Sunday, May 28, 2006

When Being a Yankee Fan Was Fun

As a baseball fan, two years stick out in my mind as favorites. They're the kind of years you wait for as a baseball fan, the years you love to reminisce about for decades to come.

Before Curt Schilling, Pedro, Manny, Papi and Dave Roberts put the choke on the Yankees back in '04, there were Cone, O'Neill, Tino, Bernie, and the rest of the '96 Yankees.

I've just read Joel Sherman's "Birth of a Dynasty," and what struck me most is how much things have changed in the Yankee world since then.

Joe Torre's face aged about 5,000 years. There were no juicers on the team back then (interestingly, before the Yanks got Fielder, Sherman says they were interested in Giambi), and very few jerks. Stick Michael made a point of getting rid of jerks like Mel Hall, and when Ruben Sierra started popping off, the Yanks traded him away. Sure there were a few selfish players, like Wade "I'll get my 3,000 hits elsewhere" Boggs, but at least Torre commanded respect back then. He had the guts to sit future HOFer Boggs for the mediocre Charlie Hayes and not worry about the repercussions of the move. (Imagine Snorre taking out Sheffield for a defensive replacement. Or benching Shemp when his streak was intact.)

The Yankees also played a lot more small ball back then. Coming after the Buck Showalter years, when the Yanks stole about as often as Riccardi's Blue Jays, Snorre, along with Zim, brought his NL style to the Yanks and made them a lot of fun to watch. Now it just seems like they're just waiting for a homer.

The Yanks had one of the top payrolls in the league, but it was in the same range as teams like Baltimore and Atlanta. The Yanks weren't $80 million ahead of everyone else. They had to pick and choose their free agents, and couldn't sign every guy they were moderately interested in.

And ultimately, the Yanks wanted to win. And they came through in the clutch. There were no gaudy numbers being put up back then, the types that Sheff and A-Schmuck annually produce. But I'm sure many Yankee fans would rather have O'Neill or Tino up in a big spot.

The Yanks also had depth back then. The bench was full of solid major-leaguers like Raines, Strawberry, Fielder, and Hayes. A far cry from Andy Phillips, Bubba Crosby, and Melky Cabrera. That was back when Cashman was just an assistant GM, by the way.

Like '06, the Yanks had their fair share of injuries. Pat Kelly and Tony Fernandez were out much of the year, Melido Perez didn't pitch at all, and at one point they were stuck with Matt Howard at second. And don't forget that their ace, David Cone, was out for much of the year with his aneursym. And Jimmy Key, too, spent a lot of time on the DL. In a key doubleheader vs. Cleveland in June, Ramiro Mendoza and Brian Boehringer started both ends. But there were no excuses. The team just kept winning.

Sherman does a great job bringing back the drama of that year, both on-the-field and off. The eventual Series victory overshadowed George's antics throughout the year. While George didn't give Snorre that hard a time, Sherman discusses how he put then-GM Bob Watson through hell.

My beefs with the book: There are a few typos ("editions" instead of "additions"), and the highly annoying use of the phrase "Calm Bombs" to discuss how Snorre defused tense situations. Cheesy! Besides, Ozzie Guillen didn't need any "Calm Bombs" last year, and his team did just fine. There's the usual Jeter glorification, but he won Rookie of the Year that year, so I can't kill Sherman for it. And thankfully, Sherman doesn't spend a million years on Jeffrey Maier.

- What a difference a decade makes. Sure, the Yanks have made the playoffs every season since then, but this is not a team built for October. It's a team full of superstars who fade in the clutch, a very suspect bullpen, and not nearly enough depth for a duel like game 4 of the '96 World Series. Besides, when your payroll is the highest in the game by millions, it's not even fun to win it all. Yankee fans would just be relieved if their team wins it all, and the sensible ones among them would realize how, when the highest payroll in the game wins the championship, that's not very good for the game.

And Snorre has jumped the shark since then. Big-time. Torre's intuition worked out huge on many, many occasions. Did he just get lucky that year? Or did he just get dumb after '96? Who knows?

