The post below was an excerpt from a post I was writing that would act as my "submission" for the Hall of Nearly Great project. While I wasn't actually asked to write for it, I thought Jay Buhner would be ideal for it, and I couldn't think of anyone better to write it. The Hall of Nearly Great e-book came out this past summer and is great, even without me in it - click on the link to check it out.
As for this excerpt, it got a little long and didn't flow the way I wanted the rest of my "submission" to go, but I liked it on its own and wanted to save it in some way before I edited the hell out of it. It sounds more like something you'd find in a biography than an essay. Hey - there isn't a Bone biography yet, right? Someone call my agent! Better yet, someone get me an agent!
Oh, right - the post. Enjoy.
The Yankees were Jay Campbell Buhner’s second organization. Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates
A couple of weeks ago, Jeff Passan implied something that a lot of people have said in the past. He stated that players coming to the Yankees – most notably starting pitchers – generally fail to live up to expectations. I talked about it in an earlier post, but Passan’s point that only “three of 21” pitchers the Yankees have picked up performed better after becoming Yankees was misleading, since veterans (especially “big name” veterans) are acquired to produce at the same level as they performed previously, not better. I talk more about it here, using big words like schadenfreude.
Then I hit baseball-reference.com to see if it was true.
What follows is what I found, broken into several parts so it’s easier to digest. I started at 1975, when the Yanks signed their first free agent, some "Hunter" fellow. I figured I’d base the majority of my comparison using WAR – Wins Above Replacement – to attempt to level out things such as park factors and differences in statistical eras, although ERA+ (a statistic that gauges a player’s earned run average compared to the league average, eliminating park factors) will also be used.
Last week, Yahoo! Sports writer (and guy I follow on Twitter) Jeff Passan wrote an article on the Yankees offseason pitching acquisitions Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda and the perceived negative odds they faced coming to New York. You see, Passan would like to let us know that, more or less, pitchers generally don't do as well when they come to play for the Yankees.
No other team imports big-talent pitchers with such regularity, with such high hopes, with all of the complications that accompany wearing pinstripes. The failure of outsiders has taken on a mythical status in New York and become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you’re not a Yankee, it’s awfully difficult to come in mid-career and play to their standards.
It's a belief that's going to live on forever. Going back to the days of Ed Whitson (who was the original poster boy for "not being able to handle the spotlight in pinstripes"), fans and sportswriters alike will point the finger to the Yankees free agent and trade failures, just the same as they fall into the trap of "money buys championships". It's an easy target - few teams in sports are as polarizing as the New York Yankees, and pointing out the failures of such a team is bound to sell newspapers, draw website hits, and build off of the natural schadenfreude flowing through any non-Yankee fan.
But is it real?
I grew up on Long Island, brainwashed early by my mom to be a Yankees fan. As even a little kid, I knew baseball - so much to the point that I can remember my uncle showing me off to friends of his and how I could carry on conversations with them about player movement, team strengths and weaknesses, and overall "bar banter". I can remember an adult asking me what I thought of Reggie Jackson getting traded to the Angels. I corrected him, telling him that Reggie wasn't traded but that he left as a free agent.
Jackson signed with the California Angels in January of 1982. I turned seven the month prior.
Through the 80s, I went though the highs and lows of the Steinbrenner-helmed, Billy Martin-firing machine, always seemingly being one player away
I mentioned on Twitter that someone would have to use that as their blog post title, and then I figured I'd just run with it. Plus, I figured it would give me an excuse for some bad (perhaps horrifying) Photoshop.
