Tag Archives: Yankees

News That’s Fit To Punt – 05/Jun/2013

We Hate Them, We Really, Really Do

Peter Hartcher has this article about the state of political leadership in Australia. The gist of it is a list of how many ways the Labor Government has failed us, and also how little Tony Abbott has offered as an alternative. the punchline comes down to this bit:

The key difference is that the voters are more disillusioned with Gillard’s government than they are with Abbott’s opposition.

Both leaders’ approval ratings have gone backwards over three years, but Gillard’s has gone back further.

And Labor has been in a losing position for all 29 of the 29 Nielsen polls in the life of this Parliament.

“That has never happened before” in the 40-year history of the series, Stirton says.

Labor’s remaining hopes, which are vanishingly small, rest almost entirely on a plan for a final, frenzied assault on Abbott as sinister, unhinged and unreliable.

Meanwhile, the Liberals will remind us, at every opportunity, of the depths of Gillard’s deceit.It will be a long 100 days ahead.

Oof. There’s no saving grace there. The electorate isn’t listening to the ALP government because they’ve had enough of the hung parliament, and they’ve certainly had enough of the ALP in NSW to last a generation. For whatever it is worth, I just don’t see NSW going back to the ALP for a decade, if not 15years. The Eddie Obeid business has exposed the ALP and there’s simply no amount of campaigning that’s going to fix what has been uncovered. In NSW, the ALP is the party of excess, sleaze, corruption, and horrible woggy names like Tripodi, Arbib and Obeid. In the current mood of punishing refugees and foreigners, there’s really not much support for the party of the children of immigrants.

On that level, the ALP has really well and truly screwed the pooch. Thus, the ALP has entered the twilight zone of lame duck governments. As such, some members like Joel Fitzgibbon are indulging in a bit of gallows humour. It looks like they’ve given up on shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, they’re going to join the band as the boat goes down. The aftermath of all this is going to be interesting because ALP internal polling shows that in Queensland, Kevin Rudd might be the last man standing. The ALP is facing a landslide the magnitude of losing somewhere around 34 seats from their current 72. That’s a lot of politicians, suddenly able to pull down on their ample superannuation payments. You kind of wish they wouldn’t lose so badly if only to help the budget bottom line of the nation. Maybe after such a monumental defeat, the ALP will be able to do some reform they sorely needed to do after their 1996 defeat.

I can’t begin to tell you of my disgust that Tony Abbott is likely to be our next Prime Minster, but as they say – in a democracy, you get the leaders you deserve. Clearly what e deserve is a gigantic enema.

ASIC’s Tough Day At The Office

You gotta laugh when ASIC are finally called to task on the terrible job they did.

 

Senator Doug Cameron put the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on notice on more than a dozen questions relating to its conduct in the affair during a Senate Estimates hearing last night, including a demand for an estimate of the amount of money clients had lost because the regulator repeatedly ignored warnings from whistleblowers.

The questions were delivered rapid-fire after Senator Cameron accused ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell of failing to adequately respond to questions delivered earlier in the hearing by Nationals Senator John Williams.

“This is a very serious issue for ASIC, it’s a serious issue for the government and all the senators are concerned about it. So just don’t take me on a waltz around the merry-go-round. Take that on notice.”

The hearing follows a Fairfax Media investigation that found the CBA had concealed improprieties by financial planner Don Nguyen who once controlled about $300 million in retirement savings on behalf of at least 1300 clients. Mr Nguyen, who has been banned by ASIC for seven years, allegedly forged client signatures, created unauthorised investment accounts and overcharged on fees. Some clients lost more than half their life savings, forcing them to seek help from Centrelink as they battled with CBA for compensation.

Senator Cameron demanded to know why Mr Nguyen received only a seven year ban after “engaging in illegal activity”, which meant he could once again act as a financial planner in 2018.

“Give us the details and the arguments that you went through to deliver a seven year ban and why you didn’t seek a ban for life on this individual who was destroying the lives of ordinary Australian citizens,” he said.
Mr Kell defended the regulatory and oversight regime that was in place at the time of the alleged abuses from 2006 to 2009, although he acknowledged that standards at CBA’s financial planning arm were “considerably below what was required”.

