Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yankee Pitcher of the 2000s: Mariano Rivera

Just as sure as Derek Jeter was the player of the last decade for the Yankees, there's no doubt that Rivera was the pitcher of the decade.  If Jeter was the one constant in the revolving door that was the Yankee lineup then Rivera was the one defiant tree still standing through a swirling tornado of bullpen changeover, each season's staff looking almost nothing like that of the previous season.  Throughout the constant change and constant list of shitty setup men though, Rivera continued to quietly and ruthlessly go about his business, racking up hundreds of saves, shattered bats, and frustrated looks from those too helpless to master his cutter.

Over the past 10 years, Rivera's numbers look like this:

713.1 IP/ 548 H/ 137 BB/ 165 ER/ 669 K/ 397 Saves/ 2.08 ERA/ 0.96 WHIP

To call those numbers dominant would be the greatest understatement of the last decade this side of "George Bush didn't do such a great job as President."  Rivera was simply otherworldly in his brilliance, moving through what should be the prime and twilight of his career but somehow staying in his prime and extending it far beyond what any other pitcher can normally expect to do.  In a manner that goes even beyond Jeter's greatness, Rivera has become better and better at an age when most guys are moving into their 2nd or 3rd year of retirement and trying to get a job at ESPN.  And just like Jeter, Mo has always stepped his game up an extra level in the postseason.  I won't run through the complete stats for fear that I might cum my pants if I do, but over the past 10 years Rivera's playoff resume looks like this:

26 saves, 4-1 record, 0.94 ERA, 0.74 WHIP

To quote the great Ron Burgundy, "These numbers look good, I mean really good.  Hey everyone, come see how good these numbers look!"  That's about as close to unhittable as a pitcher can get in an era that has been dominated by hitters.  If you factor out the fluke broken bat hits in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and the bang-bang play at 2nd on Dave Roberts' steal attempt in the 2004 ALCS, these numbers look even better and we're sitting here talking about a guy with a spotless playoff record over 10 years.

On top of the mind-blowing numbers, Rivera has put together a pretty impressive list of accomplishments for himself over the past decade. Observe.
  • 8 All-Star Game selections (no ER allowed in 5 appearances)
  • 9 Postseason appearances (MLB Postseason record for saves and ERA)
  • 4 World Series appearances; 2 World Series titles
  • 2003 ALCS MVP
  • 2-Time Saves Leader (2001, 2004)
  • 4-Time AL Relief Man Award (2001, 2004-2005, 2009)
  • 2nd pitcher ever to reach 500 saves
In addition to that, Rivera has racked up dozens upon dozens of MLB, AL, and Yankee pitching records, which can be found here.  Famed former ESPN analyst (and shameless Red Sox fan) Peter Gammons called Rivera the "Cy Young of the last 15 years" after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, something that cannot be ignored coming from someone as well respected as Gammons and something that, when you really break it down, can't be argued even against all the other great pitchers of this era.

But again, just like with Jeter, it is not the stats that set Rivera apart as a special player, it is his approach and dedication to the game and the way he carries himself on and off the field that truly defines him.  Rivera prepares for each outing exactly the same, whether it is in April, May, September, or a World Series-clinching game in early November.  His conditioning is second to none and teammates have raved constantly about how he is the best athlete on the team.  He is, by all accounts, a great person and a great teammate and is always willing to help mentor young pitchers.  Guys practically line up to talk to him at All-Star weekend like giddy kids getting autographs during batting practice.  His mental approach when he's on the mound is one of an assassin; he is calm, cool, and confident without ever appearing even remotely cocky, and his expression never changes while he's warming up, on the mound, or after he leaves the game regardless of the situation or how good or bad his outing goes.  And for the better part of the last 10 years he has done all this with one... fucking... pitch.

When other pitchers are always fooling with new grips and new pressure points to get different spin or action on the ball to improve their effectiveness, Mo toes the rubber every time knowing exactly what he's going to throw and where he's going to throw it.  Mo's approach is the equivalent of the scene in "The Sandlot" when Ham the catcher calls out "here it comes.  The heater.  I dare you..." to the opposing batter and the kid strikes out anyway.  Every batter knows what's coming and are still helpless against it.  Jorge has admitted that he doesn't even call pitched any more when Mo is on the mound, just location.  Mo has broken so many bats that all those "Save Mother Nature"-organizations should be looking at him as cause for the depletion of the world's forests, and he's broken so many spirits that Dr. Phil could hold shows dedicated to helping guys recover from facing Rivera and go 3 straight months without having to do a re-run.

Every Yankee fan gets chills every time they're at the stadium and the opening chords of "Enter Sandman" hit.  It's the single greatest entrance in sports for anybody; you can feel the electricity in the air when it plays and the bullpen doors open to show this image:

Mo calmly trots out, throws his last few warmup pitches and then proceeds to mow down whatever 3 poor saps are unlucky enough to be the next 3 up that inning.  Every network that shows a Yankee game should be required to stay on the air as Mo enters and not cut to commercial until he starts throwing his warmup pitches.  I still can't figure out why YES hasn't figured this out yet because it is truly one of the coolest moments in sports.  How many other guys can you say that about when you're talking about their entrance being just as amazing as watching them play?

Mariano Rivera is to closers what Michael Jordan is to basketball, what Wayne Gretzky is to hockey, and what Bret Hart is to wrestling: The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.  He said after the World Series this year that he wants to play for 5 more years and no Yankee fan alive would ever think that is a bad thing.  Mo has aged like the finest of fine wines over the last 10 years and shows no signs of slowing down as he moves into his 40s.

In establishing himself as the best Yankee pitcher over the last 10 years and the best closer ever, Mo has also proven one more thing; in life there are 3 certainties: death, taxes, and Mariano Rivera.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I don't even know what makes me feel more sick: the way UConn played tonight or the fact that they had the game taken from them at the end by the officials.  Both were equally stomach-churning.

Cincinnati 71 UConn 69.  This team isn't top 10-quality; it isn't even top 25-quality.  What a fucking travesty.

Yankee Player of the 2000s: Derek Jeter

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody as Jeter has used the last 10 years to cement his status as one of the greatest Yankees of all time and one of the most well-known, well-rounded, and well-respected baseball players of his generation.  His numbers over the last decade are incredible:

6,122 AB/ 1,940 H/ 1,088 R/ 316 2B/ 161 HR/ 727 RBI/ 219 SB/ .317 AVG./ .844 OPS

The stats that Jeter accumulated over the last 10 years are a testament not only to his greatness as a player, but also to his top physical conditioning and toughness that allowed him to play at a remarkably high level consistently for such a long time.  As other players that came up with Jeter or even after Jeter have watched their production fall off as they age, Jeter is still putting up some of the best numbers for his position. The 1,940 hits combined with what he racked up in the late 90s allowed Jeter to become the Yankees' all-time hits leader this past season and he will all but certainly join the 3,000-hit club some time in early 2011.  By the time he finally does retire, Jeter could approach 4,000 hits and will hold many more Yankee records.

In addition to his personal stats, Jeter's list of baseball awards  over the last 10 years is just as impressive:
  • 8 All-Star Game appearances (2000 All-Star Game MVP)
  • 9 Postseason appearances (All-time postseason hits leader)
  • 4 World Series appearances (2000, 2001, 2003, 2009)
  • 2 World Series titles (2000, 2009; 2000 World Series MVP)
  • 4-Time Gold Glove winner (2004-2006, 2009)
  • 4-Time Silver Slugger (2006-2009)
  • 2-Time Hank Aaron Award Winner (2006, 2009)
  • 2009 Roberto Clemente Award Winner
  • 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year
More than just his stats and awards though, it is the way Jeter has played the game that stands out the most over the last 10 years.  His career over the last decade is littered with memorable plays, from "The Flip" in 2001 to the dramatic home run in the 2001 World Series to "The Dive" into the stands in 2004.  And while it is Jeter's penchant for making his biggest plays in the biggest moments, "The Dive" is the perfect example of what makes Jeter special as a player.

That play right there took place on July 1, during an extra-inning game right smack in the middle of the regular season.  With as much baseball as there was to be played that year, it would be foolish for anybody to risk injury and bodily harm trying to catch a foul popup in a game that was essentially meaningless, but not for Jeter.  He cares just as much about winning a game in July as he does in October and it is that passion and desire that makes him special. 

Every game isn't just another game for Jeter; every game is important.  By this point everybody has heard the stories about Jeter never taking an at-bat off or always running hard to first or refusing to take days off even when he is legitimately injured, but the fact that you still keep hearing those stories is precisely why those stories are important.  After 14 seasons, Jeter still plays as hard as he did in his rookie year every time he steps on the field.  He cares about every pitch, every hit, every inning, and every game and has never differed in his approach since Day 1.  It is that approach that has allowed him to accomplish all that he has and build that list of awards above.

In a world where athletes and baseball players are looked at more for what they do wrong on or off the field, Jeter has been the one constant positive example of what an athlete should strive to be.  He remains the gold standard for professionalism and the countless heaps of praise that he receives from teammates, coaches, and opponents is proof of that.  He has gone from being underrated to overrated and back to underrated over the last 10 years in the eyes of the media and statisticians but his reputation amongst his peers has never changed and that is the truest test of just how great a player is.

