"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Tyler Kepner

Dare, Dare

 New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

Do the Yanks dare to let Robbie Cano go? No, they don’t. They’ll sign him. But Tyler Kepner thinks it is a decent idea:

Losing a superstar is not always as devastating as people fear at the time. Two winters ago, the St. Louis Cardinals watched Albert Pujols leave for a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. They responded by signing Carlos Beltran for two years, giving contract extensions to Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, and using their compensatory draft pick on Michael Wacha. Discipline sometimes works.

The Yankees are willing to give Cano $23 million or so for each of the next seven years, a $161 million package that is already too generous. That kind of deal has put the Yankees in their present state — decaying and injury-prone — and the team needs to break the cycle.

An influx of fresh talent from the farm system is the best way to start. The Yankees do not have those players, but that should not make them desperate. Desperate teams make the costliest mistakes.

[Image Via: Rob Tringali]

By the Book

 

Andy Pettitte is on his way but he’s not what the Yanks need writes Tyler Kepner in the Times:

Rays Manager Joe Maddon credited Ron Porterfield, the team’s head athletic trainer, for his pitchers’ durability, but Hellickson said he assumed all teams had the same kind of programs. Cashman said the pressure of New York makes the comparison unfair.

“I know they have a lot younger guys, but Pineda’s young and he just went down,” Cashman said. “I know the innings here are more stressful than the innings there, no doubt about that. Throwing 100 pitches in New York versus 100 pitches in Tampa are two different stresses. The stress level’s radically different on each pitch.”

Maddon said Cashman’s theory was worth considering. In a cosmic way, he could have added, the Rays deserve a benefit from playing before small crowds in an outdated home ballpark. In any case, Maddon said, the starters are essential to their model.

“Without that pitching, all the other wonderful stuff that we are, I don’t think really works nearly as effectively,” Maddon said. “It all starts with the starting pitching. That particular group and that part of our team really permits us to do all the other things well.”

While you are there, check out Hunter Atkins’s story about Joe Maddon–the King of Shifts.

[Photo Via Rays Renegade]

Just a Little Patience

Over in the New York Times, Tyler Kepner explains the Yankees’ approach this off-season:

It turns out the Yankees are not obliged to sign a player just because he happens to be a free agent who would fill a need. They won 97 games last season, the most in the league, before their first-round playoff loss. They can give it another try with these players and go back on the market next winter, when the free-agent starters should be much more appealing.

Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, All-Stars younger than 30 with strong postseason pedigrees, are unsigned past this season. Either would make more sense for the Yankees, in the long term, than [C.J.] Wilson or the other top starters on this winter’s market.

…What they are doing is planning ahead, a strategy that fits Hal Steinbrenner much better than it ever did his impatient father, George. Incentives in the new collective bargaining agreement would essentially reward the Yankees for reducing their payroll to $189 million by 2014. By then, Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher will be off the payroll, which has exceeded $200 million in each of the last four years.

At the moment, the Yankees owe just over $80 million to Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter for 2014. That leaves a lot of room for marquee talent, some of which is already in pinstripes.

This is all so sensible, though it feels odd on some level, a George-less Yankee team, one that exercises caution. Part of me is waiting for someone there to stop making sense–another Soriano maybe? In the meantime, they are being very Dude-like about it. Go figure.

Top of the Heap

Is there a better baseball writer in the country than Tyler Kepner? And I’m not just talking about newspapers. If so, please let me know because I’m missing something special. Kepner covered the Mets beat and then the Yankees beat for the New York Times before becoming the paper’s general baseball writer/columnist. His work features measured, even-handed analysis, good reporting, and, oh yeah, the guy can actually write. He’s just getting better and better. I got to thinking about him when I opened the sports section of the Times this morning. There are few sports writers than have all of Kepner’s skills these days and I, for one, am grateful to have him on the scene.

Also in the Times today is a long feature by Ken Belson on Hideki Irabu.

 

Tiger Style

Tyler Kepner on Miguel Cabrera:

Only five players in major league history have had 1,500 hits and 250 homers, while hitting .310 or better, through their age-28 season. They are Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols and Cabrera.

That is heady company, but Cabrera said he did not think much about his place in history.

“It’s too early,” he said Friday night after the first victory of a three-game sweep over the Cleveland Indians. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next month or next year.”

The man is a monster talent.

