Taking joy in the misery of others.

August 26th, 2006 → 11:08 am @

From the Elias Sports Bureau, August 26, 2006:

“Alex Rodriguez struck out four times in a 6-5 loss to the Angels, and in the sixth inning he stranded a runner at third base with one out. That was the 25th runner that A-Rod has stranded at third base with less than two outs this season, the highest total in the majors.”

Which begs the question: Do golden sombrero‘s go with purses?

Post Categories: A-Rod

This is the type of thing that can only bring a clubhouse closer

August 18th, 2006 → 12:04 am @

“With two outs in the top of the sixth, a runner on second, and the Orioles already ahead, 9-2, Jay Gibbons popped the ball up between Rodriguez and Jeter, but closer to Rodriguez. Rodriguez positioned himself under the ball, but it caromed off his glove as Jeter brushed into him in an effort to catch the ball himself.

Afterward, Rodriguez said he called for the ball but that Jeter did not hear him. Jeter said the reverse, adding that he initially thought Rodriguez caught the ball to end the inning. In fact, Jeter initially started toward the dugout while the ball lay in the dirt. Both players appeared embarrassed after the play and neither immediately picked up the ball…

It would have been Rodriguez’s 22nd error this season, one in which his shaky defense has become an ongoing issue. But the official scorer, Howie Karpin, changed the ruling, giving the error to Jeter for impeding Rodriguez’s ability to make the catch…

Jeter initially looked surprised that he had been charged with the error but then said he did not care. Torre said it should have been Jeter’s play, since he is the shortstop and in charge in the infield, but that no one could be blamed if they could not hear each other.”

— “Missed Play Adds to Long Day for Yanks,” The New York Times, January 18, 2006.

Let’s see: two players making a combined $44 million a year who haven’t liked each other for half a decade. One’s among the most beloved player in Yankees history. The other regularly gets booed at home. And the team’s manager diplomatically takes sides while pretending he’s not taking sides.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah: the Yankees lost to the Orioles, 12-2.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Derek Jeter & Yankees

Making $25 million a year has never been so rough

July 25th, 2006 → 1:10 pm @

ESPN.com: “Resident Anti-Hero – Alex Rodriguez has become Public Enemy No. 1 in the Bronx.”

Baseball Tonight’s Steve Phillips: “Yankees Should Trade A-Rod”

The New York Times: “The idea that the Yankees must trade Alex Rodriguez is growing louder on television, talk radio, Internet chats and some newspaper columns. But there is one problem: For all of his struggles lately, Rodriguez is staying put.”

The New York Times: “Rodriguez is all smiles as his mistakes mount.”

New York Post: “Rodgriguez Soap Opera Wearing Down Yanks.”

New York Post: “On the Rod to Nowhere.”

New York Post: “Rodriguez Pulling Bombers Down to his Level.”

The poor guy is getting so beat up, even former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is pleading for a little mercy: “I really think Yankee fans have to change their whole attitude about this. It doesn’t make any sense to me to be booing A-Rod when you want him to perform. We want him to succeed, not to fail. The idea of booing him every time he makes an out is kind of silly.”

It almost makes you feel bad for the guy. Almost, but not quite.

Post Categories: A-Rod

It’s July. And you know what that means.

July 25th, 2006 → 10:05 am @

When I do readings, the two questions I get more than any others are:

* Was Nomar on steroids?


* What’s Manny really like?

I have no idea what the answer is to the first one. And I always struggle with how to answer the second one: Manny practically embodies the meaning of the word enigma. In an article in today’s Boston Globe, Gordon Edes does a wonderful, and wonderfully funny, job of describing what it means for Manny to be Manny:

“One must always allow for the prospect, even after last night’s 7-3 Red Sox win over the Oakland Athletics, that Manny Ramírez may awaken today to an entirely new world of possibilities. Perhaps he has dreams of relocating to his wife’s native Brazil to become a gaucho, riding tall in the saddle. Maybe he’d like to return to his old neighborhood on the far side of Manhattan, strutting through the streets with a boom box on his shoulder the same way he did in the Sox clubhouse the other day, saying, ‘This is how we do it in Washington Heights.’ …

“But happily for the Red Sox and their aspirations for October, Ramírez seems no more inclined to want any of these scenarios to materialize this week as he is to ask to be traded. By most any measure, that represents spectacular progress from this time a year ago, when a change of address was foremost on Manny’s wish list.”

