Ike Davis’s Day Off

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It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, only with beer.

There were numerous reasons to give Ike Davis a night off against the Phillies last night. That he’s batting .148 and Cliff Lee was pitching for the Phillies were the two most prominent and viable, but none were good enough to justify the decision. Davis needs to play every day and he needs to play against the toughest pitchers, righty or lefty. His slow starts have become customary now and he already struggles against lefty pitchers (.214/.277/.364 career slash line and 1 for 11 vs. Lee). If the Mets had a veteran righty bat to replace him or even someone nondescript and limited like Juan Uribe who happens to hammer Lee, then sitting him down for a night made sense. In Davis’s place, however, the Mets played Justin Turner who: A) is a journeyman utility player; B) is not a first baseman; and C) before last night was 0 for 10 against Lee with one walk and one hit by pitch. Was this a better option than playing Davis and hoping he’d catch a Lee fastball and hit it out of a park in which many fly balls wind up being homers?

Davis is a George Brett/David Cone type of happy-go-lucky who enjoys big league life, has a big chaw of tobacco in his cheek like an old-school big leaguer, likes his nightlife and maintains a constant mischievous, carefree look on his face. The worst thing to do with a player like this is to give him days off. Were they afraid that facing Lee would put him into a slump? He’s already in a slump. Hitting against good pitching is a positive. Perhaps facing a Cy Young Award winner against whom nothing was expected from him would’ve relaxed Davis into getting a couple of hits and put him back on the right track.

Barring a tweak or slight malady, there’s no reason for the 26-year-old, 6’4”, 230 pound Davis to need a day off one week into the season to give him a break or otherwise. If the Mets want him to have a pseudo-break, they can DH him when they’re playing in AL parks starting this weekend in Minnesota. The night off was a silly decision made even more absurd by the fact that they don’t have a legitimate backup first baseman to replace him and it probably won’t do any more good to break him out of his slump than just putting him in the lineup and rolling the dice against Lee. The odds are he wouldn’t have done much more against Lee than the overall Mets lineup did, but at least he’d have had a better shot than Turner. That, more than anything, was why he should’ve been playing and should be playing from now on for the rest of the season with a day off given if he really needs it, not to shield him from a great pitcher.

Essays, predictions, player analysis, under the radar fantasy picks, breakout candidates, contract status of all relevant personnel—GMs, managers, players—and anything else you could possibly want to know is in my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide now available onAmazon.comSmashwordsBN and Lulu. Check it out and read a sample.

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YES, the Yankees and Murdoch—A Look Into the Future

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Newscorp is closing in on a deal to purchase up to 49% of the YES Network—NY Times story.

After all those years of pure Yankees partisanship disguised as evenhanded sports news, it’s a relief that a trusted and historically non-partisan, fact-based entity such as Newscorp is buying into YES. Now, with the skillsets of Rupert Murdoch in installing qualified and reputable people to deliver fair and balanced dissemination of information, YES can become something other than the Yankees infomercial it’s been for its entire existence. Let’s look into the crystal ball of what to expect.

Say YES in the Morning with Meredith and John—6  to 10 AM

Meredith Marakovits and John Sterling bring you all the morning sports news with your coffee (and possibly a small shot of bourbon). Join Meredith and John as long as John is able to get up in the morning and clear the bleariness out of his head and eyes.

The audience wins. The….audience…..WWWWIIIIIINNNNNNSSSS!!!!!

The Emperor’s Lair with Jason Zillo—10 AM-11 AM

If you’re wondering what it’s like to be the gatekeeper to the Yankees Universe, wonder no more. Jason Zillo takes you on a tour of the Yankees from the all-seeing, all-knowing, guardian of the brand. From Derek Jeter’s lavish Tampa home to Alex Rodriguez’s star-studded dating history (he can give you a free baseball with his number on it), Zillo grants you, the audience, an audience.*

*Like the evil, all-powerful Anthony from the “It’s a Good Life” episode of the Twilight Zone, this is contingent on you only thinking good thoughts about the Yankees. He is the gatekeeper, after all.

Hank Steinbrenner Bloviates—11 AM-12 PM

With smoke coming out his his ears, nose, mouth and eyes—some of it cigarette related, some not; as well as imparting of baseball knowledge and irrational demands reminiscent of his late father emanating from his behind amid more smoke, Hank Steinbrenner asks, no, demands that you watch. And don’t change that channel.

The Daily National Anthem with Haley Swindal—12 PM-1 PM

You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Well, then you must enjoy Haley Swindal singing multiple renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, followed by stories about the adventures she’s experienced traveling around the world…singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. It’s a travel show unlike any you’ve ever seen!!

Mike’s On Simulcast—the Mike Francesa Show on WFAN 1 PM-6:30 PM (6 PM in-season)

A better Yankees apologist not officially working for YES you’ll never find. Francesa doesn’t bother with the inconveniences of journalism by deciding to interview or question the likes of Yankees GM Brian Cashman or manager Joe Girardi, he interacts with them providing insight and advice on players from Brandon Inge to Nate McLouth.

Of course Hiroki Kuroda’s going to take a 1-year deal to return to the Yankees!!! Of course he is!!! He prefers the West Coast? But don’t you wanna be a YANKEE?!?!

