Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Jeter’

Why I think LeBron James will go to the Knicks

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 5, 2009

Here are the many reasons, in no particular order, why I think LeBron James should and will sign with the Knicks in the summer of 2010:

1. Madison Square Garden – He has said many times that Madison Square Garden is one of his most favorite places to play ball. Also, MSG continued to sell out and maintain the aura of a playoff game many times during this year (and the last few years) even when the Knicks (and Rangers) stunk it up. What other city has this atmosphere even when the team(s) has been horrible for 10 years? Most cities give up on the teams.

Madison Square Garden
Knicks playing at Madison Square Garden.
(source: Wikipedia)

2. NYC badly needs a basketball savior – Giants won in 2007. Yankees won in 2009. Rangers won in 1994. The Knicks have not won since 1972-3, and only reached the Finals twice since then. Everyone saw how NYC treated the 1994-5 Rangers when they finally won. Imagine how the city will treat whoever gets the Knicks to the promised land.

3. The Canyon of Heroes – There is nothing like going down Broadway and the Canyon of Heroes in a ticker-tape parade, being celebrated by three million+ fans. The history of the Canyon of Heroes goes beyond sports and New York. It is a big part of all that America stands for – valor, freedom, intelligence and bravery (Eisenhower, MacArthur, Glenn, Statue of Liberty, Einstein, Olympians, Lindbergh, Earhart, Jesse Owens, Armstrong, just to name a few of the 100+ parades). No other city comes close to offering that experience. None.


Apollo 11 astronauts honored in
Canyon of Heroes Tickertape parade in 1969.
(Source: Wikipedia, NASA)

4. Time to leave the nest – As much as people say he won’t leave Cleveland because he’s a hometown kid, that reason may also be why he leaves. All college kids remember having to decide between going to a state school versus going out of state. The visions and dreams of leaving the nest grow stronger as you mature. It is a natural process to want to leave the nest and prove you are capable of taking care of yourself. Many of those that were hesitant about leaving home, end up loving the experience away from home. LeBron will be 25 next summer.

5. It’s just a part-time job – People make it seem like if he leaves Ohio, he is naked and all out in the world alone. Basketball season is from October to April. He has 4 to 5 months each year to live back home with his mom and friends, if he wants. Additionally, there is so much traveling going on during the season, most players see the team city as a job location and not necessarily a family-nest location. It’s more important that the city and fans embrace you. He will be embraced like no other in NYC.

6. James Dolan – He might be one of the most incompetent owners in sports, but there is one thing that he has, money. And he’s not afraid to spend it on the Knicks. Now that the management is sound with Walsh, LeBron can come here knowing the management will do whatever it takes to surround James with whoever he wants to win it all.

7. LeBron as pseudo-GM – LeBron will have a lot of input in which players the Knicks sign or let go during his whole contract. The Knicks entire hope is that LeBron signs with them. You think once they do, they will go against his wishes in bringing in a supporting cast? With Dolan’s money and Walsh’s management, LeBron does not have to worry about the current Knicks players being bad.

8. Don’t forget 2011 – Too much is said about how the Knicks will only be able to get one max player (and recently cleared space for two!). No matter what the cap is and whether they can unload Curry and/or Jeffries, both contracts come off in 2011. LeBron is not signing for one year, it’s a multi-year investment.

9. Mike D’Antoni – Every player, including LeBron, loved playing for D’Antoni on the US National team. His style is almost playground style – open, fast-paced and focused on athleticism – which Lebron loves. You can see how the Cavs offense slows down when Shaq is stuck in the paint. versus someone more fleet footed like Varejao when he’s in the game. LeBron is taking more fade-away jumpers instead of driving to the net. Additionally, the Cavs don’t do many pick-and-rolls which would greatly increase LeBron’s ability. D’Antoni’s whole premise is the ability to efficiently do pick-and-rolls.


Mike D’Antoni coaching the Suns.
(Source: Wikipedia, Bobak Ha’Eri)

10. CC Sabathia, Arod, Jeter and others – LeBron’s friends on the Yankees and Giants will simply tell him there’s no other city to be a champion in. That’s gotta be at least in his head seeing his friends enjoying the glory of being champions and beloved by the city. Not to mention Jeter winning SI’s Sportsman of the Year. If LBJ brings home the trophy in NYC, good chance he will be just that.

