"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Can’t Anybody Here Play this Game?

There is no secret to the Yankees approach to Pedro Martinez–or any dominant pitcher, for that matter. You hang in there, keep the game close, hope to chase him by the late innings, and win the game against the bullpen. The Yankees have spoiled many good performances by Martinez over the past five, six years. True to form, the Yanks did it again yesterday, ruining a fine outing by Pedro, and beating the Mets, 5-3.

Alex Rodriguez is doing everything to live up to his new moniker. In the bottom of the second inning, with men on second and third, Martinez cued a soft ground ball to Rodriguez. It looked like a sure out, but the ball knocked off the side of Rodriguez’s glove, a run scored and everybody was safe. Another run came home on an RBI single, as Rodriguez’s muff led to two unearned runs. (Somewhere, Cliff Corcoran was slapping his forehead in disgust.) Cliff Floyd added a solo bomb off of Pavano the next inning and the Mets looked to be in good shape behind an effective Pedro, who was resuced from his only real jam in the first by a terrific diving catch which sent David Wright into the stands.

Several key faces were missing in action yesterday, as Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield all sat due to injury. Dig this: The Yankees 7-8-9 hitters were John Flaherty, Rey Sanchez and the pitcher. Womack, Williams and Matsui were the starting outfield. Yipe. This was far from an imposing line-up and Martinez took advantage. Rodriguez got one of his runs back with an RBI single (he finished the day 2-4 with a walk), and then got an opportunity for redemption in the top of the eighth. Errors by Wright and Reyes put runners on first and second wtih one out (Womack was the lead runner, and Derek Jeter, pinch-running, was behind him). On the first pitch, Womack and Jeter took off and easily pulled-off a double steal.

Here it was, but Rodriguez fouled out. Groan. Matsui followed though, and took a fastball that was low-and-away beautifully to left field for a two-run single. The man is tough in a big spot, right? The game was tied. Bernie Williams was next and he stroked a double into right, scoring Matsui. That was all the Yankees would need. They tacked on a run in the ninth, as Stanton-Gordon and Rivera set the Mets down without any drama to end it. Pavano pitched a solid game and the Yankees out-lasted the Mets to win the series. Or, if you want to be crass about it, the Mets just out-sucked the Yankees. Neither team play particularly well over the weekend, and if the Friday and Sunday games were close, possessing a degree of tension, they were not pretty.

But hey, but looks are overrated. Just ask Rodriguez.

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1 Frank Yank   ~  May 23, 2005 7:01 am

1.  These Yanks aren't hungry, and don't know how to win. Individual All-stars they are, but Yankees, in name only. Sure there are a few who have won World Series Rings elsewhere, but these Yanks are teammates in name only. Where's the commitment to each other? They remind me of the 76er team that traded for Erving and McGinnis to complement Dawkins, Bobby Jones, and Mo Cheeks. Supposedly had 'Stars' at every position. Only problem was they each waited for the other guy to show their stuff, and it never came together. It takes time to get in the groove of knowing what a teammate does instinctively. But desire is the key. Joe better let George read the Riot Act, or he'll be replaced by Sweet Lou. These Yanks are not winners. Yet.

2 singledd   ~  May 23, 2005 7:19 am

2.  In your key to beating Pedro and the Mets, while partially correct, you forgot about the '2 errors in one inning for the opposing team' part. We could have easily been 0 for 3, and yet our one loss was with RJ on the mound. Go figure.... that's Baseball.

Are we (Cliff...) being a little hard on 'A/E-Rod'? The guy played outstanding D last year, and is a very good fielder in general. He has been crappy in the field thus far, but that is an aberation. Leading the league in HRs, RBI and RS doesn't hurt either.

Again, his salary is not his fault. Please blame Hicks. What is Jetes making? You can blame Hicks for that too. If owners are gonna offer riduculous money, please don't blame the players. Until salaries are based on performance (ha!) the whole show is so distorted, it isn't worth talking about. Until one of us is offered 10 mil for going to work in a diaper with bells hanging from our b_lls and says NO, let forget about salaries.

Giambi has been striking out a little less in his last few games. Little consulation. For Bernie to come up clutch while living in 'demotion' mode is testimony to his character.

