"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

It’s Baseball Season?

Three weeks ago, with the Knicks floundering amid the Giants’ Super Bowl victory, the anticipation of Yankees’ arrival in Tampa for the start of Spring Training would have been met with great anticipation and fervor. Jeremy Lin changed that. The Knicks are relevant. Madison Square Garden is buzzing. Baseball is on the back burner, save for those of us who follow the sport more closely than the winter sports.

From a newsmaking perspective, it was a relatively quiet winter for the Yankees. They took care of the CC Sabathia contract early; Jorge Posada’s retirement marked the next phase of the end of the Core Four; the pursuit of CJ Wilson wasn’t as aggressive as the pursuit of Cliff Lee a year ago, so it wasn’t as much of a shock or a perceived loss when the Orange County Angels signed him. The Yankees did make the backpages — in baseball-related news, anyway — by trading Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda. Shortly thereafter they signed Hiroki Kuroda. The respective deals left no doubt that Allan James Burnett’s time as a Yankee was limited.

And so it was that the Yankees ended the Burnett Era on Friday by paying the Pittsburgh Pirates $20 million to take him off their hands in exchange for two minor leaguers. Burnett can now put the “Pie” in Pirate.

The timing of the Burnett trade was similar to the one that sent Alfonso Soriano to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Alex Rodriguez eight years ago, although to be sure it is not nearly as significant a deal, and it won’t cause anywhere near the circus that A-Rod did. Jettisoning Burnett is more of a simple “addition by subtraction” move. There were many who viewed getting rid of Alfonso Soriano similarly (considering what he has become, and how that move indirectly pave the way for Robinson Cano’s emergence, maybe the folks with that view were correct).

Monday’s signing of Raul Ibanez assures they have a left-handed hitting DH who can also play a little outfield to spell either Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher. It also marks a homecoming for Ibanez, a native New Yorker. Look for many of those stories over the next six weeks, particularly as the Yankees prepare to break camp.

Other than the typical puff pieces — how does the pitching staff shape up, particularly now with three arms under the age of 30; how is the respective health of the aging left side of the infield; who is the 25th man, etc. — it figures to be a quiet Spring. That was until Mariano Rivera revealed that 2012 would be his final season.

Even with the buzz Mo’s statement caused both locally and nationally, it won’t cause nearly the level of craziness that David Wells’ book, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield’s respective roles in the BALCO scandal, a certain trip to Japan, or the afterglow of a World Series championship did. And that’s fine by the Yankees. It leaves more time and room for Jeremy Lin and the Knicks to own the spotlight.


1 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:07 am

I think people have forgotten just how ridiculously popular the Knicks are when they're going well, we got a little taste of it last year but moreso this year. NY is still firmly a baseball town I think, but NBA is a solid second...yes, even more than football.

And I still say the weekend of the A-Rod trade is the craziest and most out-of-leftfield 72 hours I've ever experienced as a Yankee fan.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:26 am

I've had no fewer than 8 people at the office tell me today: "See, Melo being back fucked them up." Melo is the Knicks' version of A Rod. Maybe it's the glossy lips.

3 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:29 am

[1] Agreed. I've had this discussion with Alex over e-mail, and we were going to debate it in a column at one point, that NY is actually a basketball town, especially when the Knicks are good. Even when they stunk, the Garden wasn't particularly empty. ... The A-Rod trade was both unreal and surreal. I remember being in a laundromat when my colleague who was in Tampa called me with the news. The next two weeks were ridiculous. We had wall to wall coverage online. It was a lot of fun, but hectic as hell.

4 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:32 am

[2] Ha! No, Alex, it's the lack of emotion at times, the perception of phony, and the selfishness they display on the field/court at times. Neither has/had the reputation of being a "team guy", and with their respective employers pitching a team concept as the foundation of their identity, one individual throwing that equilibrium out of balance is a problem.

5 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:33 am

[2] Small sample size. They weren't going to win every game for the rest of the season. But that's NYC, of course . . .

[1] I missed the entire thing. I took my wife to Paris for a few days to celebrate our first Valentines day as a married couple, and so was completely out of the loop. We got on the plane to come home on Feb 16, and as we got into our seats, a flight attendant asked if we wanted a copy of the IHT. I wanted to see what I missed, so I said yes. It was front page news and mine was not the only cry of shock, amazement, and joy on the plane.

Of course, the paper had only a little bit of information, and I had to wait 9 more hours until I got home to delve into all the details.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:52 am

[2] I can definitely see the Alex/Melo parallels, and I'm firmly of the belief that Melo will step his game up knowing that everyone is expecting him to "fuck it up."

And yeah, I think you can make the case that NYC is a basketball town. The Knicks have a ton of pull here considering they haven't won anything in 39 years, even in the worst years they would pull in 15,000 a night.

and I was at Tony's Di Napoli on 42nd when the A-Rod news broke, you just started hearing cell phones ringing at every table in a packed restaurant on a Saturday night. My college roommate, a Sox fan, called me and said "Congratulations, you did it again." I had no idea what he was talking about.