Derek Jeter is synonymous with the Yankees and the "Yankee Way," and with Major League Baseball in general.  He, more than anybody, is the reason the Yankees have been able to maintain their consistent level of success in baseball over the last 10 years, the one constant in a revolving door of teammates and coaches.  Whatever happens throughout the remainder of his career is irrelevant; when you think back of the 2000s, Jeter belongs right at the top of the short list of players who come to mind as the greatest of this era.  In the 2000s Derek Jeter was the greatest Yankee player by far, and one of the greatest baseball players period.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Yankees: MLB's Team of the 2000s

So as the year winds down and we inevitably get force fed a million different "Best of the 2000s" collections from the various major sports outlets, you can pretty much take it to the bank that the majority of the focus is going to be on the Red Sox and their "dominance" over baseball over the past 10 years.  Most of that Red Sox sack tickling will be coming from the Worldwide Leader, but despite their over-the-top affinity for their Sox, when you really break it down there is no doubt that the New York Yankees were the team of the 2000s.  And it really wasn't even that close.

The easiest measuring stick in sports, of course, is wins.  Nothing defines team success more than winning and in the 2000s the Yankees were the biggest winners.  Over the course of the last 10 regular seasons, the Yankees accumulated 965 wins, 45 more than their closest competitor, Boston.  For the sake of comparison, here's how the top 5 biggest winners of the decade in MLB break down:

1) New York Yankees-  965
2) Boston Red Sox-       920
3) St. Louis Cardinals-  913
4) Los Angeles Angels- 900
5) Atlanta Braves-         892

2nd through 5th place are separated by less than 30 wins and yet the Yankees hold that 45-win margin over 2nd, a true testament to their consistency and overall dominance through the decade despite the constant influx of new players and personalities, the always glaring lack of starting pitching depth, and the never-ending pressure of playing in New York.

In racking up their 965 wins, the Yankees led their league in wins 5 times over the last 10 years.  Those 965 wins also represent 8 division titles and 9 playoff appearances over that span.  If winning is the ultimate measuring stick of team success, then there is no argument that can be made that the Yankees weren't the most successful team throughout the 2000s year in and year out.

But winning in the regular season means nothing if you can't back it up in the playoffs, and while ESPN would like you to think that the Red Sox torched the Yankees throughout the last decade and were the most successful playoff team because of their 2 World Series titles, that simply isn't true either.

In 2000, the Yankees started off the decade with this...

...and in 2009 they ended the decade with this...

The Yankees won just as many World Series titles as the Red Sox in the past decade, 2, which ties for the most in baseball over that span.  In addition to that, they made 2 more appearances in the Fall Classic in 2001 and 2003.  Now 2003 was a disaster and a perfect example of how important pitching is to winning in the postseason, but 2001 was a fluke win for Arizona and had the Yankees not been playing the infield in, we could erase that loss as one of the few blemishes on Mariano's record and be talking about winning title 29 next year instead of 28.  For the record, Boston has not appeared in any more World Series than the 2 they won.  And just for shits and gigs, the 2009 Yankees were the only team of the 2000s to win 100+ games in the regular season and win the World Series, the truest example over the last 10 years of the "best" team winning the championship.  How do ya like them apples, Tim Kurkjian?

Delving within each team over the past 10 years, you can also find countless All-Star appearances, Gold Gloves, Silver Slugger Awards, MVPs, Cy Youngs, MVP and Cy Young candidates, and league leaders in every statiscal category imaginable, a great representation of the high-quality of players the Yankees have put on the field.  Quite simply, the Yankees have had the biggest collection of talent on their teams over the last decade and that is because every player in baseball recognizes the prestige that comes with wearing the pinstripes and wants to play for the Yankees.

In addition to all their on-field team and individual success, the Yankees used the 2000s to establish themselves as a national and international landmark.  They set MLB attendance records, brought in big-name foreign free agents, and generated billions of dollars in revenue.  This expansion culminated in the creation of the YES Network in 2002, at the time making the Yankees the only sports organization to have their own dedicated TV network.  Today you can travel anywhere in the world and see Yankee hats and t-shirts; my trip to Germany last year is a testament to that as I saw just as many Yankee hats walking through downtown Dortmund as I did hats or shirts of the local Bundesliga soccer team.  The interlocking "NY" logo is one of the most recognizable on the planet and you just don't get to that point without being the best.

The Red Sox were a great organization over the 2000s, don't get me wrong.  But they were the flavor of the week, the trendy team to jump on board with after they finally got off the schnide in 2004 at the expense of the Yankees.  People will point to their ALCS comeback in 2004 as proof that they were better than the Yankees, but over the long haul of the decade, the numbers don't lie: the Yankees were a more consistent, dominant, successful team.  In the last year, the Yankees have re-established themselves as the team to beat in baseball and are positioned perfectly to continue their winning trend into the 2010s while their counterparts (Boston, LA, the Mets, etc.) still have holes to fill and gaps to bridge just to keep up.

Any way you look at it, the Yankees in the 2000s, just like in the 1990s, were the best team in Major League Baseball.  They have firmly entrenched themselves as the premiere organization in baseball as well as in American sports, and have shown that they are already committed to maintaining and enhancing that standing in the 2010s.  Long live the Empire!!

*** Check back tomorrow for AB4AR's Yankee Player of the Decade and Pitcher of the Decade***

Monday, December 28, 2009

AB4AR's Week 16 NFL Wrap-Up

Week 16 Recap

San Diego 42 Tennessee 17

The Chargers continued to roll through Decembers like Tiger Woods through the extras in a "Girls Gone Wild" tape with a one-sided destruction of the Titans on Christmas.  Darren Sproles and LT combined for 5 TDs and Vince Young threw, dropped, fumbled, kicked, and lost the ball all over the field, killing the Titans' playoff hopes in the process.  On the positive side for Tennessee, Chris Johnson galloped for 142 yards and a TD, giving him a real chance at a 2,000-yard season next week.

Atlanta 31 Buffalo 3

Matt Ryan was excellent, throwing for 250 yards and 3 TDs; Brian Brohm was not, throwing for just 149 yards and 2 INTs.  And that, ladies, and gentlemen, is all you need to know.  Roddy White benefited from Ryan's good game, racking up 8 catches, 139 yards, and 2 TDs, possibly earning himself a 2nd straight Pro Bowl invite in an otherwise lost season for the Falcons.  Let the Atlanta bandwagon for 2010 start filling up now.

Cincinnati 17 Kansas City 10

The Bengals rode Cedric Benson (29 carries, 133 yards) and a late Carson Palmer-to-Chad Johnson TD pass to victory over the Chiefs, securing the AFC North division in the process.  Now Cincy can spend the next week deciding whether or not they want to play their starters next week, beat the Jets, and make for super-entertaining sports radio in New York the following Monday from all the whining Jets fans, or rest everybody, let the Jets win, and then face them again in the opening round of the playoffs so they can beat them and create super-entertaining sports radio in New York from all the whining Jets fans.

Cleveland 23 Oakland 9

It took all season, but the Browns seem to have finally figured out a winning formula: give the ball to Jerome Harrison and let him do his thing (39-148-1), and tell everybody else to just stay the fuck out of the way.  You could say this is good news for Eric Mangini's job, but with Czar Holmgren coming in, it's a sure bet that he's going to clean house and Mangini will be forced to go back to South Park, Colorado to hang out with Kyle, Stan, and Kenny next season.

Green Bay 48 Seattle 10

The Pack used big plays on offense (423 total yards; 97 yards and 2 TDs from Ryan Grant), and terrible plays by Matt Hasselbeck (4 picks) to route the Seahawks and clinch a playoff berth yesterday.  The Packers seem to have finally gotten their offensive line issues figured out and will be a tough matchup for anybody in the NFC playoffs.  And if Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews don't win NFL Defensive Player and Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards, then the awards should be done away with.  But that might just be the Packer fan in me talking.

Houston 27 Miami 20

The Texans jumped out to a 27-0 halftime lead behind Matt Schaub's 247 passing yards, and then predictably shit the bed in the 2nd half as Miami almost came all the way back behind Chad Henne's gutsy performance and Schaub's Russell-like performance.  In the end, though, Houston did just enough to hold on for the win, keeping themselves slightly in the playoff hunt and cutting Miami's playoff throat in the process.  I almost wish Houston would make the playoffs just so we could all watch them melt down in their 1st-round matchup on a national stage.

New England 35 Jacksonville 7

It was a vintage 2007-ish Tom Brady performance, as he went 23-26 for 267 yards and 4 TDs in the Patriots' division-clinching win over the Jags.  Wes Welker did the heavy lifting with 13 catches for 138 yards, and Randy Moss reaped the benefits, catching 4 passes for just 45 yards but 3 of the catches for TDs.  New England looks to be hitting their stride at the right time, but the real test will be when they meet somebody on the road in the playoffs, if they make it that far.  I would comment on the Jags' performance yesterday, but I don't even remember them actually being on the field.

Tampa Bay 20 New Orleans 17 (OT)

After crusing to an early 17-0 lead, the Saints completely fell apart and then fell in overtime to a downright bad Tampa Bay team.  When Drew Brees goes 32-37, you should never lose, especially to the Bucs, and I'll come right out and say that this loss signals the end of the Saints as a serious contender for the title this year.  In the last few weeks, they have choked in big moments, not a good sign when you're heading to the playoffs as one of the big favorites.  Don't be surprised to see them lose in their first game in the postseason.  Good to see the Cadillac getting back in gear after almost 2 years in the shop, as he ran for 129 yards and a TD.

