Maybe Joe shouldn't have fought for his job after getting thumped by Detroit last year. The certain Hall of Fame manager seems to be legitmately in danger of getting fired if he gets swept by the Red Sox... again.
And despite being a Torre defender for the past decade or so, I actually can understand it.
Yeah it isn't his fault their pitching stinks... but it IS his fault that the bullpen is already gasping for air and it isn't even May yet.
Would it kill Joe to take one of his starters and say "You are pitching 7 innings even if you give up 19 runs because the pen needs a night off"?
And why is Doug Mientkiewicz, who has more letters in his name than points in his average, batting 2nd?
And today Torre is doing yet another panic move, putting Jason Giambi, who has Stephen Hawkings mobility, on the field.
We might be two losses away from the Torre era coming to a shocking end. They have the 2006 National League Manager of the year (Joe Girardi) on the payroll in the YES network booth.
Who would have thought that the rally two Thursdays ago from a 6-2 lead ending on A-Rod's walk off home run might have been Torre's last as a Yankee manager?
Yeah the Yankees have had bad starts before. Yeah there has been a Chicken Little panic in the Bronx almost every year in the past 5 or 6 only to see the Yankees run off a big win streak and win the division... with each time Joe Torre praised for "His best managing job EVER!"
But there is something ominous about this Yankee start. Something that could be the iceberg for the Yankees 12 year post season run.
It's not the 7 game losing streak and the 8 game streak of 6 runs or more.
It's not just that in 16 of 21 games they have let up at least 5 runs.
Or that they have had only 6 out of 21 games where the starter goes at least 6 innings.
Or that in 10 of 21 games the starter has lasted less than 5 innings.
Or that they are 0-4 against the Red Sox after having a 2 run or more lead in each of the games.
Or that Vizcaino, Myers, Farnsworth, Bruney and Proctor seem to be on a pace for 162 appearances each.
Or that it isn't even May yet and the Yankees have made at least 3 panic moves (Pettite out of the bullpen? Rivera coming in the 8th? Phillip Hughes being rushed up after saying he'll spend the year in the minors.)
They've had bad starts and bad pitching before. But they always could count on Rivera.
It's nearly May. He is tied with my two year old sons for saves. He has two blown saves. His ERA starts with a 12.
Any question of who the most valuable Yankee of the Torre years will be answered pretty quickly if Rivera falls apart.
He's 37. He's been a dominating reliever since 1996. It's an amazing run... but if it is over... then the great plan B that won them a division in 2005 (Yeah the starters and relievers stink, but we'll score 9 runs and Rivera will close the 9th) will be scrapped.
You want to trust Farnsworth with the 9th?
Yankee haters, don't get too giddy... but one month in, the Yankees are taking on water fast and the Torre/Rivera years might just be winding down.
Game 2 tonight of round 2.
Let's see if Kate and Leo are doing that flying thing at the bow.
Red Sox fans should feel lucky thus far and we should also enjoy the fact that our team has been pitching so well and that the Yankees are doing an outstanding Chicken Little impersonation.
Remember 2005... the Yankees were clueless and reeling and the Red Sox were the defending champs with an eye on 2 in a row. And they finished the season tied. Things can turn around in an awful hurry. (Remember, J. D. Drew hasn't gone to the DL yet... yet.)
But the Red Sox pitching has been as good as the Yankee pitching has been downright horrific.
So going into the Bronx after the sweep in Boston I am not going to be greedy. I do want a win tonight and I would love 2 out of 3. I would love 3 well pitched games, more Papelbon magic and one new Manny moment.
I'm not talking about a home run or a double down the line. I want him to be buying a hot dog from a vendor while the game is going on. Or maybe running into the wrong dugout at the end of the inning. Or maybe have a camera catching him doing the robot in left field. Or coming out in a towell.
I'm telling you, no superstar in sports is funnier than Manny. We're due.
It wasn't ketchup nor paint. It was the dude's blood. Don't believe me? Go up to Cooperstown and take a sample from the sock. And while you are at it, clone us 10 more Curt Schillings so we win the series in 2030 as well. (Never too early to start a youth movement.)
And even if it wasn't, how does that take away from his game 6 in New York? Nobody questions he needed a radical medical procedure before pitching in a do or die playoff game against the Yankees in the Bronx.
Nobody questions that a day or two prior he was considered to be done for the year.
And nobody questions that he shut down the Yankees and the Cardinals. So what exactly are these people trying to take away from him? That he is a showboat who loves the spotlight on him?
That's the scoop? STOP THE PRESSES! Also David Wells is fat!
It's part of baseball mythology now... like Gibson grunting while walking up to face Eckersley in the 1988 World Series or Ruth calling his shot or the rat scaring the cameraman in the Green Monster, forcing him to stay on Fisk when he hit the home run in the 1975 World Series.
He had a stitched up ankle and won with it. Deal with it.
The real mystery is why Torre didn't bunt on a guy whose foot was attached to his leg with a few strings... but thank God he didn't!
