Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

A-Rod And Miami: What We Know

I broke the news here yesterday that representatives of the Yankees and Marlins – later identified elsewhere as New York team president Randy Levine and Miami owner Jeffrey Loria – had discussed a trade that would send the crumbling Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez to the Marlins.

As the supplemental reporting of others indicates, this may have begun as a sarcastic response by Levine to a chimerical wish by Loria. But the ownership groups of both clubs know damn well this is no longer a joke, and they can ameliorate if not solve each other’s problem. A lot of the blockbuster transactions in baseball history have begun as jokes or expressions of exasperations (Manager Leo Durocher’s stunning move from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants in mid-season 1948 comes to mind).

My sources have little else to add today, except to suggest that the Marlins might be willing to swap more of their overpriced stock for Rodriguez and the net differences in salary than previously indicated (say, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle for Rodriguez and 60 million or so). That will all depend, I’m told, on just how much Miami season ticket sales drop after the disastrous 2012 season.

As to the key players, only Rodriguez is talking, saying after the Yankees’ ignominious finish in Detroit that he wanted to remain in New York and would not waive his no-trade clause.

After Yankees’ Senior Vice President/General Manager Brian Cashman had dismissed Wednesday’s report as “100% not true,” reporters Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York and Jon Heyman of CBS then revealed the Levine-Loria conversation, and the sad fact that Cashman apparently didn’t know about it, nor the hotline it created.

Today, another embarrassed executive who was clearly out of the loop – Marlins’ president David Samson – insisted there had been no negotiations, while Heyman and others ran with the explanation that the Rodriguez talk was just a joke made last April during the Yankees’ stadium christening exhibitions at Miami and that was that.

My primary source says Marchand and Matthews have it right. It was an offhand remark that has turned into at least an avenue to discuss an anything-but-offhand trade:

What began as a casual, joking conversation between New York Yankees president Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the possibility of Alex Rodriguez playing for the Marlins may develop into serious trade talks this offseason, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.

Others have dismissed the story because no team is talking trades while it is in the process of being humiliatingly swept out of the playoffs. Of course they don’t. But nor does planning for 2013 freeze just because 2012 games are still being played. Anybody pay attention to the weekend of Yankees’ bench coach Tony Pena? Sunday he had to manage the last three innings after Joe Girardi got ejected. Tuesday he was back in his adjunct role at Girardi’s side. In between, on Monday, he was in…Boston. To interview for the Red Sox manager’s job.

The off-season trades, free agent signings, hirings and firings – and the possible trade of Alex Rodriguez – are all starting now. Right now.

The logic behind moving Rodriguez to Miami is impeccable. Whatever damage A-Rod did not himself do to his reputation, the Yankees have – both on and off the field. They have devalued him as a player (he helped) by the extraordinary step of benching him while the team collapsed. They benched him even against Justin Verlander, against whom he could claim a career 8-for-24 mark with three homers.

They may have even baited him into insubordination. Supposedly by accident, the now imperiled-manager Joe Girardi submitted two different lineups for the rained out Wednesday night ALCS Game 4, one featuring Rodriguez, the other without him. A former major leaguer told me today he wouldn’t be a bit surprised if A-Rod hadn’t seen his name on the initial card and told Girardi where to go – which could easily have been what the Yankees wanted him to do. If you don’t buy that bit of conspiratorial sci-fi, how about weighing whether it’s more likely that for a game that could decide whether or not they kept their jobs Joe Girardi and his coaches ‘accidentally’ wrote out two line-up cards, or the Yankees decided to try to further mess with A-Rod’s head?

It is also speculative, but the Yankees (particularly through the nefarious Howard Rubinstein Public Relations Agency) have long employed the Strategic Leak, with the receiving end usually being The New York Post (for whom Rubinstein also works, in a relationship that mainlines directly to Rupert Murdoch himself). What better and more authoritative source could there be for the Casablanca-like “I’m shocked, shocked, that gambling is going on in here” quality to the Post’s splashy story that Rodriguez was trying to get the phone number of an Australian bikini model during Game 1 of the ALCS, than the Yankees themselves? Who would know she was there? Besides the principals, who would know what the ballboy saw? Who would know all of it? The Yankees. As I alluded to yesterday the autographed-ball-as-groupie-troll bait is probably attempted ten times a day in organized baseball.

