“Cashman Three” Not Paying Dividends

There’s not a lot to take issue with when you’re 20-8 and coming off a 10-3 drubbing of Josh Beckett and your archrivals, but there is one major cause for concern: all three of Cashman’s off-season acquisitions have conspicuously come up snake eyes so far.  Curtis Granderson struggled mightily at the plate (.225, 2 HR, 7 RBI), then proceeded to strain his groin last weekend and is expected to spend a month on the disabled list.  Nick Johnson has been downright awful when he’s actually been on the field (.167, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and, after missing a few games in April with back stiffness, is now–SURPRISE–headed to the DL with an undisclosed right wrist injury.  Then, of course, there’s the enigmatic Javier Vazquez, who has been so dreadful that the fact he has been the only one of the three to stay healthy could actually be considered unfortunate.

Yankee fans need no reminder, but for these three the front office jettisoned the popular Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera, and traded away one of their top positional prospects in Austin Jackson.  Time will tell whether these were wise moves.  Right now, though, the Yankees have gotten no return, and that’s obviously not a positive development for a team that’s built and expected to win now.
In spite of the disappointing performances of Granderson, Johnson, and Vazquez, the Yankees are off to a fantastic start, largely on the strength of their starting pitching.  As good as guys like Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, and Hughes are, it’s unrealistic to expect them all to continue to pitch as consistently dominantly as they have, so in addition to needing A-Rod and Teixeira to come around, the Yanks will also need the Cashman Three to get healthy and start bearing fruit if 2010 is to end like 2009.

Hughes Control

Has there been a more positive development for the Yankees over the first month of the season than the emergence of Phil Hughes, who pitched seven innings of scoreless ball today to move to 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA?  Hughes is finally starting to realize his immense promise as a starting pitcher now that the Yankees are done putting him on the Scranton shuttle and moving him in-and-out of the rotation.  His strikeouts are up, his walks are down, and he’s been all but unhittable-almost literally, in the case of his start in Oakland. This is the phenom who dominated the minors and skyrocketed through the farm system.

Coming into the season Hughes was considered the big question mark in the rotation, but it’s quickly become apparent that Javy Vazquez is the one to worry about, not Hughes.  It appears Phil is in the process of making the proverbial “jump.”

What’s with ESPN’s Mets fetish?

This Sunday’s Phillies-Mets game will mark the third consecutive week New York’s junior varsity team has appeared on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  The Metropolitans’ April 18 matchup in St. Louis was broadcast by ESPN, as was this past Sunday night’s game against the Braves from Government Bailout Field.  I guess the geniuses at ESPN think people can’t get enough of a team that finished 23 games out of first place last year.

Talk about overkill!

Most Hated Team in Baseball? Not the Yankees

According to a report from The Nielsen Company (the same company that publishes the Nielsen television ratings), it’s the Cleveland Indians in an upset.  What did the Indians ever do to anybody?  They haven’t won the World Series since 1948, they haven’t had particularly polarizing players, and their fans seem alright.  Is it Chief Wahoo?  What’s the explanation for all this alleged Indians hate?

The Red Sox come in as the second-most hated team (no surprise–they’re a whiny, classless organization with obnoxious, generally ignorant fans and little loyalty towards its players), followed by the Reds and the Astros.  The Yankees, contrary to popular belief, are only the fifth-most hated team, underlining the fact that the Bombers are indeed the good guys in the blood rivalry with the Old Town Team.
New York’s junior varsity club (or is it junior high?) finished in ninth, one spot ahead of the Dodgers and three spots behind those despised Washington Nationals.
On the flip side, the Giants and A’s finished as the No. 1 and 2 most likable teams in another headscratcher.
I’m not sure how much I buy into these rankings, which were the result of an Internet algorithm (the Nationals as the sixth-most hated team?  Really?  Have they been relevant enough in their short existence to be hated that much?).  Regardless, my only real complaint is that the Red Sox should have been No. 1 over the poor Indians.

Democrat Faux Baseball Fans

During the broadcast of tonight’s Yanks-O’s game from Camden Yards, Michael Kay gave voice to one of the most infuriating, oft-repeated lies in the sports media by claiming that Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, a Bronx native, is a “big” Yankee fan.  Obama propagated this lie last year when he introduced Sotomayor as his nominee to fill a vacancy on the Court, she disingenuously peddled it (she claimed “few judges could claim they love baseball as much as I do” and that she “grew up…watching the sport”), the press ran with it, and the Yankees bought it hook, line, and sinker, going so far as to have her throw out the first pitch at a game last season and visiting her yesterday at the Supreme Court as part of their Washington, D.C. victory lap for last year’s championship.  Unfortunately, Sotomayor’s asserted life-long affinity for baseball and the Yankees is a demonstrable lie, and had members of the media actually done research–that is, done their job–they would know they were being used by Sotomayor and the White House to help craft a compelling, humanizing (and artificial) narrative that could be exploited to ease the confirmation process.

