Tag Archives: New York Yankees

Playoff Baseball

I recently read Moneyball (I’m a little behind, I know) and in the book Billy Beane talks about how playoff baseball is essentially a crapshoot. He says his job is to get his team to the playoffs but “what happens after that is f***ing luck.”

A look at the last decade of postseason baseball does not disprove that. While we don’t know who will play in this year’s World Series, we do know it won’t be the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies, the teams with the best records during the regular season. That is not uncommon.

Take a look at the teams with the best record in their league and the teams that ultimately advanced to the World Series:

American National
Year Record         Champion     Record Champion
2010 Rays Rangers Phillies Giants
2009 Yankees Yankees Dodgers Phillies
2008 Angels Rays Cubs Phillies
2007 Indians Red Sox Diamondbacks Rockies
2006 Yankees Tigers Mets Cardinals
2005 White Sox White Sox Cardinals Astros
2004 Yankees Red Sox Cardinals Cardinals
2003 Yankees Yankees Braves Marlins
2002 Yankees/A’s Angels Braves Giants
2001 Mariners Yankees Astros/Cards Diamondbacks
2000 White Sox Yankees Giants Mets
1999 Yankees Yankees Braves Braves

To make it easier to see, I bolded the teams that had the best regular reason record in their league and also won the pennant. As you can see, this has happened only four times since 2000. You have to go back to last millennium to find the last World Series match-up of the top teams record-wise.

Does this add to the excitement of playoff baseball? Does it affect your opinion on the possible addition of another wild card team? Sound off in the comments section.

Side note: As a Mets fan, the last few weeks have been about as sweet as possible considering the Mets have been out of contention for months and are facing the prospect of heading into next season without Jose Reyes. The Red Sox and Braves fell apart in September, meaning the Mets’ 2007 collapse is, undisputedly, no longer the worst. Then, as a bonus, the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated in the first round. When you’re a Mets fan, you need to take pleasure in the small things, even when they don’t directly involve your team.

Derek Jeter of New York Yankees: 3000 Hits

What, did you think I was going to let the face of baseball reach one of the game’s most significant milestones without commenting on it? And make no mistake about it, Derek Jeter is—and has been for quite some time—the face of Major League Baseball. The New York Yankees shortstop, now just two hits shy of 3,000, is also the answer to the following questions:

Which major leaguer do parents want their little leaguers to imitate?
Who was shot in the leg by Mark Wahlberg’s character in the movie The Other Guys?
Who, at times, is the most overrated player in baseball?

The reason Jeter is the answer to the final question is largely because he is the most scrutinized player in baseball—possibly in the history of the game. Nobody gets riled up if Adam Jones wins a Gold Glove he didn’t deserve or if Shane Victorino receives some extra praise from announcers. Not so with Jeter. He has played shortstop and batted at the top of the lineup for the most popular (and most hated) baseball franchise of all time. Over-analysis comes with the territory.

Yet Jeter never flinches. The Captain always says and does the right thing on and off the field, which is a minor miracle given the city and media market in which he plays. That is why it was surprising when Jeter’s contract dispute went public this past offseason.

While a blind resume would not have netted Jeter the three-year, $51-million contract (with a complex fourth year option) he ultimately received, Jeter has always been about more than the raw numbers. Considering the money the Yankees throw around, they could afford a little “waste” to retain a franchise icon.

Jeter for President? (Credit: Martyna Borkowski/Rubenstein)


When the Subway Series was in its infancy, I remember my friend’s dad, a Met fan, reminding us he hated the Yankees but saying he’d love to have Jeter on his team. (I begged to differ: Who needed Jeter when we had Rey Ordonez?) That is a constant throughout Jeter’s career: respect. From opposing fans and opposing players. His most controversial on-field moment came in the The Jeffrey Maier Game, something Jeter had no control over. After all, how could a fan watch Jeter and not want to help him out should the opportunity present itself?

My estimate is Jeter would still be around 2,500 hits if it weren’t for his annual battles with the Mets, though the official statistics tell me he’d have only 122 fewer hits. With 326 total hits in interleague play, Jeter is the all-time leader in that category. In other words, no matter who you root for, Jeter has likely done well against your favorite team.

It was during last year’s Subway Series that I started to notice Jeter’s decline, in particular the frequency he was swinging at—and missing—the first pitch. My theory was that he no longer trusted himself to hit from behind in the count. The numbers prove he wasn’t swinging at the first pitch any more often last year than at other points of his career, but that’s sort of the point: Even those who only watch Jeter for a handful of games each year have an opinion of him.

In discussing Jeter with my friends the other day, I noted that Jeter and Ken Griffey, Jr. were the only two positions players that, if it was revealed they took steroids, would surprise me. Even as Jeter’s skills fade, he remains a class act, a role model for young players.

That being said, I won’t be celebrating Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Why should I? He’s an overrated bum.

Three Strikes: Joba Chamberlain, Omar Minaya, and the Mets’ Offensive History

It’s an all-New York edition of “Three Strikes,” as I cover Joba Chamberlain’s season-ending injury, Omar Minaya’s stamp on the 2011 New York Mets, and the Mets’ lackluster offensive history.