I predict that as the upcoming series with Boston goes, so goes the year. Our pitching has been coming around, our D continues to be terrible (as expected), but our offense is very spotty. We can't always wait for the other team to make errors.

I say if the Yanks trade either Cano or Wang for someone in a wheelchair, that (Alex) we use this site to organize a march on Steinbrenner's office. I for one, am as concerned with the next few years as with this year.

The comments on this site are right on about the poor scouting, coaching and management decisions. Leave the players alone and start getting the organization back to where we can be proud of it.

3 Murray   ~  May 23, 2005 7:29 am

3.  No, thanks. I don't do protests.

The 8th inning double steal yesterday was the kind of intelligent, opportunistic move at which the Yankees have excelled during the past ten years. Jeter in particular has a sixth or seventh sense of what to do in that spot. And t was a pleasure watching Bernie deliver that hard liner to the corner in right field. I feel very happy that I have had the pleasure of watching Bernie Williams play here for the past 14 years.

Friday night was the fourth coldest game I've ever sat through at Shea, and Sunday wasn't that much warmer. When does baseball weather arrive in New York?

4 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  May 23, 2005 8:09 am

4.  Anyone else notice that A-Rod's on pace to have one of the best offensive years ever had by a Yank?

5 Simone   ~  May 23, 2005 8:13 am

5.  About RJ's struggles, I see that Olney, Lupica and those of their ilk are ready to bury him, but didn't Clemens go through similar struggles, his first season as a Yankee? Are their situations comparable? I read that RJ is concerned about not being on a 5 day schedule, but he needs to understand that this isn't Arizona any more and that the Yankees need him to focus on pitching well against the Red Sox, not the Tigers.

6 Oscar Azocar   ~  May 23, 2005 8:26 am

6.  E..uhh..A-Rod taketh and giveth. He gave an RBI single, but also played a significant role in allowing 2 runs to score. Net effect of -1 run for the game. Unfortunately, his defensive struggles have overshadowed his significant offsensive contribution, including an improvement with RISP. The bat is great, but he needs to play defense well, also.

Cliff's point about Giambi still plays true. Did anyone notice that Giambi kept fouling Pedro's fastball off to the left side?

7 Patrick   ~  May 23, 2005 8:29 am

7.  Not worried about A-Rod.

"And t was a pleasure watching Bernie deliver that hard liner to the corner in right field. I feel very happy that I have had the pleasure of watching Bernie Williams play here for the past 14 years."


8 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  May 23, 2005 8:43 am

8.  A-Rod's 10 RBI game was a net plus 10, Oscar Ozocar. I know you played a better 3b than A-Rod ever will, but to say his defensive woes have overshadowed his offensive output and then use 1 games as evidence of this is an odd way of arguing. Perhaps, season-long stats back your claim. I'm guessing not, but maybe.

9 Jen   ~  May 23, 2005 8:44 am

9.  Murray, I agree about the steal. And while Jeter is pretty good at that, you have to give Womack props for this one. He's been coming through big time on the bases.


10 Murray   ~  May 23, 2005 9:11 am

10.  Absolutely, full credit to Womack. The only other person who matched Jeter's baserunning sense during the past 9 years was O'Neill. Add Womack to that short list.

11 markp   ~  May 23, 2005 10:20 am

11.  I knew it. Only here could a guy go 0 for 7 with no runs or RBIs and make two errors in a game and a half get a pass while the guy that gets on base 10 times in 14 plate appearances with a double a run and 2 RBIS (one of which is the only run they scored of Pedro) gets ripped.
The guy leading the world in HRs and RBIs is the reason we're near 500, right?
Not the clean-up hitter with the 734 OPS.
Not the pitching staff with the middle of the pack ERA.
Not ther LF with the 634 OPS.
Not the CF/DH with 642 OPS.
If only Arod were as good as these guys in the field and at the plate, we'd be a lot better off.
How can anyone call themselves knowledgable and continue to try to put the blame for the Yankees being where they are on Arod? The mind boggles.