Carolina 41 NY Giants 9

In the last game at the old Giants Stadium, the G-Men sent it out in style, getting their candyasses kicked up and down the field for 4 quarters and almost certainly sealing Bill Sheridan and Tom Coughlin's fate for next year.  Jonathan Stewart run over, around, and through the defense for 209 yards and a TD, finally living up to the standards I set by making him my keeper pick in my fantasy league (hey, better late than never).  The Panthers might have also found their QB of the future, as Matt Moore once again outplayed a much more high-profile counterpart, going 15-20 for 171 yards and 3 TDs.

Pittsburgh 23 Baltimore 20

Ray Rice's monster 30-carry 144-yard effort was wasted by Joe Flacco, who once again gagged on it in a big moment, allowing the Steelers to keep their playoff hopes alive with a slim win yesterday.  That being said, Baltimore can still clinch with a win next week while the Steelers still need a lot of help, but it doesn't bode well for the Ravens' chances when their QB continues to spit the bit when the game is on the line.  They might want to work on incorporating the Wildcat this week so they can ensure that Ray Rice handles the ball in key drives and Flacco can sit on the sideline and breathe into a paper bag.

Arizona 31 St. Louis 10

The Cardinals cruised to their first 10-win season since the Byzantine Empire behind the 313 yards and 2 TDs from Kurt Warner and the complete lack of talent of the Rams.  With not much to play for next week, it will be interesting to see what approach Arizona takes with their starters, although playing against the Rams for 4 quarters is pretty much the equivalent of taking the week off so maybe they'll be OK.

San Francisco 20 Detroit 6

Frank Gore picked up 152 total yards and a TD on 32 touches, securing a 1,000-yard season and a win for the 49ers against the turnover-riddled Lions.  Drew Stanton threw 3 picks and lost a fumble for the Lions and was so bad that he made Daunte Culpepper's 7-12, 51 yard, 68.4 QB rating day look solid by comparison.  The 49ers will look to get back to .500 for the season next week; no word yet on what coach Mike Singletary will take off if they manage to win.

NY Jets 29 Indianapolis 15

Leading 15-10 in the 3rd quarter and with a chance to go up 12, Indy coach Jim Caldwell decided it was finally time to make a decision this season and it ended up costing his team the game and their perfect season.  He removed Peyton for Painter and the rest was history as the Jets proved they could beat up on a team's 2nd unit and got the win they needed to move back into the playoff driver's seat.  I don't want to sit here and debate if it was the right or wrong move, but the fact is, if Caldwell wanted to rest his guys, why wait until late in the 3rd quarter?  One more TD and you've probably got enough of a cushion to win, and as Herm Edwards taught us, YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!!!!!  Peyton looked none to happy to be on the sidelines for the loss and will probably not be inviting Caldwell to participate in his next commercial shoot.

Philadelphia 30 Denver 27

The Eagles dominated every aspect of the game except the TO margin and ended up making this game much closer than it should have been, despite McNabb's 322 yards and 3 TDs.  In what could be the most shocking moment of the NFL season thus far, Andy Reid managed to properly manage the last few minutes of the game, running the clock down as much as he could to allow David Akers to kick the game-winning field goal and leave the Broncos with no time to do anything.  Bravo, Andy.  Bravo indeed.

Dallas 17 Washington 0

Romo went 25-38-286-1 as the Cowboys did what they had to do to beat the Redskins and lock up a playoff berth.  It wasn't pretty and it sure wasn't watchable, but it got the job done.Jason Campbell made a case to keep his job next year as he not only threw for 199 yards, but led the 'Skins in rushing.  Granted that was with just 13 yards, but what are you gonna do?  The season can't end quickly enough for the Redskins and all those who are unfortunate enough to have to watch them on a weekly basis.

MNF Prediction

Minnesota 20 Chicago 10

In a battle of the overrated and severely overrated QBs, Brett Favre will do just enough to help his team not lose in the cold and manage to play nice with Brad Childress before he is removed late in the game so Tavaris Jackson can get some reps taking knees to run out the clock.  Jay Cutler will throw 3 picks and move that much closer to throwing 30 for the season, a number that a fellow gunslinger like Favre can truly appreciate.  Something tells me when this season is done, we'll see the both of them out on some remote field tossing the pigskin around in their Wrangler jeans and Hot Topic zip-up hoodies.

MNF Predictions for the Season (Winners): 11-5

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Something Else To Consider

Sure the major renovations to the lineup are nice, but has anybody considered how the Yankees plan to fill out their bench for next season?

Right now all we're looking at is Francisco Cervelli as the backup catcher, Ramiro Pena as the utility infielder, and Juan Miranda as the bench bat/emergency first baseman.  With Jerry Hairston and Eric Hinske both being free agents and so far not re-signed, the outfield is only 3-deep with Swish, C-Grand, and Brett Gardner.  I'm not even counting Freddy Guzman because the fact is he should only be on a Major League roster after the rosters expand to 40 in September.

So how are the Yankees planning on bulking up the bench for 2010?  One of the unsung keys to last season was the moves they made to bolster their lineup and give themselves multiple options for both starting lineups and late-game situational substitutions.

For starters, I would bring Hairston back; he can play all 3 outfield positions if need be as well as third base and his approach at the plate fits right into the Yankee mentality.  At this stage in his career he probably realizes he's only getting a chance to play every day on a shitty team and it makes more sense to him to stay in New York, contend for titles, and be remembered as a Luis Sojo/Chad Curtis type by diehard Yankee fans for years to come.

As for Hinske, for some reason I like the guy and wouldn't mind seeing him in pinstripes next year, but at the same time I'm OK if he leaves.  He can play multiple positions but none as well as Hairston can, and isn't as good an all-around hitter as Hairston or any other Yankee.  He's like a Glenallen Hill with a little less pop so to lose him would not be a major backbreaker to next year's potential for success.

The fact that neither of these guys have been re-signed already and that nobody else has been brought in has to make Yankee fans wonder what the plan is.  Does that mean that Damon is still in play behind the scenes?  Does it mean there is somebody else out there that the Yanks have kept quiet about?  Whatever the case is, it looks like the major deals are done for the Bombers and it's time to put the last few pieces together; the room has been re-decorated and re-painted, and now it's time to do the touchup in the corners and vacuum to put the finishing touches on it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Shopping In The Bargain Bin...At Goodwill

While the rest of Major League Baseball, most notably the Red Sox, Phillies, Mariners, and of course the Yankees, are wheeling and dealing during the offseason to try and improve their teams heading into 2010, the Mets are doing something that even I can't find a funny and/or logical way to describe.

If you're keeping score at home, the Mets have now signed R.A. Dickey to a minor league deal, just locked up the immortal Kelvim Escobar to a one-year deal, and are still the leaders in the clubhouse in the Jose Molina For $8-9 Million Sweepstakes.  Not only do none of these deals make them even a smidge better for next year, I don't even think they make them worse!  Which begs the question, what the fuck are the Mets doing?

They still have Jason Bay and Matt Holliday being dangled in front of their faces to boost their outfield production, and despite the fact that all the big-time pitchers are off the table, they can sign guys like Joel Pineiro and Ben Sheets (both proven commodities in the NL) to shore up their rotation.  And yet I'm sifting through and the NY Post reading about how they signed Kelvim Escobar.  Granted he helps Omar keep his Latin-player quote intact, but other than that Escobar brings nothing to the table.

I don't know if anybody has told Omar yet, but the Yankees, their big bully of a crosstown brother, won the fucking World Series last year.  You are obligated to make a big move or 2 to keep your team competitve and relevant next year and saying R.A. Dickey isn't going to put asses in the seats and callers on the line for Joe & Evan would be the understatement of the soon-to-be new decade.

To put it in Christmas terms, what the Mets have done compared to the Yankees this offseason is the equivalent of getting a 1973 Webster's Dictionary, a half bag of expired cough drops, and a pair of mismatched socks for Christmas while you watch your brother open up a Garmin GPS system, a Mac computer, and a $750 gift card to The Armani Exchange store.

(And a side note to the Christmas gift comparison: is there anything better for a Yankee fan than when they win the World Series?  I got more Yankee shit than I have room for in my suitcase.  I got more hats, t-shirts, hoodies, etc. than the sales rack at Modell's.  It's great!!)

All the Mets have done with their offseason so far is ensure that more time is spent talking about the Yankees.  It's sad when teams like the Oakland A's are making more moves than the Mets.  Actually, what am I saying?  It's hilarious!  It gives me another reason to make fun of them and another opportunity to point out just how pathetic the Mets are compared to the Evil Empire.  BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Greatest Gift Of All

It isn't technically Christmas for another 12 hours, and I already know that it's images like this that are still better than any gift I get tomorrow.

May everyone's holidays bring them as much joy and happiness as these guys had in bringing the title back to where it belongs.

And of course when I say everyone, I mean everyone except the Red Sox, their fans, Jimmy Rollins, Charlie Mauel, Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, the Mets, their fans, Peter Gammons, John Kruk, Steve Phillips, and anybody else who is, was, and ever will be dumb enough to cross the Evil Empire.

