On Joy and the Expectation to Win

In some ways, the Knicks and Yankees are very much alike. Both franchises have long been run by families that believe you have to spend to win, and have attacked the free agent and trade markets with zeal. Both have therefore been subjected to various luxury tax and revenue sharing plans that are aimed at their ability to spend at a much higher level than other clubs. Finally, both play in recently built or refurbished spaces that allow them to charge their fans exorbitant fees to enjoy the gameday experience.

However, when it comes to the most important elements, these two franchises could not be more dissimilar. The Knicks were, for a very long time, the worst run franchise in the NBA and possibly all of sports. The GM tenures of Scott Layden and Isaiah Thomas were riddled with terrible trades for aging and overrated stars, long term contracts given to injury risks, poor drafting, scandals, and worst of all, interminable losing. The Knicks were a punchline for over a decade, so much so that many Knick fans have been wary to jump back on board now that the team seems headed in the right direction.

Conversely, much like DJ Kahled and Tim Tebow,  all the Yankees do is win. Over the last 13 years, the Yankees have been run shrewdly by Brian Cashman, and with a major assist from the Steinbrenner wallet have continued to build the legacy of the winningest franchise in sports. They have numerous marketable stars and fan favorites, and have also added a solid farm system to provide the franchise with exciting young talent. They have long provided a striking contrast to the Knicks, throwing the Dolans’ failures into stark relief.

This contrast also manifests itself in how fans react and relate to the two clubs. One thing that constant winning does is breed the expectation of success from fans. We no longer hope that the Yankees can contend, but expect it, and we have not experienced an expectation-free season since 1996. We get a bit confused and upset when the Yankees claim they want to cut payroll, as they have set a certain standard and we fear that they may no longer be able to meet it. This kind of attitude lends a certain tension to each season, as high expectations also leads to a greater fear of failure. I know I am not the only one who feels a modicum of relief mingled with the joy I experience when the Yankees clinch a playoff spot or win a playoff series.

Conversely, the Knicks enter the upcoming season with a different sort of expectation. They finally put the club in the capable hands of Donnie Walsh, and he has handed things off to Glenn Grunwald, who also seems to know what he is doing. The team finally looks ready to contend, but it is hard to tell at this point whether we can expect a deep playoff run or whether they are built to win one round and then bow out. When they lost in last year’s first round, most Knicks fans shrugged it off and looked excitedly to the future. There is a great level of mystery to their upcoming season, and any success will likely be met with the pure, unbridled joy reserved for a team and a franchise that has long suffered as a laughingstock and a perennial loser.

That sense of pure joy is somewhat missing from Yankee fandom. With frequent winning comes a greater fear of failure, and that greater fear of failure will by nature cause some measure of relief to be part of the emotions we feel when the club comes out on top. There is nothing we can do about it, and I would definitely rather have the frequent winning rather than that emotion in the long run. But I look with a bit of jealousy at my 12-year old self and wish there was some way I could recapture that joy I felt in 1996.

Report: Winning bid for Darvish is larger than Dice-K’s

Via Franz Lids, the high bid for Yu Darvish is larger than the $51.1M the Red Sox paid for the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago. We still don’t know who placed that bid, but late last week we heard that the Blue Jays submitted a bit worth upwards of $50M.

Instant Analysis: Holy cow, assuming this report is true. I figured Dice-K’s general mediocrity would scare teams off of a bid that large, but like we always say, it only takes one team to blow everyone out of the water. Pretty crazy. Apparently the Nippon Ham Fighters are going to take the full four business days before announcing they’ve accepted the high bid, so one way or another we’ll know who won the right to negotiate with Darvish by the end of the Tuesday.

Open Thread: Rondell White

(Photo credit: Osamu Honda/AP)

The Yankees had a revolving door in left field during their late-90’s dynasty, with guys like Chad Curtis, Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledee, Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, and even Chuck Knoblauch seeing a bunch of time out there. In an effort to plug that hole after the 2001 season, they signed Rondell White to a two-year contract worth $10M, a deal that became official ten years ago today.

White, 29 at the time, had hit .307/.371/.529 for the Cubs in 2001 and .310/.366/.508 with the Cubs and Expos over the previous three seasons. He could definitely hit and the defensive metrics considered him about average, but the problem was that the guy never stayed healthy. Up to that point, White had played in more than 138 games just once in his career, and more than 97 games just thrice in seven full seasons as a big leaguer.

Sure enough, White got hurt in Spring Training in 2002 and struggled at the start of the seasons, save for a binge week in which he hit four homers in the span of nine mid-April games. He was hitting .225/.286/.392 on May 1st, but he rebounded to have a nice little 50-game run from mid-May through late-June (.308/.343/.438) before getting hurt again. White finished the season with a .240/.288/.378 batting line in 126 games, then he hit a solo homer in Game One of the ALDS against the Angels, the only postseason game he’d play in for the Yankees.

White was widely reported to be a strong presence in the clubhouse, but the Yankees signed Hideki Matsui after the 2002 season and were stuck with a log jam in the outfield. They showcased White in Spring Training, then traded him to the Padres late in March for Bubba Trammell and pitching prospect Mark Phillips, the ninth overall pick in the 2000 draft. ”The key component in this deal, for us, is Mark Phillips,” said Brian Cashman after the trade, though his team did save close to $3M in the trade. Joe reviewed the trade last winter, and I also suggest reading Tyler Kepner’s recap from back in the day, which is pretty interesting in hindsight.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. There’s a bunch of college everything on, plus all three hockey locals are in action. Talks about anything you like here, it’s all fair game.