11. New York Yankees - LeBron is a big Yankees fan. Yankees will be contenders for the foreseeable future. If he sticks around in the offseason, he can enjoy many games in the new stadium and watch his buddy Sabathia pitch to his heart’s content. Not to mention the playoffs.

12. Giants and Rangers – Don’t know if LeBron is a big football or hockey fan, but it’s always nicer to be in a city where all the sports teams are contending and supported by the city. The Browns have been a mess for a long time. The Indians seem to be in constant rebuilding mode, having let Sabathia and Cliff Lee go. Not to mention that the Cavaliers were nothing for many years before James.

11. Charity – Yes, it’s true that charity can be done in any city, but charity done in a big media city like NYC just means more exposure and publicity for it. Look at Jeter’s Turn2 Foundation or Joe Torre’s Safe at Home foundation which he has not moved to L.A. and he still flies back to every year.

12. NYC media – Which brings us to the media. James loves the spotlight. He is accommodating to the media. Seriously, what athlete entertains the hypothetical idea of going to another city for so long before finally saying no more questions until after the season? He understands being a true superstar means winning over the local media. Winning over the crazy media of NYC is another challenge I think he finds exciting.

13. Local marketing – People talk about how going to NYC will not make him a bigger global icon. They talk about how he is already as big as he can get in the world. They talk about how he is second in China and fourth in Europe in jersey sales. One thing they are all forgetting is the local marketing of LeBron. Yes, he is already an icon in NYC with large billboards, but he is seen as an icon like Jordan, but not an icon they can call their own. Big big difference. Imagine the marketing prospects of that of a metropolitan area of 18 million versus Cleveland or even Miami. Only Los Angeles, Chicago and possibly Boston can compete with that. The added local marketing revenue is something he can not get anywhere else. And don’t forget Wall Street and the many Fortune 500 companies there. Everyone assumed that just because Nike doesn’t have a bonus clause in the new contract LeBron just signed that it means they don’t prefer to have him in New York. It would be too obvious, but trust me, they definitely prefer him in NYC. If LeBron does sign with the Knicks, they can mutually tear the current contract up and sign a new one.

Think about it. Knicks have been horrible for many years. Yet they are fifth in Most Popular Team Merchandise and David Lee is 12th in jersey sales (and Nate Robinson is 11th!). It’s not little kids in the midwest buying the merchandise and jerseys, but the millions of fans in the NYC area. Don’t tell me local marketing doesn’t matter.

14. Basketball legends reside in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and New York – The stars from the big cities still command the most attention in basketball (and sports) history. Going back to sales rankings, 7 of the top 14 in jersey sales are players from the four cities, and the four cities are in the top 5 in team merchandise. An example is Tim Duncan. He has been such a consistent force for the past 13 years, and yet no one really cares or hears about him. I know he likes it that way, but if you want to be remembered, you have to go to the big cities.

15. It’s 5 players per team, not 9 or 22 – Unlike baseball or football where one player cannot take over a game day in and day out, in basketball, it can happen. Even a roster of 12 is much easier to improve than 25 in baseball or 53 in football. The Cavaliers is a perfect example. They were 17-65 the year before James was drafted. James single-handedly generated an 18-win improvement his first season, 35-47. What James wants to see is cap flexibility in the first and second years he is there, and also a willingness to spend by the owner. Knicks fit both.

16. This year’s Knicks record doesn’t matter as much as people make it out to be – People keep focusing on that LeBron says he wants to play on a winner. With the Knicks mired in the basement of the league, people wonder why LeBron would want to go to a loser team. Umm, most of the players are not going to be on the team next year. Even LeBron knows that the Knicks record is not reflective of the potential of the team next year. The key is seeing the players that are in the Knick’s long term plans play hard and improve. This is why it’s important D’Antoni plays the young core like Gallinari, Douglas, Hill, Lee, Robinson, and Chandler. (Umm, ok, let’s leave KryptoNate and Hill out of it)


LeBron James in a Knicks uniform.
Those crafty New Yorkers. (source: web)

17. LeBron’s personal attention to Gallinari and Robinson – I know LeBron occasionally will whisper advice to the young players on several teams, but he has done it very obviously with Nate Robinson last year and with Gallinari this year right after the only Cavs visit to MSG. Why bother? He knows it will only add fuel to the fire.