12 Oscar Azocar   ~  May 23, 2005 10:48 am

12.  Nick

1. As for playing a mean 3B, actually, Oscar Azocar played mostly left field, and swung at pitches 9 ft. outside the strike zone :) Oh wait, my fielding prowess: horrific at best!

2. I should have clarified the statement, as I was writing about people's perception of A-Rod. If he wants people off his back, he has to improve his D. Last year, people picked on him because of his poor performance with RISP. Now it is his D. It doesn't help that his gaffes opened the door to runs being scored (ex: the potential game ending DB vs. the Sox in the opening series, the 8 or 9 runs that the Mariners scored after his errors in another of Pavano's starts, then yesterday).

The guy's having a great year at the plate (VORP was around 24 the last time I checked, and it was topps among 3B), but his fielding rate was around 88 (per 100 games) versus 103 last year. The guy is more than likely a net contributor (don't have time to check an apples to apples stat comparison of runs created on defense and offense) due to his prolific offense, but needs to regain confidence with his D.

3. I believe the primary problem with this team is poor defense. They are last in the AL, and second to last in the MLB in DER (defensive efficiency rating).

13 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  May 23, 2005 11:03 am

13.  Oscar Azocar never spoke of himself in 3rd person if we are being historically accurate here. But points well taken, and sorry for jumping down your throat about the A-Rod stuff. I'm with markp. It's mind boggling that with so many sub-par performances people are focussing on A-Rod.

14 Knuckles   ~  May 23, 2005 11:44 am

14.  When the Mutts come to the Bronx in June/July, can the Yankees forbid them from wearing anything other than their normal road grays? All of their Sunday/Alternate/Full-Moon/Arbor Day unis look like doody.

I don't think people should be jumping all over E-Rod in general, but his defensive miscues this season seem to come at the worst points in a ballgame. Maybe he's like that Greek guy who has to roll the stone up the hill for all eternity- last year he sucked with RISP but also played sterling D when it counted too (anyone remember his 'triple play' in the July 1 game?), and now this year he has pushed his RISP stone up the hill only to watch his glove fall outta his pants pocket and slide back down.

15 Don Fiedler   ~  May 23, 2005 12:14 pm

15.  You mean Sissyphus? or Youkilis?

16 JohnnyC   ~  May 23, 2005 1:21 pm

16.  So is Danny Graves worth a shot? Or is he shot?

17 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  May 23, 2005 1:52 pm

17.  my vote: he's shot

18 brockdc   ~  May 23, 2005 3:59 pm

18.  Has it been 6 days yet?!

Bernie has more than earned domain over the DH spot for the balance of the season. He turned that 95mph gas into a game-winning double. Giambi can spot start at 1st and DH against lob-ballers like Jamie Moyer.

19 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 23, 2005 7:17 pm

19.  Markp,

I understand your point about Rodriguez but I think the source of the misunderstanding (between those who like the guy and those who don't) goes beyond numbers.

I am a reasonably knowledgeable baseball fan who has yet to get hep to sabermetrics and perhaps never will. That said, I don't see the Yankees as a corporation whose value can best be expressed in terms of statistical production. This is one metric, but not the only one for me as a baseball fan.

I like to like the guys I watch play. I like to form emotional bonds and make emotional judgements about them. That's what makes the game special to me. If I want to cut Jeter slack for his abysmal performance, what's it to you?

Jorge makes more than his share of gaffes and blunders but you know what? I like him. I'm used to him and so am willing to overlook his miscues. Plus, he flaired that ball into centerfield off of Pedro in one of the single most exhilerating moments of my baseball fandom.

As to Rodgriguez, I'll admit, I just don't like the guy, whatever numbers he puts up. Same with Giambi. Now, that can always change, but the onus is on them to make some magic for me.

I never warmed up to Clemens until he won that game in Boston when Pedro tangled with Zim.

For me, players are more than their numbers because baseball is more than its numbers. It's about moments and impressions, things that simply aren't quantifiable.

I may not be as deft with the numbers, but I feel what I feel. Rodriguez is to me someone with an alarming tendency to wilt when the pressure is on. Maybe it's an illusion, maybe it's not.

