There’s the Jewish New Year, the Chinese New Year, the fiscal new year and January 1st. Baseball has its own new year and it is now a mere four days away. With that in mind and in order to enjoy a more purposeful and ordered baseball life in 2011, I have prepared 5 of my Baseball New Year’s Resolutions. Please feel free to leave yours in the comments.
Resolved: to cultivate a deep hatred for the Tampa Bay Rays
I’ve hated the Boston Red Sox for as long as I can remember, and there is little about them for which I do not have disdain. There is the swath of unlikeable players, the smug ownership (“the MT curse?” indeed, John), the media cheerleading, the obnoxious fanbase, the whining about Yankee payroll, and, of course, Kevin Youkilis. When it comes to the Rays, though, there is little to hate. Yet they aren’t going anywhere any time soon. If I can’t ignore them, then it’s high time I figure out different ways to mock and loathe them.
The irreverent and hilarious NFL blog Kissing Suzy Kolber and sports blog Deadspin often publish what they term “Hater’s Guides”. Essentially these guides a compilation of all the things, fair and unfair, for which a team could be mocked. Last fall Drew Magary wrote one up for the MLB Playoffs, and this is what he had to say about the Rays:
I am so aggressively indifferent towards the Rays that I can’t even produce the vitriol needed for this preview. I think about the Rays, and all that comes to mind is a giant white void, free of any objects or even intangible thoughts. Just a wide expanse of nothingness that wipes out the color and soul of anything it comes into contact with.
Now, one could mock the the Rays’ low attendance figures or the fact that Yankee fans appear to outnumber Rays fans when the two teams face off at Tropicana, but this is low-hanging fruit. It’s also the hatred of absence, hating a team because of things that it can’t do. I’d like to discover specific things to hate them for.
It won’t be easy. The most distinguishing factor about that club right now is their intelligent management and the smart, likeable group of analysts like Jonah Keri and R.J. Anderson. For now the best target seems to be the way that people go out of their way to point out Extra 2 Percent-ness. The first entry in the book comes from Jayson Stark: listening is the new market inefficiency. Trust me, I’ll stay tuned.
Resolved: to enjoy a potentially dominant bullpen
Angst about the Soriano contract aside, the Yankee bullpen has the potential to be the best in baseball this year, and one of the best in recent memory. Without including their names, here are the relevant statistics for the Yankees’ four best relievers in 2010:
Reliever A – 62 innings, 2.81 FIP, 8.23 K/9, 2.02 BB/9.
Reliever B – 61 innings, 3.58 FIP, 10.42 K/9, 4.84 BB/9.
Reliever C – 60 innings, 2.81 FIP, 6.75 K/9, 1.65 BB/9.
Reliever D – 71 innings, 2.98 FIP, 9.67 K/9, 2.76 BB/9.
These relievers (Soriano, Robertson, Rivera and Chamberlain, for the record) will form a potent end of game corps and should lessen the burden on guys like Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes. Hopefully the fourth and fifth starters will be able to eat up innings, keeping the bullpen fresh and preventing burnout. If so, the final three or four innings of Yankee games will be very tough for opposing teams. It’s always fun to watch a dominant bullpen at work. It lends a sense of invincibility to late game leads. With Feliciano and Logan, Joe Girardi should have every tool necessary to lay down the hammer on opposing clubs. Use it well, Joe.
Resolved: to get overly excited about Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit
There will be plenty of people this summer who will downplay Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Some will do it out of earnest honesty, some will do it because they’re contrarian, and some will do it because they just don’t like the Yankees. Whatever the motive, and it can be hard to divine motive, I fully expect to hear a lot of reminders that the 3,000th hit doesn’t mean all that much per se and that it’s not nearly the best way to appreciate prodigious offensive production. Rob Neyer is the early odds-on favorite to do this, memorializing Jeter’s feat with something like, “Well, do 3,000 hits mean all that much? When I talked to Bill James, he wasn’t so sure. It’s hard to say. But it does seem that all this hubbub about Captain Captain is a bit overblown. Would we be paying that much attention if he was on the Pirates? It’s possible, but there’s no way of knowing.”
It’s true that hits aren’t the best barometer of offensive production. Yet just like reaching 300 wins the 3,000th hit is a rare feat, one that speaks to longevity, ability and consistency. The club is populated by only 27 players, some of them among the very best to ever play the game. Of these players, four spent time on the Yankees: Ricky Henderson, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs and Paul Waner. There is, however, no player in the 3,000 hit club who spent his entire career with the Yankees. This is rather fascinating. Despite the illustrious history of the club and the sheer amount of time it has been around, Derek Jeter will become the first lifetime Yankee to join the 3,000 hit club.
Jeter is in the twilight of his career. There may be more World Series trophies, October heroics and Canyon parades in the cards for him, but the days of elite offensive production are likely behind him now. The 3,000th hit will be a time to reflect, a time in which the entire baseball world will stop and watch and recognize just how good Jeter has been. I’m going to count down to 3,000 like a little kid waiting for Christmas and go crazy when it arrives. It will be a moment to remember.
Resolved: to ignore media trolls
The New York media market is a tough media market. In fact, the members of the New York media market seem to delight in commenting on just how tough the New York media market is while simultaneously causing it. It’s a lovely self-referential trick. Those responsible for covering the Yankees are no different. Unlike the coverage in Boston, which often leans towards excessively positive, the New York reporting crew has a combination of hostility towards certain players, the manager, ownership, the fans, and advanced statistics. There are exceptions, Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger being the most notable one.
This year, I will not let them get under my skin. If someone wants to make a tremendously unfunny joke about Joey Looseleafs, I will not pay attention. If someone wants to argue that single-season pitcher wins are a good barometer of pitching skill, I will plug my ears. Often times, the goal of making incendiary comments is simply to get attention. I can’t control what others do, but I won’t feed the fire. Eventually the market will sort this out and news organizations will realize that disdain for new ways of thinking, the consumer, or the object of the reporting isn’t what fans are looking for. Until then, I will go about my business in a state of happy ignorance.
Resolved: to say a proper goodbye to Jorge Posada
Jorge Posada’s contract expires after this season, and it’s very well possible that this could be his final season as a professional baseball player, or at least as a Yankee. I’ll miss him. I’ve always loved watching Posada hit, particularly from the left side of the plate. There’s something about that swingthat struck me as dangerously powerful. Posada’s never been the flashiest guy in the Yankee lineup, although he certainly put up some MVP caliber seasons in his time. He’s always been the guy you think of fourth or fifth when you’re running through a list of Yankee sluggers in your mind. He’s never had the pizzazz or the swagger of guys like Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield or Jason Giambi but he’s always been there, year after year, getting it done.
Jorge has had more than his fair share of major injuries. The torn rotator cuff/labrum and the brain injuries were particularly brutal, and he’s constantly getting beaten up behind the plate. Yet Jorge has always fought back, and it seems like he’s always been there when the team needed him. I will never forget the bloop double off Pedro in Game 7 of the ALCS and the way he pumped both of his fists and screamed at the top of his lungs as the Stadium rocked and rolled. I’m excited for the dawn of a new era of Yankee catching; Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are some seriously talented cats. But I’ll miss Jorge when he’s gone, and I’m going to cheer a little louder this year when he clubs his home runs and trots slowly around the bases. Who knows how many more he has left?