Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Alex Rodriguez’

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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Can Alex Rodriguez jump like Cody Ransom? 60in vertical landing jump!

Posted by silentarchimedes on March 14, 2009

I must say this short YouTube video of Alex Rodriguez’s replacement while he’s out with an injury, Cody Ransom is pretty impressive. The guy is 32 years old this year and still has major ups. He IS 6’2″ so he might get thru as a small point guard in the NBA, but still… They should make the vertical landing jump a measurement in addition to the traditional vertical jump in the combines, not that it correlates well in a real football game.

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Q&A on the baseball steroids scandal (FAQ)

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 13, 2009

1. What are steroids?

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are many types of steroids, and most of them are natural and required by animals, plants and fungi to survive. The scientific definition is a terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings, generally arranged in a 6-6-6-5 fashion. Common steroids include estrogen, testosterone, and cholesterol. Technically, cholesterol is a sterol, which is a combination of steroids and alcohol. The former two are in a category called steroid hormones. These steroids include the sex hormones, corticosteroids (topical steroids are used for skin rashes, etc), and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are the ones used by athletes because their main purpose is to increase muscle and bone synthesis. Because they are related to the testosterone sex hormone, they also have effects of maintaining masculine characteristics, such as growth of  vocal chords and body hair. Anabolic steroids were first identified and synthesized in the 1930s.

2. What is the legal status of anabolic steroids?

Most countries classify steroids as controlled substances, which means that they are illegal to produce, distribute, possess and use without written prescriptions from authorized medical officials. These countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands (NL), and the United Kingdom (UK). However, they are readily available over the counter in Thailand and Mexico. Hence the underground availability of them in the U.S.

However, the status of anabolic steroids is recent considering its 1930s identification. They had no legal status prior to the 1980s and were common in many sports, including football and bodybuilding. It was not until the Ben Johnson controversial Olympic victory that they were placed under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

3. When were steroids banned in Major League Baseball?

1991. There is a huge misconception that steroids were not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB) before 2004. This is completely false. The truth is that they were officially banned in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams and players that illegal drugs, including steroids are illegal. [1][2]

This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs…

The exact same memo was resent by the MLB office in 1997. [3] The reason 2004 is used as the official year was because the rule was not enforced from 1991 until the pressures of Congress forced testing to become official in 2004.

4. Who is responsible for allowing steroids to become a problem from 1991 to 2004?

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

This is the ultimate question. Although guilty players have gotten most of the blame for the problem, logically they were only the end result of the problem. The commissioner and owners turned the other way because the lockout of 1994 had caused baseball to drop precipitously in popularity. An historic home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed the perfect antidote for low ratings. The players’ union, in trying to protect their players’ privacy and rights, instead seemed like they were protecting cheaters instead of looking out for the interests of innocent players. The players who used were at fault because they cheated and lowered the integrity of the game. However, it is unfair to fully blame players who felt pressured to take PEDs after seeing a culture that created unnatural stars. It seems, at least for the moment, that Arod fell into this camp. Innocent players should also shoulder some of the the blame because almost all chose the silent route when questioned if their was a problem in the game. Instead of looking out for the interests of the game, they chose to stick to union lines and protect cheating players that indirectly hurt themselves. It’s hard to fault fans that wanted to see more offense, especially home runs, simply because baseball without all the hits and runs can be construed as boring. Finally, testing for steroids and especially HGH was simply not at a point yet that MLB was comfortable with.

5. What notable players have been tainted by steroids, HGH or other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?

Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Lenny Dykstra, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Mo Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams.

This is only a list of notable players. Tens of second tier players have also been outed by the Mitchell Report. Another 103 are on the list of 104 anonymous players who tested positive in MLB’s steroids survey in 2003. Alex Rodriguez is the first name to be leaked from that list.

6. Should players tainted by steroids allegations be allowed into the Hall of Fame?

This question won’t be answered for at least a decade. There’s a reason why retired players have to wait five years before becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame. This is to allow any attachments and emotions to the player to subside before making a more objective decision. However, the criteria for entering the HOF has always changed with the times and generations. As much as people question the statistics of the Steroid Era, baseball has always allowed questionable players into the HOF. Until the whole steroids influence is fully understood, statistics of all players who played during this era cannot be fully appreciated. At this point, the steroids players are simply the ones that have been caught. To assume someone is clean because they haven’t been caught is naive. It is getting to a point that either all players are treated equally in the Steroid Era (whether they were caught or not or were clean) or that no one gets into the HOF. However, this question won’t be answered for a decade and perceptions may change through the years.