[Photo Credit: CBS News]

No Country For Old Men

The Yankees are a mediocre team right now and are dealing with the inevitable ugliness of their aging core. Jorge Posada is the first on the firing line, and Derek Jeter, who came to his friend’s defense, is next. Yesterday, team executives met with Jeter.

Tyler Kepner has a good piece on the latest behind-the-scenes business today in the Times:

The Yankees could have publicly ignored Jeter’s all-is-well stance on Sunday. But to do so would have let his words hang there as the official record of the Yankee captain’s stance on quitting. And if the captain were to condone a player bailing on his teammates and fans … well, then what?

…They were not afraid of further angering Posada, because they knew he was wrong — and, ultimately, he knew it, too. And they were not afraid of taking on Jeter, who clearly gave up his bulletproof status when he signed his new contract last off-season.

It was all to prove a point: that a player cannot quit on his team and expect the team to pretend everything is fine. It was a teaching moment for everybody, from aspiring young players to veterans like Posada and Jeter. Someone, it turns out, actually reads those hokey signs in spring training.

Easy Cheese

Tyler Kepner on a young flame-thrower…

Mr. Clean

On the heels of the new Joe D book, consider Derek Jeter: From the Pages of the New York Times. It’s handsome, with lots of glossy photographs as well as a fine introduction by Tyler Kepner. For the serious Yankee fan, this one is a keeper.

The Unfair One

Tyler Kepner on Mariano Rivera:

Mariano Rivera, who turned 41 on Monday, has continued to defy age. Every year since turning 35, he has pitched fewer innings than he did the year before. Starting in 2004, Rivera’s innings have gone from 78 2/3 to 78 1/3 to 75 to 71 1/3 to 70 2/3 to 66 1/3 to 60.

Rivera pitches less often, but when he does pitch, he is basically as effective as always. He has stayed strong enough to dominate in the postseason, allowing just one run in 28 innings over the Yankees’ last four appearances.

…There are no comparable players to Rivera. The closest is Hoffman, the only pitcher with more career saves than Rivera’s 559. But Hoffman has had two seasons with an earned run average less than 2.00; Rivera has had 10. Rivera has logged more innings in fewer games, and the workload of roughly two extra seasons across all those Octobers.

Okay, we can now go back to fretting about Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee (for the record, I say the Yanks start the season with all three–four, including Rivera–on the roster).

Lucky Be a Lady…Late Edition

We know the old cliche–heck, when it comes to sports and sports writing, sometimes everything feels like a cliche–”He pitched just well enough to win,” or “He pitched good enough to lose.” Last night, Johan Santana, vexed by bad luck on a bad team, pitched just good enough to lose. Again. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia, a good pitcher on a good team, pitched poorly, but well enough to keep his team in the game.

As Tyler Kepner writes in a good column today about Felix Hernandez:

Mike Mussina used to say that the best pitchers win half their starts. Mussina did that almost precisely over 18 seasons, winning 270 of his 536 career starts. Mussina understood the finicky role luck plays in wins and losses. But he also knew that, over time, a pitcher’s luck tends to even out. He deserved 270 victories, and that is what he got.

When the smoke cleared–presumably from all the fireworks that explode after a White Sox hits a home run–the Yanks survived a wild night of offense, 12-9. A good thing, as the Rays edged-out the Red Sox. Once again, the Yanks and Rays are tied for first place.

For the best and brightest of recaps, check out our friends at: River Ave Blues, Yankeeist, the Daily News, New York Post and New York Times.

Mark Teixeira left the game early and is listed as day-to-day with a bone bruise.

[Picture by Bags]

Sparkle Like a Diamond

Tyler Kepner on the one and only, Vin Scully.

[Picture by Bags]

Curtain Call?

There’s a good piece by Tyler Kepner on Trevor Hoffman today in the Times:

“The hitters are going to let you know,” Hoffman said. “They’re talking awfully loud right now. But I still feel I have something in the tank.”

[Photo Credit: The Brewers Bar]

Good Teeth, Great Game

Angels Tigers Baseball

I don’t know if Bobby Abreu is a Hall of Famer–he’ll probably walk too much when all is said and done–but he sure is in the Hall of the Extremely Good. (Back in 2005, Rany Jazayerli of Baseball Prospectus called him “the most underrated player in the game.”) I enjoyed him as a Yankee and am thrilled that he’s had such a good season for the Angels. Talk about a value!

Plus, he’s got great teeth and a winning smile.

