Wednesday, September 29, 2004

El Duque: Old Man; Boston - Taking Over

First off, oh baby! El Duque, the 55-year-old man, has a tight shoulder. Which just goes to show - prayer really does work! I couldn't be more excited. The one guy who's been consistently good in the starting rotation has shoulder problems. So now you have the always-overrated Mussina, the you-never-know-what-you'll-get Lieber and Vazquez, and let's not forget the one-year-wonder Estaban Loaiza, whose one good year was 2003. This team is going down! Back in '98, '99, you knew the Yankees were going all the way. With Cone, Pettitte, Clemens, Wells, a younger El Duque... you knew this team had darn good pitching, and no one was going to beat them. But the 2004 crew is a joke, and this Yankee despiser loves it!

And Boston is clearly the better team. I don't care if they come in second. They had a better team from day one, but they were so cocky that they played as if they'd win games merely by showing up to the park. That's when they had that two-month stretch of .500 ball. Once they turned up the heat, though, they've been nearly unbeatable. Heck, they might even be better than the Yankees position by position. Let's see:

1b - Millar and Minky over Giambi, Olerud, and Clark.
2b - Bellhorn is way better than Miguel Cairo.
ss - Close one, but I'll give Jeter a slight edge over Cabrera.
3b - Rodriguez, of course, although his .220 average with runners in scoring position is encouraging.
lf - Manny's way better than Shemp Matsui.
cf - Johnny Damon over Bernie and Lofton.
rf - Sheff takes the cake over Nixon.
c - Varitek over Posada, but not by much.
dh - Ortiz kicks.
sp - Shilling, Pedro, and Lowe over the Yankee clowns.
rp - Rivera gives the Junkees an edge over any team re the bullpen.

So we have Boston 7, Yankees 4, and keep in mind that if the Yankee starting pitching stinks up the joint, you don't even get to Mariano.

Let the playoffs begin!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Paul Quantrill: Done

I remember a few games in August when the Yankees were either blowing out the competition or getting blown out, and who comes in to pitch? Paul Qauntrill, the guy with the microscopic ERA in 2003 for the Dodgers, who enters Tuesday's game with a 4.73 ERA, having allowed 120 hits in 93.3 innings. Torre, the best manager in baseball according to delusional Yankee fans, used the guy so darn much early on that by now, his arm is dead. Last year his manager used him for 77 innings, which is about as much as you can use the guy. For some reason, though, Torre kept throwing Quantrill out there night after night, and now the guy is toast. Trust me - you will not see him in a big spot during the playoffs. With an 11.45 ERA during September, Torre doesn't trust him, and rightfully so.

So you'll have Gordon - who's also questionable - pitching three innings a game, and Mariano, and that's it. But Torre messed Quantrill up by overusing him! And no Yankee fan will admit it! Hey, I'm happy, because I know that if he had only pitched 77 innings he'd be in good form, but Torre made him pitch the most innings since '96 with the Blue Jays, when he was a starter. Now you'll tell me that it's Cashman's fault for not getting other decent relievers, which is true, but it wasn't like Torre used him only in close games, so to me, Torre is at fault just as much. Then again, even if the Junkee fans admit that it's Cashman's fault, they still call him the best GM in baseball, so go figure.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Brown Stinks Up the Joint; Kay Compliments Halsey

As a Yankee despiser, I loved seeing Kevin Brown get knocked out after two-thirds of an inning on Sunday in the second laugher in a row, this time 11-4. Hey Brown, go punch another wall. Oh, the smile it brought to my face. Then Loaiza came in, and the Yankees had no chance. I tell you, it gives me hope for the playoffs that the Yankees are beatable. And it had to be a great psychological boost for Boston to be the Yankees' daddy for a couple of days...

