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Thursday, November 6, 2014

What the media misses in the latest A-Rod shenanigans

Would you take diet advice from Cousin Yuri?
So there was some actual big Alex Rodriguez coming out this week. The Miami Herald revealed that A-Rod played "Let's Make a Deal" with the feds in January, and that he admitted in a statement to doing performance enhancing drugs.

Newsflash -- in the baseball world, drug dealers may be used to out their addicts, but in the real world, those addicts are used to put the dealers behind bars. Obvious statement, but something a certain I-Team has had a hard time grasping.

The two things that fascinated me about Alex's statement were these things:


1) That A-Rod supposedly passed a PED test by using midstream urine. If this is true, then what does that say about MLB's testing system? This seems like a huge loophole to me. Shouldn't people in the media be looking into this? (Personally, I think the reason A-Rod passed is because Tony Bosch was selling him more snake oil than substance, but I still think MLB ought to have looked into this; Bosch himself has claimed the midstream story in the past.)

2) That A-Rod got diet tips from a fat guy. According to the Herald's story:
According to Rodriguez’s statement to DEA agents, in summer 2010 he had gained some weight and was experiencing some “problems” with injuries to his knee. He wanted to lose five to 10 pounds. 
Sucart, a man of considerable girth, told him he himself had lost some weight with the help of a South Florida “doctor.” Sucart said the man — he didn’t name him — could help Rodriguez get into better shape.
“Sucart told Rodriguez that the doctor was a smart guy and a guru,” the DEA reports said. “Rodriguez stated that Sucart was very aggressive and persistent about Rodriguez meeting the doctor.” 

Okay, I know A-Rod is pretty stupid on the way the world works, but this takes the cake.

Why in the world would a professional athlete known for being a fitness fanatic take diet advice from a fat person? Look at the photo from Cousin Yuri's arrest this summer. Not exactly slim and trim. Heck, I'm not exactly slim and trim myself, but I sure wouldn't take diet advice from somebody with Cousin Yuri's physique. Why would A-Rod? Is he really that dumb?

 * * *

Also love the media's handwringing about Alex Rodriguez's latest brouhaha in the news yesterday, as if having him come back to sully the pinstripes is something that must never happen. The Daily News' Mike Lupica sez that the Yankees need to make him an offer to get him to go away. (Um, Mikey, unless that offer has $61 million in it, A-Rod is gonna go all Dreamgirls "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" with the Yanks.)

Bob Nightengale of USA Today claims that nobody wants A-Rod back and whines:"Yet, as much as want to hide from Rodriguez, we can't stop hearing or talking about the man who betrayed anyone who believed in him." Of course. It's called increased page views, baby. And don't tell me that the media doesn't love talking about this -- it beats writing about the rest of this snoozeworthy Yankees team.

And the New York Times' Juliet Macur has a really dumb piece in which she says, "I feel sorry for the Yankees" because of this Miami Herald story revealing that he fessed up on steroids to the feds:
Poor Yankees. This past season, the franchise with enough World Series rings to bejewel a small army failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. For a team whose fans expect championships on a steady basis, this little drought might as well be 119 years. It’s a solemn time for the Yankees, and they need some peace and quiet to reflect, and to figure out how to win again.
Rodriguez didn’t get that memo. Basically, he has returned playing the cymbals, ready to put on the pinstripes again for a team that needs no part of him or his noise but that now has to deal with a whole new set of drug revelations involving the onetime slugger.
1. Brian Cashman is most likely doing the Snoopy Dance over this story. Why? Because talking about A-Rod means less talk about the poorly constructed team he has run into the ground.

2. Macur doesn't seem to comprehend that this story is based on something Rodriguez did in January, and he had nothing to do with this being leaked. So her dopey cymbals analogy makes zero sense here.

3. Even a severely diminished A-Rod is still better than most of the current Yankees -- his 2013 .771 OPS was a better number than every single Yankee starter last year!

At any rate, I am sure Cashman is glad A-Rod is back clanging those cymbals, distracting everybody in the media who might dare to ask what his actual plan on bringing a championship to the Bronx is. Good grief.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Is Mark Teixeira going to take A-Rod's place as the designated Yankee scapegoat?

