Archive for Whimsy
The Yanks unveiled their preliminary promotional schedule today, and some new items join familiar giveaways in 2012. As always, the season starts with the popular calendar weekend (4/14-4/15). The following week, with the Twins in town, the Yanks will hand out tomato seed packets to the first 18,000 guests (4/18). The folks who come the day after get far more useful magnetic schedules.
In May, the Reds will enjoy the ever-popular cap and bat days (5/19, 5/20) while water bottle night (6/18) and a collectible pin day (6/20) are the highlights for June. The Yanks will host their traditional Old Timers’ Day on July 1 before they take on the White Sox that Sunday, and the first 18,000 fans on the 18th get a Mark Teixeira figurine.
The August dates are still to be announced, but September ushers in my personal favorite. The first 18,000 fans who attend the September 2 affair against the Orioles will receive a Yankees’ BBQ Apron, and those who make it to the game on the 19th can score a Snoopy Bobblehead doll. Who wouldn’t want a Yankee Snoopy? For the full slate of giveaways, check out the updated calendar.
As you may have gathered from Mike’s camp notes, Monday was the long-awaited Photo Day down in Tampa. For a few hours, the Yankees posed in what apparently was the clubhouse bathroom at GMS Field as they tried their hardest to look serious. (A-Rod always fails.) As the photos hit the wire, I got a kick out of some of the poses.
Apparently, the photographers went for the faux-artsy look today as they snapped some shots via Instagram. We have hipster Joe Girardi, hipster Hiroki and the ever-intense hipster Frankie. Andy Pettitte showed up too, looking a few years older than when we last saw him.
With the filter off, Rafael Soriano looked as smiley as ever and so did Nick Swisher. He’s always just happy to be there. Voldemort apparently joined the team as one half of the club’s DH platoon, and Mo was beaming.
As always, we could probably run a full slide show of A-Rod making funny faces, but Michael Pineda might put an end to it. Derek looked a lot like Derek, but my favorite one of all was Eduardo Nunez. Enjoy.
Sports have a lot in common with music.
First off, it’s easy to get over-invested. You love a band? Suddenly, you’re seeing three of their shows in a row, driving up and down the state and maybe into (shudder) Massachusetts. You might be listening to the same album over and over again. Likewise, I’m sure plenty of Yankees fans are going to Boston, DC, Queens, and Baltimore to check out your team. Also, there’s the fact we end up watching these guys play the same game 162+ times. That’s a lot to watch the same damn thing. I think we’re all crazy.
Additionally, there is nothing more pointless than arguing either music or sports with your friends. Your friend is Mets fan? Get new friends, but first, try to convince them to be a Yankees fan. Sadly, futile. Meanwhile, your friend likes that band you hate? There is no way they will ever tell you it’s not the best thing they’ve ever listened to. Meanwhile, you will make an equal fool of yourself singing in your cubicle or talking avidly about your fantasy team. (Hint: No one cares about your fantasy team.)
With this, I present Yankees as songs from my iPod.
There are lots of great things that Jeter presents: as a baseball player, he’s really good, really consistent, determined, disciplined, and talented. As a front presented to the media, he’s calm, with no surprises and no big crises; he doesn’t get into trouble, and as a result he doesn’t ever have to wiggle out of it. Jeter’s the golden boy, as everyone knows.
“The Lightning Strike” off A Hundred Million Suns, gives the listener all these things. Not only does it match Jeter’s lengthy career (the song has four parts and combines for a whopping 16:18 in play time), but the song starts with an intriguing intro before being played with a dramatic flare through all four parts. It even comes with a part around 9:35 where you thought it was over, but then you realize there’s a lot more to go. Despite the dramatic notes, there’s no surprises – gravitas is the norm, like Jeter, and there’s no random cymbal banging or screaming guitar solos where you didn’t expect them. The song ends leaving the listening feeling fulfilled, like this whole story was written and told perfectly, and couldn’t have been any other way, and when Jeter’s career is over… well, how could it have been any better? Ain’t no one out there like El Capitan.
In the Non-Mariano Rivera division of things that happen in baseball games, is there anything that made you feel more secure in 2011 than David Robertson? The man was flat-out amazing on the mound in relief, and as such I think he’s worthy of such a great song.
