The Yanks play two against the O’s today as the trading deadline enters the home stretch. Rob Neyer has a piece on the summer trade-a-thon in today’s New York Times:
The most important thing to know about baseball trades made in July is that most of them do not amount to much. Few of the stars traded to contenders will be the difference between winning and losing, and few of the young prospects traded for stars will become stars. Still, we have had a flurry of activity leading to Sunday’s deadline for nonwaiver trades (don’t ask), with stars like Carlos Beltran, and numerous lesser lights changing teams and kindling hope among their new teams’ fans.
And although most of these deadline deals are ultimately good for all parties — contrary to popular opinion, baseball executives are generally intelligent — there have been a few notably disastrous deadline trades over the years.
Meanwhile, at the Stadium, Bartolo Colon takes the hill.
1. Gardner CF
2. Nunez SS
3. Teixeira DH
4. Cano 2B
5. Swisher RF
6. Chavez 3B
7. Posada 1B
8. Dickerson LF
9. Cervelli C
Long day of baseball ahead of us. Stay hyrdrated and:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Natasha Dominguez via Je Suis Perdu]
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.”
- Woody Allen
I couldn’t help but think of this classic Woody quote yesterday after Rob Neyer announced that he’s leaving ESPN. Almost immediately, a series of appreciations appeared on-line, from the likes of Will Leitch, Craig Calcaterra, Tommy Craggs and the boys at Pinstriped Bible (to name just a few). Rob is one of the most influencial baseball writers of the Internet Generation, and he’s a nice guy to boot, so it was warming to see all the love thrown his way. Especially, since he’s not, you know, dead.
Rob might have left ESPN but he’s not retiring. Today, he started blogging for SB Nation.
Big up Steve Buckley, longtime Boston sports writer, who came out today in a column for the Boston Herald. Wonderful news. It’s sad but true that homosexuality is the last great taboo in American sports. It shouldn’t be, but there you have it.
One day, there will be openly gay jocks in this country and somehow the Earth will keep turning.
As my wife said to me this evening, “Where you put your dick has nothing to do with your ability to hit the ball a country mile with millions of people watching.”
BB: I’ve been talking about what kind of player it will take to come out of the closet, and I’ve think, like Jackie Robinson, it will have to be a man of great character as well as great skill.
Neyer: Yeah, I think that’s right. And in fact, I think the comparison is apt. I got some flak from some people today in response to my column. I said the first gay player to come out would be a hero, to me at least, along the lines of Jackie Robinson and Curt Flood. People said, You can’t compare being gay to being black. Okay, fine, so it’s not exactly the same thing, although one could argue that people are born gay, or at least with the propensity toward being gay, just as you are born black. But my point was, though I didn’t make it explicitly, is that the thing that Todd Jones is saying about a gay player is the exact same thing that was being said about a black player in 1947. What he’s saying is, Oh no, I don’t have anything against gays personally, I just don’t want them around here because they’ll be a disruption. It’s the same kind of crap that members of the Dodgers were saying in 1947. It’s a bunch of bullshit. He doesn’t want to have to deal with it, that’s what it comes down to. The point of my column was that Todd Jones should be able to say whatever he wants to, without fear of being fined or suspended.
BB: Or getting killed by the P.C. Police.
Neyer: Exactly. But I also made the point that I think he’s full of shit. It’ll be a great day when a gay player comes out. And eventually—I hope in my lifetime—there will be lots of gay players, and nobody will give a damn.
BB: Buster Olney told me that he thinks the first gay player will probably have to be an established star—although he made the point that Billy Bean was in as good a situation as he’d seen for someone to come out, with the Padres in the early ’90s. Do you feel it would take an established star to be able to get away with it?
Neyer: I do. I think you have to have the combination of being a great player and also having the personality to withstand all the hassle. If you weren’t a good player it would become very awkward for a couple of reasons. One, the other players would not be as accepting if you are the 25 guy on the roster. Now if you are the best player on the team, or close to it, your teammates are going be a little more likely to say, Okay we can live with this guy the way the Dodgers did with Robinson. It would also make it much tougher on management if the player wasn’t great. It’s going to cause a disruption; there is no question about that. The media circus is going to be crazy when it happens. And the team will be put in this really awkward position. What if the guy is the 25th guy, and he really didn’t deserve a spot on the club? But they wanted to send him out. People will say you are only sending him out because he’s gay. And nobody wants to be put in that position, no team wants to be put in that position.