A few weeks ago I wrote about the A-Rod insanity... how the New York media and fans were just salivating at the prospect to boo him... and how this would inevitably lead to his bolting at the end of the year.
Man, what a difference a few weeks make!
The predictable story line has transformed into the greatest start any player has ever had... maybe ever... and a spectacular exit strategy is in place.
A-Rod has won games on his own... and when they lose close, don't blame him! He homered once or twice.
And yeah he's saying all the right things about "wanting to stay in New York" and "I've always wanted to be here." But what is he supposed to say?
"I was looking for a condo in Anaheim, but with the money that Arte Moreno is going to give me, I can afford to buy the castle in Disneyland and make thatCasa Del A-Rod."
Remember his appearing in a tux in the off season of 2003 proclaiming his commitment to making the Rangers a championship team? By the time he returned the tux to the Men's Wearhouse, he was a Yankee.
He's going to bolt and Scott Boras will start the bidding at $30 million a year... and A-Rod will have a year to justify it. Think the Cubs with their new management, the Angels with Arte Moreno or the Giants starting the post-Bonds era won't be drooling over him?
And what about his post season failures? With this pitching staff, it won't really be a problem. Watch the Yankees miss the playoffs all together and A-Rod be able to say "Don't blame ME!"
Even the New York press can't get on him anymore... and I am guessing to the secret delight of A-Rod... they have turned their knives on the very people who were considered infallible at season's start.
Torre? Not motivating the team. Jeter? Screwing up in the field. Rivera? It might be over.
Who would have guessed A-Rod would be the most beloved of those 4?
He's going to get New York to love him... and he is going to bolt... and all the people who wanted him run out of town on a rail will be calling WFAN screaming "HOW COULD THEY LET A-ROD GO! HE WAS A TRUE YANKEE!"
He's a genius. He has turned the media and fans around and they'll never know what hit them when he comes back to Yankee stadium in a visiting uniform.
Man, there has been a genuine twist in this story and it isn't even May yet!
Hey ESPN! Hey sports talk radio! ENOUGH WITH ALL OF THE NFL DRAFT COVERAGE!
It's bad enough the draft is covered live on TV in its entirety... but what is the point of the pre draft coverage?
Nobody knows what the teams are doing. Nobody is in the war room. And most of the rumors are made by the agents trying to drum up interest for their client (lest we forget Drew Rosenhaus on his cell phone talking to Willis McGahee who was sitting right next him... both pretending to be talking to another team.)
So when I turn on KNBR or ESPN radio and here a discussion on the draft it should be this long.
"Who do you think your team is going to pick?" "I dunno." "Me neither. Let's talk baseball."
But then comes the coverage (and God help anyone who actually ATTENDS the draft to cheer or boo.)
And it is basically hour after hour of the following:
"Well looks like the Bengals are drafting this kid out of college." "Yup, here are the clips of him in college playing well." "Is this a good pick or a bad pick?" "Well we don't really know because he hasn't played in the pros yet, but I'll pretend that I can predict the future." "That's great. The Lions are on the clock."
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Seriously, there is no more worthless event on TV. And don't give me the Oscars or some other award show. Yeah those are long and drawn out, but at least they are difinitive.
"The Oscar goes to Helen Mirren." BANG! She wins it right then and there. No projections. No Mel Kiper saying "Well, we project Helen Mirren as being an Oscar winner in 3 years."
No, she's there. She's holding the Oscar. That's all there is to it.
And how can you tell if someone is a bust or not?
I'm sure the Chargers thought they were getting a Roger Staubach/Joe Montana type when they picked up Ryan Leaf.
I don't recall Chris Berman saying "Well, he's talented but is as mentally stable as Private Pyle sitting on the toilet loading that gun."
And how about those Eagle fans booing Donavan McNabb, who would lead the Eagles to their best run ever, because they didn't pick Ricky Williams. Yeah, Ricky and Philly would have been a good match. New Orleans and Miami were too stressful for Ricky before he became Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused.
And how many people were going nuts when Tom Brady was selected like 423,111th in the draft?
What they should do is show what the draft was 5 years ago and have those players come back to either boos or cheers and analysis.
So come ESPN! Put it on ESPN 2 or 3 and show some REAL sports now. Have you noticed there's a baseball season going on now? Or the NBA playoffs? Or the Stanley Cup playoffs?
I'm sorry, the rest of baseball... You may be sick of hearing about the Red Sox and Yankees, but it's the best rivalry in baseball. Nobody comes close. The games are more exciting, the fans are more into it, there seems to be more desperation for a win from both sides and it is good for baseball.
Spare me the Cubs and Cardinals comparison. What is the great Cubs and Cardinals show down that can compare to Bucky Dent? To back to back game 7's in '03 and '04? To Aaron Boone, Dave Roberts and A-Rod slapping the glove? Not to mention Ted Williams vs. Joe D.
Dodgers and Giants come closest. Between Bobby Thomson's home run, the playoff series of 1962 and the season finales of 1982, 1991, 1993 and 2004... it's pretty intense. But San Francisco and Los Angeles fans aren't talking baseball in January. Nothing is like Sox/Yankees.
