The Yankees might not want Sheffield, but reporters sure don’t want him to leave town

November 9th, 2006 → 6:05 am @

There was a player on the Red Sox — and I’m not giving any hints as to whom I’m talking about except that he currently plays for the Yankees — who was known around the league as a great interview, because he was usually open and available and more importantly because he’d pretty much say whatever it was any given reporter needed him to say at any given time. “So isn’t it awful that so-and-so keeps on putting himself above the team by playing while injured?” and “Aren’t you glad so-and-so puts the team first by playing while injured?” would both produce affirmative results, even if they were asked within minutes of each other.

Gary Sheffield has a similar reputation. I have no idea if it’s deserved…but in today’s paper, Sheffield once again shows why he’s a reporter’s wet dream, slamming Brian Cashman (“If George Steinbrenner was feeling better, my situation would already be resolved”), Bobby Abreu (“I’ve done more for the Yankees than he will ever do”), and the team in general (“I will tell you that not everything is rosy in Yankeeland. It’s all a facade — it ain’t real”). “Sheffield was soon talking about Alex Rodriguez,” the story goes on to say, in what could be code for, “Reporters then proceeded to press Sheffield on the Yankees’ most controversial and unpopular player; soon, we were asking why that jerk-face Derek Jeter didn’t stick up for his teammates.” The answer? Just what any good scribe would want: “When you have a teammate under fire like that, why would you keep your distance and just let people keep taking shots at him? If it was anybody else, their teammates would have stood up for them.” (Like Jeter?) “I’m not naming names, it is what it is, but it tells you a lot about the situation here. I like Alex, but we have different personalities. He doesn’t fight back because he wants everyone to like him, but that doesn’t work here. I will not let anyone take shots at me like that.”

Let’s see: shots at the team, the general manager, the new guy in the clubhouse, and the captain. Yeah, it definitely sounds like Sheff’s gonna be wearing pinstripes on Opening Day.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Gary Sheffield & Sports Reporters & Yankees

One thing god definitely wants is for him to cash that $52 million check

November 4th, 2006 → 10:24 am @

“Pedro Martínez says that if his right shoulder doesn’t return to full strength, he would consider retiring. Martínez had surgery Oct. 5 to repair a torn rotator cuff. ‘To go back I have to recover. I have to be healthy,’ said Martínez. ‘But if God doesn’t want that, then I would have to think about giving it all up.'”

— The Boston Globe‘s “Baseball Notebook,” November 4, 2006.

Coming tomorrow: hours of callers on ‘EEI lauding the Sox’s decision not to offer Pedro Martinez a guaranteed, four-year, $50 million-plus contract after the 2004 season.

Post Categories: Pedro Martinez & Red Sox front office & Sports Reporters

Breaking news: good things actually happened in 2006 (and why you’re not likely to hear much about it in the media)

November 2nd, 2006 → 1:37 pm @

The Red Sox front office, in case you forgot, took a lot of beatings in the last 12 months; if a Martian came down and read the coverage of the team, he could reasonably be expected to conclude that Theo Epstein had personally taken a bat to Jason Varitek’s knee, Jed Hoyer had smashed Wily Mo’s hand in a door, and Ben Cherington had spent weeks hiding behind Papi’s car for the sole purpose of startling him to the point of his developing a heart murmur. (After all, if the disappointing season was entirely the front office’s fault, all of the primary causes would have to be laid at its feet.) The local media didn’t help in this regard; as I’ve said time (and time and time) again, the most frustrating (and, to my mind at least, reprehensible) aspect of this was when writers or commentators decried moves they had previously been in favor of…and failed to fully explain the confluence of factors that contributed to 2006*

Anyway, it turns out that at least some people think the Sox didn’t do such a bad job after all; in fact, in Baseball America’s recent ranking of the 2006 draft, the Sox ranked tops in all of baseball. It’s not surprising that it’s a national publication devoted in large part to amateur players that took the time and energy to point this out; in various local writers’ and commentators’ end-of-season rankings of the Sox’s front office, I didn’t see a single instance in which the team’s draft or player development program was included in any significant way.

