I sense a turning tide of public opinion in Yankee-land. Derek Jeter, the All Star short stop, the long-time heart and soul of the Yankees, seems to be losing the fans. Sure, the ladies still love him, but that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

It started a few weeks ago with a post on PeteAbe’s blog. In a Spring Training rundown, Abraham presented twenty pressing topics for the Yankees. Ending the list was a question: Is Derek Jeter still Derek Jeter?

With those six simple words, Abraham broke the Derek Jeter barrier. Are Yankee fans, many wondered, now allowed to criticize New York’s golden boy? Can we dump on the Captain? Apparently, the answers to those questions came out as yes.

Over the last few weeks, Yankee fans commenting on various blogs have been more vocal than usual about their skepticism toward Derek Jeter. With Number 2 set to rake in $20 million this year, fans are wondering if, after a supposed down year, Jeter is really worth it anymore. And now, with the whole brouhaha over his fielding — something I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole right now — and his penchant for landing more headlines on Page Six than on the back pages of the sports, Yankee fans are voicing concerns.

Let’s step back from the ledge, though, and look at Derek Jeter. First, the numbers: In 2007, Derek hit .322 with a .388 OPB and a .452 SLG. And those are supposed to be his down-year numbers. What fans are forgetting is that in 2006, Jeter turned in an MVP-caliber season when he hit .343/.417/.483 with 34 stolen bases and 118 runs scored. While his slugging dipped below his career average in 2007, by all accounts, Jeter had another fantastic season.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Ken Rosenthal speculated that Jeter has something of a shot at Pete Rose’s hit record. While that shot is rather miniscule, Jeter, who turns 34 this season, is sitting on 2356 hits. I’d say that he has a very good shot to end his career in the top ten all time hits leaders and possibly even in the top five. That’s not too shabby.

Some people critical of Jeter point to his numbers last year in clutch situations. He was just three for 17 in the ALCS, and those numbers tend to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths over the off-season. With runners in scoring position in 2007, he hit .354/.426/.456. With the bases loaded he hit .500/.538/.583 and drove in 12 runs in 13 plate appearances. Who’s complaining now?

On the other side of the ball are those critical of his Page Six activities. They’d rather see Derek focusing on baseball instead of women. To them, I simply offer up the defense that Derek is human, and he’s only young once. Cut him some slack.

Where I think the criticisms have long been valid however are in talking about his role as the Yankee captain. Derek Jeter is one of the more bland figures to serve as captain, and I don’t think he’s done much of anything to warrant the role. As the anointed leader of the team, he offers up fairly routine material to the media and doesn’t seem too willing to put his neck on the line. On the field, he is a stellar player and the perfect example of hustle, a key trait in teaching young kids to play.

But it seems more and more that this team on the field belongs to the guy who brings more fire to his play: Jorge Posada. It may just be a matter of observation, and it may not matter because Jeter and Posada are close friends both on and off the team. But to me, it seems like the rest of the team takes its cue more from Jorge than from Derek.

In the end, those are simply small beans. Derek Jeter is still without a doubt a prolific offensive short stop and a great Yankee. If fans can’t see that forest for the trees, then maybe they’re simply being too pessimistic about the whole thing.

Categories : Rants
Comments (60)

Salary arbitration has always fascinated me. Basically, two sides are trying to convince someone who probably has no advanced knowledge of baseball why a player should be paid a certain amount of money for the upcoming seasons. By all accounts, it’s a fairly irrational process.

That being said, there is a wrong way to argue an arbitration hearing, and that would be by comparing your client to Michael Jordan as Chien-Ming Wang’s agents did. The Yankees, during Wang’s arbitration case, compared him to other players making similar amounts with similar experience. They noted that his 19-win total was a bit inflated due to run support (what a concept) and admitted that he was worth what the Scott Kazmirs and Joe Blantons made at the same point in their careers.

Wang’s agents went a little overboard, Jon Heyman writes:

Wang’s reps emphasized his 19-win total two straight seasons. They also tried went a little nuts in the hearing room when they described him as “the Michael Jordan of Taiwan,” and actually produced a graphic depicting how the Taiwanese stock market fluctuated on days he pitched.

As the arbitrators ruled: Who cares about that?

MLB is a $6-billion business, with only about $3 million of that coming from Taiwan. Besides, Wang makes millions in endorsements in Taiwan, separate and apart from his Yankees salary. The Yankees pointed that out, and predictably, Wang suffered a tough loss.