But why hurt A-Rod when you’re trying to get rid of him?

Well, that’s easy. You don’t just have to find somebody willing to take him off your hands in a trade that doesn’t humiliate you. You have to convince Rodriguez to drop his no-trade clause. And nothing makes that likelier than being able to say to him ‘did you like the last two weeks? The sports pages? And the gossip pages? Would you like five years of that?’

As many columnists noted today the Yankees have no choice but to put Rodriguez in another uniform ASAP. The reason they gave him a contract through his age 42 season – the pursuit of the career home run record – is now a pointless irrelevancy. The 2009 admission of steroid use has made the ‘clean alternative’ to Barry Bonds into a pathetic joke. And, given his rate of decline and frequency of injury, Rodriguez is a less-than-even-money bet to hit the first home run milestone for which he would get one of those $6,000,000 bonuses. It’s Willie Mays’ total of 660 and Rodriguez ended the 2012 season with 647. A-Rod needs thirteen. He had thirteen as of June 26 this past season. He would hit exactly five more thereafter, in 199 regular season at bats.

You know how many homers a rate like that produces over 500 at bats? Twelve. Thirteen if you round up with a vengeance.

But more relevantly, even if Rodriguez has some sort of Jeterian renaissance ahead of him, the Yankees have spent the last week all but neutering any chance it has of blossoming in New York. They have made him – and many of the other stars – into damaged goods. Ten days ago Girardi was extolling the pricelessness of a consistent line-up. Since that moment he used seven different batting orders in seven games. In the process, he threw virtually everybody in his line-up except Jeter and Russell Martin under the bus.

The Yankees ownership can thus, with fake mournful looks plastered onto their phony faces, not pursue free agent Nick Swisher, and unload Rodriguez at any price, and sign a bunch of cheaper alternatives, because of the crisis they themselves have facilitated. For weeks they’ve been reminding me of the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies.

This is not one of the great teams of history but it was one of the most instructive. The Phils cut through the slightly-favored Dodgers in the NLCS (1-0, 1-4, 7-2, 7-2). Ever seen that Gary Matthews homer slamming off the facade of the second deck at the Vet? That sealed Game 3 and it hit about two feet below my auxiliary press box seat and it sounded like a bomb exploding.

The Phils walked into the Series as nominal favorites over the Orioles. Baltimore seemed to have a slightly better offense but Philadelphia had the pitching. Back of John Denny and Al Holland the Phils took the opener on the road 1-0. But when the Orioles took game two, Manager Paul Owens pulled a stunning move. Even though first baseman Pete Rose had gotten within shouting distance of Ty Cobb’s all time career hits record, and had gone 6-for-16 in the NLCS (5-for-9 in the last two games), Owens benched Rose, citing Rose’s 1-for-8 start in the Series, and swapped in Tony Perez against lefty starter Mike Flanagan. Perez got a weak single and looked like a statue in the field, and Owens undid his move for Game 4, but by then it was too late.

In dropping the last three games, the Phillies scored six runs and they had to blow up the franchise. They released not just Rose but Joe Morgan, too. They sold Perez back to the Reds. They offed veteran reliever Ron Reed. And in the last week of Spring Training they purged Matthews (sending him to Chicago for almost nothing, where he led the Cubs to the 1984 NL West title) and reliever Willie Hernandez (sending him to Detroit for even more almost nothing – and Hernandez won both the Cy Young and the MVP as the Tigers rolled to one of the most dominant seasons of the last 50 years).

The Phils would bubble up to the surface for a fun 1993 NL Championship (the Joe Carter World Series). But excluding that, it would be nine managers and 24 years before they would again finish first.

And the dominos all began to fall when they benched a controversial superstar who was pursuing one of the seminal records of baseball. Now why does that sound so familiar?

 

Updated: Mariano Rivera’s Torn ACL: The Luck Runs Out

Update Friday 5:45 EDT: Mariano Rivera answers one question, tweeting:

Thank you fans, friends and family for your prayers, well wishes and support. I will be ok. I will be back.