Merry Christmas, Yankee fans.  And a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Re-Examining The Javy Vazquez Trade

When I wrote my post about the Vazquez trade, I thought for sure I would be the leading voice in the wave of disappointment that was to follow from Yankeeland.  Then I hear Mike Francesa calling the trade "a steal" for the Yankees on the radio, the PTI guys agreeing that the deal was "good" for the Yankees, and many other blogs commenting on how positive a trade this was for the Yankees.  So now that I've realized I'm pretty much alone here on this anti-Javier Vazquez side of the line and I've had some time to calm down and digest what everyone else is saying, it's time to take another look at this trade.

In Vazquez, the Yankees are getting a guy who was probably one of the 3 best, definitely one of the 5 best pitchers in the NL last season.  He had a 15-10 record with 238 K's, a 2.87 ERA, and a 1.03 WHIP.  Vazquez threw for 219.1 innings last year and has been an innings eater his entire career, throwing for 200+ in every season except one since 2000.  And in this second go-around with the Yankees, Vazquez is coming in to be the 4th starter behind CC, A.J., and Andy, which takes a lot of the pressure and expectations off his shoulders.  On paper and in theory, this is a good move for the Yankees; it gives them a strong veteran arm to bolster the back end of the rotation and gives them a proven commodity to include back there as they let Hughes and Joba battle it out for the 5th spot in spring training instead of having to go to the well of Gaudin, Mitre, Nova, or free agent signee X.

Now the downside.  Vazquez has been traded 3 times since his last appearance with the Yankees and those seasons consisted of 3 with losing records and ERAs above 4.50 for Arizona and the Chi Sox.  Before his turn around last year in Atlanta, Vazquez had a losing record for his career and even right now his career record stands at 142-139 with an ERA of 4.19, not exactly Cy Young material.  And that one season that I mentioned earlier in which Javy didn't throw for 200+ innings?  That was with the Yanks in 2004.

And then you have Vazquez's career playoff numbers.  Between the Yankees in 2004 and the White Sox in 2008, Vazquez has thrown 15.2 innings and given up 18 ER and 34 combined H and BB for an all-worldly terrible 10.34 ERA and 2.17 WHIP.  That even more than his past numbers with the Yanks in 2004 is the major indicator of the kind of pitcher Javier Vazquez is.  Sure he's going to give you innings, and for his career he's giving up less than a hit per innin.  But when the going gets tough, Vazquez gets going right to the clubhouse right after he melts down and gets shelled by the opponents.  It's a fact.

Now as far as what the Yankees gave up to get him, maybe I went a little overboard with my projections for Melky Cabrera.  I do believe he has the potential to hit 20 HRs and get 80+ RBIs, but do I think he's ever going to reach those levels?  Probably not.  Melky is still young and still seems to enjoy the celebrity that comes with being a Yankee a little more than others.  By the time he figures out how to dedicate himself completely to the game, it will be too late and his prime will be in the rearview mirror.  Not to mention that for a guy with a supposedly above average arm in the outfield, when's the last time you saw Melky throw anybody out at home?

The issue I have with giving up Melky is that it leaves the Yankees with a hole in left field because for some reason they still don't seem to think Brett Gardner is capable of being an everyday player.  And even if he did play, you have to play Gardner in CF to maximize his speed, which means C-Grand goes to left, something he probably won't want to do and wasn't imagining he would be doing when he came into town.  With the Yanks and Damon still miles apart in their negotiations from a $$$-perspective and Cashman saying yesterday that they weren't looking to add any more high-profile guys for next year (bye-bye Bay and Holliday), now you're back in the Mark DeRosa Bargain Aisle to fill out the roster and that's not an aisle I want to even push my shopping cart through, let alone peruse and possibly buy from.

Giving up Dunn for Vazquez when the Yanks were unwilling to include him in the Granderson deal and showed that they considered him to be the leader for that 2nd-lefty spot in the pen is also confusing.  Now they're basically counting on Marte being healthy and effective all year next year or hoping that Boone Logan reverses his trend of being completely useless.  Tack on the fact that they gave up what Baseball Prospectus called their 3rd-best prospect in Vizcaino (yeah, yeah.  I know he's still in A-Ball, but still...) and it still looks to me like the Yankees gave up too much and potentially weakened a couple other parts of their lineup for rotation depth.  Mind you, that same depth could have been achieved through free agency and would not have come at the expense of outfield and bullpen depth, but that's why Cash is running the show and I'm sitting here in my living room writing about it.

Now nobody here is expecting Javy to be Cy Young next year.  But Yankee fans haven't forgotten how awful he was down the stretch in 2004 and certainly haven't forgotten him coming into Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004 and giving up what was basically the nail in the coffin for the Yankees' season in the form of a Johnny Damon grand slam on his first pitch.  That knowledge of his past will have Vazquez on a short leash with Yankee fans and an even shorter leash with the NY media.  Vazquez has had his greatest struggles in large markets with big fan expectations and big media coverage, most recently in 2008 with the White Sox.

I'd like to think Vazquez has matured since his last stint in NY and can handle the situation better this time as a 4th starter instead of a potential front-of-the-rotation guy, but there is nothing he has done since leaving the Yankees that indicates that will be the case.  So basically, I'm not as over-the-top against this deal as I was yesterday, and I do recognize the potential for Vazquez to be a big-time contributor next year.  But I'm also very wary of him given his past history in big markets, big moments, and especially New York.  If this move works out and he produces at a level that he's capable of, the Yankees once again vault over the competition as the best team with the best staff in baseball.  If Vazquez bombs again, however, I'll be right at the front of the line to destroy him and Cash for bringing him back. 

Stay tuned, we've only got 100+ days until we get to see how this will play out...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Johnny Damon Seems To Be Doing Well

So this must have been what Scott Boras was talking about when he said other teams were interested in signing Damon to a 3-4-year deal.  I have to say, I didn't see this one coming from Boras; it's one thing to try to hoodwink a team into giving a guy a longer and more expensive contract than he's worth at this stage in his career by creating fake, nonexistent interest from other baseball clubs.  But when you go outside the sport and bring the WWE into the fold, that's a whole new level of negotiation.

After seeing this performance last night, there's no doubt Cash is frantically searching for his checkbook right now to cut a $60 million check to Damon, especially with the newly created void in the outfield as a result of the Javy-for-Melky trade that I'm not even remotely close to being done talking about yet.  Did you see how limber he looked crouching and pointing to the crowd?  How about the interaction with the fans on his way to ring?  Or the textbook D-X crotch chop?  This guy is clearly already in mid-season form physically and showing the Yankees and all other interested teams (assuming they actually exist) that he's serious about getting out there and getting after a 3rd World Series title in 2010.  I mean, if showing up on Raw and cutting a painfully bad promo with Eve Torres, the Bella Twins, Carlito, Chris Masters, and a now apparently gay Sgt. Slaughter backstage doesn't say you're dying to sign a big-money deal and commit yourself to winning then I don't know what does.

Boras is playing hardball now, and if the Yanks don't start taking these negotiations a little more seriously, they could be watching Damon winning Tag Team gold with The Miz next season instead of cracking another 20 HRs and scoring 100 runs for them on their way to a 28th championship.

Put me in coach, indeed.


This is it, Cash?  This is your big move that we've been waiting for?  This is why I told everybody to calm down when they were freaking out about Damon-for Johnson??  Javier Vazquez???  Javier Fucking Vazquez????  The guy who defines what it means to not be able to handle the pressure of pitching in New York?  You're kidding, right?  Please go on the Michael Kay show this afternoon and tell everybody you were just kidding.

This is the guy who came into the fateful 2004 ALCS and gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon on his first pitch.  This is the guy whose inneffectivenes got the ball of bad trades and signings rolling in the mid-2000s and paved the way for the likes of Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano to fleece the Yankees by taking millions more than they were worth to completely suck.  Now you want to bring him back?  For what?  Were you afraid the staff's WHIP was going to be too low next year?

Vazquez's career is a constant up-and-down roller coaster performance that peaks when he plays for bad teams and dips when he plays for teams that have even a slight whiff of being a contender.  Case in point: Vazquez was a monster during his time in Montreal when his team was usually mathematically eliminated by mid-May; he was terrible in New York when his team was the odds-on favorite to win the World Series; last season he was brilliant for an Atlanta Braves time that, for the first time in almost 20 years, was not a major playoff contender.  The bigger the moment is, the more he disappears; and this is supposed to be the guy who's going to bolster the back end of the rotation?

I could give 2 shits about Arodys Vizcaino, but Michael Dunn was kept out of the C-Grand trade because he was expected to assume the role of 2nd lefty in the bullpen, a spot that could become increasingly more important if Marte gets hurt or starts shitting the bed next year.  Now Cash is including him as a throw-in for Javier Vazquez?  What is this, baseball's version of Black Friday?  Somebody explain to me how trading an above-average outfielder with 20-HR, 80-85-RBI potential and 2 quality prospects, one of whom could have been a big factor in your bullpen in 2010, for a pitcher with a losing track record in big spots who has played for 4 teams in the last 6 years makes your team better?

The one positive that comes from this is that the Yankees now know what their outfield is going to look like in 2009, with Brett Gardner most likely assuming the center field role and C-Grand heading to left.  But I would have rather had Melky and Gardner splitting time and forming a dynamite late-game outfield along with Granderson than have Javier Vazquez poisoning the back end of the rotation.