- But once upon a time, the Yankees were fun to watch. And hard NOT to root for.

Still Worthless

I hated that stinging feeling I had after David Ortiz struck out with the bases full (or as Hickman would say, the "sacks loaded") on Wednesday night. I didn't want to hear about how the Yankees finally got Big Papi out in a big spot. Or how Kyle Farnsworth finally had his "Yankee moment."

So against a AAA-team with a 13-game losing streak, Farnsworthless (with a little help from Chuck Cabrera) showed that the Ortiz moment was just a fluke. He gave up a homer to Angel Berroa, and just like that one of the AL's lowest payrolls beat the $200 million behemoth. Not only that, but the embarrassing loss overshadowed Mr. Intangibles' 2000th hit.

The Yanks tried mounting a comeback in the 9th, but the slumping Giambi (batting .197 in May) grounded into a double play to end things. How long till Victor Conte gets his next phone call from Juice-on?

Too bad the Yankees were back to normal today, blowing out the crappy Royals. Of course, when it's the Royals, A-Schmuck shows up, and hits a couple of dingers. At least Schilling and the Sox won to hold their ground on New York.

- One more thought: do you think Joe Snorre could ever do what Jimmy Leyland is doing with the Tigers? The Yanks and Tigers have a four-game set coming up, in what should be the most exciting Yankees-Tigers series since the days of Jack Morris.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Junkee Offense Bails Out Another Randy Johnson Stinker

I couldn't believe that some Junkee analysts were praising Randy Johnson for "making adjustments" and pitching better. WTF? What if the Junkees lost 5-1? I'm telling you, every RJ start lends itself more and more to this being the worst trade in Junkee history, especially if they don't make the playoffs.

That said, the Junkees won for two reasons:

(a) Matt Clement stinks. But at least he was cheaper than Pavano!

(b) Ortiz has an off night. Congrats to Farnsworthless.

But a win is a win and a loss is a loss.

Anyone notice that A-Rod is batting .270? And Giambi .260? Just pointing out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Junkees Get to Wakefield

Lousy loss for the Red Sox. Sometimes I think it's better if the Junkees win 7-1 because then I can chalk it up to, okay, there'll be games like these. But when Boston starts coming back and you get your hopes up only to be let down, it's a damn pisser.

Well, what good can we take out of this game?

(a) Junkee bullpen. Scott Proctor finally gets smacked around. He was starting to get the Tanyon Sturtze treatment of '05, everyone thinking how unbelievable he is, what geniuses Snorre and ca$hman are... uh, not quite.

(b) Farnsworthless pretty much being himself.

(c) Terrence Long is now 0-8. I say another game or so and then he's a goner.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wang Does Best Randy Johnson Imitation

What a night. First we see the Junkees scrape the bottom of the barrel with Terrence Long - and any player that the Kansas City Royals didn't want has got to be absolutely horrible - and then Wang shows that you shouldn't have gotten too excited about his last two "gems."

Of course when Long hits a home run, Sterling, Kay, and all other Yankee fans will be calling Ca$hman a genius, but anyway.

Wang gave up 7 earned runs in 6 innings, striking out a grand total of one player. Anyone who thought Wang was a future superstar was completely delusional.

A-Schmuck hits yet another meaningless homer, so the stats look good, but do it when it counts, then I'll be impressed.

In other news, Chacon goes on the DL. So now when the Junkees continue to stink, they'll have another excuse. Can't you just hear Sterling say something like, "The Yankees have been ravished with injuries. First Sheffield, then Matsui, then Crosby, then Sturze, then Chacon ... how the Yankees continue to play competitive ball is just absolutely astonishing." You know what? I don't want to hear it. Injuries happen. To everyone. The good teams make do.

Truth is though, I'm a little concerned. The Yankees just picked up Erubiel Durazo, so AL East, watch out!

Good, Bad, and Ugly from Weekend (5/19-21, '06)

Good: Randy, Charlie Brown in Game 1, Aaron Small.

Bad: Ninth inning of Game 2.