He also told reporters in Kansas City “I’m not going out like this.” The under-covered part of this story is not the torn ACL but the addition of the meniscus damage, which Rivera originally knew about, but the Yankees did not. Interestingly-timed piece in the New York Daily News.

Original Post:

(C) YES Network via Associated Press

At the risk of further turning major league baseball pitchers into the equivalents of the pampered and petrified thoroughbred race horses – don’t the Yankees have somebody to shag fly balls forMariano Rivera?

In considering the implications of his likely torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee, it is important to remember that since his days in the low minors, Rivera has included in his pre-game routine fairly vigorous pursuit of batting practice shots. But something then-manager Joe Torre said in 2006 is just as important. Somebody was looking at the Yankees’ lack of outfield depth and wondered if Derek Jeter might be an option in center, and Torre noted that while Jeter would survive there, the man on the team who was easily his best defensive center fielder was Rivera.

Torre’s observation was spoken seriously – Rivera has a great ability to read a fly ball, and is a terrific athlete – but it was not supposed to be taken seriously. But the New York newspapers did, and I actually called Torre to ask him about their extrapolations that this was a hint that Rivera was now somehow the greatest closer of all time and an emergency outfielder.

“Yes, he’s a great outfielder,” Torre said, “He’s always bugging me to let him play there in a game. But does anybody really think I’d be crazy enough to let him play in a game? What if he got hurt?”

Tonight we know the answer. After his pre-game injury sustained trying to chase down a fly off the bat of brand-new Yankee Jayson Nix, Rivera underwent an MRI, and after the Yankees’ 4-3 loss in Kansas City, manager Joe Girardi told reporters that the Royals’ team doctor said he thought the imaging indicated a torn ACL. Any tearing injury to that knee ligament would be severe enough to end Rivera’s season and, at his age, perhaps to his career. “If that’s the report,” Girardi told reporters in a media gaggle carried on the Yankee-owned YES network, “that’s about as bad as it gets.”

Did Rivera’s luck just run out? Did the luck of all pitchers just run out? Will they no longer be allowed to do anything unnecessary on the field? Girardi, whom the New York Times noted got the same ‘put me in coach’ pleading from Rivera as Torre had, thought not: “You can fall off a curb and get hurt. You have to allow him to be an athlete and be a baseball player and have fun out there. I’ve never seen Mo do anything recklessly, I’ve never seen Mo dive or try to rob a home run. It’s one of the way he exercises.”

But the disturbing, harrowing video of Rivera’s injury suggests he was in fact doing something that could be considered reckless, or at least slightly so. Just before his knee buckled, Rivera can be seen stretching his glove arm back over his body in a way he would not ordinarily do during a game, while simultaneously leaping. Can you trust pitchers not to jump, not to feel they have to catch that fly ball that’s just out of their grasp? Can you trust 42-year old future Hall of Famers not to?

Rivera told reporters in Kansas City that if he had to be injured, at least it happened while he was doing something he enjoyed. “Shagging, I love to do. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it again. No hesitation.” He confirmed that “it’s torn” and added a detail Girardi did not mention “meniscus also.” It’s unclear the extent of any injury to the meniscus. Rivera said he had no idea if he would pitch again.

But there is a responsibility to balance a player’s rituals and athleticism – and fun – and the inevitability of the clock running out. Decades ago, the Yankees moved Mickey Mantle from center to first base in hopes of preserving his knees and his career a season or two more. Even now Joe Mauer’s future – catcher, first baseman, or outfielder – is debated.

And with time, we reassess what a player should and should not be allowed to do. Jim Lonborg helped to pitch the “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox into the World Series, and won the 1967 Cy Young Award. That winter he tore up a leg while skiing, and soon player contracts began to be peppered with clauses prohibiting them from participating in dangerous sports. 26 years later, Texas Rangers’ manager Kevin Kennedy acceded to Jose Canseco’s wishes and let him throw 33 pitches in a blowout game against the Red Sox at Fenway. By the end of another incidence of letting a player do what he wanted, the blowout was in Canseco’s elbow and he would require Tommy John surgery. And just this past winter, the New York Mets made it clear that pitcher R.A. Dickey could go ahead with his plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but if he were injured, they would exercise their right to void his contract.