Now, a worthwhile question to ask is why, if this team is so good at evaluating talent, it has struggled when transitioning these players to the big leagues (and/or seemingly made some missteps when it comes to trading away prospects). One factor — and this doesn’t totally explain things away, but has to be considered — is the reality that playing in Boston is different from playing in virtually every other market in the country. Some players react to the intensity and scrutiny differently than others; just as crucially, the fans and media throng put enormous pressure on the team to put up a team littered with big names and known quantities. Nick Cafardo’s Globe piece today hints at that — the piece begins, “If Theo Epstein or Brian Cashman tried to parade a roster like the Cardinals’ onto the field in Boston or New York, they’d probably be run out of town” — but then fails to explain how this affects what eventually happens on the field. (A corollary, and a valid point, is that if Brian Cashman or Theo put this team on the field in the AL East they’d likely end up with a losing record….but I digress.)

* Related to this is another David Leonhardt column that deals with former Treasury Secretary Robert Robin, a writer-subject combo I’ve brought up before in relation to how sportswriters and sports fans could better understand the game. In yesterday’s piece, Leonhardt addresses Rubin’s recent bet against the dollar…a bet that didn’t pay off. But that doesn’t mean it was an incorrect bet to make. Leonhardt explains Rubin’s philosophy:

“Throughout [Rubin’s] career — as an arbitrage trader at Goldman, as the Treasury secretary who led the 1995 bailout of Mexico — he has argued that decisions should not be judged solely on the outcome. Somebody could do a perfectly good job of weighing the relevant risks, make a call that maximizes the chances of success and still not succeed, because the world is a messy, unpredictable place.”

Unpredictability is hard for sports fans to swallow; I get that. What’s harder to choke down is when sportswriters — either because they’re lazy or because they’re pandering to their audience — don’t take the time to understand and explain this stark reality.

Post Categories: 2006 Wrap-ups and report cards & Red Sox front office & Sports Reporters

Breaking News: Derek Jeter likes to win, doesn’t kill puppies in his spare time

October 26th, 2006 → 10:27 am @

The Times‘s Tyler Kepner has an update on the love affair between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. (How could a headline like “Jeter Unable to Make it Easier for Rodriguez” not be good news for the Yankees?)

During the year I spent with the Red Sox, my opinion of Jeter improved greatly; I went from thinking he was among the most overpaid and overrated players in baseball history to appreciating his — and yes, I know this is going to sound shockingly close to the “Captain Intangibles” crap that Yankees fans so often get mocked for — approach to the game and his leadership. He goes out of his way to take young players under his range-less wing; he’s much more likely to give you a good at-bat than are most players; and he’s among the better winners in the game (compared to, say, Kevin Millar). But if A-Rod is going to be with the Yankees next year, Jeter — who told some Sox players, sotto voce, that he didn’t disagree with their criticisms during the ’05 pre-season — should find a way not to telegraph the fact that he hates his partner of the left side of the infield. To wit:

“Jeter said he expected Rodriguez to be back, but did not have any ideas on how he could make life easier for his teammate. Jeter, the Yankees’ captain, has been criticized for his seemingly lukewarm support of Rodriguez.

‘What would you like me to do?’ Jeter said. ‘You’re there and you support him. Everybody supports all your teammates at all times. I don’t really know if there’s anything else I can do. Maybe I’m not that smart; maybe you can help me out.'”

Jeter is smart — at least compared to most baseball players — and he knows he could do a lot more than say, “yeah, whatever, that guy’s not bad.”

That aspect of Kepner’s piece is sort of amusing — it’s (almost) always fun to watch 30-something multi-, multi-millionaires act like petulant little bitches. What bugs me is the piece’s lede:

“ST. LOUIS, Oct. 25 — Derek Jeter has been traveling in Europe, and he said Wednesday that he had not seen any of this year’s World Series. This is the time of year when Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, would rather be playing than watching.”

As opposed to whom? Pretty much every single major leaguer in the world would rather be playing in October; even Manny knows that. The endless articles celebrating Jeter’s desire to play in the World Series are ridiculous. Yes, we know Jeter likes the Series; that’s about as far from unique as is possible. And yes, we know he, along with the rest of the Yankees, he thinks of the Series as more of a right and less of a privilege; that’s the unique part. If you want to point something out, focus on that.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Derek Jeter & Sports Reporters

Today in baseball: Everybody’s talking at me

October 25th, 2006 → 11:56 am @

In an effort to spice up one of the least watched World Series in history, sports writers around the country keep on searching for some gold in what’s now commonly known as Dirtgate. A couple of my favorite pieces (blatantly cribbed from Buster Olney’s daily wrapup on are this NY Post story by Mike Vaccaro and this piece by the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott.

