Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

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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Being a sports fan in New York City. What team combinations have had the most success the past 25 years?

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 1, 2009

rangersI was listening to Benigno and Roberts on WFAN on my 3 hour drive from New Jersey to Connecticut on Saturday afternoon. Joe and Evan, both Mets and Jets fans, were ranting with other Mets-Jets fans how that combination of sports teams to be fans of in New York City was probably the worst. Especially with the current Jets collapse after starting out 8-3 and the Mets’ two consecutive late season collapses, the heartbreaking is at an all-timemets high. Well, as a Giants and Yankees fan, it’s been the complete opposite for me. The Yankees made the playoffs 13 years in a row (and winning four championships), while the Giants just came off a stellar Super Bowl dream season, not to mention the 2000 run and this year’s 12-4 season. This led me to do a quick analysis of the different combination of teams of the four major sports that fans can follow in NYC, and which ones have the best happiness and least happiness. First, I will quickly review each team’s success the past 25 years (I chose 25 because I first became a sports fan of a NY team in 1984 with the Yankees, and it’s a nice round number for recent success). Then I will rank the combinations in order of success.

Success will be defined as follows:

ACCOMPLISHMENT POINTS/OCCURRENCE
Winning season 2
Division winner 3
Playoff season 3
Playoff round won 5
Conference championship 15
Championship 20

Points explanation: To be clear, the team accrues points every time one of the accomplishments occur. For example, if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year, they would get points for every single accomplishment, not just the 20 points for winning the championship. That means a championship year for a football division winner would net the team 2+3+3+5(3)+15+20 = 58 points! That also means not all four sports championships are created equal, but they are pretty close, The reason for this is because the excitement and level of accompjetslishment increases up to the championship game. Usually when a team wins a championship, the fans are  relatively satisfied for the next few seasons. A division-winning playoff season coupled with a loss in the first playoff round would net the team 2+3+3 = 8 points. In essence, a championship is loosely equal to seven playoff seasons. Ties in football and the old ties in hockey are counted as non-games when calculating winning percentages.

So, here are the results of the nine New York City metro area sports teams and their successes the past 25 finished seasons. I will update this when the football, basketball and hockey seasons are finished with their 2008 seasons. That means I do not include the Giants accomplishments or the Jets collapse for this season in my analysis.

NEW YORK CITY METRO AREA SPORTS TEAM PROFILES
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT. WIN YRS DIV WIN
PLY YRS
PLY RECORD PLY RNDS RECORD CONF CHMP
CHAMP SUCCESS POINTS
Yankees 2235-1741 .562 21 10 13 78-50 17-9 6 4 366
Mets 2087-1892 .525 16 3 5 30-24 6-4 2 1 136
Giants 215-182 .542 13 7 12 15-9 15-9 4 3 278
Jets 180-218 .452 10 2 8 4-8 4-8 0 0 70
Knicks 1005-1013 .498 13 4 16 89-86 18-16 2 0 206
Nets 882-1136 .437 10 4 13 52-59 10-13 2 0 151
Rangers 863-807 .517 12 3 15 70-76 14-14 1 1 183
Islanders 788-898 .467 10 2 12 41-62 8-15 1 0 117
Devils 918-752 .550 18 7 18 118-98 22-15 4 3 341

WIN YRS – years above .500, DIV WIN – years team won division, PLY YRS – years team made playoffs, PLY RECORD – playoff record, PLY RNDS RECORD – how many playoff rounds team won and lost, CONF CHMP – conference champions, CHAMP – championships

It’s not surprising the Yankees have had the most success the past 25 years. The Devils championship success in the 1990s make them a close second. Although the Mets had 16 winning seasons, they only made the playoffs five of those years because their records were probably closer to .500 than .600. The Jets by far are the worst team. They are the only ones to not even have a conference championship. Conference championships are a major key to a fan’s happiness. All fans hope for is their team to make it to the final round… to the World Series, Super Bowl, or Championship.

new-york-giants-superbowlHowever, the success points by themselves don’t mean much because we can’t compare teams across sports. We need to calculate the total possible points for each team and each sport. In our six points categories, the maximum is 25 (example: 25 possible playoff seasons) except the possible playoff rounds won. The only sport in which playoff rounds won is dependent on the team is football, where there is the extra wild card round. If the team was involved in a wild-card game, then that’s another possible playoff round to be won. In non-playoff seasons, total possible playoff rounds is 3, discounting the wild-card round. From the total possible points each team could have accrued in the past 25 years, we can calculate a success percentage for each team.