And tonight's game? Yet another wild game that lives up to the billing.
- Those green uniforms were a disgrace. Seriously, THIS is how they decided to honor Red Auerbach? How about having them dress like the Red Sox and win a ballgame? Save the silly green shirts for when the Devil Rays are in town. This is Sox/Yankees! The teams have the same uniforms from the 1930s, and tonight the Red Sox looked like the Portugese National Team.
- The moment Coco Crisp fell into the bullpen, trying to bring back A-Rod's second home run in vain, might very well be the moment I fell in love with the 2007 Red Sox.
- Um... A-Rod is pretty good, isn't he? In fact this start and this whole season might be the greatest exit strategy in the history of American sports. After years of Yankee fans booing him and the media crushing him, he's going to have the greatest year of all time and have everyone BEG him to come back. But that's the subject of another post.
- A-Rod's dramatics have been very sexy and good for John Sterling getting his "It is High, It is Far, It Is Gone" call onto Sports Center... but it also means that the Yankees have been trailing teams like the Devil Rays, Orioles and Indians in the late innings by multiple runs. Gee, I wonder if that will work in the post season.
- The Bridge to Mariano is less reliable than the Bridge on the River Kwai.
- It's April 21 and Rivera is tied with my 2 year old sons for saves... how is THAT possible? Yankee fans had better hope that that is a statistical fluke (a la Rivera blowing his first two games in 2005... only to have his best overall year.)
- Man, tonight has become "Sully loves Coco Crisp" night after his game tying triple.
- Where the hell was Jonathan Papelbon? Please tell me he was at Legal Seafood and he's not hurt.
- Hideki Okajima looked pretty darn good! Who knows? Maybe we have a left handed stud in the pen now. Hell, he has more saves than Mariano Rivera! Okajima should legally change his name to "The Other Japanese Guy."
- A-Rod slugs 2 home runs and drives in 4 of their 6 runs... why do I feel that the New York papers will focus on his making the out in the 9th?
- Man! One game down, 18 to go between the Sox and Yankees. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, Red Sox fans... the Sox always do well against the Yankees in April. But any day the Sox come from behind with Rivera on the mound, the sky just seems bluer, birds chirp sweeter, food tastes better and life is just more enjoyable.
- Maybe it was the green unis! Better wear them the rest of the season!
I mentioned in an earlier post I admonished MLB schedule makers for having Seattle (a team with a dome) play IN Cleveland (an open air stadium) in early April. It didn't take a genius to predict that the weather might be kind of lousy in Cleveland for the Cal Ripken like 2,131 consecutive April.
If Seattle and Cleveland had to play each other then, why not play indoors? NOPE! Outdoors they were and the whole series was snowed out and will wreak havoc on the teams later in the year.
I heard on my beloved XM radio a woman from the scheduling department that said they had no choice but to schedule games in Cleveland then and that they'd do it again. Kind of the "Hands on the ears and yelling LA LA LA LA" approach to problem solving.
Just when I thought they couldn't POSSIBLY look stupider, the next team came in.
The Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim in Orange County. Let's see... which site would be better for baseball in early April? Cleveland or Anaheim California... hmmmmm.
So Cleveland continued its spot on Siberia impersonation, what was Major League Baseball's brilliant solution for what was still the home opener for the Cleveland Indians?
Switch the series to Anaheim and move a later game in California to Cleveland when the weather is warmer?
NOPE! Makes too much sense. Better move the home opener (usually one of the highlights for ANY baseball team) to a new site.
Well how about Florida? One of the Spring Training sites!
And the Walt Disney World ballpark was not in use last week! Make it a trip for the Indians and their family and any die hard Cleveland fans who could make it out of the snow?
Nope. Too intelligent.
I GOT AN IDEA! If you can't be in Cleveland during a snowstorm, where is the next obvious place to go? What inviting destination can you treat Clevelanders to?
Where it was snowing...
So the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played the Cleveland Indians of Milwaukee.
This weekend baseball is rightfully paying tribute to Jackie Robinson and his breaking the color barrier. Some players will wear #42 in his honor and few whole teams will as well.
Former players will come out to speak, great montages will be shown on JumboTrons, and hopefully a few nice words will be thrown towards Larry Doby, who ALSO made his debut in 1947, a few months after Jackie, but never seems to be mentioned. But I digress!
My mind wandered to an article that I read in the New York Times that was pointing to the many reasons why the pitching is so bad and the home run totals were so high. They listed the usual list of reasons that are hard to argue with: 1. Smaller ballparks. 2. Lower mounds. 3. Umpire's squeezing the strike zone forcing pitchers to throw over the heart of the plate. 4. Players digging in with tons of armor. 5. Pitchers not being able to throw a brush back pitch 6. Oh yeah, 'roids and HGH.
But they also listed expansion and the diluted talent pool.
And this is where I take exception and where we go full circle to Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby.