18. LeBron’s quotes about NYC and MSG – LeBron has given so many positive quotes about playing in MSG and NYC. Seriously, if I was a Cavs fan I’d be peeved that he speaks so highly of another city that way. Either he is a big tease or there is something there…

19. He’s not playing second fiddle to Dwyane Wade - Yes, Wade and James have mentioned how great it would be play on the same team, and how they would tear up the court. But this works best when both of them go to a new team together. That means the new team is both theirs equally. No second fiddle. Let’s be clear. The Heat is Wade’s team. If LeBron goes to Miami, he’s going to Wade’s team. Just like when Shaq went to L.A. It’s Kobe’s team.

20. Cleveland has no great rivalries - Kobe said it best on Christmas that there is no rivalry between the Lakers and Cavs.  Frankly, no team has a strong rivalry with the Cavs. They were so bad for so long. And the nearest teams in Chicago and Philly have more natural rivalries with other teams than the Cavs. Great rivalries are beyond current players, they are built over many years. The Knicks have rivalries. If Wade stays in Miami and LeBron comes to NYC, that’s a rivalry waiting to continue from the Riley days of the 1990s. Not to mention rivalries with the Bulls, Celtics and Sixers. And I bet Knicks-Nets becomes an interesting rivalry after Prokhorov’s purchase.

21. Lebron is not a Miami kind of guy - I just don’t see LeBron as a South Beach kind of guy. Basketball is a winter sport (unless it’s playground ball, of course). Wade, I see as a Miami person, so I don’t think Wade will leave the Heat.

22. If it’s only about money, how come he hasn’t signed an extension already – People talk about how the Knicks can’t offer him more money than the hometown Cavs and so they are not as attractive. If that is the case, why hasn’t he signed a max extension with the Cavs by now? It is apparent that LeBron, at a minimum, is excited by the possibilities of free agency. This can only help the Knicks. Plus, I think this hometown max contract being more than what other teams can offer is overblown. The annual max percent raise is 6% vs. 8% (or something like that). Yes, it makes a difference, but for someone like LeBron that can easily overcome that in external opportunities in NYC, I don’t think it’s an issue at all.

23. Winning, loyalty or immortality – Bill Simmons of ESPN said it perfectly, “It’s one of the greatest sports decisions I can remember: LeBron can choose winning (Chicago), loyalty (Cleveland) or a chance at immortality (New York) (ESPN link)”. I think if most of us had a chance at immortality, we would take the risk and go for it. It will be interesting to see which of these three traits he goes for.

“Let’s get this clear: I said the max contract doesn’t mean more than winning,” James said. “I didn’t say, ‘I don’t need a max contract’ or ‘I’m not going to get a max contract.’ All I’m saying is that winning is more important to me than money at the end of the day.”

-LeBron

“As big of stars as those guys are now, it would be even more magnified if they went there [New York]. You become a household name to everyone if you play in New York City. It’s a magical place that goes well beyond basketball. You’re up there with legends like Ali and Sinatra. A franchise can be rebuilt quickly through free agency and the Knicks might be one of those now.” (NBA Fanhouse)

-Bernard King (former Knicks great)

“They’re in the lead, they just have to make it [attractive] for him. LeBron will come to New York if he knows they’re gonna win. . . . So, if they sign a free agent first, that would probably seal the deal, I believe. They should have somebody else on their radar to make him want to come. He could really be a ‘King’ if he could revitalize the Knicks. You got some of the best basketball fans in the world, and now you could be responsible for bringing a championship back to New York. Now, it’s gonna take a few years, because you still gotta add more pieces. He’s got more talent in Cleveland, but he can do more incredible things in New York… If he said he wants to be a billionaire, or close to it, you gotta go to New York.(New York Post)

-Magic Johnson

And here are additional reasons why I think he will at least leave the Cavaliers.

1. He did not pick the Cavs, they picked him – People seem to forget that LeBron did not choose to go to Cleveland. The Cavs notoriously tanked the two season prior to the LeBron draft in order to get the highest chance to win the lottery. They needed him more than he needed them. LeBron had no choice. He would’ve simply gone to anyone that won the lottery. Now is his first chance to choose where he wants to go.

2. His loyalty lies with Akron, not Cleveland – It was interesting that at his MVP Award ceremony this year, he pledged his loyalty to Akron, not Cleveland and not Ohio. This might be a subtle choice of words in distinguishing where his ultimate loyalty lies. Additionally, he choose to have it at the University of Akron, instead of somewhere in Cleveland.