They sure get little sympathy from me. ASIC just don’t enough of anything.  At about the same time that went to the wires and interwebs, sharing a headline with it was this article:

BusinessDay has contacted many of the borrowers to confirm this. The borrowers, many who are pensioners and small business people, cannot afford a lawyer. Of these complaints, many had Loan Application Forms (LAFs), which they claimed had been tampered with, attached.

“ASIC has close to 100 LAFs from members (of her action group Banking & Finance Consumers Support Association) who say they wrote letters to ASIC and lodged formal complaints and attached the offending LAFs,” said Ms Brailey.

“Others wrote letters (another 60 people or more) that were formal complaints that contained no LAF.  Every one of my members says they received an identical form letter from ASIC.”

As reported on Monday, the veteran consumer rights campaigner has made public 2500 private emails and bank documents to expose what she describes as ”Australia’s subprime crisis”.

Ms Brailey claims that lenders and mortgage brokers tampered with documents to provide more credit for borrowers with ”low-doc” loans.
She says she is making private documents public after years of trying to get corporate regulators to investigate the banks and other lenders over what she alleges is ”systemic fraud” in the ”low-doc” market.

Low-documentation loans are made to borrowers such as business owners who can’t prove a regular income, but the borrower signs a declaration as to estimated income. The loans usually carry a higher interest rate than other loans, as they are seen as more risky.

Of the borrowers who have asked for help from Ms Brailey’s action group, Banking & Finance Consumers Support Association, 1170 of them claim their loan application forms (LAFs) have been tampered with. In most cases, the income figure has been increased to justify more credit. “There is not one clean ‘LAF’ among them,” said Ms Brailey.

The banks and the corporate regulators reject Ms Brailey’s claims. They say fraud in the low-doc loan market is the fault of ”rogue” mortgage brokers.
In his repudiation this week of the Brailey claims, Mr Kell said ASIC had recently banned seven mortgage brokers for fraud or misconduct relating to loan applications.

Somehow I don’t think that would wash with Doug Cameron, do you?

Sport Nut News Day

Today’s gush of news that’s worth kicking around is dominated by sporting news. First cab off the rank is the news that Energy Australia have pulled out of their sponsorship program, a mere 12months into their contract.

It is another body blow to SA, which is trying to rebuild after Australia’s disappointing London Olympic performance tainted by the Stilnox controversy.

“This is a difficult time for Swimming Australia and we recognise there are no easy solutions,” SA CEO Mark Anderson said in a statement.
“This is obviously disappointing but we respect the decision.”
Before Energy Australia’s bombshell, SA were also coping with the Australian Sports Commission’s decision in April that it would cut swimming funding by $500,000 for 2013.

It marked the first time it had been cut since the 1980s.

“Financial support from sponsors is important to the success of Australian swimming, but ultimate success in the pool is built upon hard work and a strong and stable supporting organisation,” said Anderson, who is a month into his new job.

“During this rebuilding phase, Swimming Australia is committed to ensuring that swimming returns quickly to where it belongs at its rightful place as Australia’s No.1 Olympic sport.”
The SA board gathered in Sydney on Wednesday before confirming the sponsorship deal was dead in the water.

That’s some straight up ugly consequences from last year’s debacle at the London Olympics. The line the press is running with this is that Energy Australia have had enough of the scandals coming out of Swimming Australia. It’s sort of surprising it has taken this long in some ways, but there is certainly a whiff of inevitability about this sponsorship deal breakdown. It’s certainly hard to believe all this talk about changes in governance and culture after the CEO is forced to resign for making inappropriate comments. I sort of let the racism debate coming out of AFL last week slide, and the subsequent brouhaha with Eddie Maguire just slide with it, but it has to be said Australian sports administration is stuck in some kind of time warp.

The other interesting sports news is how the Parramatta Eels have announced mid-season that they’ll be moving 12 of their players out of the club.

After years of underperformance – including “winning” the wooden spoon last year – the club has decided to act. In a letter to Eels fans and members, chief executive Ken Edwards declared it was time for the playing group to be “accountable” for the woeful results.

“In Rugby League, we are judged on the field by our performance and ultimately results,” Edwards wrote.

“In recent times the Parramatta Eels have not fared well in either category. Our Members, Fans and Sponsors deserve and demand more than what we have achieved and today the Eels declare that enough is enough.

