Sorry I haven’t gotten on I a while to make a post, I’ve been busy being absorbed my March Madness, which is exactly what’s wrong with the World baseball Classic. Jayson Stark:
What happened to the Americans who should love the WBC most? They aren’t watching. That’s what. Not enough of them are, anyhow. Either they’ve been way too preoccupied with how to handicap Wake Forest-Cleveland State, or the folks locked in on baseball are more focused on their teams. Understandably, too. Why wouldn’t Yankees fans care more about who their center fielder is going to be than who’s going to close for Team USA? Sure, it’s possible to care about both, I guess. But why is baseball so intent on competing against itself? What kind of business sense does that make?
But in the end, here’s what I want to see happen:
I want this event to be everything it should be. I want to see Roy Halladay dueling Johan Santana, with Josh Hamilton at the plate, Ryan Howard on deck and Jonathan Papelbon warming up in the bullpen.
I want the night of the WBC finals to feel like baseball’s version of Super Sunday. I want it to be one of the most momentous nights on the entire sports calendar.
And I want spring training to feel like spring training again — not the background noise for the WBC.
Speaking of which I had Wake Forest in the final four and my bracket is officially busted but that is besides the point. The World Baseball Classic is trying to compete against one of the premier events in all of sports. March Madness falls behind maybe only the Super Bowl in sporting significance in the United States. So why do it then? No one is in shape, everyone is getting hurt, and no one wants to do it. What other time is there to do it you ask?
THE ALL-STAR-WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA
I heard this proposal from the always-incisive Buck Martinez, who managed Team USA in the 2006 WBC. Here’s his idea:
Bag the All Star Game every four years and play the whole WBC during what would otherwise be All Star Week in July.
The sites would be the three metropolises with two ballparks — New York, Chicago and L.A./Anaheim. No off days in each round for any team still alive. Finish the entire tournament in one week in July. And hold the finals on a Sunday, in prime time, when there isn’t another sporting event in America to serve as competition. But, most of all, play this event when “players are ready,” Martinez said.
“In July, players are ready to go,” he said. “Players are in optimum shape. You’d take extra starters, so you’d have one starter start a game and that’s it. And you’d give the rest of baseball a week’s vacation in the middle of the summer. I think it would be a great thing for baseball.
“Then everybody’s in shape. Nobody’s concerned. Then you might get the Roy Halladays and Brandon Webbs and Jon Lesters and Josh Becketts. But if you hold it in March, then I understand why they won’t do it.”
What’s the down side: Excellent idea. But there are two reasons owners would balk: (1) No interest in abandoning tradition by not holding the All-Star Game and (2) forcing half the clubs in baseball to give up a weekend worth of gates in July. To me, the positives take a unanimous decision over the negatives. But it would be a tough sell.
Outside of the United States, the WBC is a huge success. In Japan, TV ratings are said to rival the Super Bowl. Buck Martinez’ plan would be a hit in the United States. The All-Star game is not what it was to earlier generations. No one would mind if they canned it once every three or four years in favor of a tournament that would fall behind only the Olympics and World Cup in sporting significance on this planet.
Per capita, the Dominican Republic may be the best, and internationally Cuba may be the most successful, but no matter how you look at it the United States is the best baseball country in the world and without us on board then the credibility of the tournament becomes drastically diminished.
The length of the tournament could easily be shrunk down to a week. One option would be to have a single elimination tournament which would be over in four days. The other would be to leave it as is in a double elimination format, but take away the championship games for each pool which seem to be very unnecessary. That version would be over within four days. Maybe they could even play the first round in spring training and just send the final eight to the new “Midsummer Classic.”
This would allow us to finally move past the ridiculous rule that the winner of the All-Star game wins home field advantage in the play-offs. It should be whichever league wins the interleague series during the regular season anyway. As for the money issue, last time I checked, Major League Baseball was in no financial danger. And why would a tournament like this not make money. There is nothing else going on around this time. Baseball has a monopoly on the summer. The possibilities are astronomical.