In this case, I think Wang’s agents didn’t do a very good job arguing the case, and the arbitrator did an excellent job cutting to the heart of the matter. Wang is making what he should be making based on his performance on the field. Do the Yankees really care of the stock market in Taiwan goes up when Wang pitches? Only if they have a lot of money invested there.

Categories : Pitching
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Fun with Career Earnings

By in Whimsy. · Comments (15) ·

Baseball is booming. There is so much money in the game today, it’s not even funny. You can thank the bigger and more modern stadiums, the abundance of lucrative endorsements, and the historically great attendance numbers. Take a quick glance at B-Ref’s Highest Career Total & Single Season Salaries list, and you can’t help but feel some combination of jealousy, humor, disgust and confusion. $106,616,066 in career earnings for Shawn Green? How the hell did that happen? Ditto $78,860,000 for Matt Williams, $70,677,500 for Tim Salmon, and $65,743,750 for Kevin Appier.

It’s no secret that baseball is a well paying occupation, but just how well paying? You might be shocked.

Read More→

Categories : Whimsy
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The End is sold out

By in Yankee Stadium. · Comments (20) ·

The Yankee Stadium regular season swan song is sold out. Color me unsurprised:

The last regular season game at Yankee Stadium is sold out. Fans scooped up a few thousand tickets online in just 11 minutes Wednesday.

Scalpers quickly started hawking tickets for the historic Sept. 21 game against the Baltimore Orioles, with top seats going for a head-spinning $17,000 a pop. Even the cheapest bleachers seats at the House that Ruth Built were going for $165 online.

A Yankees spokesman said there just weren’t enough tickets for all the fans who want to see the last regular season game at the storied ballpark, which opened in 1923. “This day won’t happen ever again,” said Jason Zillo. “It’s going to be a celebration.”

It’s going to be a celebration that no one can attend because a bunch of suits spending a few thousand dollars on tickets are going to be there. According to the Yanks, over 75 percent of the available seats went to Season Ticket holders. Now’s the time to make friends with the Yankee season ticket holder in your life.

Meanwhile, how much would you pay to see the final game in the Stadium? If Tier Reserve seats are going for $200-$300, I think it’s well worth it to get to see that last game in person. Fans routinely pay that much for World Series tickets; why not something more unique than the World Series?

Yankee Stadium only gets torn down and closed once, and on Sept. 21, the Yanks will close out their regular season history on the south side of 161st St. The real game, though, is landing a ticket for that Sunday afternoon affair.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
Comments (20)
  • From Los Angeles, Bowa offers Cano encouragement

    For some reason or another, Robinson Cano has developed a reputation as a “lazy” baseball player. Keeping in shape has seemingly been a struggle for him, and Larry Bowa, who left with Joe Torre to join the Dodgers, rode Cano hard last year to stay in shape. While Bowa is offering cross-country encouragements to Cano, I’m not too concerned. The Yanks have a staff of professionals and two men – Tony Pena and manager Joe Girardi – who aren’t afraid to make the team work. Robinson Cano will be just fine. · (7) ·

So I clearly stole this one from PeteAbe. But it’s too funny to pass up — some of you, I imagine, while reading Pete, didn’t click this link. But you should.

Yankees To Play Exhibition Game Against The Media

The whole thing is damn funny, and if I could I’d reprint the entire thing here. They do incorrectly cite Ken Rosenthal as being from Sports Illustrated, but I’ll let that one slide. Anyway, swallow your drink before reading this:

Despite only occurring once a year, the Yankees vs. Media game has spawned its share of memorable moments in past seasons, including Journal News beat writer Peter Abraham’s walk-off home run off Mike Mussina in 2004, Carl Pavano’s perfect game in 2005, and a bench-clearing brawl in 2006 that saw Gary Sheffield attack Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan and ESPN Page 2 pop-culture writer Bill Simmons, who lost four teeth and received a gaping head wound that needed 45 stitches to repair.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to knock out four of Bill Simmons’s teeth.

Categories : Whimsy
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You know, today marks the one-year anniversary of River Ave. Blues. Well, technically it was yesterday. But we’ll just pretend that February 29th already happened and call it even, okay?

Back then, on February 20, 2007, this wasn’t quite the place to be. It was Ben, Mike, me, and a dozen or so readers from our previous endeavors. And I’ll admit, it was a little frustrating at first, seeing that no one was reading. We had all been fairly visible just a few days earlier. But we traded it all in for this.