I just don't quite get why it peeves you so that some people respond more to the emotional aspect of the game than the quantifiable. Can you explain this?

20 markp   ~  May 23, 2005 9:34 pm

20.  wilt under pressure? What did Arod hit in the 2004 postseason? Now what did Jeter hit during that same postseason? What are Arod's numbers in post-season throughout his career?

Baseball isn't more than numbers. Everything that happens in baseball ismeasured. Hits, errors, walks.

As far as "clutch", show me one time when someone who went looking for it was able to find it. You can't. Because a whole lot of people tried to find it and it doesn't exist. Arod's RISP and LIPS have been excellent throughout his career.

How can you objectively judge a player without using numbers-especially when you already have a bias against him? It's impossible.

All Arod does is work hard and play well. He takes the blame even when he's getting a disproportionate amount (like how Pavano was getting battered, but all anyone could talk about was Arod's errors.) He's having, by far, the best season for the Yankees so far in 2005. But even when we win 12 of 15 games, all some people have to say is how Arod stinks. It's stupid. He doesn't stink. He's the best player on the team by a wide margin. In the clutch, in postseason, and the rest of the time.

21 brockdc   ~  May 23, 2005 10:56 pm

21.  A-Rod doesn't stink. He just comes with impossible expectations as the "best all-around player in baseball," which he is not. As a fan, I care less about stats and more about the unquantifiable, intangible feel I get about certain players. And I think, to get that feeling about players, one needs to watch them over time and connect with some defining moments, i.e., pivotal moments throughout the course of the season.

With that said, A-Rod will endear himself when he proves that he can dominate the Red Sox (as opposed to the Twins) IN the playoffs WHEN the season is on the line.

22 brockdc   ~  May 23, 2005 10:58 pm

22.  I do agree, though, that he has become a whipping boy.

23 murphy   ~  May 24, 2005 5:21 am

23.  while at the end of the day i am probably more of an emotion guy when it comes to judging players, i do love following numbers. i don't have the knack for them that our humble leader, cliff, or markp seem to have, but i know my fair share and love to keep track of yankee stats.

that being said. the jury is still out on arod. most of my friends being met fans, i have had to take shit for YEARS about the yanks recent dynasty being entirely money generated. it used to be that i could point to homegrowns like jeter, pettite, posada, and bernie or intelligent mid-career trades for solid, yet not HOF-bound, guys like O'Neill or Tino, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. ARrod is just a further example of team buying rather than team building. as a fan on the defense, that is not comforting. my personal strife aside....

i understand that the batting numbers (and even last year's fielding numbers) are in Rodriguez's favor, but he didn't boot balls against the Royals this weekend, he booted balls against the Mets. he's not batting .192 vs the Devil Rays, he's batting .192 vs the Red Sux. these things matter to fans. so while his RISP numbers look decent overall, his performance in the "high pressure" matchups continue to look like less-than-$154,000 games.

i am not sure who Seattle and Texas's big rivals are, but i would be curious to see how ARod fared against said teams - and moreover, how the local media in Seattle and Arlington handled them.

24 Paul   ~  May 24, 2005 6:19 am

24.  This thread will end soon, as tonight is another game and undoubtedly we'll move on to other subjects. But I just wanted to lend my support for markp's post #11 above. Rodriguez is a great player who just happens to be making the most $ in baseball, and had the misfortune of arriving to the Yanks when their team began to age. As a result, he's the target of both unreasonable expectations and a huge amount of criticism. No one player can carry a team in baseball, no matter how good he is, and Rodriguez can't make up for the weak LF/DH productivity, lousy defense up the middle, overworked bullpen, fragile starting rotation, etc.

There is simply no way a player this good (leading AL in HR and RBI right now) hurts any team, despite what some media pundits (and Curt Schilling) say. If he finishes strong and the Yankees make the playoffs, it would be wonderful to see him get the MVP.

25 singledd   ~  May 24, 2005 10:46 am

A: .284 .353 .490 .843 23.7 28
B: .283 .323 .498 .821 21 29

These numbers do NOT include this year. Player 'B' is having a better year then Player 'A' so far.

Any guesses on Player 'A' and 'B'?
'B' (I think) has more native talent, 'A' has performed better.