3. Cleveland had seven long years to give LeBron a title – As much as people say Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, has an emptyless pocket to surround LeBron with the pieces to win, the truth is all the moves have been more like 80% effort. Bringing in Shaq as sloppy fourths after the Heat, Lakers and Suns had a turn was not the wisest choice. Plus, the addition of Jamison was also suspect. Here’s a guy that has played for only Golden State and the Wizards in putting up his numbers. His age and lack of playoff heroics made him a risky addition, considering how much they gave up for him.

4. Mike Brown and the coaching staff – Brown’s a nice guy and all, but he really is way over his head. By the end of the Cavs-Celtics series, it was obvious LeBron just didn’t respect the guy and the coaching staff’s ability to get the Cavs to the promised land.

5. Kevin Garnett’s strong words on loyalty – I know this is just some other player’s words, but it’s hard to ignore the truth behind Garnett’s words. ”Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get youth back” Garnett said.


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Book Review: The Yankee Years

Posted by silentarchimedes on April 29, 2009

The Yankee Years

Authors: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

yankeeyearThere was a lot of pre-release chatter for this book. The snippets that were released led people to believe that Joe Torre, the Yankees manager during their 1996-2007 dynasty, was bitter about being let go by the Yankees and the book was his way of getting back at the team. There was also chatter of Torre breaking the unwritten code of leaving what happens in the locker room behind the scenes instead of revealing them to the public. The release of the book seemed untimely considering that Torre is still managing and most of the players he discussed in the book are still playing. Torre, in his defense, said he isn’t the only author of the book, and the book is actually written in third person. He also mentions that there’s really nothing new mentioned in the book that’s not already out there, especially about Alex Rodriguez.

As a big time Yankees fan, all the above reasons, in addition to wanting some insider analysis of the dynasty years, were enough to check this book out of the local library and give it a read.

THE REVIEW

This book is loooong. Considering that Torre says it doesn’t reveal anything new, at 477 pages, there is a lot of regurgitation of obvious in-game details. Maybe it’s because I came in wanting to read about things fans don’t get to read about in the papers, especially about what happens in the locker room and what does not. I was not interested in reading, “Chuck Knoblauch hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. Jeter doubled. O’Neill doubled. After a brief pause on a strikeout by Williams, Martinez singled. Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. After Tim Raines grounded out, Jorge Posada hit a home run.” (pp.46-7). I watched the game, I read about it in the newspapers and internet when it happened. I sure don’t need to read it again in a book. This type of detail was plentiful throughout the book. After awhile I started scanning those sections.

So what else is in the book, besides in game details? Let’s just say, the book makes Torre look like the most righteous guy in the world. His encounters with players always resulted in his favor. And there are plenty of little stories that demonstrated how adept Torre was at handling The Boss Steinbrenner. Now it’s very possible that all those stories are true, but it’s hard to fathom that there weren’t other stories that resulted in Torre being wrong. None were talked about in the book. Most bothersome was that all the stories do support the notion that Torre does have an inner circle of players he has an affinity to and everyone not really in this inner circle has issues. He definitely throws people under the bus. He talks about players (by name) crying. (I’m sure Roger Clemens was happy that this book revealed how he “cried uncontrollably” aftter the Mike Piazza bat throwing incident in the playoffs in 2000.) And this is where I think is over the line and breaking the unwritten rules. He analyzes players’ personalities as if he is an expert. It’s fine to talk about Kevin Brown punching a wall after a rough outing because it did happen and it’s a fact. But to really talk about how he was weak as a person, to me was unnecessary. He talks about how this player had these issues, or how this player is mentally weak. There are definitely some pretty mean things he says in there about players that couldn’t hack it in New York. And it always seemed like it was their fault and not Torre’s. Then he talks ever so glowingly about the dynasty years. The players that were in his inner circle. Of course, Derek Jeter. And Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams and David Cone. Finally, I’m surprised how often Torre curses, especially the F-bomb, in the book.

The problem with reading a book that has two contrasting authors is that it is hard to separate what parts of the book are Verducci’s and what parts are Torre’s. Since most of the book features Torre as the prominent character, it’s hard not to associate all comments and analysis to Torre. That might be unfair but there’s no other way.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

