 brought the last gasps of semi-glory for the holdouts from the RJ-Griffey-ARod years. Now it's Oakland and the Angels, two teams with vastly differing payrolls. Happily for A's fans, the superiority of their team's GM more than compensates for their limited resources.


Oakland's season rests on the fragile right arm of Rich Harden. Barry Zito is a slightly-above-average pitcher who was not worth half what the Giants paid him, but he ate up innings. After Harden and Haren, the A's rotation is shaky. Their offense isn't spectacular either, although their next wave of prospects appears ready to break through, and Dan Johnson, Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez aren't as bad as their 2006 performances indicate. I think Harden finally busts out with a 20-win season, and the A's squeak out the division title.


The Angels seem to be forever waiting for their limitless supply of prospects to mature, but nothing has come of the youth wave thus far. Howie Kendrick seems like a can't miss, but so did Casey Kotchman at this time last year. The Halos finally shed themselves of the dead weight that is Darin Erstad, only to replace him with Gary Matthews Jr., perhaps the single most retarded free agent signing of the year. Beyond John Lackey, the rotation is filled with question marks, from the balky right arm and flawed gene pool of Jered Weaver to the goutish figure of Bartolo Colon. Ervin Santana is overrated based on one playoff start. Any team with this much money and this many prospects should be the class of the American League, but Bill Stoneman has yet to prove he understands how to leverage those strengths into wins.


If form holds, the Rangers are due to win the World Series this year, the first after a semi-successful Buck Showalter tenure. Mark Teixeira will rebound, Hank Blalock might, Sammy Sosa won't, but the offense will still be fine. Not fine enough, though, to overcome one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. No amount of post-Showalter karma can fix this. There's no solution in sight. Even a pre-surgery Eric Gagne can't do much with an 11-6 deficit.


Pat Gillick started this mess, but Buzz Bavasi has made it significantly worse. Ichiro is past his prime, and was overrated at his best. The Sexson-Beltre combo is still killing this team, years after one of the dumbest free-agent tandem signings in history. A 3-4-5 combo of Jose Guillen, Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson captain the worst lineup in the American League, and Bavasi traded the best arm on the 40-man roster for nothing in the Rafael Soriano deal. Oh, and enough with the Doc Gooden-Felix Hernandez comparisons. Gooden was never fat, and never looked as lost on the mound as Hernandez does at times. The M's might be worse than the Royals this year.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Predictions: A.L. Central

The A.L. Central is clearly the best division in baseball, which is precisely why it won't produce the 2007 Wild Card winner. The four good-not-great teams at the top of the division are going to claw each other's eyes out all year thanks to the unbalanced schedule, and I think the division champ ends up topping out at about 92 wins. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox will both win at least 97, so none of that four-teams-for-three-slots nonsense like we saw in 2005. This is the story (true story) of four quality teams who possess severe flaws, battling to see which defect will prove the least harmful.


It's been well documented that the Indians run differential was vastly better than their won-loss record last year, so expect some course correction. The pitching, led by C.C. Sabathia, should be just good enough to allow the monster talents of Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez to carry the day. Despite the unappetizing prospect of Joe Borowski closing games, the bullpen features some young power arms who are better than they showed last year.


The Tigers obviously aren't as good as they looked last year, despite the addition of Gary Sheffield. Most of last season was a fluke. Their offense is terrible, even with a pissed-off Sheffield. Luckily, they have Jeremy Bonderman poised to have a massive year and a great bullpen. Unluckily, Kenny Rogers is about to go back to being irrelevant, Justin Verlander's shoulder might fall off at any moment and Jim Leyland is a douche.


Hmm...Ramon Ortiz and Sydney Ponson? Great plan! Sorry, Twins fans, you've got a likable team, but the Liriano injury combined with a weak off-season killed your playoff chances for 2007. Time to cross your fingers that Liriano is ready to go next spring. Oh, and Johan — pinstripes are slimming. ::sexy wink::


Scott Podsednik (2006 OBP: .330) and Darin Erstad (2005 OBP: .325) at the top of the order? Great plan! The Garcia and McCarthy trades made absolutely no sense, unless one or both represented severe clubhouse problems. Mark Buerhle is dunzo, and whining about a contract extension to boot. Ozzie Guillen is an idiot who thinks his patented brand of small ball was responsible for the 2005 championship (instead of a season of good and somewhat fluky pitching). The salad days are over on the South Side.


