All Yankees, all the time

Looking for my writing? Check out River Ave. Blues, the new home of my baseball writings on the Internet. Good stuff.

From The Accomplishment Department

Joe Morgan graced ESPN’s SportsNation with his most idiotic chat of the season today. I’ll have more later, but enjoy this nugget. It’s quite an accomplishment.

Cody (Minneapolis): Its possible that the Twins could have the AL Cy Young winner, the AL batting champ and the AL MVP. Has that ever happened before?

SportsNation Joe Morgan: That’s a great question. I’m not sure if it’s ever happened before. It would be a great accomplishment. I’m not sure if it ever happened before, but it could have happened a different way with a pitcher winning the Cy Young and MVP with a batting title, but I’m not sure about three different players. That would be quite an accomplishment.

Is Clemens to blame for Astros’ struggles?

The season is just going to end too soon for the Houston Astros. Down 7.5 games heading into a pivotal weekend series against the Cardinals, the Astros, powered by Roger Clemens’ potentially final home start in Houston, swept St. Louis to leave Deadspin’s Will Leitch cowering in the corner and Houston fans hoping and praying that their team can overcome a 3.5 game deficit with seven left to play.

Roger Clemens last night was the hero of Houston. He received a warm send-off from a crowd that believes, barring a miracle, Clemens will not pitch again in Houston for the Astros. Will he retire? Who knows. But it’s hard to imagine the Astros shelling out another $20 million for the Rocket’s services.

But around the Internet, an interesting theme has arisen. As Travis Nelson wrote on Double Play Depth, maybe the Astros’ eventual elimination for postseason contention is the Rocket’s fault. He compellingly argues:

If Clemens had decided what he wanted to do in say, January, like the rest of the 700 or so guys who have played in the major leagues this season, the Astros could have had him starting games in April and May, and early June. they could have gotten roughly another 100 or so innings out of him in that span, which would have kept 24-year old rookie RHP Taylor Buchholz in the minors, where he clearly belonged.

Nelson argues that Clemens would have replaced 14 bad starts with Roger Clemens-like outings:

That makes 14 starts, 81 innings, and 52 earned runs. Clemens, with a more or less typical Rocket-esque performance in those starts, could probably have amassed something like 100 innings, allowing half as many earned runs, about 26, which could have netted the team three more wins.

Three more wins for the Astros right now would have been the difference between life and death. Instead of 3.5 out with 7 left to play, they could be potentially just 0.5 games out with 7 left to play. In my opinion though, Nelson underestimated Clemens’ importance. I think Clemens could have meant five more wins for the team, and a view from the top heading into the homestretch. I have no scientific evidence for that, but it’s just a hunch taking a look at how poorly the Astros’ number five starters performed.

However – and this is a big however – let’s not forget about 2005. Roger Clemens, not a young man, broke down in 2005. He couldn’t make it through the regular season and postseason. So if the Astros bring back Clemens in April instead of June, does he break down again? The blame might not fall on his shoulders.

Rather, I would like to blame the Astros’ management for wasting Clemens’ rehab starts. After his first two Minor League outings, it was clear that Clemens still had it. Why not just bring him up to the Big Leagues then? Give him one extra start, one more shot at a win. That could end up being the difference in the NL Central.

Of course, what’s funny about this situation is that if the Astros do overcome the very long odds, Clemens will have a chance to once again be a postseason hero. Hey, you never know.

Angelos: Protesters have “no comprehension” of baseball costs

After a few months’ hiatus, Talking Baseball is back in action. Bookmark the site, add the RSS feed to your favorite feed reader, check back often and comment. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite owner: Peter Angelos.

Today, over one thousand Orioles fans walked out of the Orioles-Tigers game at 5:08 p.m. to protest what they viewed as Peter Angelos’ inept management of the team. Angelos disagreed.

“Whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team,” Angelos said in an interview with the AP. “When you get down to facts, putting together a team that can compete in the AL East means having a payroll between $100-$110 million. That money comes from the consumer, and I have chosen to keep ticket prices to a minimum.”

I that is, to mince words, a load of crap. Let’s look at some payroll numbers.

