Hope everyone has a chill evening.
Stay safe, be merry and Happy New Year!
[Picture by Bags]
After yesterday’s post I realized it was time to stop evading the steroids/P.E.D “witch-hunt” issue and address it head-on in a helpful way. What follows is a case-by-case look at the evidence and facts in the cases of prominent players who have been suspected or accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and a careful evaluation of their guilt or innocence.
Evidence: Named in the Mitchell Report and accused by former trainer Brian McNamee, currently under federal indictment for lying to Congress about his P.E.D. use. Head the size of a zeppelin. None of that is definitive, however: we need to look deeper.
Roger Clemens’ win-loss record is 354–184. 3+5+4+1+8+4 = 25. As we should all know from our studies of numerology, 25 symbolizes the Law according to Saint Augustin and the Universal Word of God according to Abellio*. In addition, “According to visions of Ann-Catherine Emmerich, the duration of the trip of the Three Magi was 25 days,” and “Mahomet was 25 years old when he married a widow, named Khadidja.”
Furthermore, one of Roger Clemens’ attorneys is Rusty Hardin. Hardin earned his law degree at Southern Methodist University in 1975. 1+9+7+5 is 22 – that’s right, Roger Clemens’ old uniform number. There are 22 letters of the alphabet in the Pentateuch, and Jeroboam reigned for 22 years. Taking it one step farther, 2+2 is 4, and “number 4 people” tend to be “hard workers” and “dependable” with “a higher purpose in life.”
(*Yeah, I don’t know either. Cursory research indicates that Abellio is either an ancient god worshipped in the Garonne Valley in Gallia Aquitania (now southwest France), or a British bus company. Either way I think that’s pretty conclusive.)
Evidence: Palmiero was born on September 24th, 1964, making him a Libra. Libras are “desperate for the approval of others,” “crave new knowledge” and “set out to accomplish their chosen goals and will find ways to succeed one way or the other.” Ruh-roh. On top of that, Libra is the only inanimate sign of the zodiac.
Verdict: Guilty, and possibly inanimate.
Evidence: He turned me into a newt!*
Verdict: Burn him!
(*I got better.)
Evidence: Back acne, per veteran blogger Murray Chass. In Salem back in the day, midwives used to check suspected witches for “black marks” on the body which might indicate their guilt. So, what we really need to know here is, did this “bacne” consist of whiteheads or blackheads? I have emailed Mr. Chass and eagerly await his response. Until then, we can reach no certain conclusions. (Disclaimer: Chass is not currently a licensed midwife. As far as I know).
Evidence: With Bagwell, we are lucky in that we can apply the immutable laws of tasseography, or tea-leaf reading, to his facial hair over the years. I can clearly see an icicle in many photos of Bagwell’s beard, signifying his being frozen out of the Hall of Fame. In addition I can make out an upside-down Christmas tree, symbolizing Bagwell’s pact with Satan, and wavy lines, which symbolize an uncertain path. According to tasseography experts, owls symbolize gossip, scandal, and aliens, while an ostrich represents travel and “not seeking a truth.” I don’t actually see an owl or an ostrich in Bagwell’s beard but I’m just saying.
Also, while I hate to use guilt by association as an incriminating factor, the following picture is too revealing to ignore:
Verdict: Sorry Jeff.
Free agents have been treating Brian Cashman as if he were carrying around a suitcase filled with Confederate money. Cliff Lee turned away millions to go back to Philadelphia. Brandon Webb snubbed the Bronx to pitch for the defending American League champs. Superutilityman Bill Hall opted for more playing time with the Astros. Premier platoon man Matt Diaz did the same, signing with the lowly Pirates.
All of these players, to varying degrees, could have helped the Yankees. Yet, they all said no, either because they wanted greater roles with their new teams, or more comfortable environs, or they simply didn’t like New York. As a result, some critics have already dubbed this a winter of failure for the Yankees, but it’s too early to make such a stark characterization. While starting pitching is in short supply on both the free agent and trade markets, there is simply no reason why the Yankees cannot address other areas of concern, namely the bullpen and the bench.
