Friday, July 29, 2011

The Colby Rasmus Fan Club

If Colby Rasmus was playing for the Red Sox and he didn't get along with Terry Francona, I would have my concerns. If Colby Rasmus went on to disrespect Francona, my blood would boil. If Colby refused to listen to Dave Magadan and instead turned to his own father for advice while batting just .246, I would want him shipped away as fast as possible. However, Tony LaRussa is involved and suddenly I feel like buying a Colby Rasmus jersey.

I am not a big fan of Tony LaRussa, I never have been. I tend to have issues with people who think they are the smartest person in the room when in reality they seldom are. I tend to have issues with people who are grossly overrated. I find the "genius" very easy to root against.

Let's start with how overrated he is as a manager. The Oakland A's were built by Sandy Alderson and were loaded. The genius manager was only able to win one title with them and in the process lost to the 1988 Dodgers and the 1990 Reds. Talent wise both of these teams were not close to Oakland, in fact the 1988 Dodgers might be the worst team in the history of baseball to ever win a World Series.

LaRussa is bad for the game. Proof of that was on display in the epic 19 inning Pirates/Braves game this week. The best pitcher in the Pirates bullpen is Joel Hanrahan who serves as their closer. He never appeared in the 19 inning game because the Pirates were on the road and they were never able to get the lead in any of the would be final innings. It is the dumbest trend in baseball. It is not even a trend anymore, it is part of the infamous "book" that every manager uses and has been using for about two decades now. Tony LaRussa, the cat whisperer himself is the one who started doing it years ago. Dennis Eckersley was the first specialist closer. He would only be used with a lead and only for one inning. Of course it had to be a save situation, if the lead was too big you wouldn't see Eckersley. If the game was tied in the 9th inning or 19th inning you wouldn't see The Eck. These new closer rules caught on faster than alcoholism in the Billy Martin family tree.

Lastly, there is his defense of Mark McGwire. Nothing wrong with defending one of your guys but the way LaRussa did it made Roger Clemens look intelligent. When Jose Canseco came forward with his story about injecting McGwire it was LaRussa who sprinted to the microphone to defend Big Mac. LaRussa called Canseco a liar and lazy. Tony was adamant that McGwire was clean and always had been clean. LaRussa, who has a law degree and reminds you of that in every book that he writes, looked into the camera through those "intimidating" shades and said he would always see McGwire lifting weights. He explained nobody worked harder than McGwire. Lips pursed, the genius manager would talk about how Mac killed himself in the weight room with marathon sessions six days a week. LaRussa would then pause, staring into that camera as if he had just given the ultimate evidence that his boy Mark was as pure as the driven snow. Of course there were a few problems with this theory. The first problem is that most people understand that performance enhancing drugs only work if you are working out. PED's give you the ability to recover faster after workouts enabling you to work out for longer period of times and more frequently. The impassioned speech that the genius gave to defend McGwire just gave more credence to just how dirty Mark was. You would think an intelligent man like LaRussa already knew that. Maybe those drunk nights of falling asleep behind the wheel of his car had caught up to him. The facts are getting injected with PED's and then sitting on the couch for six months are not going to turn you into an impressive physical specimen. Marathon weight lifting sessions six days a week? There is only one way a human being can do that Tony.

The other issue of course is that McGwire eventually admitted to using illegal steroids and performance enhancing drugs. LaRussa didn't have too much to say after that, instead he hired him as the Cardinals hitting coach. Now I don't know what happened between Rasmus, McGwire and LaRussa but I am giving the benefit of the doubt to Rasmus. Can you blame me?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Love Letter to Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter reached the 3,000 hit plateau a little over a week ago. My blog has turned into a Jeter blog the last several weeks and I have received more than a few emails asking why I did not post about Jeter's great accomplishment instead of bashing him all the time. In my defense I was on vacation, then again I did manage to bash Roger Clemens in a blog post from the beach house. So here it is, a favorable blog post about Jeter.

I will be the first to admit that I was shocked when Jeter went deep for #3,000. It was even more shocking that it was hit to left field and wasn't cheap. If you told me Jeter would go deep for his milestone hit, I would have guessed a pop fly to right field at Yankee Stadium with Jeffrey Maier stretched out over the warning track. I even tweeted this minutes before the homer:

Michael Dobreski
Where in the infield will Jeter's 3,000th hit stop rolling? 

I admit it, The Jete made me eat my twitter words. Derek would get five hits on the day and I can appreciate how great it must have been to be a Yankee fan at the ballpark to witness it all. I have my issues with Jeter and mainly how he is perceived by the so called baseball experts but I have always respected the way he plays the game. He always plays hard, always runs hard down to first base and gets the most out of his ability. He is the anti Robinson Cano.