Vaccaro finds a new angle with which to slam Tony La Russa and, well, I’m a fan of any story that slams Tony La Russa (and I’m a fan of Vaccaro’s to boot). In the wake of Tony’s claiming he didn’t ask the umps to inspect Kenny Rogers’s hand during Game 2 because he didn’t want to hurt the purity of the game, Mike suggests La Russa apply for the job of Little League commissioner: “Then he can he can bathe himself in sanctimony all he likes and he can tell us all again about the high plane of baseball ethics he subscribes to.” My favorite section is the following: “La Russa knows the rules – jeez, if there’s one thing we can say with certainty in baseball, it’s that La Russa knows the rules. The same guy who held up Game 6 of the NLCS by questioning a balls-and-strikes count when it was obvious to everyone in Shea Stadium what the count was – apparently, that was well within the spirit of competition – didn’t go the distance this time.” Also, my obligatory sunglasses rant: Tony, man, take off the fucking shades already. Even Corey Hart is lets people see his naked face these days.

Elliott, taking a more humorous approach, chronicles all the varied instances of cheating, touching on well-known suspects (Gaylord Perry) and less-known ones (Nolan Ryan). My favorite anecdote involves Eck; this story is from the 1989 ALCS in which the A’s played the Jays. “The night before, a clubhouse attendant from Dunedin, helping with the laundry, found an emery board in Eckersley’s glove. When Eckersley finished his warm-up, and with the A’s leading 4-2, [Toronot manager Cito] Gaston approached plate ump Rick Reed asking him to check the closer’s glove. Crew chief Davey Phillips arrived and checked Eckersley’s glove. Finding nothing, he returned to Gaston, who claimed Eck put something down his pants. ‘I can’t ask him to pull down his pants in front of 50,000 people,’ Phillips said. When Eckersley struck out Junior Felix to end the game, A’s catcher Terry Steinbach gave the Jays dugout the finger. It wasn’t inspected, either.” No ambiguity about that, and for that reason alone it might top the infamous Derek Lowe crotchchop as one of the best screw-you’s in baseball history.

Post Categories: Cheating & Dennis Eckersley & Mike Vaccaro & Oblique references to Harry Nilsson songs & Sports Reporters & Tony La Russa & Uncategorized

Witness the media’s self-correcting mechanism in action

October 23rd, 2006 → 11:40 pm @

“[N]ow we’ll always be left to wonder what Kenny Rogers had on his hand. And here, in what’s supposed to be the best of times in his sport, that’s what stinks the most about this unsavory World Series evening.

“See, it wasn’t just his pitching hand that Rogers soiled on Sunday night. It was, regrettably, his whole sport. And that’s a stain that will take a lot longer to wash off.”

Jayson Stark, October 22, 2006

“From the tenor of this discussion, you’re probably catching on that it didn’t take long yesterday for Dirtgate to transform itself into the kind of topic that nearly every baseball subject in history has ever morphed into — i.e., raging talk-show controversy on one hand, an irresistible clubhouse-comedy opportunity on the other hand.

“It was a healthy sign that the sport will undoubtedly survive Dirtgate. Not to mention a sign that this World Series will undoubtedly survive Dirtgate.”

Jayson Stark, October 23, 2006

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Jayson Stark & Kenny Rogers & Sports Reporters

Jayson Stark’s found a controversy that could rival steroids!

October 23rd, 2006 → 10:14 am @

The lead story on’s baseball homepage is a Jayson Stark piece titled “Rogers’ dirty hand overshadows his Game 2 brilliance“. After writing that the controversy surrounding what appeared to be some dirt on Kenny Rogers’s hand in the first inning of last night’s game would overshadow the game itself, Stark puts a new spin on the innocent until found guilty thing: “[I]f Rogers was so darned innocent, how come he was trying so hard to deny everything except his pitch count?” That makes sense. Rogers is guilty because he said he was innocent; try figuring out what that would mean if he said he was guilty of using pine tar. The piece ends with this weighty pronouncement: “See, it wasn’t just his pitching hand that Rogers soiled on Sunday night. It was, regrettably, his whole sport. And that’s a stain that will take a lot longer to wash off.”