7. What paths have players accused of steroids and PEDs taken when ‘outed’?

Ranging from complete silence or denial to complete admittance and regret, players have had a wide range of reactions when cornered by PEDs allegations. The ones that have been most apologetic have had most success in resuming their playing careers, even if it meant a tainted legacy. Those that have shown completely no remorse or have put the blame on non-believable entities have been vilified by the public. The paths taken by the most notable players include, from strongest denial to strongest admittance:

Complete denial and knowledge of taking steroids, even when confronted by overwhelming evidence and federal investigations, continue to stick to their stance (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens)

Complete silence and avoidance of issue (Mark McGwire)

Complete denial then silence when overwhelming evidence surfaced (Ralphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa)

Vague admittance and apology when caught (Jason Giambi)

Full admittance and regret but with excuses such as injury or peer-pressure (Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez)

Full admittance and then assisted officials with information about steroids, suppliers and other players (Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley)

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Notes: This Q&A is not official and is simply my personal interpretation and understanding of the steroids scandal. I will add more questions and answers as they come up. If you would like to see a Q&A added on here, please add it in the comments section and I will gladly update the post.

Posted in Ethics, Health and Fitness, Science and Math, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bud Selig – Baseball’s incompetent commissioner

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 9, 2009

On the same vein as my previous article, an argument that greed is the root of the steroids scandal in baseball, the current economic crisis and global warming, there is one other commonality among the three problems, a void of  leadership.  One can even argue that greed becomes rampant only at the behest  or ignorance of the leadership. In the three problems stated, a lack of leadership for years is what has led to the current situations. Let’s look at the steroids scandal in particular.

BUD SELIG – BASEBALL’S INCOMPETENT COMMISSIONER

There is something special about baseball. Through all its scandals (Black Sox, race, recreational drugs, Pete Rose and gambling) it has always ended up doing the right thing and upholding the integrity of the game, even if it meant banning its all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, or several of its top players (Black Sox scandal – Shoeless Joe Jackson) for life. No player or players were above the game, and the commissioners knew this. The commissioners also knew they were not above the game and although they existed at the whim of the owners, they were supposed to put the interests of the game at the top.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

Well, something happened in 1992. An owner (Milwaukee Brewers), Bud Selig, was unanimously picked by the owners to become the ninth commissioner of baseball. Since 1992, he has allowed baseball to fall into a steroid scandal by ignoring the ramifications of performance enhanced statistics on the game. Any stories about players juicing were swept under the rug because of increasing television ratings and attendance due to historical records falling every year. Instead of looking out for the interest and integrity of the game, Selig exchanged it for higher revenues. Even in the past 7 to 8 years when everyone knew of the oncoming collapse, he acted in a very condescending way, as if the problem was not bigger than the game.  (This sounds just like our past  president and administration on the Iraq War and the current economic crisis?) Consider these players that have now been tainted by performance enhancing drugs:

1. All-time leader in home runs in career and in a season, Barry Bonds
2. Expected future all-time leader in home runs and one of the greatest players in history, Alex Rodriguez
3. Considered best pitcher in the past 25 years, Roger Clemens
4. First to break Roger Maris’ decades long single-season home run record, Mark McGwire
5. Most seasons with 60+ home runs, Sammy Sosa
6. Other 400+ home runs, Jose Canseco, Ralphael Palmeiro, Garry Sheffield

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

That list is too remarkable to ignore. The leader must be held accountable. Selig has been commissioner or acting commissioner since 1992, about the time hints began about steroids usage. Although he might not be the cause of the problem, he allowed it to fester and grow and grow.  Players that would not have used steroids were eventually compelled to use it due to lesser skilled players on par with them now because of PEDs. This is simply human nature. It is now a scandal that won’t go away. As much as the players need to be held accountable for their actions, the leader also needs to be responsible for his lack of action.In any other institution where people are held accountable, the leaders are replaced by the board. The board of the United States, the citizens, overwhelmingly voted the Republicans out of office in the past elections. Even in corporations, strong board of directors have been known to push incompetent CEOs out. However, similarly to baseball, when the board is closely tied to the leader, this almost occurs too late. In baseball, when the owners overwhelmingly approve of an incompetent commissioner that was once an owner himself, then the checks and balance system fails. In my previous article, Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past, the popularity of baseball has decreased more and more as society’s attention has shortened. To compensate for such pressures, Selig’s actions were always for short-term gain (ie interleague play) at the expense of long-term interests.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson

It is time baseball cleaned itself by removing its commissioner and the players that have cheated. It is apparent that without the pressures of Congress, Selig would not have voluntarily instituted stringent drug testing. Even to this day he acts as if nothing is wrong and that history will view him as a good commissioner that brought baseball back from its dark lockout days (Sound familiar?) As a big baseball fan, until there is strong leadership that is interested in cleaning up the game, then the game itself has lost its allure, the allure that I used to have as a kid in the 1980s watching Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield…

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The need for greed. And they all fall. What Arod, recession and global warming have in common.