Hints: Player 'A' plays CF and could have been a Yankee, and has a 7 yr contract for 17mil/year.

Player 'B' WAS a Yankee, plays 2nd base, could possibly make an outstanding CF, and has a 1yr 7.5mil contract.

If you thought we should have signed Carlos Beltran (even by overpaying him), don't you think we should go after Player 'B', who could be had for (maybe) 1/2 as much, and could play 2nd OR be moved to CF?

Look at their career numbers. Soriano had a bad post season..... but at (maybe)HALF the cost of Beltran, wouldn't it be nice to have him, along with Jetes, ARod and Matsui for the next 6 years?

Imagine him batting after Jetes and B4 Sheff. Imagine being able to go after a CF OR 2nd baseman next year, and put Soriano where he is needed.

Imagine him reaching his potential.
Alex, Cliff.... you both wanted Beltran.
Wang and Cano and cash (or whoever) for Soriano.

26 rbj   ~  May 24, 2005 10:50 am

26.  No no no. Do not trade Wang and Cano. To me, it looks like they both have good potential. Plus they do bring the team age down a bit more than Soriano does. I like him, wish he still was with the team (no I'm not knocking the trade) but a good young pitcher his hard to find.

27 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 24, 2005 11:08 am

27.  Markp, one final point, and then I'll let the matter rest for now. YOu write, "Baseball isn't more than numbers. Everything that happens in baseball ismeasured. Hits, errors, walks."

I can't believe you mean this, but if you really do, why not ignore the games and just read your stats post-facto?

We watch human beings play, not machines. And no, not everything that happens in baseball is measured, but observed. Watching an epic at-bat in a big spot between the pitcher and the batter can be measured (how many pitches, how many balls, were the fouls straight back, to the left, etc.) but the tension, the emotion of the confrontation is not measured. This is something that's highly subjective and a product of the performers on the field as well as the fan watching.

Seriously, if the game were as irreducibly quantifiable as you suggest, then I think it would be spectacularly uncompelling.

I can't believe you don't see this.

28 singledd   ~  May 24, 2005 11:16 am

28.  Look... in general, I hate the idea of trading Wang and Cano.... but who else does anyone want? Wang looks good, but nobody thinks he's a number 1 or 2. Do you? The truth is we can get a Wang quality pitcher on the market. Cano looks real, but Soriano has been about the best 2nd baseman for 4 years... his numbers are better then most CFs... and he could get a lot better.
maybe if he came back to NY, he would get the 'Tino' effect.

You know how athletic Sori is. Imagine him in CF and our lineup for the next 6 years. We traded him for ARod... so its like getting ARod for Wang and Cano. Would you trade Wang and Cano for Beltran? Think about it. Jetes, Sori, Matsui and ARod, 1,2,3,4 for the next 5 years. Doesn't that sound nice?

29 jayd   ~  May 24, 2005 11:49 am

29.  great exchange in the clubhouse berniesportswriter


30 rsmith51   ~  May 24, 2005 12:03 pm

30.  Can't move Soriano to CF. Where would Jeter play?

31 rbj   ~  May 24, 2005 12:11 pm

31.  Singledd, I don't think we can get a good young pitcher on the open market. Who's out there, and at how much? Plus, I want Wang for this season, not to mention it is nice to have some players who've come up through your system, that cupboard is getting pretty bare these days.

32 singledd   ~  May 24, 2005 12:22 pm

32.  Gee.... I thought Sori came up through our system. And when Wright(who is Wrong) comes back, where are the genius's gonna put Wang?

Look. I like Wang and Cano, but I remember 2 years ago, when watching Sori bat was the most exciting part of a Yanks game. He's still relatively young and I think of him as a Yankee. RJ, Moose, Pavano and Wright are signed for next 2 years. That's 4 Pitchers. We have no CF, and next year is Sheff's last.