Girardi is right: Shagging flies has always been integral to Rivera’s pre-game routine, his exercise regimen, and his simple enjoyment of baseball. But that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, nor the smart thing – just that nobody this good had previously sustained a potentially career-threatening injury. And Joe Torre’s rhetorical question about what would happen if Rivera were injured playing center underscores another essential element. If it had happened that way, it would at least have happened in a game, presumably for some vital or unavoidable reason, and not because a future Hall of Famer just had to throw himself off balance because his competitiveness demanded that he go all out to catch a batting practice fly ball.

With Rivera’s career potentially over, will teams try to curb their pitchers’ non-essential on-field activities? The answer may lie in another question: When Kendrys Morales of the Angels sustained a devastating fractured ankle during a team celebration after his walk off grand slam two years ago this month, didn’t we all assume we had seen the end of the ‘group jump’?

No Tex, Lots Of Texas

The bad news for the Yankees is that Mark Teixeira suffered a Grade 2 strain of the hamstring and will miss the rest of the season.

The good news for the Yankees is that likely means he’s only going to miss one game.
Ron Washington, concurring that to beat this crumbling but still dangerous New York team requires treating them like vampires, did exactly that the last two nights, managing as intensely in the 9th Inning as he did in the 1st. The results are obvious and the Yanks’ best news is probably that ex-Golden Gloves boxer “Grim LeRogue” didn’t get close enough Monday night to try to beat up Alex Rodriguez in some kind of expression of obsession with actress Cameron Diaz.
The Rangers did it for him, and not just to A-Rod. As it proves, should’ve been a sweep. The questions are obvious: why wasn’t Joe Girardi satisfied with five two-run innings from A.J. Burnett? How is Sergio Mitre at the playoffs without a ticket? Just leave the pile of queries in a box for the next manager.
One non-ALCS note: Barry Bonds at the Giants game. Just me or did it look like he lost weight? From his head!
Let’s go to the pretty pictures:
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More than a little fuzzy (sorry). But the gentleman leaning on the seat ahead of him, hands together, upper left, is Nolan Ryan. In the lower right, Mayor Mike Bloomberg. This was taken Monday Night, but each deserves a shout-out. Bloomberg stayed until nearly the final out of each Yankee debacle and despite the vast numbers of empty seats, Ryan politely stayed in his 6th row locale.

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Delighted to find Mgr. Washington is a viewer of the tv show. We had two nice chats pre-game and he did a heckuva job. On the right of course, Martha Stewart, who, so long ago, on Opening Day, took a picture of me and tweeted it to her followers, so tonight I took this picture and tweeted it to both her followers and my own.
Big celeb night, half the cast of Saturday Night Live in the front row (Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, producer Lorne Michaels and that could’ve easily been this week’s host Emma Stone). Across the aisle from Martha: Mark Cuban. Upstairs, Michael Jordan and Jay-Z. 
And any of them could’ve pitched better than Sergio Mitre.
One more photo, this is from Monday night – a friend of the blog. That is your Toronto Blue Jays’ rehabbing reliever and author (hard at work at his sequel to the now classic Bullpen Gospels, to say nothing of trying to explain pitching to me) Dirk Hayhurst:
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Minor League Cards: Playoff Edition

While all eight teams are still there (for the moment) I thought this was a suitable time to salute the managers, and show them in the blossom of youth, on minor league (or in two cases, even more exotic) baseball cards from decades back.