That’s a big call. What’s interesting about this is how they’re making the call midway through the season; as well as announcing to the rest of the world they’re giving up on the current club as they blow it all up and attempt a rebuild. Not only are they punting these players, they’re punting the season away. Certainly, if you know you’re not going to be counting on these 12 players, what possible purpose could there be in running them out each week. If this is a rebuild, you would expect they’d be immediately benched and you would start playing the younger, upcoming players. It seems brave to decide the rebuild starts now, but also incredibly foolhardy to announce it to the rest of the world. This is a really weird move.

Meanwhile over in America, there’ s news that twenty players may be suspended for 100games. The headliners on the list of players is of course A-Rod, Ryan Braun, and Melky Cabrera. The sound you’re hearing is a million fantasy baseball players clicking their mice, dropping A-Rod from their squads. The timing of the news is interesting because only two days ago, Hal Steinbrenner did a doorstop where he said the Yankees were disappointed at times with A-Rod. Why would he be saying that right now? Was he tipped off that this stuff was going down? If it happens and then A-Rod is suspended for 100games, would this void his contract? As the boys at BTF used to say a long while ago, “Is that even legal?”

 

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George Steinbrenner Passes Away

80 Years Young

I think it dawned on me in Michael Jackson’s passing last year that he was around all of my life. The same could be said for George Steinbrenner and his ownership of the New York Yankees. The very first thing I might have been aware of about the contemporary Yankees at the time (as opposed to the Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio-Mantle Yankees) was that this man had bought the Yankees from CBS.

CBS is a funny company. At one point they owned both Fender Instruments and the New York Yankees – which are 2 brands I’ve stuck to steadfastly – and managed to fuck both of them up. But that’s by the by.

In remembering the late great George M Steinbrenner III, I’ve decided to compile a list of things I learnt from the life and times of George Steinbrenner. After all if I hadn’t learnt anything from all that Yankee-watching, then those years – nay decades – would truly have been wasted.

These lessons may or may not be applicable to every person or every day life. Yet they hold true the more I think about him and the fortunes of the Yankees.

10 Things I Learnt From Big Stein

1. Winning Isn’t Everything (But It Sure Beats Losing)

I know the Yankee way is “Win The World Series Or Else”, but having lived with that mantra for most of my baseball watching life, I’ve felt nothing but empty when they didn’t win. In the time George has owned the team, which is most of my lifetime, the Yankees have won the World Series 7 times, which is more than any other team. Each one felt great, each one felt different, and each one put rings into my life like with a tree, but when they have lost in the post-season, I found my estimation of the team did not lower. I know I’m probably a better dude on the days they win, but it doesn’t really ruin my day for them to lose occasionally. It’s okay George, I don’t have to slash my wrists.

2. Winning 60% Of The Time Is Pretty Good

If the outcome of things is naturally 50-50, then if you can win 60% of the time, that’s pretty good. If you could guess the outcome of the coin toss 60% of the time for instance, that would be enough of an edge to make you a fortune. I know share traders that assume they get it wrong 60% of the time. 60% is big. Well, over the course of watching the Yankees under George, I’m certain their winning percentage has been close to 60%. That probably explains why the Yankees grew so much in the 37 years he owned them.

3. Family Can Redeem One’s Excesses

George Steinbrenner could be such an a-hole in public life. Sometimes he was crass, some times he was boorish and demeaning to his players and staff. You’d hear about how charitable he could be in person, but it wasn’t likely we got to see that side of the man. So you were left with this persona of arrogance and overbearing macho chest-beatings. In the end it was his sons who took over the team and steered them back to the winners podium, thus making him look really good. It seems like a weird thing to say but he must have been at least a decent father to have such fine sons.

4. Fear Not Conflict Nor Humiliation, Just Get The Best Talent

Long before Nike came up with the slogan ‘Just Do it’, George Steinbrenner was the original sports owner who just went for it. When he took over the team, he made one of the worst prognostications in sport that he would be a hands off boss. That turned out to be the biggest codswollop announcement that came out of his office.

In turn he signed Catfish Hunter, Reggie and Dave Winfield and infamously traded Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, and even in the last decade he was willing to trade for a fading Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson. The fact that it made for a famously fractious clubhouse – at times known as the ‘Bronx Zoo’ – mattered little.

The lesson I learned is that if you’re going to put together a team, go for the best guys you can get your hands upon, and demand the world of them to achieve.

