The Yankees peddle class but embrace pettiness

MLB, Uncategorized

Girardi pic

“He was invited and declined” is the excuse the Yankees give for the glaring omission of the mere name “Joe Girardi” from their celebration of the 1998 World Series champions, portrayed as one of the greatest if not the greatest teams in history.

Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum of Girardi’s contribution to that team and whether the Yankees were obligated to make a note of him even though he was absent from the festivities, the contradiction between how the Yankees sell themselves and how they really are is exemplified by their behavior in these very situations. There is a basic “if this, then that” attitude that comes from the top and more noticeable than it otherwise would be if they simply exhibited the class they relentlessly sell and avoided the infantilism that is a blatant hallmark of how they truly are by just noting that he was a part of the team.

Lest anyone believe it was a circumstantial choice not to mention those who were absent and it was not an intentional act, the Yankees made certain to avoid any player who was not there. That list included Orlando Hernandez, Mike Stanton, Ricky Ledee, Chad Curtis and Hideki Irabu.

The only ones of the group for whom a blotting out of existence is explainable are Curtis, who is in jail for some pretty terrible crimes, and Irabu, who committed suicide, so it’s understandable that they would avoid mentioning them. But should Girardi be in this category?

Those unaware of the Yankees’ deviousness in using plausible deniability to advance their agenda in these relatively meaningless situations could say that it was a decision not to talk about players who weren’t there and that’s that. When looking at the Yankees’ past with how they treat players and people who have become persona non grata for reasons reasonable and ridiculous, it is to be expected that they would treat Girardi as the invisible man and white him out of existence.

What is more galling is that he did not choose to leave them. The psychological issue of treating rejection as if it was a decision on the part of whomever was rejected is obvious, but this is the exact opposite. It’s a false equivalency to say that a former manager who was fired is the same as the former manager and player refusing to join a celebration that he had every right to attend and was, in fact, invited to attend.

Technically, his contract as manager was not renewed, therefore he wasn’t “fired” in the truest sense of the word. But make no mistake about it, for all intents and purposes, he was fired. The argument that the wound is only just starting to scab so it can heal is missing a critical ingredient: Girardi has been nothing but complimentary to the organization and stayed silent over how he was treated. There have been no whisper campaigns; no columns in which Yankees insiders immediately recognize Girardi as the source; no passive aggressive comments one often sees during a bitter divorce.

Girardi’s predecessor as Yankees manager, Joe Torre, was briefly excommunicated from the Yankees universe – complete with being figuratively shit on by Randy Levine’s flunky, the buffonish mouthpiece of the Ministry of Propaganda at YES, Michael Kay – because of his book The Yankee Years and that he did not recede quietly into the night once his tenure as manager ended. With Girardi, there is no book detailing his decade with the Yankees as he attempts to turn himself into St. Joe II.

For someone who was the manager of the team for its last World Series title in 2009, oversaw a pseudo-rebuild and kept the team from falling to the depths that most teams do as they reconstruct their roster and move from one era to the next, Girardi has the right to be bitter as he sits on the sideline watching Aaron Boone drive his Ferrari. But he’s stayed silent.

Mentioning his name hurts no one. It could have been done at the end of the ceremony in which the players who were present or, as Derek Jeter strangely did amid the flimsy excuse that it was his daughter’s birthday, give a statement via video, as those who were not there were referenced innocuously: “Key parts of that team who are unable to join us today…”

It’s as simple, professional and classy as the Yankees seek to present themselves. Of course, they chose to be petty and vindictive for reasons known only to them, if there even is a reason.

No, this is not a major conspiracy for which the organization should be held accountable; no, Girardi was not a giant and irreplaceable part of that championship team and they likely would have been just as good had they used another backup catcher; but they could have said his name rather than saying, “we invited him and he said no” as if that’s some form of justification to edit to the narrative so he no longer exists.

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The R.A. Dickey Trade, Part I—The Rumors Are Lies

All Star Game, Award Winners, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The Mets’ trade of R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays along with catcher Josh Thole and a minor leaguer for catcher Travis d’Arnaud, catcher John Buck, minor league righty Noah Syndergaard and another minor leaguer is contingent on Dickey signing a contract extension with the Blue Jays by Tuesday afternoon. Until then, it’s not done. But negative analysis of why the Mets are doing this has run the gamut from them being tight-fisted to petulant to stupid.

It’s none of the above.

The easy storyline is to take Dickey’s comments at the Mets’ holiday party as the last straw. At least that’s what’s being implied by the New York media. That holiday party has become a petri dish for dissent and the final impetus to trade players. It was in 2005, after all, that Kris Benson’s tenure with the club was effectively ended when his camera-loving wife Anna Benson arrived in a revealing, low-cut red dress. Then-Mets’ GM Omar Minaya subsequently sent Benson to the Orioles for John Maine and Jorge Julio, which turned out to be a great deal for the Mets.

