• MLB Asking Yanks To Nail Save For Baseball In China?

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From the AP:

    Yankees president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman will head a delegation that travels to Beijing next week for meetings that could lead to Major League Baseball establishing an academy in China.

    “Everybody thinks that that is a great place to grow the sport of baseball,” Levine said Thursday. “There’s a real appetite for it. The Chinese want to move forward and expand their talents in the game and really make it a well-known, very active sport.”

    The team hopes to establish an agreement in which it would send coaches, scouts and player development staff to China, and have representatives of the Chinese Baseball Association come to New York and the team’s springtraining complex in Tampa, Fla.

    Levine said baseball in China is in the “infancy stages,” and that the Yankees had been talking with the CBA for six months and were invited to make the trip.

    “We intend to invest some serious man-hours and money in order to make this work,” Levine said. “This is paving the way for all teams.”

    “This is paving the way for all teams.”

    One question then: Just what happened when baseball tried this two years ago? From a Major League Baseball International’s Envoy Program press release made in 2005:

    Major League Baseball International and the China Baseball League (CBL) will take the MLB Road Show on a tour of five cities throughout The People’s Republic of China from March 4 – April 3, it was announced today. The MLB Road Show is an interactive fan experience that enables participants to learn more about baseball by taking swings in a batting cage, testing their throwing skills in a pitching tunnel and learning about the sport through an interactive media pavilion.

    The MLB Road Show will be operated in conjunction with the China Baseball League, and CBL players and coaches will appear at Road Show locations to provide instruction to baseball beginners.

    Activities such as the MLB Road Show are part of an agreement announced in November 2003 between MLB and the China Baseball Association (CBA) to enhance the development of baseball in China. As part of the agreement, Major League Baseball has been implementing a variety of game development initiatives in China, including national team development, coaching development, umpire development and youth initiatives geared toward helping school-aged children in China learn and play the game of baseball. In addition, a system was established enabling Major League Baseball Clubs to scout and sign Chinese players to professional contracts.

    “Road Show are part of an agreement announced in November 2003 between MLB and the China Baseball Association (CBA) to enhance the development of baseball in China.”

    So, baseball had a crack at it for three years and now it’s up to the Yankees to make it work “for all teams”? I hope Randy Levine gets some serious chips for this one – to cash in when it’s time for baseball to do something for the Yankees.

    Iggy: More Splat Than Pop?

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (19)

    Via What Japan Thinks:

    Last weekend goo Research, in conjunction with Yomiuri Weekly, released the results of a survey into what people thought the coming year may bring. For a week spanning the end of November and the start of December 11,648 members of goo’s online monitor group successfully completed a private internet-based questionnaire.

    Here’s the part of the survey that caught my eye:

    Iggy.jpg

    Considering how the Yankees need Igawa to do well this year, this is not great news – even if you have modest expectations on Igawa. Those responding to this survey have probably seen him pitch more than most fans here.

    One thing that I did notice seeing some clips of Igawa the other day – he’s got a funky way of finishing off his delivery. It’s almost as if he’s just about ready to finish his delivery, the way you would expect a pitcher would, and then he stops and sort of freezes like he just saw Medusa – leaving his left foot hanging in the air for a second or two – before landing to field his position. If that’s his normal delivery, I have no idea if it will help him or hurt him in the United States. It could distract the hitter and/or put him in a position to get smacked with a batted ball. Hopefully it will be more of the former than the latter.

    2006 Win Shares Above Bench

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (7)

    Dave Studeman at the The Hardball Times last week detailed a new stat called Win Shares Above Bench, or Baseline – aka “WSAB.”

    This is a refined approach to Win Shares, in which each player’s total Win Shares are compared to the Win Shares an average bench player would have received, given that player’s time at bat, on the mound or in the field.

    When you look at the 2006 Yankees, in terms of WSAB, you find this:

    2006WSAB.jpg

    Notice what happens when you use WSAB rather than total Win Shares.

    The distance in the totals between A-Rod and Jeter stay the same. But, Posada and Giambi move closer to Jeter – instead of being 9 or 10 behind (in WS) they’re now 6 behind (in WSAB). And, Mike Mussina moves from 18 behind (in WS) to 10 behind (in WSAB).

    This does not mean that Derek Jeter was not very valuable to the Yankees in 2006. It’s just interesting that WSAB allows guys like Posada, Giambi, and Mussina to close the gap from Jeter whereas it does not for Alex Rodriguez.

    Yanked Foul

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    There’s a relatively new Yankees blog on the scene: Yanked Foul.

    If you stop by, tell them that WasWatching.com sent ya!

    Words On Waldman

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (3)

    The Pinetar Rag offers some comments on Suzyn Waldman:

    Good News Yank fans–they have re-signed former showgirl and Boston native, Suzyn Waldman, to work with Sterling on the radio. So now, when you want a middle aged woman who’s experience was high kicks and jazz hands, to tell you that Randy Johnson isn’t getting “awn tawp of his sloyduh”, you’ll get those valuable insights for another year.

    Damn, that’s funny.

    Fan: Watching Jeter In Bathroom Is Cool

    Posted by on January 25th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    From the St. Petersburg Times -

    Stardom reached critical mass at the Hyde Park Cafe in Wednesday’s early hours. Another celebrity and it might have collapsed in on itself, birthing an infinitely dense black hole of fame.

    Mere mortals orbited outside the curtained-off VIP area. At thin gaps in the gauze, tube-topped women jostled for peeps at basketball legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, baseball stars Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield, golfer Tiger Woods and professional poker player Phil Ivey.

    The beautiful people are in town for the fourth annual Derek Jeter Celebrity Golf Classic in Avila this Monday. Last year’s event raised $600,000 for Tampa area schools.

    Last weekend, Jeter played in Jordan’s own charity golf tournament in the Bahamas. Jeter owns a house in Tampa, spring training city for his Yankees.

    “The first time I met him, I wasn’t nice because he’s Jeter,” said Boston-born, rival Red Sox fan Peter Hannouche, a co-owner of the nightclub. “But he’s the kind of guy who wins you over. He’s a class act.”

    So classy, in fact, that Jeter didn’t even deck the young reporter who grabbed his bulky biceps and asked for an interview on Jeter’s way out of the club.

    “No, man, I ain’t talking to no papers right now, man,” Jeter said.

    [Brett Coover's] friend and co-worker Matty VanHook, 26, saw Jeter in the restroom and witnessed him tipping an attendant.

    “It wasn’t going to change my outlook on life or anything, but it was definitely a cool happening,” VanHook said.

    Back in 1981, I had a chance to be a summer laborer at an oil shipping and refinery port. I was just a kid. One of the guys there was at least 40 years older than me and extremely wacky. In many ways, he was like Ernest T. from Mayberry – expect his first name was “Dickie.” One day, Dickie comes up to me, out of nowhere, and says “Hey, kid, want a tip?” After I said sure, he said to me “Buy twins beds, you’ll never get screwed.”

    While that information was useful, somehow I think that bathroom attendant got a better tip from Jeter.

    When Jeter said “No, man, I ain’t talking to no papers right now, man,” how many Yankees fans out there thought of the first words Henderson spoke in the Yankee clubhouse back in April 1985? Remember when Rickey said “Don’t need no press now, man” to the media?

    Good thing Dickie wasn’t as shy as Rickey and Jeter – or else I would have missed that great tip.

    Who Needs An iPod When You Have Yankees News?

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (3)

    First I saw the story at Peter Abraham’s blog – then I saw this in the Times:

    The Yankees have scheduled a news briefing today to tell about their plans, but all they said yesterday was that it was about an international venture.