Before I bite on Rob Neyer’s writing style, I must first say that even though I’m a Yankees fan, I couldn’t agree more with Jayson Stark’s assessment of the New York and Boston off-seasons:
But the Red Sox’s additions were products of a whole different philosophy, not just a whole different checking account. The four free agents they imported — John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and Rocco Baldelli — cost this team 4 million fewer guaranteed dollars ($12.5 million total) than the Yankees will pay Burnett alone this year.
Nevertheless, the upside of those men gives the Red Sox four potential impact players without the price tags, or long-term inflexibility, that come with handing out contracts that run through 2016.
And that, for this team, was the whole idea.
Took the words right out of my mouth. All winter I shared mixed thoughts on the Yankees spending spree, first running wild with news of each new big signing before realizing how poorly each contract could turn out, as I briefly mention in my first post.
Smoltz’ rehab has gone well and he was reported to have already been hitting 90 mph on the gun as early as January. Pending an injury or an ineffective Penny or Tim Wakefield, he will be joining a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka by the middle of June. You know his heart will be in it to prove people wrong and guess who else is in the AL East? That’s right the Yankees, same team that knocked the Braves out of his last two World Series.
Just two seasons ago, Penny was 16-4 with a 3.08 ERA over 208 innings. What happened last year? That can’t really be explained. His good stats seemed to be cut in half while his bad stats doubled and he dropped to 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA over just 94 2/3 innings. Injuries didn’t seem to be the problem, though he spent some time on the DL. He was sent home in September for being unproductive and a hindrance in the clubhouse. A change of scenery could be all he needs.
Now Shifting to their bullpen, a very good bullpen should it hold together. The thoughts of what it will look like are just plain frightening. Justin Masterson, Hedeki Okajima, and Manny Delcarmen make up the middle innings. Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in the game and he will be set up by a guy who would make a pretty good closer himself in Saito should he come back healthy. His brief three year career numbers: 81 saves, 11.63 K/9, 1.95 ERA, and a .91 WHIP. He has one appearance this spring and showed no discomfort while going one inning, allowing a hit and striking out two.
Sure there are questions, lots of them. Smoltz is 42 and Saito is 39, both coming off torn labrums in their elbows, a daunting task at any age. If the deals don’t work out though, so what, they have the depth to make it without them. Don’t forget about Clay Buchholz, though he struggled last year, and prospect Michael Bowden.
As for Baldelli, he fits in perfectly. Since he lacks the stamina to play every day, slotting him in a fourth outfielder role works just fine for both sides. Plus if someone gets hurt, they now have an All-Star talent sitting on their bench to take over.
Do Smoltz and Penny equal Sabathia and Burnett? Depends how you look at it. Over the long haul? Not a chance. Which explains why that Yankees tag team hauled in $243.5 million, while Penny and Smoltz were guaranteed about one-23rd of that ($10.5 million).
But when it comes to pitching, the word that defines the Red Sox is “flexibility.” For 50 starts or so this year, if all goes right, Penny and Smoltz could give them just as much impact. Their one-year deals also give this team maneuverability to attack its needs again next winter.
But remember this: The Yankees needed to add those players, because it was clear to the world that the Red Sox and Rays were both better and more talented. We didn’t mention the Rays until now, because this was a piece comparing the Red Sox and Yankees. But nobody should forget them once the season starts.
Regardless, though, no team had a more underrated offseason than the Red Sox. And we’ll find out over the next seven months exactly how good a winter they had.
“I just like the way they added depth and filled their needs,” said one scout, “without spending $423 million.”
I apologize for the long quote but it couldn’t have been worded any better. I think the Red Sox have now cemented themselves as favorites in the AL East, especially with the A-Rod saga. If the the moves work, then they make the play-offs and contend for the World Series. If they don’t work, they could afford to make these moves anyway and didn’t break the bank in the process. Either way the team is fine on the field and financially. It’s just the beautiful part about being wise with your money.
Alex Rodriguez has elected to have a basic hip operation that will only cost him 6-9 weeks, as opposed to the more complex surgery that could have cost him up to four months which he has put off until the offseason.
Dr. Marc Philippon will be the operating surgeon and says that there is an 85-90 percent chance the surgery will hold for the entire season. He also said that he thinks it’s more likely he’ll be back in six weeks rather than nine.