As yes, a year ago. Manny had one of his little spells down in Tampa, didn’t start the first two games of a homestand, and then came out about a half-hour after the tradeline had passed to hit a game-winning single against the Twins. (All together now: double-finger point!)

Come to think of it, late July has been a weird, wild time for the Red Sox these last few years. Remember 2004? Sure you do. On the morning of July 24, the Red sox were 9 1/2 games out of first. The start of that afternoon’s game against the Yankees was delayed because Fenway’s field was soggy. Terry Francona got ejected in the 2nd inning. Jason Varitek tried to feed Alex Rodriguez his catcher’s mitt.* And the Red Sox capped a three-run, ninth-inning comeback with Bill Mueller’s walkoff two-run shot of Mariano Riviera. (True story: I “watched” that game from a computer in a hotel lobby in Dubrovnik, Croatia, waiting as a slow internet connection fed me the MLB Gameday info.) The match, which Theo Epstein called “catalytic,” came on the tail-end of a 75-game stretch in which the Sox went 38-37. A week later, Nomar was gone. A month later, the Sox began their epic winning streak. And three months later, they were world champions.

So far, July 2006 has been quiet. Too quiet…

*It’s been rumored that, after A-Rod took offense at being plunked by Bronson Arroyo, Varitek told the Yankees third baseman, “We don’t throw at .260 hitters.” That, alas, is an urban legend. But as far as urban legends go, it’s a pretty good one.

Post Categories: 2004 Playoffs & A-Rod & Bill Mueller & Gordon Edes & Jason Varitek & Manny Ramirez & Mariano Riviera & Nomar Garciaparra

How about ‘Huge Papi’?

July 9th, 2006 → 11:03 am @

David Ortiz’s line for July, 2006
8 HRs, 16 RBIs, .387 BA, .486 OBP, 1.194 SLG, 1.680 OPS

Spead out over a season, this would lead to 185 HRs and 370 RBIs (but only 69 singles, alas).

Before you start harping about small sample sizes, I know that’s a wee bit unrealistic. But it is worth noting that from 2003-2005, Ortiz has 11 more HRs, a 14-point gain in OBP, a 41-point increase in SLG, and a 55-point gain in OPS after the All-Star Game. If Ortiz doesn’t hit another HR today — and that’s a big if — and if his 2006 stats adhere to his ’03-’05 stats, his year-end line would be:

68 HRs, 168 RBIs, .397 OBP, .641 SLG, 1.038 OPS. Oh, and 6 walk-offs.

Don’t even try to tell me that increasingly mediocre fielding is gonna top that.

Nine pm update: And then he has to go and swing at a 3-0 pitch when Contreras was losing it. Nineteen innings. Good god. That was brutal.

Post Categories: A-Rod & David Ortiz & Walkoffs

The 2000 free agent class and why Manny Ramirez will likely remain with the Red Sox

June 26th, 2006 → 11:39 am @

It’s been five-and-a-half years since the Red Sox signed Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract, which was at the time—and remains today—the second largest contract in the history of baseball, behind only Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million, ten-year deal. Manny and A-Rod signed their deals within days of each other (A-Rod on December 11, 2000, Manny on December 13), and while their contracts were the offseason’s gaudiest, those two deals ended up being the smartest long-term deals given out in the winter of 2000. In one two-week span, from November 30 through December 13, seven players signed contracts worth a total of $770 million. The average annual salary of those deals was $16.7 million. Outside of Manny and A-Rod, the only other deal that worked out—and the only other deal that was really justifiable at the time—was the six-year, $88.5 million contract Mike Mussina got from the Yankees.

The other four deals would be funny if there weren’t families living in this country that can’t afford food or health care. Denny Neagle got a five-year, $51 million contract from the Rockies; that deal included a $9 million buyout for 2006. Neagle pitched a total of 370.3 innings in 2001, 2002, and 2003; over that time he had a 19-23 record and a cumulative ERA of 5.57. On December 4, 2004—exactly four years after he signed his contract—the Rockies terminated their deal with Neagle after he was busted with a hooker. (Neagle sued the Rockies and the two parties eventually came to terms. How things have changed: In 1960, both Ted Williams and Stan Musial insisted on pay cuts–Williams from $125,000 to $90,000; Musial from $100,000 to $80,000–after sub-par 1959 seasons.)