I also respect the fact that he put up these numbers without the use of performance enhancing drugs. Obviously, nobody knows for sure who used and who didn't but evidence suggest Jeter has been clean throughout his career. This evidence has really been strong the last two years as Jeter has looked very old. This is not a knock on Jeter, just a fact. Jeter is aging like many great ballplayers have done in the past. Remember Willie Mays falling down in Shea Stadium? (my father just experienced chest pains as he read that, sorry Dad)

You don't peak at age 37, you regress, sorry to the fans of Barry Bonds who still have their head buried in the sand. Jeter is in decline and while it may be tough for his fans to watch, it doesn't hide the fact that it is happening. If I were a Jeter fan I would celebrate his decline as proof that he was clean all his career.

So to recap, I gave credit to Jeter's home run, praised his work ethic, put him in the same sentence with Willie Mays and also killing my father in the process and finally I proclaimed him PED free, a rarity in the Yankee clubhouse. Now let's move on.

The five hit day by Jeter ultimately will benefit the Red Sox because it gives the Jeter apologists a platform to say he is not done and should continue as the Yankee lead-off hitter. Those five hits may add an extra two weeks to the inevitable and those two weeks could be the difference between a playoff spot, a division title, or sitting home in October. The Yankees are not a better team with Jeter leading off. If Jeter really cared about winning above all else he would request to be moved down in the order and make Joe Girardi's job easier but I have beat these points into the ground on my previous posts which you can find here and here and here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

First Half Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox enter the second half of the season with a 55-35 record. This is even more impressive when you consider the infamous 0-6 start even though I warned all Red Sox fans in this blog post they will look foolish if they jumped off the bandwagon. It is now time to figure out if this Sox team can win it all. Let's take a look at the key players from opening day and see how they have faired so far. We will place them in one of three categories:  

The Over Performed Category

Too many players in this category and the likelihood of a bad second half of the season is very real.

Jacoby Ellsbury
Adrian Gonzalez
David Ortiz
Josh Beckett

The four players above have had incredible seasons so far. Beckett has found his form. Ortiz looks like he has found the fountain of youth. Ellsbury looks like he has become what Red Sox fans have always hoped he would become. Adrian Gonzalez has been better than ever. There is bound to be some regression in the second half from these players. Beckett has already started to have some health issues. However, Ellsbury may have finally reached his potential and maybe in a year from now this type of production will be the norm for him. Ortiz is not getting any younger but usually his struggles come early in the season, not late. He is playing for a new contract so the regression shouldn't be too much. Then there is Adrian Gonzalez, he has surpassed the crazy expectations and projections so far. He seems to be impossible to get out. It is hard to maintain a .350 average with power but he might just be the best hitter in the game and he is in his prime. The regression risk is low.

Under Performed

Carl Crawford
J.D. Drew
Dustin Pedroia
Kevin Youkilis
John Lackey
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Bobby Jenks

The more guys you have in this category, the more likely a team will have a good second half. Pedroia and Youkilis started out slow but have been hot as of late. Their batting averages are still under what you would expect from them. Look for them both to have a great second half of the season.

Crawford was horrible to start the season. He then got red hot and then got hurt. Carl Crawford is a great player and will have a better second half then he had in the first half of the season. How good that is might determine the ultimate success for the Red Sox.

Matsuzaka is done for the year, thank god! Lackey can't possible pitch worse. He looked much better in his last start but he is still a huge wild card. It is real hard to count on him. Jenks has also struggled and has had injury issues. He is also very hard to count on for the second half.

J.D. Drew may be done. I have always been a big supporter of his and what he can bring to the team but he is definitely on the downside of his career. Does he have that one great month left in him when he can carry a team? I doubt it, but you never know.

As Expected

Marco Scutaro
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz
Jonathan Papelbon
Daniel Bard

Lester has been good but I do think he can be even better in the second half. Everyone else has performed like many expected.

The Red Sox are in real good shape. The players who are having great seasons are not likely to have a huge regression. The majority of players who are under performing are very likely to have a big impact on the second half of the season The issue for the Red Sox will be the health of the pitching staff. Buchholz is dealing with lingering back issues, Beckett having issues with his knee, Lackey having elbow problems. The season could become a disaster very quickly if those guys are unable to perform. Andrew Miller may end up being the key to the season. That could be scary or exciting depending on how you look at it

Roger Clemens Strikes Out the Government

Sometimes things work out for stupid people. Roger Clemens is the real life Forrest Gump.