Ugly: Billy Wagner turning into JohnFranco/ArmandoBenitez/BradenLooper.

Well, what can I say about Randy Johnson that hasn't been said? That trade and subsequent signing to the extension may go down as one of the greatest blunders in Yankee history. Pretty soon it'll replace the punchline Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps.

Charlie Brown continues to look hittable. Yes, he was pretty good in Game 2, but his swoons usually don't last this long. My prediction? He's going to turn into a middle of the road closer, but the Junkees will pick up his option for next year for PR, and he'll be lousy.

And the Junkees will continue to have those games where they score 17 runs off hideous pitching, and struggle against the good teams. So their numbers will say, hey, they're third in the AL in runs scored! And they'll have the games where they score a lot and lose, so our buddies like Alex will point to their torrid on base percentage, which is tops in the American League. But put it all together, and they don't necessarily have the making of a championship team.

See you in Boston!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Subway Time!!!

Finally, the series I've been waiting for. The Yanks and Mets go at it again. The Mets' offense is almost as good as the Yanks, and they may even have the edge with all of the Yankees' injuries. Their bullpen has improved with the addition of Duaner Sanchez. They got Chad Bradford for PR because of his funky delivery and the fact that he was in "Moneyball." Who's next, Jim Mecir? And while Wagner has been shaky, Met fans have to admit they still feel better with him out there than with Looper.

The Yanks are in trouble. The injury-prone Damon is hurting again, Pavano has a sore arm, the bullpen gave out a Trout-esque 7 walks in two innings yesterday, and when was the last time Yankee fans were so excited about a routine Rivera save as they were Wednesday night?

And the Yankees' latest injury may have ended their season, as well as their playoffs. The Grand Tanyon has been diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and will have surgery next week. His year may be over. I really don't know how they'll manage without him.

And the Mets may even have the edge in Friday's pitching matchup - Jeremi Gonzalez vs. the Old Unit. I do think, however, that Johnson may have enough left to step it up a notch and win.

Mussina vs. Pedro? Looks like the game to watch this series.

Sunday night the Yankee fans cult hero after Tanyon Sturtze - Aaron Small - goes to the hill. He's been mortal this year, so I can't imagine he'll do much better than Chacon. The Mets have Glavine, who's been excellent so far. The Mets are the reverse lock here.

In the "what might've been department": going Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Benson, Seo, and Kazmir.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ringo Gets Rare Clutch Hit

Another YES classic last night. After YD gleefully wrote a piece titled "Texas Shuts Down Yankees Offense," I should've known something bad was gonna happen.

Again, the Yankees' offensive outburst doesn't impress me, even with Giambaby being out last night. Ringo Posada is still being paid $10 million a year, and it's about time the guy got a big hit. When was the last time he got one? I think he had a single in that horrible inning in the '03 ALCS against Pedro. Then again, anyone could've hit Pedro that inning. But otherwise, Posada maybe gets a big hit once or twice a season, in May and August. Who will even remember this game in years from now, except for YES addicts?

Besides, Texas's bullpen, aside from Otsuka, is awful. Maybe some of them have been off to good starts, but c'mon, nobody in there can do a whole lot. Benoit, Bauer, and Mahay are scrubs. And that guy Feldman. Who's next, Steve Rosenberg?

- If anything, I was glad to have an SITYS moment with Chacon. I knew all those baserunners allowed would catch up to him. Facing a good offensive team like Texas, Chacon had to know he'd get hammered.

And the other Cashman genius move of '05, Aaron Small, now has an ERA of 8.71. Somebody predicted he'd be done by June. Keep it up, Small!

And again, Rivera looked far too human. It's already been six weeks into the year. While nobody will confuse Rivera's decline with Bonds, Lidge, and the Big Unit, however, Charlie Brown is clearly losing it. If you would've told me a year ago that batters would be hitting .294 against him for any 6-week period in the season, I would've laughed at you. Even as a Yankee hater.