    A baseball official, not a travel agent, disclosed that the Yankees were going to China next week.

    This will be an executive journey — Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president; Brian Cashman, the senior vice president and general manager; and Jean Afterman, vice president and assistant general manager.

    They will explore opportunities, both baseball and business. They will establish contacts. They will determine the most likely source of future talent and very likely initiate conversations about future working agreements, like the one they have with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

    Great, thanks to the Yankees, I started out today with the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” stuck in my head, and, now, I have Siouxsie and the Banshees “Hong Kong Garden” stuck in my head.

    Best Seasons By Yankees Third Basemen

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Continuing with the WasWatching.com Yankees “ten best seasons” (ever) series, today we look at third basemen. Here is what I believe are the top ten seasons for Yankees third basemen, with stats via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia:

    Click on the list below for a larger view ~

    It should not be a shock to see Alex Rodriguez at the top of this list with his 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. Back in September of last season, I gave a clue as to where A-Rod’s 2006 season ranked in Yankees history.

    What this list does drive home for me is how few “big” offensive seasons there have been by Yankees third-sackers. Just check out the top ten careers by Yankees three-B’s:

    Click on the list below for a larger view ~

    There’s not a lot of fire power there in those sticks, huh?

    Here’s a little trivia for you: Who are the only two RH-batting 3B to ever post 80+ RCAA in a season? A-Rod in 2005 and Al Rosen in 1953. The two “A.R.” men are the only righties at the hot corner to do it.

    Getting back to that top ten season list, I have to wonder about this: If A-Rod opts out of his contract following 2007, and then Jeter moves to third and plays there for another seven years, Derek Jeter should then go down in history as both the best hitting SS and the best hitting 3B in Yankees history. How many guys can make that claim – to be the best with the stick for one team at two separate positions?

    If You Outlaw Scalping, Then Only Outlaws Will….

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    …well, you get it. Yankees For Justice had a quick and amusing interview with a Yankees ticket scalph…er…broker yesterday.

    Jose is taking a break from his winter job at a South Bronx pizza joint.

    “I’m a ticket broker,” he snaps. “I don’t make anyone do anything they don’t want. If you want tickets, I’ve got ‘em. If you don’t, keep walkin’.”

    “It doesn’t really matter who they are playing anymore. The Yankees are what people come to see.”

    Jose knows the team-specific elasticities of demand for attendance, but, can he make a calzone fit for the Big Stein?

    It’s Bernie Williams Day In Blog-land!

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Links’a plenty!

    Inside the Stadium

    The Bronx Cheer

    Rivera’s Cutter

    Green Pinstripes

    Hot Stove New York

    Yankee Roundtable

    Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

    And, of course, you have what I wrote last week.

    When The Going Gets Rough…..

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    …some get going and others go in their pants?

    New York Yankees etc. takes another look at A-Rod in the clutch.

    As Travis (of NYYE) commented elsewhere here on this today:

    i just did a quick study of some clutch stats. just going by leading and trailing stats (04-06), among Arod, DJ, Beltre (being a fairly avg 3b) and Ortiz.

    The things i learned -

    - Arod is the only guy among these 4 to hit worse (than his overall OPS) when trailing. the other 3 hit better when trailing.

    - Ortiz has the highest trailing OPS, 1.023. (overall OPS of 1.011)

    - When trailing, Jeter has the highest increase from his overall OPS (+42 or .896) vs .854 overall OPS.

    - Arod’s trailing OPS is actually higher than DJ, at .905. But this is well below his overall OPS, which is 40 points higher, .945.

    This certainly explains why Arod is seen as ‘unclutch,’ while DJ is seen as the opposite.

    I think what really kills A-Rod in this study is that .770-ish OPS over the last 3 years when the team is down by 2 or 3 runs. In the words of Randy Jackson, “Yo, Dawg. It’s not good.”

    Update: Looking at the stats, Rodriguez has 281 PA in the last 3 years where the Yankees were trailing by 2 or 3 runs. That’s a pretty good sample size.

    Whistler’s Daughter Is Out

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (8)

    Damn, that didn’t take long – what was it? Two months?

    Jossip.com has the story – and a great picture of Sean Combs getting caught trying to scope some blouse puppies.

    Don’t get me wrong, Gabrielle Union is a beautiful and talented woman too. It’s just that it was going to be interesting to see if Jessica Biel was going to be a Janet Jones type for Jeter – or a Marilyn Monroe type.

    In any event, Jeter sure does get around – and he works off the A-list as well. There are no gorps or dying quails on his hit list.

    Levine: YES Is Cotton Candy, Not Docosahexaenoic Acid

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (8)

    From three true outcomes who saw Randy Levine at George Washington University -

    Randy Levine sounded like, well, what you expected him to sound like. He praised the Boss (though I believe that’s because Steinbrenner has spies everywhere). When asked about diversity, he responded, “If a guy’s good, and we want him, we’ll get him.” (Which prompted Perlozzo to say, “I don’t think I like this guy anymore.”) He talked about how the new Yankees stadium will look like how 1920s Yankees Stadium looked. I thought he had a good response when someone asked about the ethics of a team being strongly associated with a network (e.g. YES, MASN). He responded that not everyone can be the New York Times or the Washington Post, that the goal of the YES network was to entertain Yankees fans, rather than inform them.

    Hey, Randy, you can inform and entertain at the same time, ya’ know?

    Survey For Yankees Fans

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    Via Baseball Musings -

    Caitlin A. LaGrotte of Temple University asked me to post a link to a survey she’s conducting. Here’s the description:

    Here is an opportunity to share your experiences at baseball games when the Yankees are playing the Red Sox.

    This survey hopes to better understand the environment created in baseball stadiums when rivals are playing. The study will not ask for any personal information and will allow for better understanding of the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. If you have attended a Yankee versus Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park please click the link below to take the survey. Thank you.

    You can take the survey here.

    Speak up Yankees fans! I took the survey. It only takes about 10 minutes or less.

    Old-Timers Offer Opinions On The Past & Present

    Posted by on January 24th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    Comments from the Baseball Assistance Team fundraiser last night…

    First, via the Journal News -

    The winters of Randy Johnson and Bernie Williams took different paths, and those paths were a hot topic last night at a dinner honoring the 1977 Yankees.

    Former Yankee and current ESPN analyst Jim Leyritz, for one, couldn’t wait to say good riddance to Johnson. Other former Yankees didn’t leave much hope that Williams, a free agent, would remain in the Bronx.

    “I am looking forward to it,” Leyritz said when asked about life without Johnson. “He didn’t fit in here from the beginning. When you come to New York, you have to expect the attention. He played here enough to know what it would be like. He just thought he could come here, get his ring and go home.”

    Gene Michael, a special advisor to George Steinbrenner now and a coach on the 1977 team, said Williams isn’t finished.

    “Bernie has been a great player for us,” Michael said. “It would be different without him. But he can still play.”

    Reggie Jackson came to the 1977 Yankees as a free agent, arriving in spring training saying he was “the straw that stirs the drink. Munson thinks he could be the straw that stirs the drink, but he stirs it bad.” Graig Nettles sees it differently. When asked last night who was the soul of that team, the former third baseman said: “Munson. He was the captain and the leader of the team.”

    My thoughts:

    1. When did Leyritz become a spokesperson for the Yankees nation?

    2. Stick must have had a few lollipops last night – or he was being kind.

    3. Thirty years from now, will we hear Jorge Posada telling us that Jeter was the leader of the team and not A-Rod – like Nettles now talking about Reggie and Munson? I don’t fault Puff for having an opinion – and, I do agree with him – but if the media won’t let that question die, after three decades, then will they ever let the Jeter/A-Rod one go?