Watch Francesa drink endless buckets of Diet Coke, rant against the Mets with a faux passion diabolically disguised by raving, incomprehensible lunacy; see him cut Rex Ryan and the Jets down to size better than liposuction and stomach stapling; listen as he makes a difference (because it affected him) with LIPA.

And don’t you ever forget that Darrelle Revis committed pass interference on the doctor when he had knee surgery too.

During the baseball season

Yankees Pregame with Bob Lorenz, Nancy Newman and “analysts”—6 PM-7PM

If you’re looking for validation as to why the Yankees are the greatest thing ever-ever and will never lose but will only run out of innings, the search is over. The team of experts will provide you with a Machiavellian justification to explain away any lingering doubts that the Yankees might not actually be the only team to win a World Series in baseball history.

From April to late October (guaranteed)—Yankees Baseball 7 PM-10 PM

Yankees baseball from start to finish with zero objectivity and intelligent baseball wisdom delivered by the endless stream of broadcasters Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, David Cone, John Flaherty, Al Leiter, Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto, Suzyn Waldman, Dwight Gooden, Mel Hall, Frank Messer, Denver Wieland, Kyle Hanratty, Dugan McPhasenot, Bell Corling, Deafness Matriculation and the rest of the crew!!

The Yankees Post-Game Show with Bob Lorenz

Detailed analysis of each game from how the opposing team wilted at the mere sight of the pinstripes and the all-encompassing nature of the Yankees aura, or explanations why the Yankees should have won and, in fact, did win even if they lost in that inconvenient “reality” of a completed game.

During the off-season

The Kay Factor—8 PM-9 PM

If you enjoy Michael Kay on CenterStage, you’ll certainly enjoy him in an edgier version of the previous incarnations of his show. Resplendent in leather, Kay will take the Mets to the woodshed; he’ll jab his finger in your face; he’ll threaten to punch Phil Mushnick!! With guests such as Joel Sherman, Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and Richard Gere(?), join Michael for a hard-hitting hour of sports news that’s sure to whet your appetite for chicken parm!

Curry—9 PM-10 PM

Don’t you dare question Jack Curry’s journalistic credibility. He’ll get the story from the PR department of the same organization for which he works and then throw a tantrum if ESPN reports it as well. Prepare to be Re-Tweeted and called a clown for an hour each weeknight if you’re not onboard the unstoppable Curry train!! It’s like Sean Hannity, only with less rationality and more self-indulgent tantrums.

Cash—10 PM-11 PM

Brian Cashman’s entire world is opened up for all to see. From the “obvious process” that goes into any and all decisions, to the “Big Hairy Monsters,” to the pitching development, to the trades, he’ll take you from Carl Pavano to Pedro Feliciano, from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi, from the Joba Rules to his exhilarating nightlife.

Prepare to be stalked with internal baseball knowledge (among other things) from a guy who works hard and plays hard!

The Randy Levine Revue—11 PM-Midnight

One part Dr. Phil, one part Oprah, one part Jim Henson, and one part Frank Caliendo, Randy Levine informs and entertains! With such guests as Rudy Giuliani, a puppet version of Torre in which Randy retorts in a different way each to night to Torre telling him to “Shut the bleep up!”, along with singing and dancing, Randy’s as talented as he is versatile.

If you thought the YES Network was the go-to place before with George Steinbrenner’s looming presence, you have no idea what’s coming. Prepare for the reckoning with Fox News and the YES Network joined together. You’ve always compared them. Now they are one. It had to happen. And finally, it is.

We all win.

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Lincecum’s Mechanics Are Off (Video)

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Tim Lincecum’s mechanics are off.

That’s the problem that is causing his lack of control and probably his diminished velocity as well. Why the Giants, Dave Righetti, Bruce Bochy or Lincecum’s increasingly irritable and defensive father Chris (Yahoo Story) haven’t taken steps to correct what he’s doing wrong is a mystery to me. I’d be stunned if they haven’t studied the video of when Lincecum was at his best and what he is now.

If you look at the video clip below from the 2010 World Series, there are subtle differences between what he was doing then and what he’s doing now.

Back then, he went into his simplified motion, kicked his leg and hesitated for a split second giving his hand time to get the ball out of his glove and hang down in the dangled position before launching himself toward the hitter with a posture and release point befitting someone who was 3 or so inches taller than Lincecum’s listed (and questionable) height of 5’11”.

He’s compact and his glove is leading the way toward the plate so his entire focus and direction is heading in that direction. He’s turning his back to the hitter in a much more pronounced fashion than he is now and his leg is tighter in relation to his body.

Now look at the video from this season.

Lincecum is not hesitating as much. He’s rushing. His arm is dragging behind and he’s getting too low in what looks like an old David Cone-style drop-and-drive when Lincecum—in spite of his long stride that was indicative of an automatic drop-and-drive style pitcher—was a pitcher who stood up straight and tall.

He’s flying off toward first base rather than going straight toward the plate.

His release point is technically the same, but since his body is lower, he’s lower and he’s too open in his leg lift so he’ll be too open when he releases the ball. Hitters might be getting a better view of it coming out of his hand. His ball is flattening out, he no longer has his control and as a result of these mechanical flaws, he’s losing confidence and there’s been talk of skipped starts, demotions to the bullpen and even sending him down to the minor leagues.

