Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MORE TROUBLE FOR PETE ROSE



Some breaking news came out about Pete Rose, and it might spell trouble for his reinstatement bid. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported that they have uncovered evidence showing that Pete Rose bet on baseball when he was a player in 1986. Up until now, he had adamantly maintained that he never bet on games when he was a player, only when he was a manager. Now the evidence shows that he lied about that too.


As we reported last month in THINGS COMING UP ROSES FOR PETE ROSE, it seemed like he was on his way back to baseball. The new Commissioner of Baseball Robert Manfred had said that Pete deserves a hearing, and the process was underway. Of course, with nothing guaranteed, we assumed that there would be serious restrictions and conditions on his return, and we expect that is still the case. The assumption was always that he would have to be honest and forthcoming about what he did, and that would be just for starters.  This latest set of revelations certainly casts doubt on his honesty regarding statements he made over the last 26 years. John Dowd, who authored the report that documented the results of baseball’s investigation into his gambling, was quick to provide a quote: “This does it. This closes the door.” Perhaps he feels vindicated. I am not so sure he has good reason to have such bravado.


The fact is that we know nothing about discussions that took place between Pete Rose’s people and the Commissioner’s Office. Again, we expect that he will have to be honest and forthright about what he did. If Rose already planned to share this and discussed this in confidence, the revelation would change nothing. Furthermore, this makes no difference in his culpability and deservedness of his ban from baseball. As we stated in PETE ROSE BELONGS ON THE INELIGIBLE LIST, it doesn’t matter if he bet as a manager or as a player. He had a “duty to perform”, and that settled it. In a sense, this is another action on a long list of actions, any one of which would put you on the permanently ineligible list.


While many of his detractors, like John Dowd, will seize on this to say that this settles the issue and he should go away, Pete may still have a chance for reinstatement. Still, this does not help his image of contrition. It certainly does not say that he can be trusted to tell the whole truth. Whatever he decides, it is in the hands of Commissioner Manfred now. I always liked Pete when he was a player, but this is about the integrity of the game. Whatever the Commissioner does, his job is to make sure that any deal they agree to is in the best interests of baseball. It should make for an interesting hearing.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FIX THE ALL-STAR GAME


What a mess. One of the more fun games of the year for me is the All-Star game. It’s fun because often I don’t get to see big stars actually play. I love fantasy baseball and I love reading stats, so I know the names and I know what they’re good at. But I rarely get to watch Clayton Kershaw pitch or a Paul Goldschmidt at-bat. Watching these players swing the bat, or seeing their pitching motion, and playing against the best players in the game is something special. Not so much this year.


It looks like the starters for the American League All-Star Team is going to be the starting lineup of the Kansas City Royals. This has some folks – myself included – upset. There are some Royals who are simply not the best in the A.L. at their position. In the case of Omar Infante, you can make the argument that he’s the worst starting 2nd baseman in the league. But they have the most votes. There is a lot of speculation about whether or not some KC fan hacked the voting, with one blogger claiming he successfully exceeded 35 votes. Sorry, but MLB eliminates about 20% of the votes due to irregularities, so your extras were probably in that 20%. Still, there is no proof that the votes were hacked, so I’m going to go on the notion that KC fans are voting en masse for their players.


The idea of teams encouraging fans to vote for their players has been around for ages. Every visit to a ballpark I have done around this time of year is filled with reminders to vote for your team’s players. Even the ballot page has a way for you to highlight one team’s players. I suppose that is just in case you couldn’t find them. Note sarcasm. This introduces a fundamental problem with the entire process. It turns an event that is supposed to be about the sport’s best players into a popularity contest. Welcome to the 2015 All-Star voting.


I would like to propose a number of changes to the voting process, in the interest of turning this event back to what it is supposed to be. First, eliminate this 35 votes per person nonsense and make it one person, one vote. I never understood the reason for this, except that it gives mlb.com more clicks and their sponsors and advertisers more exposure. Second, take the pool of eligible players and reduce it to a list of serious All-Star contenders. I mean, why does Ryan Hanigan’s name even appear on my ballot? Take your standard 5x5 scoring categories – AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, K, ERA, SV, and WHIP – and limit eligibility to the players in the top 5 in at least one of those categories. Eliminate write-ins. Statistics do not always tell the whole story, but if you’re not in the top 5 in your league in even one of those categories, you have no business getting All-Star votes.