I don't want to say Cash has lost the Midas touch, but he better have something else up his sleeve after this deal because this is not what I, and probably many Yankee fans, had in mind after the Nick Johnson signing last week.

And who the fuck is Boone Logan?...  

Monday, December 21, 2009

AB4AR's Week 15 NFL Wrap-Up- The "I Cashed In All My PTO For the Holidays and Now I Can Actually Get This Post Done in a Timely Fashion in the Morning Because I'm Not Stuck Doing Stupid Shit at Work"- Edition

Week 15 Recap

Indianapolis 35 Jacksonville 31

Peyton Manning's 308 yards passing and 4 TDs certainly helped the Colts out tremendously, but it was David Garrard's lone interception on the Jags' late 4th-quarter drive that kept the Colts unbeaten and will keep the insufferable Mercury Morris in the news for another week as the Colts continue to chase perfection.  The Colts ended up playing their starters for the entire game because they needed to to win, and fantasy owners across the country, especially those who have Manning a/o Reggie Wayne, were more than grateful.

Dallas 24 New Orleans 17

In a game that appeared to be tailor-made for the Cowboys to get run off the field and complete their yearly December collapse, Dallas stepped up, showed some testicular fortitude, and ended the Saints' bid for a perfect season with a big win that solidified their own playoff standings.  Tony Romo outdueled Drew Brees, tossing for 312 yards and a TD to Brees' 298-1, and the Cowboys forcing 3 turnovers (2 on Demarcus Ware strip sacks of Brees) were the deciding factors in the win and Dallas kicked Nick Folk keeping his job for another week...maybe.

New England 17 Buffalo 10

It wasn't pretty, but the Patriots got a win they needed to all but lock up the AFC East as they outlasted the Bills in one of the ugliest games of the weekend.  Brady barely threw for 100 yards, Moss and Welker were relatively quiet despite Moss catching a TD pass, and it was the defense playing without Vince Wilfork that was the real reason for the Pats' win.  That and the fact that the Buffalo Bills are just awful.

Arizona 31 Detroit 24

After getting out to a 17-0 halftime lead and looking more like the team that thrashed the Vikings 2 weeks ago, the Cardinals decided to change things up in the second half and revert back to the shitty team that got abused by the 49ers last Monday in letting the Lions come back to tie the game before scoring a late TD to hold on for the win and the NFC West Division title.  Maurice Morris' carcass came off the scrap heap to rush for 126 yards and a TD for the Lions, but it wasn't enough to overcome Kurt Warner and Co.'s 4th-quarter execution.

Tennessee 27 Miami 24 (OT)

Tennessee did a Cardinals impression, allowing Miami to come back and tie the game in the 4th after being up 24-6 early, before winning the game on a long Rob Bironas FG in overtime.  Chad Henne and his 349 yards passing were a big reason why Miami was able to come back in the game, but his 3 picks, especially his brutal one in OT, were a bigger reason why they lost.  Chris Johnson fell off the 2,000-yard pace with just 104 yards on 29 carries, but was picked up by Vince Young throwing for 3 TDs for the first time in his career.

Cleveland 41 Kansas City 34

In the game that would have been a much bigger deal if it didn't involve 2 incredibly shitty teams playing, the Browns outlasted the Chiefs yesterday despite giving up 499 yards of offense, 331 of it to Matt Cassel and 154 of it to Jamaal Charles, and despite the fact that their QB threw for just 66 yards.  How did they do it, you ask?  Well with Josh Cribbs and Jerome Harrison, of course.  Cribbs set the new NFL record for kickoff return TDs with a pair in the game, and Harrison came out of nowhere to rush for 286 yards, the 3rd most in NFL history and a total that erases Jim Brown from the Browns' record book, and 3 TDs.  I wish I could explain how all of this happened but I'm afraid trying to would give me a brain aneurysm.

Houston 16 St. Louis 13

The Texans continued to build momentum for next season's disappointing underachievement by squeaking by the Rams in St. Louis yesterday.  Again, in the interest of my brain's well-being, I'm not going to try to explain how a team can have its QB throw for 367 yards and have its #1 WR catch 9 balls for 196 yards and still only beat the Rams by 3, but I will say that it probably had nothing to do with the expectedly mediocre play by the one and only Keith Null.  Seriously, who the fuck is this guy?

Atlanta 10 NY Jets 7

Some people might say that losing a must-have game at home by having your QB throw 3 picks, your special teams fail to execute 3 FGs, your offensive coordinator completely abandon your running game, and your defense give up its only TD of the day on the opponent's last drive is a huge disappointment.  I just call that good old fashioned New York Jets football.  The Jets squandered enough opportunities for 3 games yesterday and now find themselves 2 games behind New England and back in the 7-7 pack with about half the league.  Say it together now: J-E-T-S; SUCK, SUCK, SUCK!!!!!!!

Oakland 20 Denver 19

The Raiders continue to play the spoiler role well, despite having to use every QB on their roster yesterday and ending those shenanigans with the game in Jamarcus Russell's hands.  Luckily for them, Russell didn't blow it and the Broncos now find themselves in a much less comfortable position than they were this time yesterday as a result.  It is good to see that even without Mike Shanahan, the Broncos still remember how to collapse late in the season when it matters the most.

San Diego 27 Cincinnati 24

In the best game of the day, the Chargers snuck by the grieving Bengals on a late Nate Kaeding FG, clinching the AFC West in the process.  Both QBs were at the top of their games as Phillip Rivers threw for 308 yards and 3 TDs and Carson Palmer threw for 314 and 2.  Despite the loss, the Bengals still hold a one-game division lead heading into next week and the all important tiebreaker with the Ravens and Steelers by sweeping their divisional games.

Philadelphia 27 San Francisco 13

The Eagles punched their playoff ticket yesterday behind 300+ passing yards from Donovan McNabb, 4 turnovers by the '9ers, and absolutely nothing from Michael Vick.  DeSean Jackson had another monster game, catching 6 balls for 140 yards and a TD, although with this TD being the first since about mid-September that wasn't more than 50 yards, it does sort of make it seem cheap.  After riding Frank Gore to a surprising MNF win last week, the 49ers inexplicably went back to the Alex Smith well and paid for it as his 3 INTs helped make it that much easier for the Eagles.

Pittsburgh 37 Green Bay 36

In a game that was nothing short of a kick in the balls for every Packer fan, the Steelers rallied after giving up the lead late to win on a TD pass from Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace with no time left on the clock.  Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards and 3 TDs on the day; that's not a mis-type by me, he really threw for 503 yards.  Even Lynn Swann had over 100 yards receiving for the Steelers yesterday.  The loss for Green Bay wasted another sterling performance by Aaron Rodgers (383-3) but still keeps them in the driver's seat for the playoffs at 9-5, even if the Giants win tonight.  But still, HOW DO YOU LET MIKE WALLACE GET THAT OPEN?!?!?!?!

Tampa Bay 24 Seattle 7

Josh Freeman finally got over his case of INT Fever yesterday, throwing 2 TD passes and leading the Bucs to a surprise win over the Seahawks.  Seattle was done in by their 5 turnovers and the fact that their defense couldn't stop a high school team.  I actually did a Scooby Doo-style double take when I checked the box score and saw that the Seahawks have somehow won 5 games this year.

Baltimore 31 Chicago 7

After spending nearly 2 months in the witness protection program, Joe Flacco's swagger has returned as he threw 4 TD passes yesterday, leading the Ravens to a much-needed win that helped solidify their standing in the AFC Playoff picture.  Unfortunately for Bear fans and fortunately for sarcastic assholes like me who like to kick people when they're down, Jay Cutler's ineptitude is still alive and well, demonstrated in his sub-100-yard, 3 INT performance.  I think I speak for many people when I say: "Hahahaha, Jay Cutler.  You fucking suck."

Carolina 26 Minnesota 7

Ahh yes, as if ragging on Jay Cutler wasn't enough, now I get to comment on the fraudulent Minnesota Vikings some more.  If last night's performance against a pretty bad Carolina team doesn't convince you that the Vikings and Brett Favre are not for real, then I don't know what will.  Favre was pedestrian at best for the third game in a row, getting thoroughly outplayed by Matt Moore (299-3 TDs), then getting in a sideline argument with coach Brad Childress about whether or not he should come out of the game because of the number of hits he was taking, and Adrian Peterson got bottle up by a defense that has done its damndest all year to make opposing offenses look good.  And I can't confirm at this time, but my sources do tell me that the league and local police are going to investigate Julius Peppers and what he did to Bryant McKinnie last night to determine if, in fact, it constitutes rape in the state of North Carolina.

MNF Prediction

NY Giants 26 Washington 23

The Giants aren't a good team, face it.  But neither are the Redskins, and with more to play for than Washington, something tells me the Giants will do just enough to pull this one out.  By something I mean gain enough yards on a late 4th-quarter drive to set up a game-winning field goal attempt after their defense blew another 4th-quarter lead, but hey, a win's a win, right?

MNF Predictions for the Season (Winners): 10-5

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This Was A Joke, Right?

Who the hell was that gawky dude wearing Ater Majok's uniform today?  Husky fans have been waiting for half an eternity to see this guy play and that was what we got today?  1 point and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes of underwhelming, uninspired, seemingly clueless play?  Seriously, did Calhoun switch Majok's number with Mandeldove's in some sort of bizarre strategic move?