The Yankees, who are currently in the second year of a 10-year deal paying him 275+ million dollars, reportedly have an insurance policy in the event of him going to the disabled list. It is unknown if this is actually true or how much money the Yankees would get back, but it is worth noting.
I think the surgery is the right call. With at least 247 million dollars yet to be paid to him you have to be cautious. Getting screwed here is the worst possible thing that could happen. He absolutely needs to get back to full strength.
Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that he could be starting to age and that this may be the inevitable breakdown all players must one day face. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that yet but it really makes you wonder how he will come back.
An expensive transaction like trading for Scott Rolen and undertaking his contract would be an utterly irrational move. He could be back by the end of April and the Yankees can live without him for a month. If it was half a season then I agree that it would be time to panic, but Cody Ransom can get the job done for a few weeks. A quick fix like signing Mark Grudzielanek or trading for a Mark Teahan or Bobby Crosby would make sense. Upon A-Rod’s return it wouldn’t hurt to have an experienced utility man and they’d still get a decent amount of playing time as he gets used to playing everyday again.
The decision allows Rodriguez to nurse himself back to health while at the same time leaving New York contenders in the AL East. Alex and the Yankees made the right move for both of their short and long term futures.
Alex Rodriguez has a torn labrum and a cyst on his right hip. It may require surgery and would effectively knock him out of the World Baseball Classic and the Yankees line-up until May or possibly as late as the All-Star break. The ladder would cost New York 88 games without its premier slugger. With things as close as they are in the AL East, they’d take a step back behind the Rays and Red Sox.
Jayson Stark speculated on Sportscenter earlier that they could take a look at Bobby Crosby or Mark Teahan. If the injury worsens over the season then players like Adrian Beltre or Garrett Atkins could get some looks as well, but nothing is close.
You could have a worse back-up than Cody Ransom, but that’s exactly what he is, a backup. He’s a 33-year old utility player with all of 183 at-bats (.251/.348/.432) in the majors since 2001 while also spending time with the Giants and Astros.
A report was just released that he will have his hip drained and that he is going to try to play through it and rejoin the team. He is still out of the WBC. Hopefully for him and the Yankees he can get back right away and continue to prove that he can produce while playing clean to try to clean up his image before it is forever tarnished, though it may be too late.
Alex Rodriguez learned from the mistakes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Roger Clemens and came clean right away.
He could have followed suit and denied it right into his social grave. He could have let the media rip his heart out and diminish his sense of pride to the point where he barely left his house like Mark McGwire has become. He could have. But that isn’t exactly an ideal option for someone entering the prime of their career while in the second year of a record setting ten-year 275 million dollar contract.
Andy Pettitte and Gary Sheffield went through this before him and he saw what being truthful can do. He has now kept the hearts of his loyal fans and saved himself from being tabloided more than Paris Hilton, though he probably already is anyway.
All in all the good news is we hopefully will not have to listen to nearly as much of this because of his honesty. I think that even more former players should do the same and come clean before they exposed because chances are they will be and it will look a lot better if they do this on their own now before they become scapegoats for an entire generation.
With yesterday’s news of A-Rod’s positive steroid test, we have all just signed a 14-year contract extension to listen to steroid news through the remainder of the nine years left on his reco
rd contract and then his five years before he becomes hall of fame eligible. It seems as though this story will never go away.
People, both media and fans alike, need to just get over it. Players don’t take steroids just to find an easy way to fame and stardom. They take steroids because they are part of the group of major leaguers who are always looking for an edge over the competition because they are among the fiercest competitors in the world.
Sure there are plenty of legal issues and health concerns that kept the majority of players away from using them. These are completely normal and more than acceptable reasons to never take steroids under any circumstances.
With that said take a step back now and keep an open mind. Picture yourself as an elite athlete. You have a readily available option to significantly better yourself as a baseball player. Baseball is a game of inches and that extra power and speed can go a long way. You have the luxuries of money and doctors to help ensure that you are taking only the safest and best type of drugs and that they are being properly used.