Yes, baseball has expanded from 16 teams in Jackie Robinson's day to 30 teams now. And that means there are 154 pitchers in the big who wouldn't have been there before.
So far no argument from me. But let's not be foolish and call what we have in baseball a thin talent pool. You will NEVER find a thinner talent pool and records more worthy of having a big fat asterix next to them than the "good old days" of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx and Joe DiMaggio.
The talent pool from 1901 to 1946 was so insanely thin that it is hard to look at those numbers seriously. It's an element that people don't think about when they talk lovingly of Jackie (and some do for Larry.) It wasn't just an act of social justice... it gave us better baseball!
Think about the explosion of players after Jackie and how many of them are still considered the best ever. Willie Mays? Hank Aaron? Frank Robinson? Roberto Clemente? Ernie Banks? Bob Gibson? Roy Campanella? Juan Marichal?
How many Say Hey Kids and Hammering Hanks were on the outside looking in while Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Cy Young piled up records?
And I'm not just concerned about social justice here! I'm talking how the game on the field was inferior!
Let's put what baseball's talent pool was like pre-Jackie in a modern context.
Scale the league back to 16 teams and fill those teams up with players currently playing.
BUT make sure when you pick a catcher, don't take future Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez. Nor All Star Victor Martinez. Nor multiple playoff and World Series hero Jorge Posada. Or anyone named Molina.
Pick a first baseman... but for Godsake NOT Albert Pujols, or Ryan Howard, or Big Papi Ortiz, or Carlos DelGado, or Adrian Gonzalez.
Second base is next... but take your eyes off of Robinson Cano (named after Jackie), playoff hero Placido Polanco, defensive whiz Orlando Hudson, power hitting Bill Hall.
Shortstop? Better not be thinking of picking Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, Edgar Renteria, Jose Guillen, Jimmy Rollins, Orlando Cabrera, Omar Vizquel, Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Furcal or Julio Lugo!
Third base? Go ahead! Pick anyone you want... except A-Rod... and Aramis Ramirez... and Miguel Cabrera... and Melvin Mora... and batting champ Freddy Sanchez... and Adrian Beltre...
Now pick an outfielder. Ooo sorry, not Carlos Beltran... nor Andruw Jones... nor Manny Ramirez... nor Jermaine Dye... nor Vlad Guererro... nor Bobby Abreu... nor Vernon Wells... nor Ken Griffey Jr... nor Carl Crawford... nor Barry Bonds.... nor Gary Sheffield... nor Alexis Rios... nor Torii Hunter... nor Magglio Ordonez... nor Carlos Lee... nor Curtis Granderson... anyone else though! Oooo, sorry not Garret Anderson either.
That's just the elite players. Put teams together without them and you a laughably thin talent pool.
Now the pitchers would like to see those players out of the game for the sake of their ERAs. But let's put that pitching staff together.
Better not put the best pitcher in baseball in there, Johan Santana! Better take Carlos Zambrano, C. C. Sabathia, 2005 Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, 2005 Cy Young runner run Dontrelle Willis, Anibal Sanchez, Ervin Santana and Pedro Martinez off your list as well.
You weren't thinking of bringing in Mariano Rivera nor Francisco Rodriguez from the bullpen were you? Shame on you!
Since the 1994 strike, 18 out of 24 MVPs, 6 Cy Young award winners, 12 Rookie of the Years, 10 Firemen of the Year, 5 World Series MVPs and 14 LCS MVPs would have been ineligible.
Now talk to me about a thin talent pool.
And yes there are more roster spots to fill in, but there are also new avenues of which to fill them!
Just this Wednesday, one of the most anticipated match ups in recent memory for an April game took place in Boston. The Red Sox Daisuke Matsusaka facing off with his old rival Ichiro Suzuki. The surprising hitting star turned out to be Kenji Johjima.
Forget 1947... that match up wouldn't have happened in the pre Nomo days of 1994!
Oh yeah, the real star of the game was Venezuelan born King Felix Hernandez... also, keep your eyes off of HIM if you were picking a pre-Jackie team.
Expansion of the teams has meant expansion of the net to find players. What are the Yankees' two most critical injuries this year? The injuries to Taiwanese pitcher Chien Ming Wang and Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui.
How many Wangs, Matsuis, Ichiros and Dice Ks were in Asia during the pre Jackie days?
Jackie Robinson integrating baseball was of course a wonderful and important moment for Civil Rights in America. But let's face it... it made the game BETTER!
Hey Umps. When you have to break out snow shovels and snow plows before a game and nobody can open their eyes because it's snowing in their face... here's a tip. Call the game. Call it before people take the field.
Yeah I know it was opening day in Cleveland, but don't worry. The fans will come back. It's Cleveland. What else is there to do? How many times can they go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? If you can make a snowman on the field, call it.
Hey schedule makers. Did you notice that there were California teams playing EACH OTHER in early April? Chances of snow in Oakland and Anaheim are a smidge smaller than in Cleveland in April. Something wrong with an Indians/Angels game now? Just write it on a Post-It note. "Warmer in California than Ohio in April." It's not a new development.