These are correctable issues and Lincecum’s muscle memory would speed up the process. I’m not sure why they haven’t fixed what he’s doing wrong. It’s not hard to see.

At least it shouldn’t be for the professional pitching coach, manager who’s a former catcher and the dad who honed and perfected his son’s unique motion.

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The Santana No-Hitter From Soup To Nuts

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Let’s go point-by-point on Johan Santana’s no-hitter.

The call at third base.

Umpire Adrian Johnson called Cardinals’ outfielder and former Met Carlos Beltran’s would-be hit foul when it was fair. He blew the call, but it wasn’t as blatant as it’s being made out to be, nor was it the opposite of Jim Joyce’s blown (and gutsy) call from two years ago on Armando Galarraga’s imperfect/perfect game. Joyce called it as he saw it in spite of the situation and not all umpires would’ve done that. Umpires know the circumstances during a game, but their training is such that they’re highly unlikely to openly let it influence a call. It might’ve been subconscious, but we’ll never know one way or the other. Johnson himself probably doesn’t know for sure.

It happens though. One of the best and most respected umpires in history, the late Harry Wendelstedt, preserved Don Drysdale’s consecutive scoreless inning streak by ruling that Dick Dietz didn’t try to get out of the way on a Drysdale pitch that hit him. Drysdale was able to extricate himself from a jam and continued his streak.

It’s possible that Johnson was hoping the ball would be foul to keep the no-hitter intact, but that doesn’t make it a preplanned decision.

As for the idea that it tarnishes Santana’s accomplishment, you can find any instance in baseball and diminish it. Did the 1985 Royals deserve their World Series win after it was helped along by Don Denkinger’s mistake on a Jorge Orta ground out in game 6 as the Cardinals were on the verge of winning the World Series and wound up losing that game and game 7? They won game 7 by a score of 11-0 as Bret Saberhagen pitched a complete game shutout. The Royals won the World Series. It wasn’t handed to them.

Does the blown call ruin Mike Baxter’s catch in the seventh inning? No.

The Cardinals had ample opportunity to break up the no-no after the mistake. They didn’t.

Santana and the Mets earned their moment.

The history of the Mets.

With all the great and very good pitchers that have come and gone from the Mets—Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Nolan RyanDavid Cone, Jerry Koosman, Frank Viola—it’s a testament to the luck involved with pitching a no-hitter. That it was Santana who accomplished the feat sweetens the moment more than if it was done by a journeyman who will never be heard from again.

The pitch count.

This obsession with pitch counts served to leave fans worrying about what Mets’ manager Terry Collins was going to do with Santana as his number rose further than it ever had in his career. A similar instance occurred with the Yankees in 2010 as CC Sabathia reached the eighth inning with a no-hitter against the Rays and after it was broken up, manager Joe Girardi needlessly said he was going to pull Sabathia rather than let him throw too many pitches, no-hitter or not. Sabathia himself was bewildered and it would’ve been interesting to see whether Girardi would actually have done it.

It’s possible that he would have and the only result would’ve been to bolster the assertion that he’s a puppet of management and slave to his ridiculous binder of arbitrary numbers.

Collins was right in leaving Santana in to finish the game. The players support Collins, but that support could’ve been destroyed with one paranoid and silly move in taking his pitcher out as he was going for history. Adrenaline carried Santana past any exhaustion and he appeared to get stronger as the game went along. Collins is the same manager who justified his removal of Jose Reyes from the final game of the season in 2011 after Reyes bunted for a base hit to preserve his batting title. It turned out to be Reyes’s final game as a Met, but Collins didn’t know that then. The club wanted to keep Reyes and Collins basically said after the fact and in response to the criticism that he wasn’t going to ruin his relationship with Reyes for one play in one meaningless game. To be sure an old-school manager like Collins didn’t like what Reyes did, but he let it go for the good of the franchise. He did the same thing with Santana. Whatever happens from now on, happens.

Social media egomania, self-involvement and what “I” would’ve done.

The word “I” is in quotes because I’m not talking about myself.

Twitter became a world of the media inserting themselves into the narrative as to how the Santana no-hitter was affecting them as if we care; as if it matters.

Gonzo journalism worked for Hunter S. Thompson because he innovated it and was good at it. Others are doing it now and doing it poorly. Nobody cares how the Santana achievement affects David Lennon, Bob Klapisch, Howard Megdal, Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff or anyone else.

But it’s all about me-me-me-me-me-me. It’s ego, arrogance and nothing else.

Yankees’ fans were doing it as well. There was an aura of the maintenance of bullying and “dominance” over the “little brothers”. The tone was “Yeah, have your moment but remember who’s in charge here.”

The Yankees are in charge of nothing and until Mets’ fans and the organization as a whole pushes back against this perception that the Yankees’ money and history is a foundation for such a logically false statement, it’s going to continue.

There were also those who said something along the lines of, “I’d take Santana out because the season is more important than one game.”