Kansas City GM Dayton Moore is in a tough spot. He was brought in to put an end to a decade-plus of losing seasons, but inherited a team with absolutely no nucleus, a small payroll and a handful of prospects who are probably a couple years away. But he can't wait for his prospects to develop naturally, because ownership and the fan base has lost all patience with losing. So Moore felt the need to make a big splash in the insanely inflated free agent market this past off-season, which led to the colossal mistake of signing Gil Meche for five years and tying up an inordinate amount of the team's payroll in one below-average starting pitcher. Moore's not dumb: he knows Meche isn't about to turn into Chris Carpenter. He thought that showing the franchise was willing to spend money would placate the fans enough to let Alex Gordon, Billy Butler et al. become what they're going to be. I can't blame Moore at all. But the Royals are going to be awful again.

Predictions: A.L. East

We'll start with the most predictable division in baseball, the American League East, which hasn't seen a new champion since 1998. Every off-season in this division is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing. The Yankees and Red Sox escalate their arms race, and the Yankees end up winning the division every year, usually by a comfortable margin. The Blue Jays make nice little pick-ups, but never do quite enough to cross the 90-win plateau. The Orioles make awful, bone-headed moves, but still manage to stave off the Devil Rays for the coveted title of fourth place. And the D-Rays wait forever for their prospects to come of age, which will never happen. So, this year...more of the same.


The Yankees have more questions than the Red Sox, especially in the rotation. And the Yankees' offense is not far enough ahead of the Sox bats to make up for the likely disaster that the back end of the rotation will become. But the Bombers will finish in first again, because that is what always happens.


I do like the Red Sox for the Wild Card this year, in part because the A.L. Central teams will all beat up on one another, and in part because Boston really only needs two of their potential aces to hit big (Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka and Papelbon). The bullpen will remain a problem all year. The last time the Sox tried a closer-by-committee, it didn't work out so well. The Boston media and fan base are too impatient to let an unorthodox idea like that develop. I predict a trade for a mediocre Wickman-type closer by June 1.


Yawn. This team is as boring as its country. The only reason to follow the Jays is to see if their manager tries to beat up any of their utility infielders.


I hate everything about this team. The rotation, the offense, the bullpen, the manager, the bench. The Jaret Wright. Erik Bedard is not an ace. There is no reason to think they won't finish in last place, except...


The Devil Rays have NO pitching. None. After Scott Kazmir (Tommy John surgery waiting to happen), their second-best starter is someone named Jamie Shields, a 25-year-old non-prospect. Tampa Bay has some of the most exciting hitters in baseball (Delmon Young, Rocco Baldelli, Carl "I want to be the most important fantasy baseball player of all time" Crawford), some of the most insane (Young, Elijah Dukes) and one of the ugliest (Jorge Cantu), but it will all go to waste because the team E.R.A. won't break 5.50.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gary Sheffield: Civil Rights Hero. Leader of Men.

Let's break down Gary Sheffield's recent Page 2 interview FJM-style:

Alipour: From the feedback you've gotten, what is shaping up to be the most controversial revelation in the book?

Sheffield: I think it's actually my departure from the Yankees. People think I'm bitter and angry that I left, but I was just talking about the conditions of what went on.

When I think of Gary Sheffield, "bitter and angry" are the last adjectives that come to mind. He has a blissful serenity to the way he goes about his business. I think he might be the Dalai Lama in disguise.

Of course he's not bitter and angry...he got a huge contract extension from the Tigers, which is what he was after the whole time.

But I've played for teams that were family-oriented organizations. They made you feel like family. The Yankees are strictly a business. Baseball is your life and everything else is secondary.

Gary Sheffield is nothing if not a family man. I bet his family has loved living in seven different cities over the past 16 years, because Papa either leaves for more money elsewhere, or makes himself persona non grata until he's essentially forced out. Sheff's love for his family knows no bounds.

Alipour: You assign some blame to Joe Torre for the Yankees' quick ouster …

Sheffield: No, one thing I did not do is "blame." I might've said what's on my mind, but I don't blame anyone.

