ALL THE KINGS MEN
The suits at the Yankee Command Center are playing musical chairs, as VP of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman was replaced by Gordon Blakely, formerly VP of International and Professional Scouting. According to the Daily News, Newman’s request for a lesser role:
…Lands him in the post of Vice President for Player Development and Scouting. Newman’s often acrimonious relationship with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner appeared to bubble over Tuesday when the two exchanged words and, according to sources, the argument ended with Newman telling The Boss he would resign his position. A source said Newman even said some farewells before leaving work that day, but he and Steinbrenner appear to have somewhat mended things.
Bob Klapisch reports that the old Bronx Zoo George is back, and barking louder than ever:
One club insider said Newman’s decision surprised “no one” and another said such quarreling has become commonplace within the Yankee hierarchy this winter.
“There isn’t one person (in the front office) who hasn’t had some kind of blow-up with George lately,” the source said. Indeed, Steinbrenner has, after years of assuming a background-posture, single-handedly taken control of the organization — a role-reversal that’s evolved steadily since the Yankees were beaten by the Angels in the American League Division Series.
Ostensibly, Newman will be replaced by Gordon Blakeley, who has served as the club’s VP of international and professional scouting. But there’s no doubt Steinbrenner will remain at the epicenter of the Yankees’ universe, as he’s pushed even GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Torre further away from the decision-making process.
The return of the old George is not a welcome sight for veteran Yankee fans, but it should be greeted with open arms by the rest of the league. If history tells us anything, the more meddlesome Steinbrenner becomes, the more trouble his team will encounter. If the Yankees can’t be beaten on paper, then maybe they will implode from the pressure cooker coming out of Tampa. You think Joe Torre is going to earn his keep this year? Oy. Pass the pepto.
MORE ON LIEBER
Mike C, over at Baseball Rants has posted the latest installment in his history of relief pitching, an excellent and thorough chapter which covers the 1970s. (There is another good article on relievers at Futility Infielder.)
I recieved an e-mail from Mike yesterday giving me his take on the Yankees newest starter, Jon Lieber:
…The best way to sum [Lieber] up is that he is a typical Pirate pitrcher. He’s about average, maybe a little better. It seems that the Pirates organization has generated thousands of number-three pitches, guys with ERAS slightly over 4.00 who win 12 games a year (Esteban Loaiza, Steve Parris, Jason Schmidt via Atlanta, Steve Cooke, Francisco Cordova, Kris Benson, Todd Ritchie, Jimmy Anderson, Josh Fogg and Kip Wells–both via the ChiSox. I guess the best of the lot is Denny Neagle and he came from the Twins).
He was pretty good in 2001 but not great and it looks like a career year. Given the injury, his return is dicey at best. I don’t know much about the injury. Somehow though I think it’s not a bad move. If he can return, he’s cheap by Yankees’standards and has a higher ceiling than Hitchcock, say.
He has odd numbers. His strikeouts fell from around 8 per game in 1999 to around 5.5 in 2001, but he improved (?). He still manages to strikeout about 3.5 as many guys as he walks, and even though he gives up more than a hit per inning, he has a good WHIP (1.27 for his career, under 1.2 the last two years) because he doesn’t give up many walks. He’s a control type that will drive you crazy some days, but if the planets align he could have a season like Paul Byrd’s last year (who also recovered from an injury just prior to 2002).
It seems that it cost theYankees one of their braintrust to sign him, so that’ll hurt. At least he’s interesting.
Keven Kernan writes another insipid tribute to local hero Gil Hodges in today’s Post. I don’t doubt that Hodges was a wonderful player, a good manager and a fine man, but I’m sorry to say that alone doesn’t qualify him as a Hall of Famer. New Yorkers, in their inimitable, grandiose fashion, may feel that their love for him is enough. It’s not. Here is a typically unconvincing argument offered up by Mets long-time radio voice, Mr. Schlitz himself, Bob Murphy:
“I’ve studied the record and he is definitely deserving. He was the leader on a wonderful baseball team, that sent what, four, five guys to the Hall, not only that, but his stats substantiate him being in the Hall. And Tom Seaver has said that Gil was the best manager who ever lived.”
Gil Hodges was much more than all that, though.
“I’ve been making a living out of sports for 50 years,” Murphy explained, “and there are two people who I would put at the top of the list of the finest people I’ve ever met, Gil Hodges and the basketball coach Henry Iba.”
I question that Hodges’ statistics merit his being elected to the Hall, even though he did lose vital years to the War. And that Tom Seaver thinks he was the best manager who ever lived, means 100% Dick to me. I’m not down on Gil Hodges so much as the weak, sentimental case that has been made on his behalf.
WINDY CITY RIVALRY
I’ve never been to Chicago, and know precious little about the rivalry between the North Side Cubbies and the White Sox of the South Side. I’ve always pulled for the Cubs in a distant, sympathetic way. The White Sox? I never had much of an opinion either way. But last year I began wondering why the White Sox and their losing legacy has been so over-looked. The Cubs and Red Sox are famous because of their suffering? What about the White Sox has regulated them to misfortune’s stepchild? I asked the Cub Reporter, Christian Ruzich for his thoughts on the White Sox-Cubs rivalry.
He sent me an e-mail yesterday:
Well, now, I would never say that White Sox fans are dopes. After all, my mom is White Sox fan.
Let’s just say this — remember that shirtless father and son duo that ran out onto the field and attacked Tom Gamboa? I don’t think there were too many Cubs fans who were surprised that it happened at Comiskey Park.
In general, Cubs fans would say that White Sox fans are mullet-wearing, Camaro-driving drinkers from the south suburbs, while White Sox fans would say Cubs fans are ex-fratboy stockbrokers who only care about the scene at Wrigley instead of watching the game.
Like all stereotypes, they both have a kernel of truth to them — Comiskey is very blue-collar stadium in a working-class, mostly black neighborhood, and the fans tend to be people who’ve followed the White Sox for a long time, through thick and (mostly) thin. I used to love going to Old Comiskey, but the new one is soulless, plus when I was 21 I almost got in a fight with a guy who wouldn’t stop smoking right behind us during a playoff game so I have a bad attitude about the place.
Meanwhile, Wrigley is in the middle of an affluent, mostly white neighborhood, and the people at the stadium (I hesitate to call them fans) tend to be people using the company’s season tickets, or frat-boys who’ve paid 50 bucks for a bleacher seat and are walking around with a stack or 11 or 12 empty Old Style cups. It got bad after the Cubs won the division in ’84 and TribCo decided not to hold back any bleacher seats for day-of-game purchase. Still, I’m a Cubs fan and I cherish the memories of the two years I lived close enough to the park that I could sit on my stoop and hear the crowd signing along with Harry Caray.
Anyway, that’s probably more than you wanted to know, but there is a definite White Sox vs. Cubs split among Chicago fans, mostly from the White Sox side (check out http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=3&id=953 to see what I mean).
…There are a few other White Sox legacies, like the South Side Hit Men of ’77, or Winning Ugly in ’83. And of course the Bill Veeck Era (Disco Demolition, the exploding scoreboard, the shower in the bleachers, etc.). But yeah, the White Sox really haven’t captured the imagination of people outside the South Side.