The success percentage of the NYC sports teams in the past 25 years, from best to worst:

TEAM RANKINGS
RANK TEAM POINTS TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS
SUCCESS PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees 366 1355 .270
2 Devils 341 1575 .217
3 Giants 278 1490 (8) .187
4 Knicks 206 1575 .131
5 Rangers 183 1575 .116
6 Mets 136 1355 .100
7 Nets 151 1575 .096
8 Islanders 117 1575 .074
9 Jets 70 1485 (7) .047

devilsThe ordering stayed the same when we used success points except the Mets jumped ahead of the Nets because there are less total points in baseball than basketball (mostly due to playoff rounds). The Yankees effectively led all categories except the number of playoff seasons and playoff rounds won. However, unlike the other three sports, baseball is the hardest to get into the playoffs, even after the wild cards were introduced in 1995. The futility of the bottom four teams coincidentally have a team in each sport. That means a fan of the Mets, Nets, Islanders and Jets have been wallowing in the most misery for the past 25 years. The top four teams are also one in each sport. A fan of the Yankees, Devils, Giants and Knicks would be the happiest four-team fan in the area.

knicks2Now that we have a success percentage associated with each team, the fun part begins. We want to find the team combinations that give fans the most happiness. However, to be realistic, we realize that many fans are not hardcore or even big fans of all four sports. I know a lot of fans that are only into baseball and football, but not the other two. Or they are fans of other cities and teams (traitors) for some of the sports. To allow for combinations that don’t include all four teams, we will simply take the average success percentage of the teams involved.

Before giving the results of a lot of the possible combinations, let’s highlight the very popular baseball-football fans:

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS FOR BASEBALL-FOOTBALL FANS
RANK TEAMS HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees, Giants
.229
2 Yankees, Jets
.159
3 Mets, Giants
.144
4 Mets, Jets .074

yankeesWow! If you are a Yankees-Giants fan you have been three-times happier than Mets-Jets fans the past 25 years. The funny thing is that if you are a Yankees-Jets fan or a Mets-Giants fan, the Jets and Mets pull down your overall fan happiness. Being a Jets fan pulls your Yankees fan happiness down by 41%, and being a Mets fan pulls your Giants fan happiness down by 23%. Or to be an optimist, the Yankees and Giants pull up the happiness of Jets and Mets fans. Hehe…

Here are the results of most of the possible combinations of being a NYC metro sports fan. There are too many total possible combinations to list, from 1-team fans up to 4-team fans, so I will make some assumptions in order to remove unpopular combinations. I will assume that multi-sport fans have to be at least a baseball AND a football fan. That means we will only allow combinations in which each must contain a baseball and a football team.

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS
RANK BASEBALL FOOTBALL BASKETBALL HOCKEY HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees .270
2 Yankees Giants .229
3 Yankees
Giants Devils .225
4
Devils
.217
5 Yankees
Giants Knicks Devils .201
6 Yankees
Giants Knicks .196
7 Yankees
Giants Nets Devils .193
8 Yankees
Giants Rangers .191
9
Giants .187
10 Yankees
Giants Nets .184
11 Yankees
Jets Devils .178
12 Yankees
Giants Islanders .177
13
Yankees
Giants Knicks Rangers .176
14 Mets
Giants Devils .168
15 Yankees
Giants Nets Rangers .167
16t Yankees
Giants Knicks Islanders .166
16t Yankees
Jets Knicks Devils .166
18t Yankees Jets .159
18t Mets
Giants Knicks Devils .159
20 Yankees
Jets Nets Devils .158
21 Yankees
Giants Nets Islanders .157
22 Mets
Giants Nets Devils .150
23 Yankees
Jets Knicks .149
24t Mets Giants .144
24t Yankees
Jets Rangers .144
26 Yankees
Jets Knicks Rangers .141
27 Mets
Giants Knicks .139
28
Yankees
Jets Nets .138
29t Mets
Giants Knicks Rangers .134
29t Mets
Giants Rangers .134
31 Yankees
Jets Nets Rangers .132
32t Yankees
Jets Knicks Islanders .131
32t
Knicks .131
34 Yankees
Jets Islanders .130
35 Mets
Giants Nets .128
36 Mets
Giants Nets Rangers .125
37 Mets
Jets Knicks Devils .124
38 Mets
Giants Knicks Islanders .123
39 Yankees
Jets Nets Islanders .122
40 Mets
Jets Devils .121
41 Mets
Giants Islanders .120
42 Rangers .116
43 Mets
Jets Nets Devils .115
44 Mets
Giants Nets Islanders .114
45
Mets .100
46 Mets
Jets Knicks Rangers .099
47
Nets .096
48 Mets
Jets Knicks .093
49 Mets
Jets Nets Rangers .090
50 Mets
Jets Knicks Islanders .089
51 Mets
Jets Rangers .088
52 Mets
Jets Nets .081
53 Mets
Jets Nets Islanders .079
54t Mets
Jets Islanders .074
54t
Islanders .074
54t Mets Jets .074
57
Jets .047