After Torre talks about the 2000 World Series, the book becomes a slow explanation of the demise of the Yankees dynasty, from the management, the scouting, the players and the rise of the Red Sox and other statistics conscious money-managing teams. It’s not that fun to read as a Yankees fan, but it is worth reading once to really realize that the Yankees have become a very misdirected team for the past eight seasons or so. Once you get past the game details, the already public ribbing (especially about A-Rod, Clemens and Knoblauch) and the throwing of some players and people to the wolves, there are some interesting new information about this book. There are details about Clemens and Randy Johnson that the fans didn’t really know about. It was also nice to see the players and people that contributed quotes and information to the book. David Cone is frequently quoted in the chapters surrounding the dynasty years. Even Theo Epstein offers insight of the rivalry and the rise of the Sox.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed about the book. I wished that Torre was not an author of book because there seems to be a lot of self-serving stories in there. The writing of the book is also not as smooth as I’d expect from Verducci. A lot of quotes seem blunt, too direct and fake. I’m not sure if they are really a word for word quote of what happened. And Torre is right, there really aren’t that many new interesting mind-blowing things in there that aren’t already known. The whole chapter on steroids really seems like a collection of information from the Mitchell Report, Clemens-McNamee Congression hearing and other media stories.

However, as disappointing as the book is, it’s hard to argue that Torre was not a great manager. His personality and ability to handle Steinbrenner and troubled players were perfect for a baseball dynasty. That plus the combination of completely team-oriented win at all cost players like O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, Brosius, Tino, Rivera, Cone, Pettitte, Posada and other bit players resulted in a 6 year span of baseball success that would be hard to duplicate in the coming years.

The Yanke Years: 6 stars

The Yankee Years: 6 stars

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Who is a better quarterback? Eli Manning or Tony Romo? Three words… Jeter versus A-Rod.

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 13, 2008

Tony Romo

Tony Romo

This whole debate about who is a better quarterback, Eli Manning or Tony Romo, can be summed up with three words, Jeter versus A-Rod. One is quieter, more professional, goes about business, and wins when it counts. The other is flashy, puts up big numbers, all over the gossip news for questionable reasons, and has issues with winning the big games. In the end, who do you want on your team? The former, the one that wins when it counts. All the other stuff is irrelevant if he cannot carry the team when it counts. That’s why Jeter will always be revered by Yankee fans, and A-Rod seen as an outsider. That’s why Eli will be loved by coaches more than Romo.

In essence, just like A-Rod, until he carries the Yankees to a World Series championship and he is named the MVP or he makes an amazing play that is the catalyst for a championship, he cannot be compared to Jeter. Similarly, until Romo can carry the Cowboys to a championship, something that the team historically is good at, then he cannot be compared to Eli. Who cares how good he is in the regular season. It is a wasted season for the Cowboys anytime they make the playoffs and cannot win. Look at John Elway and Michael Strahan. Their legacies were completely solidified when they finally won championships for their teams. They were both integral parts of those teams.

Eli Manning

Eli Manning

A championship win does tremendous things to the public perspective of the athlete and to the athlete himself. Before the Giants amazing playoff run last year, Eli was seen as a mediocre QB compared to Romo, and many others in the league. He was seen as someone who belonged in the NFL but would not be able to lay a finger on his much better QB brother, Peyton Manning. After Eli’s leadership and performance throughout the playoffs, and his 4-0 start to lead the Giants this season, many people now argue that Eli is a better QB than Peyton. What has changed so quickly? Well, for one thing that championship. For another, Eli is a much more confident player. Athletes need confidence. When they start doubting their ability to do well, it will show up on the field. The elephant will simply grow bigger and bigger.

One last thing. To say that the Giants easy schedule makes them undeserving of a 4-0 record and number 1 ranking is absurd. To say that Eli is doing well because he has played against horrible teams is absurd. Simple reasons. If it was that easy, then the Patriots should have gone undefeated last year at 19-0. If it was that easy, then the Cowboys should not have lost yesterday to the Cardinals. If it was that easy, the Redskins should not have lost to the Rams yesterday. The same team that Redskins and other NFC East fans ripped on the Giants for beating. If it was that easy, the Eagles should not have been so close against the 49ers until the end of the game. In the NFL, you have to beat the teams that you should be beat. Simple as that. Otherwise, you are making excuses.

Note: The poll below has been “compromised” by Tony Romo fans trying to justify that he is a better quarterback than Eli Manning. The count before the “compromise” was 9-1 in favor of Manning. After the compromise, the count was 1005-9, in favor of Romo. So simply subtract 1004 from the Romo number (until another compromise occurs). I think most of us agree that Romo is a better quarterback, but until he wins some playoff games, he won’t be in the same class as Roethlisberger and Manning. I don’t even think Romo was drafted in any of the first few rounds, unlike the other two who were drafted in the first round.