Do you really think you as a fan could honestly say that if you were in their situation you wouldn’t do it yourself? There were no penalties before 2004 so what was stopping them?
My guess is there are a lot of people out there who say they would never do it but that’s very tough to say when you are not in their situation and I don’t blame any of them for using steroids.
“Cheating” has been going around sports forever. Whether it’s using steroids, doctoring a ball, betting on games, corking bats, or tailoring the playing field to your advantage; bending the rules has always been part of the game and always will.
I sternly believe that there were many more players using than the 104 players that tested positive back in 2003. I also think the problem was not at all just limited to baseball and the problem could have been just as bad, if not worse in football or other sports where strength is even more important.
It was once thought that the Mitchell Report would finally give everyone closure on the steroid era but it seems to have only made it worse. People need to just accept that it was very common, stop blacklisting every player ever associated with using steroids, and move on so the door can finally be shut on this story for good.
The New York Yankees have certainly not had a quiet offseason by any means, dropping a near half billion dollars (441 million) in the winter months. What has now been established is a declaration that last year’s failure to make the play-offs will not be repeated. A huge splash was obviously not a surprise but no one knew it would be to quite this extent. After being handcuffed for years by busts and overpaid-underperformers such as Carl Pavano and Jason Giambi, the near 90 million dollars freed up from expiring contracts was obviously going to be spent somewhere. History may be repeating itself however. The three major signings–
Burnett, Sabathia, Teixeira– all look good now but what will we be saying in five years? You would have to be a complete moron if you can’t admit the Yankees will be a strong team with all the talent they have, but if these deals don’t work out, the Bronx Bombers could be in trouble for years to come.
Starting Rotation Questions
In his eight years since becoming a major league regular back in 2001, A.J. Burnett has made 30 starts only twice, coincidently both during contract seasons. Five-year contracts are a rarity for pitchers, especially one who has as many trips to the DL as he does major league seasons (10). He is clearly a dominant pitcher as he led the AL in strikeouts with 231 last season but the real question will be can he stay healthy over the length of the contract.
C.C. Sabathia got an even longer deal at seven years. Though he only has two brief stints on the DL over his career, you have to wonder how much stress an arm that has thrown 513 innings the past two seasons can take. He has a lot of guaranteed money coming for a long time and it will be scary to think what could happen if he has a major injury early on.
Chien-Ming Wang is another ace in himself as well and has proven himself to be a reliable pitcher but he too is coming off a major injury. The foot injury was a freak thing that happened while running the bases, but when opening day rolls around he will be nearly ten months removed from throwing a pitch in a major league game. In addition, Andy Pettitte will be 37 years old this year and Joba Chamberlain had arm issues last year as well.
A scary thought: If there is an injury, next in line is Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and Ian Kennedy; all of whom are unproven. We’ve seen what 20-plus starts over a season from the likes of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner can do and it certainly won’t be pretty if that were to happen this season.
Backup (Starting) Catcher
After Jorge Posada injured his right shoulder last season, he threw out only 3 of 35 runners before finally throwing in the towel and surrendering to surgery. Though he is supposed to be ready for opening day, it will remain a question as to weather he can still be an adequate major league catcher at 36 years old. Jose Molina is one of the elite defensive catchers in the game, throwing out more than 40% of runners last season, but that comes along with a .576 OPS. With the Yankees budget, it may be worth it to explore all options here or it could get there could be problems at an essential position..
.641, .582: What are these two numbers? They are the OPS’s of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Manny Ramirez had a 1.232 by himself last year and these two couldn’t do that combined. Speaking of which there is no chance Manny will come home to New York with either team. Derek Jeter’s been rumored to be moving out there but we all know that there’s more of a chance of us hearing kanYe West say “Barack Obama doesn’t care about black people” at the next hurricane benefit. Mike Cameron was nearly swapped for Melky but it fell through. I think a position battle is likely in spring training with Gardner winning the majority of the playing time due to the fact there’s nothing Melky can do that he can’t. Plus he has a .389 career OBP in the minors and is equipped with an 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. A quick fix is all that is needed however with highly touted prospect Austin Jackson just one year away.
-This was my first blog post, comment me and let me know how I did.