Finally, I would cap the number of starters per team to some reasonable number, like four. If more than four players from a single team are elected by fans, then the manager and commissioner’s office have the option of moving those extra players from a starting spot to a reserve role on the team, much in the same way they would substitute a player that declines to participate. That stops one team’s fans from hijacking the voting process like Royals fans are doing now.


The Commissioner’s Office has declined to make any changes at this point, though who knows what they’ll do when the opposing voices start to get louder. We have heard a lot about Ford Frick and his intervention in the 1957 All-Star Game. Will Rob Manfred take similar action? There are still a few weeks to go, but it is sure to get interesting.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue;

Saturday, June 20, 2015

BUT CAN THEY PITCH FOR THE YANKEES?



There is a lot of attention these days around the Yankees' pitching staff, and attention usually means trouble. It's hard to look at recent performances, in which the Yankees gave up 9 runs or more three times this week, and not think that the sky is falling. It's given rise to a bunch of rumors, the most popular one being about Johnny Cueto. Everyone knows the Reds are going to be unloading Cueto, everyone sees the instability of the Yankees rotation, and well ... you can do the math.


So here's the problem with the Cueto scenario. There are some players that do well with the Yankees, and some that do not do well. It's tragic when we sign a pitcher that is not "Yankees-friendly". He has some amazing numbers to prove that he is a good pitcher, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot see Cueto in that Yankees-friendly category. He is the stereotypical guy who I expect to be unprepared for the pressures of playing baseball in New York. He has only pitched for the Reds his entire career. Pitchers who pitch on low revenue, small market teams tend not to do as well under the bright lights and high pressure of Yankee Stadium. The fact that his career ERA is almost two-thirds of a point higher on the road than at home is something to notice too.


There are plenty of great pitchers who just could not hack it here. A.J. Burnett is a great, recent example. I loved what he did for us in 2009, but if you even include that year, his ERA's prior to joining the Yankees (3.82) and after he left the Yankees (3.59) were almost and more than a full point lower than his combined ERA in his 3 years as a Yankee (4.79), respectively. Looking at his HRs per season (12 before joining the Yankees, 27 as a Yankee, and 13 after the Yankees) gives you even more proof that he was not Yankees-friendly. He is not the only one.


Decisions made under pressure, without the luxury of breathing room to make objective evaluations and rational decisions, tend to go badly. This is especially true when you feel an urgent need to make a quick fix to an immediate problem. This is where I get worried. Honestly, Cueto does not look like a fit. I get that he is a 20-game winner and came in 2nd in the Cy Young voting last year. Randy Johnson came in second in the Cy Young and threw a perfect game the year before joining the Yankees. Kenny Rogers was 4th in the league with wins (17) and a perfect game winner the year before when he joined the Yankees. The list of pitchers who pitched well where they were before joining the Yankees is longer than you might think. Let's not add to it.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue;

Sunday, June 14, 2015

JOE GIRARDI'S IN A CATCH-22


The Yankees are in a bad Catch-22 situation right now, and it has to do with their pitching. Admittedly, there seems to be problems almost everywhere. But the recent injury to the closer Andrew Miller has enticed a lot of critics to come out with fingers pointing. The issue there is the reason for Miller’s strained forearm – fatigue. Is he being overused? Certainly Miller is not going to say yes. That would be a direct shot at his manager. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman are being somewhat quiet on the issue too. Can you blame them?


I am certainly not going to defend them if they are overusing their best pitchers. It is their jobs to make sure that the players are in the best shape and position to win. Are they overusing them? Joel Sherman of the New York Post sure thinks so (read HERE). Sherman cites a number of games when the closer should not have had to come in. These are games where the Yankees had huge leads and the pitching started giving up runs in bunches. Games where the 1-2 punch of the back of the bullpen – Miller and Dellin Betances – should have been spectators. Instead, Girardi has to bring them in to save the game.


