Hello again, blog readers! Sorry for the lack of posting of late. Understandably, I've been a bit upset, both with my plate slumping, and with certain managers conflating my parched spell with an overall decline in usefulness. There was one game featuring a substandard right-handed pitcher where I should have started - no brain needed for that move, Mr. Tracy! - and yet a lineup was constructed to prevent me from seeing any plate time. Jeff Kent at first base, Olmaedo Saenz at third, and someone else (perhaps the gamey, and gamine, Oscar Robles) at second base. Such a lineup only makes sense if you are trying to display some sort of managerial madness that you hope is interpreted as genius. Of course, madness as genius only works if you are in fact a genius. But I digress.

Those ducks are under the bridge after this weekend's bounty. In case you missed it (like E$PN almost did), I hit 6 homeruns this weekend, including 3 last night. Granted, I would like to credit my success to a newfound hitting trick, but a lot of it had something to do with the pitchers I faced. For one, there was no Johan Santana, which was good for everyone involved. For another, the pitchers I faced are known for being strike-throwers that don't throw all that hard. For another, I hit one homerun off of Terry Mullholland, pitching in the 9th inning of a tied game. I am not sure why Terry Mullholland was in the game, except to face me, but Mr. Jim Tracy realized it was Terry Mullholland, and leftie-leftie matchup snafus aside, let me hit. And I did what you are supposed to do against Terry Mullholland - go long!

So, yes, I am happy, but please, fantasy owners, be wary in regards to future production from me. I don't know if Mr. Jim Tracy will start to hate the way my jib is cut again, and I could be another 0-for-two-games away from pine riding with the skip. Hope is springy, though, so do not do too much fretwork! I will do my best to garner you the right to brag!

Speaking of fretwork, though, there seems to be a large buzzing bonnet surrounding the performance of the New York Yankees this year. The punditry at large waxes and wanes on this team's slightest whim. A slow start, and people immediately disown them like bad stock. A hot streak against substandard opponents, and people praise their resurrection from the ashes of mediocrity. Granted, New York is a big to-do in America, if not worldwide, so what happens there happens everywhere. But, at the same time, would it not be prudent to take what is happening there with some salt and perspective? And would it not be prudent for the players to also partake of this salt? For example, here is a brief portion of a Newsday article regarding disgruntled happenstances (courtesy of Baseball Think Factory):

[Tony] Womack is not believed to be particularly happy with his role on the Yankees - he was signed to be their second baseman but was moved to left field in early May when Robinson Cano was called up from the minors - and there have been rumblings he could be traded for a more prototypical outfielder. There aren't any current plans to return Womack to the infield and he is one of the Yanks' few tradeable commodities.

Before Friday's game, Womack, who played with the Cards last season, was asked by a St. Louis reporter if he considered himself an outfielder now. Womack bristled slightly at the question, before saying, "No. I'm a second baseman. I just play outfield."

What Tony Womack does, which he does not seem to realize, is he plays awfully. He currently has a 566 OPS, which is the worst OPS for any Yankee with over 100 at-bats to their credit. He also has the worst OPS of any second baseman in baseball. No doubt he also has the worst OPS of any left-fielder in baseball, as left-fielders are traditionally better hitters than second baseman. Indeed, the only left-fielder in the major leagues close to Womack's awful OPS is the light-hitting, hard-hustling, vaguely-skilled Scott Podsednik. At 689. Which is an awful OPS. And still outshines Womack's performance by approximately 1/4th of Womack's total OPS.

Womack's performance is not unexpected - after all, when you sign a 36-year-old hitter with a tradition of low power numbers and poor patience, you should expect this to happen. But, no - as with most people, Womack's career trends were disregarded in light of his out-of-character over-achievements last year for the National League Champion Cardinals, and people wrongfully assumed that the corner Womack had turned was in fact long-lasting and permanent.

There is a sweet and bitter irony with regards to the turn that Womack has taken these past two years. Prior to last year's baseball campaign, Womack was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training by the Boston Red Sox. He was then traded to the Cardinals for some players, and then proceeded to have the best year of his career. Given his performance (and, no doubt, his notoriety on a World Series team), George Steinbrenner desired to have him bring such spirit to the soulless bowels of New York. And propmtly paid Womack $2 million for the privilege of killing rallies and booting baseballs in striped Yankee pride. And will pay Womack another $2 million to do the same for New York, or some other city, next year. No doubt this set of events gives the Red Sox spirits some satisfaction, though the negative karma garnered by trading Babe Ruth for some money can never be properly expunged.

The follies of this past post-season have been well-traveled by those actually willing to obey the rules of common sense. Instead of typing more than I need, I will simply quote YES Network's Steven Goldman on his Pinstriped Blog regarding these tribulations:

Kids, there's hardly any point in breaking this down. We've been through it all before. Last winter the Yankees brain trust dealt Joe Torre a weak hand of Tony Womack, Jaret Wright, and Carl Pavano instead of Carlos Beltran, Matt Clement, and Jon Lieber. Womack can't hit, Wright failed his physical and they signed him anyway, Pavano was a pitcher with no track record and a middling strikeout rate, they miscalculated the market for Lieber, and Beltran…Beltran will remain a mystery for the ages. I don't expect you to get very excited about this "analysis." After all, it has been true for about six months.

