May 2nd, 2007 → 11:52 am @ Seth Mnookin
Like I said below, I’m going to be getting to some things a bit late…
A month into the season, we’ve seen a bunch of interesting things.
* The Yankees have been sucking. They also appear to have picked up the pesky black plague bug that infected the Sox last August.
* There’s going to be lots of talk about whether or not Joe Torre should be fired as long as the worst $200 million team in history stays in last place. Or third place. Or second place.
* Last night notwithstanding, the Sox’s bullpen has been lights out.
* Despite some disappointing performances at the plate — i.e., everyone in the starting lineup save for Youk, Ortiz, Drew, and Lowell — the Sox are, overall, doing fairly well offensively.
* This whole Schilling-Beckett-Dice K thing could work out pretty well.
And now for some quick thoughts on the above:
* Brian Cashman is getting some heat for the Yankees roster and it’s age/failure to produce. That’s not entirely fair (although not entirely unfair, either). The injury thing is hard to predict — Mussina is getting on in years, sure; on the other hand, but Wang could have reasonably been expected to stay healthy. And while Cashman has exhibited some creativity/flexibility in jettisoning some of his overpaid veterans, he’s still saddled with guys like Jason Giambi — and Giambi, at least according to almost everyone surrounding the Yankees — was one of those Steinbrenner “I have to have him RIGHT NOW” players that Cashman seemingly had little to do with.
* The Torre defenders out there are right when they say there’s only so much he can do — he’s not out on the field. But — and this is a big but — two areas that Torre most definitely can effect are a) bullpen usage and b) keeping a bunch of spoiled brats (er, I mean athletes), focused and motivated over the course of a long season. In regards to a), Torre has a Dusty Baker-esque tendency to abuse his bullpen, a practice that cost the Yankees at least one trip to the World Series (in 2004, when the Yankees had to depend on the ghost of Tom Gordon) and could very well lead the team down the road to ruin this year. As for b), I’m a firm believer in the notion that sometimes good managers need to go just because a team needs a change. Torre’s been very good at keeping a highly efficient and generally successful team on course. His laconic style might not be so good for a team in crisis. (Quick digression: I also put some of the blame on Captain Intangibles, who, much like Jason Varitek, seems to view his role solely as someone who sets a good example on the field. Jeter could, and should, have stepped up any number of times this year. Take spring training: the best things he could have done for the team were defend Pavano when Mussina was whining and embrace A-Rod to quell the ongoing talk about conflict there.)
And…I gotta run. Looks like I’ll have to address the Red Sox part of this equation later on.
December 26th, 2006 → 7:10 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Yup: three full days without a post. I’m pretty sure that’s a record. For that, I’m sorry. I know people need to get a break from their families. (Believe me, I know.) And there’s been precious little baseball news out there to serve as a distraction. (No matter how you try to spin it — the impact on the Zito sweepstakes, the NLCS MVP leaving the Cards, whatever — Jeff Suppan signing with the Brewers does not count as news.)
There is, however, one development that shook me out of my holiday stupor, and, I’m sorry to say, it was a distressing one: the confirmation that the Yankees and the Diamondbacks are discussing a deal that would send Randy Johnson back to Arizona. New York’s signing of Johnson was exactly the sort of boneheaded, reactionary move that has defined the Yankees of the modern era (read: since 2000). The Johnson acquisition came about immediately after Schilling had helped lift the Sox to their Series win, a fact which reputedly caused the Boss tell his minions he wanted a “warrior” of his own. He got one — an over-the-hill, overpaid warrior with a crappy attitude and a bad back — when he could have had someone like, say, Carlos Beltran…and that would have made the Yankees frightening.
Those days appear to be over. Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like they’re the Marlins, and Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks.
This doesn’t mean the Red Sox and the Yankees will have anywhere near equal payrolls, but it does seem to indicate that Steinbrenner (and his Tampa-based suckups) are no longer making baseball-related decisions. If that’s true, it’s bad news for Boston (and everyone else). A senior member of the team’s baseball ops staff told me last year that the only reason the Sox had a fighting chance against a team with $80 million more in payroll was because New York made such stupefyingly idiotic moves. If that’s not going to be the case anymore, it means the Yankees and the Sox are going to be operating more and more on the same plane…not because, as some would have you believe, the Red Sox have become the Evil Empire II but because the Yankees are starting to act (and yes, it hurts to say this) intelligently.
Gulp. Two thousand and seven, here we come…