Alipour: Well, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but in the book, you criticize Torre …

Sheffield: See, that's not blaming. You show me where I blamed him.


Alipour: As time went on, you sought what you call "The Calmness." Have you finally found that calmness?

Sheffield: I found it. That's the thing. If you have that in you, nothing can trigger you. I might have dealt with things differently when I was, like, 25, but when I go through something now, I look at the source and deal with it accordingly.

Fuck, man, when I was 25, if Joe Torre had dared...nay, if he had even considered batting me 8th, I would have beaten the side of his face in with a bat like Al Capone. Now I just demand a trade, complain to the media all winter, and sob myself to sleep with a pint of Chubby Hubby. Whole new Sheff.

Alipour: You've got a reputation for expressing the brutal truth, so now that you've found The Calmness, do you have any specific regrets as a mature, calm adult?

Sheffield: Not at all. Because the rage was in me, and if it wasn't for the rage, then I wouldn't know how to be calm. They feed off of each other. Just like when Malcolm X fed off Martin Luther King. They needed each other.

For the record, Gary Sheffield just compared two of his imaginary personality traits to civil rights heroes. Sheff isn't just Malcolm or Martin, he's both, all rolled into one.

Alipour: In the book, you blamed race for some management decisions -- like when the Brewers moved you to third base so Billy Spiers could play your preferred position of shortstop...

Gary Sheffield made 12 errors in 70 games as a shortstop in 1989. Fucking racist Brewers. Why does Whitey want to "make outs" and "win baseball games"? Huh?

Alipour: But while working out with Bonds after the 2001 season, you wrote that you received some cream from his trainer Greg Anderson -- which you applied to some busted stitches -- and you also took some vitamins from Bonds, who got them from Anderson, who got them from BALCO head Victor Conte. Later, you made a check out to BALCO, linking you to this scandal forever. For the record, were those substances -- the vitamins and cream -- tainted? And if not, how can you be sure?

Sheffield: I know they weren't tainted. Tell me how rubbing something on me will make you feel any different? That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. Tell me this: Have you ever gone to a store and had a steroid-based cream put on you?

Alipour: Can't say that I have.

Sheffield: OK then, so are you on steroids?

Alipour: No.

Gary Sheffield has just blown my mind. Did you see that he just did there? He's like F. Lee Bailey, Perry Mason and Arnie Becker combined, but way more peaceful.

Alipour: What's the one thing you want readers to take away from this book?

Sheffield: That they'd see I'm a sincere person, a likable person, and if they got to know me, they'd like me. No doubt about it.

Some quotes from the likable Gary Sheffield:

  • "The Brewers brought out the hate in me. I was a crazy man. . . . I hated everything about the place. If the official scorer gave me an error, I didn't think was an error, I'd say, 'OK, here's a real error,' and I'd throw the next ball into the stands on purpose.' "
  • "It don't make a difference who it is. If I didn't choose to go there, things are gonna have to change about my whole situation, contract, years, everything. Other than that, you might as well not bother trading for me, cause you're gonna have a very unhappy player. You gonna inconvenience me, I'm gonna inconvenience every situation there is. I mean, the only reason I'm playing is 'cause I wanna play for the Yankees."
  • "Only two, three pitchers have helped me out. The rest have been girls. They won't throw at anybody if you paid them. I've been thrown at in every park I've played in."
  • "Barry told me what I have to do to finish my career as a Hall of Famer. I want to end my career with the Atlanta Braves and be a Hall of Famer with the Atlanta Braves."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Brief Ballpark Reviews: Great American Ballpark

Dear Cincinnati:

Your city looks like the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Your baseball stadium is a little bit nicer than that.

And He Wonders Why He's Hated

Oh my God, let's boo this douchebag the fuck out of this town.

Never has anyone in the history of New York more blatantly begged to have batteries thrown at him.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

In Defense of Minky

Ladies and gentleman, meet your new whipping boy, the Tony Womack of 2007: Doug Mientkiewicz.

Mientkiewicz’s PECOTA-projected OPS this year is .710, with a -1.7 VORP and an EQA of .258. In case you need reminding, this is the dominant half of a platoon that will start at first base for the New York Yankees. Gehrig, Mattingly, Minky.