The Benson trade and the pending Dickey trade are comparable in one realistic way: they got value back. Maine was a good pitcher for the Mets for several years and they spun Julio to the Diamondbacks for Orlando Hernandez, who also helped them greatly. With Dickey, it’s an organizational move for the future and not one to cut a problem from the clubhouse.

Were the Mets irritated by Dickey’s constant chatter? Probably a bit. In looking at it from the Mets’ position, of all the clubs Dickey pitched for as he was trying to find his way with the knuckleball—the Rangers, Brewers, Twins (three times), and Mariners (twice)—it was they who gave him a legitimate shot. He took advantage of it, they got lucky and he became a star because of his fascinating tale on and off the field and his ability to tell it. It’s not to be ignored that the Mets, under Sandy Alderson, gave Dickey a 2-year, $7.8 million guaranteed contract after he had one good season in 2010. They didn’t have to do that. They could’ve waited to see him do it again, wondering if it was a fluke. The Mets invested in Dickey and he agreed to it. For him to complain about the contract he signed with such silly statements as the $5 million club option for 2013 setting a “bad dynamic” and threatening to leave after the 2013 season as a free agent were things better left unsaid considering all the variables.

If the Mets were truly interested in wringing every last drop out of Dickey and seeing if he could repeat his 2012 season while placating the ignorant fans complaining about this brilliant trade, they would’ve kept Dickey on the cheap as a drawing card and worried about later later—just as they did with Jose Reyes.

Rather than repeat that mistake, they dangled Dickey to pitcher-hungry teams and when they didn’t get the offers they deemed acceptable, they waited until the big names (Zack Greinke, James Shields) and medium names (Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez) came off the market and struck. That it was simultaneous to the holiday party “controversy” is a matter of timing convenient for conspiracy theories. Delving deeper into the reality of the situation and there’s no substance to the “Dickey Must Go” perception.

This is a cold, calculating decision on the part of the Mets for the future, not to send a message. If you think Alderson was influenced by Dickey’s comments, you’re misjudging Alderson badly. It’s amazing that he’s been able to convince the Wilpons to make deals for the long-term that won’t be popular with a large segment of the fanbase and will provide kindling for the members of the media to light another fire to burn the embattled owners at the stake, but he did it. Personalities didn’t enter into it. Alderson, as the A’s GM, had Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson. While they were productive, he kept them and tolerated their mouths and controversies, then discarded them. As CEO of the Padres, he acquired Heath Bell knowing his reputation. It’s not personal until the personal is affecting the professional. Dickey’s situation hadn’t reached that tipping point.

It’s a childhood fantasy to believe that every player in a major league clubhouse is a close friend to every other player in a major league clubhouse. Like any workplace, there’s conflict, clashes and little habits that get on the nerves of others. Did Dickey’s sudden fame grate people in the Mets clubhouse? Were they jealous? Probably, especially since there’s a prevailing perception that a knuckleballer is comparable to a placekicker in football and isn’t really getting hitters out as much as he’s tricking them with a pitch they rarely see. Whether or not that’s true is irrelevant. As we saw in the Cy Young Award voting, no one’s giving credit based on how they got their results. Dickey was among the top pitchers in the National League and garnered enough votes to win the award. The Cy Young Award, like Reyes’s batting championship is a title based on so many factors that it shouldn’t enter into the equation as to whether or not a player stays or goes.

How many players are there about whom teammates, on-field management, front office people and opponents don’t roll their eyes and whisper to media members of how annoying they are? In today’s game, there’s Mariano Rivera. 30 years ago, there was Dale Murphy. Apart from that, who?

Even Goose Gossage, who has replaced Bob Feller as the Hall of Fame’s grumpy old man in residence, doesn’t criticize Rivera personally when going into one of his rants about closers of today that should begin with a fist pounded on the desk and, “In my day…” and end with, “Get off my lawn!!!”

On the opposite end, there are players universally reviled like Barry Bonds. Most are in the middle. People can still do their jobs without loving the person they work with.

The trade of Dickey was baseball related and nothing more. It was the right call.

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The Yankees’ Grand Delusion

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

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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Viewer Mail 1.11.2011

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove

Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE Bert Blyleven and the Hall of Fame:

I heard something interesting this week about him. I forget who said it but they said something to the effect that he was never a number 1 and never was a game 1 or game 7 pitcher. In fact, there was one year where his Twins made the playoffs and he didn’t even pitch in that series. So basically, forget the numbers, look at what his coaches, scouts, and GMs thought of him at the time. Do you really think they were ALL wrong and don’t know what they are doing?

Also, you never said, or at least I never saw, you say anything about whether you think Palmeiro, McGwire, and Bagwell should be HOFers. Personally, I think they should. You are not comparing players in different eras. You are comparing them to the people they played with. Seems to me that most of the players in the Steroids Era were using, hence the name. So, like it or not, they were the best of that era. And the HOF is a museum. A museum is supposed to present the facts of what their particular topic is, in an unbiased fashion. You don’t have to like the steroid era. You can wish it never happened but you can not pretend it did not and wish it away. Put these guys in, let everyone make up their own minds about them.