    Next, via Reuters -

    New York Yankee veterans agreed on Tuesday that the Bronx Bombers needed Alex Rodriguez to rise to the occasion in the postseason to help them return to World Series glory in 2007.

    Rodriguez, the man nicknamed A-Rod who now patrols third base at Yankee Stadium, has carried the burden of high expectations in New York where boisterous boo-birds feel he has not lived up to his $25 million yearly salary as baseball’s highest-paid player.

    “A-Rod, he needs to get over that hump. He needs to have a good postseason,” [Graig] Nettles told Reuters.

    “He puts up good numbers during the season. If he just continues that during the postseason I think the fans in New York would embrace him and love him.”

    Nettles’ views were echoed by Gene Michael, a former Yankee player, coach, manager, scout and general manager, who is now a senior advisor to the team.

    “He just needs to get over the hump,” Michael said, before drawing a parallel with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who had a reputation for coming up short in the playoffs before leading his team to this year’s Super Bowl.

    “Manning needs to get over that hump. He won that big one the other day and now he needs to win one more.”

    Jim Leyritz, a hero of the 1996 Yankees World Series triumph over the Atlanta Braves, said theories about A-Rod suffering from lack of support in the clubhouse were unfounded.

    “Hopefully the things with A-Rod last year will take care of themselves,” he said.

    “I think it’s a joke. We had 25 guys on our team and we didn’t always get along either,” said Leyritz, a cocky part-time player, who would not have won any congeniality awards on the ’96 team.

    “We weren’t best friends. We didn’t all like each other.

    “The only thing is, he hasn’t done it in the postseason when they’ve really needed it. That’s why it’s looked like he’s having a hard time making it in New York.

    “A-Rod has to make the adjustment himself to get used to playing in New York City.”

    My thoughts:

    Great, now I’ve got the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” stuck in my head.

    Dude, Where’s My Car?

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (7)

    Click on the thumbnail below for a larger view ~~~

    The above concept image of the new Yankee Stadium is sweet to look at – until you think to yourself “Where are the parking lots?”

    Aren’t they going to make it easier to get to Yankee Stadium? Wasn’t that the plan? If the parking lots are 5 miles away from the Stadium, is that going to make it easier?

    What Keeps Randy Levine Up At Night

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (0)

    From the AP -

    “Every night I go to sleep, and as I put my head on the pillow, I say, ‘How can I come up with a way to limit the amount of money that Major League Baseball takes from the New York Yankees?”’ he [Randy Levine] joked.

    “We believe in revenue sharing, we believe in player restraints as to payroll,” Levine added. “It is just a question as to what is fair, what is equitable.”

    Sweet dreams Randy.

    Dr. Cash’s Heart Transplant?

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (3)

    From the recordonline.com -

    If you read between the lines of the moves that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has made this off-season, you can clearly see a pattern by now, a philosophical shift, a definite, albeit low-key master plan.

    Cashman obviously sensed that what’s been so terribly wrong about these Yankees in recent years, why they can’t push themselves through the playoffs into the World Series, has nothing to do with the talent he’s been putting on the field, but what lay deep inside his players’ hearts and souls.

    That something other than the soiled uniforms just didn’t smell right in that clubhouse.

    Cashman has been secretly telling us all winter — not with words but actions — that the Yankees have indeed been damaged at the very core, devoid of any real camaraderie, if not spiritually bankrupt. Not remotely a family, like they had been so beautifully during their championship years, but merely a collection of huge contracts and self-absorbed egos and strange personalities.

    So Cashman, without Steinbrenner breathing down his neck all the time to do something earth shattering anymore, can finally listen to his gut now and do the right thing, not simply react to a string of blustery words shouted into his ear.

    He can work with subtlety if he chooses to, rather than rely mostly on the mega-million dollar signings of star free agents.

    So, no, he didn’t land an A-Rod or Randy Johnson or Johnny Damon this time around, never really jumped in with both feet into the Barry Zito pool of madness.

    Didn’t feel the need to.

    Instead, with the signing of a former championship family member, Andy Pettitte, and a couple of additions by subtractions this winter, Cashman has gone about the quiet business of fixing the Yankees where he’s convinced that they’re broken the most.

    From the inside out.

    So along went that 6-foot-10 churl named Randy Johnson to Arizona. In his two seasons here, the Big Unit added nothing to the locker room but his bony back and stony silence. He stuck his head in his stall like an ostrich in sand the whole time, rarely mixing with anyone in pinstripes or out, coming across as nothing more than a passing-time interloper that cared about his performance, for sure, but no one else’s.

    And along went to Detroit that me-first yammer-mouth Gary Sheffield, who came to the Yankees with the label of being a clubhouse cancer and did little to shed it in his three seasons here. In the last couple especially, Sheff seemed to say something divisive or distracting or completely insane every other time he flapped his lips — that is, when he wasn’t ready to pummel some fan in the stands. The Yankees came to a conclusion about him: The guy had more pop and wiggle left in his mouth than his bat. Enough was enough.

    I would pay money to see Cashman and Torre sing this song on a commerical for the YES Network:

    A great slugger, we haven’t got.

    A great pitcher, we haven’t got.

    A great ball club, we haven’t got.

    What’ve we got?

    We’ve got heart.

    All you really need is heart.
    When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win,
    That’s when the grin should start!

    Heartbreaker, Brubaker….

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (7)

    File this one under “What Would Gabe Paul Listen To”?

    This morning I was stuck in traffic on I-287 north-bound – there was a huge glass spill that backed up traffic for about 8 miles.

    As I’m sitting in traffic, I notice a FedEx truck in the lane next to me, about three or four cars ahead. The truck was dirty – covered in dust. Someone wrote on the back of the truck, with their finger, in the dust, “Ridin’ Dirty.”

    I laughed when I saw that. Times have changed since when I was a kid. Back in my day, that FedEx truck would have been a target for “Wash Me” – but, “Ridin’ Dirty” never existed then…heck, Hip-Hop didn’t exist then either.

    This made me think of the references where Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman disclosed that he listens to Hip-Hop.

    That makes me feel very old. But, it also makes me wonder – do you think Big Stein has ever left Cashman’s office humming DMX’s “Where The Hood At?” without realizing it?

    Bad Boys Today, Good Boys Tomorrow?

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (8)

    Darryl Strawberry and Wade Boggs are among those to “star” in “Pros vs. Joes” on Spike TV this week.

    This got me thinking.

    No, not about the sad nature of Straw and Boggs to do anything for a buck and/or ten seconds of spotlight. More so, it’s this:

    What if I told you now that David Wright (of the Mets) and David Ortiz (of the Red Sox) would help the Yankees win the World Series in the year 2016?

    Would that be any different from me telling you in 1986 that Darryl Strawberry and Wade Boggs would help the Yankees win the World Series in 1996?

    Not really, right?

    RLYW On A-Rod’s Clutchness

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (14)

    Today, SG over at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog looks at Alex Rodriguez and His Clutchness (or Lack Thereof).

    I would love to see the Rodriguez Play by Play results By Deficit broken down by season – as I think 2005 makes 2006 look more like 2004 when you look at all the data (for the the three years) as a whole. But, I’m also just guessing that now.

    Otherwise, it’s a nice little study here by SG.

    It’s Not The Number On His Back That Will Land Rocket

    Posted by on January 23rd, 2007 · Comments (11)

    From Michael Morrissey -

    The Yankees are preparing for Roger Clemens – at least, numerically speaking.

    Recently, the club asked All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to hand over his No. 22 in the event of another Rocket launch in The Bronx, The Post confirmed yesterday.