Where was the guy nicknamed "The Terror?"  Where was the guy who called himself a "Psycho Maniac" when he and Jeff Adrien got into a practice scuffle last year?  Where was the guy who watches "Shaka Zulu" all the time to get hyped up for games?

All I saw out there today was a scared little boy who had no clue what the fuck he was doing.  He was completely helpless and lost out there, and that was just against UCF.  What's it going to be like when he has to start banging bodies in the Big East?  Is it too late to send him back to Sudan?

Oh well, at least the Huskies still have Gavin.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Simmah Down Nah!!!

The overall mood of Yankeeland right now seems to be one of unhappiness with the developments of the week and uncertainty with where the Yankees currently stand.  I got people texting me asking me what the deal with the Johnson trade is; I'm reading countless blog posts everywhere about how losing Matsui and Damon is a big deal and replacing them with Granderson and Johnson isn't enough, and so on and so forth.

Can everybody just calm the fuck down?!?!

How quickly everybody forgets last year.  The Yankees come out like gangbusters, scooped up CC and A.J. before any other team can even get them on the phone, practically robbed Andy Pettitte with the $5.5 mil deal to get him back and then everybody assumed they were done.  A few weeks later, Brian Cashman sneaks in the backdoor on everybody and snatches up Teix right from under Theo's nose.  Everybody thought the Yanks had spent what they were going to spend and assumed they were out of the Teix Sweepstakes only to have their apple bags punched into oblivion when Teix became the $180-Million-Man.

Fast forward to this year: Yanks make a good trade to add Granderson, upgrading their defense, athleticism, power, and youth in the process, then they let Matsui go because he was getting antsy and let Damon walk because he's drinking the Scott Boras Kool-Aid and thinks he's worth 13-mil at 3-4 years.  The more-than-reasonable Nick Johnson deal becomes official today and people are already condemning the Yankees to failure for these happenings???

It's December fucking 18th!!  Reeeeee-lax.  There is more at play here than the Yanks and Brian Cashman are letting on about.  Do you really think they would basically swap Damon for Nick Johnson if they didn't have some other things in the works?  Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are still out on the market (even though I don't want either of them), and I'm sure there's a couple of guys who the Yankees have discussed internally that we don't even know about.  So everybody take a deep breath, get a glass of egg nog, and calm down.

The fact is Matsui and his agent couldn't stand to wait a few days to let the discussions with Damon pan out and took less money than what the Yankees were planning to offer ($7.5 mil) to go to Anaheim.  Damon wouldn't budge from his stance on money and years and the Yankees moved on.  The way that those 2 handled their business says that they didn't truly want to be Yankees as much as they and their agents said they did, so good fucking riddance.

The Yankees can talk about wanting to spend less and setting a budget all they want, but you would have to be insane to think that spending $11.5 mil on Pettitte and $5.5 mil on Johnson is all they are going to do, especially with some of the big names still out there.  They played opposum on the competition last year and look how well that worked out.  Just let Cash work his magic; the dude has been on such a hot streak the last couple seasons that this is the wallet he's carrying around now:

Before we all rush to judgement about how weak the lineup is now and how Nick Johnson sucks, let's just see what the next few weeks bring us, huh?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Look At This Guy!

Motherfuckers just look great in the pinstripes, huh?

Welcome aboard, Curtis.  Can't wait to see your centerfield Web Gem bonanza begin.

Nick Johnson: 2010 New York Yankees Starting DH?

The Yankees and Nick Johnson are talking about the sweet-swinging lefty and on-base machine replacing Hideki Matsui as the world champions’ designated hitter on a one-year deal.

“We have had dialogue, things are moving forward,” agent Rex Gary said of talks between the Yankees and their former first baseman. “Something could happen to speed things up, but it’s hard to predict.”

Seattle is interested in the 31-year-old Johnson to play first base, an opportunity he wouldn’t have in The Bronx because of Mark Teixeira’s presence, but the allure of returning to the Yankees may be the difference for Johnson.

Johnson is a career .292 hitter against lefties. A career .273 hitter with an on-base percentage of .402, hits .266 versus right-handers.

Johnson played with the Nationals and Marlins last year and batted .291 with eight homers and 62 RBIs in 133 games and had an on-base percentage of .426.

“He can still hit,” an NL talent evaluator said of Johnson, who made $5.5 million last season, the final leg of a three-year $16.5 million deal. “He is an on-base percentage guy who will hit some homers in Yankee Stadium.”

Considering Johnson’s injury history, any deal likely would include incentives for at-bats. As a Yankee, he missed the entire 2000 season with a right hand injury. He was limited to 38 games in 2008 with the Nationals due to a right wrist problem. A fractured right femur late in the 2006 season cost Johnson all of 2007. A lumbar strain and a fractured right cheekbone limited him to 73 games in 2004 as an Expo. As a Yankee in 2003, he missed 61 games because of a stress fracture in the right hand. (story courtesy of the NY Post)

And that's why you should never worry about the Yankees, even when they lose a 29-HR, 90-RBI guy who was the World Series MVP and maybe their 2009 starting left fielder. Because there's always a backup plan. And bringing Nick Johnson back into the fold at what will definitely be cheaper than the $13 mil Damon is looking for and the $6.5 mil that Matsui got from Anaheim looks like a pretty damn good backup plan.

Sure the guy is like Mr. Glass when it comes to durability, but that just gives the Yankees more leverage in the deal they offer him. When he is healthy, he's the perfect fit for this lineup: a lefty that hits lefty pitchers well, a guy who makes good contact, takes a lot of pitches, and works plenty of walks. His power numbers should go up playing in the new Stadium and assuming he can stay relatively healthy he should be able to approximate Matsui's production to a close enough degree that between he and Granderson, the Yankee offense shouldn't lose anything in terms of output by losing Damon and Matsui.

Another added benefit is the fact that Johnson is an average-at-worst Major League first baseman and gives the Yankees a viable option to play at 1B on days where Teixeira needs a day off or day at DH instead of Swish, Jorge, or Eric Hinske. Any Yankee fan who remembers watching Gary Sheffield stumble around the bag a few seasons ago can tell you how important it is to have a solid backup option at first.

I don't like to be the type to jump the gun on rumors like this, but bringing in Johnson to plug the DH gap is a good fit for the team and still leaves them with plenty of financial wiggle room to go after another starting pitcher. Johnson has seen life on the other side of Pinstripe Land and so far that life has been consistently filled with losing seasons for him. At 31, he should be more concerned with winning games and a ring than money and would be foolish to use the Matsui logic and go to Seattle just to play first instead of coming back to New York to contend for a title.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A-Rod & K-Hud On The Outs??? (GASP!)

Alex Rodriguez spent the weekend flirting with a string of beautiful girls in Miami -- telling one, "I'm definitely single," sources tell Page Six.

The Yankee slugger was "acting like a single man," partying with two pretty girls at the W Hotel Friday before zeroing in on a blonde at the Armani Exchange Sunglass dinner at The Delano on Saturday.

Reps for both Kate and A-Rod declined to confirm that the pair had split, although a source told us last night, "They've definitely broken up. There's been some drama before about his roving eye. But this isn't the first time they've split up and got back together."

On Friday, "he partied with two women at the W and looked relaxed and happy. Miami is his home, so he always gets approached by girls," a witness said.

The next night, a source said, "at the Armani Exchange dinner, A-Rod didn't eat a thing because he was focused on this cute blonde -- who looked a bit like Kate. He literally didn't take his eyes off her.

"They left in a group and went to the Fontainebleau, where he hung out with the same blond girl and told other girls who approached him, 'I am definitely single.' " But he left with old pal Ingrid Casares.  )story courtesy of Page Six)
Cue all the jokes about "now A-Rod will suck in the clutch again," blah, blah, blah.  That's about what I would expect on a day when the biggest news is that the Phillies gave up their 3 best prospects in that stupid, roundabout Lee-for-Halladay trade, making it look even worse than it did yesterday, and the Fraud Sox signed 36-year-old Mike Cameron.
To be perfectly honest, I don't even see how this is news- or gossip-worthy.  Of course A-Rod is eye-fucking other chicks in Miami.  He's Alex-Goddamn-Rodriguez for Christ's sake.  He just got finished having one of the greatest and most productive postseasons in Yankee history, culminating in his first, and the team's 27th, World Series title.  In just one short month he erased all the doubts about his ability to perform when it mattered and re-established himself as the premier player in baseball.  And he did it all despite the fact that he had his brainless girlfriend plop her lazy ass down in the field-level seats with her douchebag dad and hog his camera time while she failed to stand and cheer for him even once, or even seem to understand how the game of baseball works.  If you ask me, I don't think Kate helped A-Rod out so much as he, through her being tied to him, helped get her back into the media spotlight.
Think about it, when's the last time you heard about the great new Kate Hudson movie?  How often was Extra or Entertainment Tonight leading with what Kate was wearing on the red carpet or what her latest plans were?  The chick had practically fallen off the face of the Earth until she decided to ride A-Rod's rod, so all this garbage about how she helped calm A-Rod down and get him in the right frame of mind is bullshit. 
A-Rod got himself into the right frame of mind by finally forgetting about what people thought of him or what the right thing to say was and just playing ball.  He trusted in his abilities and those of his teammates and he ended up producing the way everybody always thought he would and should in the clutch.  The fact that Kate Hudson was being dragged in his wake of success means nothing other than she was along for the ride and damn lucky to be there.
If A-Rod wants to eye-fuck or actually fuck a whole gaggle of blondes on Miami Beach then that's what he's entitled to do as a multi-millionaire, a Yankee, and a champion.  Kate Hudson can fuck off and go hang out with her kids because her newfound 15 minutes are up.  And here's hoping A-Rod put those centaur paintings back up in his bedroom because it's just 110 days before he starts 2010 off right by kicking Boston's teeth in.