BB: Nobody wants to be the Pumpsie Green of the movement.
Neyer: That’s right. For all parties considered I think it’s going to work better if it’s a great player, or at least a good player. I think having him be the back-up shortstop could be a problem.
BB: One of the questions I have is what would a player stand to gain by coming out? Is it simply a guy saying, “I don’t want to live a lie anymore?”
Neyer: Or again it could be a guy who thinks this is important for other gays. That’s talking about the principle. I don’t know if it’s really our job to distinguish between motivations. It’s certainly more admirable if the player is doing it out of a sense of justice as opposed to a sense of “I just can’t live a lie anymore.” Either one is admirable I suppose, and we should be sympathetic to either position. But if there is something larger involved than just, “I can’t do this anymore unless I tell people I’m gay,” it would be meaningful. It’s not a selfless act in that situation, it’s more of a selfish act, which I can certainly sympathize with, and would cheer for him as well, but it wouldn’t be the same as somebody who would do it because he felt that he had a responsibility to make things better.
BB: I assume that there are gay ballplayers just like there are gay accountants. Do you think that teams and the writers who cover those teams know or suspect that some guys are gay, but just don’t want to deal with it publicly?
Neyer: I do think that’s the case. From what I understand, and I don’t know this to be a fact, because it’s been a while since I read anything about it, but I do think that there were people who knew that Glenn Burke was gay when he played for the Dodgers. I think there are gay ballplayers. I have no doubt about that, whatsoever, and I suspect that some of those players are either known to be gay by their teammates or are suspected to be gay. I think that it’s out there; I just don’t think people want to have to deal with what happens when you make it public. Think about all of the players who really aren’t going like you if you’re gay. They are certainly out there. I honestly believe that if a player came out, for the most part he’d be accepted by his teammates. I really think that. Would it be tough? Sure. Would there be some teammates that wouldn’t talk to the guy? Yeah. But you know what? Every clubhouse has guys that don’t get along now. It would just be a different reason not to get along. But for the most part I think they would be accepted, just like we accept gays that we know in our profession. Just like people grew to accept Jackie Robinson. Some of them didn’t like him, and didn’t go out to dinner with him, but they accepted him as a teammate. I think it would work exactly the same way in baseball with a gay player if someone gave it a chance.
BB: Someone’s going to be the Pee Wee Reese and go out and put his arm around the guy.
Neyer: That’s right. It sort of has a different connotation I suppose.
BB: Maybe he’ll squeeze his ass instead.
[Photo Credit: Lucius Beebe Memorial Library]
You think Robbie Cano will finish second in the AL MVP voting over Miguel Cabrera? That’s as close as he’ll get to winning it, according to Rob Neyer:
The question isn’t, “Who will win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award?”
That isn’t remotely the question, because we already know that Josh Hamilton is going to win. If he’s not the the unanimous choice, like Joey Votto, he’ll come very close.
And like Votto, Hamilton will be a fine choice.
The question is, “If not Hamilton, though, then who?”
Would you believe….?
It’s fair to be surprised that the Giants won in five games. Historically, most World Series have lasted longer than five games. It’s fair to be slightly surprised that the Giants won the World Series at all, because most of the numbers suggested that the Rangers were the slightly better team.
Anyone who is shocked by the 2010 World Series hasn’t been paying attention, over the years. The Giants were a very good team that played better than another very good team over the course of five games. If they play another five games next week, everything might be different.
They’re not going to play another five games. This one’s over. The great majority of Giants fans have never seen their team win a World Series. No Giants fan has seen their team win a World Series since moving to California more than a half-century ago.
Now they’ve got one. And as anyone who followed the Royals in ’85 or the Twins in ’87 or the Reds in ’90 or the Cardinals in ’06 will tell you, the only thing that matters is getting one. All the rest is details.
Rob Neyer makes the call–David Murphy should play right field tonight for the Rangers, not our boy Vlad:
Is Murphy a great hitter? No. He is adequate. He’s got a career .288/.354/.487 line against right-handed pitchers. Which (again) isn’t great.
It’s not nearly as good as Vladimir Guerrero’s, which shouldn’t be a surprise.