    Cano will switch to No. 24, and he’s as eager as anyone to see the seven-time Cy Young Award winner in pinstripes again.

    Cano’s number already has been officially adjusted on the team roster, according to a source.

    “I was happy to give up the number to a future Hall of Famer if Roger comes aboard,” Cano said in a statement. “Hopefully, he will be one of my teammates, I’ll have the pleasure of playing with him.”

    Moreover, indications are the Yankees already have relayed Cano’s number switch to Clemens’ camp – even if the 44-year-old righty has no imminent plans of making a decision of where to pitch in 2007, or whether to retire.

    “No decision will be made until well after spring training, perhaps until after the season starts,” agent Randy Hendricks wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

    What a shame it is that the Yankees are asking Cano, an All-Star, to monkey around with his uniform number…because this is how the Clemens-signing thing is going to go down:

    Roger Clemens will not sign with anyone until May 1st. He’s going to wait until then to see how things are going with the Yankees and Red Sox pitching.

    If either Boston or New York has a glaring need for a starting pitcher, he’s going to use that leverage to make the other team (the one that doesn’t need the starter) pay mega-bucks for him. If both Boston and New York have a dire need for a starter, he’s going to play them both off each other to make sure he gets top dollar.

    If it turns out that neither Boston or New York needs a starting pitcher, after the first month of the season, Clemens will sign with Houston on May 1st, still getting a ton of money, and will enjoy the sweet-heart deal that he gets there playing in his backyard (not having to take road-trips, etc.).

    It’s going to be all about the money – and where/how he can get the most of it. That will decide where Clemens plays in 2007. Anyone who thinks different doesn’t know Roger Clemens.

    Clemens will wear whatever number is around…12, 21, 22, whatever…as long as the right numbers are there to the right of the dollar-sign.

    Projecting The Yanks & Sox Wins

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2007 · Comments (8)

    Yanksfan vs. Soxfan has an interesting look at predicting the win totals for Boston and New York this season.

    I’ll take a shot at it without using any heavy math.

    I’m going to assume that each team’s bullpen will win around 35 games, as a group. That’s about 5 wins per relief pitcher, probably a tad less considering that a team may end up using 8 or 9 pitchers, or more, (at some point and time) out of the pen.

    I think the “Big Three” in the Yankees starting rotation should be good for 42 wins in 2007. And, I think the Red Sox “Big Three” from their rotation should be good for 42 wins in 2007.

    So, that’s 77 wins for each team – leaving just the 4th and 5th starters on each squad to determine the final win tally/projection for each team.

    Jonathan Papelbon and Kei Igawa – who will win more games? Tim Wakefield/Jon Lester and Carl Pavano/Jeff Karstens/Darrell Rasner – who will win more games? What about Roger Clemens? Until Clemens signs somewhere, I can’t factor him into the equation.

    I think the Papelbon & Igawa win totals are the key here – since both teams will be lucky to get about 10 wins from their 5th man-combo in the rotation. Let’s assume those 10 wins – which puts both teams at 87 wins each, with Papelbon & Igawa deciding the final numbers.

    Papelbon & Igawa could both win 13 games (each) – giving both Boston and New York near 100 wins for this year. Or, one of them could win 15 games and the other could win just 10 games – meaning a 5-game gap in the standings for New York and Boston.

    We have no idea how Papelbon will react from his conversion this season. We have no idea how Igawa will pitch in America this year. Nonetheless, right now, sans Clemens signing with New York or Boston, assuming all other pitchers remain healthy and produce to normal levels this year, Jonathan Papelbon and Kei Igawa may just be the keys to determining who finishes on top between the Yanks and Sox.

    Last 3 Post-Seasons, Who’s To Blame?

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2007 · Comments (8)

    The Yankees are 3-10 in the postseason since the end of Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. So, who should we blame for those ten games lost? Can WPA tell us the answer? Here are those ten losses and who WPA says should get the “L” next to their name:

    Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS: Jaret Wright
    Game 3 of the 2006 ALDS: Randy Johnson
    Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS: Robinson Cano

    Game 5 of the 2005 ALDS: Mike Mussina
    Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS: Randy Johnson
    Game 2 of the 2005 ALDS: Worm Killer Wang

    Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS: Kevin Brown
    Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS: Tony Clark
    Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS: Tom Gordon
    Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS: Paul Quantrill

    What, no A-Rod?

    Actually, the only games here where Alex Rodriguez had really bad games, according to WPA, were Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS and Game 5 of the 2005 ALDS. (These were both games that were started by Mike Mussina – go figure.)

    Of course, Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS and Game 5 of the 2005 ALDS turned out to be pretty big games in the grand scheme of things – so, maybe that’s why some people look at A-Rod’s performance in those games and make it into a thing where he’s to blame for the Yankees losing in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

    However, the reality of it is all about the pitching.

    Blame Quantrill, Gordon, and Brown for 2004.
    Blame Johnson and Mussina for 2005.
    Blame Johnson and Wright for 2006.

    Or, blame the guy who put them on the team. But, Alex Rodriguez is not the reason why the Yankees have lost 10 of their last 13 post-season games. Maybe A-Rod hasn’t been the cause for them to win 10 of their last 13, but, I’m pretty sure he’s not the guy to blame for them losing 10 of their last 13 contests either.

    You Don’t Get What You Paid For?

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2007 · Comments (1)

    From J.P. McIntyre at The Hardball Times -

    Net Win Shares Value essentially estimates the “expected” production from a player based on how he was signed (as a free agent, arbitration-eligible or not eligible for arbitration) and how much he was paid, then compares that to how he actually did. The difference is multiplied by the average amount teams paid for each Win Share Above Bench last year. If the number is positive, the player was a relatively good deal for the team; if not, not.

    Let’s now look at a team that was the opposite of the Tigers, the New York Yankees:

    Player ~~~ Net WS Value
    Wang ~~~ 9,689,000
    Karstens ~~~ 1,399,000
    Rasner ~~~ 824,000
    Wright ~~~ -1,184,000
    Ponson ~~~ -1,807,000
    Mussina ~~~ -2,590,000
    Chacon ~~~ -3,930,000
    Johnson ~~~ -6,481,000

    Despite having one of the best values in baseball in Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees were 11th in the AL in terms of payroll value for their starters, and that is not even including the $9 million they paid Carl Pavano to heal slowly. Mike Mussina had a solid season, but the Yankees were paying him so much that it was not cost effective. The Yankees received 125 starts from Wang, Johnson, Mussina, and Wright, but used eight other pitchers to make the remaining 37 starts, some with some rather inefficient results.

    It’s a good thing the standings are determined by “W’s” and “L’s” and not “ROI’s.”

    A Very Bad Rating

    Posted by on January 22nd, 2007 · Comments (3)

    Jerry Nielsen pitched in 20 games for the Yankees in his career – all of them coming in 1992. The Yankees lost 18 of those 20 games.

    Think that’s bad? Dale Murray pitched in 62 games for the Yankees – and the Yankees lost 50 of those 62 games.

    Or, what about Gary Jones? He pitched in 14 big league games during his career – all with the Yankees (from 1970-71)- and every game was a loss for New York. That’s Oh-’fer Fourteen.

    That’s more than bad – it’s sad.

    Michael Morrissey Interview

    Posted by on January 21st, 2007 · Comments (14)

    Michael Morrissey has been writing about Major League Baseball since 1997. He has been honored in “Best American Sports Writing” three times. He’s been covering baseball in New York City since 2000 and currently writes for the New York Post. From January 11, 2007 through January 19, 2007, I had a chance to do a “Q&A” session with Michael on his new book which details the 2006 baseball season in the Bronx. In the process, Michael also shared some very interesting insight on Joe Torre, Brian Cashman, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter. Our exchanges follow herein.