Sayonara, Hideki-San

According to several sources, Hideki Matsui and the Angels have agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million that will be finalized when the 35-year-old slugger passes a physical.

"I can confirm that we are in serious discussions with the Angels," agent Arn Tellem said last night. "I have no further comment."

If Matsui passes the physical, not a slam dunk considering he has undergone off-season surgery on each knee in the last two winters, the Yankees will be faced with filling a productive hole in the middle of their order.

Through Tellem, Matsui recently informed the Yankees he didn't want to wait to see what the club did with fellow free agent Johnny Damon. The Yankees informed Tellem that DH wasn't as high a priority as improving the pitching staff -- starter or reliever -- or left field.

Fearful of being left without a team, Matsui turned to the Angels, who will not bring back DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Last week at the Winter Meetings, Angels GM Tony Reagins was lukewarm when asked his interest in Matsui, who didn't play an inning in the outfield this past season because of his surgically repaired knees.

Appealing to the Angels is that Matsui believes he can play the outfield, something the Yankees publicly said he wouldn't do if he returned to The Bronx, where he spent seven seasons in which he appeared in the World Series in the first (2003) and last (2009) with much different results.

As much as the Yankees loved Matsui's production and popularity in the clubhouse, they have concerns his knees won't hold up as well as they did this past season when the left hinge had to be drained twice.

And GM Brian Cashman has explained that improving the pitching staff and finding a left fielder are priorities over filling the DH spot. (story courtesy of the NY Post)

Well I guess the allure of coming back to be a part of a back-to-back championship-winning team, forever etching his name into Yankees lore, being beloved by fans from this generation and subsequently being invited back to every Yankee Old Timers' Day until the end of time, and never having to pay for a meal in NYC ever again wasn't appealing enough to old Hi-dek. In the end, the allure of getting the chance to play the outfield and simultaneously blow out both his knees, thus ending his career as a baseball player and as a bipedal human who can walk normally, was just too much to pass up.

Hey, to each his own. Everybody says their ultimate goal in sports is to win a championship; for Matsui his goal must have literally been to win "A" championship because with the losses of Lackey and Figgins and the addition of Cliff Lee to Seattle's rotation, Anaheim's chances of even contending for a title next year aren't looking too good.

You have to wonder what is going through Tony Reagins' head if a week ago he was lukewarm on making this deal because Matsui hasn't played the outfield since 2007, and then today it's stated that Matsui's "ability" to play the outfield was appealing to the Angels. I'm not joking when I say that I think an arthritic, 80-year-old woman in a power chair from the Scooter Store can play the outfield better than Matsui at this point in his career; the Yankees knew that, which is why they put him lower on the to-do list beneath re-signing Pettitte, trading for Granderson, and re-signing Johnny Damon, so what do the Angels, a team who have no inside knowledge of Matsui and his health, know that the Yankees don't?

Basically this was a panic move by the Angels to replace their loss in offensive production that comes with losing Figgins and Vlad. When the Lackey-to-Boston deal became official yesterday, bolstering the offense became more of a priority for them since there isn't much left out there to help them improve their 2010 pitching staff and replace Lackey in the rotation. Unfortunately they let Matsui's numbers from last year blind them to the fact that putting him in the outfield like he wants will effectively eliminate those numbers when it results in him spending significant time or the remainder of the season on the DL.

Matsui is still an above-average Major League, but he is nothing more. And in today's game you have to have flexibility in your lineup. Matsui was a great Yankee: quiet and polite in front of the media, by all accounts a great teammate, and someone who went about his job every day rain or shine, hurt or 100%, putting up damn good numbers along the way. He'll be missed by his teammates and fans but the bottom line is, with his body breaking down at an alarming rate over the last 2 years, it is too much of a risk for the Yankees to bring him back when there are more appealing options at DH.

If he truly believes he can play the outfield, then God bless him; it's good to have confidence. But I think that experiment is going to end badly for both he and the Angels, and having those ticking time bombs for knees on somebody else's roster next season makes winning 28 that much easier for the Bombers when it's something they don't have to worry about.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is Everybody High?

Did I miss something?  Can somebody explain to me how the Red Sox signing John Lackey to a 5-year deal and the Phillies essentially trading Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay is a big deal for either of those teams or the Yankees?  Theo and whatever schmuck runs the Phillies must have been watching the Cypress Hill: Live At The Fillmore DVD together when they came up with these ideas because neither of these moves puts these teams any closer to beating the Bombers next year.

First the Phillies.  Their biggest weapon on their entire pitching staff last season was Cliff Lee.  He carried their staff through the postseason and was dominant in all of his outings except Game 5 of the World Series.  With his limited exposure to National League teams he would have been a front runner for the NL Cy Young next year, been the #1 starter on a team that would once again be favored to advance to the World Series out of the NL, and given the Phillies the appealing option of going lefty-righty-lefty-righty-lefty in their rotation next year if they so chose.

Now by moving him out of the way to make room for Roy Halladay, they have sacrificed their chance to have the most dominant 1-2 pitching punch in baseball and become odds-on World Series favorites for next season, and at the end of the day end up with a rotation no better with Halladay at the front of it than it would have been with Lee at the helm.  All of this because Lee wanted a contract at market value (something very fair for the 2008 AL Cy Young and one of, if not the best, pitcher in last year's postseason to ask for), and Halladay had indicated that he would sign for less than his market value if traded to Philly.  What kind of message does this send about Philadelphia's commitment to winning?  They could have had the most stacked rotation in the NL by far, probably the best in baseball in either league, and instead they jettisoned one ace to make room for another all over a dollar value that will likely only be somewhere between $5-15 million difference.

Newsflash fellas, just because Roy Halladay says he'll sign for less than you expect, that doesn't mean you're signing him for 5 years, $25 million.  The dude is going to want to get paid and you're going to have to pay him.  The added revenue that would come from having one of the best teams in baseball and the best 1-2 punch on the hill for the next couple of seasons would have probably offset the extra coin you would have had to shell out to keep Lee, so why wouldn't you be aggressive, trade for Halladay, sign both of them, and make a 4-5 year run at multiple World Series titles while they and the rest of your deep lineup are in their primes?  All this move says to me is that the Yankees will have to go through Halladay as the only pitcher who scares you and then the rest of the Phillies' rotation next year on their way to title 28 instead of Lee, so this move is basically a wash.

Now for Fraud Sox Nation, the little engine that could and now can't keep up with the Big Bad Bombers.  The whole "slightly more than A.J. Burnett's contract"-thing is cute; $83 million as opposed to $82 mil, trying to show that you're willing to go the extra mile to compete with the Yankees.  But it just comes off as pathetic, the fact that you still feel like you have to try to one-up New York, and another weak attempt to try to compete with the Yankees when deep down your entire organization knows you can't hang with them over the 162-game schedule next year.  It's like when your little brother is 5 and thinks one day when he's bigger and stronger he's going to be able to beat you at basketball, not realizing that when that day comes you're going to be bigger and stronger too.  It's obvious the Boston brass felt like they had to try to make a big splash to keep their fanbase thinking that they were committed to winning, but this move just rings hollow.

If Boston was really serious about competing next season, they would have bitten the bullet on guys like Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz and given the Blue Jays what they wanted to bring Halladay into the fold.  A rotation of Halladay, Beckett, Lester, and Lackey is something to write home about; on any given day you're throwing a guy out there who can throw a complete game shutout.  Instead all they've done is add another guy who has a good track record against the Yankees but can't beat them when it counts (check the stats; the later in the season these guys pitched against the Yankees, the worse they performed).

With Beckett looking shaky already at age 29, Buchholz still never proving that he can be consistently good for a complete season, Dice-Gay being the pitching equivalent to a roll of bar dice, and Tim Wakefield having one foot and his bad back out the door, the Red Sox rotation doesn't look any better or worse than the Yankees' right now.  I'll take CC, A.J., and Andy against Beckett, Lester, and Lackey any day of the fucking week, especially with how weak the Boston lineup is looking next year and how deep and flexible the Yanks' is looking.

So congratulations to the Red Sox and Phillies and their fans.  I'm sure you'll sell plenty of tickets with your shiny new pitching toys next year, but at the end of the day you're both still a step below the Yankees looking up.  You both had an opportunity to make a fat-guy-in-a-wave-pool-sized splash in the offseason but were too chickenshit to pony up the cash and prospects necessary to make it happen.  I hope you both remember this when next November rolls around and you're watching from the opposing dugouts or your own homes as the Yankees are dosing each other in Korbel.

AB4AR's Week 14 NFL Wrap-Up

Week 14 Recap

Cleveland 13 Pittsburgh 6

I don't give a shit that head coach Mike Tomlin is a dead ringer for Omar Epps; somebody needs to wheel the Steelers into the ICU, stat, and get House on this case because they are just a fucking disaster right now and nobody on their roster or staff seems to know how to figure it out.  You hold Brady Quinn to 6-19 and 90 yards and their RB staff to such little yardage that Josh Cribbs actually leads them in rushing yards and you still lose?  Not to mention you fail to score more than 10 points against a defense that was playing half its backups?  It's a little late in the year to use the "Super Bowl Hangover" excuse; oh no, my friends, this isn't a hangover.  It's a goddamn Super Bowl-Induced Coma.