The Texas Con Man demanded to be heard by Congress when he didn't have to be heard and lied through his teeth. The Government went after him for perjury and lost badly when the judge declared a mistrial during day two.

Clemens will now wait until September when it will be decided whether or not the trial will get a second life. The likelihood of a second trial is remote since the Government has already spent $10 million in tax payer's money to go after the Rocket.

Cases are won in lost during jury selection and the judges ruling. Judge Walton ruled early on that the prosecutors could not use info about other players and their PED use. When the prosecutors showed a video tape that talked about Andy Pettitte and his testimony the rules were broken. It doesn't make Clemens any more innocent than Casey Anthony. It does make him a free man though.

Clemens denial is all about protecting his legacy. Roger has won the battle for his freedom but his legacy has been destroyed. Is there really anyone out there who believes he never touched any performance enhancing drugs? There is too much evidence against him and his story doesn't make any sense to the general public. He will be lumped in with all the other cheaters during the steroid era and will only get into the Hall of Fame when all the rest do. Maybe things are not working out for Roger after all.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Derek Jeter Debate Continues

I know what you are thinking. Another Jeter post? I can't help it, this keeps on getting more and more interesting. Derek Jeter is now two hits away from 3,000 and has been back for four games since coming off the disabled list. In all four games Jeter has batted lead off and the Yankees record is 1-3. Keep in mind the Yankees were 14-4 while Jeter was out. The Yankees went from trailing the Red Sox in the standings with Jeter, to taking the lead in the division without him, to falling back behind the Red Sox in the four games since he has been back in the lineup. It has led to a division among Yankee fans about what to do with Jeter.

Don Mattingly, was also a Yankee captain and he made some interesting comments on the Michael Kay Show. "Sometimes you have to put your ego aside and do what's best for the team" said Mattingly when asked about his 1995 season and moving down in the order. Mattingly was no longer the hitter he used to be in 1995 and he realized that and instead of making his manager's job even tougher, he would make it easier. Mattingly volunteered to move out of the #3 spot in the order in 1995 because he knew that Paul O'Neill deserved to be there and more importantly the Yankee captain knew it would make the team better. This is what a captain should do and so far Jeter is reluctant to do the right thing. It appears he is going to leave it in the hands of his manager which will only further the divide among the growing faction of Yankee fans and it may even cause a problem in the Yankee clubhouse. Jeter can stop all of this by doing the right thing, by doing what Mattingly did in 1995.

Joel Sherman had the following things to say about Jeter and the issue of him leading off and playing every day:
  • Nobody comes to see the Yankees play, they come to see the Yankees win and currently Joe Girardi has the worst hitter in the lineup leading off and getting more at bats than anyone else in that lineup.
  • Jeter has a .690 OPS over the last two seasons. The small sample size excuse is no longer valid.
  • Jeter is one of the lowest extra base percentage guys in the MLB
  • Jeter is hitting .179 with runners in scoring position. The clutch argument and the intangible argument are no longer valid.
  • Jeter hits line drives only 4% of the time, the third worst percentage in all of baseball.
  • Brett Gardner should be leading off. His OBP is forty points higher, he has more speed than Jeter, making him more likely to steal a base, go from first to third base on single and score more often from second base on a hit than Jeter would. These are all things that make a difference between wins and losses and can help explain the Yankees record with Jeter in the lineup and when he is not in the lineup.
Many Yankee fans understand these things and really think Jeter's days leading off are over and also think that he shouldn't be out there every single day. Then there are the Jeter apologists. The classic one is Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay. Here are some of Michael Kay's thoughts:

  • You can't disrespect Derek by moving him down in the lineup, it will crush his soul. There is no reason to do that.
  • I would sacrifice a season or two in order not to disrespect Derek Jeter.
  • Brett Gardner is not Rickey Henderson so there is no reason you have to move Jeter out of the lead off spot.

The debate continues.

The Fighting Showalters

The fiasco that took place at Fenway Park is the responsibility of one man, Buck Showalter. This all began before the season began when Buck took a shot at Theo Epstein and the high payroll Red Sox. Showalter started to back track on these statements not too long after they came out. Maybe he realized he was the wrong person to criticize high payroll teams since his previous stops were all on high payroll teams. Showalter is still the ring less wonder. The best moves his previous teams made was to let him go as both the Yankees and Diamondbacks won championships the very first year without Buck. There is no question Buck is bitter about this. The chip on his shoulder coupled with his enormous ego make for a dangerous combination. This combination blew up Friday night in Fenway Park.