Back in 1995, when Sotomayor was a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and presiding over litigation between MLB and the Players’ Association relating to the strike, USA Today ran a profile of the judge in which she was interviewed and quoted as saying that although she grew up near Yankee Stadium she “knows little about the sport.”  The article was appropriately titled, “U.S. district judge not a baseball fan” and ran in the March 28, 1995 edition of the paper.  Sotomayor’s self-admitted ignorance of the game was put on full display last year when she claimed many Washington residents asked her “to look at the Senators” as her new team.
Sotomayor joins a long, illustrious line of shameless Democrats who have posed as baseball fans for the sake of political expediency.  There was carpetbagging Hillary, an Illinois native who announced a secret (fake) life-long love of the Yankees literally just days after declaring her intention to run for the Senate in New York.  There’s the late Ted Kennedy, who infamously referred to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as “Mike McGwire” and “Sammy Sooser.” There’s wannabe-Red Sox fan John Kerry, who named “Manny Ortiz” as his favorite ballplayer and Eddie Yost as his favorite Red Sox of all-time–even though Yost never played for the Old Time Team.  There’s Sotomayor.  And there’s Obama, who claims to be a diehard White Sox fan yet repeatedly makes references to “Cominskey Park” and “Cominskey Field,” is unable to name even one favorite White Sox player, and throws not like a girl, but like he never even picked up a ball before in his life.
What is it about Democrats that they can’t even be truthful and genuine when it comes to the national pastime?

Yankees Rollin’

This is the kind of start that Yankee fans have expected but all to often not received in recent years.  Accustomed to coming from behind and mounting improbable mid- and late-season comebacks, the Yanks are finally setting the pace out of the gate while their rivals to the north struggle.  Ultimately, all that matters is where you finish, as Girardi has noted, but it is refreshing to run from the front for once.

What’s been most impressive about the Yankees’ hot start is who it has come against–the Red Sox, Rays, Angels, and Rangers, four of the expected top teams not just in the American League, but all of baseball.  If the Yanks can go 9-3 against their top opposition, what are they going to do when they start meeting up with Baltimore, Kansas City, and Cleveland?
I know there was some consternation among Yankee fans about the early-season scheduling and how the Bombers have to go up to Boston for six games before getting one at the Stadium, but I kind of like the fact that they’re getting these games out of the way now.  After the early-May series at Fenway, the Yanks don’t go back to Boston until early-October for the last series of the year.  Likewise, they’re done with the Angels after next weekend’s series in Anaheim, save for a two-game set at the Stadium in July.  It’s nice not to have a potentially disastrous West Coast trip looming over the second-half of the season.
A schedule that sets up favorably is one of the biggest fruits of the Yankees’ hot start.

On “Jackie Robinson Day”

I hate it.  It’s stupid.  It’s contrived.  It’s another classic and regrettable case of grandstanding by both the league and the commissioner, complementing similar ostentatious displays put on for Mother’s Day (pink bats!), Father’s Day (baby blue wristbands!), and Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and 9/11 (Oakland wearing green, yellow, and bright red!).  These gimmicks serve only to cheapen the game, making a mockery of the solemnity with which it has been played for over a century.  (Just try and imagine Joe DiMaggio facing down Bob Feller with a pink bat in his hands.)

It wasn’t enough that MLB took the unprecedented step of retiring Jackie Robinson’s number across all of baseball in 1997.  It wasn’t enough that April 15 was re-christened “Jackie Robinson Day” within the league.  It wasn’t enough that the league decided to allow select players to wear Robinson’s number on his new holiday as a way of honoring him.  It wasn’t enough that an annual “Civil Rights Game” was created to celebrate the racial barrier-breaking exploits of pioneers like Robinson and Larry Doby.  No, none of that was sufficient.  The league had to somehow go even further, mandating that every player wear #42 to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day and, in the process, making a complete farce of the whole thing, leaving spectators and television viewers with no way to actually tell players apart.  It’s enough to make one think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer, participating in a charitable AIDS Walk, is accosted by organizers who attempt to compel him by force to wear “the ribbon” like everyone else.

Good job, Bud!  Way to confuse and inconvenience the fans, as well as show complete disregard for team histories and traditions, for the sake of a cheap publicity stunt!

What ever happened to a tasteful patch on the sleeve or the side of the cap to mark special occasions?  Must we now turn ball games into conspicuous platforms for seemingly every social and political cause under the sun, completely undercutting the whole point of uniforms and uniform numbers to prove a point about how much we “care” and “remember” and “honor?”  Would it not be more fitting to honor the memory of Jackie Robinson with a simple uniform patch and by remembering to play the day’s game with the same trademark intensity Robinson did?

What’s more, everyone understands the importance of Jackie Robinson, but he wasn’t the only important person ever to play professional baseball, and singling him out for such excessive special treatment opens up a whole can of worms.  What about Babe Ruth, indisputably the game’s greatest player and its most important ambassador?  Shouldn’t he have his number retired across baseball and be honored with an annual “Babe Ruth Day” for his contributions to the game?  What about Roberto Clemente?  Isn’t he deserving of the same kind of treatment due to his Robinson-like importance within the Hispanic community and his important humanitarian work?

Not surprisingly and not without justification, supporters and family members have lobbied Bud Selig and the powers-that-be for Ruth and Clemente to be given the full “Jackie Robinson Treatment.”  The commissioner, however, has not been receptive to such requests, though he should be based on the unfortunate precedent he set with Jackie Robinson.  That he hasn’t marks him as a hypocrite, as well as a second-rate promoter.

MLB needs to stop fetishizing Robinson’s number ad absurdum and commemorate special occasions like Jackie Robinson Day/Mother’s Day/Memorial Day/Father’s Day/Fourth of July/9-11 in more reserved, tasteful fashion, showing proper solemn respect to both the subject of veneration and the game itself.  Jackie Robinson loved the game of baseball and always played it hard and with great respect–this is a man who opted to retire rather than accept a trade to the arch-rival Giants; I don’t hesitate to say that he would probably find the specter of every player on the ball field wearing the same number in “honor” of him tactless and abhorrent.