The Orioles have a payroll, according to ESPN, of $72,585,712. That is 15th among all 30 clubs and 7th highest in the American League.

Of the seven AL teams that pay their players less overall than the Orioles, five of them have better records. The other two are the Royals and the Devil Rays.

I don’t know what Angelos’ finances look like, but from this very rudimentary study, I can tell you that he is full of it. The Blue Jays, with a $71 million payroll, were fairly competitive in the AL East throughout most of the summer. The A’s, with a payroll of $62 million, are just three games worse than the Yankees.

As much as Angelos doesn’t want to admit it, it’s not about the costs of running a baseball team. It’s about putting good people in the front office who know how to use their limited resources to put a competitive product on the field, and it’s about putting your faith in those people and letting them do their jobs. As long as Angelos continues to spout of rhetoric about the costs of running an MLB team instead of addressing his team’s shortcomings, these Orioles’ protesters’ actions will be for naught.

New report praises, slams MLB for diversity

Attaining diversity in sports requires a tough balancing act, and writing about gender and race issues can be just as tough. But with today’s release of The 2005 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball from the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, I want to take this opportunity to delve into the issue of diversity in Major League Baseball.

On one hand, winning in professional sports is all about putting the best players on the field at all times. Since 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, baseball has realized that the best players come from all walks of life and race. If someone can play or produce, this person will be on the team regardless of superficial qualities.

On the other hand, front office and executive management can represent an entirely different deck of cards. The Commissioner’s Office wants to see the best and brightest in the front offices, and they also want to bring the sport to a wider audience through various community outreach programs often targeted at minority populations. While I would like to think that color is not important on the field, in the offices, diversity is vital for the continued success and growth of Major League Baseball as business.

Grading Baseball: An Overview of the Report

With the release of The 2005 Racial and Gender Report Card, we can see just how well Major League Baseball is doing promoting diversity and where they need to see improvement. Before heading into this territory, I want to briefly mention methodology. Richard Lapchick and Stacy Martin, the report’s authors, note the way in which they grade baseball on its efforts at attaining diversity:

To give it perspective for sports fans, the Institute issues the grades in relation to overall patterns in society. Federal affirmative action policies state that the workplace should reflect the percentage of the people in the racial group in the population. Thus, with approximately 24 percent of the population being people of color, an A was achieved if 24 percent of the positions were held by people of color, B if 12 percent of the positions were held by people of color, and C if it had only nine percent. Grades for race below this level were assigned a D for six percent or F for any percent equal to or below five percent.

For issues of gender, an A would be earned if 40 percent of the employees were women, B for 35 percent, C for 30 percent, D for 25 percent and F for anything below that. The 40 percent is also taken from the federal affirmative action standards.

With this standard in place, baseball fared decently in racial diversity, garnering a B+ for their efforts, but the sport did poorly in gender diversity managing just a D+ down from a C a year ago. In other words, women are woefully underepresented in Front Office positions in baseball.

Delving further into the data, we see that baseball has assembled a diverse array of players. The sport received an A or better for “player opportunities, managers and coaches as well as for the MLB Central Office.” According to the report, “In the 2005 MLB season 59.9 percent of the players were white, 8.5 percent were African-American, 28.7 percent were Latino and 2.5 percent were of Asian descent.” Furthermore, players born outside the United States comprise 27.4 percent of those on rosters this Opening Day. On the field, baseball is an international game.

The MLB Central Offices receive high grades for racial diversity and low grades for gender diveristy. Furthermore, there is only one person of color among the elite group of baseball owners – Arte Moreno of the Orange County Angels – and, with the Brewers out from under Wendy Selig’s control, no women in the group. This picture does not look to improve in the near future as the groups under consideration to buy the Nationals are largely made up of white men.

As far as the clubs are concerned, the seven managers of color who all were managing during parts or all of the 2005 season represent a success in the eyes of this report card. Four of the managers were African-American; three were Latino. However, Tony Pena and Lloyd McClendon have since been fired and were replaced by white men. Thirty-nine percent of Major and Minor League coaches are men of color.