The Orioles and their "genius" manager were obviously upset because of the Red Sox eight run first inning. It went against the plan Buck had at the start of the season to "kick the ass" of these high payroll teams. So in the eighth inning Kevin Gregg attempted to hit David Ortiz with a pitch. He failed the first time and tried again, and failed again. He tried one more time, and one more time he failed. Three pitches, all way inside, but none making contact with Ortiz.  It was obvious what he was doing even though he lacked the actual ability to do it. Ortiz took exception and both teams were warned. It was now a 3-0 count and Ortiz took a huge swing and popped it up. Gregg then motioned to Ortiz and shouted something in his direction. Immediately he was ejected by the home plate umpire just as Ortiz went and charged the mound.

The post game comments are the key. Kevin Gregg was apparently upset that Ortiz was swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a 10-3 game. Once again it appears the Sox had hurt the feelings of the Orioles, the team that is supposed to "kick the ass" of the high payroll teams this year. Gregg then talked about the pitches he threw at Ortiz and gave the standard line of trying to control both sides of the plate and that the Red Sox are whiners. Gregg's comments smell of Showalter. The "we won't back down to anybody" mantra is the preaching Buck has been doing with this team and Gregg has apparently bought all in. A once proud Oriole franchise has been a joke for quite a while now and they took another step back with the Showalter hiring, and now their behavior at Fenway has them crashing to a new low.

"What do we have to whine about?" asked Jonathan Papelbon following the game. Great point, the team that has the most to whine about on the field Friday night was not the Red Sox but the Orioles. The good news is they are only one move away from winning it all. Just ask the Yankees and Diamondbacks what that move needs to be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Roger Clemens is the Texas Con Man

One day after the Casey Anthony trial ends, the Roger Clemens trial will begin. The Texas Con Man gets his day in court and somewhere Will McDonough is smiling and not the least bit shocked at the turn of events in the life of the Rocket.

Roger is facing perjury charges where a conviction could lead to jail time. I can't imagine Roger beating this. His story is absolutely ridiculous. His lies are so bad they are comical. However, anything can happen as we all just found out in the Casey Anthony trial.

The case centers around Roger, his trainer Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte and Roger's wife. Click here to read what I wrote a few months ago about this very interesting relationship.

I am sure Clemens has his supporters. I used to be one. As a boy he was my hero. I hated Will McDonough and Dan Duquette. I thought John McNamara was a liar, there was no way my baseball idol would ever ask out of Game 6 of the World Series. I was wrong though. Will McDonough was right, Clemens is a con man. Duquette was right, Clemens was in the twilight of his career and ended up turning to PED's because Roger also knew it was true. John McNamara was right, Roger did ask out of Game 6 of the World Series because he had a blister. Do I have evidence? None, but I have learned that Roger tends to lie when his lips move.

Here is my reminder about what you need to believe in order to believe Roger is innocent:

First we look at the facts. All these things did happen as all parties involved admitted to it happening:

  • Andy Pettitte was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Chuck Knoblauch was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Debbie Clemens was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Brian McNamee was Roger Clemens personal trainer and also worked for the Blue Jays and later the Yankees.

Now we look at the disputed facts:

  • Brian McNamee says he injected Clemens with HGH
  • Andy Pettitte says Roger Clemens told him that McNamee injected him with HGH
  • Roger Clemens says he has never used steroids or HGH
  • Roger says he never talked with Andy Pettitte about steroids or HGH and Andy just "misremembered"
  • Roger says he never even heard of steroids or HGH until his wife told him that Brian McNamee injected her with HGH at the family home when Roger was out.
  • Roger says Brian McNamee only injected him with B12 shots in the buttocks.

Who ya got? Let the trial begin.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Will Derek Jeter Prove Me Wrong?

If you follow me on twitter or read my last post about Derek Jeter, you know I laugh at the notion of Jeter being this great captain and leader. I have received lots of feedback, especially from angry Yankee fans who passionately defend Jeter as the ultimate team guy, the ultimate captain, a leader without an ego, a guy who puts the team first, a man who is all about winning. We are about to find out if Jeter really is all those things or if he is a bigger fraud than Jim Tressel.

It was announced today that Derek Jeter would be returning on the fourth of July. It is now 2011, Jeter is 37 years old, his skills are in rapid decline and now he is trying to come back from an injury. He has an on base percentage of .324 this season and all indications are that he will be back in the lead-off spot when he returns.    Jeter can make me eat my words by doing the following:

  • Express to Girardi that he is willing to bat anywhere in the lineup.
  • Be willing to play less and take on a mentoring role of Nunez.
  • Be open about switching positions in the next couple of years
  • Acknowledge to the press he is not the player he used to be but is willing to do anything it takes to help the team to win

If Jeter were to do those things it would make Joe Girardi's job easier and it would make life much easier for the rest of his teammates. There would be no more controversy about disrespecting Jeter. Yankee fans could cheer for the leadership of Jeter and his teammates would rally around him like never before. He truly would be a great captain. Does anyone think Jeter will actually do any of those things? It is what he should do. It is what someone who is described to be a team guy and a winner would do. The harsh reality is that Jeter isn't that type of guy, he never has been. Let's take a look at Jeter's past which I believe is a great predictor of what he will do, or should I say won't do over the next few months and next few years of his career.

