Sunday, October 29, 2006

Crapshoot Crap

In today's New York Post, Joel Sherman tells Mets fans not to be as down as the Yankee fans, because the postseason is about luck. And you'll hear Yankee fans make the same excuse. Detroit got hot, Anaheim got hot, Florida got hot, it's the same thing every year.

I thought Joel Sherman took a turn for the worse when he thought Texas would trade A-Rod for Jeromy Burnitz, but he's beat that with today's stupidity. Surprisingly, Rob Neyer has good piece about how it took more than luck for the Cardinals to win it all.

Well, it's the same thing every year, Sherman, but there's a pattern. Let's start from this year, and work backwards.

One benchmark for a good playoff team is how they hit with runners in scoring position. You won't get as many opportunities against a playoff team than you will against the Royals; the key is utilizing every opportunity (and Mets fans will tell you just how good the Cardinals were at doing that).

So here are some Yankees batting averages for RISP in the postseason:

2006- Cano: 0-7, .000
Matsui, 0-4, .000
A-Rod, 0-2, .000
Yankees team RISP: .179; Detroit: .323

2005 - Sheff 2-11, .182
Matsui 1-7, .143
A-Rod 0-3
Yanks team RISP: .222; Angels: .366

2004, ALCS G4-7
I couldn't get the RISP splits for these games only, but I got this:
A-Rod and Sheff combined for THREE hits those four games. Pathetic.

Posada 5-23, .217
Giambi 2-16, .125
Aaron Boone 2-11, .182 (Hey, he still has more big hits as a Yankee than his successor, A-Rod)
Yankees team: .228

The Angels batted .396 with RISP - enough said.

2001 - WS
I'm not gonna bother with the RISP splits here. This was about the Yanks hitting .183 overall, led by Jeter (.148), Knoblauch (.056), and Justice (.167). Good job by RJ and Schill.

Aside from 2002, the Yanks have lost because they cannot get the big hit. They've lost because their big players haven't come through in the clutch. Or in some cases (like in '04), they haven't come through at all. This is no crapshoot, Sherman. This is a pattern that's been pretty consistent the past few years.

Ultimately, the Yanks need guys like Sojo, Spiezio, Brosius, and Mark Lemke. Guys that aren't sexy names, but guys that get the big hits in October. Because Sheffield isn't getting the job done, Shemp has failed, Posada's been inconsistent, and we've all heard about A-Rod.

But I don't care. Let the Yankee fans think it's luck. And let's watch them get "unlucky" every ALDS for years to come.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Of The Same? Bring It On

Seems like every year after the Yanks get knocked out of the playoffs early, we hear about George's "big changes" coming. But those changes never come. As Fred Hickman would say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After 2001, George thought the hitting sucked. Okay, bring in a big star, HGH-man Giambi. After '02, George needed pitching. Another big name, Jose Contreras. And Shemp Matsui to boot. After '03, the Yanks needed more offense. Call in Sheff and A-Rod. After Vazquez and Brown and everyone else choked, it was time for pitching, and big money for Wright, Pavano, and the Unit. And after the Yanks got shut down by Ervin Santana, it was time for Damon. And later, Abreu.

The fantasy team gone wrong is in full bloom. Maybe there's a Wang and a Cano to break up the monotony, with a little Phillips or Cabrera occasionally in there too. And Craig Wilson getting a start every three weeks. But this is the superstar team. The team that beats the crap out of the Devil Rays and Orioles, and does nothing in October. The team that can beat the NL All-Star team, but can't make it to the NL team in the World Series.

You would think George would try to build a team that worked, a team with guys like Brosius, Sojo, and the others that made the dynasty possible. I think this is why Jeter doesn't like A-Rod; the guy knows what types were needed to win in New York, and he knows A-Rod doesn't have it. And neither does most of the team, for that matter. When Jeter says you can't compare these Yankees to the old ones, those are his true feelings coming through.

But instead, it looks like A-Rod and Sheff are here to stay. Will A-Rod continue to be miserable in NY? Will Sheff continue to play first and make Mike Piazza look good? Will Snorre continue to be a lousy motivator in October?

So far, yes, yes, and yes. Bring on '07!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Let The Complaining Begin

It didn't take long, and I knew it wouldn't. I know Yankee fans all too well. After the controversy erputed over the substance in Kenny Rogers' hand, the Yankee fans are complaning. "It's not fair, Rogers was cheating when he beat us, we would've won the series otherwise."

First off, why is Rogers' win any less legit than Jason Giambi's homers? But anyway. We don't know if it was dirt or pine tar. And we don't know if it was steroids, HGH, or something else.