islandersBy far, a pure Yankees fan has had the most happiness the past 25 years in NYC. This is followed by the Yankees-Giants fans not interested in basketball or hockey. Throw in the Devils hockey fans with that combination and you are just as happy. The best four-team combo, unsurprisingly, is the top four successful teams, the Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Devils. My combination of the YGKR is ranked 13th in happiness. If I had been an Islanders fan and not a Knicks+Rangers fan, I would’ve just been as happy. At first glance, this might not make sense since the Islanders success percentage is much lower than the Knicks or Rangers, but because I would not be invested in a fourth sport and team (hockey), the success of the Yankees and Giants keep me very happy even with the Islanders lack of success. The Knicks and Rangers haven’t had enough success to override that extra sport disadvantage. Interesting…

netsOn the flip side, the Mets and Jets dominate the bottom half of the rankings. Their city rivals’ (Yankees and Giants) success coupled with the fact that you can’t be a Mets-Yankees or a Jets-Giants fan (those that are should be forced to move to a one-team city) give their fans plenty to be sad about. If you are solely a Jets fan, you have it worst; being only  happy 4.7% of the time the past 25 years. And for Joe and Evan of WFAN, well, you two have the second worst team combo.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this little exercise. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment below (You will be anonymous). Or leave a comment on what team combo you are. Sorry I couldn’t put all the possible combinations on a chart. There are too many to list. And frankly, how many Nets-Rangers fans are there (without being fans of baseball and football)?

To finish up, please vote for the teams you are fans of below. Of course, you can pick multiple teams.

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Why Andy Pettitte owes the Yankees. Just look at Plaxico Burress.

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 4, 2008

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Let me get this straight. Both Andy Pettitte and Plaxico Burress hurt themselves. Albeit one with drugs and the other with a gun. And yes, they hurt their teammates (Pettitte’s might be arguable) and the integrity of their respective games. But physically, they only hurt themselves. The Giants proceeded to suspend Burress for four games and put him on the non-injured reserve list; essentially ending his season. The suspension obviously resulted in major financial repercussions for Burress. The Yankees, meanwhile, welcomed Pettitte back with open arms for the guaranteed $16 million. Even with the Mitchell Report coming out just 10-days after Pettitte exercised his $16 million option.

Now comparing Pettitte and Burress is like comparing apples to oranges. Pettitte has always been a model citizen and family man, whereas Burress has been a headcase of suspensions, fines and showmanship for the Steelers and Giants. You could also bring up the fact that Pettitte used HGH to help recover faster to help his team. Not much moral support for Burress being late to a bazillion team meetings or shooting himself in a club.

However, Pettitte still hurt the integrity of the game of baseball. To all those fans that don’t care if players use steroids or HGH, imagine a game without integrity. Full of gambling and drugs. The game would become a farce, much like wrestling is now. So as much as fans are tired of hearing about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in baseball, it’s a necessary fight. Although Pettitte apologized, you can see how differently fans treat PED-using players based on their remorse. Pettitte and Giambi? Back in good grace. Clemens and McGwire? Who are they?

Which brings me to my point. Pettitte is very very lucky the Yankees welcomed him back and fully supported him. The news conference with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi sitting to his sides as he apologized and answered questions must have been tough to watch for some hardcore baseball traditionalists. There was no compromise regarding salary. The whole contract was honored and fans even cheered for him because he owned up to his mistake. He proceeded to go 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA and a team high 204 innings. However, he battled shoulder problems all year and closed the season with a 2-7 record.

Remember this apology? (Getty Images)

Remember this, Andy? (Robert Browman, Getty Images)

Now Pettitte is a free agent. He owes the Yankees. The Yankees would like to bring him back for $10 million. Pettitte does not want to take a pay cut from his $16 million. His agents are shopping him around, especially to Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Although Pettitte has been saying all year that he wants to pitch in the new Yankee stadium (even jokingly picking a locker in the new locker room on  a tour there), when asked if he would take a pay cut to stay with the Yankees, he dodged the topic and deferred to his agents. One, Pettitte will be 37 next season. Two, Pettitte is no where worthy of a top of line $16 million contract. Three, the Yankees saved his career this past season by welcoming him back. Four, the Yankees saved his reputation by allowing him to show complete remorse and prove himself on the field. Five, he owes all the Yankee fans who supported him this past year.