Despite all of this high scores on the field, Major League Baseball begins to suffer off the field. Ken Williams is the only black GM, making the White Sox the only team with people of color in both the General Manager and Manager positions. The Mets’ Omar Minaya is the only other GM of color. Baseball gets a D in the General Manager category.

In team executive offices, just 15 percent of Vice Presidents are women and only 13.2 percent are women of color. Furthermore, women hold just 27.7 percent of senior administration positions over all. Baseball is also lagging when it comes to diversity in professional administration positions such as administrative assistants, staff assistants and receptionists.

A Case Study on Baseball’s ‘Thinking Positions’

With these numbers painting some positive trends and some negative trends, the report’s authors took at look at what they called the “stacking” trends of certain positions on the field. This is where the report heads into the territory of race relations in baseball. The report’s authors wanted to identify the percentage of African Americans playing one of three so-called “thinking positions”: pitcher, catcher and third baseman. In 2005, the categorizations were changed to pitcher, catcher and infield. The results were surprising:

Only three percent of pitchers, one percent of catchers and 11 percent of infielders were African-American. It is worth noting that in 2004 when the Report Card looked at the isolated position of third baseman versus the entire infield, the percent of African-Americans was only five percent. The percentage of African-American pitchers is less than one half of what it was in 1983. Twenty-six percent of outfielders, who rely on speed and reactive ability, were African-American during the 2005 MLB season. This was nearly three times the percentage of African-Americans in MLB.

Texas playing for more than just a division

Now that the Astros have reached the World Series, the Texas Rangers have inherited the title of Least Successful Expansion Era team. But that could change this year. If this team can stay competitive in the American League West through June, a 43-year-old savior could swoop in and deliver them elusive October success.

In 1961, the Texas Rangers — then the second Washington Senators team — were the new kids in town. The original Washington Senators had just pulled up stakes and moved to Minneapolis, and Major League Baseball awarded Washington another Senators team and Gene Autry got his Angels in Los Angeles. These two new additions to the Major League Baseball roster kicked off a period of expansion that would see baseball go from 16 teams in 1960 to 30 teams by 1998. The sport’s rapid expansion was a testament to the ever-growing population in America (and eventually Canada) and its increasing popularity in society.

Eleven unremarkable seasons after their creation, the second Washington Senators team left the socially struggling and stagnant District of Columbia for greener (or is that whiter?) pastures in Arlington, Texas. By 1994, after 33 seasons of futility, October baseball games seemed to be in Texas’ future. Even with a 52-62, the Rangers on August 11 were one game ahead of the second-place Oakland Athletics.

But fate in the form of a lockout intervened, and the Rangers would not see October ball until 1996 when they were swept by the Yankees in the Divisional Series. The Rangers would make the playoffs again in 1998 and 1999, but they would be on the receiving end of the great Yankee Dynasty of the 1990s. They managed just one playoff victory in 1996 and went 1-9 against the Yankees during their three futile attempts at reaching the ALCS.

Since losing in 1999, the Rangers have finished last in the division four times and third twice. Despite an explosive offense, the Rangers just haven’t found the pitching they need to win in the highly competitive American League West. But this year the stakes are higher: Roger Clemens’ return to baseball looms large in the minds of the Rangers…

Aaron’s 755 looks safe for now

Henry Aaron has been largely silent as Barry Bonds zeroes in on his home run record.

While he praised Selig for doing the right thing in appointing an investigation into steroids in baseball, he guardedly said he would congratulate Bonds if Barry were reach 756. “I wouldn’t say anything, just ‘God Bless You,'” Aaron said to the Associated Press. Can you really blame him for this reservation?

During his run at Ruth’s record in the 1970s, Aaron was on the receiving end of a lot of racist backlash. Now, thirty years later, Bonds is suffering in the eyes of the public but for vastly different reasons. Aaron’s treatment reflected the strain of race relations in the United States. Bonds’ treatment shows what happens in the court of public opinion to someone who may have cheated. While Bonds tries to play the race card, fans are hesitant at best to embrace his pursuit of the record because of his close ties to the BALCO court case and baseball’s current steroid scandal.