From a baseball standpoint, acquiring Mientkiewicz couldn’t possibly make less sense. He’s coming off back surgery, isn’t anywhere close to the defensive stud he once was, and will be significantly below league average at a position where it isn’t difficult to find offense. Much of the advantage the Yankees gain from fielding strong hitters up the middle will be mitigated by Minky’s anemic bat.


Mientkiewicz also managed to piss off the entire Boston Red Sox organization in the aftermath of the 2004 World Series when he stated his desire to keep the ball he caught for the historic final out of that World Series. (The most boring World Series ever, by the way.)

In doing so, Mientkiewicz exposed the Red Sox front office honchos for the infantile, petty, manipulative thieves that they are. Not only did the Sox make a public issue of demanding the ball from Mientkiewicz, helping to tarnish and distract from their victory in a parade of minor off-season controversies, but after Mientkiewicz agreed to lend the ball to the team for a victory tour, the Red Sox filed suit to keep the ball and essentially threatened to steal it. the incident resulted in lingering bad blood between Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox front office and fans.

And any enemy of my enemy…Welcome aboard, Minky! Please try to slug over .325. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Whither Johnny Blanchard?

In 1996, the Yankees’ bench featured Jim Leyritz, a resurgent Darryl Strawberry and Charlie Hayes. In 1998, Jorge Posada, Strawberry and valuable pinch-runner Homer Bush rode the pine. In 2007, the bench will likely include Will Nieves (projected VORP: -8.8), Miguel Cairo (-1.1), Andy Phillips (2.6) and Melky Cabrera (8.1!).

Melky aside, this promises to be one of the weakest sets of reserves in baseball. It has become increasingly apparent over the last few years that the current Yankees regime is incapable of building a serviceable bench, despite a payroll hovering near $200 million. The Yankees haven’t had a remotely acceptable backup catcher since Joe Girardi left, and the utility infielder slot has been the stuff of nightmares. (In fact, Enrique Wilson and Mark Bellhorn make semi-regular villainous appearances in my dreams, alongside the rabbit from “Donne Darko” and Skippy from “Family Ties.”)

There are a few possible explanations why the quality of the bench has declined so much recently:

1) Cashman & Co. don’t understand the value of a good bench. Stupefyingly obvious, but plausible. Perhaps the Tampa/New York brain trust simply doesn’t realize how many at-bats bench players get over the course of a season, or how much flexibility a deep roster of helpful players gives a manager.

2) The money ran out. The Yankees’ attitude seems to be “We’re spending $18 million on the crippled DH, and $16 million on the injury-prone 3rd starter, so we can’t afford more than $400,000 for a utility infielder.” If true, the team is picking the wrong area to cut corners.

3) Too many pitchers. Joe Torre loves carrying 12 pitchers, for reasons unknown. This leaves no room for true role players, like pinch runners and pure pinch hitters. The flaw with this argument is that the Yankees can’t even find four decent bench players, so what good would carrying five or six do? However, a bigger bench would provide significantly more flexibility late in games, particularly in interleague games in NL parks.

4) Jorge Posada has been too durable. The Yankees have been incredibly lucky to have a healthy Jorge Posada for the bulk of his career. They have pulled off carrying inept backup catchers, from Todd Greene to a past-his-prime-if-that’s-possible Sal Fasano, without causing too much damage because Posada has never gone down for a significant period of time. With each passing year, and each new ring inside Posada’s trunk, the chance that such a gamble won’t pay off rises exponentially, as does the possibility the Yankees will have to trade a prized prospect or three in-season for a mediocre backup catcher who could have been acquired for nothing in the off-season.

5) Lack of trust in young players. Joe Torre hates kids. And by kids, I mean players under 35. The Yankees have repeatedly allowed potentially useful players (Kevin Thompson, Felix Escalona, Andy Phillips) to languish at Columbus in favor of one dance too many with old favorites like Bernie Williams, or worse, dalliances with utterly worthless veteran never-weres like Terrence Long.