Who knows? Rivera may still turn things around and return to old form. But if the playoffs started tomorrow, how would Yankee fans feel about Rivera coming into the 9th in a one-run ballgame? Hey, maybe we won't have to hear Sterling say "it's amazing how Rivera turns it into an 8-inning game" anymore.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rangers Shut Down Junkee Offense

Junkee fans are immediately going to cry over Shemp's injury, and the fact that Sheffield has been injured for a while, and that's why they scored only two runs. Ignoring the fact that Farnsworthless was terrible, of course.

But you know what? They still shouldn't whine. Let's see what they have position by position:

1B - Giambaby - above average (I know he may miss some time, but let's see some more positions)
2B - Canoe - above average (at least according to John Sterling)
SS - Cheater - above average
3B - A-Schmuck - above average
LF - Melky - this year's Chuck Knoblauch is below average
CF - Johnny Damon - current slump notwithstanding, above average
RF - Bubba Crosby/Bernie Williams - way below average
C - Ringo - above average

So 6 out of the 8 positions and above average. Keep in mind that when the Junkees won all their titles in the late '90s, they had plenty of average to below average players on their roster. Only recently do they need an all-star at every position. Then you look at a team like the Cardinals who have only one player above average, but they get it done. So now I have to be annoyed as every outfielder is rumored to be going to the Junkees.

Bottom line - you have to be able to win with 6 out of 8 position players above average. And even if you lose Giambaby, you have 5 out of 8, so no excuses, people! "Oh, but they're missing out on 60+ home runs, 200+ rbi...." So they won't score 1200 runs - they'll only score 1000. Boo hoo.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Good, Bad, and Ugly from Weekend (5/12--14)

Good: Randy Freakin' Johnson. Need I say more?

Bad: Junkees take 2 of 3 from A's.

Ugly: Wright and Wang have good starts. I guess the law of averages says that it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Then again, the A's offense is no great shakes, despite Billy Beane being a genius. They're hitting .242, and their OBP is .326, slugging .406. That's 13th, 10th, and 9th in the AL respectively.

So it's not like they shut down a super offensive team.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Shemp's Streak Over

It was disappointing to see Shemp's streak end tonight. And not just because that injury looked painful. Next time Shemp's in a slump, Snorre can sit him without a problem. None of that dead weight in the lineup.

I don't want to hear about how tough it will be for the Yanks without Sheffield and Matsui. When you have the highest payroll in baseball by $80 million, you oughta have the depth to deal with injuries.

Look at the Sox. They've been without Crisp, their leadoff hitter, for a month. When Wells went down, everyone was ripping Epstein for trading away Arroyo. But with the emergence of Wily Mo Pena as a solid replacement for Coco, you've gotta give Theo credit. The guy made sure to have a deep bench, because you never know who'll get hurt.

The Yankees' bench is pitiful. There's no pinch-hitter that scares you. Bernie's lost it, as that play in right showed earlier this evening. Phillips and Crosby are good for defense, but can't hit. Cairo can hit for average, but has no power. And Melky Cabrera seems to handle New York about as well as Chuck Knoblauch. Cashman once again has proven to be nothing but a buffoon.
How long till George regrets kissing and making up with the guy back in November? Heck, he's probably kicking himself already.

- Sweet game tonight. I was in the car listening in the 6th, when Villone got out of the inning. Sterling and Waldman were all horny, and I was thinking, "damn, here we go again!" But Loretta and the Sox pulled through. Farnworthless had another lousy outing. And I'm starting to agree with Yankee Despiser about Charlie Brown. Rivera had another rocky inning tonight, giving up a costly insurance run. Is he going the way of Randy Johnson?

So when all is said and done, the Sox win two out of three, overshadowing A-Schmuck's heroics from last night.

Yanks now play Oakland for the weekend. They face Zito tomorrow night, the same guy they ripped apart on Opening Night. But the Yanks trot out their three shakiest starters -- Wang, Wright, and the Old Unit.

A Beautiful Day in Yankee Despiser Land!

I have not been this happy in a long time. Hmm, let me count the ways.

(a) Jeter's error in the 1st. Nice.