7 Dimelo   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:55 am

In my best (and virtual) Jim Mora voice:
Baseball?!?! Baseball?!?!? Don't talk about BASEBALL!!!! There are so many other non-baseball related teams doing well in NYC, the Yankees will be lucky to get just get one back-page headline this March.

8 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 21, 2012 10:58 am

[2] & [4] What an exciting moment in NY sports. The Knicks could easily go south from here or they could develop into a very good team. So many variables. I'd argue Carmelo is the last thing they need to worry about, much more interested in Lin's development.

Watching vs the Hornets and Nets, he's got so much to learn, but a really good base to work from. Hoping for the best...

9 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 11:02 am

I think blaming Melo or A Rod or Beltran is knuts. I hate that kind of talk. But probably because Reggie was my first hero, I've generally defended the big ticket guy, from Winfield to Giambi. Hate it when fans pile on those dudes.

10 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 21, 2012 11:09 am

[9] I get it. Not piling on, just making an observation. As you know, with big ticket come big expectations. A-Rod at least delivered when they needed it most three years ago. They don't win that title without his massive postseason contributions. Melo, the jury is still out.

11 ms october   ~  Feb 21, 2012 11:51 am

i think lebron's stature and treatment reminds me more of alex rather than melo.

to me, ny has a ton of diehard basketball fans that appreciate the nba moreso than just the knicks. i think that is why there has been so many memorable msg games when a visiting star went off.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 12:14 pm

10) Oh, I know you do. Was more bitching about the obvious yahoos, the casual sports fans that jump on that stuff. And I get it, too. If you are the big ticket guy you are expected to deliver. But I also think the expectations become so black-and-white that some fans refuse to appreciate the talents the players do bring.

13 Dimelo   ~  Feb 21, 2012 12:18 pm

[9] I don't get how you can accept the money but not bear a brunt of the responsibility, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. You can get philosophical about it and say, it's not fair or that it isn't right, but I see that everywhere I go it works that way. If someone is given a lot of money to come to work for my company, then a lot is expected of them.

If they can't even do the work they were hired to do, then people do become critical of their work because of the high expectations associated to the title they hold.

Why should the rule be different for ARod or any other big superstar? I'm not against Melo, but I think if after a while the team does better when he's not on the floor then how can't we make conclusion that he IS the problem, he's getting paid big dollas, but he ain't making any cents (sense) when he's on the court.

14 Dimelo   ~  Feb 21, 2012 12:36 pm

[12] I think ARod certainly was a key cog in 2009, but for the most part his playoff history has been marred by disappointment. I loved 2009, but last year it was absolutely scary (not in a good way) when he came up to bat during the playoffs. And sorry if it upsets ARod, or his fans, but he really pissed on any good will he earned from 2009.

Let's examine Lebron, Lebron was talking about multiple championships when he went to Miami, but if he fails to deliver on even one championship, or ONLY gets one championship, then why is it wrong for fans to look at his overall career in Miami as a failure? I think that's fair.

Sports is big money clouded by a lot of irrational behavior, and I do agree with you that there's a big part of a fan-base where rational arguments never enter into their stratosphere. However, when people expect BIG things from their superstars, who used their talents as leverage to play for a specific team. Then yes, fans start to set really high expectations.

Case in point: see Eli Manning. He got a ton of grief for orchestrating the trade to the NY Giants, but right now he's delivered. Melo wanted to come here, he better be ready for the shit-storm coming his way if the Knicks all of a sudden stop winning.

15 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 1:00 pm

Dude, the issue is not accountability. Of course, those big ticket guys should have added expectations. What I'm saying is that the expectations can be of such a black-and-white nature that you miss appreciating what the player delivers in the process. Rodriguez won two MVPs for the Yankees and that's not insignificant even for a win-only Yankee fan. And check the records, Rodriguez hasn't been a playoff bust outside of 2009. He had great years in the playoffs for the Mariners and was really good in 2004 for the Yanks. Which isn't to say that he hasn't been bad in other years. He has, and sure, he can take a beating for that. But to suggest he's always been a dog outside of 2009 is just not accurate.

Melo hasn't played a full year for the Knicks yet. The guy won a national championship in college, he was great for the Olympics team, he took the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. He's not a career loser. I'm still willing to give him some slack. Maybe he doesn't work out. But I don't see Amare doing much better and he skates.

And I don't think Beltran was treated fairly. And it's all because he took that final strike in '06.

16 Dimelo   ~  Feb 21, 2012 1:14 pm

[15] I don't think Melo is being given a fair treatment, the sample size with Lin-Sanity is way too small to come to any conclusion. But if they don't score with him on the court, and end up losing a lot of games, then it's not wrong for fans to come to their own conclusions.

I guess we have a different view on what equates to success in the playoffs, because I don't see the stats you see with ARod prior to 2009. There is that one ALDS against the Twins in 2004 that inflated his numbers, but other than that, I don't see it (prior to 2009) since he's joined the Yankees.

What players did prior to joining the team I root for is only slightly important.