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 7, 2009

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

What is going on with the world today? Many of the institutions and systems we grew up with and believed in have crumbled faster than a crumb cake in front of Santa Claus. This morning sports fans were shockingly (or not) met with news that one of the few remaining baseball superstars to not be tainted by the steroids scandal, Alex Rodriguez, failed an MLB steroids test in 2003. Considering that this news was corroborated by four independent sources, and based on past evidence of such news, this story likely has meat behind it. As the Barry Bonds’, baseball’s all-time home run king, steroids perjury trial heads to court, we wonder if there is anything sacred anymore in sportsmanship and fair play. The list now includes Bonds, Arod, Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Raphael Palmeiro. All were heroes and idols to millions and millions of kids and sports fans.

Bear Stearns

Bear Stearns

Sports is nothing, however, compared to the deepening economic crisis affecting the country. But, then again we need to ask ourselves how did this country fall into such a dire situation in the first place? With news of unemployment reaching 7.6%, worst since 1982, most Americans are sensing a pessimism in the country and its leadership they have never felt before. Corporations that have long been stalwarts have wilted after years of trustworthy service. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, just to name a few. Even General Electric has fallen on tough times due to untrustworthy leadership expectations and financial exposure. Then there are the frauds of individuals, such Bernie Madoff, and corporations, such as Enron and Global Crossing.

Polar bear cub

Polar bear cub

Then there is the global warming and energy crises. Due to the  irresponsible and rampant use of oil and other natural resources, and the irresponsible output of chemicals into the air, river and ground, the natural balance of Earth has come under question. Dire predictions of sea levels, global temperatures, forestation, glacial coverage, droughts and diseases have left us wondering is there any hope left? Will there exist a viable Earth in 100 to 200 years?

It is truly amazing that all three of these problems have one major thing in common. Greed. Greed. Greed. What is most disturbing is that the situations did not become problems until the ultimate greed kicked in. Arod was already a once in a generation baseball player back in high school. It is fair to say that he did not do steroids as a teenager as his body structure was simply too small. Bonds was a skinny player with the Pirates but was already a five tool player on the path to the Hall of Fame. McGwire  was an amazingly talented rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Why did they feel the need to use steroids and become even better than they already were? Why risk already amazing career trajectories with such greed?

Similarly, the financial companies that have gone bankrupt or bought up were very viable and successful companies (some for over a hundred years) before the ARMs and hedge funds became en vogue. Why the greed to do such risky investments in order to raise the bottom line and stock price?  Was it all due to increasing stock compensation packages of executives? Was it all worth it? To dupe millions of unknowing citizens just for more personal money? What about Madoff? An already well-respected and wealthy investor; what caused him to risk everyone’s money (including hundreds of other wealthy individuals and companies), just to make more money for his firm?

Finally, the earth has remained relatively stable ever since the existence of man. However, since the Industrial Revolution and especially since the widespread use of combustible engines, there has been this disregard for the side effects of using such resources. Coupled with research in biochemistry and synthetic compounds, the effects of pesticides, mercury, lead and carbons have led to a precarious global balance. Millions of animal species extinct or on the brink of survival.

Progress?

Progress?

Are humans, the supposedly most “intelligent” species with opposable thumbs, in fact, the dumbest species ever? Just imagine outsiders writing about the history of man and what they would write about, especially the past 150 years. Just imagine what they would write about western civilization. Just imagine what they would say about the population numbers. Or about technology and medical research? Is this the final goal of evolution? We have reached the ultimate in special survival… our only enemy is ourselves? The whole purpose of natural selection is the survival of the strong. However, part of natural selection is natural balance. A species never wants to become too powerful because then their food sources and natural enemies would disappear. Humans have, in essence, overcome both these natural laws. Through natural selection (our brains and opposable thumbs) we are far and beyond the most powerful species. In a relatively short time, our population and power increased beyond control. Humans have no more natural enemies. The machines we have created are unmatched and only destructible amongst ourselves. So what does this all mean?

The human world does not have a checks and balance system. Nature and other species have always acted as the equalizers. The closest thing that comes to that is the United Nations, and everyone knows how ineffective it is. Additionally, idealistic political systems such as communism and socialism have proven futile. Even checks and balance systems, such as the one in the United States, has a limited efficacy, as witnessed by the politics, lobbyism and other issues. Nature is having a difficult time balancing the effects of human greed and power. Diseases and natural disasters are becoming minimal in damage due to medical research and better disaster predictions. Without any natural enemies, we are left to govern ourselves and our future. As exciting of a possibility that is, the track record of that has been phenomenally pathetic.