(b) Shemp's streak is over! Listen, I have nothing personal against him and I hope he's okay, but that streak was ridiculous! Joe Snorre's hands were tied because he had no choice but to put him out there every day, and didn't want to tick off the Japanese media. And you knew he'd get all horny if Shemp ever approached Cal Ripken (even though the Japanese games don't mean squat anyway!) so I'm glad that's over with. Now watch the clowns in the booth go nuts when the Junkees win WITHOUT SHEFFIELD and WITHOUT SHEMP! Uh, Jeter? A-Schmuck? Giambaby? Ringo Posada? Hello? How many other teams have all those expensive free agents? But you know they will go bananas. Don't say I didn't warn you.

(c) Chacon - 5 walks, 1 strikeout. Excellent.

(d) Bernie Williams's error, allowing Boston to take the lead. Great.

(e) Charlie Brown. One inning, two hits, one run. Thanks for the insurance run!

What more can a Junkee despiser ask for?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Randy Johnson, Please Don't Retire!

At this point, I can just copy and paste all my pieces about Randy Johnson stinking up the joint. Even in the first inning, when he did not allow a run, he was spotty, walking a couple, and of course, stinking it up from the third inning on. Yes, there were errors, which means that surprisingly, his ERA actually went down, but come on. Five walks, three k's - no excuses. The guy is finished. He's toast.

I know Junkee fans got horny after his strong start, saying that 2005 was a fluke, and that the old Randy is back, but let's be real - he's done. Those good starts were fluky.

And Aaron Small continues to show why he was a journeyman 33 year old last year, the Junkees got extemely lucky, but ca$hman doesn't know when to cut his losses, so granted, he never pitches in a big spot, but still. Time for him to go.

But I can't complain. Now I realize that even if the BoSox win the next two, it doesn't mean the Junkees are down and out. The season's a marathon, and I'll be shocked if they're not in it right up to the end. But when they can't pitch, can't field, and hardly hit, it gets me excited that a repeat of the past few postseasons is to be expected.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Good, Bad, and Ugly from Weekend (5/5-7, '06)

Good: Wang, still lousy numbers - 4.83 ERA, opponents batting .282, 14 walks, 18 strikeouts.... living dangerously.

Bad: Junkees have third best winning percentage in AL.

Ugly: The way the Junkees have played during their 5-game winning streak, but it's 5 w's nonetheless.

Who'll be the first jerk to point out that the Junkees are doing great even though Sheffield is out of the lineup?

(a) Michael Kay
(b) John Sterling
(c) Suzyn Waldman

Props to Charlie Brown, who's given up 15 hits in 13 innings this year. Keep up the good work!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yanks Keep Winning Ugly

This has been a far cry from May 2005. If anything, we've picked up right where we left off when the regular season ended last year, with both the Yanks and Sox knotted for first place. And the Yanks just keep winning and winning. Now they have a 4-game win streak and have won 7 of their last 10.

But the last two nights, it hasn't been pretty. Friday night, Moose continued his resurgence, but the Yanks almost blew the game. Small and Farnsworthless were awful, and even Charlie Brown ended up doing his best Mitch Williams imitation to get out the 8th.

And last night, Chacon ended up with a nice outing - 6 1/3 innings, one run. But those four walks allowed? Not good. It seemed like he had runners on base every inning, but managed to get out of it. I was listening to the game, and Sterling said something like "it doesn't matter how many hits you give up, as long as you keep the runs down." Which is basically the same thing as saying, "it doesn't matter if you drive 90 MPH, as long as you don't kill anyone." At some point, all those baserunners will burn you. Chacon won't always get that big out. So his start last night is probably more of an area of concern than something to get excited about.

One thing I'm already looking forward to? The Subway Series. The Mets finally are starting to look like a winning ballclub. And don't think George hasn't noticed. This one should be fun.

Friday, May 05, 2006

RJ Stinks Up Joint Again

Yes, the Junkees won, so Junkee fans around the world can get all horny. Then again, it was the Devil Rays, who you're supposed to beat.