In reference to the latter need, the most interesting name I’ve heard is Andruw Jones. It seems like a lifetime ago that Jones was taking Yankee pitching deep in the World Series. That was 14 years ago, when Jones was beginning the peak phase of his career. Jones is no longer the same player–the monster who hit 51 home runs with a .922 OPS in 2005–but that’s not to say that he is ready for retirement. Soon to be 34, Jones is still a useful player, one who would suit the Yankees quite nicely.
Playing as a No. 4 outfielder for the White Sox last season, Jones clubbed 19 home runs in only 328 at-bats. More pertinently, he reached base 37 per cent of the time against left-handers, while slugging .558 against those same southpaws. Those are awfully good numbers. His .931 OPS against lefties in 2010 actually exceeded Marcus Thames’ mark of .806. Furthermore, Jones’ defensive ability makes him a better fit for pinstripes. Thames is a liability anywhere you play him, but Jones still has enough speed to play center field on an occasional basis, and enough arm to play right field. He can easily handle left field, making him a candidate to platoon regularly with Brett “The Jet” Gardner.
Playing left field and batting eighth against left-handers, Andruw Jones would be a plus for the Yankees. He would raise the level of the Yankee bench, which is currently too young and too punchless. Hopefully, Cashman’s money won’t look so “Confederate” in the New Year.
This has been a particularly brutal year for baseball mortality. In fact, I can’t remember another year, at least not a recent one, in which so many notable baseball people passed away. We lost three Hall of Famers in Robin Roberts, Sparky Anderson and Bob Feller, and two legendary broadcasters in Ernie Harwell and Dave Niehaus. There have been many other departures, too, from Ron Santo and Bobby Thomson to Willie Davis and Mike Cuellar.
Perhaps no franchise has been touched more than the Yankees. The most famous owner in team history, George M. Steinbrenner, was felled by a heart attack. Two managers–Ralph Houk and Clyde King–left us. So did a longtime minor league manager, Frank Verdi, who also played one game for the Yankees. The list of departed players included the underrated Gil McDougald and the stylish Tom Underwood. The great Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium, also died. Even the New York media was hit hard. Writers Maury Allen, Vic Ziegel, and Bill Shannon, who covered the Yankee in one way, shape or form, all put down their pens for the last time.
For someone like me, who has been watching baseball avidly since the early 1970s, almost all of these deaths had a direct impact. The one exception was McDougald, who played before I was born, but nonetheless became a fixture through the wonders of Old-Timers Day. I remember many times when Yankee broadcasters mentioned that Shannon, who knew the rules inside-out, was the official scorer for that night’s game. I read the creative words of Allen and Ziegel in papers like the New York Post and the Daily News. I heard Sheppard’s dignified voice often, either in person or filtering through the television set. I watched Underwood pitch with smoothness and efficiency. I remember reading about Verdi’s work as a minor league skipper in the pages of The Sporting News. I watched the Yankees play for both Houk and King, two good baseball men. And I was there for every year that The Boss owned the team, starting all the way back in 1973.
As I get older, I feel that more and more of these passings affect me. Maybe that’s the price of aging. Sadly, we lose a little bit of Yankee lore with each death. At the same time, it’s important to keep remembering what each man did, and what he meant for baseball. Each one left a mark, and in good ways. And while we’re all remembering what they did, let’s hope that we don’t lose as many Yankees in 2011.
Bruce Markusen lives in Cooperstown, NY with his wife Sue and their daughter Madeline.
There are many reasons why I should never, ever be allowed to have a Hall of Fame vote.
For one thing, you know I would absolutely vote for players based on whether they had cool or funny names, based entirely on my own personal criteria. Welcome to the Hall, Wayne Terwilliger! I would work to establish a sort of Veteran’s Committee variant to ensure that historic greats like Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenburger and Bris “The Human Eyeball” Lord were not forgotten but instead enshrined in their deserved splendor.