Quite frankly, no one could have stopped Robertson, both last year and ’11, and even with a little regression he’d still be a downright amazing reliever. He had a real good time. He felt alive. He was floating around in ecstasy.
You get the point.
While there was usually a tenseness that came with Robertson’s appearance, they almost always ended in the impossible-to-frown-at cheeriness that also accompanies this song. Both the song and his at-bats tended to follow an easy routine: he throws fastballs, and curveballs, and strike guys out. Meanwhile, the song, like the baseball season, becomes bigger both in terms of leverage and Freddie Mercury’s voice, and Robertson still has it in the bag. With his strikeout rate’s rocket ship already reached Mars, he’s going to make a supersonic man out of you. By that, I mean he’s going to embarrass you with his pitches and make you ashamed as you walk back to your dugout.
Whether you think 200 degrees means the heat on his fastball or the break of his offspeed pitches, it was all enough to earn him a pretty awesome nickname (sadly, not Mr. Fahrenheit).
(Shameless Plug: I did a Yankees year in review video to this song.)
Phil Hughes used to be everything. He was the future. He was brilliance. He was the next 6-year-100M contact. He was the Yankees’ pride and joy. He was the kind of guy you ran off to get the jersey of, the one you knew was gonna mean everything.
But that was when he ruled the world.
These days, Hughes is but a shadow of the flawless prospect we imagined him as. Injuries and ineffectiveness have kicked him down from the position, and he’s gone from being The Future to fighting for a rotation spot. Given as how entertaining the “Phil Hughes is Fat” jokes can sometimes be, there’s a good chance that even if he returns to form, they’ll persist, and that possibility is even greater if he doesn’t. Both Hughes and Coldplay tell stories about rising and falling from power, and how easy it can be. After all, baseball’s almost as difficult as ruling a country, I bet.
While the song ends on a morbid, depressing note, I’m hoping Phil can break the trend here and get himself together in 2012. It wouldn’t be legitimately awful for him to end up as a reliever, but it does seem a little a let-down when he was so good in the first half in 2010. That seems far away now, doesn’t it?
Anyway, because this is music, I’m sure there will be many differing opinions on song choice. And because this is sports, I’m sure lots of people will disagree with me. That’s what the comments are for.
(I shamelessly modified this idea from where Friend of the Blog Rebecca Glass discusses the Yankees as mythical creatures. Derek Jeter is a unicorn.)
UPDATE: We have 4 winners, who have been contacted via email. Please feel free to keep playing for fun!
With the focus of the sports world on the NFL and the Yankees mostly done tinkering with their roster until pitchers and catchers report, RAB is running a Yankees trivia contest as a diversion to keep you folks busy before the Big Game.
We have 4 prizes to give away.
The winners will get to choose their prizes, in order of finish (first place chooses first, etc).
The game functions as a sort of treasure hunt. The first question is below, at the end of this post. The answer to that question should be put into your web browser’s url area, where you should follow it with .blogspot.com. This will lead you to a page with another question, where the same rules apply. On each page, specific instructions are included to make sure you enter the right words, so be careful. Here’s an example:
Q: Who was the last Yankee to reach 3000 hits? Provide his name followed by his uniform number.
A: The correct answer is Derek Jeter, and his uniform number is 2. Enter derekjeter2.blogspot.com into your web browser, and you would move on to the next question.
There are 46 questions of varying difficulty, corresponding to the 46 Super Bowls of varying degrees of awfulness. The winners must leave a comment on the final page (not on this post!), and also email me (mandel42 at gmail) the answers to all 46 questions, so keep a list as you go along. The first four people to reach the final page, comment, and email me are the winners (One entry per person. Any attempts at multiple entries will disqualify the offender entirely).
Some of you may have played this game before, but I made a few tweaks and added a few questions, so I hope you will give it another try. Good luck, and happy hunting.
Question # 1: Let’s start with an easy one. What were the Yankees called immediately before they were the Yankees? Give the full city and team name (ie newjerseydevils.blogspot.com).