But the bright spot was Randy Johnson's performance, which raised his ERA to 5.02. And if he keeps getting lit up, it'll prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is finished.

Come on, can you see him dominating the good teams in October? And Snorre will have to send him out, as much as he won't want to.

I'm not thrilled that the Junkees have won the last two nights, but I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

That's An Old Story

An SI poll among MLB players says that Jeter is the most overrated. So much for the intangibles, huh?

Wells Blasts Sensitive Snorre

New York Daily News:

BOSTON - Joe Torre said the Red Sox fans who booed Johnny Damon lacked respect for what Damon accomplished here, but David Wells said the Yankee manager is out of touch.

"Awww, poor Joe," Wells said yesterday. "Sorry. I don't feel bad for him. For Joe? No. For Johnny, he knows what it's like. When you put the 'B' on and you're in N.Y., they're going to hate you. It happened to me. I went in as a Padre and got a standing ovation. I come in as a Red Sox and I'm the anti-Christ. That's fine. Joe's been around for a long time. If he's going to have remarks for that, I guess he's getting a little too sensitive."

Gotta agree with Wells on this one. Snorre loves complaining.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

First Blood

There are still at least 18 more games between the Yankees and the Sox this year, but it was nice to see Boston come out with the win yesterday, especially considering how they won. The ex-Sox stunk it up last night, with Damon going 0-for-4 and Myers giving up the homer to Papi that basically sealed the deal for the Sox. The Ortiz homer was sweet, considering that during the offseason, all the Yankee fans said "that's it; now that we have a lefty specialist in Myers, we're gonna get Ortiz out." Didn't happen last night.

Wang had another bad start last night, pitching only 5 innings and exposing the Yankees' weak pen. And while Small pitched two good innings, again - we saw this last year in September and the playoffs - the guy is not a reliever. He had a bad start to the 8th and opened the door for Boston. I still think '05 was a fluke for the guy, but even last year, he couldn't pitch out of the pen. I think in a few weeks, he and Jaret Wright will switch places, with Small taking the #5 slot in the rotation and Wright becoming the long reliever.

Chacon goes for the Yanks tonight, facing Beckett, who had a lousy outing last week against the Indians. Beckett, of course, is responsible for one of the top ten moments on any Yankee despiser's list. Let's see if he can take away the aura and mystique once again.

Monday, May 01, 2006

All's Quiet in Junkee-Land - Not a Good Sign

George Steinbrenner has kept his big fat yapper shut - and that worries me. So far 2006 has been far from the circus atmosphere we've been accustomed to in years past. And when that happens, it's a lousy sign.

The Yankees won more games during the 1980s than any other team, but didn't win a darn thing when it mattered, namely, in the postseason. Heck, they only made it once, and that was in 1981.

Then they were hideous for a while, back in the early '90s, when George was banished from baseball. Then he came back, but kept quiet, and the Junkees went on to win in '96, '98, '99, and '00. Then he opened his trap and the Junkees couldn't win the big game.

Okay, there were a couple of incidents back then, like calling Hideki Irabu a fat toad, but those were few and far between. In fact, the local papers got all horny because there was finally something juicy!

Then after 2001 - and Manny and I think it was when they got Raul Mondesi in 2002 - was the turning point. Okay, maybe it was Giambi. The Junkees became the laughing stock of all Yankee despisers. The Junkees assembled a collection of jerks, idiots, stinkers, and punks, and it was one comedy show after another. Every season Snorre would age 15 years. George would fire some coaches to shake things up. Kimberly Jones would ask Snorre questions that came from George just to tweak the skipper.

But in 2006, nothing exciting has happened. Sure, they don't have the best record in the AL, but quietly and professionally playing the game of baseball. And that is what scares me.

Good, Bad, and Ugly from Weekend (4/28-30, '06)

Good - Randy Johnson stinking up the joint. Need I remind you that he's signed through 2007?

Bad - Mussina's been doing well. I know that he has never been able to keep this up consistently, but a couple of screw ups will make me feel much better.

Ugly - Charlie Brown is back to his old tricks.