About a month ago, I said to Squawker Jon that I thought Mark Teixeira would be the new target of the Yankees' ire in the future, basically becoming the new Alex Rodriguez when it comes to being the team's designated Yankee scapegoat.  After all, Tex not only has a ridiculous contract, like Alex Rodriguez, and he also is no longer in his prime, and he is injured all of the time now, it seems, but he has also said a number of outrageous -- but mostly ignored -- things.  Mostly ignored, that is, until now.

Here's the thing -- while A-Rod is coming back, of course, there is only so much mileage Brian Cashman and the Yankees can get anymore over blaming him for everything that goes wrong. So I figured that Tex would be the next Yankee target. And some of it might actually be deserved. After all, in this past year, not only is Mark refusing to adjust his game to compete against the shift, but he also announced that he he basically was never going to be the same player that he was in his prime. (Of course, he will still get paid like he did in his prime!)

Anyhow, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews writes what will undoubtedly be the first of many New York media hit pieces on Teixeira. In the article, Matthews speculates on whether Teixeira has lost the hunger to succeed, referencing how boxer Marvin Hagler once said that "it's tough to get out of bed to do roadwork when you've been sleeping in silk pajamas." Matthews writes, "There are some Yankees who wonder if the same syndrome is starting to affect Teixeira."

He goes on to say:
A baseball insider I spoke with this week said Teixeira's "outside interests" -- he is financially involved in real estate holdings, a chain of juice bars, and is working to create what he called a "marriage of baseball and social media" -- had become a point of concern, with some wondering how badly he still wanted to be a baseball player.
Brian Cashman, come on down! You are back to doing what you do best -- leaking anonymous smears on Yankees out of favor!

Look, I think Teixeira has said a lot of dumb things, most of which he has gotten away with until now. That being said, I seem to remember somebody else who started a "marriage of baseball and social media" while still playing -- Derek Jeter, who launched his Players' Tribune site this month (and had to have been working on it at the same time he was still an active player.)

And these days, most players have outside financial interests. Is there any hard evidence that Teixeira's terrible play is due to these interests, or to his YES Network show, which the article also references? No.
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I do think that Teixeira has been a disappointment, and he says a lot of dopey things (that he has gotten away with doing until now), but that has nothing to do with whether he owns a few Juice Press stores. And the anonymous leaks are a little unseemly.

Matthews' article also talks about how Tex's numbers have tanked in recent years, which is fair game. But what he does not mention is how Cashman and the Yankees did not have a backup plan for his absence this year, which made no sense. (Hint: having your catcher play first is not a real backup plan!)

Anyhow, get your popcorn ready. I expect Tex to be a big target next season if he doesn't get it together quickly; he was already facing some boos this year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 BBA awards ballot part 2 -- American League

Here are my Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards picks:

Goose Gossage Award - Reliever of the Year (American League) 
1. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
2. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
3. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

Walter Johnson Award - Pitcher of the Year (American League)
1. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
3. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
4. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays/Detroit Tigers
5. Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins

Stan Musial Award - MVP (American League)
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
3. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
4. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
5. VIctor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
6. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
7. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
8. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
9. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
10. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals


2014 BBA awards ballot part 2 - National League

Goose Gossage Award - Reliever of the Year (National League)

1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
2. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
3. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates


Walter Johnson Award -
Pitcher of the Year (National League)

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
5. Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
 

Stan Musial Award - MVP (National League)

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
4.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

5. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

6.
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
7. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
8.
Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates

9.
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

10.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Why did the Yankees pass on Andrew Friedman? And why is Hal Steinbrenner like Hermey the Elf?


Yesterday, after hearing about how the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped up and signed Andrew Friedman, after firing GM Ned Colletti, I was naturally peeved. As my friend Sully put it, the Dodgers have back-to-back seasons making the playoffs, and they fire their GM, while the Yankees have back-to-back seasons of not making the playoffs, and give their GM a new contract. Good grief.

I have had my eye on Andrew Friedman for a long time. Here is what I wrote in 2012, in a column slamming Brian Cashman for signing Kevin Youkilis, and correctly predicting that the $12 million signing would be a disaster. I said that:
"With a payroll less than a third of the Yanks, and their best players leaving for free agency, Friedman is able to field a competitive team each year. (And no, it isn't just having had the good draft picks -- look at Kansas City!) In the old days, George Steinbrenner would have poached Friedman from the Rays a long time ago, instead of having a schlub like Cashman as GM for life."
Two years later, KC finally has a good team, but the Yankees are content to settle for three more years with a schlub like Brian Cashman. And yes, I still contend that George would have swooped in and gotten Friedman. (An aside -- if I had a dollar for every Yankee fan who insisted to me over the years that Friedman would never leave Tampa, I would be rich!)