Joba Rules, Not Meant to be Broken

Joba Chamberlain never felt a “pop;” he didn’t leave the pitcher’s mound in pain fearing his season was over. But the 25-year-old New York Yankees relief pitcher will undergo Tommy John surgery today for a torn ligament in his right elbow. The news broke last week and came as a shock to Chamberlain and many baseball fans aware of the “Joba Rules.”

“Joba Rules” were restrictions put in place to prevent Chamberlain from getting injured or wearing out his arm early in his career. As a promising prospect, the Yankees were extra cautious with Chamberlain, initially not allowing him to pitch on consecutive days (and making him rest an extra day for every extra inning he pitched).

The Yanks could never make up their minds on whether they viewed Chamberlain as a starter or reliever, but they certainly valued him as an important piece of their pitching staff for years to come.

Of course all of that extra care didn’t do much good, unless you believe that Chamberlain would’ve been injured earlier had the Yanks not coddled him. The point is: injuries can happen at any time. The Washington Nationals tried to protect Stephen Strasburg but it didn’t work, as Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 starts last season.

In football or basketball, whenever a player gets hurt in the final minutes of a lopsided contest the fans cry that he shouldn’t have been in the game. This is true to a certain extent—more so in football—but a player could get hurt in the first quarter, or in practice, also.

Teams should not be reckless with their usage of players, particularly young pitchers, but a baseball diamond can’t be baby-proofed. Once a player steps on the field you just have to hope for the best.

Omar Minaya’s 2011 New York Mets

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News recently pointed out the influence of former Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya on this year’s Mets team. Minaya was in charge from 2005-2010, when the Mets acquired Justin Turner, a potential Rookie of the Year candidate; Daniel Murphy (hitting .300); Ruben Tejada, who is hitting .310 and playing an excellent second base; Dillon Gee, who is 7-0; promising young left-handed starter Jonathon Niese; injured slugger Ike Davis; and R.A. Dickey, a steadying force in the rotation. There are others of course, but those are some of the unheralded signings Minaya was responsible for.

I know from experience that Omar Minaya did not like to be looked at while he was the Mets’ GM. (Credit: Wknight94)

Acquiring under-the-radar players was never Minaya’s problem. While in Montreal and later with New York, Minaya had an eye for talent. He was great at signing the Endy Chavezes and Jose Valentins of the world. It was when he was given a blank check by Mets ownership that he showed his weaknesses.

The Red Sox and Yankees spend a lot, but they still aim to spend wisely. Minaya was like a kid in a candy store once he was given seemingly unlimited financial resources, signing one high-priced free agent after another.

Obviously this was never going to happen, but it’s too bad Minaya couldn’t be kept on as a scout of some sort. This is how I felt when Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez as its football coach—it was too bad he couldn’t stay on as the offensive coordinator.

Mets Lackluster Offensive History

Among the all-time Mets offensive records, shortstop Jose Reyes ranks fifth in plate appearances, second in hits, and first in runs scored, triples, and stolen bases. It’s very impressive considering Reyes just celebrated his 28th birthday and hasn’t even played 1,000 games yet.

Reyes’s partner on the left side of the infield, David Wright, is also 28. He ranks seventh in plate appearances, sixth in stolen bases, fourth in home runs and hits, second in runs, and first in doubles.

This speaks to the amazing production of these young stars, but also the unimpressive offensive history of the franchise. Of the seven franchises that started closest to the Mets (all within seven years), all except the San Diego Padres have had more offensive production (the Mets and Padres are also the only two franchises without a no-hitter).

The chart below shows seven franchises, the year of their inaugural season, their career leader in plate appearances (and, in parentheses, the number of players with at least 6,000 plate appearances), their career leader in hits (in parentheses, players with at least 1,000 hits), and their leader in home runs (in parentheses, players with at least 200 home runs).

Team* Inaugural Season Plate Appearances         Hits Home Runs
Angels 1961 8,480 (3) 2,368 (8) 299 (3)
Rangers 1961 6,992 (3) 1,928 (10) 372 (4)
Astros 1962 12,503 (6) 3,060 (12) 449 (4)
Mets 1962 5,997 1,418 (9) 252 (2)
Brewers 1969 12,249 (4) 3,142 (10) 251 (5)
Nationals 1969 7,174 (4) 1,694 (7) 234 (4)
Padres 1969 10,232 3,141 (3) 163
Royals 1969 11,624 (5) 3,154 (8) 317

*Texas Rangers formerly Washington Senators; Houston Astros formerly Houston Colt .45’s; Milwaukee Brewers formerly Seattle Pilots; Washington Nationals formerly Montreal Expos

Until recently, with the emergence of Reyes and Wright, the Mets have not had star hitters in their primes. Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado, to name three, had great seasons in New York but had already established themselves as All Stars for other teams. Darryl Strawberry, near the top of the leaderboard in many of the franchise’s offensive categories, had his Mets career cut short. Roberto Alomar and even Willie Mays once called Shea Stadium home but neither wears a Mets hat on their Hall of Fame plaques.

If the Mets re-sign Reyes and Wright, as they certainly should, and these two continue to produce as expected, the Mets’ history books will look a lot better in 10 years.