Kenny Lofton grounded out and complained that Doug Mientkiewicz (however that's spelled) kept his foot too much on the bag. So in the eighth inning, Boston reliever Pedro Astacio threw behind Lofton and was ejected right away. The YES commentators called the attempted-plunk gutless, stupid, and pointless. A half inning later, Yankee southpaw Brad Halsey threw one right under Dave Roberts' melon. He was tossed, and the YES play-by-play man Michael Kay said something to the effect that Halsey had a terrible year, but he just earned his teammates' respect with that move. The color guys agreed (naturally), saying that you have to protect your teammates, reiterating that Astacio was a coward... After the break, they showed the replay a couple of times, and Kay asks his booth mates, "But was throwing at the head a bit much?" No, you schmuck. It's too bad he missed killing the guy. So Girardi and Kaat said yeah, he should have thrown lower... But this shows you what a coward Michael Kay is. He can't criticize a Yankee because George will get ticked, so he asks a dopey question to make his point without explicitly saying what he thinks. This way he can say, hey, those guys said it, not me. Jerk.

So what do I take out of the weekend? First, if Vazquez and Brown can't beat Boston in a big spot, and if El Duque is out of gas, forget the Yankees winning this year. And with the Angels winning two out of three, they're only a game back, so they have a chance to step in and face New York in the first round. I'm starting to like them better than Oakland as far as who can beat the Yankees because they seem to be the more complete team. They hit for average, run, field, and have the best bullpen in baseball, especially now that Paul Quantrill's arm is officially dead. The starting pitching is suspect, but the Junkees' starters aren't much better, so let's go Anaheim! Make it like 2002 and give me a postseason I can truly enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Stupid Torre Line of the Week

"The other managers know they have to be careful about Jason," the manager said. "If you don't believe that, go back to the 1988 World Series and Kirk Gibson."

-When do you plan on apologizing to Gibson for that one?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Brian Ca$hman Lives Up To His Name, pt. 1

I remember hearing WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog talk about Billy Beane. Chris said something to the effect of, "well, how many rings has the guy won?" None, as of yet. Based on that logic, Cashman is the best GM in baseball, right? After all, he's even got more rings than Schuerholz and Sabean combined!

Wrong. According to my count, WFAN frequent caller/nutcase Jerome from Manhattan has said one half-intelligent thing: Cashman is a buffoon!

I don't care how many series Cashman has won. He's been awful. And if not for George's endless money supply (as well as predecessor Gene Michael's getting the likes of O'Neill and Cone and holding on to Pettitte and Rivera), he'd have gone the way of Kevin Malone and Steve Phillips long ago.

First off, the Knoblauch trade. At the time, everyone thought it was a stroke of genius. But then things got ugly. Not only did Knoblauch forget how to throw, but Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman have become solid everyday players. That's a bad trade right there.

And don't tell me about Cashman signing and re-signing the likes of El Duque, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mike Mussina, Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, and Kenny Lofton. Billy Beane can't do that. Neither can John Schuerholz. How would Cashman have done a year after losing 82 HR in Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez, as well as Greg Maddux?

And in early '99, another winner of a trade. The Yankees gave up future star Mike Lowell for the immortal Ed Yarnall. If memory serves correct, the Yankees needed a 5th (or 6th?) starter. Hence the trade. Yarnall ended up starting 2 games all year. But then again, who misses Lowell's 30-HR bat when you can just trade for A-Rod?

Okay, one good trade. The Yankees got future starters Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook in the Hideki Irabu deal. But Cashman was smart enough to ship 'em out later, trading Lilly for Jeff Weaver. Nicely done. The David Justice deal? Not a bad one. But: he was awful in '01, and part of the reason they lost. And: they gave up two decent starters in Westbrook and Zach Day.

After Justice, it's been straight downhill. Denny Neagle was a total bust. Then there was Cashman's infamous Jose Canseco pickup, getting him just so the Sox wouldn't. How many teams can afford that?

I can write a whole other piece with more of Cashman's blunders. And that's exactly what I plan on doing. Stay tuned.