Most of us have seen "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" a time or two -- or ten -- each Christmas season. Hermey the Elf is one of the more memorable characters. He is Rudolph's fellow misfit friend who doesn't want to be an elf -- which sounds like a pretty cool gig to most of us, even if you have to sing that annoying song about how "We are Santa's elves."  Instead, Hermey wants to be a dentist.

Anyhow, I was thinking about Lazy Hal yesterday, and I was struck by the similarities of  the Elf to him -- and it is not just the swoop of bangs! Hal literally has zero interest in running the team, which like being an elf, sounds like a sweet gig to most of us. Instead, he would rather do his amateur weather forecasting.

Mike Lupica, perhaps the only major media guy in New York unafraid to criticize Cashman and Steinbrenner, had an excellent column in the Daily News about the state of the Yankees. He said that:
"Hal Steinbrenner goes through the half-hearted motion of talking like a tough Steinbrenner owner, like he’s learning a new language on Rosetta Stone. But one of the reasons that Brian is coming back is that even if Steinbrenner had wanted to hire a new general manager, he wouldn’t have had a clue about who it should be. All we know for sure is that he’s decided that the general manager he has is indispensable."
That is about the size of it. Hermey -- I mean Hal -- does treat actually attending Yankees like going to the dentist. And the Yankee GM fancies himself an elf. After all, he dresses as one when he does his dopey rappelling each holiday season.

Imagine what Friedman could do with the resources in Yankeeland. Yet, by all accounts, nobody ever even tried to poach him, even though Hal lives in Tampa. Good grief indeed.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shocker: Fox gets into modern world with cool baseball broadcast idea

I have been hoping for years that there would be an alternative to the traditional big-network baseball broadcast. After all, who really wants to listen to Joe Buck mope in a monotone about what is happening on the field? Well, listen up. For tonight's Game 1 of the NLCS, you actually have an alternative. I got this info from Fox Sports:
For Game 1 of the NLCS, FOX Sports is gearing up for a grand experiment: A simulcast on FOX Sports 1 on October 11 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. FOX will provide the traditional broadcast, featuring Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci in the booth, Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews on the field.
Meanwhile, over on FS1 the crew- Kevin Burkhardt, Gabe Kapler and C.J. Nitkowski - will focus on statistics, sabermetrics, and graphics, with plenty of debate and conversation while the action plays out on the field. We’ll utilize a double-box format, with the live game action in one box, and our studio hosts and guests in another, along with a constant flow of graphics.  
This unique experience will be powered by Just a Bit Outside (JABO), a new microsite from FOXSports.comFOXSports.com
I think this is a great idea. I will be tuning in, just to hear a different voice from the usual boring Fox broadcast.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brian (Fredo) Cashman gets contract extension, and I have had enough

I was already in a bad mood today. My purse was stolen last week when I was in an Upper West Side Thai restaurant called Land. (Helpful hint -- don't ever eat there!) Anyhow, I have spent the past 10 days dealing with all of the repercussions involved with the crime -- talking to the police and the insurance company, getting the credit card companies to remove the many hundreds of dollars in charges the crook charged, trying to get the money back on my Metrocards returned, getting my locks changed (the criminal had keys to my house!) And I still need to hold down a job as well. It has been very stressful, and I am really worn out by the whole debacle.

Anyhow, I was trying to snap out of it by enjoying a Friday afternoon roaming around Manhattan, when Squawker Jon called me to tell me the big news -- that Brian Cashman just signed a three-year contract extension with the Yankees. Although I was not the least bit surprised by the news, it still really ticked me off. For one thing, it just goes to show that Hal Steinbrenner is a clown. As a Twitter friend put it, Hal wasn't just born on third base. In this scenario, Joba Chamberlain is pitching, and Mike Trout is at the plate.