Amazingly, Neagle wasn’t the biggest mistake the Rockies made that offseason. Five days after signing him, Colorado inked Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $121 million deal. Hampton lasted two years with the Rockies before being shipped off to Atlanta, going 14-13 with a 5.41 ERA in 2001 and 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA in 2002.

At least Hampton had a decent track record. Darren Dreifort was a career 39-45 pitcher who’d had exactly one season with an ERA under 4.00 when the Dodgers gave him $55 million for five years. Driefort didn’t pitch in 2002 and likely won’t ever pitch again. For those $55 million, he went 9-15 with a 4.64 ERA, picking up approximately $267,000 per inning pitched and $6.1 million per win.

By those measures, the Mets deal with Kevin Appier—he was given $42 million for four years—looks almost rational. Appier spent a season in Queens, going 11-10 with an ERA about half a run under the league average, before being traded to Anaheim (for Mo Vaughn, of all people). Last year, with the Royals, Appier pitched a total of four innings.

In the five-plus years that Ramirez has been in Boston, one of the most enigmatic players ever to wear a major league uniform has been the focal point of any number of controversies. Ramirez was signed by former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette, and the Red Sox and Ramirez have been on the verge of severing ties on any number of occasions since John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team in 2001. (You’ll need to read the book to find out the real stories behind the various times Ramirez and the Red Sox have come close to parting company.) But with a two-and-a-half years left on his deal, it’s increasingly likely that Ramirez will finish out his contract in Boston, and perhaps even retire as a member of the Red Sox.

In the eleven years since Ramirez became a full-time player, he’s hit 416 home runs and driven in 1349 runs. That’s an average of 38 HRs and 123 RBIs a year. In the five full seasons he’s been with Boston, his production has been remarkably similar, with an average of 40 home runs and 122 RBIs. There are those odd times when Ramirez decides he needs a day off, but he’s averaged 143 games a year since 1995; since coming to the Sox, he’s averaged 144 a year. This year, Ramirez looks like he’s heading towards his twelfth straight year of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs: as of this morning, he has 20 homers, 51 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.027. There have been plenty of times the Red Sox have been frustrated by Ramirez’s petulance, his intermittently lackadaisical fielding, and his failure to hustle. But the Red Sox realize that Ramirez is rarely a clubhouse distraction, they appreciate his consistency, and are often as awed by his hitting prowess as the rest of us. Ramirez, for his part, seems to realize how good he has it in Boston—for all the talk of the city’s voracious press corps, Manny is pretty much left alone—and he’s kept his pre-season promise to hunker down and focus on his game.

Assuming Ramirez doesn’t get dealt before the July 31 deadline, there’ll be two more years on his contract. This year, he’s one of 18 major leaguers making $14 million a year or more. Is he overpaid? Sure. Are there cheaper options out there? Not really. (It’s worth noting that that hasn’t always been the case in the last several years.) The league’s exuberant revenue sharing policy means more medium- and small-market teams are signing their young stars to long-term deals before they hit free agency, and even the Mets finally seem to understand it makes sense to hold on to prospects who can be cheaply controlled for the first years of their careers. If Ramirez maintains his production—and he shows no signs of significantly slowing down—paying a premium for that kind of power (and that kind of protection for David Ortiz) isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Red Sox–who have one of the smartest front offices in the game–realize that.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Manny Ramirez & Red Sox ownership

The peacemaker: A-Rod unites fractious NYC newspapers

June 16th, 2006 → 9:32 am @

From today’s NY Times: Rodriguez, it would seem, gets worse of Yanks’ tough day
“Rodriguez’s consecutive at-bats—home run [with none on and the Yankees trailing 6-1] and strikeout [with two on and the Yankees trailing 6-4]—seemed to verify what the critics say: that he produces when pressure is right and fails in tougher moments.”

See also:

NY Post: A-Rod failure is one of many

NY Post: Rodgriguez isn’t rescuing Yanks

NY Daily News: A-trocious

NY Daily News: Slumping Alex only hitting self

You know what would probably turn this around? Whining about the official scorer’s decisions.

UPDATE: Alex knows not to disappoint his fans, and on Friday night he delivers the big swinging K in a tie game with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. To be fair, he did have an infield single in the third.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Yankees