It’s not absurd to say that the Mets had to keep an eye on that game and an eye on the rest of the season, but to suggest that it was an no-brainer to pull him is the epitome of the ease of decisionmaking on social media for those who aren’t making the decisions. They’re not the ones who have to face the player in question (Santana), his teammates, the fans and the media after making such a monumental maneuver. The Twitter experts have all the balls in the world sitting nude in front of their computer and expressing what they think they would’ve done but would probably not have had the nerve to do; nor would they ever be in a position to do it, rendering the point moot.

It was a great night for the Mets and any amount of contextualization and obnoxiousness isn’t going to ruin it regardless of how hard the perpetrators try. They have their no-hitter. It’s in the record books as such and it won’t be taken away. Ever.

*NOTE: Those winding up here searching for the naked video clip of a Mets player following the no-hitter, I had embedded it but the content was removed from Youtube due to copyright infringement and I deleted it because the video was no longer viewable.

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The Yankees’ Grand Delusion

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In today’s NY Times there’s a piece by Benjamin Hoffman discussing the luck of the Mets in achieving their 28-23 record in spite of a -24 run differential and how the Yankees 27-23 record is about right based on their +15 run differential.

Run differential is usually a ridiculous and out-of-context stat from the start and it’s worse in this case. The Mets’ pitching has had games in which they’ve allowed 18 runs; 14 runs twice; 11 and 10 runs. They’ve scored in double-digits once.

The Yankees haven’t allowed double-digits at all and have had three games that they’ve scored a total of 36 runs.

It’s misleading and used as the foundation for the customary argument that the superiorly reinforced Yankees will eventually start dominating baseball and waltz into the playoffs as an odds-on favorite while the Mets will fade out to their customary mediocrity and continue their rebuild.

What will happen with the Mets remains to be seen, but the Yankees—just like the silly stat of run differential—aren’t exactly what they seem to be when examined as a monolith from 1995 until now. The Yankees’ apologists in the media and deluded fans, under the mistaken belief that because they’ve made the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 years, think that it automatically anoints them that spot. But those teams were different from this one. Mariano Rivera is gone. Alex Rodriguez is a shell of what he was. The starting pitching that once had the veterans David Wells, David Cone, Orlando Hernandez, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens now has one pitcher who could be mentioned in that group, CC Sabathia, and a series of question marks behind him.

It’s not the same.

Sweeny Murti of WFAN appeared on Kim Jones’s radio show recently and put forth the egomaniacal premise that since the Yankees have won an average of 97 games a season since he’s been covering the team that he expects them to do it again.

What one thing has to do with the other was never addressed.

Mike Francesa pompously and condescendingly (in many ways sounding like the spoiled fans he ridicules) comes up with inane arguments to support the shoddy foundation that since they’ve “always” been there, they’ll be there again. They’ll buy what they need at the trading deadline and off they’ll go.

Listening to this fanciful nonsense a non-baseball fan might think that the Yankees simply win the championship every year as a matter of course and if they don’t there was a glitch or fluke somewhere that prevented it.

They’ve won one championship since 2000. They’re not the dynasty they were in the late-1990s.

Whom are they trading for and what do they have to get these available star players? The Yankees’ main chip, Jesus Montero, was given away to the Mariners along with a useful arm in Hector Noesi to acquire two pitchers—Michael Pineda and Jose Campos—who are both on the disabled list. Of their other “untouchable crown jewels” in the system, Manny Banuelos, is also on the disabled list with a sore elbow and Dellin Betances has walked 46 in 52 innings. They’re not even willing to take on long-term money to get the players they want as they did with Bobby Abreu a few years ago. So what are they doing at the deadline other than making the same types of deals they’ve made in recent years when they got pending free agents Kerry Wood and Lance Berkman?

There’s an aura of “If we keep repeating it, it’ll come true.” The Yankees have the “great” players, but they’re not so great anymore. Salary aside, it’s unfair to hold a soon-to-be 37-year-old A-Rod to a standard of the A-Rod of 2007. It’s lunacy to think that Andy Pettitte is going to be the anchor he was in his prime and that Derek Jeter will keep up his frenetically blazing start to the season.

All of these players are at an age where they should be receding into the background to make way for the new blood; where they should be occasional contributors who can rediscover their greatness in spurts. Yet they’re still keys to the Yankees’ season because the replacements—apart from Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson—haven’t taken the handoff of responsibility.

The competition is hungrier, faster, smarter and has greater organizational depth. The Yankees are contending with the Rays, Angels and Rangers. There are the teams that have struggled amid higher hopes, the Red Sox and Tigers; the Blue Jays are young, talented and have money to spend; the Indians are playing well; the Orioles and White Sox have been surprises.

There’s not an open pass into the post-season anymore and gazing longingly at records and rosters of years gone by while inserting oneself into the narrative as if there’s an unseen connection between the two is a self-important fantasy that’s doomed to failure.

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Jorge Posada and the Hall of Fame

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Jorge Posada is reportedly set to announce his retirement. Let’s take a look at his Hall of Fame credentials.

Comparable players.

Catchers are held to a different standard because they have to handle the pitching staff; throw out basestealers; be the prototypical “field general”; and if they’re going to be in the Hall of Fame conversation, they have to hit.

Statistically, there are the no-doubt Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane.

