Tag Archives: Damn Yankees

Why I Want Cliff Lee To Sign With Texas

The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees seem to be the two favorite suitors for Cliff Lee’s left-handed, bulldog, quietly-intense pitching services.  The Yankess have offered him a seven-year deal worth a stupid amount of money each year, and reporters think the Rangers will offer him at least a six-year deal for similarly stupid money.

The Rangers and the Yankees will both be serious impediments to the Mariners making the playoffs in the next six years.  As a Mariner fan, I root for both teams’ failure.  But in considering where I’d prefer Cliff Lee to sign, I realized a way in which my Yankee hating differs from my dislike for other teams: I can endure a Rangers title much more easily than I can suffer a Yankees title. 

The Rangers are a young team built largely around homegrown talent.  Like most teams without bottomless resources, they have a window in which to compete for a title, and that window is now open.  It may be open for another 3-4 years.  I respect “windows,” and I obviously like the implication that the Rangers’ window will eventually close, and they’ll have to rebuild.

The Yankees don’t have windows.  They keep the window open constantly by buying the best players on the market, season after season.  As such, desiring the Yankees’ failure is an exercise in year-to-year vitriol-spewing.  Any title for the Yankees is a disaster, because they are just as likely to win next year, or six years later, as they are this year.

Cliff Lee will sign a contract for about $20 million a year, for 6-7 years.  He will be, in my estimation, one of the best pitchers in the game for the next 2-3 seasons, and then he will decline.  Cliff Lee will not be worth $20 million a year in the last 2-3 seasons of the contract, and as such he will be an anchor on his team’s budget.  Unless he’s a Yankee.  The Yankees can afford to pay anybody, anything, because their resources outpace the economics of the game.  In other words, they can afford a decent 37-year old pitcher making $20 million a year.  They will still be competitive that season.

So let Cliff Lee go to the Rangers.  I will respect, and try to wait out, the next 2-3 seasons of Texas domination in the AL West.  Maybe they’ll win a World Series title, and I will probably be happy for them.  After three seasons or so, Lee will begin to weigh down their budget, hastening the closing of their window, and the Mariners will have a better shot in the division.

The lesson?  Rooting against teams in your own division is an exercise in patience and timing.  Like body surfing, you time the waves and wait for a trough to make your move.  Rooting against the Yankees is like fighting against the inexhaustible spray from a fire hose.  It will never get easier and the water smells of iron.

Yankees vs. Phillies: not as easy a choice as I would like

I am a free thinking, freedom-loving baseball fan unburdened by a moldering conscience or a capitalism fetish.  Thus, I root against the Yankees, particularly during the playoffs. 

Living in Philadelphia these past four years has made me a Phillies fan (particularly with the Mariners not giving me much to write home about).  However, with the prospect of another Yankees-Phillies World Series upon us, I am forced to consider the possibility that the Phillies resemble the Evil Empire more than I would prefer to admit.  So let us examine the two likely starting playoff rosters for each team: 

every player a former or deserving all-star at some point


[WAR numbers from Fangraphs.com.  The salary figures are in the millions.  The sparkle/shit index (SSI) is a carefully constructed metric weighing how much a golden retriever would root for that player in the playoffs.  Positive numbers indicate golden retriever support.] 

I was surprised to see that the Yankees roster manages to overcome A-Rod’s massive -10 SSI and even out to golden retriever-neutral.  This is the time of year when you have to respect the hell out of Rivera for his post-season performances.  Gardner, Granderson and Swisher are all likeable guys worth cheering for.  This is also the time of year when you root against Jeter just to combat the noise of national baseball journalists humping his leg. 

Now to the Phillies: 

only 4 players who have not been all-star caliber at some point


I’m relieved to see significant discrepancies between the Phillies and the Yankees in SSI and salary.  The Phillies also have the best story of the two teams, that of Roy Halladay finally making it to the playoffs.  So it’s clear which team is easier to root for (golden retrievers agree). 

But how about each team’s path to the playoffs?  The Yankees roster is spearheaded by massive free agents Sabathia and Teixeira, plus A-Rod (the Haliburton of baseball players).  The Phillies are less free-agent heavy, but are absolutely banking on Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt to make it through October.  The Phillies used their farm system and financial resources to acquire Halladay and Oswalt from teams who could not afford them.  Very Yankee-like if you ask me. 

So it seems we have two teams here whose financial resources have provided a few key players which separate them from the other strong teams in the league.  Neither team can boast the home-grown, DIY credentials of the Twins or the Rays.  But if roster construction and WAR do not make it clear which cheering section we should occupy this October, the SSI index provides us with an answer: 


Fixing Baseball For Us, Or For Football Fans?

Tom Verducci at SI.com posted an argument for baseball adding a second wild card team and having the two wild cards play a win-or-go-home playoff game at the end of the regular season.  The thesis of his argument is that baseball needs to do more to ‘fix’ its September calendar, which (according to Verducci) rarely contains drama and too easily gets overwhelmed by the start of football season.