A few months ago, as the Marlins unveiled their plans for the ins and outs of the new stadium, the one aspect the took the public by storm involved a monument in center field. The word monument though doesn’t really do this thing justice. It’s large; it’s multi-hued; and it’s going to move whenever a Marlin hits a home run.
Now baseball is a sport firmly rooted in tradition. The boldest moves in recent years have concerned various iterations of home uniforms with different color combinations for different days of the week and — gasp — some sleeveless uniform tops. Baseball fans like their ball players gritty, their history hallowed and their records respected.
Throughout baseball history, those who dare to rock the boat risk alienation. Bill Veeck remains the most famous man to push the baseball boundaries. His Disco Demolition stunt backfired, but he granted Minnie Minoso at bats in five decades and introduced the world to Eddie Gaedel. He was a showman who wanted to entertain the masses, but after testifying on behalf of Curt Flood, baseball passed him by. As MLB has worked to keep Mark Cuban on the outside, there never has been an owner willing to take as many risks as Veeck.
In a few weeks, when the Yankees journey to Miami to close out Spring Training, the Marlins’ new ballpark will open. Like many other new stadiums, this one has a painfully tortured funding history. The city of Miami has ponied up far too many dollars to build a new stadium in an area of the city that is even further from a potential fan base than the Dolphins’ stadium is. Even with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes in tow, drawing fans to Miami to see the team will be a challenge.
And so enter the Miami Marlins and their outfield monument to, well, something. A flying fish perhaps? Maybe it’s something baseball needs. Now I’m not saying each stadium needs something that looks like that, but maybe a little levity in the game can’t hurt. A look around Yankee Stadium reveals an attempt at recreating something Serious. These are Hallowed Grounds with a lot of History. We must respect the memories, and do not besmirch the team or else George Steinbrenner, forever staring out from the right field bleachers, will get you. There will be no flying fish here.
Ultimately though, baseball is a game, a sport. It’s about the spectacle, and the entertainment. The Marlins’ monument can rock the boat as much as it wants, and when the Yankees take on the Miami ballclub with the bright orange uniforms in a new stadium at the end of Spring Training, I’ll be rooting for a home run. Who doesn’t want to see flying fish light up with every four-bagger anyway?
It seems that people are thinking further and further ahead these days. It’s one thing to get emails about the upcoming free agent class while the Yankees fight for a playoff spot. But emails asking about the 2013 and 2014 free agent classes? It seems a bit far reaching. But you know what? Let’s run with it. Here are the official RAB recommendations for whom the Yankees should sign in the upcoming free agent classes.
2013: Cole Hamels and Miguel Montero
Adding Hamels to a rotation that already includes CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda would create, well, something that resembles what they have going on in Philadelphia. He’s clearly the best pitcher on the free agent market. His career numbers, in fact, closely resemble CC Sabathia’s at the time the latter hit free agency. With one more year similar to 2010 and 2011, Hamels will also have comparable numbers in the three years leading up to free agency. To say that he should get money somewhere near the Sabathia range is no exaggeration.
The Yanks might also need a catcher, since Russell Martin qualifies for free agency once 2012 ends. A boatload of other catchers become free agents as well. They’d do well enough to bring back Martin, but as Mike noted yesterday, Miguel Montero brings a bat to go with his defense. He’d fit well behind the plate for the Yankees, and would give them some more time to develop Gary Sanchez.
There remains a hole in right field, but with Hamels creating something of a pitching surplus, the Yanks can afford to move some arms in order to pick up a new right fielder via a trade. Or just re-sign Nick Swisher. Either way, it’s not a huge concern.
Total estimated outlay: $170 million.
Austerity shmausterity. Granderson and Cano fill obvious needs, but if the Yanks can’t agree with Granderson they can go younger and snag Ellsbury, which also helps because they’re taking him away from the Sox. Also, by 2014 it’ll be easier to move A-Rod to DH. Zimmerman represents a fine replacement — certainly better than the other third baseman free agent, David Wright.
Total estimated outlay: $440 million.
2015: Felix Hernandez/Justin Verlander/Clayton Kershaw/Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez
By 2015 the Yankees will have Sabathia, Pineda, Hamels, and Lincecum under contract, so they only have room for one more pitcher in the rotation. That means they’ll have to choose carefully from among these deserving suitors. Kershaw will be the youngest at the time, so he’s the first target. There’s nothing really wrong with the other guys, though.