5. Money Doesn’t Buy You Happiness

Money bought a lot of players, but it didn’t exactly buy a championship every year, and more’s the pity if you’re a Yankees fan. If I could think of one person on the planet who was rich and not very happy about his life, it might have been George Steinbrenner after the post-season losses between 2001 and 2007, and the time in 2008 when they didn’t even get there. Having spent a US 1 Billion Dollars over a decade, his team had not brought him the championship he craved.

Some things, win or lose, just don’t come down to money. Which is the beauty of pro-sports, even when everybody says it’s not a level playing field in the MLB. One thing is sure. Money won’t guarantee you a championship.

One more weird note about Steinbrenner’s complicated state of happiness was that he said that if he could come back as anybody else, he would choose to come back as Derek Jeter. I know a lot of guys who would like to come back as Derek Jeter; I know a few guys who would like to come back as the owner of the Yankees; It’s just surprising to learn that even the owner of the Yankees thinks Derek Jeter has got it preternaturally good.

6. Live And Die By Your Product

The value of the Yankees grew enormously in George Steinbrenner’s ownership years. During that time, the one thing he consistently did was to invest in his team. And the city of New York knew it. Like him or hate him, he was putting forward his team as the team of New York, in all its dimensions.

I’ve watched a lot of different sports franchises across a lot of different sports and I have to say the only other organisation remotely like the Yankees are the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. When the Sydney Kings folded, I laughed. Talk about a team that never came close to capturing the imagination of the city. For years they flirted with success. Had I been the owner, I think I would have gone the Steinbrenner way and spent whatever I could to secure the best talent to win and I would have been a loudmouth about wanting to win at every turn. The premier city of a country deserves a winner. If you’re a sports owner in Sydney, or Tokyo, or London, or Paris, or Berlin, or Moscow or Toronto, or Seoul you just have to do your city justice and go out there and win.

7. Be Good To Your Friends

You can get angry with your friends, you can tell them off in public, you can even hire and fire them. But be good to your friends. Over a life time, it will accrue you much kudos.

8. No Amount Of Charitable Acts Erases Your Bad Deeds

I won’t go into this one too deeply because it’s a little like muck-raking. Yet George Steinbrenner was no saint and he did a lot of bad things. However we’re led to believe he also did a lot of beautiful charitable things. The take home lesson is either, “don’t do bad stuff”, which is obvious as daylight and therefore not a worthy lesson to learn from Steinbrenner (i.e. it could be learnt from most anybody), but perhaps there’s really nothing you can do in the public eye that can make up for your many sins.

Take note, Mel Gibson.

9. Have A Sense Of Humour About Yourself

I remember those beer ads with George and Billy Martin with “you’re fired” being the punchline as well as the “you’re hired”/”Not Again” punchlines.

Then there were those Seinfeld episodes about him which he took in good humour. This is actually him “being himself”.

He said “if you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re not much of a person. … It also pleases my grandchildren.”

For all the faults of his public persona, you have to like a man who can take it as well as dish it out.

10. Everybody Matters

In the late years, the senior management titles at Steinbrenner’s Tampa office seemed to multiply. Every second person who was at one point fired seemed to end up as a Vice President. These people included Gene ‘Stick’ Michael to Billy Connors.Then there were the plethora of old Yankees who would come in at Spring Training to bring back the memories and spread the Yankees vibe.

It seemed anybody who had done anything seemed to come through and stick. Except maybe Dave Winfield. He liked having all these people under one big tent, hoping they would all make a spectacular contribution at some point.

When you think about it, it’s true. in 1978 we found out you only get one Bucky Dent, but you only need one Bucky Dent. Again in 2003 we found out that you only get one Aaron Boone, but you only need one Aaron Boone. In the end you just don’t know who is going to make that spectacular, memorable contribution. In any outfit, everybody matters.

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Sport Nut Weekend

Get Some Perspective On The World Cup

The big news this morning is how dismally Australia lost to Germany in its first match in the World Cup. 4-0 sure is a whuppin’, and nobody has anything nice to say about Australia’s sons of the moment, the Socceroos.

Australia for all its posturing this time is mostly an older team of the same old guys from 2006. They couldn’t have expected to do better than last time.

That delusion lasted as long as it took for decoy forward Richard Garcia to snatch a shot on the turn, only to have it blocked. The rest of the match was benign tyranny, football royalty lording it over commoners. Or, eschewing empirical metaphors, the Germans’ movements were intricate, precise and oily, like a German- engineered car. Australia bumped along in a paddock basher.

The goals hurt; of course, they did. But they were only to be expected, and deceptive in their simplicity; it was the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity. The multitude of bookings hurt, because they had implications not only on the night, but for whatever Australia can hope to salvage from this tournament now. They also implied that Australia was a team of second resort.

But the red card for the talismanic Tim Cahill hurt most, because it was the massacre of hope.

Beneath the croaking of the vuvuzelas, there was now a hush. Even the German fans appeared shocked. The sentiment trapped inside the stadium now was more like a fart. Coach Pim Verbeek did not bother with Harry Kewell, or Josh Kennedy or Marco Bresciano; it would have been a waste of their time. A crowd of more than 60,000 thinned by half. Miserably, many of the Australians were going home to tents.

Australia thought it was better than this. Australia WAS better than this, four years ago. Hell, Australia was better than this in the 1974 World Cup when a team of amateurs played a stronger West German team than this German team, and lost by merely 3-0. It took more than 30 years to return to the World Cup as peers. This setback will have repercussions for a long time, on the field and off.

Which is a bit mean. I just want to write this post because I want us to get some perspective on what it is that the Socceroos were up against.

Firstly, without a shred of a doubt this tournament means more to Germans than any Australian. Germany is a three time winner of the World Cup and it’s almost the only World Cup they contest. They don’t contest the Cricket, Rugby World Cups, and they sure as hell don’t send squads to the World Baseball Classic. I can’t quite recall if they’ve ever threatened to win Olympic Gold in Ice Hockey. I don’t think they even field a credible Basketball team, while Australia does. I don’t even know if they have ever sent a team to the Netball World Cup. Soccer/Football is the it sport in Germany.

Australia on the other hand contest just about all of these World Comps except maybe Ice Hockey, but I’m sure there will eventually be a marsupially named squad in the future trying to get there. The point is, it’s a bit rich for Australia to come at Football with the hopes of rolling with the top-5 nation of the sport. Or even Top-8. And if they don’t, it’s no slur on Australia’s sporting prowess for not being within shouting distance of drawing with Germany. Being there, competing on the World Cup Stage is already an immense, towering accomplishment for the sport in Australia.

Some people are saying it’s an embarrassing loss. I just can’t go with that, even though a) I hate soccer and b) am no fan of soccer fandom, I have an appreciation of how deep the world’s love for that sport is and where that depth is spread. There are nations out there that have no shot of being there, but it’s still their no.1 sport. Think about that for a moment. It’s like the no.5-6 sport in Australia in terms of exposure and we’ve got a team competing against the best of the best.

Talking about this match without that perspective is really disrespectful for an opponent that’s steeped in the sport. It is inherently insane for Australia to think that it can equally be competitive at the ultimate level at Football. So much would have to change for Australia to be that good.

A World Cup Of What? – Part 1

This all got me to thinking about this notion of World Cups. Cricket’s World Cup and the Baseball World Baseball Classic field 16 teams in the group stage. In either competition, the tail end of the 16 look a little ragged. It’s really the top-8 in each competition that has a shot at the last 4 with few surprises. The gap between the top 8 and next 8 nations is in fact huge.

The same applies to the Rugby World Cup. Japan has been turning up to the Rugby World Cup each time but it’s never gotten out of the group stage. Japan has the distinction of copping the worst hiding in Test matches, but it has also handed out the next worst hiding to minnows Taiwan. Should they be there or not? If they weren’t there, would it still be a ‘World Cup’? You could argue Rugby isn’t too deep, but then there are such results as the horrible thrashing Australia handed out to Canada in cricket at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

In each case, there’s the Top 8 and the rest.

While it is true that the World Cup of Football fields 32 teams in the group stage from 200 odd nations, it is arguable that it is only the top-8 that have a serious shot at the finals. Yes, Football is deep and wide across the planet, but at its core it’s still only about 8 nations. The rest of them are like window dressing to make the word ‘World’ stand up. We should revel in the fact that we make such good window-dressing.

A World Cup of What? – Part 2

Here are some rhetorical questions to go with the above:

Is it any surprise that Australia has won 2 Rugby World Cups?

Is it any surprise that Australia has won 4 Cricket World Cups?

Is it any surprise that Japan is a 2-time champion at the World Baseball Classic?

Is it any surprise that Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup 5 times?

Is it any surprise that Germany hasn’t won a World Cup in Cricket or Rugby, or that it hasn’t even fielded a team in the WBC?

Dare we even mention the Rugby League World Cup?

Is it reasonable/rational to expect Australia to get out of the Group Stage at the FIFA World Cup?

The Wrong Code

Australia will never relinquish League and AFL and Rugby in order to concentrate on one code of football. Therefore should we even hope to win the FIFA World Cup one day? We’re the equivalent of the Kenyans at the Cricket World Cup.

In other news, the Yankees are on top of the AL East having swept the Astros. I’m pleased with that.

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Yankees Update 24/12/09

A Good Year

So I haven’t done one of these in a while because I’m still basking in the afterglow, and more realistically, I’ve been adjusting to the idea that this year’s World Series win might have been more of a last stand for the “Core 4” than another signpost on another dynastic run. For a start, Derek Jeter is about to enter the last season of his 10 year contract that makes the last decade look like one big great adventure that’s coming to a close. Andy Pettitte might retain his value, as might Mariano Rivera, but expecting more greatness out of Jorge Posada as well is perhaps a little too much. For hism to produce at the level of his career norms to date, he’s essentially going to have to be Carlton Fisk, and there’s only ever been one Carlton Fisk.

In any case, the most  likely outcome is that the ‘Core 4’ will ave problems to do with aging as all athletes do. I’m not expecting the Yankees to repeat. If they do, I’d be mightily impressed, but realistic projections would say otherwise. In that spirit, I’ve been stretching out my afterglow as long as it can last, and heck, I’ve made it to Christmas Eve. Can’t complain about such good luck, nor am I looking to complain, thank you very much!

I guess I’ve been wrestling with the length of time between the 2000 and 2009 championships and pondering the events in between. It turned out to be a long decade for Yankee fans.

Anyway, these are the moves Brian Cashman made this winter so far…

Didn’t Offer Arbitration To Chien-Ming Wang

Actually, he didn’t offer arbitration to Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui either. It’s interesting that they’re letting Wang walk.

Brian Bruney Goes To Washington

This was a bit disappointing, after the great salvation job the Yankees pulled with Bruney. They got a PTNBL later which turned out to be the Rule 5 draft pick of the Nats, who happens to be Jaime Hoffman. Hoffman’s a CF with some pop against lefties, so presumably he was acquired to be the caddy for Curtis Granderson who is not so good against lefties.

If he sticks, this would be a great trade because anytime you get any position player for a reliever, you’ve got to chalk that up as a win. If not, well, Brian Bruney was the odd man out in a crowded Bullpen picture. He’s also the immediate candidate for a closer for the Nats. Bruney said that at least he got a ring with the Yankees. Got to hand it to a guy who has some perspective. 🙂

The Curtis Granderson Trade

Other people have gone and done the numbers on it. Granderson essentially replaces Johnny Damon, is younger and costs less. To get him, the Yankees parted with IPK, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, but you have to say it was worth the price. The upside of Jackson was Granderson, so that alone makes enough sense. IPK had no place in the rotation going forwards so it was worth cashing in that chip. Interestingly enough, the Yankees drew the line at Mike Dunn, yet traded Dunn as a package of players for Javier Vazquez.

Nick Johnson Returns

The other bat to leave was Hideki Matsui, who signed a 1 year deal with the Angels. replacing his bat in the lineup is old friend Nick Johnson who was once upon a time known as ‘OBP Jesus’. He brings a higher OBP and lower slug than Matsui, but again, he’s younger.

The interesting thing about the Yankees off-season has been that they’ve gone for more trades than free agent signings. Indeed, Johnson is so far the biggest free Agent the Yankees have signed.

Javier Vazquez, The One That Got Away

Once upon a long time ago, Nick Johnson was traded for Javier Vazquez. Home-run-Javy Vazquez was then shipped out to Arizona for the dying embers of Randy Johnson and we all know how that turned out. I think it turned into a clutch of pitchers including Ross Ohlendorf who eventually turned into a package for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. It’s been a long succession of not so great trades, but Marte, we can agree on worked out alright in 2009.

So, it’s a little surprising to see Javier Vazquez re-acquired, 5 years down the track. He’ll fit in as the N. 2 or No.3 or No.4 starter, depending on how you see him amongst Burnett and Pettitte and Joba.

Again, it’s a good move for the pitching side of the ledger. Going the other way to Atlanta is Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino.

The Melkman Departs

I’m disappointed to see the Melkman go. I think he’s still got good to great upside. Consider his comps are Curt Flood and Sexto Lezcano. through Age 24, he’s actually very close to Johnny Damon and even comparable to Bernie Williams. Like I said, I’m not saying he’s going to turn into those players, but the door’s certainly not been totally closed on that potential just yet – he’s still 24. No matter how well Vazquez does this time around, I’m going to be bummed if Melky turns into a 3.0 wins above replacement sort of player. As with Bruney, at least he got a ring before he departed.

The Known Unknowns

I’ve no idea what they intend to do with Xavier Nady or Johnny Damon or Wang, if anything at all. That said, it’s been a  very busy and interesting winter so far.

Update: Here’s the RLYW projection o the 2010 roster as it stands. I too love off-seasons like this where the team gets better.

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World Series Game 6

Sweet Victory

No 27

Yankees Win World Series 2009

Game 6 went according to some kind of plan. Pedro Martinez was willing to pitch around Mark Teixeira and A-Rod, just to get to Hideki Matsui, and for perhaps the last time Hideki Matsui played like his nickname Godzilla, batting in 6 runs. The Yankee pitching, led by Andy Pettitte and closed by Mo, did pretty much everything it was expected to do – hold down the Phillies so the offense can pound out some runs.

I guess it’s the kind of pleasure you get watching a blockbuster – they spent the money to give you a thrill ride, and a happy ending. Pleasing the crowd is the iron rule of entertainment and the Yankees do have a world wide crowd to please. It’s all good.

Goodbye Godzilla

291104110_Phillies_Yankees_144834384_lbigJeter has this quote about Hideki Matsui:

“He looked like he wanted it bad,” Derek Jeter said. “Matsui is one of my favorite players. He’s one of my favorite teammates. He comes ready to play every day. He’s a professional hitter. All he wants to do is win.”

That’s mighty high praise from the captain o a team that has Tex and A-Rod and CC and AJ and Jorge and Mo. The scuttlebut is that it may have been Matsui’s final game in NY pinstripes. If so, it was a heck of a way to say farewell.

Everybody seems to be talking about what a long road it’s been and what a great finale it might be so I’ll leave it be. The guy got what he wanted in the end. We should all be so lucky.

When you think about it, 2009 is the year of the NPB. Ichiro and his guysfrom Japan won the World Baseball Classic, and now Matsui put his stamp on the World Series by becoming World Series MVP. It’s a good year for the Nippon Professional Baseball guys.

No.27

Goodness. So, I’ve seen 7 in my lifetime. I’m trying to get my head around that one. They don’t come as often as one would be made to think about all the talk about the money. Let’s get one thing straight, money alone doesn’t win it all, and certainly if you think winning the World Series is the only credible end to a season for a team, then you’re already thinking like the Steinbrenners.

I’m just glad it’s in the can. The next might take 10 years, 15, even but I won’t be forgetting 2009. This was a really, good, memorable squad.

In Democrats We Trust

Not a single title during the Bush years. Not a single title during the Reagan years or the Bush snr. years. All that money spent and no titles. The Yankees won 2 under JFK (’61, ’62), 2 under Jimmy Carter (”77, ’78), 4 Under Bill Clinton (’96, 98, 99, ’00) and now 1 under Barack Obama (“hooray!”).

Makes you wonder why George Steinbrenner ever donated to the Republicans!

To tell you the truth I had an inkling this coincidental streak might run from the moment Obama won office and the Yankees traded for Swisher, and signed CC, AJ and Tex.

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World Series Game 5

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

*Ugh*

The Bats came to life way too late in the deal, and giving up 8 runs is never going to work.I don’t know if there’s anything profound to be said other than *ugh*.