In general, I don’t buy into the assigned “numbers” for pitchers. Much like my argument against pure stat zombieing, these are human beings with different abilities—maximums and minimums. I’ll take a chance on a player who I think can be much more than his statistical parts suggest; I also like having players from whom I know what to expect; it goes without saying that any team can use a C.C. Sabathia or Roy Halladay who are going to provide consistent excellence whether or not they have their good stuff.

A year ago, I went through Blyleven’s career season-by-season when he just missed induction and he was harmed by being on bad teams much of the time—link. His contemporaries didn’t do him much good as Jim Palmer was the best pitcher in the American League and Catfish Hunter was on a great A’s team and padded his statistics that way.

How do you pigeonhole pitchers on mediocre teams? On great teams? Who was the “number 1” starter on the Yankees during their dynasty? In season, it didn’t make much difference who was starting a game; in the playoffs, even though he was despised, when David Wells was at the top of his game, he was who they wanted pitching; I’d put Orlando Hernandez ahead of Roger Clemens from those teams as well.

You can take that analogy to your Phillies as well. Do you want Halladay (who pitched a post-season no-hitter)? Cliff Lee (with his playoff success)? Cole Hamels (a former NLCS/World Series MVP)? Or Roy Oswalt (a fearless, unflappable veteran)?

The “numerical” designation is more about identification and ego than any realistic judgment in reality.

As for the statement that Blyleven was with the Twins during a post-season series and didn’t pitch. I assume you’re referring to 1970 when he was a 19-year-old rookie. The Orioles swept the Twins in three games in the ALCS; he was on a staff with veterans Jim Perry, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant and a young lefty named Tom Hall whose numbers were devastating. Blyleven did pitch in relief in that series.

I’m not as passionate a defender of Blyleven as Rich Lederer and the stat-obsessed are; in looking at his numbers, his contemporaries and the full context, plus the pitchers like Don Sutton who are in the Hall of Fame and is comparable in every aspect to Blyleven, then Blyleven is a Hall of Famer too.

I’m iffy on Jeff Bagwell—he may get caught up in the allegations that he was a skinny minor leaguer with no power and turned into a beast. I would not vote for Rafael Palmeiro—statistically his numbers took a wondrous jump at a strange time, a time in which PEDs were en vogue. I would’ve voted for Mark McGwire had he not embarrassed himself at the congressional hearings and then confessed to his steroid use out of personal convenience more than purely sincere regret. Now? No.

You don’t have to give them a plaque to have “everyone make up their own minds about them”. That’s rewarding them to foster discussion; the two things are not connected; that they’ve been excluded creates more of a debate than inducting them would.

If you want to look at contemporaries, look at Barry Bonds. He played clean and kept up with the users; he played with PEDs and dwarfed their numbers. It’s a transference onto the same playing field and he blew them away in both. Bonds is a Hall of Famer with or without drugs as is Roger Clemens; these other players weren’t and wouldn’t have been had they played straight.

Joe (StatMagician) writes RE Barry Bonds:

You used the words “BONDS,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” in the same sentence.

It’s interesting with Barry Bonds. Which is better? An affable “everyone’s friend” teammate? Or Barry Bonds who was aloof—even nasty—but was one of the smartest and best players of his era, steroids or not? For all the bickering and negativity between Bonds and his Pirates and Giants teammates, it was Bonds who had a profound influence on Matt Williams and Jeff Kent. He was always helping teammates with tips to be used on the field.

I don’t seecamaraderie as irrelevant, but in some cases it’s not necessary.He wasn’t his teammates’ friend? So what?

And Joe, are you buying my book this year or are you gonna keep being a mooch?

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Rafael Soriano:

Soriano gacks up big games? And wouldn’t pitch more than one inning for the Rays? Uh-oh. I don’t want him anymore for the Yankees.

It’s his history. He gives up big homers because he appears to try too hard in important spots. We saw it in game 5 of the ALDS when he allowed the backbreaking homer to Ian Kinsler in the ninth inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-1 deficit. I don’t know that I’d trust him to handle New York either.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Carl Pavano:

I wonder if we’re perhaps too hard on Pavano in regards to his hellish Yankeedom. I mean, did he really just mail it in and sit on the beach while being hurt with a smile on his face or was he genuinely upset that he couldn’t perform?

His body language in his first season was atrocious; then he got hurt. It’s possible that he got his money and lost desire; it’s happened before and if he had a mental issue with New York, the pressure and his station in life—“I got paid, now what?”—that’s understandable; but as time went on, it looked as if the perception was such that he felt there was no way to rehabilitate his image with the organization, media and fans and he gave up trying.

His injuries were real, but it was the sheer ludicrous nature of how he got hurt—crashing his Porsche with his model girlfriend; a bruised buttocks—that exacerbated his nightmare.

As a competitor, I’m sure he was embarrassed; no one wants to see such awful things written and said about themselves, but if he holds anyone responsible for his unforgettable (and not in a positive way) stay in New York, he need look no further than a mirror.