Posted in Economics, Ethics, Health and Fitness, Opinion, Politics, Science and Math, Sports, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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.

Posted in Opinion, Poll, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Interesting 2008 baseball regular season comes to a close

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 28, 2008

As the 2008 baseball season comes to a close for many teams today, there have been some interesting firsts, same storylines, and sad endings.

FIRSTS

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Tampa Bay Rays makes playoffs for first time in franchise history – Not only that, it was the first time they had a winning record. It was the first time they had over 70 wins, 80 wins, and 90 wins. It was the first time they had the best home record in the majors. It was the first time they finished first in the vaunted AL East over the Red Sox and Yankees. Could it have been due to removing the “Devil” from their name in the offseason? 🙂

2. Francisco Rodriguez shatters saves record – Rodriguez shatters Bobby Thigpen’s single season saves record of 57 from 17 years ago. His 62 saves is the first time a reliever broke 60 saves in one season. Both were 26 years old. However, Rodriguez had 7 blown saves this season (compared to Mariano Rivera’s one). He could have had close to 70 saves had he been more consistent.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

3. Ichiro and A-Rod reach baseball milestones – Ichiro Suzuki became the first player in over a century to have eight consecutive 200-hit seasons. Meanwhile, A-Rod became the first player to record at least 35 homers in a season for 11 straight years. He also tied Babe Ruth with 12 career seasons of having over 35 homers.

4. Instant replay – Near the end of the season, MLB decided to install instant replay for questionable home run calls. It has been used several times since, and has been involved in overturning calls on the field.

SAME STORYLINES

1. Joe Torre makes playoffs for the 13th consecutive year – After leading the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances in 12 years as their manager from 1996-2007, Torre was let go and signed with the Dodgers. He led them to the NL West Title in September.

2. Yankees continue winning ways – Although the Yankees did not make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, some of their winning streaks continued. They now have 17 consecutive seasons with over 75+ wins (for strike shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons a winning percentage of .460 was used) and 16 consecutive seasons with a winning record; both major league bests.

3. Red Sox continue winning ways – Although the Red Sox haven’t been as prolific and consistent at making the playoffs due to the dominance of their division rival Yankees, they have put up consistently winning seasons. They are second to the Yankees in consecutive winning seasons with 75+ wins (16) and a winning record (11).

Can this be reused for 2008?

Can this be reused for 2008?

4. Mets continue their late-season futility – Although the Mets have had success the past 9 years, they continually show futility at the most important times of each season. Besides losing the Subway Series to their crosstown rival Yankees in 2000, they also lost in the playoffs in 2006. However, the past two seasons have been most depressing. In 2007, the  Mets had a 7 game NL East division lead with 17 games left to play. They proceeded to lose 12 of their final 17 games to lose the title to the Phillies and miss the playoffs. By some measures, it is considered the second worst collapse in baseball history. The 2008 season is seeing a smaller collapse. Having a 3.5 game lead against the Phillies for the division title again with 17 games to go, the Mets won only 7 of their next 17, while the Phils won 12 of their next 15. The Phillies clinched the division once again. To make matters worse, the Mets lost their final game while the Brewers win their last one  to grab the wild-card and leave the Mets out of the playoffs once again.

5. Small market teams continue losing ways – Besides the Rays, most small market teams continued their non-playoff appearances. The Montreal Expos – Washington Nationals have a major league leading 27 consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. The Brewers in second with 25 consecutive seasons ended that drought with a win today and a Mets loss to grab the wild card berth. The Royals (23), Pirates (16), Blue Jays (15), Reds (13) and Orioles (11) all continue their futility.

6. Another season, another surprise team or two – This year the Tampa Rays and Brewers have been the surprise teams. 2007 saw the Indians and Diamondbacks. 2006 were the Twins and Athletics. 2005 were the White Sox and Braves. 2004 was the Dodgers. 2003 was the Marlins. And 2002 saw the Expos do relatively well.

ENDINGS

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

1. Yankees miss the playoffs for first time in 13 years – Ever since the Yankees became the first AL wild card team to make the playoffs in 1995, they have not missed it until this year. In those 13 years of postseason play, they won 4 World Championships, 6 AL Pennants, 10 AL East titles and 3 Wild Card berths. They had a combined record of 1252 – 832; a MLB best .594 winning percentage. They had 3 no-hitters, of which 2 were perfect games. They had one Rookie of the Year, two Manager of the Year, one Cy Young, one Comeback Player of the Year, and two Most Valuable Player of the Year awards in that time span.

2. Two stadiums come to a close – Both the Yankees and Mets will be playing in new stadiums to start the 2009 season. Although most people are happy Shea Stadium is being torn down, the demise of Yankee Stadium and its rich history is more symbolic.

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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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