I agree with aspects of his essay.  Imagining his system, Verducci makes the strongest argument for his idea:

The Yankees and Rays are in a real race. Now it’s much more important to win your division than the wild card, in which you could get knocked out of the playoffs with one game. It keeps meaning in September games for runaway leaders.

Of course, Texas’s 7-game lead is not seriously challenged by any other team in their division, so this format won’t help all runaway leaders play meaningful games in September.

Other aspects of Verducci’s article are worrisome, however.  Take this quote:

Every NFL game has the feeling of being self-contained, with the stand-alone quality of say a movie as opposed to the serial quality of a baseball series. Baseball games rise to that level of urgency when they are “ultimate” games.

Many baseball fans and writers (this one included) have an inferiority complex in relation to football.  Football is glamorous, sexy, arrogant, and made-for-television.  Yet one of the best parts of baseball is the 162-game schedule, the grind of the season.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Photo finishes are exciting, sure, but they are much more exciting when they happen at the end of a marathon.  Baseball will never be like football, and we shouldn’t change our game to resemble football for the sake of trying to appease football fans.  Please baseball fans first.

Verducci, as a serious baseball fan, is probably quite interested in this September’s games.  Seven of the Yankees’ last 20 games are against the Rays.  Atlanta and Philadelphia have been jockeying for first place for a month, and with Philly, Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado, and St. Louis all within 6 games of each other, winning the NL East is very important indeed.  San Diego’s collapse has suddenly made the NL West a 3-team race.  All this is exciting to any fan who follows the baseball season, or is a fan of any of these teams.  And the notion that the Wild Card makes winning a division less meaningful?  Ask the 22 teams going home in October if  winning the division is meaningful.

The real question here is money, as it usually is with high-level baseball decisions these days.  How much does baseball want to tailor itself to casual fans?  Would baseball tamper with aspects of the game cherished by season ticket holders in favor of the few million disinterested households who would watch an out-of-market elimination playoff game?  From which group does baseball stand to make more money?

Verducci frames his argument with numbers about baseball’s increased TV numbers for the recent elimination playoff games.  In this particular instance, I agree with the proposal to “revamp” baseball’s playoffs.  As long as the extra game did not push the playoffs irretrievably into November, I’m for it.  But we baseball fans who view ourselves as guardians of, and witnesses to, a hallowed sport should analyze our motivations whenever we consider changing the game’s constitution.  Are we improving the game for ourselves?  Or are we sacrificing our values in trying to please an ambivalent football audience whom we will never truly satisfy?

George Steinbrenner Passes Away, Leaving The Yankees’ Rebuilding Project Unfinished

Tampa, FL – This morning George Steinbrenner passed away tragically at the age of 80.  His untimely death cuts short his famous quest to resurrect the once-proud Yankees franchise.

The longtime New York Yankees owner was beloved by Yankee fans (both the real and the fake) for his single-minded pursuit of success.  His measuring stick used only one unit – World Series titles.  Sadly, his death leaves the Yankees stalled in mid-flight.  Steinbrenner led a group of investors in purchasing the franchise in 1973.  Under his ownership, the most famous team in American sports failed to win World Series titles in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979-1995, 1997 and 2001-2008.

The Yankees did briefly recapture the franchise’s glory by winning the World Series last year, but they only won it once in 2009.  When Steinbrenner celebrated his 80th birthday on July 4th (his actual birthday is April 13th), his franchise was back to their maddeningly inconsistent ways.  At the time of his death, the Yankees had not yet won the 2010 World Series.  No Yankee currently leads the American League in home runs, runs, RBI, batting average, or strikeouts.  What’s more, Miguel Cabrera, Ichiro Suzuki, Roy Halladay, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Braun continue to not play for the Yankees.

Relative Costs

2008 GDP: $11.57 billion

  • The estimated cost of the 10-year Haiti rebuilding plan organized on January 25th in Montreal: $3 billion.

These three guys will make $644 million under their current contracts

  • The combined player salaries of the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Boston Red Sox commited from 2009 – 2014: $1.7 billion.

Joe Posnanski Is A Good Journalist

Joe Posnanski is a knowledgable and likable sports writer for Sports Illustrated and the Kansas City Star.  His website is here.  He just put up a short (for him) post about the Yankees’ theft of Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers.  Here is the link to the article.

He may hit 35 home runs and bat 7th...

I’m posting this article because it contains some fascinating and horrifying facts about the 2009 and 2010 Yankees.  If you are a baseball stat head like me, it’s worthwhile reading.  There is a morbid, masochistic fascination driving my sharing of this article.  Like the way you want to talk about the deer you saw get hit by a truck on the highway, even though it gives you the heebie jeebies to think about.