For Aaron, Bonds’ pursuit must be something to watch because these two players, while both immensely talented, have put together vastly different career profiles. Bonds, now famous for his late-career resurgence, has always been a flashy player. He made enemies in Pittsburgh with the Pirates’ management and took to calling Andy Van Slyke the Great White Hope because Slyke was better paid and more well-liked them him.

But for his attitude and talk, Bonds has been miles better than any other player in baseball even when you don’t consider his home runs. He won Gold Gloves seven times out of eight years in the 1990s. He won three MVP awards in the early 1990s and four so far in the twenty-first century. He’s topped 500 stolen bases and has over 2700 career hits.

While Bonds has put up gaudy totals in spurts while maintaining an overall level of excellence, Aaron was consistently at the top of his game from 1955 until 1973…

Yankees’ poor start a case of bad luck

If someone told me a week ago that the Yankees, in their first six games, would score 35 runs, I would be ecstatic. Nearly six runs a game! That’s fantastic.

If that same person told the Yankees, in those first six games, would only surrender 23 runs and just 17 earned runs for an ERA of 3.04, second best in the AL, I would be in shock. The pitching is outperforming all expectations, I would say.

And then, if you told me that the Yankees, with these numbers, would be just 2-4 after what many are considering a disaster of a West Coast road trip, I would say, “Hold your horses. The Yankees have just been the victims of some bad luck to start the season.”

After their 10-1 drubbing of the Los Angeles de Los Angeles this afternoon, that is exactly where things stand. The Yankees, despite a slow offensive start, are averaging nearly six runs per game. Their pitching meanwhile has given up just 17 earned runs. Yet, the team is just 2-4 sitting three games behind those hated Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

While many fans are sounding the alarm, I would like to take a step back and evaluate the first six games of the season. It’s really not that bad.

First, the Yankees defense contributed to one of these unfortunate losses. Had Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano not committed errors in key situations during Wednesday’s 9-4 loss in Oakland, the Yanks would be 3-3. Those errors were responsible for many of those AL-leading six unearned runs the Yankees have surrendered. Tighter would have given the Yankees one of those games.

Second, Joe Torre’s poor managerial decisions contributed to one loss. On Tuesday, in a game tied at 3 in the 9th, Torre went with the distracted Scott Proctor. Proctor, the last pitcher out of the bullpen, had been home dealing with an emergency operation for his young daughter. While Proctor blew the game, Mariano Rivera, the Yanks’ best reliever, watched from the bullpen. A better decision by Torre could bring the Yanks to a hypothetical 4-2.

Finally, against the Angels, the Yankees were just victims of bad, bad luck. During last night’s game, the Angels made four key defensive plays that all saved the game. Had any of those plays not been made, the Yankees could be returning home from the road trip 5-1.

That is not to say that everything is perfect in Yankee-land. We’ve seen the flaws of the Yankees up close and personal. Their defense is shoddy; they’re bench is just plain awful; and the team may be putting too much pressure on themselves to hit home runs. When they returned to basics on Sunday with run-scoring doubles and timely base hits, they won. On Friday and Saturday, everyone went up to the plate looking to hit that game-winning home run.

But for all of their losses, things aren’t looking that bad. They held the A’s, the trendy pick for World Series champions, largely in check for two games. They allowed just 8 runs to the team that defeated them in the playoffs last October. Their suspect pitchers exceeded any expectations at the start of the season. The bullpen looks better than it has in years, and Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina are throwing as well as they ever do.

One could argue that the Yanks won’t face a challenge as tough as the Angels and A’s back to back until they play a series against Toronto to end the month and one against the Red Sox to open May. If that is indeed the way the rest of April plays out, this shaky start will be a distant memory by the time the Yanks and Red Sox square off on May 1.

As the Royals come to town this week for three in Stadium, I would expect a grand homecoming for the Bombers. With a few more odd bounces and missed pop-ups by their opponents, the Yankees’ luck will challenge, and that 2-4 record could turn into a 5-4 mark by Thursday.

Stadium deal a “win-win” for the Yanks and no one else

The Yankees’ season may have started with a West Coast whimper, but back home, George Steinbrenner finally secured the elusive stadium deal he has always wanted.