Anyway, for those that don't know, the hottest "free agent" (more on that later) in baseball is Yu Darvish, one of the best pitchers in Japan, who was recently made available by his NPL team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Darvish makes for an interesting gamble for major league teams due to his age (25), which is much younger than any of the free agent starting pitchers currently available (due to MLB players needing six years of major league experience to become a free agent, most free agents are in their late 20s and 30s). Darvish has been rather impressive statistically for Nippon-Ham, posting a sub-2 ERA the last five seasons:
After last night's 5-4 loss to Detroit, the New York Yankees and their fanbase (myself included) find themselves staring at this season's punchline - A.J. Burnett - to save their season. Burnett, with his second straight season with an ERA over 5 and 25 wild pitches this season (third most in the last 100 years or so) might not be the scariest pitcher thrown into a do-or-die playoff situation, but he's not exactly boosting confidence levels across the Bronx.
Yet despite the combination of humor and terror that Burnett starts have given Yankee fans in the past, the fanbase is realizing that their season depends on him, and has warmed up to him much in the same way that coworkers sing "Happy Birthday" to the mail clerk who shows up one day with his own cake and a handgun, crying hysterically. They've used the phrase "I believe in A.J." - paraphrasing a comment manager Joe Girardi said during last season's ALCS:
Joe Girardi added that using Burnett protects the young Phil Hughes and the aging Andy Pettitte. "We set up our rotation for a number of reasons. We're just staying with it," Girardi said. "Phil Hughes has never thrown on short rest. We have Andy Pettitte, who is coming off an injury. There's a lot of things that go into making up your rotation. We believe in A.J. I know it's been a tough year for him at times this year, but we believe in A.J."
Burnett lost Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS, but that's beside the point. The "I believe in A.J." thing seems to have taken off to meme-like status, leading me to share the things that I believe. Feel free to share yours online using the #IBelieve hashtag, and let me know.
- I BELIEVE that Crash Davis' speech to Annie Savoy is so full of estrogen he probably grew boobs saying it.
- I BELIEVE that Joe Torre destroyed Jeff Weaver's career.
- I BELIEVE in Johnny Calhoun's
ThisThese Things I Believe.
- I BELIEVE that all closers should either look insane, have awesome facial hair, or be quiet, skinny Panamanians.
- I BELIEVE that catchers should block the plate if the ball is coming and that runners should run them the hell over if they are blocking it.
- I BELIEVE that companies should accurately describe their dress code in their code of conduct or whatever they want to call it, right down to what is appropriate for "casual Friday", and that IT people should be able to ignore it.
- I BELIEVE that if you're backing into a parking spot, and you're not unloading something, you're probably a douche.
- I BELIEVE that ticket prices do not hurt attendance as much in the long run as inflated concession prices. That goes for movies, too.
- I BELIEVE in Coach Lubbock, and I'm glad he got a shot at St. Augustine's Academy.
- I BELIEVE that children are our future; teach them well, and let them lead the way. [you knew that was coming]
And I believe that the Yanks have a shot with Burnett on the mound. Take away a horrid August, and A.J.'s got an ERA in the 4.20s for the remainder of the season. It's not exactly "ace" numbers, but Rick Porcello isn't exactly Justin Verlander, is he?
Yeah, I'm kinda ripping off Craig Calcaterra here, but I like the concept of the column and I think it's a better chance for me to write in the style that more people seem to like, since I tend to get very "facty" when I write the baseball stuff. Doesn't mean I won't write about baseball here - just sayin'.
Who would win in a fight - Bobby Knight or Woody Hayes?
Bobby Knight, because Woody Hayes is dead.
Assuming the two were alive though (and ignoring the age difference), I'm still going with Knight. I think Hayes would start well early, but then Knight would turn the tables with a low blow then start to dominate, busting Hayes open. Hayes would eventually charge back, appear to have the match won, but then Brutus Buckeye (at ringside to support Hayes) would jump on the apron (distracting the referee), allowing Bo Schembechler to run to ringside, throw Knight a chair, which Knight would use to clock Hayes and get the three count. Knight, Schembechler, and Brutus would celebrate over the fallen Hayes, with Brutus removing his head to reveal - ART SCHLICHTER.
At least that's how I'd book it.
What would you have done with Joe Mauer if you had run the Twins back when they drafted him? Would you have kept him at catcher, or moved him to another position?