Also, many pitchers use the stuff. That's one of the reasons that LaRussa didn't make a big deal over the issue; he didn't want any of his guys doing it. And, a little speculation here: maybe a substance like this has something to do with the break on Mussina's knuckle-curve? If Rogers was guilty, he did a lousy job hiding his evidence. I'm sure many other players have done the same thing as Rogers, just less conspicuously. Even Todd Jones admitted to using pine tar.

And surprisingly, Joe Snorre didn't cry foul over Rogers' possible cheating. I've got to give Snorre credit here; one of the few times he's said something sensible (see the NY Post article here):

Asked if his hitters commented about Rogers doing something funky, Joe Torre said they didn't. "He would need something more than something on his hand to pitch the way he is pitching," Torre told The Post. "He is pitching his tail off. I don't know what he is doing. I certainly think his ability to get people out far surpasses anything else. But nobody came back and said anything to me about the ball cutting. To me, the difference in Kenny is that he is throwing strikes."

So at the end of the day, Snorre is right. The Yanks lost fair and square. And Johnson's performance certainly didn't help the cause, by the way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


So Clueless Joe is sticking around, huh? Excellent. Hopefully they'll keep A-Rod around too, and build another great regular-season team.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Still Clueless After All These Years

Joe Snorre’s finest moment as Yankee manager came a long, long time ago. A decade ago, in fact. It was in the World Series, after Torre’s team got killed in the first two games, and looked all too much like those other teams the Yanks would later face, looking like the '98 Padres, the ’03 Marlins, and the ’06 Tigers. Teams that were happy just to be playing in October, and not minding how things would turn out. Teams that were heavy, heavy underdogs. Joe Snorre’s Yankees needed to be tinkered with, they needed a change. So it was Tino out, Fielder in. Boggs out, Hayes in. And the two did pretty well the next few games, as the Yanks won four in a row against a team featuring Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz in their prime. We all sat and laughed at the Daily News headline from November ’95, “Clueless Joe.” Wow, they were way off with that one!

After a small bump in ’97, it was smooth sailing for Snorre in ’98. He didn’t need to make a move; just fill out the lineup card and everything turned to gold. In ’99, he heroically battled cancer, and his team coasted to another Series. Same for 2000. For those few years, anyone could’ve managed the team. Bobby Valentine, Dallas Green, even Buck Showalter. The team was coasting.

You look at some of the great teams of the past few years, and you can see how a manager can change the way a club plays. Jack McKeon in ’03 turned a listless Marlins team into World Champions. There were no major trades that year. Just a new manager who got much more from his players than Jeff Torborg. You look at what Ozzie Guillen did last year. And look at what Jim Leyland has done with a franchise that had turned into perennial losers. After 1996, what did Snorre do? Did his presence really make a difference? The guy had competitors in the clubhouse, guys like O'Neill, Pettitte, and Brosius, who wanted to win.

And after the third championship in 2000, the wheels came off. Once Nelson left, Torre couldn’t run a bullpen. He would have his one trusted arm work tons of innings, and then be shot come October. Whether it was Karsay, Gordon, Quantrill, Sturtze, or Ron Villone (and perhaps Rivera in 2001), Torre was about as good as Art Howe (who had a big Dave Weathers fetish) when it came to running a pen. And Snorre became an arrogant crybaby, complaining about every umpire that had a small strike zone or any opposing player that slid hard into one of his infielders.

And Snorre’s ineptitude, later highlighted by Rob Neyer, came to a head in the 2003 World Series, when he used Jeff Weaver in an extra-inning game. While Rivera sat on the bench, Weaver gave up a homer to the mighty Alex Gonzalez. (By the way, how cool was it to see Yankee castoffs Weaver and Kenny Rogers pitch great games in the Division Series this year?)

And all the intangibles of praise heaped upon Snorre, all that “calming influence,” didn’t help a whole lot in the 2004 ALCS. Even the presence of Joe Snorre couldn’t prevent the biggest collapse in sports history.

Maybe Snorre deserves credit for turning the nosediving 2005 team back into contenders. Perhaps it was more Brian Cashman, who got lucky with Chacon and Small, who had career years in ’05. Whatever it was, Joe Snorre could not wake up his sleeping bats against an Angels team whose ace went down in Game 5 of the ALDS.

And this year, Snorre again has outdone himself. Sheff was right on about this one. What the hell was Snorre thinking putting A-Schmuck in the 8th spot? A-Schmuck is no Reggie Jackson. He doesn’t need a swift kick in the butt. For a guy like Snorre, a guy whose modus operandi has been grace under pressure, putting A-Rod in the 8th spot screamed out “Panic!” And using Jaret Wright screamed out “we’re done!”