Note: Well, well, well, the Eli Manning fans strike back. His count was hacked on June 1, 2009. Please subtract 50 from his count. Eli has taken the lead though after Romo tied it up for a while.

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The Disappointing 2008 Yankees Season – Stick a Fork in it, the Yankees are Done

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 10, 2008

Wow, I haven’t really followed the Yankees in over a month. Probably the longest time I haven’t spent an hour on them on any day in like forever. This has been the most disappointing season since the early 1990s, when they were the laughingstock of the league. Here’s why:

1. Too many injuries – All the talk last year about Joe Girardi working his young pitchers in Florida too hard and doing too many exercises during practices seems to have the same ill effect on the Yankees. All three of the promising young pitchers have lost serious time due to injuries. Their underrated ace, Chien-Ming Wang was done relatively early in the season. For someone who gave the Yankees 19 wins each of the past two seasons, it was a big blow when he was lost for the season at 8-2. Imagine if the Yankees had 7 or 8 more wins right now. They would be right where Boston is, and fighting for first place, let alone, the wild card.

Don’t forget losing Jorge Posada for the season. And missed times for Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Brian Bruney. Hard to build any sense of hope or team when key people keep going down.

Effect on Season: A

Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy (Courtesy of NY Post)

Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy (Courtesy of NY Post)

2. Where are the young pitchers?? – Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain all lost significant time to injury. Aren’t injuries a problem for the old players and not the young ones? The first two had a combined 0-8 record with 8.17 and 9.00 ERAs (no need to differentiate the two). Both of their WHIPs hovered around 2.00! Hughes came back but was sent to the minor leagues. He will be playing in the Arizona Fall League. Remember when people were afraid that he would pitch too many innings this year? Now they have to give him extra innings. Kennedy came back and pitched great in the minors, was brought back up to the majors and did horrible. Now he’s stuck in the minors for good. That doesn’t bode well for him in the future, as he can’t seem to make the next step to the majors.

Effect on Season: A-

Robinson Cano (left) and Melky Cabrera

Robinson Cano (left) and Melky Cabrera

3. What happened to the young hitters?? – The next wave of young Yankee farmhands to take over for the last wave of Yankee stars (Jeter, Rivera, Bernie, Posada, Pettitte) have hit some major bumps. As mentioned, Wang and the three young ‘uns were ineffective or injured this year. But, the two young ones that didn’t get injured have dramatically underperformed. Robinson Cano, who was rewarded with a major contract in the offseason, has been completely skittish and lost at the plate this year.  He is a notoriously slow starter, but his second half has been just as pathetic. He is batting 39 points lower than his career average (.263 to .302). He is projected to have 67 runs and 68 RBIs, which compared to last year, 93 runs and 97 RBIs, puts him on the same footing as the typical second baseman, and definitely not top tier. His OBP is now below .300! According to some veterans, Cano is feeling the pressure of the new contract. This pressure will only grow until he plays well.

The other player, Melky Cabrera, is not so much a surprise, but a disappointment nonetheless. Cabrera has been slowly regressing since the summer of 2006. It is apparent that his nice first half of the season in 2006 was the anomaly, and not last year. Without much pressure on him the past two years to perform, his true self shows someone without any batting instincts. His above average fielding is not enough for an important position like centerfield. He has since been demoted to the minors, and who knows when we’ll see him again.

Oh yah, remember Shelley Duncan? The little cult hero was gone after a month into the season. I never found him that impressive to begin with. To me, a cult hero is Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer.

Effect on Season: A-

Kyle Farnsworth (left) traded for Pudge Rodriguez

Kyle Farnsworth (left) traded for Pudge Rodriguez

4. Midseason trades don’t pay off - Ever since the Yankees traded for David Justice that one year, Yankee fans have looked to the midseason trades for that extra boost to reach the playoffs. A couple of seasons have yielded nice trades, such as Bobby Abreu and Ruben Sierra. This year’s trades have not panned out, not the fault of the Yankees. Getting rid of Kyle Farnsworth, a target of the boo-birds was worth the risk in return for perennial All-Star Ivan Rodriguez. Even though Rodriguez was on the downside of his career, he was a much better choice than Chad Moeller or Jose Molina. At the time of the trade, the Yankee bullpen was one of the best in the league. However, since then the bullpen has regressed dramatically. Both Veras and Ramirez have been ineffective. And Pudge is a lousy .218 with three RBIs in 27 games.