    WasWatching.com: Your book, The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl, is slated for release on April 10th of this year. What can you tell us about the book now and what was the driving force behind your decision to write it?

    Michael Morrissey: Steve, I’ll handle the second part of the question first, because it’s something the publishing houses wanted to know when we were shopping the book proposal. What I told various publishers was that my idea for “The Pride and the Pressure” came to mind during the winter after the 2005 season, when a confluence of events hammered home the uniqueness of being a Yankee. GM Brian Cashman broke down in tears at the end of the team’s season, and there was widespread speculation that he would move on. Also, manager Joe Torre was dissatisfied with the culture of the organization, and he spent a week in October debating whether to honor his contract for 2006.

    Meanwhile, Matt Lawton was busted for steroid use. Lawton said he panicked after a 3-for-38 start as a Yankee and buckled under the pressure of playing in New York. At the same time, Alex Rodriguez was waffling as to whether he would play in the World Baseball Classic, and for the Dominican Republic or the United States. To top it off, the continued specter of steroids surrounded Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi.

    During the winter, I came to the conclusion that nobody in this most recent era had written strictly through the prism of the pressures and prestige of being a Yankee. People had written excellent books about the beginning and the end of the Yankee dynasty and the rivalry with Boston. They had written great biographies of certain players. But no one had focused on the uniqueness of being a Yankee circa 2006. In my mind, A-Rod’s tenure with the team alone merited a new book on the current status of the organization.

    In the spring, I approached Yankee officials from the top down concerning my idea. Team president Randy Levine pledged his cooperation with the book. Cashman, who remained as GM, told me he hoped the book would become a best-seller and also agreed to offer insight. Torre generously agreed to be interviewed exclusively during the course of the season. And since I’ve been with the Post since 2000, I’ve developed a rapport with guys like Sheffield, Giambi, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.

    As far as what the book is about, I’d say it’s one writer’s inside look at the tradition and turmoil unique to the Yankees. I tried to make this book a look behind the clubhouse door through the eyes of these players – with refreshing, off-the-beaten-path honesty – as much as I could. I’m reluctant to talk a lot about the actual contents until it’s published for obvious reasons, but there will be some very interesting insights and information.

    So often in a newspaper, we’re limited by the constraints of time and/or space. While that’s true in a general sense in the book world, you have much more time and much more space to report, to analyze and finally, to put forth words. People who love Bernie Williams, for example, will be treated to an entire chapter on Bernie. There are other issues that are examined in more depth than they’ve ever been examined. That’s about as specific as I can get until April 10th, unfortunately.

    Also, I will begin blogging this week about the book-writing experience and life in the “Yankee Fishbowl,” on my new website, http://www.myspace.com/theprideandthepressure, so I encourage any Yankee fan with interest in the book to check it out.

    WasWatching.com: Pressure, or stress (if some prefer), and dealing with anxiety, etc., have always interested me. Pressure brings change – but it can either make a diamond or dust. It’s been my experience that there are two kinds of stress – actual, true, would rattle anyone pressure and the stress/pressure that someone creates on their own in the way they decide to deal with a particular situation (that may not stress everyone). In your opinion, was the pressure on the 2006 Yankees something that was real or something that certain individuals created on their own? I know that you cannot get into too many specifics, but, could you try and share why you think it was one way, or the other – or even both?

    Michael Morrissey: It’s my opinion that, from the top of the Yankees on down, as well as from the media and fans, there is a mandate to win a world championship that creates a certain level of pressure. Brian Cashman and Joe Torre admit that there’s a pressure that doesn’t exist in other cities, and by speaking of it publicly, I think they try to alleviate some of the anxiety. Their feeling is, hey, it exists, let’s not pretend it’s the elephant in the room. Cashman told me back in the 2000 season that there are plenty of people who would prefer not to be a GM in such a high-pressure situation, and the same goes for players. We see guys shy away from playing in New York every winter. So there was a certain alert level in play at the beginning of the season.

    Then, there’s the self-imposed pressure beyond what’s expected of the team. One of the most famous examples was Roger Clemens trying to fit into a world championship clubhouse back in 1999, instead of simply being “The Rocket.” Torre had to tell him to be himself more than once, but Clemens admittedly didn’t truly feel comfortable for about a year and a half. The performance suffered.

    Alex Rodriguez, obviously, is the most obvious current example. Anyone who watched the Yanks last year knows that A-Rod squeezed the sawdust out of his bat during certain stretches. He tried to do too much, he tried to end the booing with one swing, and it didn’t help matters. Same thing: people like Torre and Don Mattingly told him at certain points to just relax and have fun. Larry Bowa was another guy, as you’ll see in the book. Reggie Jackson has a great anecdote in the book on this subject.

    I go back to the Matt Lawton answer from the first question, because to me it hammered the idea home. If you take Lawton’s explanation of steroid use at face value (which I did), and you believe he was a nice guy, always clean throughout his career, who suddenly panicked because he was in New York and in a slump and in danger of losing a job, it makes perfect sense. Guys like Kenny Rogers who had decent careers elsewhere couldn’t, admittedly, cut it here. I believe that’s because of the unique stress that’s imposed, outwardly and inwardly.

    WasWatching.com: Part of me wants to believe that the eventual results of the 2004 ALCS, coupled with the Game 5 loss in the 2005 ALDS, may have led to a heightened sense of pressure for the main ringless players on the 2006 Yankees team – like A-Rod. However, the fact that Alex Rodriguez was the league MVP in 2005 starts to poke some holes in that theory. It seems odd that A-Rod did not feel the performance impacting pressure in 2005 like he did in 2006. So, maybe the 2004 ALCS had nothing to do with it? (Perhaps the Yankees just knew that the Red Sox could pitch, pardon the pun, rings around them in 2004?) This still does leave the 2005 ALDS end result as a possible cause for more pressure in 2006. Was this your finding? Or, was there something else out there that made 2006 more pressure packed than most other Yankees seasons?

    Michael Morrissey: There is no doubt that the guys like Mussina, Giambi, A-Rod, et al. feel a heightened sense of being ringless. In fact, there’s an anecdote early in the book where it’s addressed as a team. They all, in one form or another, shared that sentiment. They all could’ve played anywhere; they came to where they thought they had the best chance of winning a World Series ring. Yes, Rodriguez agitated for a trade, but he would’ve only played in a couple of competitive cities once he realized the mess that he was in with Texas.

    Now, I don’t personally think that the fact that the team collapsed in 2004 and suffered a disappointing early exit in ’05 was the only cause for what happened in the ’06 playoffs. For those that think the collective playoff failures, however, causes a snowball effect that rears its head every October, I’d tend to accept that as part of the reason for the pressure.

    As for A-Rod, he had a terrific year in 2005 but then was terrible in the playoffs, and he admitted trying to carry the whole load – which he addresses in the book. In ’06, I believe the lineups the manager put forth contributed a great deal to A-Rod feeling pressure and not performing.

    As far as the ultimate defeat, I feel that the Game 2 swing was pivotal, and the Yanks looked flat for the final three games after Damon’s homer. Part of that was Detroit pitching, but part of that was an energy thing, a chemistry thing, even a lineup thing, whatever you want to call it. And consider this: if Yankee fans were asked at the beginning of the year if they wanted Jaret Wright – a back-end starter the entire season – to pitch a Game 4 facing elimination, what would they have said? So ultimately, there was also some unsupported optimism (or hope) in the back end of the rotation by people in the organization.

