Tuesday, April 01, 2008
lift me up, burn it down, we may suffer and we may die:
Anna Holmes eloquently defends baseball to her skeptical female friends. She makes the point that baseball is a thinking woman's game. I don't want to get into what can become an elitist argument, but I'll point out that many of the female fans of my acquaintance tend to have a grasp of the game on both a statistical, historical, player-based and strategic level -- Erin Simpson, Emma Daly, Jill Greenberg, Samantha Power, Rabbi Leslie Bergson, my mom -- that, on average, surpasses that of the male fan. If young Claire Schmitt, the world's smartest six-year old, decides to add baseball to her sporting repertoire, Bill James will be out of a job.

Meanwhile: Opening Day. Or rather, Real Opening Day, as a rainout moved the Yanks-Toronto game to this evening. I'm perpetually optimistic about the Yankees, in spite of all cross-cutting evidence, but even in this year of rebuilding, the next 162 games look promising. The Yankees' weakest defensive position is -- yes -- shortstop. Jeter's defensive prowess has dropped off just as his offense has expanded. But the outfield is very solid; we're giving Giambi another chance at first (playing in Oakland, with its massive foul territory, made him a better 1B than he gets credit for); and, most importantly, the pitching is tremendous all throughout the rotation and the bullpen. The future is brighter still: an onslaught of young pitchers and outfielders, along with the coming payroll drop after this year, when Pavano, Pettitte, Mussina, Farnsworth and Abreu (I think) depart. Damon's gone after 2009. (The payroll/departure stuff is all stolen from commenter UFred.) We just need a new shortstop and a new catcher after that. There, I said it.

ESPN Magazine has a piece that I haven't yet read about the seemingly intractable difference in quality between American League and National League play, something even the casual fan picks up on immediately. But I wonder if, even without rules changes, there's a growing American League-ization of the NL. Omar Minaya's Mets were the first to build an NL team around a slugger's lineup. Now Chicago and Milwaukee, to lesser degrees, have done the same. I only saw the final three innings of yesterday's Chicago-Milwaukee matchup, but it was like watching an AL game, particularly with the feat of Kosuke Fukodome, today's big story. I saw the home run. It was thrilling. I actually threw my arms up and nearly fell off the elliptical machine. If I'm not mistaken, the last time a Japanese position player had such an amazing MLB debut, it came from a porn addict named Hideki Matsui. What league does he play in, again?

So, yeah, whatever, Opening Day does not a season make, and perhaps the more important point was that both teams experienced the excruciation of their closers failing miserably. (Tres NL!) My female-fan friends could have told me that.
--Spencer Ackerman
I'd just like to point out as a Brewers fan that Milwaukee did end up winning the game. Fukudome is impressive, this I admit, but Fielder, Braun, and company carried the day. I agree that there is reason for Yankees fans to be optimistic, however, I think Toronto is going to surprise a lot of people this year.
Blogger Scotty | 9:39 AM

Why in the world is Gagne your closer? Isn't it clear post-Mitchell that his LA success was attributable to the juice? Meanwhile, totally, yeah, you've built an offensive machine that will make you competitive for the next 3-5 years. Tony Gwynn Jr's name shouldn't be "and company."
Blogger Spencer Ackerman | 9:54 AM

I agree with your thoughts on Gagne. Many a jaws dropped in wonder when Gagne was signed. At least we only have him for a year so if he continues to pitch like he did yesterday (which is likely) we can kick him to the curb. Gwynn was amazing, I should've mentioned him, thanks for pointing that out! One more thing, I realize it's only been two games and you can't look too deep into these things, but are the Nats perhaps better than the so called experts think?
Blogger Scotty | 10:01 AM


It seems like every April someone proclaims that Toronto is going to "surprise people" by finishing above either the Yankees or Red Sox. Will it be surprising if the D-ray's overtake the Blue Jays for third in the AL East? Let's get real, the Jays are mired in mediocrity.


I can't believe you would replace Jeter, A-hem our captain, and then cite Giambi as a good defensive player! Sure, he's not terrible, but let's not use his days in Oakland (7 years ago) as evidence of his present fielding ability. I would also note Giambi as a crucial payroll subtraction after this season (if we don't pick up his option).