I'm touchy on the catching subject since catcher was the position I played through most of my childhood through high school. The feeling is that if you have a very good player who catches, a team might be willing to convert him to another position in order to lengthen his career, due to the higher injury risk for catchers than at any other position.
I think if I were Minnesota, I would have probably done the same exact thing. I think catcher can be a throwaway position offensively as long as the catcher fields his position well and can call a good game. Catchers are often a second manager on the field, and it helps the team more to have a catcher who knows the game and makes the rest of his team better than to have a player who hits well but brings nothing else to the table catching just because is capable of doing it and has done it in the past. That said, I think taking Mauer out from behind the plate depreciates his value as a player; he plays the position well, calls a good game, and is a team leader, AND manages to be one of the best hitters in baseball. Putting him at first base or right field might extend his career a few more seasons, but injuries happen there too, and you take away part of what makes him a total package player by moving him.
Would the Carolinas be a better home for the Rays or A's if new stadium deals can't be reached?
Right now I think just about anywhere would be a better home for the Rays, including Tampa (instead of St. Pete where they are now, locked into their lease until forever). While I could potentially see the Rays moving to Charlotte (although it appears Charlotte doesn't actually want a major league team - the minor league Charlotte Knights don't even play in Charlotte), I wouldn't want to see the team move to the Raleigh/Durham area. It's not really a baseball area (sports radio focus is on college sports first, Hurricanes hockey second, all other crap third), and I think they have a great thing going in Durham with the Bulls.
As for Oakland, I don't know if Raleigh or Charlotte is the answer for them. Tampa I think would do well because the fanbase is already somewhat established with their Triple-A team being a Tampa affiliate for the last 10+ years. The A's I think would be best suited to stay on the West Coast if they can't get something in the Oakland area, say to Portland or Sacramento.
Is He-Man the most homoerotic cartoon from the 80s?
Despite the episode of G.I. Joe where Snake Eyes & Shipwreck the sailor dance in a kickline and have to wear dresses, I'm going to have to say yes. VERY MUCH YES.
Best video game out there right now?
Fire Pro Wrestling S: 6 Men Scramble, followed by Baseball Stars and NHL '95. What? I'm sure you could get a modded Sega Saturn around somewhere.
On a scale from 1 (rips tags off of mattresses) to 10 (rips facial hair off of prison guards), where does Ozzie Guillen rank?
3.87. But hearing that he was looking forward to joining the Marlins increases that number greatly.
Should I buy a Mac or a Windows machine?
If you are cheap, afraid of change, work with them for a living, or a masochist, go with a Windows machine.
If you have money to blow, have never used a computer before, are scared of technology, or like feeling self important, go with a Mac.
If you want to surf the net, check your email, and play games, buy an iPad.
In reality, 80% of people who feel they need one of the first two things only need the third thing. But that doesn't stop people from buying Corvettes and massive pickup trucks to drive 6 miles to work (at 35mph) each day, does it?
Runners are on first and third. First pitch, runner on first breaks for second. What should the catcher do?
Assuming the runner doesn't have a tremendous jump, he guns it to second. The pitcher needs to be aware of the guy on third though and be prepared to snag the throw as it's coming past him. If the guy on third isn't paying attention, he can get nailed in a rundown. If the runner is paying attention, that extra half second of hesitation he makes making sure it doesn't get cut off may give him a bad jump and cause him to get nailed at the plate.
How old is Andruw Jones anyway?
Andruw Jones had come out of retirement to fight Rocky Marciano the minute he was 76 years old. Andruw Jones was always lying about his age. He lied about his age all the time. One time Bobby Cox came in here and sat in this chair. I said Bobby 'you hang out with Andruw Jones, just between me and you, how old is Andruw Jones?' You know what Bobby told me, he said "Hey, Andruw Jones is 137 years old." A hundred and thirty-seven years old!
Did Girardi handcuff himself by seemingly not mapping his rotation leading up to the playoffs?