Some you’ve seen before and some you haven’t, and we’ll start with the American League matchups:
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We’ve shown the “Only Maddon” here before, from the 1976 TCMA Quad City Angels set. That’s Ron Washington from ProCards’ 1987 Rochester set. Washington appeared in about half a dozen minor league sets over more than a decade, dating back to his days as a top infield prospect in the Dodgers’ system. To continue:
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Yup. Gardy, captured in the Pacific Coast League in ProCards ’87 edition. A year later he’d be shown again, as the rookie manager of the Twins’ farm at Kenosha, Wisconsin – part of the same set that shows the young Joe Girardi of Pittsfield of the Eastern League. One of his pitchers that year was Mike Harkey, and joining both of them on the EL All-Star Team, Dave Eiland of Albany. Eiland and Harkey are Girardi’s pitching coaches today.
To the National, and we go very far afield for these:
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That is a TCMA 1979 Japanese Leagues issue card of Charlie Manuel, DH of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, clearly the creators of the busiest batting helmets in baseball history, American, Japanese, or probably anywhere else. By ’87 Manuel would be back in Portland, serving as Ron Gardenhire’s last manager! The Dusty Baker card on the right is from a team-sponsored set put out by the Richmond Braves of the International League in 1971.
And to finish off the playoff managerial match-ups:
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   We’re getting very international here. That, in a 1982 TCMA Tidewater Tides card, is the only French-born manager in the bigs, Mr. Bochy of the Giants. To the right, the 1967-68 Venezuelan Winter League card of Bobby Cox, still, at that point, three or four months away from his major league playing debut with the Yankees.

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Of course as I write this, Coxy has already been ejected from Game 2 of the NLDS, so obviously I’d be remiss to not include the bench coach who succeeded him at the helm of the Braves. That victim of misspelling on the 1987 ProCards Gastonia set is indeed Chino Cadahia, not “Cadania,” now on Cox’s staff in Atlanta just 23 years later.
Cadahia had some team in that season in the South Atlantic League: three kids named Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, and Sammy Sosa. In something that should tell you something, Cadahia and Gastonia finished with 58 wins and 82 losses.
And let’s just finish things off with two of the announcers covering these division series. On the right is a familiar figure on the Mets’ telecast (and that same 1982 TCM
A Tidewater set that depicted Bochy). The other one is a rookie and he’s bounced around among three teams this year: TBS, MLB Network, and PeachTree, but he might make it. I mean, if he can survive the experience of being on the Pro Cards’ 1987 Glens Falls Tigers card set, I suppose he can survive anything. 
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Some Yankees/Red Sox, With Pictures

I am told that the meeting Saturday night in which Joe Girardi “decided” to start Phil Hughes against the Red Sox Sunday night, was not limited to uniformed personnel and General Manager Brian Cashman. At least one other person was involved, couldn’t confirm who it was. The reversal proved invaluable as Hughes offered his cleanest outing in weeks and he may have staunched the Yankee bleeding for the moment.

The question remains what and who the Yankees can rely on in the post-season. Anything past CC Sabathia is a guess; it would seem it would be wise to try to give Hughes a rest until the playoffs begin, and pin second-starter hopes on him, and then see what Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett and even Ivan Nova might give you.

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Lost in the Yankees’ walk-off (literally) victory; this was the Stadium farewell for Mike Lowell, drafted originally by New York so long ago that Buck Showalter was still the Yankee Manager (Round 20, 1995, they sent him to Oneonta of the NY-Penn League where he hit exactly one homer in 313 plate appearances). Lowell would get fifteen Yankee at bats in 1998 before going in a foolish trade to Florida for pitcher Ed Yarnall and two others. 
One of my favorite memories of the game is an afternoon in Fort Myers in 2009 when I spent the first four innings of a Boston exhibition game on the bench between Lowell and Wakefield (at that point they had 29 years of big league experience between them). Of course we talked everything but baseball. Lowell remains one of the game’s classiest acts, and when I told him the game just wouldn’t be the same without him, he reassured us “I’ll be around.” He could succeed in anything from coaching, to ownership, to announcing. 
Two other photos are offered. On the right, that’s a tv viewer of mine, the rookie Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson. In the shot at the left is SNL’s Jason Sudeikis, further down the front row in seats belonging to Lorne Michaels. Having dropped enough names I’ll leave you with this most bizarre of stats: I got to see 16 Yankee games from the seats this season and the home team won fifteen of them.
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See you Tuesday and Wednesday as Ken Burns premieres his PBS Baseball documentary follow-up, “The Tenth Inning.”

Expectations And More Minor Leaguers

My apologies for my negligence here of late. It’s been busy.