I've been reading a lot about Girardi taking interest in Farnsworth. Personally, I think he's garbage, but maybe Girardi knows something the media and fans don't.
Blogger Jeff Dexter | 10:10 AM

Jeff, objection noted. I actually think the Yankees are a better team than the Jays, I was just putting forth the possibility that the AL East may be more than a two horse race. As for the Yankees 1B situation, Prince Fielder is going to be a free agent in a few years, and I can tell you there's a lot of suspicion that he's not real happy in Brew City. There's no doubt in my mind he'd enjoy the spotlight in NYC. I think that a better investment for Milwaukee would be to lock up Braun, Hardy, and Corey Hart with long term deals and let Fielder walk. Braun is the future of the franchise, despite his lackluster defense and Hardy has always been solid. Hart is in my opinion the best player that a lot of people have never heard of.
Blogger Scotty | 10:28 AM

Jeff, I'm just trying to prepare the team for the moment when we have to let the captain out of the infield. His offensive numbers militate for a promising DH career. But the last two years has seen an explosion of errors -- or, perhaps more significantly, ground-ball singles and even infield hits that a younger, nimbler Jeter turned to outs.

Giambi: I meant that he learned how to play first in an unforgiving infield, with miles of foul territory, so his defensive performance is better than a lot of people give him credit for. He's a good 1B -- not a great one, but a good one, and not just in the past.
Blogger Spencer Ackerman | 10:29 AM


I completely agree about Braun. He's an MVP in the making. Interesting point about Prince, and although it was a brief sting Yankee Fans might remember Big Daddy's contributions in the '96 World Series. I like the possibility of Prince in pinstripes, it might depend on whether Shelley Duncan exceeds his potential.


Fair enough. The day will come, I just don't think its close enough to address yet, given other areas of concern (as you noted, Jorge's successor, and I think bolstering the bullpen should/when Joba enter the rotation, leaving the set-up role for Latroy/Farnsworth).
Blogger Jeff Dexter | 10:45 AM

I'm excited for this years' Yankees too, more so than in years prior, even though I'm less optomistic about their chances overall. I think they'll be good, but their pitching is really questionable, and god help us if two or three of our vets suffer a precipitous drop in stats. But I really just plain like this team better. All the Browns, Johnsons, Pavanos, Wrights, Wells (2nd time), Roidrockets, etc., they just left a bad taste in my mouth, which would've been easy enough to swallow if the team won it all...but they didn't.
Blogger Edward | 10:57 AM

I haven't followed baseball for many, many years, but as a kid I was totally into it. Kind of obsessed, in fact.

I still enjoy getting out to a game once in a while -- there's something wonderful about the rhythms of a baseball game. You get into a headspace like none other.

And I still have a sentimental attachment to my beloved Mets. I consider it a major accomplishment that in his upcoming book (which you can find here: http://tinyurl.com/yuc6ug )I got the hubby to mention Tom Seaver's heroic participation in the Moratorium against the Vietnam War.
Blogger Kathy G. | 11:16 AM

"Jeter's defensive prowess has dropped off just as his offense has expanded."

Wrong. He has never had defensive prowess. He's always been among the league's worst fielding shortstops. The numbers are quite amazing -- and almost (but not quite) consistent over many years. His range is simply not in the same league with virtually all his peers.

Which doesn't make him a bad shortstop -- hell, I'd have him over just about any other of his contemporaries (save A-Rod and perhaps Guillen for a couple of years there). But it ain't because of his fielding.
Blogger Marty Lederman | 12:17 PM

Yanks over Jays 3-2, Melky homer, FTW.
Blogger Spencer Ackerman | 6:49 PM

The NL central is going to come down to whose bullpen is worse, and despite yesterday's showing I'm pretty sure the Cubs aren't quite as awful.

Cubbie Fever -- catch it!

(Also, Carlos Marmol will be the official closer by June 2nd.)
Blogger dbt | 7:02 PM

I think the total is $75 million that comes off the books this offseason from Giambi, Abreu, Pettitte, Mussina, Pavano, and Farnsworth or thereabouts. You'll have CC Sabathia in a Yankees uniform before Bush leaves office.
Blogger Matt | 9:30 PM

Right, right, right I forgot about Giambi. God DAMN if we're splurging for anyone I want it to be CC. (My first love, Dontrelle Willis, broke my heart.) And he dropped weight pre-Spring Training, knowing he's going to pitch his heart out this year before he's on the market.
Blogger Spencer Ackerman | 6:32 AM