I would also probably not be able to resist voting for Don Mattingly and indeed pretty much any player who spent time on the Yankees roster between 1996 and 2001, not merely undeserving fan favorites like Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez, but also, there’s a good chance, Graeme Lloyd, Chili Davis, Robin Ventura, maybe Brian Boehringer and quite possibly a bunch of players whose names I don’t even remember at this point. Do I really think Scott Brosius let alone Shane Spenser is a Hall of Famer? Of course not, but it’d be nice to do a little something for those guys, you know?
I guess there’s not really a way to throw anyone out of the Hall once they’re in, but I would try to change that and, in the meantime, regularly TP and egg the plaques of Tom Yawkey and Walter O’Malley, also occasionally drawing devil horns and lipstick and goatees on their bronzed faces. Actually, I guess there’s nothing stopping me from doing that now even without a Hall of Fame vote, except the fear of arrest. Little known fact: if you’re a Hall of Fame voter you legally cannot be arrested within Cooperstown city limits. It’s like diplomatic immunity. I’m pretty sure.
In addition, I would try to get the name officially changed to the Hall of Very Good just because it would piss people off so much.
Finally, please note that my complete failure to take the Hall seriously does not mean that I won’t sputter indignantly when the results are announced next week, because I absolutely will, especially if Jack Morris gets elected and Blylevyn does not, and also if I have to read about the Bagwell-steroid-suspicion mishegoss for another damn week. Indignant sputtering is one of life’s little pleasures and every baseball fan’s innate right, and I greatly look forward to it.
I was reminded by Joe Sheehan’s 2011 predictions at SI.com of this promising youngster:
Just fun to say. Dexter Fowler Dexter Fowler Dexter Fowler. Sounds like a fictional 19th century clerk but held his own in the majors in his age-22 and -23 seasons which is nothing to sneeze at. He also blew threw the minors, played for the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics, and led all of baseball in triples last year.
Any favorite writing exercises?
Eavesdrop and write it down from memory–gives you a stronger sense of how people talk and what their concerns are. I love to eavesdrop! Gossip. The more you talk about why people do things, the more ideas you have about how the world works. Write everyday, just to keep in the habit, and remember that whatever you have written is neither as good nor as bad as you think it is. Just keep going, and tell yourself that you will fix it later. Take naps. Often new ideas come together when you are half asleep, but you have to train yourself to remember them.
Write everyday. Every. Day. Show up. Do the work. Show up.
Forgive me, I’m thinking out loud. But hey, I’ll take inspiration wherever I can find it.
I caught “The Kid Stays in the Picture” on cable the other day…I’d forgotten just how damn enjoyable it is.
And if you dig it, check out the audio cd of the book.
Thank the Baseball Gods for the Guillen family; in a cold quiet winter they bring us sparks and adventure. Yesterday White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s son Oney absolutely lit into former White Sox and current Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks on Twitter. Highlights are many, but include:
hahah memo to bobby jenks get a clue u drink to much and u have had marital problems hugeee ones and the sox stood behind u
they did not air out ur dirty laundry, u came to srping not drinking and then u sucked and started srinking again be a man
be a man and tell the manager or the coaching staff how u feel or the organization when u were with the sox not when u leave
u cried in the managers office bc u have problems now u go and talk bad about the sox after they protected u for 7 years ungrateful
if it wasnt for u and mainly u freddy garcia would have like 17 wins and the sox would have beat the twins …
…oh and yes i remember clearly u blowing a hugee game in 09 and u laughing ur bearded ass off while everyone busting there tail…
…one little story remember when u couldnt handle ur drinking and u hit a poor arizona clubby in the face i do. and later u covered it wit
Im sorry thats ur answer to everything. How can u disrespect ur ex team like that
Uh, yikes. The comments from Jenks that brought this on were obnoxious, but fairly tame in comparison. He told reporters that he wanted “to play for a manager who trusts his relievers, regardless of what’s going on,” and said “Why would I come back to that negativity? I’m looking forward to playing for a manager who knows how to run a bullpen.” He also felt that the White Sox didn’t handle their decision not to re-sign him particularly well, which is debatable, but a common enough sentiment when teams and players part ways.