The other trade brought back Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. I personally thought they gave up too much. Nady had a torrid start with the Yankees, but has since slowed down. He has batted .280, with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 41 games. However, Marte has been a complete bust. There’s something with mid-relievers that come to the Yankees. They always do horrible. Marte was a respectable 3.47 with the Pirates, but has since been a horrible 6.75 with the Yankees.

Effect on Season: B

Derek Jeter (left) and Alex Rodriguez (Courtesy of NY Times and Getty)

Derek Jeter (left) and Alex Rodriguez (Courtesy of NY Times and Getty)

5. Underperforming offense – As easy as it is to blame it on injuries and what not, the veterans on this team seem to be playing with no enthusiasm, fun or results. This will only be the second time in Jeter’s career that he will have an OBP less than .370, and an OPS less than .790. He is also on track to have his first non-100 run season (except his injured 2003 season). It’s hard to say A-Rod is underperforming, considering he still has respectable stats, but compared to last year and his new contract, it’s fair for the fans to expect more. His situational hitting is horrendous and his label of worst clutch hitter continues. Of his 33 homers, 22 are solo. With the bases loaded, he is batting .231 with no homers. During close and late games, he is batting .266 with only two homers. Overall, with runners in scoring position, he is batting .264 with six homers. Without the supporting cast of Matsui, Cano, Cabrera, and Posada, the left side of the infield has been unable to carry the team. As a positive, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu all are playing respectable. Even Matsui and his limited playing time. However, Abreu’s OBP of .371 is still far below his trademark .400.

The Yankees offense was expected to be their cornerstone again. Instead they find themselves 7th out of the 14 teams in the AL, with 695 runs (as of 9/9/08). Their usually strong OPS is now a middling sixth. Additionally, they are 8th in doubles, 5th in homers, and 8th in walks.

Effect on Season: B+

Tom "Flash" Gordon

Former Yankee - Tom "Flash" Gordon

7. Off-season signings don’t pay off - The key mid-impact players the Yankees signed in the offseason? Both are gone. Morgan Ensberg and LaTroy Hawkins. I felt Hawkins got a bad rap before the season even started because he wore Paul O’Neill’s 21. I found that absurd. How can you hate him for wearing an unretired number? However, Hawkins is simply another in a long-line of middle relievers to have amazing seasons to only be horrendous upon coming to the Yankees. Think Farnsworth (2.19, 4.36), Marte (3.47, 6.75), Hawkins (3.42, 5.71), Luis Vizcaino  (3.58, 4.30), Paul Quantrill (1.75, 4.72), Felix Rodriguez (3.29, 5.01), Felix Heredia (3.00, 6.28), Gabe White (4.05, 8.27), with the ERAs of their previous season/part-season with their former team, and their ERAs with the Yankees in their first full season or part season. Wow! Those are some telling stats. The reason I think Hawkins was affected by the O’Neill absurdity? He has not given up a run in 13 innings for the Astros since leaving the Yankees. Given up only 5 hits and struck out 19! It definitely takes a certain mentality to pitch in high-pressure situations for the Yankees. The last import to help the Yanks in mid-relief? Tom Gordon. The search continues…

It’s also interesting that the only major imports by the Yanks in the offseason were Hawkins and Ensberg, both of whom have been released. I actually thought their re-signings of A-Rod, Rivera and Posada were neutral to risky to downright stupid, respectively. After the whole fiasco with A-Rod opting out, everyone thought the Yankees would get some concessions from him, but almost none at all. They still gave him a $270million dollar 10 year contract with an additional $30 million in possible bonuses. Wasn’t this what he was going to get anyways? A-Rod apparently has issues with clutch situations. It is also becoming clear he doesn’t have the persona to carry the Yanks to a championship. As good as Rivera is, giving him a multi-year contract at his age was risky. However, he has proven to be dominant this year. Giving Posada an expensive four-year contract without much competition from other teams was extreme loyalty bordering on stupidity. Catchers just don’t last that long. Predictably, Posada was lost for the season. Who knows how much catching he has left in him.

Effect on Season: B

Johan Santana of the Mets

Johan Santana of the Mets

6. No Johan Santana – As much as the new signings didn’t help the Yankees, the major non-signing or trade was also significant. By not trading for Santana with the Twins, the Yankees lost the dominant ace they needed this year. He would have kept the Yankees in the playoff race with the rash of injuries they have had. However, I still think the Yankees made the right move. Everyone knew that Santana would be good this year, but to give up so many prospects and over $100 million dollars for 1 or 2 dominant years, to me is not good business. Unless Santana plays well for most of his contract, I believe the Yankees made the right move long-term. It still does not stop the fact that he would have tremendously helped the Yanks this year.