Also by 2015, Derek Jeter will have retired. His player option covers 2014, but by 2015 the Yanks will have a hole at shortstop. Hanley will probably be itching to move back there by then. Who knows if he can still play it by that point, but who cares? It’s not like the Yankees have realized stellar shortstop defense for the past, oh, decade or so.
2016: Neftali Feliz, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, maybe Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera would be nice, but with Zimmerman, A-Rod, and Teixeira still under contract there just might not be room. Then again, Teixeira will have only one year left on his deal, so maybe they’ll just eat that $23 or so million so they can add Cabrera to play first and DH.
While they’ll have Granderson or Ellsbury for center field, they’ll do well to move either one to left field in order to accommodate McCutchen. That’ll make for some superb outfield defense. Add Justin Upton to the equation, and it’s a powerful and rangy outfield.
Feliz will be just 28 for the 2016 season, so signing him makes enough sense. Michael Pineda will be entering his final year of arbitration, so the Yankees can just trade him for a bullpen arm and then re-sign him the following off-season. Or they can just let his fastball play up in the bullpen.
There you have it. Here’s the Yankees projected 2016 lineup:
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Curtis Granderson/Jacoby Ellsbury, LF
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
6. Hanley Ramirez, SS
7. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
8. Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira, DH
9. Miguel Montero, C
SP1: Clayton Kershaw
SP2: Tim Lincecum
SP3: CC Sabathia
SP4: Cole Hamels
SP5: Neftali Feliz
Closer: Michael Pineda
Setup: David Robertson
I thought about extending this to 2017 as well, but that would just be ridiculous.
In the comments of my graphical look at Yankee starters’ ERAs over the last several years, reader Mike Myers asked if I could do a headshot graph for the Yankee relievers or bench players. Well, in the spirit of the holiday, ask and ye shall receive, and as a follow up to our graphical look at the Yankee benches from earlier this week, today comes a graphical look at the primary players the Yankees have employed as members of their bullpens since the 2003 season.
However, before we get to the headshots, here’s an updated chart showing how the Yankee relief corps have fared since the advent of divisional play:
With a 3.12 ERA, the 2011 relief corps was the best the Yankees have fielded in at least a decade, and represented the 8th-lowest lowest bullpen ERA a Yankee team has put up since 1969. The lowest? The strike-shortened 1981 team’s absurd 2.26, though that was of course compiled in only 107 games. The lowest full-season relief ERA since 1969 was the 1970 team’s 2.34 mark. However, this is extremely weird when you consider that the very next season the Yankees recorded both their worst ERA- and FIP- of all 43 teams surveyed here. I don’t know if they either blew the bullpen up following 1970 or all of the holdovers simply forgot how to pitch come 1971, but that is a pretty crazy one-year increase.
The next-best relief corps of the last 20 Yankee seasons was the 2001 ‘pen, which put up a 3.42 ERA, and they don’t check in until 18th on the list, which really drives home just how great the 2011 Yankee bullpen was. In terms of ERA relative to the league, the 2011 team checked in tied for 5th, with a 74 ERA-, with the 1981 and 1970 teams again at the top. In terms of FIP, the 2011 team fared a bit less impressively, with its 3.65 mark coming in at 18th-best (1972 led this list with a 2.85 FIP, which further begs the question what on earth was going on with the Yankee bullpens from 1970 through 1972? One year they’re incredible, the following year atrocious, then back to incredible), though its FIP relative to the league (88 FIP-) was tied for 10th-best, with 1982 topping the list with a 76 FIP-.
Now on to the individuals who comprised recent Yankee bullpens. In order to define who made the cut, seeing as how the Yankees can go through up to 30 pitchers (or more) over the course of the season between cuts, trades and September call-ups, I initially used 30 innings pitched as a benchmark. While I mostly stuck to that parameter, I did end up getting a bit lenient so that I could include some memorable names that perhaps didn’t quite reach that threshold, but came close enough. I did not end up using anyone below 20 IPs, so this should at least be a fairly representative sample of the primary players the Yankees utilized in relief during their respective seasons.