(I got this before the playoffs started) He didn't really handcuff himself, because he was shooting darts like the rest of us were coming into the final week. Outside of CC, it was a crapshoot as to who the #2 or #3 really should have been. I don't think Girardi wanted to lean on Nova, but he's been the most consistent (well, the most consistently "not bad") starter he's had this season outside of Sabathia. I think he would have liked to go with Colon, but Colon looks like he's out of gas. Girardi had to play the hot hand, and the only way to do that was to put those guys out there and see who earned the spot. I think if Dellin Betances hadn't done his best Nuke LaLoosh impersonation in his debut, Girardi would have seriously considered going the Matt Moore route (not that Betances is anywhere near as ready as Moore is.)
Is Rex Ryan's ego too big for the Jets own good?
The Jets should be 1-3 right now, Dallas collapse aside. I don't watch enough Jets games (or football in general) to criticize Ryan's playcalling or coaching style, but he seems like a perfect fit for the Jets, at least from a marketing standpoint. Ryan fits in wonderfully with New York, who know Rex will provide them with quotes and brash predictions and be back page material. From someone trying to sell the team where the #1 team in town has always been the Giants, he's a godsend, and in the years that he's been there he's managed to make the Jets the #1 team in town, bumping the Giants off the back page.
The key problem with this is that while it may be an "image" and not necessarily reflect Ryan in reality, the combination of love from the media (at least going into this season) and his recent success may end up being his (and the team's) downfall. He was given a pretty loaded team that should have made the playoffs the season before he took over, fell into the playoffs his first season (thanks to wins against against the Colts and Bengals who had both benched their starters), then had a good season last year - albeit one that was expected due to a loaded roster. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Ryan faces some real challenges (and criticism from the local media).
Did DC Comics sell out to 13-year-old boys instead of their regular audience?
I didn't read Red Hood & The Outlaws #1, which is the main issue of the "New 52" that triggers this "DC hates women" argument, but I know the controversy, especially when someone lets a seven-year-old read it. In short, they made her 95% naked and 125% horny.
The issue I have with the "repackaging" of Starfire (and Amanda Waller, and to a lesser extent Harley Quinn) is not necessarily her outfit or the image that's "portraying", but more that it almost seems - from what we've seen of the first issue - that Kori/Starfire has lost any character depth she's developed in the 30+ years the character has existed. The fact is that she's never been a conservative dresser by any stretch of the imagination, and always this kind of character that treated sex and relationships differently than humans. But instead of being different and forcing us to look at love and relationships and sex from a different perspective, Kori comes off like an emotionless Barney Stinson, which makes her character come off like it was written by a fanfic hack instead of a paid professional.
Sure, it might be all an "angle" where we learn that that's not really how Starfire is (whether it was planned that way or we get a quick rewrite based on reaction), but when it comes back to the reasoning for the "reboot" in the first place - which is to bring in new readers and introduce them to a product without necessarily knowing any backstory - you have one chance to make a first impression, and that's a hell of an impression you're making with Starfire, and that comic in general.
That's it for this week - hopefully I'll get some more feedback and questions and I'll try to knock out another one of these next week.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal called it the "best night of regular season baseball [he] has seen", and I have trouble disagreeing with him.
As I mentioned yesterday, the last day of the baseball regular season was going to have some drama involved, as both Boston and Atlanta were on the brink of huge collapses and giving up playoff spots that were all but guaranteed when the month started. Both did, in varying levels of drama, as a result of four games.
Game one was the least dramatic, and probably the most predictable. St. Louis made short (and quick - two hours, twenty minutes) work of Houston, scoring five in the first and having Chris Carpenter pitch like he had to catch a plane. Carpenter pitched a complete game two hit shutout, giving up a hit only to J.B. Shuck and Jose Altuve, who were in Triple A and Single A respectively when the season started. Thanks for trying, Houston - your 106 losses were the most by a team in six years, and you let a 90-loss team come in two places ahead of you in the division.