Wow. This must be all the talk of baseball. Look at what the St. Louis Post Dispatch had to say: “‘Somebody said they saw pine tar on it. That’s about it. He obviously got rid of it or he never had it in the first place,’ said [Cardinals] second baseman Aaron Miles. ‘The stuff looked about the same as it did at the beginning. I’m not sure what difference it made.'”

“Had the umpiring crew discovered pine tar or some other intentionally applied foreign substance, they could have ejected Rogers from the game. Intentionally applying dirt to the ball is also grounds for ejection. Major League Baseball director of umpires Steve Palermo said ‘there was not an inspection, there was an observation.’

Palermo referred to ‘a noticeable dirt mark’ but said it in no way met the definition of ‘deliberately doctoring the ball in some regard.'”

Huh. Okay, well how about the Detroit Free Press:

“‘It was wet out there tonight, so you get a compound of water and dirt, and it’s going to create a little bit of mud,'” Palermo said. “‘And Kenny may have had that spot on his hand or whatever it was when he left the bullpen.'”

They’re the hometown boosters, so that’s to be expected. What about over at

“‘Kenny,'” [home plate umpire Alfonso] Marquez told the pitcher, “‘also that dirt thing that you’ve got on your hand, if you’ll do me a favor and just take it off.'”

“After the game, La Russa said, “‘It’s not important. I wouldn’t discuss that about someone who pitched like that. I wouldn’t want to take anything away from anybody.'”

So you’ve got Cardinals players, the Cardinals manager, the home plate umpire, and the umpiring supervisor all saying it was no big deal. And you have Jayson Stark, who feels that because Rogers is “a pitcher who, a mere three weeks ago, was carrying around the highest career postseason ERA in the history of baseball” and goes on to “spin off his 23rd consecutive scoreless October inning, you want to tell the world how he finally rewrote the script of his lifetime. But we’re having trouble with that angle, too.” The Gambler also has thrown a perfect game, has been in the league’s top ten in wins six times, and has the ninth most wins among active pitchers. Compare that to, say, Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game in postseason history in the 1956 World Series against the Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen finished his career with an ERA above the league average and a career record of 81-91. Must of been the pine tar.

I’m sure Rogers’s “caramel covered mark” will continue to be discussed and analyzed — especially after ESPN analysis showed that Rogers appeared to have similar discolorations on his pitching hand during his two previous postseason starts. And Rogers certainly doesn’t have a the best reputation. But Stark’s presumed guilt piece is going a bit overboard, and is in marked contrast to his colleagues Buster Olney (who focuses on the ever-fiesty Tony LaRussa’s apparent wimpiness vis a vis Rogers), Keith Law (who doesn’t talk about Dirtgate at all), and Gene Wojciechowski (who focuses on the fact that the controversy will continue…at least until a possible Game 6, when Rogers is would pitch again). Finally, the Globe’s Gordon Edes — day in and day out, one of the best baseball guys out there — has a more clear-headed take on the whole thing: “Kenny Rogers, who has been master of any neighborhood he has occupied this October and showed no letup last night…evidently didn’t resort to anything underhanded in pitching the Detroit Tigers to a 3-1 win last night that evened the 102d World Series at a game apiece. To suggest otherwise would besmirch a reputation that has undergone a major renovation this postseason, one in which Rogers’s performance is approaching historic levels. And last night’s umpires did not take it upon themselves to do so, electing not to make an issue out of it, although the rules stipulate that any pitcher detected with an illegal substance on his person is subject to automatic ejection. And neither would opposing manager Tony La Russa.”

That sounds about right to me. Is whatever’s going on with the man putting together an historic postseason run worth investigating more? Of course. But at the moment, it’s a bit much — a lot much, actually — to say that the whole sport is soiled and this stain will take a lot of time for baseball to wash off.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Gordon Edes & Jayson Stark & Kenny Rogers & Sports Reporters