Hey Giants! Armando Benitez got a save the other day. QUICK! TRADE HIM RIGHT NOW! For God sake, his value will not be higher than it is right now.
Not 2 weeks from now. NOW! As you are reading this, trade him.
And don't hold out! If the Marlins offer you a backup reserve catcher, say "OK!"
If the White Sox say "We'll give you a used copy of Big Mamma's House 2 in exchange for Benitez" TAKE IT!
If the Padres say "We'll give you a sip of Tab" it's a STEAL!
Benitez needs to be off of the Giants right now. Not just because he blows saves right and left, even though nothing can dishearten a team like multiple blown saves in a row.
It's not just because the fans in San Francisco boo like crazy the nanosecond he removes his jacket in the bullpen. (And fans in Baltimore and in Queens chuckle all the while thinking "He's YOUR problem now!"
(It's interesting that I have lived in both New York and the San Francisco areas when Benitez has been a closer and both regions have taken a border line perverse pleasure in booing him. Must be a coincidence.)
No, this guy could possibly be the least able closer I have ever seen... and like Brent Musburger, keeps getting chances. Well for the Giants sake it has to stop.
Stat geeks claim that the closer is an overrated position and that it doesn't matter what inning a pitcher pitches in. They also claim the idea of being a clutch player or a choker is a myth.
To them I say "Armando Benitez." All the guy has proven over the years is that the 8th and 9th innings matter a hell of a lot more. You see, if you have more runs at the end of the 9th inning you win the game. Odd that stat heads seem to miss that point.
Oh yeah, as talented as Benitez is, when the big game is on the line he shows all the toughness of Don Knotts.
Man I feel for Bruce Bochy who his entire managing career turned to potential Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman in the 9th. Now he has a guy that Scott Norwood, Calvin Schraldi and John Starks call a choker
I had no clue what the Giants were thinking when they signed him. Maybe they saw some nice numbers and had a good scouting report or two, but anyone who SAW him knows he is a time bomb.
And SURPRISE! He broke in with the Giants blowing an 8-4 9th inning lead. Oh and when the Giants clawed their way back to first place last summer... who was there to blow 3 straight saves and torpedo the season. Guess!
And who endeared himself to the fans after blowing a save to the mighty Nationals last July by walking 2 and letting up 2 hits in the 9th by saying "I did my job?"
You guessed it.
His resume for blowing the big game is staggering. His reputation is so secure as a slayer of title dreams that Buster Olney wrote about his failures and worthlessness in 2003... and he's changed teams 4 times since then!
He gets a lot of strikeouts. He saves a pile of games from April to September. But once the leaves turn brown, so do his boxers.
I can almost hear his agent in negotiations.
AGENT: He's an elite closer! Look at the strikeouts! Look at the saves. He'll close the big games for you.
GM: Looks like he let up a game winning grand slam to Albert Belle in game 3 of the 1996 Division Series.
AGENT: It's one game!
GM: That same year he let up a game tying homer to Derek Jeter in the ALCS.
AGENT: C'mon! That kid Jeffrey Maier stole that ball. That wasn't legit. Can't blame my client for that.
GM: In 1997 he let up a 3 run game winning homer to Marquis Grissom that changed the momentum of the ALCS.
AGENT: We ALL have a bad day.
GM: Later in the same series he let up the pennant winning homer to light hitting Tony Fernandez.
AGENT: Fernandez was due.
GM: In the 1999 playoffs for the Mets he let light hitting Jay Bell tie a potential clinching game in the 8th with a double.
AGENT: They won the game. That's all that matters.
GM: Later in 1999, he let Braves tie the score in the 10th inning of game 6 of the NLCS, a game the Mets needed to stay alive, when light hitting Ozzie Guillen singled home a run.
AGENT: Ozzie is a tough hitter. One of the elites.
GM: In the 2000 playoffs he allowed a 9th inning, 3 run pinch hit homer to light hitting J. T. Snow.
AGENT: If he was so light hitting, how'd he crush one of the elite closers in the game? huh?
GM: And he blew the save in the 9th inning of game 1 of the 2000 World Series, a game the Mets would lose.
AGENT: Hey! At least he GOT to the World Series.
GM: Hmmm, when the Mets were going on their post September 11th dash for the 2001 NL East crown, Benitez blew a 4-1 lead in the 9th to the first place Braves.
AGENT: What are the chances of that happening again?
GM: 6 days later he blew a 5-1 lead in the 9th to the same Braves team, knocking the Mets out of contention and making New Yorkers feel like he had spit on every fireman and police officer's children.
AGENT: Those are 10 isolated playoff and pennant race failures. You need to look at the big picture.
That agent must be convincing someone he is worth it. Or else he gets the GMs drunk and get the contracts worked out the same way whaling ships got their crews.
The Giants keep bringing him out. The logic being "Well, nobody out there has closer experience before and we know what we have with Benitez."
Yeah, you know what you have. An incredibly crappy closer.