    WasWatching.com: I was all set to ask you some questions about the process of writing the book at this point. But, something you just said begs me to ask for more on it. In your opinion, in what way did Torre’s line-ups contribute a great deal to Rodriguez feeling pressure and not performing?

    Michael Morrissey: In my opinion, the decision to bat A-Rod sixth to begin the Division Series was either very poorly thought out or simply misguided. Based on what I observed before and after, it had a strong effect. Now, keep in mind the Yankees won the first game with a timely RBI single from Gary Sheffield and without any contribution from Rodriguez, who stung the ball a couple of times. That said, the lineup decision turned workout day into an absolute circus, I feel that played on A-Rod’s psyche. How many ballplayers would ask himself these questions: why is Skip bumping me down to sixth? I haven’t hit there in 10 years. I’ve been hitting cleanup much of the season. I finally jumped out of my latest slump. I’m swinging good. The guy hitting cleanup has been hurt all year. The guy hitting cleanup has way worse numbers than I do off Nate Robertson. I’ve tattooed Robertson over my career. Why make a change now? What’s Skip trying to prove? Why is he doing this to me?

    If you want to dismiss it as one writer’s opinion or armchair psychology, that’s OK. But the proof is in the pudding. If you look back on the coverage of workout day, it became a gigantic story.

    Now, if Torre’s initial intentions were to take the heat off Rodriguez and try to get him to relax by hitting sixth, you can chalk it up as a noble but failed experiment. As soon as the Yanks lost, though, A-Rod was back up to fourth. So much for relieving the pressure. When they lost again, he was dumped to eighth.

    Objectively, based on where A-Rod batted most of the season, through thick and thin, based on where he batted after Matsui and Sheff returned, based on stats against the Game 1 starter, based on the probability that Sheff was not in midseason form (something he admitted in November), based on the likelihood that a commotion would be made if/when the manager changed the lineup from what it was in September – all these things are evidence that Torre made a mistake. Messing with A-Rod’s spot in the lineup (and thereby his head) affected him, in my view, and he went 1-for-14. Torre has historically made his career on putting out brush fires. He’s one of the best ever at it. But in my humble opinion, he created one here – and it raged out of control into a forest fire.

    The issue is discussed at great length in the book, and I’m curious to what your readers think. Were they perplexed when they initially saw A-Rod dumped to sixth for the playoff opener? Were they thrilled that he wouldn’t be in the heart of the order? What did they think of the Game 3 and Game 4 lineups?

    WasWatching.com: Well, I can tell you what I wrote when I first saw that Torre decided to bat Rodriguez 8th in Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS:

    “Mark down today’s date: October 7th, 2006. This is the date that we can look to when judging the acquisitions of Giambi and A-Rod. The results of today’s starting line-up tell you everything you need to know. In a ‘must win’ or die game, the manager of the team feels that he cannot count on these guys to be major factors towards a chance to win.”

    As far as the readers of WasWatching.com, if I recall correctly, the reaction was a mixed bag. Some were fine with the decision whereas others thought it brought cause to no longer defend Torre’s moves. Some thought it was a sign that A-Rod must leave town and others thought that Torre should be fired for the decision.

    You mentioned this matter is discussed at great length in the book. Was that hard to do? Do you have any concerns about this, or anything in the book, creating a situation where it may damage your standing with those you still need to report on? Are you expecting that you may have to do some fence mending this Spring?

    Michael Morrissey: It wasn’t necessarily hard to do, because I’m a writer who has been taught at the Post to shoot from the hip. You can’t really hedge your analysis or criticism based on the fact that someone might not like it, or else the readers, in the end, are the ones who suffer. It was my opinion, and my editor at Doubleday backed me, that whitewashing what turned out to be a disappointment wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be true.

    Now, that said, I’m sure some people will be unhappy when the book comes out, but I’m not worried about it damaging my standing with them.

    Sportswriting has changed so much just in the course of a generation or two. I encourage all your readers to pick up the great Jerome Holtzman book, “No Cheering in the Press Box.” It’s a great read about a bygone era, and any baseball or history fan should enjoy it. I’m mentioning it because there are a couple of great anecdotes about how certain writers were, among other things, sycophants for the players. Nowadays, there’s a wariness between athletes and sportswriters, at best. At worst, it’s a downright confrontational relationship. Doing the job in the clubhouse has never been more difficult.

    I recall the great Peter Gammons – who I can unabashedly say was my sportswriting hero growing up, and the reason I got into this industry – saying that early in his career, he used to occasionally shag fly balls for some of the Red Sox players during early BP. Folks, if I tried to do that nowadays – I say this half-jokingly – the security guards would probably hustle me off the field and right out the Stadium.

    So that was a roundabout way of saying that things have changed. To really answer the question, while I highly respect Brian Cashman and Joe Torre and all they’ve done in building and sustaining the premier franchise in sports, I’m not afraid to report on what I felt were the team’s shortcomings. The same holds true for the players. I don’t think the standing will be damaged, because much of the book is based on what people have told me through their own eyes. Additionally, the reporting of the results is unmistakable. In other words, you can’t argue that a franchise that demanded nothing less than a 27th world championship since the first day of spring training lost to an inexperienced (if not inferior) club, which in turn lost to an 83-78 club in the World Series.

    As far as certain anecdotes or certain candid remarks, yeah, some people end up looking bad. Savvy Yankee fans can probably even guess who they are. And I’m sure some Yankees might be offended by them when the book comes out. But all I can do is stand by my reporting and my analysis, and I’m fully comfortable with that.

    WasWatching.com: Speaking of life in the Yankees clubhouse, from your view, has there been much of a change there in terms of the overall climate and how people relate to each other, now, as compared to 6 or 7 years ago? In what way? If the change has been in the wrong direction, is it something that can be corrected this season? What would that require, in your opinion?

    Michael Morrissey: I arrived in New York after the 2000 season was already underway, so I missed most of the camaraderie that may have existed on the earlier teams. That already seems like a long time ago, and I remember them as not often in the clubhouse and kind of grumpy – maybe because I was a “rookie” that year, or maybe because I so vividly remember them losing 15 of 18 at the end of the regular season. I guess the point is, I don’t think it’s a radical change to what the press saw last season and in ’00.

    I can speak to this: I think in 2006, the Yankees were better than they were during ’04 and ’05 (I was on the Mets beat in 2002 and 2003, so I can’t speak to those years). The fact that a player tried to do something out in the clubhouse, like Sal Fasano and the chess game with the B List guys and the fact that players tried to grow mustaches, even if it was only a few and for a few days – these are moves forward. But they’re small moves. If you ask your friends who might follow other baseball teams religiously, ask them about all the goofy, off-beat stuff that their teams do over a six-month period. Seems like even when you think about it in your own head, there’s more gung-ho stuff that happens elsewhere, from the Frat Boy A’s of the early 2000s to the Idiot Red Sox of ’04. Even the Mets openly crowed about how loose they were last year, and I seem to remember a Sports Illustrated cover piece on just that topic (which the Mets then blew up a replica of and hung proudly on their clubhouse wall).

    Point being, I think the Yankees are always going to be one of the most buttoned-down teams in baseball compared to others. The guys I talked to in ’06 thought the chemistry was really strong for the most part, even A-Rod I think said it was the best since he had been there. But Gary Sheffield argued that the Yankees can do much better in that area, and it’s something that we talk about in the book.

    One thing that could get better would be the perception around A-Rod, from the media, fans, and, yes, his teammates. The fact that everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Darryl Strawberry is commenting on the Rodriguez boobirds and the Jeter/A-Rod dynamic is not a good thing, Yankee fans. On that topic, the status quo in ’07 would not be a good thing. That can be corrected by Rodriguez sprinting out of the starting blocks and staying hot until he wins the league MVP and a World Series title. I know Yankee fans would gladly take that.