As for how I graded them out, I decided to go with FIP-, as neither ERA nor WAR are particularly great at telling us how effective relievers were. Focusing solely on what the pitcher was responsible for and comparing it against the league seemed like the most intuitive way to show just how good (or bad) the Yankee relief corps have been over the years.
(click to enlarge)
A few observations:
- The Yankees, like every team in baseball, have had a lot of crappy relievers.
- My primary memory of Juan Acevedo was of him botching one of Roger Clemens’ 8,000 attempts at getting his 300th win in a blown save against the Cubs on June 7, 2003.
- Remember Felix “Run Fairy” Heredia, Felix Rodriguez and Luis Vizcaino?
- I still hate Phil Coke, even though the 38 FIP- he put up in 14.2 innings in 2008 tops the list. Even though his ’08 season didn’t make the 30-IP innings cutoff, his 2009 season obviously did, and I wanted to show how bad he actually was in comparison.
- The Yankees had a lot of crappy relievers in the middle of the aughts. Between bad pitching and awful defense, it still amazes me that the 2004-2007 teams still made the playoffs every year.
- If you lower the innings cutoff to 20, Joba Chamberlain‘s 42 FIP- in 2007 is the second-best FIP- on this chart after Phil Hughes‘ 41 in 2009. In fact, those two are the third- and second-best relief seasons in all of Yankee history (going all the way back to 1871) in terms of FIP-. The best? Why, Mariano Rivera‘s 1996, in which he put up a 40 FIP- in 107.2 innings.
- David Robertson‘s 2011 FIP- was the 5th-best relief season in all of Yankee history on the aforementioned list of 258 relief seasons of 20 innings pitched or more.
Brian Cashman has been the general manager of the Yankees for a long time now; he’ll be entering his 14th year once Spring Training rolls around. As you’ve probably noticed by now, he’s definitely got a sense of humor but also says a whole lot of words without adding much substance when he talks to the press. There will be words coming out of his mouth, but not many are meaningful. It’s typical YankeeSpeak, and Joe Girardi is starting to master is as well.
Well, Cashman is the opposite when he starts exchanging texts. He’s short and to the point, which is refreshing. Wally Matthews of ESPN New York exchanged some texts with Cash on Monday morning, and he was kind enough to post the conversation for all to see. You should head on over to check it out, it’s worth your time. In an effort to fit in, I’ve decided to share some text conversations I’ve had with various members of the Yankees’ brain trust recently…
* * *
Me: Have you called about Felix Hernandez recently?
Cashman: havent talked to jack z since cliff lee
Me: Are you holding a grudge because they backed out of the trade?
Cashman: lol no their roster just sux
* * *
Me: See anyone interesting in winter ball?
Billy Eppler: Paul Wilson is still pitching.
Me: Interested in signing him?
Eppler: No, but he’s still pitching. Crazy, right?
Me: Yeah I guess.
Eppler: You’d be surprised who you see out here.
Me: Anyone else interesting?
Eppler: Not sure, but I haven’t seen Bill Pulsipher yet.
Me: I take it he’s pitching there too?
Eppler: Yeah, crazy.
Me: Would you sign him if he looks good?
Eppler: No idea, but dude, it’s Bill [expletive deleted] Pulsipher.
Me: Looking forward to seeing Jason Isringhausen next?
Eppler: No Michael, that’s just stupid. End of conversation.
* * *
Me: Happy with the CC Sabathia extension?
Hal Steinbrenner: We’re extremely pleased.
Me: Would you have given him a sixth guaranteed year?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
Me: What about seven years?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
Me: Is there a point when you would have said enough is enough?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
* * *
Me: Any surprise signings this winter?
Randy Levine: TALKING TO KROD WILL CHECK ON MADSIN
Me: Even with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson?
Levine: TOLD SORIANO TO OPTOUT
Me: But he didn’t.
Levine: SAID HE WOULD
Me: He didn’t though, and the deadline has already passed.
Levine: THATS BRIANS FAULT
* * *
Me: I hear the Braves are interested in trading for Eduardo Nunez.
Cashman: i kno lmao
Disclaimer: I can not guarantee that these text exchanges actually happened.