Houston 34 Seattle 7

In the most predictable outcome this side of Tiger Woods vs. Some Slutty Bar Chick, Houston comes out and runs roughshod over an inferior opponent 2 weeks after choking their season away AGAIN.  Matt Schaub racked up 395 yards through the air and 2 TDs, both to Andre Johnson who wasn't too shabby himself with an 11-catch, 193-yard, 2-TD performance against arguably the worst secondary in professional football.  If the Texans were smart, they would just go 0-7 to start the season every year, take all the pressure that they clearly can't handle off themselves, and spend the rest of the season putting up monster fantasy numbers for their owners.

Baltimore 48 Detroit 3

Baltimore used the 2-headed monster of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to rack up 242 yards and 3 TDs on the ground on just 25 combined carries to rout the Pretty Kitties.  Detroit did their best by countering with Daunte Culpepper and Dennis Northcutt, but when that's what you're countering with and that's what you're calling your best because everybody else is injured then you can take it to the bank that your team is going to get its shit pushed in.  Christ, if you tried playing a game of Madden with Culpepper and Northcutt as your WB-WR combo, the game would probably forfeit for you before the coin toss even happened.

Miami 14 Jacksonville 10

In a battle that could determine which mediocre team gets to sneak into the playoffs as the 6-seed and proceed to get torched by the Bengals or Patriots, the Dolphins used a 108-yard, 1-TD performance by Ricky Williams and a 1-yard TD plunge by super-secret goal line bruiser Chad Henne to secure a victory over the Jags.  Miami was sloppy, committing 3 turnovers, but when your opponent can only muster 217 yards of offense you could turn it over 6 times and it wouldn't make a difference.

NY Jets 26 Tampa Bay 3

It looks like Mark Sanchez getting hurt is the best thing to ever happen to the Jets as they cruised to an easy victory over the Bucs yesterday behind the veteran leadership of Kellen Clemens (I know, I can't even read that without smiling either).  It could have been Sanchez, but it was most likely the fact that Josh Freeman continued to fall back to Earth as he threw for just 93 yards and 3 picks in the loss.  It could also have something to do with the fact that Thomas Jones had 24 carries for 99 yards and 2 TDs, continuing to be the most un-talked-about great RB in the NFL.  I don't know if either of those are true, I'm just saying...

New England 20 Carolina 10

The Pats held on to get a much-needed win against the Fighting Matt Moores yesterday despite having a ghost or some sort of ethereal being wearing Randy Moss' uniform out on the field instead of Moss himself.  Tom Brady was only slightly better than Matt Moore: 19-32-192-1/15-30-197-1, but Brady had help from a suddenly re-emerging Laurence Maroney, who had 94 tough yards on 22 carries.  After the game, reporters question Bill Belichick on why Moss would be sent home before a big game, especially after he had served his timeout earlier in the week.

Minnesota 30 Cincinnati 10

In a game they needed to stay in contention for homefield advantage in the playoffs, the Bengals gacked it up big time in Minnesota.  They totaled just 210 yards of offense on the road, Carson Palmer was held to fewer than 100 passing, and Chad Johnson didn't even celebrate after scoring his, and the team's only, TD.  Adrian Peterson and his Nike-skinned body returned to form yesterday, racking up 97 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, and Brett Favre rebounded from his awful performance last week to turn in a much more typical mediocre-Brett Favre-December performance, going 17-30 for 192 yards, 1 touch, and a pick.

Buffalo 16 Kansas City 10

Buffalo was outgained 354-273 by the Chiefs but used Matt Cassell being the latest to do a Jake Delhomme impression (4 picks) to their advantage in squeaking out an ugly 16-10 win.  With Ryan Fitzpatrick playing typical Ryan Fitzpatrick-type football, the Bills rode Fred Jackson to points while Cassell's constant battle with Pick-itis wasted Jamaal Charles' solid effort: 20-143-1.

Indianapolis 28 Denver 16

Peyton Manning was a very un-Peyton Manning-ish 20-42 for 220 and 3 picks, the Colts had little or no running game to speak of, Brandon Marshall went hogwild against the Indy secondary, collecting a new NFL record 21 catches for 200 yards and 2 TDs, and the Colts still win by 12.  The fact that Manning managed to sneak 4 TD passes in between his 22 incompletions and 3 picks helped.  When you can have a game where all those factors come together and you can still win, that says something about your team.  Probably that it just got lucky, but hey, that's still something.

Green Bay 21 Chicago 14

Just when it looked like he had done enough to get his team into a winning position and earn back a handful of fans in the Windy City, Jay Cutler tossed a grotesque INT in the 4th quarter that led to the Packers' eventual game-winning TD.  That gives Cutler 22 INTs on the season and has Bears fans pining for the days of not only Rex Grossman but even Cade McNown.  Lost in the suffle of Cutler's ineptitude were the facts that Ryan Grant ran for 137 yards and 1 long touch, Aaron Rodgers was an efficient 16-24 for 180 yards, and the Packers have now won 5 in a row and firmly entrenched themselves as the NFC's main Wild Card contender.

New Orleans 26 Atlanta 23

Drew Brees' 31-40-296-3 performance bested that of a very game Chris Redman (303-1) as the Saints held off a late Falcon's threat to stay unbeaten and keep their bid for homefield throughout the playoffs and a perfect 16-0 record intact.  Reggie Bush had 6 catches, 2 of them for TDs, and continued to do just enough to stave off calls that he is a bust.  Solid numbers aside, it's been a tough first year in Atlanta for Tony Gonzalez as injuries to key players have all but killed their playoff chances.  But hey, at least he's got that killer parking spot at the team facility, huh?

Tennessee 47 St. Louis 7

Chris Johnson was a one-man, dreadlocked wrecking crew again yesterday, gaining 117 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries as well as 69 yards and a TD on 3 receptions, but he did continue to fall behind Eric Dickerson's pace for the NFL All-time rushing record so the day was basically a waste for him.  After Vince Young left with a hamstring injury, Kerry Collins put the Heineken mini-keg down long enough to throw for 154 yards and 1 TD in relief.  St. Louis' day was done when they came out onto the field with some guy named Keith Null as their starting QB.  Null did exactly as you would expect him to do, throwing 4 picks and being completely overwhelmed.  Seriously, when there are Keith Nulls getting starts in this league, you can't try to tell me that Tim Tebow isn't going to at least have a decent chance at being a legit NFL QB.

San Diego 20 Dallas 17

And the "Dallas is choking in December again"-meter has been cranked to 100!!!  The calendar says it's December 21, but you and I and every other football fan knows it's winter when the 'Boys start slacking off in games, failing to execute on a consistent basis, and losing games that they desperately need to stay in command of their playoff destiny.  Yesterday it was the crew from the city that means "A Whale's Vagina" that dumped Dallas, knocking them back to 2nd in the NFC East.  Phillip Rivers outplayed Tony Romo just enough to get his team the win as Dallas seemed to lose the wind in their sails after watching Demarcus Ware get carted off the field on a stretcher in the 4th quarter.  Their fans in the stands felt the same way as they watched Dallas' hopes and dreams for a successful playoff season be carted away in a casket as the final seconds ticked down.

Washington 34 Oakland 13

After upsetting Pittsburgh last week, Oakland was dealt a sharp blow to its non-existant playoff hopes with a blowout loss to the Native Americans.  Washington's 4th RB, Quinton Ganther, ran for 2 TDs, Jason Campbell threw for 222 yards, 2 TDs, and no picks, and Bruce Gradkowski's knee injury meant we got to experience more of Jamarcus Russell butt raping the playing of the QB position.  But it's not all bad news; Bruce Gradkowski's knee injury meant we got to experience more of Jamarcus Russell butt raping the playing of the QB position.  That's high-quality entertainment right there.

Philadelphia 45 NY Giants 38

The Giants are D-O-N-E done after last night's defensive fiasco.  Eli Manning's 391 yards and 3 TDs on a more than fucked up foot doesn't mean shit when Brandon Jacobs has been re-incarnated as Ron Dayne, your defense can't cover or tackle anybody, and your supposed big-time DEs generate a pass rush about as intimidating as Dakota Fanning.  And can somebody please, for the love of God, put some safety help over the top on DeSean Jackson???  The guy has only been torching teams deep all season; let's just leave our 4th-string CB out on an island to cover him alone.  The red, flush-faced look on Tom Coughlin's face isn't from the cold weather, it's from the heat he's suddenly feeling right under his ass as his team stumbles to the finish line.

MNF Prediction

Arizona 27 San Francisco 13

The Cardinals are hitting their stride at the right time, much like they did last season, while the 49ers don't even have a stride to hit if they wanted to.  I can't see SF's secondary sticking with Fitz, 'Quan, And S-Breast (yeah, I just called Steve Breaston "S-Breast," deal with it) for 4 minutes, let alone 4 quarters.  Look for the Cards to jump out to a 21-3 halftime lead and then finish the game on cruise control.

MNF Predictions for the Season (Winners): 10-4