Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Contemplating a Yankees vs Dodgers World Series

On paper it all sounds ideal doesn't it?

Joe Torre brings his triumphant Dodgers back to New York to reek revenge on the team that let him go.

Joe Girardi has his apprentice-becomes-the-master moment and hammers the final nail in the coffin of the Torre-era in the Bronx (or, looking at it another way, conclusively proves that any stiff can, if given enough payroll, manage a Yankee team to championship).
Manny and A-Rod square off in a battle for vindication after seasons marred by steroid revelations.

Frankly, the prospect of this match-up is a journalistic wet-dream.

...and I for one, would hate every minute of it.

I detest the Dodgers, I detest the Yankees, I would detest every moment of Tim McCarver reminding me of every seminal moment that the likes of Manny, Torre, A-Rod etc have had in relation to their opponents/the situation.

Worst of all, one of these teams would end up having to win it all.

As a Red Sox fan (who, unfortunately, finds himself gravitating closer to Baltimore with every steroid story, Baltimore you see, is a good clean team - *cough* Palmeiro, Sosa *cough*) i've happily watched numerous World Series in which Tito and the boys have not participated (and given the Sox's crawl to the Post-Season this year, I'm likely to have another one of those years). I enjoyed last year's match-up, part rooting for Tampa Bay and part wishing for their failure. 2006 was a landmark series for me; our constant references to the LaRussa-Rolen relationship and mockery of Placido Polanco's Glen Quagmire-esqe chin provided hours of entertainment. I even managed to enjoy watching the White Sox best the Astros in 2005.

This abomination of a World Series cannot be allowed to pass. Please Albert, send Torre's mob running back to the West Coast with another of your super-human feats. Please CC and A-Rod, remember that this is the Post-Season and choke your over-paid hearts out.

As much as i'll look forward to a 'proper' ALCS (that is, Yankees-Red Sox), I'm praying for a repeat of the 2004 WS. Hell, i'd take Detroit-Colorado....just.

What's the only thing worse that Yankees-Dodgers?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

How Jacoby became the 2nd best leadoff man in baseball

All Jeters aside, Jacoby Ellsbury has slowly, quietly emerged as the best leadoff hitter in the AL East - and frankly, if you can make it in the AL East you can make it anywhere (n.b. the opposite is also true; success outside the AL East does not mean success in the AL East - for every Teixeira there is a Burrell).

The rub against Ellsbury has often been that he is vastly over-rated defensively, and yes, there is a great deal of truth to that. For every web-gem there are at least as many instances where, in an attempt to achieve the spectacular, singles become doubles, doubles become triples and so-on and so-forth.

Ellsbury is also considered a weak throwing CF. Again true, but while no-one is confusing him with the likes of BJ Upton or Michael Cuddyer, he is an infinite improvement on Johnny Damon, a man who's inability to throw like one is the stuff of legend (and legendary t-shirts).

The final downside frequently pointed to when it comes to Ellsbury's worth is his impatience at the plate. While its true that having (as of 22/09/09) at .354 OBP to a .303 BA is not exactly stellar it is exactly the same OBP that the more celebrated Brian Roberts is producing and is within .010 of the likes of Carl Crawford.

Right, enough downside.

Ellsbury has 63 SB on the year! That is 4 clear of Crawford, and more that twice as many as Jeter, Hanley Ramirez and Ichiro.

Ellsbury has only struck out 65 times in 580 AB in 2009. That is less than Jeter (84 in 603), way less than Ramirez (95 in 540) and Roberts (99 in 588). Ellsbury has struck out exactly the same amount of times as Ichiro yet has walked 12 times more.

If this wasn't impressive enough Ellsbury is only 26. While his power numbers are currently negliable they may still develop, a la Chase Utley. The idea of Ellsbury as a .300+/.375 guy capable of 20HR 75RBI a year is not beyond the realm of immediate possibility. Add that to the 70+ SB the guy will continue to produce barring injury then you have the most exciting, and perhaps the most valuable leadoff man in baseball today.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Pictures of Success

I'm assuming we all watched last night's Yankees - Blue Jays game, right?

I've been having a change of heart about the evil empire throughout this season. I accepted the success of Joe Giradi's crew, I even had a sense of pride in seeing Brian Cashman finally able to run the team the way he wants to without 'the Boss' interfering.

But no more, i've reverted. I'm back to the bad old days of unreserved Yankee-bashing with a vengeance.

Jorge Posada's actions last night are symptomatic of what's been wrong with the Yankees since 1998 - a complete lack of class.

This week should have been a time to enjoy the success of Derek Jeter and his breaking of Gehrig's record. Derek Jeter is the anti-Yankee: a genuinely likeable, admirable character in a team (and indeed, league) of steroid cheats and other unsavoury characters.

But no, Jorge Posada had to spoilt all that....

Posada has to go an incite a bend-clearing brawl in retaliation for a pitch thrown WAAAAAAY behind him. That's right, this wasn't about a Beckett-Abreu type of beaning, no this was all about a wild pitch and a spoilt crybaby throwing the toys out of the pram as a result of being on the wrong end of a washout.

Posada has been coasting on an undeserved reputation as an elite catcher for years now, enough is enough. Brilliant offensive catcher? Perhaps, but he's no Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez etc. Great pitcher handler? Again, perhaps, but when you consider the calibre of pitcher he works with year after year, who wouldn't be? For every Sergio Mitre there's been a Clemens, Pettitte, Sabathias, Johnson, Wells, Cone, Igawa (joke)..... Give any major league catcher that kind of staff to work with and see how they'd do.

A.J. Burnett and his enormous ERA anyone? The guy doesn't even have Jorge catch him anymore, Jose Molina, that's right, Jose Molina catches for him now.

So what was the positive with Posada?

Well apparently he's a great clubhouse guy. Pardon me, but how does instigating a brawl which leads to your own manager getting cold-clocked demonstrate any sort of leadership? Ever seen DJ do that?

Jorge is apparently embarrassed and won't be letting his kids watch last night's game.

Too little, too late.

You're a champion, act like it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Why late-season shut downs make no sense

We've all heard the arguments and we've heard all about the disasters (stand up Matt Prior, Kerry Wood), but really, how much longer is this mollycoddling of young pitchers on non-contending teams going to continue unabated?

Case in point: Brian Matusz of the O's

In case you weren't paying attention, young Brian pitched an absolute beauty of a game on Saturday against no lesser a team than the New York Yankees, thats right, the team with the best record in all of baseball.

Yet now, Matusz has been shut down for the rest of the year.

What is the sense behind this? The guy is going to pitch maybe 3 or 4 times more this season anyway!

Now the arguments for shutting him down are well-trodden, we heard the same from the Red Sox in 2007 when they shut down Buchholz - "Young pitcher, we don't have Dusty Baker managing this ball-club, we don't want him to blow out his arm and have to fork out for Tommy John surgery" etc. Blah blah blah.

Well, one only has to look at Clay Buchholz's career since 2007 as evidence of how well the Sox's plan turned out.

Matusz has been pitching brilliantly lately, he's gone 7 in his last 3 starts (including one against Cleveland when he struck out 8!). Excluding a blip against the Rangers he's had quality starts (extremely quality starts). What purpose does shutting him down now have except of harming the confidence of a 22 year old and leading the kind of disjointed "am I a big-league pitcher or aren't I" thinking that has hugely harmed Buchholz's career?

If, and it is a big if, we absolute have to be "cautious" at this point of the year then why note keep the guy in the rotation, impose a pitch or innings count and give the guy a sense of accomplishment at the end of a miraculous season in which he's dominated hitters at 3 levels of pro-ball?

Its not just the O's who are guilty of this. The Yankees have been jerking Joba Chamberlain around for years. Barely a week goes by without somebody somewhere making noises to the effect that Joba's off to the bull-pen or Joba's only allowed to pitch to one hitter and so on and so on.

Look, this guy has proven himself a major league starting pitcher. You made the choice to let him start rather than set up Mariano, now live with it!

OK, rant over. The message of this diatribe: yes, by all means protect young arms, but let's not get carried away (unless of course, you've just spent $15,000,000 on someone who's never pitched a game of pro-ball in their life, but then again, that's another story).

Batter Up!

Hello and good evening.

Welcome to the straw that stirs the drink, a brand new baseball blog dedicated to everything MLB hailing from that well known baseball mecca of Leeds, England.

Don't let the fact that us Brits know nothing of the 'national pastime' put you off, we'll be offering news and insight about the latest goings on in Bud Selig's empire on a regular basing (and besides, I'm winning my fantasy pool, so I must know something, right?)

Check us out again soon.