"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Observations From Cooperstown: Godzilla, Torre, and Captain Clutch

Knowing the Yankees’ traditional habit of bringing back old favorites for one more go-round, I would not be at all surprised if a former Yankee rejoins the team for a second stint before the August 31st deadline. The Oakland A’s have made Hideki Matsui available, especially now that he has cleared waivers; he can be traded to any team in either league. The A’s don’t want much: just some salary relief on a player who will leave at season’s end as a free agent, and perhaps a warm body from Single-A ball. If the Yankees end up reacquiring Matsui, they would make him the left-handed DH in a platoon with Andruw Jones, further cementing Jorge Posada’s status as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter at first base.

Matsui’s season numbers are not that impressive–a .738 OPS and a mere 11 home runs–but they are better than Posada’s and have also been on a major uptick of late. (Also, remember that Matsui has had to play half of his games in the barren hitter’s wasteland known as McAfee Coliseum.) Since the All-Star break, “Godzilla” has hit .385 with a .573 slugging percentage. If he can hit at even 75 per cent of that level over the final six weeks of the season, the Yankees would be ecstatic. They would also have a more dangerous DH available to them for the American League playoffs.

The last impression that Matsui left on Yankee fans was a hearty one: an MVP performance in the 2009 World Series. I, for one, would enjoy seeing an encore in 2011…


Another former Yankee happened to be in Cooperstown this week. Joe Torre spent three days here as part of Major League Baseball’s owners meetings. Now working as a vice president of MLB, Torre is handling umpire evaluations and doing his best to improve the performance of arbiters while improving their relations with the players.

Torre is also doing his best as an ambassador of the game. I witnessed first hand how Torre deals with the public. Two families of fans came up to him in the Otesaga Hotel and asked him to have their pictures taken with him. Torre did not bat an eye. Even as one man struggled to make his camera functional, Torre remained patient and gracious. He is one of the people in baseball who simply gets it. We need more like him.

We also need more like him in the Hall of Fame. That should happen in December of 2013, when Torre is next eligible for Hall voting as part of Expansion Era candidates being considered by the Veterans Committee. Now that Torre is retired from managing, he should have little trouble acquiring the 75 per cent of the vote needed for election.

Assuming that Torre makes it, he will go in on the strength of his managing with the Yankees. Any manager who has ever won at least three championships has been elected to the Hall upon retirement; with four titles, Torre has more than enough championship hardware to convince the electorate that he is deserving.

Yet, Torre’s candidacy does not rely solely on his managing. Voters can and should consider a man’s entire career in determining Hall of Fame worth. When you combine Torre’s four managerial championships with what he did as a player–a career average of .297 and an on-base percentage of .365, a 1971 batting title with the Cardinals, five seasons with 100-plus RBIs, and much of the damage done while playing the demanding positions of catcher and third base–it’s obvious that Torre deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.

If he is elected in 2013, then the summer of 2014 will be a fun one for Yankee fans in Cooperstown…


Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

Those words would apply very well to Derek Jeter, who has lifted his average to a season-high .291. Right after his extraordinary 5-for-5 game that saw him reach the 3000-hit mark, Jeter fell into a brief slump. Some Internet writers who cannot contain their antipathy for all things Jeter and the Yankees absolutely reveled in his struggles. They treated the 5-for-5 game as a blip on the screen, acting as if Jeter’s subsequent problems were further proof that his days as a serviceable major league player had ended.

Jeter has been on a full-fledged tear since that mini-slump occurred, and though he’s still not the player he once was, a shortstop who can hit .290, reach base a respectable 35 per cent of the time, and run the bases like Jeter does have value. He’s still a better option at shortstop than the scatter-armed Eduardo Nunez or the hitless wonder that is Ramiro Pena.

Yet, some of those critical writers, especially those in the Sabermetric category, have gone quiet on the subject of Jeter. It is no longer convenient to talk about the future Hall of Famer, not when he is going well and again helping the Yankees win games. From them, we hear nothing but silence.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

Categories:  Baseball  Bronx Banter  Bruce Markusen  Staff

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 19, 2011 5:12 pm

Interesting. Jeez, imagine if Matsui replaced Posada.

2 rbj   ~  Aug 19, 2011 5:58 pm

Let's get the old gang back again for one more championship

3 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Aug 19, 2011 6:43 pm

YES YES, bringing Matsui back means every Yanks game would be on tv here! You guys have any idea what's it like trying to watch the A's play the Mariners on a scorching August Sat morning here? I'm asleep on the couch by the 3rd inning..

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 19, 2011 7:14 pm

Good stuff, Bruce.

- I love Matsui, and I could see him being valuable down the stretch, but I don't see it happening despite Cashman's tendency to bring back former Yankees.

-I love Joe Torre, and can't wait til he's inducted.

- I love that Jeter's critics have been silenced for now - but they're just waiting for the slightest stumble to start trashing him again.

5 MDF   ~  Aug 20, 2011 1:41 am

Thank you, Bruce, for a well written post, particularly concerning the continuing value (beyond the sentimental) to the Yankees of Derek Jeter.

But when did Steven Goldman become He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?

6 The Hawk   ~  Aug 20, 2011 12:27 pm

I'd love to have Matsui back. And I've been enjoying the crap out of Jeter's resurgence. I'm not sure why, but it's just very satisfying, beyond what I would have expected. Maybe it's because I took him for granted and his slip last year - even if it's somewhat anomalous, it still was a sign of baseball mortality.

7 Bruce Markusen   ~  Aug 22, 2011 6:46 pm

MDF, I was not even thinking of Steven Goldman when I wrote this. He did not cross my mind at all. I was actually thinking of others, including Joe Posnanski, who is an excellent writer but is one that seems to enjoy Derek Jeter's decline.

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