So, as the venture capitalist who was promised the world but isn’t seeing a quick return on his heavy investment, I started to sweat a little. Yes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all those other clichés about patience and hard work. But I’d been patient, and I’d worked hard. I started doing this in mid-2005, thrilled that I got 30 people a day to read me. Mike entered the game first thing in 2006, and I’m sure he had the same rush. Ben’s been doing this longer than both of us.

Slowly, the audience started building. We were getting six, seven comments on posts. People were engaging each other with well thought-out ideas. I started to get that excited feeling again. We were talking, and not only were people listening, they were interacting. Hell, I can’t tell you how many times I took an idea from the comments and developed it into a full post. And because of this interaction and give and take, we continued to grow.

I don’t want to launch into some braggardly rundown of our traffic numbers — they’re freely available at the bottom of the right sidebar, if you’re so inclined — but suffice it to say that we have more readers that I could ever have fathomed. Some participate, some just read. (Some click our ads, which is always appreciated). But whatever it is that the readers are doing, they’re blowing my mind. Why?

Because you don’t have to read this.

This isn’t the old guard, where your choice is just among the writers in the daily papers. You can choose from dozens of outlets for your news and insights. Just check out all of the Yanks blogs listed at striketwo.net. And that’s not even all of them. I’ll go out on a limb and say you can get a reasonable level of coverage from at least 10 different Yankees blogs. Yet, for some reason, you come back here. And I can’t begin to tell you how cool a feeling that is.

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to do it the other way. Throughout college, I thought I wanted to be a sports journalist. What better profession could there be, I thought. You get to watch and write about sports.

Ah, to be young and naive again. Little did I realize at the time what being a beat reporter meant. Why would I want to hang around a bunch of people who clearly didn’t want me there? It was around the time I started asking that question that I started to think that there could be another way.

Of course, I had missed the boat by a few years. Things had been moving another way. Baseball blogs were a trend long before I jumped into the game. I’m just glad I realized the potential of this platform, and didn’t try to shun it as so many in the mainstream media have.

So we are here today to celebrate a year of working with you guys to create this community that I think is the best Yankees-related one on the web. We are here to celebrate open discourse and the exchange of ideas. Yes, we take stands on certain issues, but we’re always open to an debate — just as long as you’ve got your argument straight. Anyone who’s gotten into it in the comments can tell you, it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

We’re here today to celebrate many things. But most of all, we are here to celebrate our independence.

Comments (55)

Hal Steinbrenner recently sat down with GQ reporter Nate Penn for his first interview in over 20 years. What comes out of it is a picture reminiscent, as Penn and later Cliff Corcoran at Bronx Banter noted, of Michael and Sonny Corleone from The Godfather.

The highlights:

  • Hal became more involved when Steve Swindal left the picture. Hank joined him a few months later when it became clear that the younger Steinbrenner could use some help.
  • He doesn’t hate the media: “Am I comfortable dealing with the media? Probably not as comfortable as Hank is. Definitely not as comfortable as my dad was. Have I had disagreements with them in the past, disagreed with things they’ve written and the reasons they wrote them? Yes, of course. But again, I understand what the deal is.”
  • The brothers always assumed that Swindal would lead the team, and Hal wanted to be with his family. He’s happy with the way he’s balancing his duties now.
  • George really did want to get rid of dental benefits in 2003, but Hal talked him out of it.
  • Brian Cashman‘s job is not on the line over the Santana deal.

To me, the most important part of the interview is Hal’s understanding of the Yankees’ situation with regards to their young pitchers. “The Super Bowl this year was unbelievable, and the one thought I took away really has a lot to do with us this year, with these three young pitchers. Eli struggled a bit his first couple years. I think New York fans might realize now that if you give a young kid time, great things can happen,” he said.

There really is no better analogy. Now, I’m not saying that the Yanks’ pitchers are going to struggle, but good things come to those who wait. The Yanks can’t trade years of future success for instant gratification. Hal recognizes what the Yankees have in their young arms, and he won’t quickly surrender that advantage.

Meanwhile, in news that should warm the hearts of Yankee fans, the Steinbrenner sons are just as dedicated to winning as their dad has been, and the two don’t plan on selling the team anytime soon. Sounds good to me.

Categories : Front Office
Comments (7)
  • Damon almost quit in 2007

    Here’s something of a surprise: When Johnny Damon left Spring Training last spring for what the Yanks called “personal reasons,” he almost retired, Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reported today. “I was just exhausted …. Burnt out,” Damon said to Heyman. “[Retirement] definitely crossed my mind.” Damon, who is in better mental and physical shape this year, would have walked away from nearly $40 million. · (4) ·