Jim Margalus of South Side Sox writes,
I wouldn’t be surprised if most, if not all, of what Oney Guillen tweeted about Jenks was true. There were a couple of weird tongue-holding episodes at the end of the season; Jenks creating an uneasy scene by spitting on the clubhouse floor, Kenny Williams saying “there are certain things I’m not going to talk about right now.” To this point, Williams has resisted kicking Jenks out the door, but Oney seems to have filled in at least some of the blanks. None of it was necessary.
OK, nothing Guillen’s middle son does is necessary when it comes to White Sox Business, but this was bringing a grenade to a pillow fight. Jenks only criticized Ozzie the Manager, and that brings only Bobby the Pitcher into play. There’s lots of room for insult there. His attitude, his inconsistent performance, which may have been attributable to his inconsistent conditioning … pick one and hammer away if you please. That’s an eye for an eye, and all in a day’s work for these highly compensated professionals.
That would accomplish far more than taking private information and making it public.
This isn’t the first time Jenks’ personal issues went public; in Jerry Crasnick’s “License to Deal: A Season on the Run With a Maverick Baseball Agent”, Crasnick and Jenks’ former representative Matt Sosnick describe the pitcher as “an agent’s nightmare – the type of player who constantly tests management’s patience and rarely takes responsibility for his actions,” whose “drinking and capacity for self-destruction… soiled just about everything he touched,” a “reclamation project” who “couldn’t be reclaimed.” Ouch again.
I’m sure the Red Sox knew what they were getting into and if Jenks pitches well, as he has in the past, no one on the team or in the stands will care much about the guy’s flaws, whatever they might be. If he doesn’t, though, Boston is not a place where it takes very long for things to get ugly.
Anyway, Oney Guillen’s rant was clearly unprofessional and inappropriate, but in these days of corporate-speak, careful PR men, and dull canned quotes, I’ve gotta say I’m glad somebody is still able to go off the reservation like that.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the Yankees look pathetic if the 2011 season rests on the arm of an old-timer like Andy Pettitte? I’m not saying Pettitte wouldn’t help, but if they can’t win without him, uh, didn’t someone take a left turn at Albeturkey?
Over at Pinstriped Bible, Jay Jaffe takes a look at the Yankees on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Baseball never feels farther away than when you’re wading through three-foot snow drifts. I drove back to the city from upstate New York on Sunday and got home just as the roads started getting really adventurous. Yesterday, stuck and abandoned cars were all over the streets, and today everything is still eerie and off-kilter, if pretty sweet-looking. It’s hard to even imagine April.
Here’s something that helps, though: the 2011 Bill James Handbook, which my dad got me for Chrismukkah (he’s also the one who got me James’ Historical Baseball Abstract one fateful holiday when I was still in college). I don’t get as excited about the Handbook as I do about Baseball Prospectus every year – or as I would have for James’ yearly abstracts had I been old enough to read them at the time – simply because it is almost entirely tables and numbers, with very few essays and little analysis. It’s a very handy reference, though, and there are always some gems in there; and in a blizzard, in the early dark, at the tail end of the year, you take your baseball where you can get it.
Interesting things from a first flip through the Handbook:
*Maybe some of you already knew this, but in bit of an upset, our own Brett Gardner won the 2010 Fielding Bible Award for left field, beating out three-time champ and 2009 winner Carl Crawford.
*The first-ever unanimous Fielding Bible winner was three-peater Yadier Molina. Sigh.