What is most troubling, in regards to these mistakes, is the Yankees' inability - or George Steinbrenner's inability, most likely - to realize the folly of his ways. Much in the same way a bully uses his size and sneer to winnow his way out of situations, Steinbrenner tosses his money clip at perceived problems. It is a sizable money clip, no doubt. At the same time, money is the root of evil, not the root of solutions. And much like how a bully is often disguising his own fears and cowardice with loud hollow bluster and bombast, Steinbrenner's overweight bankroll disguises the true cause of the Yankees' distress.

It is common knowledge that the heart of the Yankees' recent (and fading) spate of World Series success was borne on the back of the team's minor league system - players like Jeter and Williams and Posada and Rivera, and even players like Eric Milton and Christian Guzman, minor league bait used to snare productive players from other teams like Chuck Knoblauch. (Let us not think on how Milton and Guzman are doing right now, though.) The development of these players, coupled with savvy free-agent signings, made the Yankees a model team that baseball could at once both admire and envy.

Of course, such success also bred their recent failure - the spoils of winning spoiled the team, and made them believe that winning was their birthright, and not the product of toil and shrewd intelligence. As a result, Steinbrenner began to covet veteran presences, players that have won before, or players that faked their winning knowledge. He mortgaged his team's future for the services of hard-knocked players whose best years are long gone. Worse, his desire to grab marquee real estate clouded his judgement with regards to free-agent signings. No greater example of this folly is there than with the beleagured Jason Giambi.

Coming off a series of unparalleled MVP-esque years in Oakland, the Yankees inked this dominant first baseman to a long-term contract totally $120 million, approximately 3 times the Oakland A's payroll. At first, the contract paid huge dividends - while the Yankees failed to sieze World Series glory, Giambi was a fantastic performer, and also, thanks to his New York ties, became the beneficiary of multiple endorsement deals. And, of course, everyone knows the sadness that soon followed. Even without the spectre of steroids looming over his slumped shoulders, the Giambi signing was a questionable allocation of resources.

One need look no further than the Boston Red Sox to see how they sharply solved their first baseman quandries. While the Yankees were waiting for the ink to dry on checks related to that three-figured contract, the Red Sox quietly acquired the services of former Florida Marlin (and soon-to-be expatriate) Kevin Millar for a paltry sum. Millar was a solid performer during the time he was out in the field, yet the Marlins were ready to let him go to Japan without so much as a warning regarding the deadly fugu. The Red Sox siezed on this opportunity, and brought in a player that (this year notwithstanding) has proven to be a patient and powerful hitter.

That same year, the Red Sox brought in another cast-away player, a large stocky DH type that was painted as a platoon-only sort of player. Despite those caveats, what he produced when sent out against his opposing-sided throwers was exemplary, and so the Red Sox inked him to a contract as well. Fortuitous injuries, coupled with exemplary performance, merited this player a full-time job. And since then, Big Papi David Ortiz has become a feared major league hitter, and a beloved emissary of Red Sox Nation. Both the salaries of Ortiz and Millar combined fail to reach what Giambi earned, yet the Red Sox's return on the former has far exceeded the Yankees' return on the latter.

And this is what baseball is about - leveraging resources and know-how to acquire and develop players that are better than other players. (And then hoping that these players do not get hurt.) This was the true curse of the Red Sox - karma is secondary when your team fails to make personnel decisions that sound good to any non-tin ear. The early-90s trio of free-agent Boston Massacre that was Danny Darwin, Matt Young, and Jack Clark immediately springs to mind like so much vomit, as do recent Yankee maneuvers.

Now, with their sown rows reaped, the Yankees are forced to suck on bitter overpriced jalopy-colored lemons, while their less-expensive baseball brothers cavort and croon like beer-soaked fraternities. Revel in this misfortune for only a moment, readers, before turning your eye to your own team of choice and making sure they are not drowning in the same shallow waters. As for those people (pub pundits and published poltroons alike) that still believe the Yankees are only one move away from putting the rest of the league on checkmate - stupid is as stupid thinks, and if you think that, you are indeed stupid.


Blogger Icaros said...

Wow. Hee Seop sounds a lot different in print than in his interviews with A Martinez.

He didn't say "you know" even one time in this whole column.

2:48 AM

Blogger Rob said...

"poltroon"? "jalopy-colored"? "jib"? "gamey, gamine, Oscar Robles"? Such vocabulary.

10:47 AM

Anonymous The Herrings said...

Hey Hee Seop, I'm a big fan of yours, I think you have a lot of potential if you and the whole Dodgers team settles down and starts winning.
I've got you on my fantasy team, and I thought: "Who better to ask than the man himself?"
So answer me honestly: How long do you think it'll take for you to hit the homeruns that I know you can?

1:25 AM


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