Meanwhile, Prince Hal still cannot bring himself to get real accountability with this franchise. While Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher lost their jobs, that is window dressing on what really needs to be done. Cashman still holds the purse strings, and still doesn't have a clue on how to compete in MLB in 2014. Meanwhile, smart franchises like the Cardinals and the Giants are forming dynasties of their own, while the Yankees stick with has-beens like Cashman whose best days were during the Clinton administration.

In 2014, the New York Yankees spent over $125 million more on payroll than the New York Mets. For that financial output -- $210 million in payroll, the highest in the American League -- they got exactly five wins more than the Mets. Good grief.

Yet Cashman still continues to get a pass from the media. Wallace Matthews writes for ESPN that this is "a wondrous opportunity for Cashman to do what he has always secretly yearned to do -- create a Yankees team in his own image, with his own vision and his own players, and to finally build his own legacy." Um, Wally, Cashman has been GM since we first found out about Monica Lewinsky and her little blue dress. The team is already in this image, and has been for a long time now. His legacy is already built -- he has just 1 ring in the last 14 years. Kind of like the Atlanta Braves, but with billions more spent in payroll, and three years without playoff appearances at all.

Now is decision time. Do I really want to spend the next three years writing in this blog solely about the Yankees? Spending my spare time rooting for a team that is not really very likeable, run by some extremely unlikeable people? We have been doing this blog since 2006, and I have newer interests in life. I run in a 5K race (or more) pretty much every weekend now, and I have other things going on in my world these days.

I am writing in different places as well, on different topics, and am getting rewarded for it. I recently beat out over 3000 other entries to win an all-expenses-paid opportunity to attend a weeklong magazine writing workshop, which is something to be thankful for. And it is a lot more positive than writing for the umpteenth time the obvious -- that Cashman is a lousy GM.

All of this is to say that I don't really find watching the Yankees much fun anymore. And we are going to have more of the same (actually, I think things will be worse -- the Mets have a brighter future than the Yankees these days!) in the near future. And for the last few years, writing about the Yankees has been a constant string of negativity, as this team just hasn't been much fun.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. My childhood friend Kelly wrote me this tonight:
Lisa, I am in the exact same space. Since 2001 I have subscribed to MLBTV (being I live in CA now). Prior to the 2013 season, upper management made little to no significant changes to the team and, granted injuries, sunk the team to the depths of nothingness. With minimal improvement to the 2014 year's team, I see virtually no commitment to making a championship caliber team. For the 2014 season I did not subscribe to MLBTV and I dare say, next year I won't either. I have loved this team since I was a little girl - from in the womb even. I can't believe where we are right now. It sucks to be pissed at your own team.
Yup. That is exactly how I feel. What is there to look forward to next year, other than maybe Betances? (Even I am not excited over A-Rod at 40!)

But I am not going to shut down the blog. That would mean Brian Cashman will have won.

However, I just can't see why I should expend the psychic energy involved with writing regularly about this dysfunctional situation. Writing 100 columns about why Cashman must go is not exactly my idea of fun.

So this blog will be a work in progress. Stay tuned.

2014 BBA awards ballot part 1 - American League

Squawker Jon and I are members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and we get the opportunity to vote on the group's end-of-season awards. Today, I am casting my ballot for the top rookie and top manager in the American League.

Willie Mays Award - Top Rookie (American League)
1. Jose Abreu -- Chicago White Sox (a player Brian Cashman should have gone after)
2. Masahiro Tanaka -- New York Yankees (may have been No. 1 if he hadn't gotten hurt)
3. Dellin Betances -- New York Yankees (one of the few things to look forward to in Yankeeland)

2014 Connie Mack Award - Top Manager (American League)
1. Buck Showalter -- Baltimore Orioles (Was always great at strategy; now is a great motivator of people. Was able to change with the times and relate to younger generation. Orioles are now team to beat in AL East. Yikes!
2. Ned Yost -- Kansas City Royals (Not a perfect manager, but got Royals to first postseason since I was in high school!)
3. Lloyd McClendon -- Seattle Mariners (Thanks to McClendon and Robinson Cano, the Mariners are relevant for the first time in over a decade.)

2014 BBA awards ballot part 1 - National League

For Rookie of the Year, I am pleased to vote for one of the Mets' few bright spots this season, Jacob deGrom. Terry Collins won't be showing up on my managers' list, however, but there's always next year if the Mets make their long-awaited leap to contention with the return of Matt Harvey.