How does that make sense? It's as if you are making a dramatic movie and you have 2 unknown actors and Tony Danza. Do you say "Well, who knows what the unknowns will give us... might as well cast Danza"?
NO! Maybe you can get a great performance out of the unknown! Casting Danza would be INSANE! (See "Crash" if you don't believe me.)
The Giants are loaded with young pitchers. How could they POSSIBLY be worse? And if the new closer has some failures, you can mark it up to "growing pains" as opposed to Benitez who is just pain.
Maybe they are auditioning him. I heard one of the Giants people dutifully say "He had a few clutch saves in spring training." Because heaven knows there is no pressure like a 9th inning game in Spring training where Armando has to stare down Double A players wearing #93.
You might as well say "He won a few games on the Playstation."
So seriously. If the Devil Rays offer you "some curly fries to be named later" for him TAKE IT! The fries will be easier on your heart in October.
Every winter when the writers sit down and decide who is going to the Hall of Fame (and do it with a greater sense of importance than the College of Cardinals picking a Pope) my mind goes to two topics:
1. Who playing now should go to the Hall of Fame? and 2. How are they going to screw over Jim Rice this year?
Well, as the season is starting, let's see who playing this year is already in, who is almost there with a little push, whose chances have faded away and who only deserve to get in if they buy a ticket.
Usually my criteria for Hall of Fame is "One of the elite players in the game for 10 or more seasons." There may be an exception or two. Awards help, as does a solid post season performance. Winning championships help but not winning win shouldn't hurt. Clay Bellinger has as many World Series rings as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ted Williams combined.
So, in typical Sully maniacal list writing manner, I will break down who I think is already in, who will get in barring injury, who needs an MVP or some sort of glory to boost their resume, who we should keep an eye out for in a few years and the "Hall of Fame? Puh-lease" category.
I have 13 locks and then a bunch of other contenders and even more pretenders.
They are not in alphabetical order. They are in the order that I looked them up.
GROUP ONE - EASE ON THE THROTTLE AND COME ON HOME. YOU ALREADY HAVE THE RESUME.
1. KEN GRIFFEY JR. - Yeah the Cincinnati years have been cruel, but he was the best player in baseball for a decade and you've never heard his name mentioned with any shady labs when he belted 500+ homers.
2. ROGER CLEMENS - You are nuts if you think he isn't coming back.
3. TOM GLAVINE - Multiple Cy Youngs. World Series MVP. 300 wins is inevitable.
4. PEDRO MARTINEZ - I have argued that his run from 1997 to 2005 (save his injured 2001 season) is more impressive than Sandy Koufax's run in the 1960s. Koufax had bigger parks, higher mound, wider strike zone, no DH and no 'roids. Injuries or no, Pedro belongs NOW!
5. BARRY BONDS - Has he tested positive yet? Nope? Well then get ready for the most awkward Hall of Fame speech of all time.
6. GREG MADDUX - One of the truly extraordinary pitchers of the last 25 years, especially because he is not a fireballer. 333 wins? 7 straight years with an ERA under 3? In this era? Yikes.
7. MANNY RAMIREZ - Has the 10 MVP caliber seasons and World Series MVP title. Will there be a more insane acceptance speech ever?
8. PUDGE RODRIGUEZ - The best catcher of this era (sorry Piazza) and led the Rangers to the playoffs, was a playoff and World Series hero for Florida before making Detroit respectable and a pennant winner again. Won an MVP to boot (even though Pedro should have won it that year.)
9. ALEX RODRIGUEZ - His numbers are nothing short of jaw dropping. Nobody in the league matches his talent. And he won't be the only Hall of Famer with post season issues.
10. DEREK JETER - People who say he is overrated (stat geeks, Red Sox fans, Alex Rodriguez) don't watch him play. Nobody is as dangerous in the clutch, on the field or at the plate.
11. RANDY JOHNSON - I can't imagine a more terrifying thought than facing Randy Johnson. Neither could John Kruk. Nor that poor bird. 5 Cy Youngs, he was robbed of 2 more.
12. MARIANO RIVERA - The single most indispensable player on the Torre Yankees. Is he the greatest reliever ever? Maybe. I still like Fingers.
13. FRANK THOMAS - All the veterans on the bubble should look closely at Frank. He was on the bubble as well... and last year's spectacular comeback with Oakland burst that bubble once and for all.
GROUP TWO - THE FRED LYNN/DON MATTINGLY/JUAN GONZALEZ CATEGORY. DON'T GET HURT. YOU ARE ALMOST THERE
1. CHIPPER JONES. Got the ten elite seasons, MVP and post season glory. Another great season or two would help, but probably already there.
2. JOHN SMOLTZ - Not as many dominating seasons as you would think, although being a great reliever and post season pitcher helps. Was #3 to Glavine and Maddux. Needs some more #1 seasons or compile some great career numbers.
