Wednesday, October 19, 2005

YANKEE QUESTIONS?

Ya' know... I have SO much to say, so much to write, but I have a PAYING job as a Children's Librarian. The time I DO have to write is dedicated to ffspiral.com and fantasy football.

Later this week, we will review my Pre-season AND mid-season fantasy Baseball positional assessments. I was right on the money with regard to both Yankee 1st Baseman/DH Jason Giambi AND Ken Griffey Jr. as the AL and NL "Comeback Players of the Year." That's not too bad, huh? In addition, I nailed Brave youngster Adam Laroche (1B); dude came on like gang-busters towards season's end and performed in the post-season, I was on TIME with Philly' 1st Bagger Ryan Howard... that kid's got HUGE upside, and I also predicted the ascension of both White Sock reliever Bobby Jenks (kid brushes triple diggies' on the gun) and A Closer Huston Street (absolutely "Keeper" material)... however, this is not a self-props piece.

Joe Torre... well, the drama has come to a conclusion and Torre's returning to pinstripes. But, is this good or bad? On one hand, Torre's not responsible for the Yankee 3,4 and 5 hitters swatting a collective 13 for 53 in the Anaheim series. Torre's not responsible for Randy "Unit" (more like a pitching "eunuch," though) Johnson's awful first-half or his post-season implosion, and Torre's not responsible for the money-pit that is Carl Pavano and Jarret Wright. But, alas, Torre IS responsible, I think, for his team's distinct lack of fire and desire. A team's energy... its lust for success and indeed passion for the game, stems from its manager. A franchise, no matter what the sport, takes its cue from the top- just like ANY business. Joe Torre... well, that's just not his style. Joe sits idly by, watching the game and he's like a bump on the bench. When was the last time Joe got tossed from a game because he protested a bad call? Can you recall... 'cause I can't. Joe's supporters, and they are numerous, will say that "Joe doesn't stoop to that level... it's not his way." Well, I say that when Yankee 2nd sacker Robinson Cano got called out for running out of the basepath when Molina dropped the ball... I say it WAS Torre's place to go freakin' BANANAS! The game and series were on the line, and NO game should be decided by a curious (at best) call. Torre calmly trotted onto the field, scratched his nose as he's wont to do, and nodded sagely. He then trotted off the field and ... well, that was that.

Virtually any Baseball man can manage a team of All-Stars. Sure, it takes diplomacy to manage the numerous egos that are part and parcel with such a team, but ANY manager would look good with C Mariano Rivera shutting the door for Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Jimmy Key, Roger Clemens, and other such talents. Virtually ANY manager would look good when bolstered by Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, Chuck Knoblauch (before his inexplicable melt-down), Alfonso Soriano, Jorge Posada (when in his prime), Bernabe Williams (also, when in his prime), Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield... any manager can let the game play itself out, and many times that's precisely what Torre does. He, and the team, develop a 7th inning sense of urgency. The team NEVER tries to manufacture runs and they steal only rarely... they've tried a suicide squeeze once in recent memory. I know, I know... detractors will say that the team "lacks speed." But I submit that Torre was NEVER one to call for a double steal or squeeze play. Torre and crew always seem to await the thunderous Homerun. They wait for the big hits... again, they wait for the game to come to them- they wait for Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui- they wait for a big bat to bail 'em out. And another thing; they are TERRIBLE base runners, made worse by 3rd base coach Luis Sojo's horrendous judgment calls. How many times did Sojo pinwheel his arms, sending a runner home... only to see said runner nailed with 10 feet to spare?
Now, How many times did this team leave runners on base? How many times did this team fail to advance runners? Another problem; they lack a player who's willing to surrender his body for the team. Do you recall Sheff' charging hard into home to try and jar the ball loose? Do you recall Matsui taking out the opposing 2nd baseman in an effort to disrupt a double-play? No.
Yet another problem; this team went into the season with several question marks and "sure outs." Centerfielder Bernie Williams may be a great human being, he's a beloved Yankee, his number will be retired and he'll take his place amongst the pantheon of Yankee greats (the wisdom of all that can be debated another day, in another column, but it will happen)... but the team, GM Brian Cashman, and Joe Torre KNEW that Bernie was a weak-armed Outfielder, who opponents wouldn't hesitate to run on. Williams was also reduced to a "1 hit per game player." Bernie's poor arm probably cost this team a number of games. Secondly, 35 year old Jorge Posada simply isn't the player he was even 5 seasons ago; and really, NO backstop can squat for 140 games a season and remain effective. In addition, other teams have NO fear of Posada's arm... they have the green light to steal, steal, steal. And how's about the poor investments made in the starting rotation? How's about the lack of solid middle relief? How about the fact that this team wouldn't have even MADE the Post-season if not for virtual unknowns, Aaron Small, Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon and Robinson Cano. Isn't it ironic that Small, Chacon and Wang... 3 starting pitchers whose combined contracts don't even approach a single-season of pay for Randy Johnson, bailed out the entire staff? IS that a testament to Cashman? Is it a testament to the now-departed Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemeyer? Or, is it more reflective of the passion and pride displayed by those guys when they slipped into their Yankee Unis'?