6) Joe Torre doesn’t understand how to use a bench. Well, he can’t figure out a bullpen, so why should a bench be any different? Torre’s biggest blunder involves refusing to DH Posada in games when he doesn’t start at catcher, because if either catcher got hurt, a pitcher would have to bat. Torre doesn’t realize that the potential damage from a pitcher getting one or two at-bats is far, FAR less than an inferior hitter to Posada getting dozens upon dozens of at-bats over the course of a season.

Whether through willful neglect or sheer stupidity, the Yankees have created a vicious cycle with their bench wherein they re-sign the same tired retreads year after year, and replace their incompetent backup catcher annually in the hopes that the devil they don’t know will somehow bring good fortune. The Yankees may put together a murderers' row every season (or, 8/9 of a murderers' row + Minky), but they will never get the most out of their offense until they give their bench the attention it merits, particularly with a team as old and injury-prone as the Yankees.

Only slightly related, check out this Bill James article about the difference between a "fast bench" and a "slow bench."

Monday, March 5, 2007

Break up the Yankees

In a blog entry last week, the fantastic Steven Goldman referenced a “weird, one-year rule that blocked teams from trading with the Yankees.” Having never heard of said rule, I did some quick research.

In December 1939, on the heels of four consecutive Yankees World Series wins, the other American League owners pushed through a rule banning any team from trading with the defending A.L. champion. The National League, whether due to a more finely developed sense of fairness or the lack of a Yankees-esque behemoth in their league, declined to pass the rule.

The Yankees were particularly vulnerable to this steel chair in the back of the head because long-time owner Jacob Ruppert died in January, leaving a power vacuum at the top of the organization, which was still owned by his estate. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith sensed weakness and made his move.

The Tigers won the pennant in 1940, and, in a shocking turn of events, the rule was repealed before the 1941 season since it actually applied to a team other than the Yankees.

While this attempted coup may have been the most nakedly ambitious scheme by baseball’s powers to bring down the mighty Yankees, it was not the only such ploy by any means. Winning breeds jealousy and contempt, and no one has won even half as many pennants and championships as the Yankees.

In 1947, in an effort to stop the Yankees from throwing their money around (which would soon develop into a running theme), baseball instituted the Bonus Rule, which forbade teams from assigning any player who received a bonus larger than $4,000 to a farm team. Similar to today’s Rule 5 draft, the Bonus Rule demanded that the affected players be placed on the major league team’s 40-man roster for two years. It was clearly designed to stop the Yankees from throwing insane amounts of cash at the young Mickey Mantles of the world, ostensibly opening the pool of talented amateurs to all teams.

However, in what would also develop into a running theme, the Yankees found a backdoor, ethically questionable way around a rule designed solely to damage them. Rumors ran rampant that the Yankees and other wealthy teams offered under-the-table bonuses in addition to the permitted $4,000. Moreover, allegations surfaced that, particularly in the case of Clete Boyer, the Yankees used the Kansas City A’s as their de facto minor league team, paying them to sign certain players only to trade them to the Yankees later. After several incarnations and failures, the Bonus Rule was repealed for good in 1965.

Not coincidentally, 1965 also brought baseball’s most successful attempt to defang the Yankees: the dreaded amateur draft. With all domestic international players included in the draft pool, the Yankees could no longer throw their money at whatever prospects interested them. (At least not until they discovered the existence of Latin America and Japan.) In the draft, teams picked in inverse order of the final standings the year before, an NFL-like nod to parity that immediately hurt the Yankees, who finished first in 1964. Each selected player could only negotiate with the team that drafted him, a practice that seems commonplace now but revolutionized the sport in the ‘60s.

In part because of the draft, and in part because of poor management, the Yankees’ 1921-1964 dynasty ended, and the saddest period in the franchise’s rich history began, as the Yankees wallowed in the second division, out of contention for the most part until 1975.

Thanks to the good works of Curt Flood, Marvin Miller and comrades, the advent of free agency in the mid-‘70s (timed impeccably to coincide with George Steinbrenner’s purchase of the Yankees), allowed the Bronx Bombers a way around the amateur draft. They were now able to use their wealth to their advantage again, except now they could purchase the services of established major-league stars instead of unproven high school kids.

So the Bronx rolled out the red carpet for Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key, and the good times returned. Unfortunately, the red carpet was left out too long accidentally, and Danny Tartabull and Carl Pavano snuck in while no one was looking.

