Getting swept sucks; salute the winners and enjoy what we’ve had

19 10 2012

Being swept sucks.

I don’t want to dwell on this year’s sweep of the Yankees, which I enjoyed even less than the 2004 American League Championship Series. At least that series was a lot of fun for three games.

Let’s just concede that the Tigers kicked the Yankees’ asses this year. No excuses for injuries or bad calls. Excuses might work if you lost in seven games, but even then they mostly just make you a whiner and a bad loser. When you don’t win a game, you salute the winner, appreciate the highlights of getting to the sweep and lose with some class and dignity.

You start looking to next year and hoping for hot-stove deals (a trade with Miami would be nice). You enjoy the World Series with a little less stress since your team’s not playing. And, if you’re a Yankee fan, you should appreciate how long we’ve been due to be swept.

This is the first post-season sweep of the Torre and Girardi generation of Yankees. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still haven’t been swept in the post-season. In fact, the last time the Yankees were swept in the post-season, George Brett took Goose Gossage deep for the exclamation point in the 1980 League Championship Series. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2012 Yankees need to study the 1996 Yankees and 1985 Royals

15 10 2012

The Yankees are pretty much dead now, having lost two games at home and facing Justin Verlander in Detroit in Game 3, right?

Not really.

The Yankees lost two home games to the Atlanta Braves in 1996 and were facing Tom Glavine in Game 3. Glavine is a sure Hall of Famer who won the Cy Young Award two years later. Verlander is well on his way to Cooperstown and won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards last year. Glavine was 15-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 1996 and three wins already in that year’s post-season. Verlander was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and two wins in the first round of this year’s post-season. (All these stats come from

The Yankees beat Glavine, won the next three games and launched a dynasty with their first world championship under Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. Read the rest of this entry »

Derek Jeter’s post-season career: One of the best seasons in baseball history

14 10 2012

My Derek Jeter rookie card

Derek Jeter was rolling along with another outstanding post-season until he fractured his ankle Saturday night.

Now, if the Yankees are going to win their 28th World Series, they will have to do it without either of the sure Hall of Famers who led the way to their last five titles. Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in baseball history, went down for the season earlier this year. Andy Pettitte is the last man standing from the Joe Torre dynasty, but he appears likely to fall short of Cooperstown immortality (especially if the Yankees keep wasting his outstanding post-season starts this year).

With Jeter unable to add further to his many post-season records this year, let’s take a look at his October mastery, which has really added a full season to his 18-year career. (All the stats I cite here come from Read the rest of this entry »

Ibañez hitting for A-Rod: Strategy you never see in the National League

11 10 2012

That great strategic move that tied — and eventually won — Game 3 of the American League Division Series Wednesday would never happen in the National League.

National League managers almost never pinch-hit for a great hitter, even one who’s struggling. I debunked the myth of National League strategy a couple years ago and won’t repeat the detailed case here. Suffice it to say the the move Joe Girardi made was strictly an American League call. NL managers use their pinch-hitters primarily to bat for pitchers, usually an easy call. Or they hit for the weakest hitters in their linup.

But sending Raúl Ibañez in to hit for Alex Rodriguez, who has 647 career homers? No National League manager would ever do that.

The Orioles pitched three right-handers last night. Without the designated hitter, Ibañez and/or Eric Chavez certainly would have been used to pinch-hit for the pitcher earlier in the game (the ninth spot in the batting order came up in the eighth inning). Chavez did play Wednesday, but A-Rod would have played third base, rather than DH, if the pitchers were hitting, so Girardi would have had two outstanding left-handed pinch-hitters to use.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th, the second time the 9th spot came up, Girardi might have pinch-hit with either Chavez or Ibañez. That’s one of the few tough calls NL managers have, a little early to hit for the pitcher, but with a man on base and a good bullpen, a pinch-hitter would have been likely. By the eighth inning, Girardi absolutely would have pinch-hit trailing 2-1. Given the dramatic homer that Ibañez hit the last week of the season, he likely would have gotten the call if Girardi still had both him and Chavez available. Would he have hit the homer to tie the game less dramatically in the 8th? Who knows? He would have been facing a different pitcher. Might he have stayed in the game to hit again in extra innings? You can’t say.

But the gutsy call of pinch-hitting for a multi-time Most Valuable Player? That’s strictly an American League call.

At age 38, Derek Jeter has joined the best of the best

26 06 2012

I’ve already noted how strong the case is to proclaim Derek Jeter the greatest shortstop ever. On his 38th birthday, with Jeter having a bounce-back year, let’s examine where he stands among the all-time greats.

I’ve seen two different broadcast teams note that only Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb had more hits by their 38th birthdays than Jeter. That’s not to say he’s going to pass Pete Rose, who played too long in pursuit of Cobb’s all-time hit record. But he has a shot. And any way you compare Jeter to all-time greats, especially if winning counts, he’s moving into the elitest of baseball company.

We’ll start by noting that Cobb never won a championship and Aaron won only one, though we have to concede that Cobb’s base-stealing prowess and batting average and Aaron’s slugging probably still place them ahead of Jeter among the all-time greats. But let’s also note that neither played shortstop. If your achievements merit comparison with Cobb, Aaron and Rose, you’re already in rare company.

Of the 28 members of the 3,000-hit club, only Eddie Collins, with four World Series titles, approaches Jeter’s championship credentials. Rose, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker each won three. So Jeter stands alone for being prolific both in hitting and winning.

Jeter ranks 15th in hits all-time. Whether he plays long enough to catch Rose or not, if he stays healthy, he’s almost certain to reach the top 10 by next year. Read the rest of this entry »