Then you have Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk who are in the Hall of Fame, but didn’t waltz in in their first year of eligibility.

There are the upcoming catchers who will get in because of a superior part of their game counteracting the weak spots and questions. Mike Piazza has power numbers that no catcher has ever posted; Ivan Rodriguez is close to 3000 hits, over 300 homers and was a defensive weapon who stopped the running game by his mere presence.

After that, you have the players trapped in the “are they or aren’t they” limbo. They have credentials for enshrinement, but reasons to keep them out. Thurman Munson, Bill Freehan and Javy Lopez (seriously) can state cases for the Hall of Fame that wouldn’t elicit an immediate “no”, but won’t get in.

Posada is borderline and hovering between the Carter/Fisk wing and Munson/Freehan/Lopez.

Offensively.

A switch-hitting catcher with a career batting record of 275 homers; .273 average, .374 on base percentage, .474 slugging percentage; and an .848 OPS/121 OPS+ has better overall numbers than Fisk and Carter. Fisk’s numbers were bolstered by playing seven more seasons than Posada.

Bench hit nearly 400 homers; Piazza was an offensive force; Cochrane batted .320 for his career with a .419 on base, had power and rarely struck out.

Rodriguez benefited from a friendly home park and, like Piazza, is suspected of PED use. Piazza was never implicated on the record; anecdotal evidence and the era have combined to put him under the microscope and he’s considered guilty due to his rise from a 62nd round draft pick as a favor to Tommy Lasorda to perennial MVP contender. Rodriguez was implicated and there’s statistical evidence in the decline of his power numbers from before testing began and after.

No one ever mentioned Posada as a PED case.

Defense.

There’s more to catching than baseline numbers like passed balls and caught stealing percentage.

Posada’s career caught stealing percentage was 28%. During his career, the Major League average has been between 26% and 32%. Posada was average at throwing out runners. The pitchers quickness to the plate, ability at holding runners and reputation are factors that have to be accounted for. Rodriguez didn’t have people stealing on him; Posada was dealing with some slow-to-the-plate pitchers like Roger Clemens and David Cone and he wasn’t catching much of the time that Andy Pettitte was pitching—runners didn’t steal on Pettitte because of his ability to keep runners close.

If you’d like to compare the pitchers’ results based on the catcher, you can’t say that Posada was “worse” than his nemesis/partners/backups. In 1998, the numbers were better with Posada than they were with Joe Girardi.  In 1999 they were nearly identical with Posada and Girardi.

By 2000, Posada was catching nearly every day.

The managers play a large part in that perception of good or poor defense. Joe Torre was a former catcher who wasn’t going to compromise defense behind the plate for offense. With the Cardinals, it was Torre who replicated the move he made as a player himself by shifting Todd Zeile to third base and installing defensive stalwart Tom Pagnozzi as his catcher. When managing the Braves, Biff Pocoroba was a better hitter than Bruce Benedict, but Benedict was far superior defensively and that’s who Torre played.

When he took over the Yankees, in a concession to the way Torre liked to run his team, GM Bob Watson took the unpopular step of replacing the beloved Mike Stanley with Girardi and it worked exactly as planned.

Torre was not going to play Posada if he was inept behind the plate and it wouldn’t have mattered how much he hit.

Posada’s defense and game-calling became an issue after Torre left and Girardi took over as manager. The relationship between Posada and Girardi was never good. It was an understandable byproduct between two very competitive people who wanted the same job when they were playing; but when Girardi took over as manager, it was his job to get the pitchers and Posada on the same page and he didn’t do it; he allowed younger pitchers like Joba Chamberlain to join in the chorus of complaints about Posada’s game-calling led by CC Sabathia; it should’ve been squashed; that’s on the manager.

Ancillaries.

Posada has five championship rings. The first one, in 1996, had nothing to do with him; but he was a key component in the other four. Feisty and fiery, Posada’s leadership was more understated than that of his counterpart Derek Jeter; it was Posada who was Jeter’s thug and the muscle who enacted Jeter’s edicts; if a player was acting up and Jeter wanted him spoken to, it was Posada who carried out the order.

He was an All Star and Silver Slugger winner five times.

Posada was drafted as a second baseman and converted to catching in the minors. There’s long been a myth that there was a grand plan on the part of the Yankees to build from within and a prescient ability to spot talent led them to Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (three-fourths of the “core four” along with Jeter) as late rounders and free agent signees. Reality sabotages that story.

Much like the Cardinals didn’t know they were getting this era’s Joe DiMaggio when they drafted Albert Pujols on the 13th round of the 1999 draft, the Yankees didn’t know what they were getting when they selected Posada in the 24th round and Pettitte in the 22nd round in 1990. Had George Steinbrenner not been suspended in the early 1990s, it’s unlikely that Posada or Pettitte would have become the stars they did, at least in Yankees uniforms. The team was lucky that Gene Michael and Buck Showalter had the opportunity to rebuild the team correctly and give these players a chance to develop, the players took it from there.

The Yankees have no desire to bring him back in 2012 and the relationship between he and the club is strained, but because he’s retiring while he can still contribute as a hitter and won’t wear another uniform to pad his stats only makes his candidacy more palatable to certain voters.

Will Posada be elected and when?