Recap of First Two Games of Yankee-Red Sox Series

I missed Friday night’s game – it was Yom Kippur, and I was praying my butt off that the Yankees should get knocked out of the first round. On Saturday morning, I walked past the newsstand to see what happened on Friday night and the Daily News was making a big deal that the Yankees beat Pedro again. So freakin’ what? The headline read, “Who’s Your Daddy?” referring to Martinez’s comments giving the Yankees credit for being the better team last year. Now what was he supposed to say – that the Red Sox were better even though the Yankees beat them in the ALCS? Instead, he was gracious, and conceded that the Yankees were better, and instead of appreciating his classiness, the Daily Snooze – who are so pro-Yankee it’s nauseating – use it against him. Bunch of jerks. Again, the loss doesn’t bother me because I’ve already conceded the division to the Junkees, so I’m just waiting for October for all intents and purposes, so let the idiotic Yankee fans rejoice in beating the Sox in a meaningless late September game when both teams are in the playoffs anyway.

As for Saturday night’s game, it’s 6-5 in the bottom of the 8th with the bases loaded, and Torre calls on the mighty T.J. Nitkowski to shut down the Boston. He promptly gives up a two-run double to Jason Varitek to make it 8-5. Boston scores four more, and goes on to win 12-5. I was watching the game on YES (or as Bob Raissman calls it – Al Yankzeera, because they’ll never say anything bad about the Yankees), and Michael Kay was quick to defend Torre for putting in a stinker by calling it a meaningless game, and Tom Gordon was tired, blah blah blah… A meaningless game? Then why were you screaming your head off a couple of innings ago when the Yankees tied the score 5-5?

Unlike Michael Kay, I’m fair about it. Because I called the first game unimportant, I’m not getting too excited about Saturday’s win. Sunday’s game is important, though, as we get to see if Kevin Brown’s hand is better. It's his first outing since punching the wall a few weeks ago (putz!). Mark my words – if he stinks up the joint, YES will say that he’s a little rusty, but he made great pitches; the Red Sox just found the holes…

Friday, September 24, 2004

For ALDS, I'll Take Oakland Over Minnesota

On 1050 ESPN radio, Wally and the Keeg were taking calls from Yankee fans as to which team they wanted the Yankees to face in the first round. They got mixed responses, but I’ll give you my opinion from a Yankee despiser’s perspective:

Oakland has better pitching. Hudson, Mulder, and Zito are a better trio than Santana, Radke, and Silva. Granted, Santana could beat them twice, but who’ll shut ‘em down the other three games? I don’t trust Radke because he strikes me as a guy who dominates the stinkers but can’t succeed against the strong offenses. Silva was a nice pickup by Twins GM Terry Ryan in the Milton deal, but keep in mind he was in the Phillies bullpen last year, so let’s not go crazy.

The big three have shown that they can all beat the Yankees (albeit not at the same time in the same series… then again, if only Jeremy Giambi had slid…), and I’ll take Dotel over Billy Koch any day.

But more important is the fact that the 2004 A’s are willing to manufacture runs, and aren’t hung up on the Beane method of taking one base at a time and not, God forbid, wasting an out. Against good pitching, you have to run the bases aggressively, play solid defense (which Beane has taken care of as well this year), and do the little things to win. Look at the ’03 Marlins with Pierre and Castillo wreaking havoc on the base paths, or the ’02 Angels, exploiting the weak throwing arms in the Yankee outfield by taking the extra base every chance they got.

I’ll take Kotsay, Hatteberg, Chavez, Crosby, Durazo, Dye, Miller, Scutaro, and Byrnes over the Terrence Longs and F. P. Santangelos of the world they threw out there in 2000 and 2001.

The Twins are a great fundamental team, but don’t have dominating power, and if your pitching’s not all that, you can’t beat the $190 million bums.

Of course, if the Angels beat out the A’s and make it, I’ll be more than delighted. Same with Texas, who can bop the ball. Either way, it looks like the Junkees will face the AL West in the ALDS, and that makes this Yankee despiser pretty happy.