Joel Sherman thinks it’s a trust issue. He doesn’t trust the rest of his pitchers and ends up overusing Miller and Betances. No disrespect to Sherman, but I think we all have trust issues with some of these guys. Would you have trusted a game to David Carpenter? How about Esmil Rogers? Sure he could have rested the stars. But then all of us – reporters and fans alike – would have blasted Girardi for letting games get away while Miller and Betances are sitting out there in the bullpen. This is the part of Girardi’s job that sucks – sometimes you just can’t win. But fixing this is still his job.


For the record, there is a real reason to be concerned about overuse of these guys. If we look at the first 58 games of the Yankees season, Miller has appeared in 26 games, 15 (58%) of those with 1 day of rest or less. Contrast that with the first 58 games of Mariano Rivera’s final season, where he appeared 24 times and 11 (46%) of those with 1 day or less of rest. It may seem small, but when it comes to rest, it matters. Here’s some more food for thought. Miller has faced 103 batters and thrown 428 pitches – 17% more batters and 29% more pitches than Rivera did during the aforementioned span. The story gets worse with Betances compared to Rivera – 21% more games, 82% more times with 1 day’s rest or less, 39% more batters, and 29% more pitches. Maybe it’s because Betances is younger, but you have to be concerned.


The real problem with those two are the ones that come right before them. David Carpenter, Esmil Rogers, and others have not delivered as advertised, and have justified any possible distrust Girardi may have. Guys like Chasen ShreveChris Martin, and Justin Wilson need to step up. The Yankees may need to get some avaiulable pitchers, or bring guys up from the farm who can help. Here at BYB, we have talked a lot about how important it is to develop the kids. Now the Yankees may need to accelerate that plan. It will probably be a month before we see Miller again. Leaning even more on Betances could be disastrous. With the American League East still lacking a clear front-runner, the Yankees may have some cushion to try out a few options. No matter how you feel about Joe Girardi’s trust level, the team needs to give him some better options.

Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PRAYERS AND THOUGHTS FOR MEL STOTTLEMYRE




This past Wednesday, New York baseball got some sad and distressing news. John Harper of the New York Daily announced that Mel Stottlemyre, one-time pitcher and ace for the New York Yankees, and pitching coach for both the Yankees and the Mets, is battling multiple myeloma, the same form of cancer with which he was diagnosed back in 2000 and again in 2011. You can check it out HERE. From the news we have, it is pretty bad.


Stottlemyre always had a special place in my baseball memories of  both the Yankees and the Mets. He had a proven track record for being a pitching guru, and the results show it. Personally, I credit him more than almost any other person for the success of both organizations in their respective decade of dominance. It seems like the Mets were terrible for a long time, Stottlemyre joined and they started winning. He left, and they became terrible again. Before he joined the Yankees, they had not been to the playoffs in 15 years. As soon as he got here, the Yankees spoiled us with annual trips to October and the World Series. He left, and it seemed like the dynasty was over and we were mortal again. I know that many other people worked hard for the successes in those years, but it seems eerie how closely the timelines match his tenure with both teams.


He was with the Mets from 1984 to 1993. When he joined, they were on a 7-year run of finishing in last or second to last place. Immediately they began a 7-year run of coming in first or second in their division, including two trips to the playoffs and one World Series. After a couple of years off, he joined Joe Torre and the Yankees in 1996. Fifteen years since playing in October, eighteen since a ticket tape parade. We all know what happened next – World Series wins in three of the next four years, two more trips to the World Series after that, and playoffs in each of his 10 years on the Yankees.


As a player, he had the misfortune of playing on some pretty bad Yankee teams between 1964 and 1974. To give you an idea, in 1972 he had an ERA of 3.22 and still managed to get 18 losses. In eight of his 11 years as a pitcher, the Yankees finished 15 games or more out of first place. Even so, he accumulated 164 wins over his career. In fact, his career ERA (2.97) is BETTER than the average ERA of all Hall of Fame pitchers’ careers combined (2.98). He was a 5-time All-Star, and he was in the Top 20 of MVP votes 3 times. Despite being on losing teams for most of his playing career, good luck finding quotes of him complaining.