The decades-long push-and-pull between the Yankees and the rest of baseball continued as MLB’s dark overlords fired a counterstrike in 2002. After years of trying to institute a salary cap, destroying the 1994 season in the process, the 2002 labor agreement included provisions for significant revenue sharing and a luxury tax. Every team voted in favor of the agreement except one: the Expos. OK, not really.

Amazingly, commissioner Bud Selig had owned the small-market Milwaukee Brewers for years, and his daughter continued to own the team throughout negotiations. Yet, his impartiality was rarely questioned during the various strikes, lockouts and threats thereof that preceded the agreement. Selig led a cabal of small-market owners intent on getting a piece of the Yankees’ rather large pie, and after literally taking their ball and going home, they finally got their way.

The Yankees have paid nearly $98 million toward the Orwellian “competitive-balance tax” since its institution. This is in addition to the annual revenue sharing bill, which was over $75 million in 2005 alone.Only two other teams have had luxury tax bills come due: the Red Sox have paid about $8 million and the Angels a little less than $1 million.

Of course, the system is working beautifully. The Royals saved their money thriftily for years, waiting for perfect moment to strike...and then threw $55 million at Gil Meche. Meanwhile, the Pirates signed…um…hmm...well…I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on them. They do have to foot the arthritic Shawn Chacon’s medical bills.

Accusations are once again flying that the Yankees are cheating the system, whether through shady accounting practices involving the YES Network, or loopholes involving the new stadium.

And so the sport’s also-rans will forever try to break up the Yankees. And the Yankees will forever fight back, apparently by any means necessary. And the world forever turns. And Jim Belushi forever makes America laugh. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Frustrated Incorporated

I want Joe Torre fired. I’ve wanted Joe Torre fired since Wednesday, October 22, 2003. There have been times since that date when I’ve wanted his head on a stick, to parade around Times Square. But it’s spring training, a time for hope and renewal and…uh…hope, so for now let’s just say I would like him replaced as manager of the New York Yankees.

On October 22, 2003, with the Yankees leading the Florida Marlins two games to one, and edging ever closer to what would have been their fifth World Series title in eight years, Joe Torre passed away. Or, at least the Joe Torre who calmly guided his team to postseason victory after postseason victory passed away. The Joe Torre who managed to push all the right buttons and maintain a calm, unified clubhouse went gentle into that good night.

Sometime around the 10th or 11th inning of Game 4, Good Joe dozed off, and slipped quietly into the great beyond. In his place, occupying his skin, entered some sort of mutant demon. From some other plane, Good Joe and his brother Rocco looked on with helpless dread as Demon Joe decided to put the ineffectual, impotent Jeff Weaver into the 11th inning of a tied World Series game.

The tragedy and inexplicability of this move has been argued by more knowledgeable men than me, but suffice it to say that in 2003, Weaver had an ERA of 5.99 and a WHIP of 1.62. Mariano Rivera, with his 40 saves, 1.66 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, languished in the bullpen making small talk with the bullpen catcher while Weaver gave up the game-losing home run to Alex Gonzalez (K:BB ratio — 106:33).

Hang on a second while I throw up all over the front of my shirt.

Torre was never known as the most brilliant tactician around, but his ability to handle the players and the media more than made up for his strategic blunders, especially on a team as talent-laden as the Yankees. However, over the past three seasons, his grip on the clubhouse has slipped away while his in-game decision-making has grown ever worse.

The era beginning in 2004 has been marked by growing player discontent, internal issues taken to the media and early postseason catastrophes. Granted, the Yankees’ front office has saddled Torre with more big-name, difficult personalities than ever before, but massaging egos is supposed to be Torre’s bread and butter. Or lasagna and meat sauce, as the case may be.

Torre proved to be completely out of his depth during the 2004 choke to the Red Sox, sitting on his hands while his mighty lineup turned into a bunch of free-swinging, nervous hacks against mediocre pitching. He showed no fire, no passion and no ability to reverse the flagging momentum. Torre fiddled while the Bronx burned.

Then, in the 2006 playoffs, Torre made a move that could have negative implications lasting for years. Everyone knows ARod has struggled lately in the playoffs, but by moving him to eighth in the lineup against the Tigers, Torre not only harmed the team’s chances to win, but also destroyed whatever confidence ARod had left.

