ARod, Selig, Bosch, Yankees, CBS: Nuke ‘em All

I know, you’re tired of talking about Alex Rodriguez and his war with Bud Selig and Major League Baseball over his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.

nuke2Me, too.

Still, we all knew we were going to have to go through another bombardment of stories about the subject whenever the arbitration system played itself out and a final decision (and I use that term loosely, because I’m not all that convinced this decision is “final”) was announced concerning ARod’s suspension for using PEDs.

That decision came down over the weekend and the tie-breaking member of the panel ruled that a reduction from the MLB-imposed 211 game suspension would be reduced to 162 games. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that baseball plays 162-game seasons.

As I read and heard the details of the decision, I couldn’t generate even a little bit of enthusiasm for it. Even the promotional spots during CBS’ NFL Playoff game Sunday afternoon for the big “60 Minutes” interview of ARod’s one-time PED supplier, Tony Bosch, couldn’t get me to care about what any of the parties had to say. I wasn’t even going to watch the interviews that CBS magically had conducted, edited and prepared for airing the same weekend as the announcement of the arbitrator’s ruling.

I channel surfed a bit after the football game ended, but I found nothing I really felt like watching. So I watched “60 Minutes.” After the half-hour segment in which Bosch, Bud Selig, Selig’s likely heir as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and ARod’s attorney Joseph Tacopina all got face time, I came away with one thought on the whole thing.

Nuke ‘em all.

I don’t believe any of them. Every one of them is lying or, at best, not revealing the entire truth.

Bosch is the embodiment of sleaze.

Selig did nothing to change my feelings about him. I thought he was a sanctimonious, incompetent ass before and his small bit of camera time on the show reinforced that view. Manfred is nothing more than a Selig lap dog.

Tacopina has a job to do, I know. If serial killers are entitled to the best legal representation they can afford, then certainly a baseball player who finds himself on the opposite side of the Commissioner of Baseball deserves the same. But he still came across as a slimy lawyer representing an even slimier client.

CBS and their interviewer, Scott Pelley, couldn’t have possibly created a more one-sided piece than what they ended up airing. I grew up watching Mike Wallace and others on “60 Minutes” play hardball with interview subjects. Bosch, Selig and Manfred got slow-pitch Nerf balls.

What a joke.

Some media are saying there were no winners in this debacle – that it made everyone look bad. I disagree. There was a winner. The New York Yankees escaped the “60 Minutes” segment without so much as seeing anyone have to answer a question over their obvious motives for wanting Rodriguez to be assessed the longest possible suspension.

But, as everyone who is not a Yankees fan knows, any time the Yankees win at anything, everyone else loses (at least everyone else who isn’t in the business of making money from the Yankees winning a lot of baseball games).

In fact, the Yankees are having one helluva party right now.

With Rodriguez’’s suspension, they’re off the hook for the $25 million salary he was due for the 2014 season. That means they can either spend that money on someone who, unlike Rodriguez, is actually still good at baseball or they can use the savings to meet their stated goal of remaining below the league’s luxury tax limit for payroll this year.

There’s a bit of speculation over how the team might manage to keep the player out of their Spring Training camp without violating the terms of the player agreement negotiated with the MLBPA, but here’s a point I haven’t seen mentioned in the media: If the Yankees manage to qualify for the postseason, I don’t think there’s any reason they couldn’t activate Rodriguez at that point.

Would they want the pariah in their clubhouse and in their dugout?

Don’t kid yourself. If there’s anything the Yankees organization wants more than to rid themselves of as much as possible of the stupid contract Rodriguez was handed by George Steinbrenner on his way to his everlasting resting place, that thing is winning another World Series. If they believe Rodriguez can help them get that with his bat in the postseason, they may posture and moan about it, probably telling the world that they’re only doing it because they “have to” for legal reasons, but then they’ll suit him up.

[NOTE: A review of the actual arbitrator decision, now made public as an exhibit in Rodriguez's lawsuit against MLB and the MLBPA, clarifies that his suspension is for the entire 2014 regular season AND the 2014 post-season.]

As Ed Thoma at Baseball Outsider reminded us in his piece on Monday, this isn’t the first time the Yankees have attempted to escape responsibility for a badly thought out long-term contract. In 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned George Steinbrenner from baseball for life* after an investigation revealed that the Yankees’ owner paid a sleazeball informant to provide dirt on Dave Winfield in the hope that it would provide sufficient grounds to void his contract.

* As it turned out, “for life,” in this case, turned out to be a bit over two years, after which Vincent gave in and lifted the ban. Too bad Pete Rose couldn’t have had the same kind of “lifetime” ban. Even more so, it’s too bad Steinbrenner didn’t have the same kind of “lifetime” ban that Rose has had enforced upon him.

So one Commissioner banned a Yankees owner for life for paying a scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to void the player’s contract.

Now, over 20 years later, a different Commissioner pays a different scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to suspend that player for a full season of games, far more than anything called for under the terms of the current negotiated drug plan with the players’ union. In doing so, the Commissioner gets the Yankees off the hook for $25 million of salary owed to the player otherwise.

But I’m sure that’s just a very happy coincidence for the Yankees.

I agree with Thoma’s conclusion. The lesson here is that, if you want to get off the hook for your stupid decisions and get out of a contract, you don’t take action yourself – you get the Commissioner’s office to do it for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel at all sorry for Rodriguez. He made his bed and he can lie in it. He’s about as unlikeable a player as there has probably ever been in baseball (and in a game that’s given us Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds, that’s saying something).

But this action by MLB sets a dangerous precedent and the next player they decide to go after with another “the ends justify the means” vendetta may not be someone as universally despised as Rodriguez. Now, when that happens, they will have precedent on their side and it will be challenging, at best, for the player or the union to do much about it.

In addition, as John Paul Morosi pointed out on Monday, Selig’s actions seem to have turned the players and their union from allies in his war against PED use in to adversaries again. While clean players and the MLBPA have been on board with tougher testing and attempts to clean up the game, they certainly are not going to stand by and let the Commissioner unilaterally blow past the penalties called for in the negotiated agreement. Frankly, nor should they.

Morosi speculates – and I think he’s right – that Selig’s actions, by turning the relationship with the Players Association in to something much more adversarial in nature, pose a risk to future labor peace.

Those who have stood up most often to defend the overall record of Bud Selig’s reign as Commissioner have consistently pointed out that he has overseen a long period of relative stability in labor relations. In many minds, the labor relations peace alone is more important than his failures (including, perhaps most damning, the way he and the rest of the league turned a blind eye to PED use in the first place).

It would be ironic if one of his last, and most dramatic, actions as Commissioner turns out to undo whatever previous good he may have done in the labor relations area.

Anyway, you can tell me you hate Alex Rodriguez; or you can tell me you hate Tony Bosch; or you can tell me you hate the lawyers involved; or you can tell me you hate the Yankees; or you can tell me you hate Bud Selig

I’ll agree with you.

- JC

GameChat – Yankees @ Twins #2 7:10pm

The big news out of the Twins today was that Josh Willingham has been added to the 15-day Disabled List with a bum knee, and that youngster Aaron Hicks has been reinstated from his rehab stint in Triple-A to fill Hammer’s roster spot.  Hicks is starting in centerfield and hitting 8th tonight, but don’t worry Twins fans, Clete Thomas is still available off the bench.

Yankees

@

Twins
Gardner, B, CF Dozier, 2B
Suzuki, I, RF Mauer, C
Cano, 2B Doumit, DH
Hafner, DH Morneau, 1B
Almonte, LF Plouffe, 3B
Overbay, 1B Arcia, LF
Stewart, C, C Parmelee, RF
Adams, D, 3B Hicks, CF
Gonzalez, Al, SS Florimon, SS
  Hughes, P, P   Deduno, P

Hopefully the bullpen can show up today…

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 0 0 0 0 3 0 4 0 0 7 10 0
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 9 1

Well, that went about how Twins/Yankees games go.  The Twins perform well for a while, and then they get Yankee’d.  Twins will need to win back to back games now just to earn a split.  Good luck, Twinkies!

YES to Yankee Killers & Iowa Boy Makes Good

There aren’t many years when I would look at the Twins schedule over the final week of the season, see a series with the Yankees, and be happy to see it, but that’s the case this year. The Twins are playing for virtually nothing other than the chance to be a spoiler, while the Yanks are clinging precariously to their perch atop the AL East standings.

The Twins no longer even have to worry about the whole, “will we lose 100 games?” thing anymore. The worst they can do now would be to repeat last season’s 99-loss debacle.

New York, on the other hand, has just a one-game lead over the Orioles and, in case anyone has forgotten, this year it matters whether they win their division or drop to a Wild Card spot. Twins fans likely have still not forgotten 2010, when the Yankees pretty much intentionally lost enough games down the stretch to hand the Rays the AL East title, in order to gain what they believed (and rightfully so) to be a more advantageous first round match-up against the Twins than they felt they would have against the Rangers.

This year, however, there’s a one-game “play-in” game that the Wild Card teams have to survive, just to move in to the “real” League Division Series.

And this year, the Twins have an opportunity to knock the Yankees off their pedestal before the postseason even gets underway.

At least a Yankee series is an excuse to post my favorite Yankee picture in our library

Of course, it won’t be easy. The Twins will send three starting pitchers to the mound this series that most Yankee fans have probably never even heard of. I’m not sure even the Yankee players have heard of Liam Hendriks, Esmerling Vasquez, and Sam Deduno. Deduno will be pitching on just three days’ rest, thanks to a very short 2.1 inning performance on Saturday. The Yankees pitchers are somewhat more familiar. Andy Pettitte goes tonight, followed by Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.

So how can Twins fans even imagine our guys giving the Orioles any help this week? Why shouldn’t we expect the vaunted Yankee lineup to just steamroll the Twins’ AAA-level starting pitching?

First of all, this Yankee lineup will not be confused with the ’27 Yankees. In fact, it wouldn’t be confused with the 2010 Yankees. Some of the names are the same, but not all… and some that are the same are hardly looking like their younger versions.

Yes, Derek Jeter is still there, as are Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. But Jeter, while still hitting for a very nice average, has been slowed a bit by an ankle injury recently and DH’d two of the three games against Oakland this past weekend. Cano is still as dangerous as ever, but A-Rod and Granderson are simply not performing like Yankee superstars are supposed to perform. On the other hand, Ichiro seems to have found new life lately. In fact, from what I’ve watched, if it weren’t for Ichiro, the Yankees would already be looking up at the O’s in the standings. 

But the rest of the Yankees batting order has been made up of names like Swisher and Nunez and Ibanez and McGhee and Nix and (Andruw) Jones and Martin and Stewart. Most of them may be very serviceable Major League ballplayers, but they will not (or at least should not) strike fear in the hearts of Twins pitchers… or even Red Wings pitchers.

Maybe all three Yankee starting pitchers will mow down Twins hitters and throw three consecutive complete games. We know the Twins are certainly capable of using nothing but assbats for several games in a row. If that happens, yes, this series could be real ugly. However, if any of the games turn in to bullpen battles, you have to like the Twins’ chances a bit more.

Maybe there are enough new Twins in the batting order who are not aware of the Clubhouse myth that the Yankees simply can not be beaten by the Twins… ever. If so, then maybe there’s a chance our guys could help out my “other favorite team,” the Orioles, this week.

I would love to see the Yankees have to survive a play-in game against the Athletics (or better yet, NOT survive that play-in game) just to move on to the ALDS. Admit it, so would you.

Iowa Boy Makes Good

BJ Hermsen

It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t acknowledge and congratulate fellow Iowan and Twins minor league pitcher BJ Hermsen this week. Hermsen was named the Twins’ minor league organization’s Pitcher of the Year recently. Hermsen hails West Delaware HS, about an hour from Cedar Rapids and has quite a following in the area. During his tour with the Beloit Snappers on his way up the organizational ladder, Hermsen made a small number of starts in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels and the stands behind the visitors dugout were always packed with his friends, family and fans.

I met BJ and his dad during his first Spring Training after being drafted out of high school by the Twins and both men could not have been friendlier. It’s great to see good people get recognized and here’s hoping Hermsen continues to progress professionally and can “pitch in” to help the Twins fill out their rotation at some point in the future.

- JC

Butterflies With Hiccups – Iowa Style

I’m taking advantage of a bit of extra free time I have this afternoon to do another post of random news items (if you use a very generous definition of the word “news”), most of it with an Iowa connection today.

I played hooky this afternoon and watched the Twins and White Sox. True, I had to deal with the Comcast broadcast out of Chicago due to the MLB blackout rules and that means listening to Hawk Harrelson, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? I hear he left the broadcast booth in the 7th inning of the Twins 18-9 blowout of the Sox on Tuesday night and I have to admit I wish I had witnessed that.

As this MLB season winds down, I’m rooting for two things: First, as many of you know, I’m a bit of an Orioles fan, so I still have a team in contention. I still think the Birds are doing it with smoke and mirrors, but I really don’t care how they get the job done, I just want them to beat the Yankees over in the AL East and get in to the playoffs. (Admit it, you wouldn’t mind seeing JJ Hardy and Lew Ford in the playoffs, either.) Second, I’m hoping that the White Sox end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in AND that they finish just close enough that their losses to the Twins this year account for their failure to qualify.

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Miguel Sano

Speaking of playoffs, I’m driving over to Clinton IA this evening to catch game one of the best-of-three playoff series between the Twins’ Midwest League (Class A) affiliate Beloit Snappers and the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle’s affiliate). Clinton finished the MWL regular season on a 10-game winning streak (the last three of which came against my Cedar Rapids Kernels). I saw all three of the Clinton-CR games this past weekend and I think Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and their Beloit teammates have their work cut out for them. Either way, at least I’ll get to check off another MWL ballpark with my visit to Beloit tonight.

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There’s nothing really new on the Twins’ affiliation front for 2013. Now that the minor league regular season is over, teams that are interested in exploring new affiliation options (both MLB teams and minor league teams) can notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office or the president of minor league baseball of such. The teams are not allowed to state publicly that they’ve submitted that notification, however.

The powers-that-be will provide a list of potential affiliates to those teams by September 15. Then, and only then, are the various MLB and MiLB clubs able to start negotiating possible new partnerships with one another.

There was a new article posted online at the website of one of the local CR TV stations (KCRG) this week, but it really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. KCRG is owned by the same company (SourceMedia) as the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the report was written by the Gazette writer, Jeff Johnson, that covers the Kernels beat. Johnson has written about the affiliation issue a couple of times already this season and I think he has a pretty solid sense of what’s about to happen.

I’m optimistic, at this point, that I’ll be watching future Twins play baseball at Perfect Game Field here in Cedar Rapids for the next few summers, but the Kernels Directors (essentially, the team’s “owners”) still have a few questions they should be asking the Twins (such as, “Are you planning on buying a MWL team and moving it to St. Paul in a couple of years?”) before anyone is going to sign a deal. As soon as I hear more, I’ll post something, but I don’t expect to hear a lot before the end of September.

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Since this is an Iowa-centered post on a baseball-centered blog, I thought I would mention this little piece of news, as well.

How many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? Everyone? I thought so.

How many of you have visited the site near Dyersville, in Eastern Iowa, where the movie was filmed? Did you even know the site has been a mini-tourist attraction, complete with cornfield-bordered baseball field, pretty much ever since the movie was released? No? Well now there’s going to be even more of a reason for you to visit, especially if you have kids who play baseball or softball.

Go the Distance Baseball LLC plans to build a $38 million youth baseball/softball complex at the Field of Dreams site. The complex will include 24 ballfields of varying sizes (over and above the original field, which apparently won’t be altered).  The company received approval of a $16.5 million sales tax rebate from the Iowa Legislature & Governor last spring and now have a $5.1 million property tax rebate from the Dyersville City Council, as well.

New Field of Dreams complex (from their Facebook page)

Here’s the artist’s rendering of the site:

Sounds like Ray Kinsella is hearing more voices, doesn’t it? He and his tractor are going to be kept awfully busy plowing under all those other fields. Almost makes me want to get back in to coaching youth baseball. Almost.

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This is rivalry week down here in Iowa. It’s the week of the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game, which I know is of very little interest to much of anyone outside our state’s borders. But it’s a big deal here. It’s in Iowa City this year, which means that’s where I’ll be spending most of my Saturday.

I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, but I’m not “anti-ISU” like a lot of people are. I went to high school over in central Iowa, about 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus in Ames. My parents were even ISU season ticket holders for a few years (back in the days when Johnny Majors coached the Cyclones), so I saw a game or two back then. I enjoy taking jabs at my ISU-fan friends and co-workers, but I really don’t mind them having some success on the football field from time to time.

But not this Saturday.

The trophy case in the Iowa football complex that is built to hold the various traveling trophies that the Hawkeyes play for is empty at the moment, with all three of them currently in the possession of various rivals. It’s time the Cy-Hawk Trophy resumes its rightful place in Iowa City.

It may feel a bit lonely for a while, but come September 29, after the Gophers have been sent packing, Floyd of Rosedale will be there to keep it company.

- JC

Everyone Needs a Break

Considering the lack of any games of real importance going on in Major League Baseball at the moment, there sure seems to be a lot of “stuff” flying around the perimeter of the game, agitating the media which, in turn, agitates the masses (or is it the other way around? I’m honestly not sure).

I’ve tried to get fired up about some of it or at least interested enough to give a damn about any of it, but it’s just not happening. But I’ve been embarrassingly absent as a contributing member of this group of bloggers lately, so I’m determined to say SOMETHING about at least a few of the items that have passed for “news” in and around the Twins and the rest of MLB the past few days.

R.A. Dickey’s snub

Dickey deserved to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game. He knows it. So does Tony LaRussa. So does Buster Posey, the catcher that the voters erroneously voted to start behind the plate for the NL.  He deserves to start more than Matt Cain does. Even Matt Cain knows it and apparently said so out loud. In fact Dickey deserves to start more than Posey does, but that’s immaterial, I guess.

He’s not starting for one reason and one reason only. He throws an 80 mph knuckleball. Posey has seen it as a hitter, I would imagine, and since he’s apparently never caught even a 60 mph amateur version of a knuckleball, he’s none too anxious to learn how to catch Dickey’s for the first time in front of 40,000 fans and at least a handful of people who tune in to watch the ASG on TV.

As a former knuckleballer myself (though I doubt mine ever even reached the 60 mph level), I should be outraged at the injustice of this discrimination against Dickey. But I’m just not. Hopefully, he got to spend some time yesterday working in the bullpen with one of the NL’s catchers so neither party gets embarrassed out there when Dickey inevitably enters the game.

I’m really happy for the guy because he’s a great story, but I just can’t get worked up about the fact that he’s not starting the game.

Reggie’s dis of Bert, Puck and other Hall Members

I really stopped caring what Reggie Jackson said about anything the day he became a Yankee, but if there was one of these items that did get under my skin a bit, it was Jackson spouting off about how certain recent Hall of Famers didn’t deserve the honor of being enshrined in Cooperstown. The first Tweets I saw indicated he specifically referred to Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett. The next Tweet I saw pointed out that Reggie’s results when facing Bert in their careers were… well let’s just say that Reggie didn’t get to Cooperstown based on how he hit against Blyleven.

Bert Blyleven

Eventually I saw that Bert himself Tweeted that Jackson had called to apologize, relying on the old, “my comments were taken out of context,” line of BS. But whatever, at least the guy apologized. He apparently did likewise to others that he lumped in to the “unworthy” category. Again, however, I just couldn’t get too worked up over this. After all, as much as I loved both Puckett and Blyleven as players, I have to admit that their on-field HOF credentials were both marginal, so while Jackson should probably keep that kind of opinion to himself, he’s entitled to it and it’s not an altogether unreasonable opinion. I don’t think the BBWAA gets it right all the time, either, and I’m actually a “big Hall” guy.

I did care enough, however, to seek out the actual SI article that the quotes came from. I came away thinking that it’s really too bad he said the stuff he said about the HOF, because the rest of the article is very good. Ironically, the underlying theme of the article is how Reggie has changed and no longer prone to making outlandish comments and feeding an oversized ego.  Then he has to go and say that he’s going to get up in front of the HOF dinner next year and tell the other members that they all need to do something about keeping guys like Puckett, Blyleven, and others, out of their club in the future. It’s a shame.

Now we read that he’s been invited to stay away from Yankee Stadium for daring to say that A-Rod’s accomplishments are tainted because he admitted to using PEDs. Again, should he have given that quote, considering he’s still collecting a “special assistant” check from the Yankees? No. But he’s not exactly alone on an island with that opinion.

Anyway, it all just seems like more drama than it really should be.

Royals fans dis Cano

Speaking of things that are made bigger than they should be, apparently thin skinned Yankee fans took a major exception to the way the Kansas City crowd treated Robinson Cano during the Home Run Derby Monday night. Fans booed Cano loudly when he was introduced, mostly because after originally publicly stating that putting Royal Billy Butler on the Derby team would be the right thing to do, he changed his mind and didn’t select him after all. Of course, I think just the fact that he’s a Yankee makes him worthy of a pretty loud boo, but maybe Kansas Citians need more than that.

Anyway, not only did they boo him beforehand, but lustily cheered every “out” Cano made when the defending Derby champ came to the plate for his cuts in the first round. They got lots of opportunities to cheer, too, because Cano got completely shut out. No home runs in 10 cuts. With his dad pitching to him.

Anyway, Yankee fans apparently lit up Twitter with comments bashing KC fans’ treatment of Cano. I guess it’s easy to see why they’d be upset, though. After all Yankee fans are generally so well known for how politely they treat players of other teams, right? I guess the rest of us are all just supposed to acknowledge that anyone associated with the F’ing Yankees is entitled to be shown due respect.

Yeah, this is another not-so-big deal to me. Get over it and move on.

Prince Fielder wins the HR Derby

Yeah, I enjoyed watching the Derby. Prince Fielder can hit a baseball a LONG way. I also love the remodel job done on the stadium in Kansas City and it remains very high up on my list of favorite ballparks, so I enjoyed seeing it host the event. But neither the Derby nor the winner matter to me at all.

Mauer the lone Twins representative at the ASG

I’ve covered this before. Mauer deserves to be at the ASG, in fact the voters screwed up voting Ranger Mike Napoli as the starting catcher. I’d have liked to see Josh Willingham go, but there are just a lot of All Star worthy outfielders and very few catchers. And when you’re on a team that appears headed to its second consecutive 90+ loss season, you probably will just get one representative. Joe was the correct choice and anyone who doesn’t think so, while entitled to their opinion, is simply wrong.

By the way, Napoli is one of THREE former Cedar Rapids Kernels on the AL All Star Game roster. Napoli joins two other former Kernels (both now with the parent Angels) Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Trumbo represented well in the Derby Monday night and Trout is… well… if you don’t know who Mike Trout is, then you clearly care less about Major League Baseball than I care about the Home Run Derby.

Home Field Advantage

It’s been a decade now since the infamous tie game that led Bud Selig to decide that the ASG should matter more and declared that the winning league’s representative in the World Series would have home field advantage.

Bud Selig

I swear I have heard this thing bashed on every sports talk show for a week. I feel like I should care, but I don’t. It’s not a perfect solution to the trend of these games becoming poorly played and poorly managed exhibitions, but after the sham of a Pro-Bowl the NFL put on a few months ago, MLB needs to make sure the game counts for something if they want players to give any kind of effort whatsoever… or even bother to show up.

And at least it gives me another excuse to post my favorite Bud Selig picture of all time.

That’s it… enjoy the All Star Game if you care to watch it. If not, hold on tight and we’ll begin the second “half” of this exciting Minnesota Twins season in a few days!

-          JC

Yankee Doodle Dandy

After some early season snafus relating to the Twins’ previous post-season failures against the Yankees, the Twins have an opportunity to put some of those demons to bed, starting tonight, as the open a 4-game series in New York tonight at 6:05pm central.

Image from M.T.'s Blog, http://matt7.mlblogs.com/

While some former Twins (Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, etc.) may have indicated that they Twins were mentally beat against the Yankees before their previous post-season collapses, there is a wealth of historical precedence that helped create those mental barriers.  In the past 10 years the Twins are 18-51 against the Yankees, and that does not include the three times the Yankees eliminated the Twins from post-season play.  Add those in and the Twins are an even more embarrassing 20-63 against the Bronx Bombers. A W-L% of  about .241.  To put that in perspective, over a 162 game season, playing ONLY the Yankees, the Twins would win 39 games.

In those 83 games against the Yankees, 42 were in New York, and the Twins won only 7 times, which does not bode well for the Twins as they roll in to Yankee Stadium this evening.

But here is why I think the Twins have a chance to split* this four game series, which would be a resounding victory, historically:

*Let’s just assume that C.C. Sabathia is his regular self, and Francisco Liriano is the disappointing fallen star that we’ve come to know, so the Twins are not going to win tomorrow night.  And while only two Twins have faced Hiroki Kuroda (Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham), both have been unsuccessful and the Yankees have blasted Jason Marquis to the tun of .361/.395/.778 for an OPS of almost 1200! In the other two games, the Twins will face Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes.  Both are beatable and if the Twins can pitch well enough to keep the Yankees to 5 runs per game, they will have a chance to steal a couple of wins from the Yanks.

Hitting:

In addition to hitting 4 home runs and 6 doubles against Garcia in 71 plate appearances, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have combined to walk 10 times compared to just 5 strikeouts.  Of the 114 total plate appearances by current Twins, only Danny Valencia (1/4) has an OBP against Garcia that’s lower than .285.  The Twins have not fared quite as well against Phil Hughes, but still post an OBP of .317, albeit in a sample size limited to just 38 at bats.  Either way, the Twins have an opportunity to get out front of the Yankees early and to allow their starters to work deeper into games, limiting the opportunities for the bullpen to let another close game slip away.

Pitching/Defense:

In addition to hitting well against the Yankees, Carl Pavano (tonight’s starter) and Anthony Swarzak (projected to take Nick Blackburn‘s start on Thursday) have managed to keep the Yankees in check.  Pavano has limited current Yankees to a triple slash of just .229/.252/.359 with just 9/30 hits against him going for extra bases.  Swarzak has faced current Yankees hitters just 39 times, but he has yet to give up a home run to any of the current Yankees, which has been one of their biggest weapons against the Minnesota Twins.  Decent starting pitching will be complemented with a defense that is likely to be near league average with Justin Morneau slotted into first base and either Trevor Plouffe or Clete Thomas taking an outfield spot away from Ryan Doumit.

Winning two games against the Yankees and splitting the series will not get this team any closer to contending for the AL Central, but it will help plant the seed in the minds of this current group of Twins that they can beat the Yankees, something the Twins haven’t really done for a decade.

It starts tonight!

- ERolfPleiss

Selig v. McCourt: Who Ya Rootin’ For?

I was skimming my way through a few baseball articles today, including a brief Associated Press piece reporting that a Delaware judge denied a motion by lawyers for the Los Angeles Dodgers that MLB be required to turn over certain documents that the lawyers claim would demonstrate that MLB has not treated the team fairly. Of course, by “the team”, we’re talking about Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

At the end of the brief article, this particular line caught my attention: “But Gross said he did not want to turn a July 20 hearing on the team’s proposed financing plan into a trial of baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.”

My reaction, of course, was, “Well, that’s a damn shame, because if there’s one thing we could really use, it’s a trial of baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.”

Jamie and Frank McCourt

Alas, we won’t be getting that. Instead, we’re going to continue to be treated to months of “McCourt v. Selig”. How the hell are we supposed to find someone to root for in THAT contest?

Trying to figure out who to root for in this battle is kind of like figuring out who to  root for when you watch the Yankees play the White Sox. If you’re like me, you just end up rooting for everyone involved on both sides to be swallowed up in to a giant sinkhole.

In case you haven’t really followed the situation involving the owner(s) of the Dodgers, let me summarize the situation:

Frank McCourt and his wife Jaime bought the Dodgers a few years ago, apparently without having to put a single nickel of their own money in to the transaction. I’m not exactly sure HOW they did this, but apparently they were not only able to essentially borrow 100% of the money they needed, but Selig and his MLB buddies (yes, the same ones who don’t seem to think bazillionaire Mark Cuban is good enough to join their little club) cheerfully approved the sale to the McCourts.

Frank and Jaime then commenced to spend every dime the they could rake in from the organization to support a lifestyle they really had no business expecting to live. They gave out huge deferred contracts that are now handcuffing the Dodgers. In other words, they not only spent current revenues on themselves, but when that wasn’t enough any more, they had the team go deeply in to debt so they could continue living their excessive lifestyle.

Then the couple started not getting along any more. The details of how that came to pass are certainly interesting, but I won’t bother with them here. You can look those up yourself. But suffice to say that Frank didn’t care for some of the things he discovered his wife was doing and he fired her from her position with the Dodgers. They filed for divorce and Jaime claims she owns half the Dodgers.

In order to fund (a) the divorce, (b) his soon to be ex-wife’s lifestyle, and (c) his own lifestyle, Frank has talked FOX in to a long term TV rights deal for Dodger games on a contract that is significantly… some would say obscenely… front loaded. The net effect would be that, while the money would arguably allow McCourt to pay off his wife and have a few bucks to spend on himself, it would also almost eliminate a critical revenue stream that the Dodgers would otherwise have to spend on other things… like baseball players, for example… over the rest of the next decade.

So Bud Selig said, “no”. This has forced the Dodgers in to bankruptcy when they were unable to meet their June 30 payroll.

When owners buy their team, they are required to sign an agreement stating that they will not sue MLB. I think it’s safe to say that the validity of that agreement is about to get tested and we will then get the “McCourt v. Selig” battle I referred to at the onset of this post.

If we were Dodger fans or if it had been the Twins ownership that had so overtly plundered their team’s present and future revenues, we would really have no choice but to loudly root for the Selig team. But we’re not and they haven’t.

So I’m rooting for McCourt.

It’s certainly not because I think what the McCourts did was “right”. The two of them have got to be just about the worst excuses for owners… and probably even just as human beings… that you could find in modern day sports. They are clearly flat out awful people and what they’ve done to the Dodgers is indefensible.

Bud Selig

But I don’t care about that as much as I care about Bud Selig and his buddies losing this fight. The reason is simple… if Frank McCourt can convince the legal system that he is within his rights, as owner of a MLB team, to essentially steal most of the team’s future TV revenues just to support his own immediate personal financial needs, then maybe… finally… MLB will be forced to finally take central control over teams’ local broadcast/cable rights.

McCourt is only able to do what he’s done because MLB lets every team negotiate their own local TV deals. This has, as we all now know, led to the BS blackout restrictions (~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~) and, even more importantly, enormous revenue and competitive advantages for teams in the largest media markets.

I want the courts to tell Bud Selig, “You approved this guy as an owner… your rules say he can make his own TV deals… so if you don’t like the deals he makes, too damn bad! Maybe you should change the rules!”

Because, let’s face it, until the current situation blows up in Bud’s face, nothing will change. We will see the Yankees and Red Sox on TV 45 times a season. The Yankees will take in twice as much revenue as anyone else and therefore have twice as much to spend on talent. Only when revenues are more balanced (not necessarily equal, but more equitable) will teams compete on level playing fields… and that will not happen until Selig and the big market owners get punched in the nose by the courts. This may be the last, best hope of seeing that happen.

This would also solve the silly realignment issue. Which teams are crying the loudest for realignment? Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay, that’s who. Why? Because in the current situation, they have to contend with the two teams with the most obscene revenue advantages, New York and Boston, every season. So, naturally, instead of curing the illness… revenue disparity… MLB proposes treating the symptom through realignment schemes that result in the rest of the AL sharing the competitive disadvantages equally. After all, MLB and their network partners WANT the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs every year and competitive balance would make that far less assured to happen.

Finally, there’s one last reason to root for the courts to come down against Bud Selig. It’s simple really. He’s Bud Selig.

I know the odds are against me… and Frank McCourt… in this deal. So what do we wish for if it’s not possible for McCourt to win this battle?

I guess there’s always the “swallow everyone involved on both sides in to a giant sinkhole” thing.

- JC

 

GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #’4′, 12:05 pm, FSN & am1500

For those of you who missed last night’s non-announcement, there are only two days that the Yankees and Twins have in common for off-days to make up yesterday’s game: Sept 8th & 15th.  Can’t imagine what it will be like to make a one game appearance in NY in the final month of the regular season but that’s definitely a change in the scenario.

More follow-up to the lost game last night: Liriano is still pitching today because they wanted to keep him on regular rest – totally makes sense since he’s one of those who overthrows when he’s too strong – like Blackburn. The change will be that Pavano will now start tomorrow’s home opener since he missed last night.  I assume then we’ll follow the regular schedule just a day behind.  We’ll see what they do.

** Special Note: Happy Birthday to TallDrinkoWater!**

Minnesota @ NY Yankees
Span, CF   Jeter, SS
Nishioka, 2B   Swisher, RF
Mauer, C   Teixeira, 1B
Morneau, 1B   Rodriguez, A, 3B
Thome, DH   Cano, 2B
Cuddyer, RF   Posada, DH
Kubel, LF   Jones, An, LF
Valencia, 3B   Martin, C
Casilla, A, SS   Gardner, CF
  Liriano, P     Burnett, A, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 3 6 1
NY Yankees 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 x 4 5 1

 

This was a frustrating loss simply because we had so many opportunities to take the lead and couldn’t pull it together.  Liriano didn’t have a HORRIBLE outting but he’s really gotta be able to go more than 5 innings.  He’s still trying to do too much when he gets frustrated.  And whether it was fair or not, the homeplate umps strike zone was getting to him.

The other news is that Nishioka left the game after a hard slide into 2B.  From all accounts, it was a clean play that just caught Yoshi flat footed and took out the knee.  I think that sounds especially bad but we haven’t gotten any official word from the club yet on the details… I’ll put up an update when I hear more.  At any rate, for now, the Yanks are ahead in this series.  I will wait for the “makeup” game before I award a series victory.

[update] The news is very bad – Nishioka has a broken left fibula (that’s one of the shin bones) and he’s officially on the DL.  Luke Hughes has been called up and will play in the opener tomorrow.  Sadly, it was rumore that Tsuyoshi’s parents were flying in for the opener to see him play tomorrow – I hope they are still coming because sometimes parents are good to have in a situation like this even when you’re an adult.  Our prayers and good wishes go out to him for a speedy recovery.  We’ll have a better idea on the time table for his return after he sees the Twins doctors tomorrow.

GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #3, 6:05, FSN & am1500

Dare we ask for two in a row? Let’s dare, shall we?

The Twins send ‘Stache to the mound to face the Evil Empire, for whom he once pitched (no, I don’t mean he only pitched for them one time in the four years he was under contract to them… but as Yankee fans would tell you, it really wasn’t a lot more than that).

Pavano gets his lil buddy, sweet Drew Butera, catching him tonight so he’ll have to figure out a way to win without Joe Mauer’s bat in the lineup.

By the way, if you haven’t yet checked out the blog of new mlb.com Twins beat writer Rhett Bollinger, now might be a good time to do that. In tonight’s post, he touches on the “personal catcher” thing.

Speaking of blogs and guys not in the lineup tonight, you should head on over to Babes Love Baseball to enter the the contest they’ve got going, up until Jim Thome hits HR # 590. They’re giving away one of the TwinsCentric “Mashin’ Taters” t-shirts and all you have to do to enter is post a comment… and I know you all know how to make comments!

You also won’t find Derek Jeter’s name in the Yankees’ lineup tonight. Either Girardi and Gardy decided together not to play either manager’s designated “saint” or, more likely, Jeter became so unnerved by the sound of the collective screams of “Sit Down Bitch!!!!” that reverberated across America from thousands of former Batlings (OK, maybe not thousands, but I bet there were at least a dozen of us) as he swung through a Joe Nathan fastball to end last night’s game, that he’s curled up in a fetal position somewhere in the bowels of Yankee Mausoleum and needs a day to recover.

With that, here’s the list of guys who ARE in the lineup tonight:

TWINS @ YANKEES
Span, CF Gardner, LF
Nishioka, 2B Granderson, CF
Young, D, LF Teixeira, 1B
Morneau, 1B Rodriguez, A, DH
Kubel, DH Cano, 2B
Cuddyer, RF Swisher, RF
Valencia, 3B Chavez, Er, 3B
Butera, C Nunez, E, SS
Casilla, A, SS Molina, C
Pavano, P Garcia, F, P

Game postponed tonight. No make up date announced yet. If this had happened in Minnesota, there would be loud howls about Target Field not having a retractable roof.

Let’s hope for better weather Thursday.

- JC

Just Keepin’ It Real

Wow, that game last night was kinda fun… the way it ended anyway. Not so much the first seven innings, but in Big Boy League, they play nine (or in this case, 10) and it was great to see our guys show some backbone and scratch out a W in the Bronx.

And it’s fine that we were all giddy last night… including the players, if some of their Tweets are any indication.

But today brings another game and the reality that not too much should be read in to that win. Just as I’d caution people not to think Monday’s loss was an indication that the season is going in the toilet or that the Yankees will continue to forever dominate the Twins, let’s not jump to the conclusion that last night’s win gets King Kong off the Twins’ backs, either.

As our old friend Nuke LaLoosh so profoundly stated, “Winning is like, you know, better than losing!” But as the Twins learned last season, pulling off one come-from-behind win over the Evil Empire in that Mausoleum in Bronx (and seriously, that’s all the better Yankee fans can do in terms of showing up for a ballgame? I don’t care what the weather was… that’s a joke. They call themselves baseball fans?) does not, in itself, constitute a reversal of a trend.

I have to kind of like the pitching matchups for the next two games and I’ve held the minority view that the Twins bullpen is actually better than the Yankees’ overall, despite how “vaunted” it is by the media (especially the YES network broadcasters, apparently). I mean really… how many fans would have been screaming for the heads of Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire, and/or pitching coach Rick Anderson if the Twins would have left Ft. Myers with Luis Ayala in the bullpen (again)?

But we can debate pitching and middle infielding until we’re all out of breath (or our typing fingers fall off) and it really won’t matter in the long run. Yes, the starting pitchers need to stop giving up early gopher balls. Yes, Casilla and Nishioka need to step up their games a bit.

It's time for Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Thome to show up

But no matter what anyone else does, this team’s fortunes are going to be tied to how the heart of the batting order performs with the bat and, so far, they flat out haven’t performed well. If and when Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome start hitting with some consistent authority, this team will win a lot of baseball games. It’s really that simple.

At this point, none of those guys has been able to accumulate as much as a .150 batting average. Yes, I know BA isn’t the be-all and end-all of offensive statistics, but I think it’s safe to say that if you aren’t hitting above .150, chances are none of your other fancy in-depth sabremetric offensive stats are going to be looking too good either.

If all people want to fret about is whether your middle infield or 4th and 5th starters or middle relievers are performing up to standards, then everyone is missing the giant elephant in the room. It’s only five games in to the season, but the problem right at this moment is not the middle infield… it’s the heart of the batting order.

Pardon me for continuing to channel my inner Nuke today, but it’s time for the studs on this team to start announcing their presence with some authority.

- JC