Everyone knows someone who is battling cancer. It is a terrible disease, despite all the medical research going into finding a cure and developing treatments in the meantime.  We all remember his courage and determination in 2000 when he wore the chemo pump under his uniform and was told he had 3-5 years to live. His survival this long is miraculous, but this disease is not something that just goes away.


This hits close to home for me, as it probably does for many of you. My father is a cancer survivor, and I remember how it felt getting that news, and how it affected everyone around the family. I will tell you that I am a guy that believes in prayer. So, I ask you to remember to pray for him, for his health, and for his family, that they get the support they need and that they stay strong emotionally. If you are not the praying kind, maybe you can remember Mel and his family, and be grateful for the loved ones in your life. There are also charities to which you can give. This is not a plug, but there is a link at the top of the Bleeding Yankee Blue page for the charities that we have talked about, and a few focus on cancer research and support. Life is short, and it can be tragic. I am praying that Mel and his wife get through this and that things go as well as they can for them.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue;

YOGI GETS THE SIGNATURES! NOW WHAT?


It is crazy that even came that close, but at just about 10:30pm ET, the Yogi Berra petition reached 100,000 signatures, taking the process to the next step. We wrote about this a month ago, on his 90th birthday (read SIGN THE YOGI PETITION: PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM). Honestly, I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was. Yankees Stadium seats over 50,000 people, so how hard can it be to get a weekend’s worth of attendance to sign a petition for Yogi? Regardless, it is a great honor to be considered for this award, and now the White House must respond to the petition.


Now, a lot of folks seem to think that it’s over and that Yogi is getting the award. Not so fast. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not given by election. It is given at the sole discretion of the President of the United States. The petition we all signed (if you didn’t, don’t tell me – I don’t want to know) requires the White House to respond to the request. It’s still at their discretion. But let’s be real. The White House is going to say no to give the Medal to Yogi? He’s a sports legend, a World War 2 hero, a D-Day survivor, and an advocate for social issues. Not to mention that he’s a cultural icon whose famous quotes have been used everywhere in American society.


According to the whitehouse.gov website, “Once the petition reaches the required threshold, it will be put in a queue to be reviewed by the White House.”. So now we wait for a response. If I may make a suggestion, don’t take your time on this. He’s 90 years old, and it’s the right thing to do. I believe that at this point, it’s only a matter of when and how. So let’s get it done. He has certainly earned it.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

MARIANO RIVERA JR. WAS DRAFTED


The big day finally arrived for Mariano Rivera Jr. In the 4th round, with the 133th pick overall, the Washington Nationals picked Rivera. Most scouts had him pegged for the 5th or 6th round, but Rivera had huge success, and his talent and performance this past year is unmistakable. The Nationals have a history of picking good prospects in the draft – Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, to name two – and I fully expect Rivera to be on that list.


As many of you know, the Yankees drafted Rivera in the 29th round last year. He was in his sophomore year of college then, but he never seriously considered making the jump to professional baseball. Instead, he chose to stay at Iona and play one more year while continuing his education. The gamble paid off, as his numbers took a profound step forward. His ERA dropped to 2.65 and he notched 113 strikeouts for a K/9 of 11.96. It’s no surprise that he got picked as early as he did.


Honestly, I’m disappointed that he was not picked by the Yankees. His father has said that he is happy for him, that he feels “no disappointment. This is business. We treat it like that.” Obviously he is not going to take away from the joy of the day, a day Rivera Jr. will remember for the rest of this life. If there is any disappointment, it stems from our expectation that he will have a very successful career, and we would have loved it to have been in Yankee pinstripes.


Mariano Rivera Jr. still has to sign with an agent and agree to terms with Washington. But he has to be excited at the prospects of joining the Nationals. This team is favored to make a run for the World Series this year and is drafting like they’re trying to build a perennial playoff contender. So while we would not look forward to facing him in a World Series, we are happy for him and wish him the best of luck.


Originally Posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue