We’re gearing up for Game 1 of the NLCS this evening, and a game thread is forthcoming. However, in the interim hours, I’d like to discuss an issue I’ve come across a few times today. A number of my friends said they’d like to see the Sox beat the Rays, but get beat by the Sox- and Yanks-alum-filled Dodgers in the World Series. I expressed that I’d rather see the upstart Rays take care of business now, rather than banking on an NL team to beat a powerhouse AL team.
So what’s more important to everyone? That the Sox lose in general, or that they lose to the Dodgers in the World Series? · (63) ·
It’s all about the numbers for baseball and TV, and this year, the numbers aren’t looking so hot. TBS’s Division Series rounds saw a ratings drop of 20 percent over 2007. While it’s easy to think that the lack of New York teams is to blame, both Los Angeles and Chicago, two of the biggest media markets in the country, had two teams in the first round. Mostly, politics — the Biden/Palin debate was on during two games — and lackluster games are to blame.
On the Yankee front, Richard Sandomir reports that Yankee ratings were down 10 percent this year. While fans went to the stadium for its final year, the folks at home weren’t so keen on watching a third-place team lumber through the season this year. · (7) ·
After a quick tour through the Yankees fall instructional league, seventh-round pick Kyle Higashioka is heading back to his home in southern California. The team has high hopes for the prep school catcher who, like most high school draftees, is a raw product now. He’ll begin his first full season in pro ball next year, likely starting out at Low-A Charleston, which saw two excellent catching prospects pass through this year in Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. So a once barren system in terms of catching talent is starting to fill out. MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo has some info on Higashioka up at the official site.
In the quotes department, Higashioka is a lot like catching brother Crash Davis. He comes off as positive, eager, yet unoffensive, which is basically the formula for speaking to the press these days.
“A bunch of people told me how hard it’s going to be once I get into full-season ball,” he said. “I’ll try to get as strong as I can, and keep working on my hitting and catching, maintaining quickness as well as strength. I want to come to Spring Training in really great shape and impress all the coaches and staff, so hopefully they put me in the full-season level.”
“There are certain things that are different in professional baseball that I wasn’t accustomed to,” Higashioka said. “This minicamp helped me adjust to the lifestyle of playing professional baseball.”
Known mostly for his slick defense, he could still be a force with the bat. It’s tough to tell when they’re still 18 years old and not fully developed physically. The Yanks paid $500,000 to keep him away from Cal, so clearly they see something in him. He’ll definitely be one to watch in the 2009 edition of DotF.
On the eve of the NLCS between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, FOX broadcaster extraordinaire Tim McCarver ripped into Manny Ramirez. Said the former player, “Some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable – like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it’s washed, it’s gone.”
Update: Joe Sheehan takes McCarver to task for these comments. While McCarver is certainly free to hold his opinions on Ramirez, some of the facts he asserts in the Inquirer interview are flat-out wrong. · (28) ·
Can a player be too devoted to a team? Can a player’s devotion to a team and his willingness to play through an injury no matter how severe be a detriment? Of course, it can, and this year, the Yanks learned that the hard way.
By his standards, Derek Jeter got off to a slow start. Through May 18, Jeter had been to the 167, and while he was hitting .314, his OBP was just .349 and he was slugging just .429. With just 11 extra-base hits to his name, Jeter was not having the MVP season his teammates had predicted in Spring Training.
Then, on May 20, in a game in which a Jeter error led to six unearned runs, disaster in the form of a Daniel Cabrera fastball struck. Jeter had to leave the game in the third inning, and while X-Rays were negative, the next few weeks were not kind to the Yankee short stop. Between May 20 and June 14 — a span of 111 plate appearances — Jeter hit .198/.291/.292 with 14 runs scored, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs. It would be a brutal 25 games for the Yankee Captain.
After June 14, Jeter turned it all around. He hit .323/.390/.430 over his last 390 plate appearances, and while another HBP against the Orioles ended his season a few days early, he pulled down a .300/.363/.408 line on the year. But Jeter those numbers pale in comparison with his .316/.387/.458 mark. He didn’t score 100 runs for the first time since his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, and he notched full-season career lows in doubles, home runs and hits.