Cripes. Is there anything positive to all of this except the fact that the Yankees scored 6 runs? AJ Burnett was a big disappointment giving up 6 runs in 2 innings which is as big a hole as you can land a team. I actually don’t blame him because I had a hunch he was going to blow up rather than pitch tight. Even Cliff Lee surrendered 5 runs in 7. It just wasn’t going to be a pitchers’ duel. But you kind of expect the Yankees to win the slugfests.

Oh well.

The teams head back to Yankees Stadium for Games 6 & 7. Andy Pettitte takes the mound on 3 days rest. This could get ugly against old archenemy Pedro Martinez. This ought to be fun. You’d think the Yankees can close the deal with 2 games in hand.

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World Series Game 4

Doing It As Drawn Up

Wow. The Yankees are up 3-1 in the World Series with a 7-4 win. Sabathia pitched 6.2 innings giving up 3, Joba blew the save but vultured a win as the Yankees erupted for 3 runs in the 9th and Mariano Rivera did his thing.

I don’t mean to be triumphalist, but I think it needs some pointing out that the 2009 Yankees won 103 games in the AL East. The 2009 Phillies won 93 games in the NL East where their potentially biggest rivals tanked due to injuries. Look, the Phillies are plenty good, but I think we’re beginning to see the gap in strength as the World Series rolls on. No disrespect to the Phillies who did win it all in 2008, but I think the 3 wins in a row to the Yankees reflects the relative difference in strengths.

That being said, the Yankees now face Cliff Lee against whom the bats stayed dormant, ad they send AJ Burnett to the mound. Of course, AJ Burnett is like Forest Gump’s Box of Chocolates – you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Okay, he did win Game 2 with style but will he get the Yankees past Phillies a second time is a reasonable question.

It’s not over yet.

Ain’t That Johnny Damon Something?

Here’s an excellent account of Damon’s one-pitch one-man double steal.

Take his at-bat against Lidge in the ninth. There were two outs. Lidge got ahead in the count 1-2. And then Damon, realizing that Lidge would try to put him away with that famous slider of his, decided to look only for that slider. “They really don’t teach you do it that way,” Damon says. “They normally tell you to look fastball because if you sit slider, it would be too tough to catch up to the fastball.”

But Damon just sensed that his best shot was to wait for the slider and hope for the best. He fouled off a slider, then another. Lidge tried to throw a couple of fastballs — one was called just off the outside corner (Damon was beaten on the pitch — the umpire could have called it either way), and the second was outside. Full count. Damon kept waiting for the slider. He fouled off a fastball. He fouled off another fastball. And finally, he hit the fastball for a single to left field.

It was remarkable stuff — “Just an unbelievable at-bat,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi would call it — and then Damon realized that he could steal second base on Lidge. You know the guy in your neighborhood basketball game, the one that plays ruthless defense, never-ending defense, in-your-face defense and you want to yell at him “Just STOP already.” Yeah, that’s Damon too.

He stole second base, and then he saw third base was open and in an instant he ran through all those calculations and decided to go for it. At first, Feliz reached out and looked like he had a chance to tag Damon. But he could not. Damon pulled away. “I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,” Damon would say.

Damon made it to third base. We’ll never know for sure if his play spooked Brad Lidge … I think it’s a fair guess to say that it did. Lidge promptly hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch. And then he threw two fastballs to A-Rod — one of the great fastball hitters in baseball history — and A-Rod ripped the second to left for a double. That scored Damon. Jorge Posada followed with a single that scored two more runs, and that was that.

Now, the Yankees have a stranglehold on the series. It’s hard to come up with a scenario where the Phillies come back from this. They do have Cliff Lee going tonight, which gives them a fair shot at sending the series back to New York. But they’re standing at the base of Mount Everest. And they know it. The Phillies really had to win Sunday night, and they played exactly the kind of gutsy game that it takes to win. They came from behind. They scored a late run to tie the game. They were at home, and Lidge seemed to be throwing well, and it all looked good.

But then Johnny Damon had the at-bat of the Series and he pulled off what might have been the first one-man double steal in World Series history. It was one of those plays that you never forget. The Phillies never quite recovered from that.

“I kinda had to see all that stuff develop,” was how Damon explained his play. Then he shrugged his shoulders because, hey, he isn’t really sure he saw any of it. He ran. His mind told him to go. Things just seem to work out for the guy. He’s lucky that way.

Well, that too.

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