On Wednesday, the New York City Council overwhelming approved the Yankees’ construction plans for a new stadium just north of the current Yankee Stadium. With this vote, old historic Yankee Stadium is destined for the junkyard while a new McStadium will take its place.

As a lifelong die-hard Yankee fan, I cannot be more disappointed. What’s wrong with Yankee Stadium? Nothing. Sure, it may not have wide concourses or enough luxury boxes to line King George’s pockets with gold, but it is a great place to see a game. It doesn’t need kids’ play areas, special food gimmicks, or trains in the outfield to draw in fans. In fact, a record-setting four million fans agree with me here.

People go to Yankee Stadium to see the outfield where Ruth played, where Mantle played, where the Yankees won World Series and captured American League pennats. It may not be the fatest stadium to get out of after a game, but it’s Yankee Stadium. Nothing can ever replace it. Ask Cubs and Red Sox fans how they feel about their stadiums. It is this same sense of history.

So while I am outraged over a definite lack of Yankee fan uproar over these plans to destroy the House that Ruth Built, I’d like to step back and look at the finances behind this deal…

One week later, Selig rushing to Mitchell’s defense

The Steroid Investigation/Mitchell Commission is less than one week old, but already, Bud Selig is rushing to the defense of his chosen investigator George Mitchell.

Since naming Mitchell the lead on what many view as an important but symbolic attempt to clean up the sport, Selig has come under fire for appointing an insider to investigate an inside problem. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and chairman of the Disney Corporation. Disney owns ESPN which is one of baseball’s best business partners. The sports network is also airing a reality show following Barry Bonds, the eye of the steroid storm, as he nears 714 and 755.

Yesterday, speaking in Chicago after giving the White Sox players their World Series rings, Selig tried to deflect the growing groundswell of criticism. “It’s important for somebody who understands what I call the morays of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn’t hurt it,” Selig said to the Associated Press.

And right there is the problem with this investigation. One of the many characterizations of baseball throughout the steroid scandal has been of an insular culture that protects their own. The owners, long complacent in the Steroid Era, will not hang their multimillion-dollar investments out to dry. The Players Union won’t throw out any of their members as sacrificial lambs. The culture is one of secrecy, camaraderie and mutual protection.

So along comes Bud, saying that Mitchell understands “the morays of the culture of this sport.” It’s those morays that got baseball in trouble in the first place. Now, Selig is citing those morays as a rationale for appointing an insider to head up the investigation.

Selig continued the defense of Mitchell. “He has complete autonomy. He wouldn’t have taken this without complete autonomy. I mean the fact that we’re friends had nothing to do with it,” Selig said. “He doesn’t come back and talk to me. I don’t want to hear from him. And he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. So I don’t know how anybody could have more independence than Sen. Mitchell.”

This is just getting worse for Selig. In two paragraphs, he has managed to destroy any notion of an independent investigation in my mind. The worst way to convince your critics that the investigation you appointed is autonomous is by calling him a friend of yours. But there goes Bud: “I mean the fact that we’re friends has nothing to do with.” Whatever you say, Bud.

Furthermore, Selig also doesn’t want to hear from Mitchell. Well, if I had just appointed a blue ribbon panel to investigate damaging charges of steroid use in the sport of which I’ve been in charge for the last decade and a half, I would probably want to hear about the investigation. Not Bud though.

Maybe he doesn’t want to hear about the investigation because he already knows what Mitchell will find. As an owner and then the commissioner of the sport, I’m sure Selig knew what was going on behind closed doors.

In the end, this investigation is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Selig had to respond to the charges leveled against the game in Game of Shadows. He did so by appointing a hardcore insider to investigate a game with which he quite familiar. Mitchell may uncover some drug use that would surprise no one, but to level any kind of suspension based on the information found in Mitchell’s investigation, Selig would have to be willing to risk fighting the Players Union in a labor year. He won’t risk damaging the game’s reputation.

It would have been better if Selig could have appointed someone more neutral. But in reality, there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe Mitchell really will expose a huge drug subculture. But no one will be too surprised if he does. Hopefully, we can look ahead to a season and a sport without steroids and without amphetamines and recognize that as damaging as the last few years have been, the game will go on cleaner and more popular than ever. Now if only Selig would find someone other than his friend to name to the investigation.