Game two saw Atlanta go up on Philadelphia 3-1 early, then give up a run in the seventh, another run in the ninth, then finally (as is the case with these games most times), a fluke broken bat hit to drive in the eventual winning run in the 13th inning. It seemed appropriate that Dan Uggla was involved in all three of the most memorable offensive moments for the Braves in this game, since he was the "impact player" Atlanta picked up during the offseason that was going to put them over the top. Uggla would hit the home run that put the Braves on top early, get thrown out at the plate to turn the tide of the game, and be part of the double play that ended the game. There's your impact.
Really, though - it was games three and four that put the night over the top. On one side, Tampa and the Yankees, and on the other, Boston and Baltimore. At one time during the evening, with Tampa down 7-0 and Boston up on Baltimore 3-2 in the middle of a rain delay, I joked with someone that if the Red Sox didn't clinch tonight the Yankees and God were plotting against them.
Turns out they were - Tampa comes back to put it at 7-6 before Dan Johnson delivers a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game at 7, Baltimore scores two runs in the bottom of the 9th - all with two outs - in their game to beat Boston, then Tampa's Evan Longoria hits a solo home run in the bottom of the 12th to give Tampa the win, shutting the Red Sox out of the playoffs.
In a night filled with excitement and the emotional highs and lows for the various teams' fanbases, things start to get picked apart and analyzed, if just for the varying randomness that you get from baseball and few other sports.
- On September 3rd, the Boston Red Sox stood a half-game behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League and nine games ahead of Tampa Bay for the AL Wild Card lead with 24 games left to play. At that time, the Red Sox stood a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs, the highest point they would achieve during the season, while Tampa's chances stood at 0.5%. Tampa would go 16-8 over the rest of the season, while Boston would go 6-18.
- Boston's collapse is all the more dramatic just because of how dominant they were early in the season. On July 9th, Boston's playoff chances cracked the 90% barrier with a 54-35 record, best in the American League. On that same date, Detroit stood at 39.9% (a half-game behind Cleveland in the AL Central), Milwaukee stood at only 24.6% (tied for the NL Central with St. Louis and only a game above Pittsburgh), and Arizona was at 41.3%, two games behind NL West leading San Francisco. Detroit, Milwaukee, and Arizona would all make the playoffs. In contrast, Atlanta - themselves the victim of a playoff run collapse, didn't break the 90% barrier until August 19th, and cracked 80% only one time before then - on July 9th.
- Dan Johnson, who hit the game-tying home run for Tampa, was batting .108 at the time he came to the plate against the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. He had not played in six games, and his last major league hit had come more than five months earlier, on April 27th.
- Johnson had spent most of the season with the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls, where he hit 13 home runs - down from 30 the previous season. His .459 slugging percentage was the worst of his minor league career. Johnson's teammate for about two weeks when he was sent down to Durham? Cory Wade, who served up the solo shot to him.
- When Boone Logan struck out Russ Canzler in the bottom of the 7th, the Rays statistically had less than a 1% chance of winning the game.
- Jonathan Papelbon blew only three save opportunities during the 2011 season; two were against Baltimore within the span of eight days, including the final game of the season, where Papelbon received his only loss.
- Papelbon struck out the first two batters of the inning before facing Chris Davis. Davis in September had 25 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances, including a rare 5 strikeout game three weeks earlier, and struck out 30% of time he made a plate appearance with the Orioles, second highest among team regulars. He had faced Papelbon six times before that at-bat, going 0-6 with three strikeouts. Davis doubled into right field.
- Nolan Reimold, the Orioles #9 batter, had one hit in seven previous plate appearances against Papelbon. Reimold hit a ground-rule double, tying the score.
- Remember how I mentioned Papelbon blew two saves against Baltimore? The player who drove in the game winning runs against Papelbon in that game was Robert Andino, who batted after Reimold and drove him in with the game-winning base hit.
I could go on and on with this type of stuff, but since this is already what - 3 days late? - we'll end it here.