I hope to expand on each of these items separately in the next week, but watching the Rays, Rangers, and Reds flourish (as predicted in March/April) I’ll get cocky and make a few late-season and off-season forecasts:
The Red Sox got so hurt that the Yankee late-season fold (also predicted here) can’t be so bad as to include sliding completely out of the playoff picture. But if they don’t at least get back to the Series I would now expect pitching coach Dave Eiland to be dismissed, and possibly manager Joe Girardi with him. Take the bizarre pitching decisions of this Tampa series and add them to the skid Girardi steered them into during the playoffs against the Angels last year, and you have an issue that seems to become a crisis when the chips are really down.
I also would not be at all surprised to see both New York teams have new shortstops next year. Given the number of Gotham reporters and their traditional fixation with the bad, it really is amazing how little has been written about the deterioration of Jose Reyes’ defense. The Mets will at least try to trade him this winter. And in the Bronx, if it were anybody but Derek Jeter, reporters would’ve tried to run him out of town by now. Jeter has completely collapsed offensively, and is, from what I’ve been told, not handling it or the attempts to correct it, very well. At the present rate of decline he has no bargaining position in the free agent winter ahead and his best hope to stay in New York is on a one-year deal at a (comparatively) low salary and some kind of token, face-saving mutual option. If not he will be an offensive question mark picked up by a team hoping to capitalize on his reputation and his past.
Venturing further afield, I am beginning to suspect Ryne Sandberg will not get the Cubs’ managerial job. There is a future for him at Wrigley Field if he wants it, but the internal reviews of his work running Cubs’ farm clubs these last few years turns out to be far less sanguine than I had been previously told.
Now, for your dining and dancing pleasure, a few more of those wonderful minor league baseball cards of current big league figures:
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Yes, it’s General Managers – three current, one former/possibly soon-to-be-again. That’s Doug Melvin of the Brewers on a Neil Sussman set of the 1975 Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League, Billy Beane of the A’s from ProCards’ Portland PCL set from 1987, Kevin Towers (formerly of the Padres, perhaps next of the Mets) in the same company’s Las Vegas PCL set from a year later, and Philly’s Ruben Amaro in his pro debut at Salem of the Northwest League in ’87.

Your All-Star Controlled Scrimmage

Jayson Stark tweets that All-Star Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel were told to pick one “multi-position” player to their teams, which explains, if not excuses, the ludicrous selections of Omar Infante of Atlanta and Ty Wigginton of Baltimore. 

They are not All-Stars. They do not play every day. They are a kind of baseball equivalent of Special Teams guys, and that’s okay if that’s the way you want the All-Star Game to devolve. But you have taken it from an All-Star Game in which the actual stars often used to play the entire game, to an All-Star exhibition in which the roster is framed around a fans’ popularity vote, to one in which it is further restricted by a requirement that each team have a representative, to an All-Star Controlled Scrimmage in which a few more of the precious discretionary roster spots are awarded based on very narrowly defined “success.”
“Multi-Position Players”? “Middle Relievers”? What next, “Pinch-Hitters”? “Top Rule 5 Picks”? I mean, you could legitimize the ludicrous talk of having The Strasburg pitch in the game seven starts into his career by making sure a place on each team was reserved for “Top Rookies Brought Up Late To Avoid Super Two Arbitration Status.” And when you get to that point – and we’re close enough as it is – just call the thing on Monday “The Home Run Hitting Contest,” and the thing on Tuesday “All-Star Pitching Warm-Ups and Batting Practice.”
To expand on the issue of Middle Relievers, I have no problem with them. When Joe Torre put Mike Stanton on the 2001 All-Star team, many howled, I did not. But they have to be having a season that is as proportionately good as any Closer or Starter. And I don’t think Matt Thornton of the White Sox or Evan Meek of the Pirates are close to the top. Thornton is not an embarrassing pick (another tweet today suggested a good MLB scout considered him one of baseball’s top ten relievers – though I’d argue that surely at least one of the Padres’ Mike Adams, Heath Bell, or Luke Gregerson deserves to be ahead of him on that last, as does Bard of Boston, and very possibly Kuo of the Dodgers).
But I went a little further into the selection of Meek and it is just indefensible. 
Meek has pitched brilliantly this season. Obviously leads in Pittsburgh are scarce, but not impossible: Octavio Dotel has as many Saves as Jonathan Papelbon and one more than Mariano Rivera. One can argue that an All-Star Reliever – like Evan Meek – is more valuable with the Pirates than he is with the Yankees because leads are such a precious thing. Yet though he has pitched 38 times this year, the Bucs have only used Meek twelve times when they were ahead, and only five other times when they were tied. 
He comes to the All-Star table with more than half of his statistics compiled in games already lost, or nearly so. Twelve appearances with a lead. Ten appearances with his team already losing by three runs or more. These just aren’t the circumstances in which the other nine All-Star relievers have had their mettle tested. That he has been spectacular in 21 meaningless games, and less so in 17 others, is a virtual disqualification for consideration. You’re a step up from factoring how well guys did in AAA this year, or on Rehab, or in the AFL last fall.
It is also discouraging to how Meek has fared in the middle relievers’ equivalent of “Close And Late”:
Twelve Meek Appearances With Lead:
Games Saved:                                1
Games Held:                                   5
Games Won:                                   1
Blown Saves:                                  5*
No Win, Hold, Save, or BS:              1
“Record”:                                  7*-5-1
   * Blown Save 4/13, received Win
Five Meek Appearances In Ties:
Games Won:                                   2
Games Lost:                                   2
No Won or Loss:                              1
“Record”:                                    2-2-1