Tyler Kepner profiles Abreu today in the Times:

“When you see a player every day, you really get a feel for him,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “At times, you’re maybe a little disappointed in what a player brings and you thought it was a little different package. With Bobby, it’s been nothing but exclamation points.”

Yankee Panky: VORP for MVP

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!”

From Neyer:

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.

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Yankee Panky Q&A: Newspapers and the People Who Love Them

Over the last ten months I’ve mentioned in this space numerous statistics on job losses and general cutbacks in the newspaper industry. As sites like Newspaper Death Watch continue to gain traction, and papers nationwide continue to scale back their sports operations and travel budgets, it’s important to get a feel for where the industry is for the people in the trenches, past and present.

I interviewed former Newsday Yankees beat writer Kat O’Brien on this topic three months ago and she revealed that one of the reasons she left was because she didn’t believe the medium was viable anymore.

Former longtime Yankees beat man and YESNetwork.com colleague Phil Pepe agreed, but limited his answer more specifically to baseball coverage.

“This is a problem that has been ongoing for a few years and seemed to have escalated during the current economic crisis,” he said. “Sad to admit it, but today because of the blanket coverage from radio, television and the Internet, newspapers are not as vital to the game’s well-being as they once were.”

With all that in mind, I still couldn’t help thinking that additional opinions needed to be sought. So I took the the e-mails and queried New York Times Yankees beat reporter Tyler Kepner, Gertrude Ederle biographer and editor of the Greatest American Sports Writing Series, Glenn Stout, Kansas City Star columnist and uber-blogger Joe Posnanski, Pepe and another of my ex-YES men, Al Iannazzone, who covers the New Jersey Nets for The Bergen Record.

As you’ll see, I asked each writer the same basic set of questions, including one standout from Banterer YankeeMama. The e-mails were exchanged over the course of several days in late April, hence the reason some of the material in the answers may seem dated.

I was impressed with everyone’s candor and genuine love for the craft of writing, and newspapers’ place — even now — as an outlet for that voice. Each recognized how technology has influenced the industry, and how a happy medium must be forged for bloggers, beat writers, newspapers and e-media to coexist. Money matters, however, skew the discussion.

On the topic of travel, Iannazzone said, “It’s mostly West Coast games because you’re not going to get them in the paper anyway. So it’s a way to save money wisely, I guess.” There were certain elements of the conversation that due to the sensitivity of the issue, Iannazzone would not divulge, but he did offer this nugget: “I know I traveled less this year than in my five years on the Nets.”

The individual Q&A’s are highlighted below:

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Yankee Panky: CC, LeBron, and a Hot Stove that’s pre-heated

Separating truth from rumor during the baseball season is difficult enough, but during the hot stove season, it’s easy to get burned if you don’t view everything you read with a skeptical eye. We know the deal: the rumor-mongering is intended to sell papers, conjure arguments on talk radio, and stir conversation and commentary on blogs like this to keep baseball relevant in a town where both NFL teams are in first place and the Knicks look like an actual professional basketball team for the first time in six years.

Speaking of rumors, we knew the Yankees, with their financial clout and now $32 million to work with (I like Cliff Corcoran’s conservative accounting), would be big players in this winter’s free agent market. The past 30 hours or so have seen one constant in the CC Sabathia Sweepstakes: the Yankees are the highest — and only — bidder to date.

Not long after our Diane Firstman gave the skinny on the landscape’s analysis of the record offer made to the 6-foot-7, 290-pound southpaw, which included a quote from a Yankees official who welcomed the Mets’ inclusion in the mix, Newsday’s David Lennon reported that the Mets put the XX on CC. Joel Sherman wasn’t as definitive in this blog post, but he did not discount the Mets as a player, if for no other reason than to jack up the price for the Yankees.

What no one needs to see as it relates to CC Sabathia are stories like this. LeBron James is a Yankee fan. He’s friends with Sabathia, who until mid-summer spent his entire career in Cleveland. But do we, and should we, care what James has to say on this issue? In James’ defense, I believe this is more of an indictment of the Cleveland reporter who felt compelled to ask the question more than it is on James, who could face a similar free-agent dilemma next summer. James could opt out of the remaining two years of his contract in July and go to the highest bidder, which according to the aforementioned report, is expected to be either the Knicks or the New Jersey Nets. But if you’re the Cleveland scribe, why create a mess now? Haven’t those fans suffered for long enough? As a former reporter, I’m embarrassed. Maybe I’d have used that question as an icebreaker for an off-the-record situation, but that’s it. No way do you go to press with that.

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