I agree with you that Beltran wasn't treated fairly, should a lot of that anger be re-directed to David Wright instead? I think so. He had an awful series against the Cards, Beltran was really good. I feel you there, that's not rational.

I don't think ARod has been treated unfairly in NYC.

17 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 21, 2012 1:21 pm

It's reductive past the point of utility to blame/credit a superstar for failure/success. That's why it sucks. You can analyze a contribution, weight it with the paycheck sure, but beyond that it just obscures what actually matters in a team sport.

18 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 1:23 pm

16) Well, we'll agree to disagree in that one. He was a monster vs the Twins and good against the Sox in 04. He was bad in 05, 06, so-so in 07, great in 09, and mediocre in 10 and 11. On the whole, he hasn't delivered in the playoffs as often as expected. That is true. Not sure how you just discount the two MVPs. When was the last time a Yankee won one of those before Rodriguez? 20 years?

Then again, Mickey Mantle was garbage in several WS too. Let's not even talk about your boy Posada, a horrible post season player, cause I know you are talking about big guys.

So, Dave Winfield's Yankee career to you was horseshit?

Interesting about LeBron. We'll have more on that later in the week when I post my interview with Scott Raab.

19 Dimelo   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:00 pm

[18] I was a kid when Winfield played, I didn't put so much stock in the fact that he was a part of Yankee team that didn't win championships. Though I was hurt by the Yanks inability to make it into the playoffs.

Posada wasn't paid to be the MAN. I don't have an issue with Posada, plus he did hit that double against Pedro in 2003. Even though that was the shortest double ever. LOVED THAT!!!!

I don't care about MVPs, I'm glad those are hanging right below ARod's centaur paintings.

20 NoamSane   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:17 pm

I think Super Stars get too much credit when their teams win and too much blame for losses. These are team games, and I like to watch great teams play in a team-oriented fashion.

It's why the late 90s Yanks were so easy to root for and why I'm enjoying the Linsanity Knicks so much. A lot of people aren't recognizing that a big part of this winning string is because the Knicks have been really energized on the defensive end of the floor. Getting stops allows you to go on runs. Going on runs gets everyone, team, fans, coaches excited and into it.

Melo is going to fit with Lin fine on offense. The problem is that any team with Melo and Amare on the floor is going to have a porous D. Personally, I'd like to see the Knicks find someone to take Amare off their hands ASAP. I'm not so sure about his health now and going forward anyway.

21 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:17 pm

Well, so I know you hate Teixeira, too. Paid to the MAN.

Catfish Hunter was a piece of shit as a Yankee as well in the playoffs. He was paid to the MAN. But I guess that doesn't count either because you were just a kid then. Don't ever want to hear you say anything nice about Catfish though. LOL

22 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:18 pm

20) Amare's got no lift anymore. And yeah, good point about the D. The Knicks really missed Shumpert last night.

23 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:29 pm

to me 2007 went a long way towards my liking of A-Rod, that was the first time in his Yankee tenure (yes, even moreso than 2005) where he completely put the team on his back from Day 1. We all remember Chase Wright, Darrel Rasner, et al. There is no way that team even sniffs the playoffs without the monster year he had.

The one thing I will say is that in those REALLY bad playoff years (back end of '04, all of '05 and '06) A-Rod seemed to take a lot of slings and arrows for the rest of the team. Matsui hit .200 in that Anaheim series, Sheffield hit .083 vs Detroit. And yet we never seemed to hear too much about that.

24 NoamSane   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:48 pm

[22] Good point about Shumpert. He's become really valuable now that he's freed to concentrate on his strengths.

[23] Good point about the Lightning-Rod attracting all of the blame.

25 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:52 pm

Ted Berg has written a lot about how Beltran received the A Rod treatment from Mets fans.

26 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 21, 2012 2:56 pm

speaking of the Mets, Robert Lipsyte's story from yesterday's Times on the '62 Mets Spring Training is a must read


27 Greg G   ~  Feb 21, 2012 4:15 pm

I think one of the similarities that Giambi and Arod share is that they were not homegrown players. They were viewed as mercenaries.

The Yanks won without them, and then they get on board and the Yanks lost. I don't think it was all their faults. One could argue that the money they were paying Arod could be better spent on 3 other players to fill other holes (Bench/Bullpen). (Especially after he opted out, and not as much when the Rangers were paying part of his salary).

I hated Clemens before he was a Yankee and his winning certainly made me warm up to him, but the team kept winning. He joined a winning team.

ARod was supposed to make a winning team unstoppable. It is a lot of hype and pressure.

ARod had some great moments as a Yankee and winning cures a lot. Even though I warmed to Clemens, part of me always thought he was a jerk. The Piazza bat incident? I feel the same way about ARod too. Even if he were the clean home run record holder, part of me will always think that he is a bit of a jerk off the field.

Not all of our sports stars are going to be model citizens like Jeter, but especially in a town like NY where the media reports on what you had for breakfast, perhaps we learn too much about these guys? Ty Cobb was a bastard, but I am sure back then, the fans just wanted to see him hit the ball.

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