But Guerrero is old. Well, actually he’s middle-aged. It’s his knees that are old. Whichever parts of his body you prefer, he simply isn’t the hitter he once was. Guerrero’s got a .301/.349/.501 line against righties over the past three seasons. Toss in Guerrero’s 35 birthdays (compared to 29 for Murphy), and it’s very, very, very difficult to convincingly argue that Guerrero, right now, is a measurably better hitter than Murphy.
Over at ESPN, Rob Neyer asks: Does A.J. Burnett deserve a playoff start?
The moment Burnett left the Blue Jays for the Yankees he went from excellent to (roughly) average. Why this happened, I don’t have the slightest idea. Regression to the mean. Normal wear and tear. Nerves. Something in that pristine Catskill Mountains drinking water. I don’t know. But Burnett’s just not the same pitcher that he was, not so long ago.
This was masked last season by the vagaries of luck and ERA. In 2008, Burnett posted a 4.07 ERA with the Jays. In 2009, he posted a 4.05 ERA with the Yankees. But there were definitely signs of regression, and aside from his ERAs, this season looks more like last season than last season looked like 2008. Last season, his ERA should have been — with just average luck, I mean — somewhere around 4.30; this season it should be somewhere around 4.60.
Essentially, what the Yankees have gotten for their $16.5 million per season is a league-average starting pitcher. Which wouldn’t be so awful, except when you’re spending $16.5 million you do feel compelled to let him pitch. Which wouldn’t be so awful, except Burnett’s signed through 2013 and if he regresses much farther he simply won’t be good enough to pitch for a team that needs to win 95 games every season.
Right now, though? If you don’t have to pitch him, don’t pitch him. If you don’t want to start Sabathia on short rest, tell Burnett you’re just looking for five good innings and then the bullpen will take over at the first sign of trouble. Because while he certainly is not good, neither is he bad.
I gestured urgently to my wife, just then passing from kitchen toward bedroom with a jar of Gerber’s in her hand. “You might not want to miss this,” I said, unable to lift my gaze from the screen. “It could just be—”
“Be right back,” she said, disappearing from the room.
Too late. Several other things now disappeared as well—in rough succession: the ball into the lower grandstand seats at the Polo Grounds, above the left-field wall; self-control (“They did it! They did it! My God, they did it!” I yelled, rushing distractedly from room to room, bumping into walls and dogs and relatives); Bobby Thomson, the batter (who had just written the meaty portion of the first sentence of his obituary, whenever that would be), into embraces of his teammates around home plate; the Dodgers (severally, slowly, slumpingly, across the littered outfield and up the steep stairway to their clubhouse); and—soon thereafter, it seems—all further memory of the day and the game and my own succeeding emotions and remarks and celebratory gestures and exclamations on this the greatest moment of my life as a deep-eyed, native-born Giants fan, fan of baseball, fan of fable, fan….
The four-run ninth-inning rally, capped by Bobby Thomson’s killing homer against the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca, not only won the 1951 National League pennant for the Giants (the two teams had finished the regular season in a tie, and split the first two games of their best-of-three playoff) but stands as the most vivid single moment, the grand exclamation point, in the history of the pastime. So we believed then—knew it, on the instant—and so I believe to this day, and it’s funny that I can remember nothing else about that afternoon.
The word “value” has numerous definitions and interpretations. The noun form, per dictionary.com, has 15 listed meanings. The first several apply to some kind of monetary distinction.
But if we’re looking at value in terms of a baseball player and a certain annual regular season award that’s handed out in November, we need to looking at the adjective, or maybe even the verb. The best definition of the three verb lines that apply here: “to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.”
Because of the way the MVP vote is constructed, the discussion surrounding the debate comes down to a subjective analysis of who should be considered the most worthy, excellent, useful, and/or important player in the league. The miracle of modern technology has made taken the level of debate to new heights. Please to enjoy, for example, Tyler Kepner’s tweet on August 14, moments after Mark Teixeira’s tiebreaking home run at Safeco Field:
“By the way, this is probably obvious by now, but Teixeira’s the AL MVP. ‘No question,’ as Joe Torre would say.”
The statements themselves seemed innocuous. They were an impulse reaction to a great moment among many that Tex, ye of the 8-year, $180 million contract, has provided in Year 1 of the megadeal. That was until you followed the thread to catch the jibes about Tex’s negative Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and the running joke it’s become, and scoured the Net to read criticisms from Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, and my esteemed former colleague Steven Goldman – although Goldman’s retort wasn’t immediately directed at Kepner.