I have no love for Alex Rodriguez, but the Yankees were unlikely to win without him last year, and they’re unlikely to win this year unless he comes through in the clutch. Torre handled the ARod situation in the worst way possible, publicly humiliating a player with an already shaky psyche. Who knows how much long-term damage Torre did with that move? If ARod holds a grudge, and opts out after this season, leaving the Yankees with a Mike Lowell-type at third base, the blame can be laid at Torre’s door. He inflamed the media’s intifada against Rodriguez, and offered his struggling superstar no comfort, no quarter.

Joe Torre led the Yankees to four championships after a particularly fallow period in the franchise’s history. He provided stability to a revolving-door position and earned enough respect in New York to keep Steinbrenner at bay. He deserves a place in team lore, in the Hall of Fame, and in Monument Park someday. But it’s time for him to go. That was Good Joe.


− For never bringing Rivera into a tie game on the road
− For selling ARod out to Sports Illustrated
− For losing his “magic touch” after Don Zimmer left
− For refusing to trust young players
− For undermining Cashman’s attempts to let Bernie Williams go peacefully
− For damaging the arms of Tom Gordon, Scott Proctor, Paul Quantrill and more
− And most of all, for 10/22/03…

Fire Joe Torre. Let the Girardi Era begin.

Brief Ballpark Reviews: Wrigley Field

Wait…you want me to piss in a trough? What am I, a fucking animal? The Tribune Company can’t afford a few goddamn urinals for those of us who don’t want our streams co-mingling with those of others? Jesus fucking Christ.

Beautiful field, though.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Earth is Round. Arrested Development is Amusing.

In absolutely stunning news, it turns out that Derek Jeter is a clutch hitter and Alex Rodriguez is not.

Jigga WHA???

Psycho Fan Ruins...Baseball Movies

Here’s a feature I’m sure everyone will adore, in which I set out to ruin something that can’t possibly be ruined, something universally beloved. Why? Because I’m Mr. Brightside. Today, I fix my sunny gaze on…baseball movies.

Everyone loves baseball movies because they capture the romantic spirit and drama of baseball without commercial breaks every half-inning, and without Joe Buck.

But every baseball movie on record has a flaw, many of them fatal. The perfect baseball movie hasn’t been made yet, unlike the perfect mob movie, the perfect trapped-in-a-highrise-with-German-terrorists movie and the perfect Jamaican bobsled team movie. Each baseball movie, no matter how great, has that fly in the ointment, that one nagging problem that only gets worse with repeated viewings.

Field of Dreams — The presence of Amy Madigan destroys every scene in which she appears. From her shrill “Nazi cow” diatribe to her neglectful wife and mothering skills (she thinks her prophet husband is going crazy, and lets her daughter choke on a hot dog), she’s a hateful character. She’s also ugly. The movie would have been much better served killing her off in the opening scene, and letting KC plunge into alcoholism for a few weeks before he hears the voice. Check that: if she died, he would probably shrug and go on with his business, a little happier than before.

For Love of the Game — Three words: “Clear the mechanism.”

Bull Durham — Tim Robbins trying to pitch looks like Corky trying to dance.

Bad News Bears — It’s impossible to watch this film and avoid the resultant feelings of self-loathing that you’re attracted to an 11-year-old girl in a Little League uniform.

Eight Men Out
— Doc Brown takes you out of every scene he’s in with his ridiculously hammy, old-timey performance. Go back to the Old West, Doc. Also, the little kid who squeaks, “say it ain’t so, Joe!” is unnecessary, annoying and cloying. However, I am compelled to point out that this film features D.B. Sweeney’s best work, other than The Cutting Edge.

The Natural — Wilford Brimley as Pop Fisher, representing every cranky-old-manager cliché in one tremendously unappealing package. Plus, he makes me think about diabetes.

Major League — Directly responsible for Major League II and Major League: Back to the Minors. No amount of hilarious anti-Cleveland comedy is worth that.

Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch — Completely unrealistic.


Amazing Grace and Chuck
— In which a little league pitcher stops pitching, and thus prevents thermonuclear destruction. I found the cinematography a little uninspired.