*The most intriguing thing in this year’s handbook, to me, was the new section on Managers, a feature I expect to refer to often this year. For every Major League manager it includes, among other stats:
Like I said, very cool. So we can see that Joe Girardi had more quick hooks than most managers (46), and that he used a fairly normal number of lineups (114 – Trey Hillman’s Royals used just 24, the Red Sox used 143, and Tony LaRussa, naturally, led ‘em all with 147). He and his players attempted fewer stolen bases than in any of his previous years as a manager, and he ordered 37 intentional walks – a slightly higher number than most AL managers – of which 26 got a good result.
One item that I found particularly interesting: in 2006 with the Marlins, Girardi faced some criticism for overusing pitchers and wearing them out, risking injury; last year, he was sometimes criticized for being overly cautious with his pitchers. And yet over the course of his career, he has remained pretty consistent in how often he uses relievers on consecutive days, and in how often he has a slow hook on his starters. Obviously those stats don’t tell the entire story, but they do suggest to me that some assessments of Girardi’s managing probably have more to do with perception than facts.
There are also projections for every hitter and pitcher, but I prefer to wait and see how James’ projections compare with BP’s PECOTA and other systems, to get a better sense of the general range a player’s numbers are expected to fall in. (I will be a lot more zealous about that if I decide to do a fantasy team this year. Until I get organized enough to remember to arrange my pitching staff over the course of a season it’s probably a futile undertaking). But I couldn’t resist checking on our favorite demigod Mariano Rivera. James’ projection:
61 games, 62 innings, 47 hits, 3 HRs, 11 walks, 58 Ks, 1.89 ERA.
That’s what I like to see.
Coolin’ Out with Brother Jack McDuff:
The holidays are a great time to reflect on the year gone by. The solitude that accompanies shoveling out your driveway and cursing the plow and Mother Nature allows for ample time to put the pieces in place for some of those reflections.
With that in mind, 2010 brought those of us in the Yankee Universe some joy, but mostly heartache. Here’s a quick recap of some of the stories, headlines, and cyberlines that made the year.
STORY OF THE YEAR
I had a tough time narrowing this one down. Thus, I broke it down into three sections, for the three stories that encapsulated the Yankee year.
1) George Steinbrenner’s death: Mr. Steinbrenner’s health had been in question almost from the moment he collapsed at Otto Graham’s funeral in 2003. His death nine days after turning 80 was a huge loss for the organization, and a huge loss for baseball. It cast a pall over the rest of the season, but strangely, not in the way that Mickey Mantle’s death in 1995 or Joe DiMaggio’s death in ’99 did.
The coverage centered around the typical elements: his purchase of the team from CBS and the return on investment, the seven championships won during his ownership tenure, the managerial changes, the bombast, the Dave Winfield investigation, his suspension, his return, and lastly, how sons Hank and Hal — mainly Hal, now — will fill the void.
Had Bob Sheppard not died two days before Mr. Steinbrenner, I wonder if this wouldn’t have been a bigger story.
2) Whiff Lee: The Yankees almost had Cliff Lee twice in the 2010 calendar year. On July 9, the Yankees and Mariners had a deal in place that would have had Lee switching dugouts at Safeco Field, but it fell through due to the Mariners’ rejection of a couple of Yankee prospects included in the deal. In the offseason, the consensus, especially after Lee’s playoff domination, was that the Yankees and Rangers would get into a bidding war for Lee’s services, but that the Yankees’ dollars would prevail over the Rangers’ proximity and Texas’s lack of a state income tax. That was, until all hell broke loose and and he signed a 5-year, $120 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Dec. 15. All I can hear is Lee, in the voice of Mr. Garrison from South Park, launching into “Merry F—ing Christmas” as an ode to Yankees and Rangers fans far and wide. Context is a little different than what Mr. Garrison was going for, but the tone is similar.