This off-season the Yankees will have to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror, and Boss Steinbrenner will have to decide whether or not to allow his Baseball men to do their thing. His "input" has proven destructive in the past. But, most importantly, the Yankee organization will have to decide whether they are willing to do the little things it takes to win.

3 Comments:

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At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamey, who do you see taking over the GM job in Philly?

Also, will Cashman and Epstien stay in their respective places?

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger Jamey said...

RE: "Jamey, who do you see taking over the GM job in Philly?
and ... Also, will Cashman and Epstien stay in their respective places?"

Dear "anonymous,"

While Phillie underlings Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle have been bandied about as "favorites" for the position... the far better bet is that the team looks for someone with a higher profile; an established Baseball man. Plus, Phillie fans would more than likely go ballistic if one of the 2, both disliked, get hired. As an aside, the team needs a strong-minded personality- The Phillies have a number of question marks- not the least of which is a decision regarding 1B Jim Thome's status. Thome is done, and Ryan Howard proved more than capable of handling the load.

Cashman probably won't go anywhere. It's not his fault the Yankee bats went limp... and it's not his fault Steinbrenner pushed for Pavano and Wright. However, Brian's life expectancy is awfully short at this point. Should he prove unable to re-sign fan favorite OF'er Hideki Matsui, that alone could cause his head to roll. Further, Boss will expect an aging starting staff to be improved with at least 1 credible starter, another Centerfielder acquired as Bernie won't be back (though he's confident he'll be playing somewhere next season), the middle-relief bolstered, and an heir to C Jorge Posada's catching throne found. Cashman has his little hands full.

Managing a $130 Milly' payroll Epstien, ironically, isn't under the same pressure Cashman is. He does, however, need a new contract. Although I s'pose there's a slim chance Theo packs his bags... the young GM has a plum job, with a near unlimited payroll, with a still powerful squad. His decision to go with a "Closer by Committee" decision following the loss of Closer Keith Foulke to injury hurt... but Epstien managed to weather several storms that might've swamped lesser managers. Much like it does for Cashman, this promises to be a challenging year for Theo. How much do they give Johnny "The Caveman" Damon? What to do, if anything, about disappointing David Wells and Edgar Renteria... both are injury probs', can he shut-up Keith Millar... does he want to? And just what does he do about enigmatic Manny Ramirez. Man-Ram may have 3 years left and $57+ million left on his contract... but that whole jogging to 1st base thing and his clubhouse mannerisms make him a real pain in the ass.

I give both Torre AND Cashman another season, at most, and Epstien's a little harder to predict. He will, though, assuredly be back in his high profile position next season.

 

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