3. CRAIG BIGGIO - Get 3,000 hits and you are in. It's that simple. He's almost there.
4. ALBERT PUJOLS - 6 straight years of being one of the best, if not THE best player in baseball, plus a playoff MVP and winning a ring should be enough. He also single handedly destroyed Brad Lidge's career. 4 more years like this and he's in on the first ballot.
5. MIKE PIAZZA - 9 elite seasons and home run records for a catcher. Should be enough. A big comeback season in Oakland or somewhere in the AL would clinch it. (See Frank Thomas.)
6. TREVOR HOFFMAN - Yeah, I know he is the all times saves leader. Yeah I know he's played for the Padres every year of his career and is one of the class acts in the game. But I have a rule. If you are a closer, the only way you get in the Hall of Fame is you NEED to clinch a World Championship. Fingers, Sutter and Eckersley all did it. As did Gossage and Rivera. Hoffman's lone World Series highlight was coughing up Scott Brosius' home run in the 1998 Series. Harsh? Yup. But this is the Hall of Fame, people!
7. CURT SCHILLING - You can't ask for better playoff and World Series highlights than Schil. And he has about 5 dominating Cy Young seasons. But he may fall into the Dave Stewart/Jack Morris/Bret Saberhagen/Orel Hershiser/Fernando Valenzuela category of "Great clutch pitcher. Great Ace. Not enough years for the Hall."
8. VLADIMIR GUERERRO - Toiling in obscurity in Montreal all of those years, nobody noticed he put up MVP type numbers year in and year out. An MVP in Anaheim, he is just a few seasons away from completing a Hall of Fame resume. Don't hurt that back again!
9. GARY SHEFFIELD - Now with his 7th team, he wears out his welcome in a hurry. But he had 7 MVP caliber seasons in the process, a World Series title and will play with a chip on his shoulder in Detroit. Could be a very interesting career to review when it ends.
10. MIKE MUSSINA - A less dynamic Greg Maddux, if that is possible. As he creeps closer to 300 wins, might be worth looking at his career closer
11. ICHIRO SUZUKI - Could be the part of a very interesting debate: Should the Japanese League stats work towards a Hall of Fame resume. If "yes" then Ichiro is in already. As it stands, he is more than half way there just in America.
12. OMAR VIZQUEL. His Offensive numbers haven't even come close, but has there been someone who has been such an overwhelming DEFENSIVE prescence as Vizquel for the past 17 seasons? That should count for something!
GROUP THREE - THE "DON'T FLAME OUT LIKE DWIGHT GOODEN" CATEGORY. IT'S TOO EARLY, BUT NICE START.
1. BRANDON WEBB. Young Cy Young award winner. So was Mark Davis. Learn from Big Unit and win some big games.
2. ARAMIS RAMIREZ. Staying at third helps matters as will staying in Wrigley.
3. MIGUEL CABRERA. Already 3 elite seasons and starting his 4th... plus World Series glory? Pile up the numbers for the next 7 seasons and make your reservation in upstate New York. Just don't flame out!
4. ROY OSWALT - Check his stats! He already has 5 Cy Young caliber seasons and a playoff MVP. He's half way there.
5. DAVID WRIGHT - Yeah it's only been two seasons... but if he continues being this good, plus shining in New York... who knows?
6. JOSE REYES - See David Wright.
7. TRAVIS HAFNER - 4 plus seasons in the bigs. 3 of them he put up MVP caliber numbers. He's more than a quarter of the way there.
8. GRADY SIZEMORE - Like his teammate Hafner, he's off to a great start.
9. FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ - If he clinches a World Series for the Angels this year (which he very well might), his spectacular seasons as a closer, plus his explosion on the scene during the 2002 playoffs and World Series might make for an interesting case. Just what exactly is on the brim of his cap?
10. JOHAN SANTANA - As good a 4 straight seasons as you could hope for. Multiple Cy Youngs and a total domination of the American League doesn't hurt. Don't get hurt. Fernando started out amazingly as well.
11. MICHAEL YOUNG - Is there a more anonymous superstar in the game now? If he were in New York, Boston, Chicago or L.A. he'd be one of the biggest names in the game.
GROUP FOUR - THE "NICE RESUME, BUT WE WERE HOPING FOR SOMETHING MORE SPECTACULAR" CATEGORY. WIN AN MVP OR BE A WORLD SERIES HERO AND WE'LL TALK
1. ANDRUW JONES. Some elite seasons and a glove that can't be beat. Only recently became an elite hitter. Not yet seriously in consideration.
2. LANCE BERKMAN. Slowly putting together a nice resume. But seriously, what is your favorite Lance Berkman moment?
3. NOMAR GARCIAPARRA - A classic "Hall of Famer if he stayed healthy" candidate. It's not too late, if he continues his comeback with the Dodgers. But he deserves some recognition for not only landing Mia Hamm, but producing twins with her.
4. CARLOS DELGADO - Lots of home runs, but that doesn't mean much in the 90s and 2000s. A solid post season last year was a good start, but could fall into that Andre Dawson, great player-just not a Hall of Famer category.
