armchairquarterblog

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on October 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Pitching always beats hitting although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel might disagree. His Fab Four of Ray Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels couldn’t advance to the NL Championship Series. The foursome couldn’t even dispatch the Cardinals, who a month ago, were about out of the NL Wild Card race.

Imagine how Manuel feels. What do you think the West Virginia native earned as a rookie outfielder with the Minnesota Twins in 1969? Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven was a Twins rookie the following year. What do you think “Be Home By” made when making his MLB debut at RFK Stadium against the Washington Senators?

For all the money the Phillies deposited into the accounts of the aforementioned aces, the team won the NL East, making them better than the Braves, Nats, Marlins and Mets. Whoppee! Not sure that’s celebrated right now in suburban Philly taverns.

A day after the Yanks were eliminated by Detroit, Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman were in spend mode, worried about keeping their ace, CC Sabathia, happy. Apparently, the big fella may opt out of the remaining four years on his contract – a paltry $23M per. Reports are he wants $24.2M a season in a new pact. For what? Failing to reach the ACLS? In the eyes of Yankee brass, he’s partially responsible for a “disappointing” season, to quote Hal. He’s also overweight. And ringless in the Bronx, Cleveland and Milwaukee. If the Yanks decide not to bump up CC’s salary, think he’ll stay in pinstripes or film another soft drink commercial to increase his exposure to other suitors?

Baseball team owners never get it, especially the Steinbrenner clan.

During the last off-season, Yankee captain Derek Jeter sought $24M over six seasons. Think his demand had anything to do with “Yankee Pride?” All the revered No. 2 wanted was cash. One baseball executive said during those negotiations, “The Yanks should offer him what he’s really worth – about $10M a season. What team’s going to outbid the Yanks, Cincinnati?”

Back to the Yankees’ latest collapse. In the ALDS versus the Tigers, Sabathia started two games and won neither. His ERA, like his physique, was inflated (6.23). He walked almost as many (8) as he struck out (11). In three games vs. Detroit, the “workhorse” pitched 8 2/3 innings.

Times have changed. Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Vida Blue, Steve Carlton, Jerry Koosman, Mickey Lolich, Randy Johnson and Tim Lincecum each pitched more innings in one game when leading their teams to victory during the World Series.

Hal’s expensive slugging duo of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira combined to go 5-for-36 (.138) with just two extra-base hits – both doubles – vs. Tiger pitching. Of those 35 at bats, the pair fanned 11 times. On one K, Rodriguez nonchalantly toed his bat in stride while walking back to the dugout. On the last out of the series, on-deck hitter Teixeira hustled back to the dugout like he needed the john. What was the hurry? Was the Yankee Stadium playing field going to be swarmed with “losing” fans? You lost, Mark!

Even Jeter couldn’t lead with his bat, striking out eight times in 24 at bats for a .250 average. This after signing the inflated 3-year extension last spring for $17M per. He’s paid like one of the best shortstops in the game but didn’t play like it when it mattered.

Just two Yankee regulars – Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner hit over .300 in the Tiger series.

Such stars need not care about the state of our economy but maybe they should consider the following while seeking their multi-millions: the unemployment rate is over 9%, 51M adults can’t afford health insurance, 46M Americans live in poverty, the city of Harrisburg, Pa. has filed for bankruptcy protection, gas prices are rising, home equities are dropping, job layoffs are rampant (35,000 postal service workers will be out of work over the next three years), bank loans have dried up and the country’s credit rating dropped for the first time in 70 years.

Chemistry isn’t in the Steinbrenner vernacular. Nor is it a building block of their Yankee teams. Reggie Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Rickey Henderson, Carl Pavano and A.J. Burnett come to mind. A collection of stars gives a manager just that, a collection of egos and big contracts devoid of morphing into success. And winning the AL East isn’t the pinnacle. Two years ago, Texeira talked about playing for his hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles, when he was renegotiating. The Maryland native played the sentimental angle until the Yanks put big money on the table. All of a sudden, the first baseman didn’t care about playing in front of his family 82 times a year. Gaithersburg, MD is a 40-minute drive to Camden Yards, a little easier than a 3½ -hour commute to New York.

The Yanks would more likeable – and respected – if they developed another “core five” to follow homegrown stars Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams. Competing with their checkbook makes the Yanks winners in the bidding auction but not on the field.

 

 

 

 

 

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