    Otherwise, I think the contagious enthusiasm the young players like Cano and Cabrera show will continue to positively affect the vets, and I think you’ll see good chemistry as long as they keep winning. Having Sheffield and Johnson out of town and not moping around certainly helps.

    WasWatching.com: The constant commenting on A-Rod thing is tough – because it’s such a deep topic that always seems to pull you back into it. For instance, right now, I should ask you about how the Yankees can get more “younger players” into the clubhouse, given that their starting eight on the field and their DH are locked up for the next few years. Or, maybe I should ask about what one thing you want your readers to take away from “The Pride and the Pressure.” But, the suggestion that Alex getting out of the gate in good fashion will help him this season with respect to the focus on him, forces me to ask this question: Wasn’t A-Rod the A.L. Player Of The Month For May last season? Did that help him last year in the long run? It seems, at least to me, that Rodriguez tanked in June when Matsui and Sheffield went out. And, that’s when the heat and booing started up heavy for Alex. Could it just be that it’s in the Yankees best interests to make sure they have big bats around Alex so that he doesn’t have to feel like he has to carry the team and then start pressing? See, it’s so easy to just keep talking about A-Rod!

    Oh, and, by the way, any thoughts on getting more younger position players in the Yankees clubhouse and what it is you want readers to take away from your book?

    Michael Morrissey: [Laughing] We’ll get to the last two questions, I promise. I was kind of joking that A-Rod needed to jump out of the starting blocks and then keep going, put his stamp on a year to remember like the year McGwire hit 70 or George Brett hit .390, etc. etc. We all know that isn’t likely to happen, and there will probably be some slump or rough patch over the course of a six-month season when Rodriguez gets booed again. That’s what makes sports so interesting: how do you handle the adversity?

    I think you make an excellent point that Matsui and Sheffield going down came right around the time A-Rod slumped, either through coincidence or through pressure by the fans and media (or even self-imposed pressure). His final numbers, though, were something that virtually any hitter would gladly accept.

    The Yankees, in my humble view, need to convey on the most personal, human level possible that Rodriguez is their most pivotal player for 2007 and beyond, and that they are on board to help him navigate the ups and downs of New York. Whether that’s Brian Cashman, whether that’s Joe Torre, whether that’s Derek Jeter, whether that’s a combination of people, I think the Yanks need to make a good-faith effort to put A-Rod at ease beginning in spring training, and make him understand that “the ship ain’t sailing without him,” to use a term.

    Cashman mentioned something about bedside manner regarding Andy Pettitte the last time the lefty was on the free-agent market. He said their bedside manner could’ve been a little better in courting Pettitte back in ’03.

    In my mind – and this is one man’s view – the Yanks’ bedside manner regarding A-Rod needs to be much better in ’07. If Rodriguez fails, if he opts out of his contract when the year is up, at least the club can say it did everything in its power to make it work out.

    The Yankees can get younger by using what they have and properly grooming what they want to have. By playing Melky Cabrera regularly (two or three times a week when the other outfielders need a day off), that will help the energy level. Pitching-wise, they’re preparing for a life without Mussina, Pettitte, Clemens, etc. They simply need to make wise choices in how they bring guys like Phil Hughes along and get a little bit of luck on the health aspect with these young prospects. My understanding is the team doesn’t really have any great young infielders on the come, so it’s up to someone like (outfielder) Jose Tabata to make a difference in a few years.

    The thing I think I want readers to take away from the book is what a unique, precious and privileged thing it is to be a Yankee – and a Yankee fan. These players understand that, and I hope it comes through vividly. I can say unequivocally the organization is filled with good men and good women who care, and that the baseball operations department – starting with Brian Cashman – is absolutely focused on winning that next world championship. They are, for the most part, dedicating every available resource to do that.

    However, with the tradition and the excellence comes a trade-off, and I hope the book portrays that properly. There are no medals for finishing second. Nobody that I know of is sporting “2006 AL East champs” T-shirts around town.

    WasWatching.com: As a Yankees fan, it’s great to hear from someone with access to the inner workings of the team that there are good people, who care, and who are focused, working the controls. It’s interesting that you said there are “no medals for finishing second.” It reminds me of that old Bill Parcells book “No Medals for Trying.” Maybe that can be the Yankees team slogan for 2007?

    You said the Yankees need “a good-faith effort to put A-Rod at ease” and that “the Yanks’ bedside manner regarding A-Rod needs to be much better in ’07.” I’m a believer in root cause analysis as part of any sound remediation plan. Do you have any opinions on what brought cause for the Yankees (both in the clubhouse and the front office) to develop a bedside manner towards Alex that causes him not to be at ease? If the Yankees put a Band-Aid on the situation, without changing why it happened, isn’t it likely to develop again? By this I mean, if the Yankees reaction is the result of something in A-Rod’s control, should not he also be charged with making some changes in 2007? Does this make sense?

    Michael Morrissey: This is my opinion, but I simply think A-Rod is a high maintenance superstar. Furthermore, I think Joe Torre grew frustrated or exasperated trying to figure out what made Rodriguez tick and get him to relax in 2006. Obviously, Rodriguez had a great year in 2005, so it was perplexing to see him struggle through long stretches the year after, especially defensively – where he regressed. I think the manager, who has so much on his plate, figured his cleanup guy would break out of it. But that it took Jason Giambi to exhort the manager to action (see SI’s “Lonely Yankee” story) is telling. Torre usually knows the right thing to say, and a little goes a long way with the stuff he says. A-Rod either didn’t take it to heart or didn’t hear the right thing about relaxing, trusting yourself, understanding the Yankee fishbowl, etc., etc.

    Beyond that, the Jeter/A-Rod relationship is something that could get better. There’s no denying it. Everyone from Mike Lupica on down wrote about a relationship that was called various degrees of “frosty” over the course of 2006. For the fans, I’ll say it’s not a case of sportswriters making this stuff up; it’s the most respected names in our industry remarking on the dynamic. The fact that Jeter said at the World Series that there’s nothing more he can do tells me it’s likely that nothing will change, though.

    The fact that this has always been Jeter’s team and A-Rod is an outsider coming to New York are root causes of the comfort level, I’d say. Again, though, he won the MVP in 2005, so it’s not like he’s a bust. He had one “bad” year where the media perception was certain key people might’ve hung him out to dry a little. It can get better by him finally realizing and actually believing that, like it or not, he’ll be booed by some until he’s cheered at the end of a victorious World Series, and for that to not distract him from the day-to-day task at hand. He certainly needs to relax more, no doubt about it.

    WasWatching.com: I suppose, in some way, A-Rod might be better off being ignorant and/or apathetic towards people’s opinions of him. The need for approval thing is just not working in his favor – at least last season. Perhaps having a buddy like Mientkiewicz on the team this year will provide some sort of confidant option to him – much like Fran Healy was for Reggie Jackson back in the day when Jackson was not getting along with his manager and teammates in the Bronx? As a Yankees fan, I hope it all works out.

    In closing, and getting back to your book, was there something that happened, or came to your attention, in the process of writing “The Pride and the Pressure” that surprised and/or pleased you more than anything else? If so, what was it and why does that item or event stand out? Related, was there one item or event that you wished had not happened?

    Michael Morrissey: I’m not sure I was surprised by any one thing. Having said that, there are one or two things that a couple of the key figures on the team said that will certainly be surprising to people. Although there are opinions baseball fans have of certain people or certain events around the Yankees, I think there will be some coloring in.