Is he really going to argue over $6 million in pay? I’m sure he doesn’t need the extra money after earning tens of millions in his career. If it’s about getting what he’s worth, well, he’s not worth $16 million. He needs to give a nice Christmas present to the Yankees and their fans. Stop being business-like, show some gratitude towards the team that saved you and the fans that stood by you.

I’m one of them.

RELEVANT LINKS

NY Times – Agents work to avoid a pay cut for Pettitte
Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past
The disappointing 2008 Yankees Season – Stick a fork in it, the Yankees are done
Analysis: New York Yankees at the half

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Ten reasons Mike Mussina should keep playing

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 15, 2008

Mike Mussina is stupid if he retires. Here’s why:

Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina

1. He won twenty games (20-9) for the first time in his career. Before 2008, he was a borderline Hall of Famer. With the twenty game season, he is still borderline, but definitely much stronger. Another season would help his chances, even if he doesn’t win 20 again.

2. His career record is 270-153. It’s an excellent win-loss ratio, but the 300-win magic number would make him a shoe-win to the HOF, especially with his new 20-win season. Why stop when so close? It’s definitely possible for him to play two more years and average 15 wins a season.

3. He reinvented himself in 2008. He went from a power control pitcher to a finesse control pitcher along the molds of Jamie Moyer. Mussina is 39, Moyer is 45. Moyer’s record the past six years? 82-60. Moyer’s record the past four years? 54-40. I think Mussina is a better pitcher than Moyer and can be better in that age range also. Imagine if Mussina added 82-60 or even 54-40 to his current record? That’s 352-213. A definite sure fire invitation to the HOF.

4. The new Yankee Stadium opens up in 2009. It’s pretty exciting to want to be a part of that. Andy Pettitte has already voiced his desire to rejoin the team to be a part of that.

5. The Steinbrenners’ are set on fielding the most expensive and best team on the field in the inaugural season. If the Yankees add CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett to Chieng-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and hopefully Andy Pettitte, that’s as dominant as a team can get. Why wouldn’t Mussina want a piece of that action? There would be no pressure on him to be the team ace or even in the top 4 pitchers. Enjoy the next season or two.

Yankees World Series Championships

Yankees World Series Championships

5. One thing still missing in Mussina’s career? A World Series ring. He joined the Yankees in 2001, the year after the Yankees last championship. Next year seems like it has the potential for the Yankees to get back to championship ways if personnel moves go according to plan. Additionally, it seems unlikely that Tampa repeats next year. And Boston is on the decline in several key positions.

6. Mussina is the Yankees player representative. The current CBA expires in 2011, but that means discussions for the a new deal begin in 2010, and maybe earlier. Doesn’t Mussina want to make some final influences before he leaves the game to the next generation?

7. A veteran presence like Mussina and Pettitte for the young pitchers on the Yankees, like Wang, Philip Hughes, Joba and others can be very rewarding for a veteran. It’s like a power trip.

8. Money, money, money. Yes, Mussina already has a lot of it, but you can never have too much, especially when you are lucky enough to play a child’s game as a career. With the Yankees spending like crazy for the inaugural seasons in the new stadium, Mussina would get a generous 1-year, plus another year option on performance clauses. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you have to play baseball to get it. Mussina plays baseball. Get it.

Money doesn't grow on trees

Money doesn't grow on trees

9. Mussina is already old, in terms of pitching time lines. It’s not like if he retires he’s making a statement by going out on top. He might regret retiring a couple years early when he looks back on his life. As he gets older, he starts looking at his legacy and if he doesn’t make the HOF, he might regret not getting the 300 wins.

10. One other key statistical milestone is within range in the next year or two. Mussina has 2813 strikeouts. He had 150 this year. Getting 187 is possible next year, but most likely would require a second season. A 3000 strikeout career definitely helps his HOF chances.

And a bonus reason for him to keep playing? The Yankee fans want him too.

My other post on Mussina “Should the Yankees re-sign Mike Mussina for 2009?” returned a resounding “YES” from my readers. My unscientific poll returned 23 YAYs, and only 1 NAY.

My new poll asks if you think he will retire:

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