And so the team with the highest payroll in the game by $80 million, a team with about as big a payroll as the other AL playoff teams combined, has not been the #1 team on the field since 2000.

So I hope the Yanks keep Snorre. He’s great for PR, great for an interview, great for the “Mike and the Mad Dog” spot. But he doesn’t help his team win championships. At least not for the past decade.

Who Saw This One Coming?

I still cannot believe it. I haven't been this shocked since those magical days two Octobers ago.

After my last post and the events of the past few days, I keep comparing this year to last year's Yankee debacle, and this year's is so much better. Last year, even though New York was the favorite, you had a feeling the Angels would beat the Yankees. They still had so many pieces of the '02 team that had manhandled the Yanks: Erstad, Molina, K-Rod (the first one), Garret Anderson, that you had a feeling they could once again prevail. And of course, in '05, they had Vlad Guerrero, too.

But this year, the Tigers have so thus far done a great '05 White Sox imitation. They limped into the postseason, and look shellshocked in game one. Then, the tables turned, and their pitching turned it on. And turn it on they did. Against the 2006 Murderer's Row. Against the team with an all-star at every position. Against the team with the .342 #9 hitter.

I was reminiscing with someone last week about how everyone was so horny over the '98 Yankees lineup, saying that even the #9 hitter, Scott Brosius, had batted .300 with 90 RBI. And Cano put the guy to shame this year.

And with a lineup like that, you had to figure the Yanks' pitching, behind Wang, Mussina, and Rivera, could pitch well enough to win.

Didn't happen.

- Another thing that makes this year stand out - the Mets' success. The Yanks came roaring into the postseason, and the Mets looked shot, especially once Pedro and Duque got hit with injuries. Unlike the Yanks, however, the Mets' bats have shown up, and perhaps those bats can carry Maine, Glavine, and Wagner to the promised land. Not to mention that Minaya has done a much better job at building a bullpen that Cashman. And more importantly, Randolph is much smarter when it comes to using him pen. For simply blowing out Quantrill, Sturtze, and Villone, Joe Snorre should get the axe. And I'm sure Scott Proctor will be all too grateful to George.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Randy Johnson Deja Vu

Where have we seen this before? The Yankees come into the ALDS as favorites, win game 1, and then struggle in Game 2. The team keeps failing in the clutch. They get bested by a superior bullpen. A-Rod can't buy a hit. And starting game 3 is Randy Johnson.

It's just like 2005, except this time Aaron Small is working at Wal-Mart.

Of course, those Angels didn't have Kenny Rogers.

Whatever it is, this is the first time since before the second Boston Massacre that, as a Yankee-hater, I'm excited. The Yanks are gonna keep getting hits, make no mistake. The key is to keep the runners stranded. Easier said than done, and a guy like Johnny Damon will occasionally jack one out of the park. But with a little help from A-Rod and Cano, the Tigers should be okay.

And I'll be rooting for some deja vu all over again.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Any Way You Look At It You Lose

I was kinda frustrated that the Yanks are playing the Tigers in the first round. I thought the Twins, with Santana for two games, had what it takes to upset the Yanks in a short series. But the Tigers have been struggling over the past month, and their pitchers look spent. I think the Yanks take Detroit (or as Fred Hickman would say, the Bengals) down in 3.

And let's say the Yanks win it all. Will Yankee fans even be happy? Chances are, they'll just be relieved. When your expectation year in and year out is to in the World Series, and you meet those expectations, what's the big deal? Think about the Tigers fans. Their team exceeded expectations. That's something to get excited about. That's what makes it worth being a fan, what makes it worth rooting for a medicore team through thick and thin. But meeting expectations? It makes you satisfied, but there's no thrill there.

And when you're a $210 million behemoth with an all-star at every position, how enjoyable is winning it all? When what turned your season around was getting Bobby Abreu and his $16 million contract for nothing? Is there any good feeling there? Any excitement? Why should there be any - when your payroll is $80 million more than the next team, you should be whipping everyone's butt on a nightly basis!

And if the Yanks don't win it all, there will be a sense of big, big disappointment. We've seen that sentiment for every year since 2000, much to my delight.

For me, the thrill of someone else upsetting the Yankees never gets old. The thrill of a Josh Beckett, an Ervin Santana beating the Yankees never gets old. The thrill of seeing Dave Roberts and Luis Gonzalez ruin the Yankees season never gets old. Better yet, seeing A-Rod ruin the Yankees season. Let's hope we get that thrill once again.