Most of us were pissing and moaning that we didn't get Beltran. I think Sori is 90-100% of Beltan at half the cost. Anyway, if the Yanks do this, we don't have to worry about trading Cano and Wang for some guy in a wheelchair (which is apt to happen.... ie: Clemens et al)

33 rbj   ~  May 24, 2005 12:46 pm

33.  Soriano is fun to watch, and I'd give him the nod over Cano. The thing with Wang is that he's young. Even Povano is nearly four years older. And Kevin's gone after this year. As for when Wright returns, someone else will be hurt. If not, he could get some more seasoning in Columbus. I'd like to see Bubba get some more CF experience. (FWIW, Sori spent some time over in Japan before landing a minor league contract with the Yankees. Still, I'd count him as a Yankee.)

34 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  May 24, 2005 12:56 pm

34.  I loved Sori too but I don't think I'd want to give up Wang for him. In all likelihood Soriano's past his peak (he aged two years in 1 day as I recall and is actually 29), and his conversion to OF is not a guaranteed success. Raw speed is not enough to ensure a successful change from 2b to OF. You need to be able to run efficient routes to fly balls. Also, I heard recently that Cashman says Wang reach 97 on the gun in warm weather. Sounds pretty exciting to me.

35 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 24, 2005 1:08 pm

35.  Confession: I loved Sori but soured on him during his abysmal performance in the 2003 postseason when he swung at pitches in the stands. I was deeply ambivalent: I loved watching him, but would he ever develop just enough of an eye and the plate discipline to use it to not fish so horribly.

That said, has anyone seen him lately? I'm sure he's still striking out, but is he more mature of a hitter? And should this matter?

36 markp   ~  May 24, 2005 1:34 pm

36.  I never said they weren't human beings, and I enjoy watching the games as much as anyone here (and have since the late 50s.) But that has nothing to do with the fact that everything in baseball is quantified.
If you make an out, that's a number.
If you range far to your left to make a great play, that's a number.
If you bobble a ball and allow somebody to reach base, that's a number.
If you hit a ball deep enough for a guy to score from third with less than two outs, that's a number.
If you hit a wicked line drive that's caught, that's an out-as it should be. If you allow a blooper that drops in, that's a hit-as it should be. There are no style points in baseball. Whatever the results are matter-nothing else.
If you walk two times and get a single in 5 trips to the plate, make 6 good plays and boot one ball, every bit of it are numbers.
How can you speak to the value of numbers if you haven't even investigated their usefullness? There are many books, articles on the web, and people more than willing to discuss it available for anyone to examine. Why not avail yourself to the information available before dismissing it?
I think the fact that sabermaticians have put the theories in writing and challenged anyone to disprove them without anyone being able to do so strongly suggests that their ideas have great merit. But to disagree without any investigation...

37 Murray   ~  May 24, 2005 1:42 pm

37.  So now the idea is that Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano are the same player based on two months' worth of statistically similar effort? That's a joke, right? Soriano has never played a game in the outfield, whereas Carlos Beltran is a defensive star.

The idea that you can simply move an athletically gifted player to another position and expect him to adapt immediately is wish-fulfillment fantasy. Players are people. They are not Strat cards.

38 dpg1973   ~  May 24, 2005 2:09 pm

38.  Fyi this year splits for Soriano
Home .984
Road .677

There was a comment in 2003 baseball prospectus

"The question is whether the Yankees can continue to make do with him at second. As Jeter has jokingly pointed out, Soriano can't jump, which makes a move to the outfield look unlikely, if not crabtastic. In general, the Yankees should only fret about moving Jeter or Soriano, not both."

Soriano wille be 30 next year. Do we really want to sign another 30+ player to a long term deal, give up the draft picks, and move him to a position he has never played?

I liked Soriano when he was here. I thought moving him when we did for A-Rod is the kind of deal the Yankees should be making.

39 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 24, 2005 2:18 pm

39.  Markp, as I said at the beginning of this discussion, I understand your point about the numbers, but was trying to illuminate something of the subjective side of people's judgments and feelings towards players and why these judgments aren't all about the numbers. I never dismissed such numbers or challenged their utility or merit. I was not challenging the value of numbers per se, just their value as ultimate factors in whether fans enjoy players or not.

I think the problem is we're fundamentally talking about two very different ways of experiencing baseball and thus having a hard time understanding each other. Anyway, enjoy the game tonight.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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