When it comes to great Bens in Yankee history, they are few and far between. In fact, other than a fleetingly brief and utterly forgettable 11-inning stint by Ben Ford in 2000, the last Ben to play on the Yankees was Ben Chapman in 1936. His real first wasn’t even Ben. Rather, Benjamin was his middle name, and William his birth name.
As namesakes go though, there are more boring comps than Ben Chapman. Vehemently opposed to racial integration of the game, as a manager of the Phillies, Chapman and his team’s harassment eventually led to increased support for Jackie Robinson during 1947. As a Yankee for parts of seven seasons from 1930-1936, Chapman hit .305/.379/.451 and made the All Star team four times. Before Chapman was Benny Bengough (born Bernard) and Ben Paschal, a superb fourth outfielder actually born Benjamin.
So in nearly 110 seasons, only two players in Yankee history have been named Benjamin, and they have amounted to not much. That’s hardly however the biggest name failure in Yankee history. But who cares? What’s this all about anyway?
While searching for a topic for this post, I asked my followers on Twitter for ideas, and Jesse Spector, now the national hockey writer for The Sporting News, offered up a name-based suggestion. Talk about, he said, “lousy Yankees named Steve through history.” I hadn’t ever given it much thought, but when I looked up the history of pinstriped Steves, more than a few rotten eggs came up.
The most recent Steve to take the field for the Yankees was Mr. Garrison earlier this year. The 24-year-old New Jersey native made just one appearance and retired both batters he faced. As Yankee Steves go, it was a rather triumphant appearance. The previous Steve to pitch for the Yanks went by the surname Karsay, and his failures weren’t really his fault. Signed by the Yanks to a four-year contract prior to the 2002 season, Karsay suffered at the hands of Joe Torre. He made 78 appearances in 2002, missed all of 2003 and appeared in just 13 more games for the Yanks before he was released in 2005.
Prior to Karsay, the most recent Yankee Steves were of the Howe Farr variety in the mid-1990s. Steve Howe and Steve Farr provided a rather dynamic relief duo. For the Yanks, Howe made 88 appearances over six seasons as drug suspensions and injuries cut short his career. He was terrible in the 1995 playoffs and was cut by the Yanks a few months before their 1996 World Series championship. As the closer to Howe’s set-up man, Steve Farr racked up 78 saves in three years, but these two were just behind the curve. After they left, the Yanks’ bullpens improved tremendously.
That era of mediocre and downright awful Yankee teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s played host to a few other Steves as well. Steve Sax played just three seasons with the Yanks, but they were his three best offensive years. As a second baseman, he hit .294/.342/.376 in 472 games while also making 30 errors in the process. The Yanks eventually traded him to the White Sox for Domingo Jean, Melido Perez and Bob Wickman. Steve Balboni in 1989 and 1990 brought his brand of all-or-nothing baseball to the Bronx as well. After starting his career in the early 1980s in the Bronx, he returned for a 226-game encore and hit .216/.294/.435 in the process. He was the DH on the last Yankee team to finish in seventh place in the AL East. That 1990 also featured Steve Adkins for five awful starts.
Beyond that motley group of early 1990s Steves, the other players in Yankee history to don that name made small marks on the franchise. Sundra, Peek, Roser, Souchock, Kraly, Whitaker, Hamilton, Barber, Blateric — they bounced around the bigs, they came and went. Of them all, only Steve Sax was an All Star. One day, a great Steve may come through the Yankees’ system. Perhaps we’ll see our own Garvey, Bedrosian or even a Carlton. For now though, Steve, like my name, isn’t a great one for Yankee history.
RIVER AVENUE BLUES EXCLUSIVE!
Late last night we acquired copies of New York Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman‘s private and confidential 2011-’12 offseason plan. The content of these highly-sensitive documents have never made public before now. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.
(click images to enlarge)
As you can plainly see, Cashman has a solid plan in place, and if he’s successful in its execution, the Yankees seem likely to win at least 145 games in 2012. In fairness, I don’t give this blueprint better than a 25% chance of happening, but if confirmation was ever needed on just how wily Cashman is, mission accomplished. He can plan my castle onslaught any day.
Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, every 10th follower wins an iPad!