Yankees in First Place? Big Deal

Wow, the Yankees beat the mighty Devil Rays. And for some reason, the Orioles play the BoSox like it's game 7 of the World Series, so Boston drops to 4.5 games behind, which means that even with a sweep, they'll be in second place. I doesn't bother me terribly because I don't expect the Red Sox to overtake the Junkees in the standings, and with the wild card, they'll be in the postseason anyway. So they won't have home field, but who cares? How'd that work out for the Yankees in the '03 World Series? Or the '02 ALDS?

In a way, having home field for the LDS (and the LCS and World Series, for that matter) can be a disadvantage because if the Yanks drop the first game or two at home, the road games become must-wins. In '02 they split the first two at the Stadium, and lost the next two in Anaheim, and their season was over. I was dancing in the streets. And when the Angels won the whole thing, Torre, in his infinite wisdom, declared something like, "I'm glad they won it all because if you're going to lose, you're better off losing to the champs." As long as George liked that answer...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Joe Torre: Most Overrated Manager in Baseball History

I will be very ticked off when Joe Torre gets elected to the Hall of Fame for leading the Yankees to four World Series titles. He is not a great manager. He has these things going for him:

(a) Mariano Rivera, which wasn't his doing anyway
(b) George's huge payroll

Question #1: Would the Yankees have won four titles with another manager?

Question #2: Where are all his World Series rings from his previous managerial jobs?

Answer #1: Jeter. Bernie. Mariano. Clemens. Pettitte... Point is, he's had great players throughout. I'll give him '96, because no one thought they'd go all the way that year, and with the Mariano Duncans of the world and the Charlie Hayeses, it wasn't as if he were fielding an all-star lineup, although the aforementioned guys (Clemens not included) are no slouches themselves.

But '98? '99? '00? When George started spending like mad and bought all the players he needed for World Series championships? Why give Torre any credit? Anyone could have won with those teams, be it Tony LaRussa, Grady Little, Greg Riddoch, Art Howe, Jeff Torborg... Granted, there's no evidence that a different manager would have done better, but there's no evidence that another skipper would've been worse!

I'm more impressed with Bobby Valentine making it to the Series with an outfield of Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani, and Bubba Trammell. Or Tommy Lasorda winning it all in '88 with the John Shelbys and Franklin Stubbses of the world.

Answer #2: There are none. He had decent teams in St. Louis in the early '90s, but never did anything. He won the division with the Braves in the early '80s, but never got to the Series. He was a disaster with the Mets, but his teams were terrible, so let's be fair.

Overall, managers are overrated because it's the players that have to perform, and it's the GMs who put the team together, so let's not go crazy calling Torre a genius just yet.

Besides, who knows - maybe other managers could have done better and won five, six, maybe seven championships.

But I give Torre credit for one thing - he knows how to kiss George's fanny all right.

Red Sox Won, Yankees Lost

Are there any sweeter words in the English language? Is there anything sweeter than picking up the New York Post and seeing the sports' headline "'El' of a Loss?" Answer: No. It's sweeter than a Hershey's Kiss.

(a) El Duque finally lost. I was getting a little concerned that he was invincible, and seeing him get rocked is heart warming.

(b) On Wednesday, I turned on the TV to see the Yankees leading the Blue Jays 3-0. Oh, here we go again, I sighed, cursing Bud Selig and his lack of salary cap under my breath. So I turned it off and about an hour later caught the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth tied 6-6 with the O's. When they failed to score, I turned back to YES and they had just named Ted Lilly player of the game. YES! The $60 million Blue Jays just beat the $190 million Yankees! And that meant losing the series two games to one to Toronto. Losers...

(c) At about 11:45 I caught the top of the 12th when the Orioles had second and third with one out. I had to turn it off because I have a life. When I turned on the tube Thursday morning, I saw on the ESPN bottom line that the Red Sox beat the Orioles 7-6 in 12. Oh baby!

So the lead is back to 3.5 games, which doesn't bother me because the Red Sox are primed to make the playoffs anyway, and the Yanks may have to face a healthy Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. And Rich Harden is no slouch either. Let's pray that the Devil Rays can manufacture a couple of runs today and that the Orioles' Cabrera gets bombed.