Willie Mays Award - Top Rookie (National League)

1. Jacob deGrom - New York Mets
2. Billy Hamilton - Cincinnati Reds
3. Ken Giles - Philadelphia Phillies


2014 Connie Mack Award - Top Manager (National League)

1. Mike Matheny - St. Louis Cardinals
2. Bruce Bochy - San Francisco Giants
3. Clint Hurdle - Pittsburgh Pirates

Friday, October 3, 2014

Shocker: Derek Jeter decides to become a St. Petersburg Squawker!

Of all the things Derek Jeter could do after retirement, he is going to be a blogger? Hey, that's my territory! And guess what? After less than two days in the biz, he is already doing damage control. Good grief.

Anyhow, I read with great interest Jeter's announcement Wednesday that he was starting his own blog, or as he calls it, a "platform," called the Players' Tribune, where athletes could get to speak their minds with "no filter." He also gave sportswriters a big ol' middle finger after they kissed his tuchis for the last two decades, basically saying that he avoided saying anything of interest for 20 years to avoid being misquoted or having his quotes taken out of context. Now he says, "I do think fans deserve more than 'no comments' or 'I don’t knows,'" he said. "Those simple answers ave always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted."

He also announced to the world that he is "not a robot." Who knew?

So Derek has started his own blog platform to, as he puts it, for athletes to have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel," so that they can "connect directly with our fans, with no filter."

Obviously, I have more than a few opinions on this endeavor:

First of all, this is not a new idea. In fact, didn't Curt Schilling do this, like, a decade ago with his 38 Pitches blog, way before social media? And don't athletes already have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and their own web pages these days to communicate with fans? Heck, Richard Sherman even has his own weekly column with MMQB.com!

Second, there actually will be a filter -- the "editors" and "producers" Jeter acknowledges will be involved with the product, making decisions on everything from proofreading to choice of article topics. There will also be PR professionals involved, no doubt, to protect these players' brand and make sure they don't say anything interesting. Not to mention smoothing out those rough edges. It will be the verbal equivalent of Kim Kardashian's and Beyonce's "candid" Instagram shots that are actually Photoshopped to death.

Do you know what happens to athletes with no filter who "share what they really think and feel"? They usually get in trouble with the public. Heck, even with editors involved, athletes can get in trouble. Remember how David Wells got fined for daring to write in his autobiography that he was still half-drunk before his perfect game? Remember how Charles Barkley claimed he was misquoted -- in his own autobiography?

Heck, Jeter is already having to do damage control with sportswriters after his initial manifesto, telling Jimmy Fallon that the site "is not trying to eliminate sportswriters," and that "sportswriters are what make sports great and fun to watch." Heh.

I also would like to know exactly when/where Jeter thinks that reporters misquoted him. Because he literally received 99% positive coverage over the past 20 years. Also, thanks to televised post-game press conferences, players already have the ability to communicate to the fans directly. Yet Jeter still didn't say anything interesting in that spot.

Also, if Jeter is going to speak out now, he had better answer more interesting questions than he did in his snoozeworthy #AskJeter Twitter live chat. Maybe if I were 12 years old, I might want to know #2's favorite flavor of ice cream or whether he preferred chicken to beef. But I think people are more interested in things like how he really felt about A-Rod, a question I and many others asked him online in the chat, yet were ignored.

Something else Jeter is not acknowledging when it comes to being allegedly unfiltered is this: celebrities who talk about real issues stir up controversy and can suffer a financial hit. After Oprah Winfrey campaigned for Barack Obama for president, she lost a good chunk of her audience who never came back to her show. Rosie O'Donnell lost millions of fans and her reputation as the "Queen of Nice" when she got involved with political hectoring.

As Michael Jordan allegedly put it at one point when asked to wade into politics: Republicans buy sneakers, too. Are Jeter and other athletes going to risk potentially damaging their endorsement contracts, or their product sales, by truly saying what they really think? I doubt it. Heck, they are not even going to have a comments section on their articles!

In fact, Jeter also told Fallon while other athletes "like to share with the people, everything about them. I, personally, have not done that, and I personally will not do that." He insisted, "this is not about me, this is about an avenue for the players.” So even with his own blog, Jeter still isn't going to say anything interesting. Move over, Richard Neer. We have a new Sir Sominex!