I believe Posada will eventually be elected by the writers but it won’t be on the first ballot; that lofty accomplishment is limited to catchers like Bench. Fisk waited until his 2nd year; Carter waited until his 6th year on the ballot; Posada will probably have to wait at least that long and probably longer.

I’ll venture a guess that it’s going to be nine or ten years and as long as no PED accusations or proof of their use is uncovered, he’ll be inducted.

Jorge Posada had a great career and is worthy of election to the Hall of Fame.

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Get Yu Darvish

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I had prepared to write about how pitchers from Japan have a small margin for error and terrible history, especially when the hype-machine is so stifling that no one could possibly succeed. That history with the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu should make clubs reticent about the astronomical posting bids for the right to even negotiate with them. In addition to that, the number of pitchers who arrived without the media exposure and did well—Hideo Nomo, Hideki Okajima—should give greater pause before going all in with cash and expectations.

Part of my argument was intended to be centered around the same teams that passed on Aroldis Chapman being after the latest hot commodity, Yu Darvish.

I still don’t know how Chapman wound up with the Reds and not the Yankees or Red Sox—he was the real deal before he signed and is the real deal now.

But after looking at video clips of Darvish, he’s going to be a dominating pitcher in the big leagues.

His motion combines the height and ball-hooking quirkiness of Rick Sutcliffe; the deception and charisma of Tim Lincecum; and the leg drive and finish of David Cone.

Watching Darvish in the video below, you see the similarities to Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe was 6’7″, had a set of mechanics that no pitching coach in his right mind would teach, but were actually technically perfect in terms of balance and usage of both arms and intimidating size. The hooking of the wrist toward the forearm is said to be bad for the elbow, but that’s the way he threw; sometimes it does more damage to alter a natural motion that it would be to try and fix it; in some cases, it’s the oddity that makes them effective.

Darvish turns his back to the hitter similarly to Lincecum, he collapses he back leg to load up for the drive to the plate, and uses a leverage-based torque to generate power. The difference being he’s doing it at 6’5″ while Lincecum is (supposedly) 5’11”.

Cone was listed at 6’1″; was actually around 5’11” and threw everything at the hitter from a variety of arm angles; Darvish is said to throw a wide array of pitches including the conventional 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs; a wicked off-speed curve; a forkball; and a slider.

Here’s Cone as he’s just about to release:

And here’s Darvish:

I would totally ignore the results against against Japanese hitters—that’s a mistake that’s repeatedly made in trying to translate the success from Japan to North America. It’s happened not only with the above-mentioned pitchers who didn’t work out as hoped, but with hitters like Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was played up as a batting champion when he signed with the Twins and was a disaster.

With his unique heritage of an Iranian father and Japanese mother; a clear love of the spotlight; and the goods to back it up, Darvish is going to come to the big leagues and be a sensation.

The teams that miss out on him due to being gun-shy after prior errors are going to regret it. He’ll be a devastating force as a big league pitcher.

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The Joba Ruination Is Now Complete

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Noble and misguided, the Joba Rules surrounding the use of one-time Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain demolished what was once a promising career for a young pitcher whose demeanor, look and stuff elicited memories of Roger Clemens.

Enacted to protect rather than develop, they became a growing and marketable entity with T-shirts emblazoned with the saying; chafing dictates placed on manager Joe Torre to protect Chamberlain from….manager Joe Torre; pitch counts; altered roles; rampant fear and eventual destruction.

Chamberlain was placed on the disabled list yesterday with discomfort in his elbow.

Today it was revealed that he needs Tommy John surgery and is lost for the year.

Now he’s not going to be a dominant starter.

He’s not going to be a great closer.

He’s not going to be a useful set-up man.

In fact, there’s every possibility that the Yankees might not tender him a contract at the end of this season.

That’s right. He might never throw another pitch in Yankees pinstripes.

How far he’s fallen.

Because the hype surrounding Chamberlain was so stifling and the expectations grew to such monumental proportions, the Yankees were more worried about him getting hurt than they were molding him into a good big league starting pitcher. After all was said and done, he never even became that. Following his nuclear splash onto the scene as a devastating set-up man for Mariano Rivera in 2007, Chamberlain was like a delicate and rare artifact that no one was allowed to touch for fear of breaking him.

He never became anything more than a “what could be”.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that every pitcher—save the freaks like Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux—gets hurt. Regardless of the mandates of usage that have become prevalent today based on such idiocies as The Verducci Effect, they get hurt anyway.

And that’s the point.

Had the Yankees allowed Chamberlain to pitch as a starter without constraint in 2008, would he have injured his elbow or shoulder?

Maybe.

They would’ve been criticized for a lack of care for his powerful right arm and the result would’ve been exactly the same as it is.

They got nearly nothing out of him apart from aggravation and eye-rolling because of that paranoia. He never developed. They yanked him from the starting rotation to the bullpen back to the starting rotation and back to the bullpen; they used silly, arbitrary pitch counts to take him out of games after 3-4 innings in a start; they allowed him tremendous leeway in his behaviors and antics on and off the field; and they dealt with the constant and never-ending argument as to what he was; what he should be; what he could be.

He got hurt anyway.

