What we read while not searching for sugarman . . .
What we read while sorting through binders full of bad binders full of women jokes…
What we read while picking the worst day to skydive from only 23 miles up…
Detroit Tigers (88-74) at New York Yankees (95-67)
How the-opposite-of-fitting that in a year dominated by Cinderella stories—Chicago leading the AL Central for most the year; Oakland’s improbable comeback in the West; Baltimore’s first playoff appearance since before Monica Lewinsky was famous—it’s the Yankees and Tigers left in the ALCS. Both teams were expected to repeat as division winners, and both actually had somewhat disappointing regular seasons: Detroit trailed the White Sox for most of the year, and New York didn’t clinch until the last day of the season. The ALCS is also nothing new to either team, with both teams having taken turns losing to Texas the last two years. And if it weren’t for last night’s game in Washington, we’d be talking about the Tigers and Yankees as the biggest dream-killers of all: Justin Verlander stopped what looked like yet another improbable Oakland comeback in its tracks, and New York topped Baltimore with repeated late-inning heroics. In the regular season matchups between these two teams, the Yankees took six of ten from Detroit.
Detroit didn’t hit much in its series against Oakland: The Tigers scored only 17 runs in five games, and six of those runs came on non-RBI plays. Nobody on the team had an especially good series offensively—Omar Infante was the only regular to hit over .300, and he had only one extra-base hit. A lot of the problem can likely be attributed to great pitching by the A’s, but Detroit needs to get more production out of its big hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Though Fielder did homer in Game 4, neither of those guys did enough to carry the offense, which is the only way the Tigers offense can get carried. Perhaps most troubling: Cabrera and Fielder only walked once apiece in five games. Again, this is likely the result of facing a staff with great control—Oakland pitching walked only seven batters in the series—but Cabrera and Fielder need to at least get on base if they’re not driving in runs.
Continue reading »
Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at New York Yankees (95-67)
The two teams that battled for the AL East over 162 games now face each other for five to see who advances to the ALCS. Because that’s fair. The teams split the season series 9-9, with Baltimore outscoring New York by two in those games (the Orioles did end the season with a positive run differential, for those of you keeping track). The Orioles are this year’s Cinderella team, making the postseason for the first time since 1997, which was also the last time they had a winning record. The Yankees, meanwhile, are in their 28th postseason series since that year.
Baltimore’s offense this year was all about the home run. The Orioles don’t walk much—11th in the league in OBP—or hit for a very high average—10th. They are last in stolen bases and 10th in hits. On top of that, their best contact hitter, Nick Markakis, broke his thumb in a totally innocent and not at all suspicious accident and is still out for a few more weeks. But the Orioles were second in the league in home runs, and there are power threats littered throughout the lineup. From Mark Reynolds to Matt Wieters to J.J. Hardy to Chris Davis to Adam Jones—who had a breakout season this year—nearly everyone is a threat to hit it out. Facing the Yankees, who play in a home run haven and trot out pitchers with a tendency to give up the long ball, that will obviously come up. Continue reading »
“The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” —JFK
As Derek Jeter is poised to make history this weekend, his career is in a very unusual place. On the one hand, he is standing on the cusp of history, poised to become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits. On the other hand, he is following up 2010, the worst season of his career, with an even worse year. The Yankees played their best stretch of baseball with him on the DL, leading some to wonder if the team is better off without him. And he remains under contract through at least 2013.
So why release a biography of Jeter now, at such an uncertain crossroads in his career? Writing a biography of Jeter that culminates in the 2009 season—squeezing his dreadful ’10 and his contentious contract negotiations this off-season into the epilogue—is like writing a biography of Julius Caesar that ends on March 14th.
Ian O’Connor’s new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, is bound to be incomplete. So why did he write it? It seems clear that the primary motive O’Connor had for writing this book was not to bring new light to Jeter’s career, but to enhance the myths already surrounding it. The Captain is, above all else, an exercise in mythmaking. Continue reading »
A-Rod: The latest member of an exclusive club.....
Here’s something you may not be willing to accept: Barry Bonds is probably one of the five best hitters to ever play professional baseball, regardless of his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Bill James called him “certainly the most unappreciated superstar of my lifetime.” Bonds was, according to James, by far the best player of his era. It should be noted that Bill James wrote this after the 1999 season—that is, he wrote it before five consecutive seasons in which Bonds had an OPS over 1.100, an OBP of at least .440 (and over .500 four times), and (in)famously set the single-season home run record, with 73 home runs in 2001. Continue reading »
What we read while going undrafted once again…
- Josh doesn’t really like cupcakes, but maybe if he ate them here he’d be more amenable to persuasion that he does.
- Sometimes, it’s funny to look back at poor predictions, like Tim’s that the Celtics would be crushed by the Heat, or The Awl‘s that differentiated Ke$ha from Lady Gaga by writing, “Ke$ha, on the other hand, is a version of Gaga-lite, but in a good way. She is sort of edgy in that she puts on weird eye makeup, but she also just wears vintage-looking t-shirts and jeans when performing on national television. As opposed to donning some weird Gareth Pugh leotard while standing on top of a blood-draped ladder that’s in a coffin set on fire, or something.” Yeah, I don’t think David Cho can stand by that paragraph after last Saturday night. Sorry, Dave. (P.S. NPR did something on Ke$ha a while back that referred to her “near-perfect SAT scores,” which really makes us wonder what NPR’s standard for “near perfect” is these days.)
Well, we’ve reached the big boys of the American League, which, despite what Tim might tell you, means we’ve reached the big boys of MLB. Each of the last three AL Champions, and two of the last three World Series winners, have been from the AL East, and it’s been a different team each time. You can make a very reasonable argument that three of the six best teams in baseball are in the AL East, which means one of them is going to get left out of the playoffs. There’s also the fact that—allegedly—the Baltimore Orioles are getting better, meaning the 19 “easy” games in the division won’t be as easy anymore. Even so, the Wild Card will almost certainly come out of this division. After all, it has every year since 2006. Continue reading »
Spring Training is underway now, which means fans and the media are gearing up for the 2010 MLB season. This season brings a lot of things: the return of Mark McGwire, another chance for the Mets’ doctors to practice, the long-awaited absence of Chip Caray. It also brings the end of Derek Jeter’s 10-year, $189 million contract.
Yesterday, Jeter addressed these concerns to the media for the first, and he says only, time this year. He didn’t really say anything new: He wants to stay with the Yankees, he’s always wanted to stay with the Yankees, he won’t talk about it again until the end of the season.
All indications, from both Jeter and Yankees GM Brian Cashman, are that Jeter will re-sign, and, as I’ve said before, he’ll probably do it quickly, since he is worth more to the Yankees than to any other team. But his new contract won’t be settled for at least seven months.
Why? Because the Yankees have a policy of not negotiating new contracts until a player’s old contract has ended.* In general, this policy makes sense, since it obviates any awkward mid-season negotiations and allows the team to factor in the production of the last full season when coming up with a contract offer. And since the Yankees have the resources to outspend any other bidder if they so choose, then the risk of losing a player on the open market is not that high. In Jeter’s case, though, this policy is probably a mistake. Continue reading »