Jayson Stark had a tremendous column on how the deal went down. This column ignited the conspiracy theorist in me. Why didn’t the New York media pick up on this and start throwing around theories that Lee, his agent Darek Braunecker, and the Phillies had concocted this evil, sinister plan a year ago, much like LeBron James and Chris Bosh discussed joining the Miami Heat as far back as the 2008 Beijing Olympics? The answer to that last question is that it would have been poor journalism. However, for a provocative column, that would have gotten a few readers riled up.
The lesson, apparently, not everyone wants to play in New York. But the Yankees re-signed Sergio Mitre and picked up Pedro Feliciano, who should be good for about 95 appearances next season. And Alfredo Aceves is due back, so they’re all set.
Adding insult to injury: the Red Sox are now fully staffed, and stacked. They’ve traded for Adrian Gonzalez, signed Carl Crawford, and fortified their bullpen with Bobby Jenks’s man-boobs and Dan Wheeler, leaving the Yankees reeling like Rocky Balboa in the first fight with Clubber Lang. Not good times for Mr. Brian Cashman. Not good times at all.
3) Derek Jeter’s Contract Drama: The non-story that was a story because people get paid to write about this stuff, and we’re the suckers that buy the papers, listen to the talk shows and read the blogs, tweets, etc. The Jeter Contract story makes this list because it fits the criterion of a story of the year. It dragged out the whole damn year.
Honorable Mention: Colin Cowherd’s FUBAR reasoning behind AJ Burnett’s struggles.
THE SIGN OF THE YEAR THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS NEAR
Sometimes you can take stock in radio interviews, sometimes you can’t. Three weeks ago, I was driving to the mall on a Saturday, and I happened upon Jody Mac interviewing Wally Matthews on 1050 ESPN New York. Matthews was recounting a conversation he had with Brian Cashman in the wake of the Cliff Lee debacle. Matthews said, “One of the last things I said to him was, ‘Please tell me you’re not considering Carl Pavano.’” To which Cashman replied, “I’m not ruling anything out.”
Imagine this: Sabathia, Hughes, Burnett, Pavano, Chamberlain.
After losing out on Lee, Greinke, and Brandon Webb, who knows what will happen in the next few months? The last time Cashman said he was prepared to go into the season with what we have, it was the 2004 offseason, and he was referring to Bubba Crosby as the Yankees’ center fielder. Less than a week later, he signed Johnny Damon. The only thing that will appease fans at this point is pulling off some kind of miracle trade with Seattle that will bring Felix Hernandez to the Bronx.
BEST YANKEE BOOK THAT’S NOT REALLY A YANKEE BOOK
It actually came out in 2008, and I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this until I received it as a Christmas gift from my mom. “Babe Ruth: Remembering the Bambino in Stories, Photos & Memorabilia” by Julia Ruth Stevens, his daughter, is a fantastic coffee-table book. I’ve already spent a couple of hours just looking at the pictures and some of the pull-out replica pieces of memorabilia, including tickets from the 1922 World Series.
As much as I love the iPad, books like these make a sound argument for Traditional Media.
GAME OF THE YEAR
I know I’ll get some groans over this one. (What, no Game 1 of the ALCS?) But this game had everything: lead changes, clutch hitting, clutch defense, and a surprise ending. Jorge Posada’s home run that led off the 11th inning hit the restaurant in center field at the Trop. It left his bat like it was shot of a Howitzer. If it didn’t hit the restaurant it would have traveled another 50-75 feet easy, as writers on the scene confirmed the ball had barely begun its descent when it made contact with the plexiglass.
In the bottom half, Carl Crawford led off with a single and failed to tag to second on a deep fly ball to center by Evan Longoria, a shot that even Mariano Rivera thought was gone when it left the bat. Crawford subsequently stole second and tried to tag on a shallow fly ball to right field by Matt Joyce. Why Crawford was trying to advance to third is still unknown, but Greg Golson, flat-footed, gunned him down at third to end the game. Just a fantastic play. For me, it was the most exciting game of the year.
And yes, we were contractually obligated to throw a game-related Award into the mix.