Chamberlain and to a lesser extent, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, were part of what was supposed to be a homegrown renaissance of Yankees pitchers leading the club from the championship years of Andy Pettitte/Mike Mussina/David Wells/David Cone/Clemens days into a new era of dominance.

It didn’t work out that way specifically because of the way all three pitchers were mishandled.

Kennedy’s in Arizona and pitching well—finally—away from the glare of expectations and spotlight shining on him, far from New York which exacerbated his struggles with a plethora of stupid, arrogant comments.

Hughes is on the disabled list coming back from an undefined injury; the club isn’t saying that his velocity is returning; that indicates to me that it isn’t as he rehabs under the watchful eye of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He’s not close to being ready.

Chamberlain’s Yankees career may be over.

They did this and unlike the circumstances with Pedro Feliciano, they can’t blame the Mets.

Unlike the circumstances with Rafael Soriano, GM Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi can’t hold their hands in the air, tilt their heads, purse their lips and shrug as if to say, “hey, we didn’t want this guy in the first place”.

There’s a new generation of young talent coming up through the minor league system in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. Both are at least as impressive as this last crop that didn’t pan out. The organization is using the same strategies to baby them and keep them from getting injured.

It didn’t work with Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy. So what makes them think repeating the same mistakes all over again is going to yield a different result?

The Joba Ruiniation is now complete and the Yankees have no one to blame but themselves.

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Baseball Euthanasia

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Jorge Posada‘s apology notwithstanding, as long as he fails to hit he’ll be an issue in the Yankees clubhouse. Much like the circumstances with Derek Jeter, if it was 2003, it would be a slump that’s causing Posada to be batting .165 and he’d see his name repeatedly written in the lineup without the hovering threats of a benching, forced retirement or outright release floating around.

But it’s not 2003; it’s 2011. Posada is 39; he’s in the final year of his contract; he’s not hitting; and now he’s created a controversy and perhaps greased the skids for his unceremonious departure—one decidedly absent in cinematic joy—from the only team for whom he’s played in his Hall of Fame career.

That standing ovation he received as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of the Yankees loss to the Red Sox might not have been a simple matter of support for a struggling former hero, but a farewell in case he’s not on the roster when the Yankees return from their road trip.

It’s a legitimate possibility.

Apologies; accepted apologies; regret and all the drama are prologue to the inevitable end if Posada doesn’t start producing.

Is there a right and wrong in this circumstance? And who’s responsible?

The tension between Posada and manager Joe Girardi has never been hidden particularly well, but Girardi’s decision to bat Posada 9th in the lineup on Saturday was in no way congruent to Joe Torre batting Alex Rodriguez 8th in game 4 of the ALDS in 2006. Girardi is doing his job in the best way he sees fit; Torre had had enough of A-Rod’s whining, sour faces and diva-like behaviors to send the message that there was one boss in the Yankees clubhouse and it was Torre.

Torre was wrong for doing that.

Is Girardi batting Posada 9th an insult? Is it in any way connected to the tempestuous relationship between the two? Of course not.

As for Posada, maybe he’d prefer to bat 12th. Or to go home entirely.

To first beg out of the lineup to “clear his head”, then come up with a lame excuse of a sore back—which he never relayed to Girardi or Brian Cashman—created this whole train wreck that runs the risk of accelerating his unhappy departure from the team.

Posada still walks enough to be of use; he won’t hit .160 for the whole season; but he’s not going to get much time to figure it out. With their pitching in the dreadful state it’s in and Jeter and A-Rod in decline, the Yankees can’t carry Posada if he doesn’t do anything to warrant a place in the lineup.

The escalation of hostility rapidly degenerated into the ludicrous with Posada’s wife taking to Twitter to defend her husband; Cashman holding court with the media mid-game; and a long-winded debate and spate of abuse heaped down on Posada for removing himself from the lineup at the show of “disrespect”. It all combined to enable this culture of back-and-forth in which the whole episode will come to a head sooner rather than later and presumably be an unhappy ending for a loyal player.

Can Posada accept a bench role when and if the Yankees start looking for a replacement DH? If he wants to stay a Yankee throughout 2011, he won’t have a choice.

As for the Yankees, if and when they bench or dispatch Posada, they shouldn’t recall Jesus Montero to be the primary DH because it’s unfair to a young player to find himself parachuting into this swirling cesspool of contretemps; but as I suggested on Friday, Carlos Beltran would be a great DH rental once the Mets are ready to do business; the Twins are probably 2-4 weeks away from clearing the decks and that means Jim Thome will be on the market.

Thome still has power and still walks; he’d see the friendly right field porch at Yankee Stadium as an inviting target; he wouldn’t cost much more than a moderate prospect and is a free agent at the end of the season who’d love to get his ring and retire. He’s on the disabled list with a strained oblique now, but a pennant race, historical durability and skills make him a worthwhile pursuit.

There are options available and the Yankees have proven that they’ll be ruthless when necessary even with warriors who were integral parts of their championship teams.

Very, very rarely does a star player whose accomplishments are as diverse in the team and individual senses leave willingly; the same things that made Posada into the player he was have conspired to cause the butting of heads with the pitchers two years ago and have expanded to the poisonous atmosphere of the club trying to deftly navigate the situation without causing more reverberating aftershocks when they do what they’ll have to do if Posada continues to slump.