Disabled List?
Jeter was injured on May 13th. The Yankees were about to start their inter-league schedule and were very worried about the depth of their bench. The logical decision was to place Jeter on the disabled list and bring an infielder up from Scranton. This would give the Yankees depth and give them the best chance of winning. Jeter wanted no part of the DL. He said he would be ready in a week and not to place him on the DL. He wanted the Yankees to play short handed for a week in National League parks while his calf healed and his ego was massaged.. Derek is far from stupid. He knows what a disadvantage it would be to play with a 24 man roster for a week, yet he fought the decision making it hard on Girardi and Cashman, making it fodder for talk radio and bringing more distractions to the Yankee clubhouse. The Yankees of course did the right thing and it is a good thing they did because Jeter was not close to returning a week later. Imagine that.

Supporting a Quitter
When Jorge Posada decided to quit on his team because he felt disrespected for being dropped to ninth in the batting order it was Jeter who supported Posada and what he did. Wouldn't a great leader come out and express that what Posada did was wrong in an effort to show the younger players that the team comes first? Jeter sided with Posada. He did so because Jeter knows the debate about where he should be in the batting order is about to rear it's ugly head and by supporting Posada he was making a statement to Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman that he won't move without putting up a fight regardless if the team would benefit from the move.

The Shortstop
When Alex Rodriguez came to the Yankees in 2004 he was the best shortstop in baseball, not just offensively but defensively. AROD would be forced to play third base though. AROD would have to make the transition to a new team, playing in the pressure cooker of New York City and learning a new position. Wouldn't it have made more sense if Jeter moved to another position? Wouldn't the Yankees have been better if the best shortstop on the team played shortstop? Wouldn't a great captain see this and volunteer to move?

Supporting Alex?
Jeter didn't move and to make matters worse he let his personal feelings and ego get in the way of the team success. He had a falling out with Alex and Jeter didn't hide his feelings towards AROD from his teammates and the Yankee fans. Yankee fans began to boo a struggling Rodriguez and when Brian Cashman asked the captain to be more supportive of Alex in the press and to enourage fans to be patient, Jeter refused. Jeter felt it wasn't his job to tell the fans how to feel. Of course he had done it in years past when it came to other players who were getting booed, most notably Jason Giambi.  Jeter knew ARODAROD is not the most likable guy in the world and many of his issues have been of his own creation, but Jeter didn't help matters. AROD struggled in postseason after postseason with the Yankees until 2009. Ever wonder what might have happened from 2004 through 2008 if AROD got to play shortstop?If the Yankee captain had shown his support of him? Something tells me the Yankees would have a couple more rings. Jeter wanted to win on his terms or not win at all. He got his wish and the Yankees went a decade without a ring including the biggest collapse in the history of postseason baseball in 2004.

Assuming Jeter does return on Monday he will have missed a total of 18 games. In the 15 games he has missed so far the Yankees are 12-3 and went from trailing the Red Sox to leading them by 2.5 games. This isn't anything new, the last time Jeter missed a large portion  of time due to injury was the start of the 2003 season. Jeter missed 37 games then and the Yankees went 26-11. Combined that is a 38-14 record. The Yankees haven't exactly struggled without their captain.

These numbers make the Jeter apologists cringe. Derek is chasing down 3,000 hits and is a first ballot hall of famer, but Jeter falls short in the stats department when comparing him to the true greats of the game. The Jeter mantra that is sung by his fans though is that he is the ultimate winner first and foremost and that individual stats don't tell the whole story. They preach intangibles and according to the Jeter fans he is the king of intangibles. However, the 38-14 record without him is a clear indication that Jeter needs the Yankees more than the Yankees need him. These numbers also give credibility to the notion that if Jeter had played his career in Pittsburgh or Kansas City he would be just another player.

Jason Varitek hit two home-runs on Thursday, moments before the Yankees announced Jeter would be returning in a few days. I thought it was a fitting omen given the fact that Varitek has the exact leadership traits that fans falsely portray Jeter to have. Will Jeter prove me wrong? Check the batting order on July 4th and you tell me.