Mat Latos and the cost of a young ace

The Reds and Padres pulled off a mini-blockbuster earlier today, with 24-year-old right-hander Mat Latos heading to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez and prospects Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger. Latos has been one of the best young pitchers in the game the last two seasons, with lots of strikeouts and few walks, plus he has virtually no home/road split (so he’s not a product of Petco Park). On the downside, he missed time with a shoulder problem early in 2011 and has a long history of makeup concerns.

Understandably, the Reds had to give up significant talent to acquire Latos, who can’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season. They gave up their third, fourth, and tenth best prospects in the trade (according to Baseball America), as well as a 28-year-old big league starting pitcher with a well above average season to his credit (albeit three years ago). For those of you holding out hope that the Yankees will pull of a trade for a young stud pitcher like this — which I am — we now have a pretty good reference for what it would take to acquire the guy. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

For those asking, a comparable Yankees package would have been something like Jesus Montero, Phil Hughes, Gary Sanchez Austin Romine, and Adam Warren. Not a perfect match, but in the ballpark. Romine fits better than Sanchez because Grandal will spend next year in Triple-A.

Mailbag: Upcoming Milestones

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Daniel asks: Last season we got to see Jeter and Mariano reach milestones in their careers. What’s on tap for this upcoming season? A-Rod is quietly approaching the 3000 mark but seems out of reach for 2012, so what else could there be this season?

Yeah, Alex Rodriguez needs 225 hits to get number 3,000, but that’s unlikely for next season even if he stays completely healthy and plays in 150+ games. Alex also needs 107 RBI to become the fourth player ever with 2,000 RBI (Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Cap Anson), and that’s not out of reach if he stays on the field. Thirty-two homers would move him passed Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays on the all-time homer list and into sole possession of fourth place at 661. The three guys ahead of him all have 714+. Interestingly enough, if he manages to play in exactly 150 games, he will have played more games for the Yankees than he did for the Mariners and Rangers combined. That seems a little crazy, no?

Derek Jeter is eight away from his 500th double, and 13 doubles would move him into 50th place on the all-time list. He also needs eleven stolen bases for 350 in his career, and 25 to move into 100th place on the all-time list. The Cap’n has stolen 25 bases just once in the last five years though. If he plays in at least half the team’s games in 2012, he’ll move into 50th place on the all-time games played list at 2,500. Another ten homers and he’ll be at 250 for his career as well. If he manages to do all those things this year, he’ll become the first player in history with those milestones (500 doubles, 250 homers, 350 steals) to have played at least 75% of his career games at short.

With some real good run support, CC Sabathia could make a run at his 200th career win this season, but even then he needs to get 24 of ’em. So figure early 2013 for that milestone. Four more losses and he’ll be at 100 for his career, and I guess that’s kinda sorta a milestone. Freddy Garcia needs five more wins for 150 and five more losses for 100. If Phil Hughes manages to win 14 games, he’ll be at 50 for his career. Mariano Rivera has made at least 58 appearances in each of the last nine seasons, and if he does it again in 2012, he’ll be at 1,100 for his career. That would be the most ever by a right-handed pitcher and the fourth most all-time, behind southpaws Jesse Orosco, Mike Stanton, and John Franco.

Robinson Cano is six homers away from the 150th of his career while Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are 33 and 15 homers away from number 200, respectively. Mark Teixeira is closing in on his 1,500th hit (33 away), his 350th double (22 away), and his 350th homer (36 away). He’d become just the fifth switch-hitter in history with each of those milestones, joining Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, and Chili Davis. Mickey Mantle was six short of 350 career doubles, but also 186 homers clear of 350. Joe Girardi needs 38 more wins for his 500th career as a manager, and 16 more for 400 as a Yankees manager. We’ve been spoiled the last few seasons when it comes to historic milestones, but really the only thing we have to look forward to in 2012 is A-Rod climbing the career homer list. The 2013 season should be a little more fun when it comes to this stuff.

Yoenis Cespedes, The Encore

Kevin Goldstein has a breakdown of Yoenis Cespedes’ latest video, and you don’t even need a subscription to read it. The Yankees are supposedly the “clear frontrunners” for the Cuban outfielder, and at 4:17 of the video, you can see Yankees bench coach Tony Pena and pro scouting director Billy Eppler among those watching the workout. Goldstein says Cespedes’ free agency is likely going to be pushed back into January, though.

I wonder what kinda workout video Wily Mo Pena could have put together…

Open Thread: Mike Myers

(Photo via Wikipedia)

As part of their never-ending search for quality left-handed bullpen help, the Yankees signed Mike Myers to a two-year contract worth $2.4M on this date in 2005. The 36-year-old sidearmer/submariner had spent the previous season with the Red Sox, holding lefties to a miniscule .158/.198/.211 batting line in 102 plate appearances. In his first year with New York, lefties hit .257/.297/.443 off him in 74 plate appearances. Go figure.

Myers was forced into what was essentially a mop-up role in 2007, mostly because the pitching staff was torn to shreds early in the season. He was completely miscast as a multi-inning guy, and after 40.2 IP through August — his second largest workload in the last seven years — he was designated for assignment. All told, Myers gave the Yankees a 71.1 IP with a 2.90 ERA, but left-handers tagged him for a .284/.340/.439 batting line. Yay relievers on multi-year contracts.

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Here’s your open thread for this Friday evening. The Devils are the only local hockey team in action, which stinks. If you’re not out holiday shopping, you can talk about anything you like here. Enjoy.