Even giving him both statistics in that April 13th game against the Giants in which he inherited a runner in the sixth, then gave up a single and a groundout producing the tie run, and then becoming the pitcher of record in what was ultimately a Pittsburgh victory, Meek, “Close And Late,” is 9-7-2. It’s counted seventeen times, and he has failed on seven of those occasions, and only twice because he inherited a runner and let him score.

Not only that, but the Pirates seem to be using him ‘when it counts’ less frequently as the season has worn on. Seven of his first fourteen appearances came while Pittsburgh was ahead or tied, and eleven of his first twenty-one were. Only six of his last seventeen have been.
I know this reads as if I’m beating up on Evan Meek. I’m not. He’s got great natural gifts and after years of struggle, his dedication to his craft and his willingness to learn has made him a valued major leaguer. I understand about the jigsaw puzzle that is the All-Star Roster (if Andrew McCutchen is actually the Bucs’ All-Star – and he is – then Michael Bourn can’t go representing the Astros and suddenly you’re making Matt Lindstrom or Brandon Lyon an All-Star). It’s not personal (it actually startles me that Pittsburgh, in another rebuilding season, hasn’t worked him into more pressure situations; heck, I even had him on my rotisserie league team for a month earlier in the season, and I take that stuff way too seriously). But the statistics of how they are using him suggest that no matter how good he might look against an individual batter or even in an individual game, the Pirates use him as if he were the second or even third best middle reliever on their team.
And when the second or third best middle reliever on the worst team in the league is an All-Star, it’s no longer the All-Star Game.

Jean Afterman Talks A Little Smack

As Joe Girardi and President Obama held the World Series Trophy, the verbal jousting at the White House between The White-Sox-Fan-In-Chief and an “unidentified” member of the party of New York Yankees has already been wildly misquoted to include words like “hate.” It actually went thusly, according to a careful review of the audio on the videotape:

Yankee: Wanna hold it? You may not get the chance to again!

President: And you wonder why the other teams don’t root for them.

The “unidentified” speaker is Jean Afterman, Vice President and Assistant General Manager, and the executive in charge of the Yanks’ international player procurement.

Jackie Robinson Night – Finale

The superb symmetry did not end with two homers by Robinson Cano – named, of course, for Jackie Robinson. The Yankees were forced to get the last out in a 6-2 win over the Angels from the last man grandfathered in to wear Robinson’s uniform number 42, Mariano Rivera.