He was always hard-headed, short-tempered and moody; as the enforcer for the edicts of Jeter, Posada was the muscle behind the hierarchy in the complicated fabric of the clubhouse; now we’re seeing age and reality tear down the protective facade and Posada, unable to handle his diminished role and winding down of his career, is lashing out.

It’s understandable that he didn’t want to be embarrassed by batting ninth, but to pull himself out of the lineup and come up with a flimsy excuse that appeared to have been a lie was entirely unacceptable even for a player of Posada’s stature and pride.

Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius retired while they were still productive and they did so as a matter of choice when the team would’ve welcomed them back; Bernie Williams and David Cone were told their services were no longer required.

It happens. And sometimes it has to happen.

Which will it be with Posada?

I think we know the answer. But the timing is the question. Will it be this week? Next month? Or after the season?

It’s up to him. Don’t be surprised either way because this is still a powder keg with the potential to explode at any moment.

And it just might.

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. If you like this Posada analysis, try reading 400 pages of similar stuff!

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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Soriano’s Red Flags Grow Redder

Books, Management, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

Rafael Soriano brought a reputation with him to Yankees pinstripes and it wasn’t a good one.

From his reluctance to pitch more than one inning or in non-save situations for the Rays last season to the tantrum he threw when brought into a playoff game(!)—the final game of a series—to keep the score close when his team was trailing, it was clear that he wasn’t a Yankees-type from the start.

Add in his frequent injuries and penchant for giving up the home run ball in big games and you start to see why—in addition to the money and lost draft picks—Brian Cashman didn’t want Soriano.

But Randy Levine and the Steinbrenners overruled their GM and signed Soriano to a 3-year, $35 million contract to set-up for Mariano Rivera and possibly replace the iconic closer one day.

Will Soriano pitch well for the Yankees?

For the most part, he will.

In a big game in Boston with the game on the line, will he grip the ball too tightly and let the Fenway Park crowd affect his delicate sensibilities to the point where he can’t throw strikes or grooves a fastball to Adrian Gonzalez?

Absolutley.

These accommodations the club is providing to a pitcher who has accomplished nothing are stark and disturbing.

Since when do the Yankees let players not named Derek Jeter or Rivera dictate the terms upon which they participate in a spring training game?

That’s exactly what they’ve done with Soriano this spring.

First he decided—unilaterally—that he didn’t want to pitch against division rivals so they wouldn’t gain an advantage against him for the regular season.

I could almost understand if it was against his former club, the Rays; but he refused to pitch against the Orioles—the same Orioles he pitched against in 9 games last season. Soriano appeared in 6 games each vs the Red Sox and Blue Jays as well.

Did he develop a new pitch that he didn’t want them to see? Fix a mechanical twitch? What were these clubs going to face that they hadn’t faced before?

But the Yankees gave him sway over his use and let him throw 21 pitches in a minor league game in lieu of pitching against the Orioles.

Then on Saturday it was reported that after pitching 2/3 of an inning he decided—again unilaterally—that it was his last spring appearance and he was “ready to go”.

Where in the Yankees universe has it ever been such that a player like Soriano gets the final say in his training regimen?

Whether or not Soriano is effective with his idiosyncratic behavior is beside the point; he is a part of the team and is making demands on his new employer that they would never tolerate from anyone—not even Jeter and Rivera; that’s mostly because Jeter and Rivera wouldn’t behave in such a way.

That’s the point.

Who does Soriano think he is?

It’s a month into his Yankees career and he’s looking more like a Kenny Lofton/Kevin Brown/Denny Neagle-type—players who weren’t Yankees. They didn’t behave accordingly according to team dynamic.

For a variety of reasons, they weren’t right for the team, the clubhouse or the city.

They didn’t fit.

Soriano joins the Yankees, a club that judges seasonlong success or failure on whether or not there’s a parade in the Canyon of Heroes in November. He arrives with a grand total of three post-season appearances in his career. In two of them, he allowed home runs—the second one being in the ninth inning of game 5, breaking the Rays’ collective backs as they were facing a dominating Cliff Lee.

It’s appropriate that I mention Lee because it was his shunning of the Yankees offer that spurred them to make the desperation move for the next biggest name in a weak free agent crop—Soriano.

Desperation breeds mistakes.

Much like the familiar caveat I provide when the complaints about A.J. Burnett reach a fever pitch: this is what they bought!!

They bought a pitcher who has never been able to handle pressure.

They bought a pitcher who is making his own rules and putting forth the implication that he holds the hammer over the Yankees heads with the contract opt-outs after 2011 or 2012.

They bought a problem.

The championship Yankees had troublemakers (David Wells); partiers (David Cone); hotheads (Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada); quirky people (Bernie Williams); even megastar divas (Alex Rodriguez; Roger Clemens), but this is different.

Those players earned the right to be who they were.

Soriano hasn’t.

If he’s already a problem in March, just wait until September.

They were warned.

I’ll be a guest on two podcasts Wednesday. In the afternoon, I’ll be on with Sal at SportsFanBuzz; in the evening with Mike on NYBaseballDigest.

Prepare.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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