Saturday, April 17, 2004

Some Bitter, Bitter Winter 2003 Thoughts by Jeff Herz

I can’t stand A-Rod and it has nothing to do with the Red Sox.

It is currently December 16, 2003 at about 1:00 pm. I am jazzed to be thinking and talking about baseball in mid-December. It is about six to eight weeks until pitchers and catchers report and I am excited about what is happening. Don’t get me wrong, as a life long devoted Yankee fan, I think what George Steinbrenner is doing to the Yankees is a travesty. He has stopped listening to his baseball people and is acting like a rotisserie owner, looking for the best player at every position. As of this morning, the Yankees have, or are about to have, up to 17 former all-stars on their roster. It will be interesting to see if this fantasy roster can morph into team and do what it takes to justify the money the owner is spending, and everyone who has followed baseball in the last 10 years knows the only goal is winning the World Series. I hope we are not sitting on a redeux of 1982—the last time King George took over and stopped listening to his baseball people. This resulted in 13 years of no playoffs and the eventual suspension of Mr. Steinbrenner, which ultimately led to this current Yankee dominance.

I will concede that the Red Sox were the better team in the playoffs and should have won game 7, if Grady Little had pulled the trigger on Pedro sooner. In the ALCS, the Red Sox bullpen was lights out. They were using Timlin in the 8th and Williamson in the 9th. It was a good combination that worked. If there is one thing I have learned from watching Joe Torre for the past eight years is that you rely on what is working and if that means pulling an ace, you pull him. You have to have the balls to pull the trigger, Grady Little failed to do that and therefore the Red Sox failed. The Red Sox management realized this and quickly terminated Little in the off-season.

With that in mind, the off-season has seen the continuation of the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, this time with team management taking center stage. The Sox struck first by acquiring Curt Schilling (who Steinbrenner wanted to replace the “retiring” Roger Clemens) from the D’backs for a bunch of nobodies. I have to admit, I am a little disturbed by the fact that other teams try screw over the Yankees (like when the D’backs asked for Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano for Schilling) and then turn around and give the same player away to another team for significantly less, but I guess that is another issue. The Yankees then countered by getting the younger Javier Vazquez from the Montreal / San Juan / Monterrey / Portland / DC / Northern Virginia National League baseball club being run by the other 29 MLB teams for Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera and the almost never-used left handed reliever Randy Choate.

Then the Yankees maybe agree to terms with Gary Sheffield, then again maybe they don’t. The Yankees call Vlad Guerrero to inquire about his price and Sheffield acquiesces. While all this is going on the Yankees sign enough relievers to pay for the Milwaukee Brewers entire payroll (Yankees bullpen = $40 million, Brewers projected payroll = $30 million). The Yankees (read Steinbrenner) then commit a mortal tactical mistake by allowing Andy Pettite to walk away. They spin the situation by saying they never had a chance since he only wanted to play at home for the Astros, but anyone who follows the team knows that history means something to Pettite and he had the opportunity to surpass Whitey Ford as the all-time winning Yankee left hander. So the Yankees then go and trade Jeff Weaver, some non-prospects and cash for Kevin Brown. As the last move, the Bosox then sign free agent Keith Foulke, giving them a legitimate closer for the first time in years. I guess you won’t see the closer by committee this coming year in Beantown.

What does any of this have to do with Alex Rodriguez? Well I am sure you are aware, while this entire New York-Boston chest thumping thing is going on there are rumors that grow stronger and weaker depending upon the day that say A-Rod is coming and Manny is going. Now if the shitty Texas Rangers and the AL club from Boston can work an amicable trade (which I question) that works in both clubs favor, what can I do? Quite frankly, I am not sure what Steinbrenner can or will do to counter this move considering the Yankees now have a former all-star at every place on the field and a butt-load in the pitching rotation and bullpen, but again that is a different issue though from a one-up concept, I am interested in seeing what he does.

What gets my goat, is A-Rod signed this ridiculous contract a few years ago, saying what a great organization the Rangers had and why he was looking forward to spending the rest of his career there and helping bring a World Series title and making them champions. Now, I called it bullshit at the time, and I am still calling it bullshit since it always has been and remains about the $252 million (a quarter-billion dollars) contract he signed. This contract paralyzed the Rangers making it impossible to sign any other decent talent (and I hold Chan Ho Park as exhibit one). Now that they have hired Buck Showalter as the manager and his job is to develop talent and build for the long haul, and what is A-Rod’s response “I want out.”

He is telling anyone who will listen that he would love to play in Boston, and honestly who wouldn’t consider how the two beasts of the east are positioning themselves. I am sick to death of over-paid athletes signing contracts to play a game we the fans all love, then complain when their teams don’t win. Rather than ask to be traded, why not defer money past his playing days so the Rangers can compete now. All he does is whine. He knew the consequences of signing that contract, and if he did not, shame on him. He has essentially forced the Rangers hand into making a deal because he is making clear that this team is no longer for him. That shit ain’t right, and that is why I cannot stand A-Rod, and I will dislike him even more if he winds up with the Red Sox. The trickle down effect is the Red Sox are then going to screw Nomar right out of Boston.

By the way—the baseball writers of America have no clue what a most valuable player is since they voted for this jackass this year. Would the Texas Rangers have been any worse if this hump was traded before the 2003 season? No, they would have been the same: last place in the AL West. I agree that the AL MVP was a wide-open race in 2003, but the winner should have come from a competitive team where their presence significantly helped the team. Shannon Stewart from the Twins would have been a much better choice. John Flaherty would have been a better selection, since he had some influence on the Yankees pennant.

As a final thought, has anyone else noticed how strong the AL East has become? The Orioles have already signed Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez. The Blue Jays have four solid starting pitchers (Halladay, Hentgen, Lilly, and Batista) and a very young, talented offense. For as much as the Yankees and Red Sox are duking it out, the AL East is potentially up for grabs more so this year than any year in the past six years.

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