RSS River Ave. Blues

  • A Goodbye and a Thank You April 30, 2019
    I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. There has never been a moment — not once — where I felt like I deserved the recognition or praise that came my way for RAB. I’m not oblivious to the site’s success and to this day I have a hard time wrapping my […] The post A Goodbye and a Thank You appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Mike
  • A Guide to Life After RAB April 30, 2019
    In the three weeks since we announced RAB is shutting down, I’ve been overwhelmed by thank yous and people reaching out to tell me what RAB means to them. It means a lot to me (to us) and I thank everyone who reached out. In those three weeks I’ve also been overwhelmed by folks asking […] The post A Guide to Life After RAB appeared first on River Avenue Blue […]
    Mike
  • RAB: Origins April 29, 2019
    Contemplating the end of RAB, I thought of its origins. Why did the three of us come together to create this site? Ben covered the basics in his own farewell post so apologies if I’m covering known ground. But this is the story as I remember and can document it. In 2006 we were all […] The post RAB: Origins appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Joe Pawlikowski
  • Our Back Pages: A Farewell To All This April 29, 2019
    A lifetime ago, Joe and I were in charge of the Yankees site for the Most Valuable Network, a long-defunct sports blog network, when we decided we could do a better job on our own. We wanted Minor League content too and invited Mike along for the ride. We felt we could provide comprehensive Yankee […] The post Our Back Pages: A Farewell To All This appeared […]
    Benjamin Kabak
  • A thank you to RAB, where it all started for me April 29, 2019
    In January 2017, the Yankees were doing the “Winter Warm-Up” series to introduce newer players to the fanbase through sandwich workshops, surprising ticketholders, going to museums, etc. At one point, they also had a presser at the Yankee Stadium. I was informed of the opportunity to cover it for River Avenue Blues and simply took […] The post A thank you to […]
    Sung-Min Kim
  • Ten Years of the RAB Fan Confidence Poll April 29, 2019
    I did not realize this at the time, but the ten-year anniversary of our Fan Confidence Poll was this past March 2nd. The big stories when we launched the Fan Confidence Poll? Alex Rodriguez needing hip surgery, Mark Teahen trade rumors, and CC Sabathia’s and A.J. Burnett’s Spring Training debuts. Feels like a lifetime ago. […] The post Ten Years of the RAB F […]
    Mike
  • Yankeemetrics: Bombers coasting out west (April 26-28) April 29, 2019
    As RAB closes shop today, I personally wanted to thank everyone for their tremendous support of this website and my writing over the past four-plus years. It was truly an honor to contribute to this amazing site, to be able to write about my favorite team, and be a part of a really special and […] The post Yankeemetrics: Bombers coasting out west (April 26-2 […]
    Katie Sharp
  • Yankees 11, Giants 5: Yankees close out RAB era with a sweep April 28, 2019
    All things considered, I’m not sure I could’ve asked the Yankees for a better ending to the RAB era. With RAB set to close its internet doors Monday, the Yankees went out and clobbered the Giants in Sunday’s series finale to finish the three-game series sweep. The final score was 11-5. The Yankees have won […] The post Yankees 11, Giants 5: Yankees close out […]
    Mike
  • The Final DotF: Park, Gittens have big games in Trenton’s win April 28, 2019
    RHP Nick Green has been placed on the Double-A Trenton injured list, the team announced. He joins RHP Trevor Stephan and RHP Nick Nelson (and others) on the shelf. Also, RHP Garrett Whitlock was removed from yesterday’s start after one inning, though he remains on the active roster. No word on what’s wrong with any […] The post The Final DotF: Park, Gittens […]
    Mike
  • Update: DJ LeMahieu exits Sunday’s game with right knee inflammation April 28, 2019
    7:33pm ET: LeMahieu will get an MRI and see an orthopedist tomorrow, Aaron Boone announced following the game. It looks like a deep bruise but they want to make sure that’s it. 5:45pm ET: LeMahieu has right knee inflammation, the Yankees announced. X-rays came back negative. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to action following […] The post Update: DJ LeMahi […]
    Mike

Blog Stats

  • 62,902 hits