Mentioned earlier: Rachel Robinson’s marvelously youthful presence as she nears her 88th birthday. We steal a “screen grab” to show you Rachel, right…
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MLB NETWORK

Jackie and Rachel’s daughter Sharon, on the left, with Yankee manager Joe Girardi, and Rachel on the right.
GROWN MEN HAVE BEEN SEEN CRYING:
Less impressive photography – we continue to watch the slow-motion demolition of the old Yankee Stadium, with perspective provided by the Elevated train station at 161st Street:
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What remains of the stands used to stretch from the plate to first base. The serrated quality of the concrete chunks in the foreground suggests they were either from the Upper Deck in left, or the bleachers in left-center. Just one more:
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I guess this one speaks for itself. Foreground, of course, the stairs from the Downtown “4” train. Towards the back, towards the left, the large upright object is, of course, the giant “bat” (an exhaust pipe) that still stands in what was the plaza behind home plate. It sure looks like it’s been taped up like an old fungo bat.
THE MEDIA GUIDE, R.I.P.:
One last note about destruction. First it was The Sporting News, discontinuing in 2008 the annual Baseball Guide (publication of which they took over from Spalding in 1941) and the annual Baseball Register (which they rolled out in ’41). Now the New York Yankees have stopped distributing “sets” of MLB media guides to non-beat writers. An annual tradition of spring has been the lugging of the ever larger of 30 books to the car (or if you’re city-bound, via subway) and then home. 
The beginning of the end: the Yankees are offering the guides… as a flash drive!

Can we slow down? I only started tweeting last week!

No Hits, No Jinx, No Humor, No Bobby

How many teams can see their ace carry a no-hitter into the 8th and still create a handful of controversies out of it?

Firstly, the question about pulling CC Sabathia out of the game at the end of the inning whether he had the no-hitter going or not, was academic. It assumes that with his rising pitch count, Sabathia was going to throw 10 to 25 more pitches without losing enough on them to give up a hit (which obviously he did anyway). Secondly, why on earth did Joe Girardi say anything about it – it had already happened and all he could possibly do was deflate Sabathia after a thrilling day and great game. Thirdly, no, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver did not cause Sabathia to lose the no-hitter by saying the word “no-hitter” 224 times. I have a tape of the famous 1969 Tom Seaver game where he lost a perfect game in the ninth courtesy an obscure Cubs’ utilityman named Jimmy Qualls. The Mets’ radio announcers meticulously avoided ever saying “no-hitter” – and he still lost it.
MOCK COURT:
Remember my speculation last week that there was something wrong with the baseballs? The covers were too slick, or the stitches too high, or something that was causing pitchers and fielders to have trouble with gripping it, and led to them sailing it, sometimes as hilariously as Carlos Zambrano? Garrett Mock of the Nationals complained about it Friday night, and Mets’ scout Bob Melvin mentioned to me yesterday that he’d seen and heard about it too.
HAYHURST PANNED:
“In spite of the cover blurbs from well-known baseball personalities trumpeting how howlingly funny the book (The Bullpen Gospels) is,” writes Chaz Scoggins of the paper in Lowell, Mass., “I found it tolerably droll. ‘Ball Four,’ now that was hilarious.”
This must be taken in context. Years ago, Mr. Scoggins thought it would be really hilarious to invite me to host the annual Boston baseball writers’ dinner – without telling me that I was going to have to personally present an award to another baseball figure with whom I was having a very public feud (who, me?). This was a variation of the original plan in which I was to merely introduce whoever was to present the award. I found out as we all walked out to the dais. “Surprise!,” Scoggins said to me (conveniently the other figure skipped, possibly because he’d found out I was presenting). So, in short, Mr. Scoggins does not have an adult sense of humor.
GRATUITOUS BOBBY COX TRIBUTE:

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Thought this might be a treat. Three seldom-seen items from the collection, pertaining to the soon-to-retire skipper of the Braves, dating from the opposite end of his career. In fact, they all are from a time before I knew Bob. We met in Spring Training of 1978 – if you can believe that – when I was the most fledgling reporter imaginable, and he gave me a very cordial and respectful interview even though I was, in short, a moron. This first image is from his two-year career in the Yankee infield, as the starting third baseman for much of 1968, and then as a utility guy in 1969. It’s an unused photo from the files of the Topps Company and is theirs, please, with copyright and everything. He’s younger, but you can see he already looks like the manager he was to become.
Below is a card from a beautiful set from Venezuela and the once dominant winter league there, in 1967-68. Kind of formal with the third baseman’s first name.
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Coxy’s ascent to management was far more rapid in Venezuela than the U.S. By the winter of 1974-75, the card of Mr. Cox of the Lara Cardenales showed him as the manager. Maybe more importantly, it showed him as…Roberto?
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