Sabermetrically, Jeter’s numbers were down this year as well. His runs created per game dipped from 6.3 to 5.0. His VORP dropped from 53.3 to 37.5, and his win shares declined from 24 to 18. Overall, his subpar season didn’t impact the team that much; his contributions declined by about two wins over the course of a full season. But if we assume that Jeter was indeed hurt by Cabrera’s fastball, his decision to play through the pain did not help the Yankees this year.
Of course, Jeter’s bad 25 games could have just been that. Perhaps, he just hit a slump, and the HBP was merely coincidental. And perhaps Jeter’s delince, at age 34, isn’t to be unexpected. He’s on the downside of what has been a very productive career. Over the next few seasons, the Yanks will have to grapple with a lot of Derek Jeter-related questions. He’s not really fit for short stop, and his contract will soon end. The team is still relying on him to be that linchpin out of the two hole, and soon we’ll see if that decision may not be the best for the future of the team.
RAB live chat tomorrow, I’m thinking 2pm EDT so our west coast friends can get in on the action. Here’s our past chats.
AzFL Peoria (8-7 win over Surprise)
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K – in addition to driving in the Javelinas’ seventh run, he was at the plate when a wild pitch allowed the game winning run to score
Jeff Marquez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64.3%) … don’t read too much into him pitching in relief, the team is carrying 21 pitchers, they all can’t start
HWB Waikiki (3-1 loss to Honolulu in 7 innings) not sure why they played only 7 innings again, as radnom suggested yesterday, maybe it was a volcano?
Damon Sublett: 1 for 3, 2 K – still hasn’t gone hitless in a game
Austin Romine: 0 for 2
While it’s nice and trendy to blame the pitching for the Yanks’ woes this year, the fact is they did score nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last (179 to be exact). We’re used to powerhouse offenses that feature multiple 100 RBI guys (they had two this year) and about five or six 20 homerun hitters (three), but it just wasn’t meant to be this year. Injuries, subpar years and general suckiness were the main culprits.
While it’s clear the Yanks will look to make a splash on the pitching front, their offense will need a pretty significant upgrade, especially if Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu are allowed to take their stout OPS+’s elsewhere as free agents.
Enter: Mark Teixeria. And … uh … Manny Ramirez.
Both players offer what the Yanks need – the ability to hit for average, hit for power, and get on base like it’s going out of style – but best of all they’ll come at the cost of just money, no other players need to get involved. Manny’s Hall of Fame caliber resume leaves no question that he’ll be an impact player, and Teixeira’s just entering what should be the best years of his career. Neither guy will come cheaply, and even the Yanks have their financial limits, so it’ll come down to one or the other.
So what would you prefer: Tex on a 7 yrs, $154M deal, or Manny at 4/88? Your call, play nice.
While most people know Robert Goulet as a successful Broadway star, most youngsters know him from a rather hilarious Super Bowl commercial. Now, Goulet, posthumously, has lent his name to an American Mustache Institute award, and, well, Jason Giambi’s ‘stache is one of the finalists for Mustache of the Year. The competition is fierce; Goose Gossage, Don LaFontaine and Keith Hernandez are among the nominees. But head on over to AMI’s site and vote for Giambi. After all, no one else’s ‘stache had a 130 OPS+. · (8) ·
The MLBPA is the most powerful union in sports. For the most part, they get what they want. Could that influence play a part in CC Sabathia donning pinstripes this winter? Ken Davidoff ponders the question, and reflects back to the 2002-2003 off-season. Jim Thome, a newly-minted free agent, got a huge offer from the Phillies, and a decent one from the Indians, with whom he had played since being drafted in 1989. Davidoff’s source said Thome was considering the Tribe’s offer because he loved playing in the Midwest. However, the players’ union leaned on him, and he ended up taking the big bucks with Philly.
If we’re to believe the current crop of rumors, the Yankees seem poised to be the high bidder in the CC Sweepstakes. While CC might not necessarily value the dollar over all else, how will the union feel about that? What if the best offer out there is five years and $100 million, and the Yanks are going six and $125? Clearly, it’s tough to speculate on a situation like this, seeing as none of us (as far as I know) works for the union. It’s just something else to think about as we near the beginning of free agency. · (37) ·