Effect on Season: C+

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

7. Other teams are better – Credit must be given where credit is due. Tampa is definitely a better team this year. Either they are overachieving or finally reaping its rewards, it is no fluke. We are into mid-September and they continue to be in first place. Coupled with a resurgent Blue Jays, and the Yankees have fallen to fourth place. The Yankees are only 31-29 against their division this year. Last year they were 39-33 and in 2006 they were 46-28! Don’t forget the White Sox and Twins playing well this year. They are surprises as well. The Yankees are only 18-18 against Central teams this year, whereas they were 30-11 last year!

Effect on Season: B

Joe Girardi (right) with his predecessor Joe Torre

Joe Girardi (right) with his predecessor Joe Torre

8. Joe Girardi – Finally, it’s hard not to fault the manager when a team won’t be making the playoffs for the first time in over 14 years. I disagree with Joe Torre and some others that the Yankees never need motivation (such as team meetings and pep talks) because they are veterans and professionals. It was apparent in many games this year that the Yankees played listlessly and without emotion. A manager can make that difference and instill a sense of fight. Girardi doesn’t seem to be making his own identity this year. His moves have been predictable and sometimes too conservative. What happened to the Girardi we heard about or the one with the Marlins? It’s almost as if he’s afraid to manage a lot of veterans and players he’s played with before. Instead he has been a nice little manager, with too optimistic post-game interviews. He has also obviously falsified his knowledge about Yankee injuries during interviews. The reason they chose Girardi over Mattingly was the hands-on motivating approach. I actually feel like the Yankees got more conservative and boring with Girardi.

Effect on Season: B

Old Yankee Stadium (right) with new one in back

Old Yankee Stadium (right) with new one in back

9. Hank Steinbrenner – Ok, I’ll give you a couple bonus ones. Hank talks too much. He doesn’t seem that baseball savvy. Just a bunch of hogwash. I guess if you are rich, you can say what you want and people will listen to you. But from what I read, his brother Hal and sister Jennifer are actually more involved with the Yankees than he is. He just talks a lot.

Effect on Season: D

10. Lackadaisical Last Season at Old Yankee Stadium – I think us Yankee fans expected more in this last season at the old Yankee Stadium. Maybe a final and 27th World Championship to mark Babe Ruth and the 1927 Yankees. Maybe some nice promotions and star days to mark the history of the players that have played there. Instead all we have witnessed is the countdown in the outfield and the MLB sponsored All-Star game. It has been somewhat anti-climactic.

Effect on Season: D-

Looking towards 2009 season in new stadium

Let's go Yankees! (Courtesy of Da Bronx Bombers blog)

Courtesy of the Da Bronx Bombers blog

It’s hard to close the 2008 season and look towards the Yankees prospects in 2009 because the Yankees have made the playoffs every year since 1995. However, if we do dare, the 2009 Yankees now have a lot of question marks. With most of the major-league young players taking major steps back, we won’t know what we will get from them and potential farmhands next year. How will Hughes be? Is Joba going back into the rotation and will he be as dominant? How will Wang be after injury? Will Cano bounce back? It seems like Cabrera and Kennedy will not be in the plans next year. Not too many other impact prospects on the horizon. Is Austin Jackson ready for the majors?

What do you do with Mussina? As great as his season has been, it looks like he will once again miss a 20-game win season, unless he wins his last three starts. Even though he’s 2-1 in his last 3 decisions, he has also had three no-decisions and his ERA has risen from 3.27 to 3.48. What do they do if they don’t get CC Sabathia? Rumors are that he prefers the west coast near his family. With the core veterans getting another year older (Jeter, A-Rod, Damon, Posada, Matsui are all in their mid-thirties), who do they sign in the free agent market? Even the two players who did well this year, Abreu and Giambi are free-agents, but also in their mid-thirties.

The Yankees announced this week that Girardi will be back as manager next year; in essence blaming this season on injuries. However, one can’t help but miss Torre a bit. Seems like something is missing this year without him. Torre was always good at talking to the media and calming things down at disappointing performances. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Girardi.

This off-season will be very interesting. As tens of millions of dollars come off the books (Giambi, Abreu, Pavano, Mussina are free-agents) this offseason and next offseason (Damon and Matsui come off the books), many new faces will be opening with the new stadium.

:)

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