The criticisms of Kepner, save for broader strokes from Goldman and JoePos in SI, read like they traded in the horses that were driving the Joe Mauer Bandwagon for rocket fuel.
Put bluntly, it was an all-out Internet war with Neyer wielding a sabermetric sword (yes, pun intended), Pos casting spells with his wizarding words, and Kepner responding with a gun that instead of bullets, fired the stick with the flag that reads, “BANG!”
What inspired this particular post? An essentially meaningless home run, hit well after midnight (back in New York). I mean, I’m sorry, but the Yankees aren’t exactly in the middle of a pennant race anymore. They’ve got a huge lead over the second-place Red Sox. And if the Red Sox should somehow mount a late charge, the Yankees have a huger lead over the Rangers for that other postseason berth. … Joe Mauer currently leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. I don’t suppose anyone’s forgotten this yet, but he’s a catcher. Teixeira’s a first baseman. Are we really supposed to go for a power-hitting first baseman again, even when there’s a better-hitting catcher playing for a competitive team?” Neyer went on to say that he’s worried the writers are conspiring to rob Mauer of what should be a third MVP award for him.
He continued his fact-based rant 48 hours later, saying, “You know what? Let’s just be honest. The argument for Teixeira is an argument for doing it the way it’s always been done. Teixeira is just another big RBI guy on a team with a great record. If he were a Twin and Mauer were a Yankee, Teixeira would hardly be an afterthought. Some of you are OK with that. I’m not.”
Six days later, Neyer felt compelled to write about convincing Pete Abe on Super Joe. The goal, apparently, is to not only campaign for Mauer for MVP, but to have him win unanimously.
OK … now to Mr. Pos:
Look, could you make a case for Mark Teixeira over Joe Mauer? Well, you could make a case for anything. You could say that Mauer missed the first month of the season — so Teixeira has about 120 more plate appearances. You could say that the Yankees are going to the playoffs and the Twins are not unless they make a late season rush that looks more and more unlikely. But it sure seems to me that we need to start jabbing holes in this Teixeira MVP thing before it becomes a fait accompli.
Joe Mauer is having a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much better season than Mark Teixeira. I’m not sure I put enough muches in there. Mauer is on pace to win his THIRD batting title as a catcher — and no other American League catcher has ever won even one. He leads the league in on-base percentage AND slugging percentage, the two most important stats going, and the only catcher to ever do that in baseball history was … oh, wait, nobody. He throws out base runners and hits .395 with runners in scoring position (hits .457 with runners in scoring position and two outs) and even runs the bases well.
And three days later, JoePos had this to offer: “Not to slam this MVP thing again, but we do realize that even forgetting all those kooky ‘advanced stats’ that seem to annoy people, even with Mauer missing a month of the season with injury — Mauer has now scored as many runs at Teixeira and he’s only 13 RBIs behind, and his batting average is 95 points higher. We do realize that the last seven days, while the Twins have been in desperate need of victories (and not getting many), Mauer is hitting .552 with three home runs and a .931 slugging percentage. And he’s probably the Gold Glove catcher.”
And finally, Goldman:
Unless Teixeira leads the league in home runs by a significant margin, or Mauer cools dramatically, it’s hard to see him emerging from the pack when his season is unremarkable by the standards of his position. Of the last 60 awards (both leagues), first basemen won only 11 times. No first baseman won without hitting .300 (I am treating the 1979 Keith Hernandez/Willie Stargell split like an honorary Academy Award for Pops). All but one, Mo Vaughn in 1995, were well over the .300 mark. An average of those 11 seasons comes to roughly .333/.428/.624, and many of them, like Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez, both included in the 11, were fine defenders as well. Teixeira’s not having that kind of season.
Some harsh words in there. Kepner, following Posnanski’s initial commentary, issued a rebuttal at Bats, noting that “obvious” was a poor choice of words in his Tweet. In a way, he invited the storm and I thought he handled himself admirably among some respected, admired and talented industry heavyweights. I thought the degree to which he was made to be the piñata for “traditional baseball opinions” was a bit extreme. He’s entitled to his opinion, and opinions are subjective, just like the MVP vote.