5. CARLOS BELTRAN - Has some terrific seasons and a great playoff for the Astros. Seems poised to become one of the 3 best players in the NL. Better do it if he wants to go to Cooperstown.
6. JAMIE MOYER - Have you ever looked at his numbers after the Red Sox traded him for Darren Bragg in 1996? Not Hall of Fame quality, but enough to mentioned on this post!
7. CHRIS CARPENTER - May be too late a bloomer for the Hall (like Dave Stewart.) If he remains a Cy Young contender, who knows?
8. MIGUEL TEJADA - A terrific player with an MVP to boot. Would have helped matters if he led the A's past the first round.
9. DAVID ORTIZ - Actually he HAS done the spectacular. But its only been 4 years of superstardom. Does he have 6 more years of being Big Papi in him? Probably asking too much there.
10. JIM THOME - Has had some great years and hit some towering playoff homers. But Not enough years as one of the elites. Leading the White Sox back to the World Series would go a long way.
11. MAGGLIO ORDONEZ - Has some big hits (including the ALCS ending homer last year) and some really terrific years. But injuries may have derailed any legit Hall consideration.
12. HIDEKI MATSUI - Part of the "Should Japan's stats count in the Hall" debate. Could make for an interesting case if he keeps it up in America.
13. BARRY ZITO - Only had 3 outstanding seasons in Oakland. He needs to become a Tom Glavine like ace in San Francisco to merit any Hall talk.
14. VERNON WELLS - If he earns that contract, then he will have quite a career. Already one of the game's best, he will need to keep it up for 7 or 8 more years. We'll see.
15. ROY HALLADAY - 3 Cy Young caliber seasons are impressive, but he probably won't keep it up long enough.
GROUP FIVE - THE "THE RESPECT OF YOUR FANS SHOULD BE ENOUGH" CATEGORY. ONLY THE BIGGEST HOMERS WOULD BRING YOU UP IN A HALL OF FAME DISCUSSION.
1. LUIS GONZALEZ. Would have helped if ALL of his huge home run seasons were not between 1999 and 2003. NOT THAT I AM IMPLYING ANYTHING! Nice 2001 World Series clip.
2. TODD HELTON. It doesn't help matters that his biggest years were during the 'roids era in Colorado and his numbers have been dropping like a rock. Going to a big market club and winning there could help (thus his desire to come to Boston.)
3. ANDY PETTITE. Good guy. Big game winner. But if Jack Morris, who had twice as many dominating seasons, is on the outside looking in, Pettite should be as well.
4. DEREK LOWE - Has a wild resume with 2 great starter seasons and a great closer season plus post season glory. But who are we kidding?
5. JIM EDMONDS - Belongs in the SportsCenter highlights Hall of Fame.
6. DAVID WELLS - Has more terrific seasons than you'd think. And rings with the Jays and Yankees and always seems to be in the post season. I can't wait for his TV career to start.
7. MOISES ALOU - Has had a better career than you think. Plus he was ROBBED of the 1997 World Series MVP. But he ain't a Hall of Famer.
8. JASON VARITEK - Yes, he is the captain. But he doesn't have nearly the numbers to get in. May get in as a manager some day.
9. PAUL KORNERKO - He was a playoff and World Series hero and ended the White Sox series drought. A damn good career. Not enough though.
10. JERMAINE DYE - Like Big Papi, made the switch from good player to MVP candidate too late. A nice career, a World Series MVP, love from White Sox fans forever and millions of dollars makes for a nice consolation prize.
11. KENNY ROGERS - Has had a better career than you would have thought, especially if you live in New York and only saw him as a Yankee and as a Met.
12. GARRET ANDERSON - A terrific career and some big playoff hits (including driving the nail into the Giants coffin in the 2002 World Series.) Not nearly enough.
13. TIM SALMON - Like Garret Anderson, should always be loved in Anaheim for great years and big hits. But he ain't a Hall of Famer.
14. BARTOLO COLON - A Cy Young winner with some solid years, was also basically too fat to pitch for the Angels in the 2005 ALCS. A Dominican David Wells.
15. TORII HUNTER - Like Jim Edmonds, belongs in a highlight film Hall of Fame.
16. JORGE POSADA - A Yankeeography on YES should suffice.
17. JOHNNY DAMON - But he is cute. No getting around it.
18. JASON GIAMBI - Missing the 2004 ALCS because of his... ahem... sickness killed any chance for him. He's very sorry. Just can't say what for.
19. BERNIE WILLIAMS - Will make it into a Nice Guy Hall of Fame. Get ready for decades of standing ovations at Old Timers Day.
20. ERIC CHAVEZ - Staying in Oakland should earn him points with the fans. Not being a HORRIBLE post season performer would have earned even more points.
21. CARL EVERETT - A first ballot election is a lock for the "I Don't Believe In Dinosaurs" Hall of Fame.
22. TROY GLAUS - With so few Hall of Fame thirdbasemen, the 2002 World Series MVP was putting together an interesting case until injuries derailed him. He had a nice comeback with Toronto, but it might be too little too late.