    The death of Cory Lidle was certainly something that I wish hadn’t happened. I had a chance to speak with him a few times, and although I learned people in baseball were divided on him, I found him to be a very humble, very down-to-earth guy. There is a lengthy interview with him at the end of the book, and I hope even Yankee fans who didn’t get to know him/like him gets something from his feelings about being a Yankee.

    I just wanted to thank you for this interview, and I wanted to welcome Yankee fans everywhere to my blogs (at Amazon and MySpace). In the next few months, I’m going to try to begin posting regularly about the Yankees, the book, and other events inside and outside the baseball world. Thanks all, and good luck with your team this year!

    WasWatching.com: Thank you Michael – for your time and candor in answering these questions. I’m sure that Yankees fans will appreciate and enjoy what you’ve shared here, will be sharing in your blogs, and have shared in The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl. Best of luck with all your projects!

    That’s it. Once again, our thanks to Michael Morrissey for granting WasWatching.com this interview!

    If The Yanks Have Pitching, Bet On Them In October

    Posted by on January 20th, 2007 · Comments (16)

    Some like to believe that the team with the best pitching wins, or should win, a post-season match-up. I can understand this position. But, does it always happen?

    I decided to look at every Yankees post-season series since 1995 and compare the Yankees pitching staff against the team they played – using Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) as a measuring stick of each team’s pitching in the series. This is what I found:

    YanksPostSeasonRSAA.jpg

    Looking at the results in this chart, it brings the following thoughts to mind:

    + The 1995 Yanks-M’s ALDS, pitching-wise, really was a toss-up.
    + The 1996 Braves should have beat the Yankees in the World Series.
    + The 1997 Yankees should have beaten the Indians in the ALDS.
    + The 1998 Yankees did what they were supposed to do in the post-season.
    + The 1999 Red Sox and Braves should have done better against the Yankees in the post-season.
    + The 2000 Yankees were better than anyone they faced in the post-season that year.
    + It really was a miracle that the 2001 Yankees made it to the World Series, much less making it to Game 7 of the World Series.
    + The 2002, 2005, and 2006 Yankees were all out-armed in their ALDS match-ups – and because of this they probably deserved to lose them.
    + The 2003 Yankees should have won the World Series – and losing it was a major letdown by New York.
    + The 2004 Yankees were lucky to beat the Twins in the ALDS, based on the pitching match-ups, and they were totally out-armed in the 2004 ALCS as well.

    In total, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they had the RSAA edge on their opponent 12 times – and won 10 of those 12 times (where they only lost to Cleveland in ’97 and the Marlins in ’03). That’s a success rate of 83%.

    On the flip side, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they did not have the RSAA edge on their opponent 13 times – and they lost 6 of those 13 times. Based on this, New York’s post-season odds are about 50-50 when they don’t have the pitching edge.

    Where New York beat the pitching odds: The 1996 ALDS & WS, 1999 ALCS & WS, 2001 ALDS & ALCS, and the 2004 ALDS.

    Imagine if the Yankees had lost the 1996 World Series, 2001 ALDS, and 2004 ALDS? Losing just these three post-season series would have re-written modern-day Yankees history in a huge way.

    Without a win in 1996, maybe there’s no letdown in 1997. With no crushing 1997 ALDS loss, maybe the drive during the 1998 season is different?

    But, if they lose the 2001 ALDS, then Games 4, 5 & 7 of the 2001 World Series never happen. And, of course, if they lose the 2004 ALDS, then the 2004 ALCS never happens.

    This leads to another interesting question: As a Yankees fan, would you trade in the rings of 1996 and 1998 to avoid the pain of 2001 and 2004? Is that a wash? Is it better to have loved, and lost, than never to have loved at all?

    If asked, I would take the rings. I’d rather have good memories and bad memories than no memories at all.

    Projecting Alex Rodriguez ’07

    Posted by on January 20th, 2007 · Comments (32)

    Looking at the 2007 batter projections in The Bill James Handbook 2007 and Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster 2007 today, I noticed that they agree on a projection (this season) for Alex Rodriguez. See their projections, along with A-Rod’s Yankees stats to date, below:

    ARodProject07.jpg

    Basically, the projections suggest that Alex’ 2007 season with the bat will look a lot like his 2006 offensive results – with a few more homers. And, that’s not a terrible thing – because those are Hall-of-Fame season type numbers that Rodriguez posted in 2006 – when you just look at the numbers alone. Still, based on the reaction that these numbers got A-Rod last season, in the media and with the fans, how will people react to a repeat of 2006 in 2007 for Rodriguez?

    If I had to guess now, I would offer that it’s not going to be a good reaction – albeit fair or not.

    The sad part of this is, that, if the Yankees traded A-Rod for some guy named “Joe Smith,” and Smith played 3B for the Yankees this season and he batted .290/.390/.540 for New York with 40 HR and 120 RBI, the media and fans would make him into a hero.

    I once heard a story that Mickey Rivers started calling himself “Miguel Rivera” when creditors were after him. Maybe Alex should consider changing his name to “Al Roberts” this season and give himself a make-over while he’s at it – and then let his numbers stand without the A-Rod name on them? It certainly would make for an interesting sociological experiment.

    How Do You Like Your String Cheese?

    Posted by on January 19th, 2007 · Comments (24)

    Mike at “Charlie Weis Ate My Babywrote this about Paul O’Neill today:

    I imagine that Red Sox fans enjoyed 2004 much like I enjoyed the 1998 Yankees. There were a lot of similarities between those two clubs, except the Yankees had a bit more class and a bunch more Paul O’Neill.

    Easily the most important New York Yankee of the last 25 years. More than Jeter, more than Rivera, more than Bernie. Number of Yankees World Series Championships since Big Paulie hung up the spikes after the 2001 season: zero.

    Sounds like Mike digs Paulie-O.

    Quick sidebar: Once I was at a Yankees game with my friend Lou in 2001. A guy sitting near us would scream out “String cheeeeese!” every time O’Neill came to the plate. We didn’t get it – at first. Finally, after hearing it a few times, Lou says to me “Oh, now I get it. ‘String Cheese,’ like in ‘Polly-O String Cheese‘ – ‘Paulie-Oh,’ get it?” (Stupid the things you remember, right? Anyway, that’s why this entry got the title that it did.)

    Back to the present day, a few months back, a met a woman who said she was a Yankees fan. We started talking about the recent teams and I brought up O’Neill. At that moment, she added “Oh, him – the cry-baby who would throw a fit every time he didn’t get his way.”

    Right there, I thought, even though she said she was a Yankees fan, that she knew as much about the Yankees as I do on quantum physics – which is nothing.

    You see, I too am a fan of O’Neill. As I shared back in November 2005, “I’ve always been drawn to the Munson-Mattingly-O’Neill types. I like guys who are leaders, work hard, play with passion, not afraid, etc.” in terms of having a favorite Yankee.

    However, regardless of my feelings, there’s always been that split on O’Neill – see Wikipedia for a good take on it:

    O’Neill is fondly remembered by Yankee fans as the “heart and soul” of the team’s dynasty in the 1990s. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner also labeled him as a “Warrior”. Naturally, however, to non Yankee fans and especially the Red Sox Nation, his antics were seen in a more negative light which led to being labeled a [sic] ‘whinger’, ‘spoiled brat’ and ‘crybaby’. In January 2007, Bill Simmons, an ESPN sportswriter and unrepentant Red Sox fan, referred to O’Neill as a “dick” in an ESPN online chat.

    So, thinking about it now, I do wonder if there are more people out there like that woman I once met? Do any Yankees fans out there feel that O’Neill was a “crybaby”? Or, are most of you like me and Mike (from “Charlie Weis Ate My Baby“)? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section here. Thanks in advance!

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