Universe trumps nation

Posted June 2, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

At long last someone has offered a cogent, researched comparison of the levels of fan loyalty enjoyed by each major league team. Applying a mathematical formula that weighs attendance, won-loss record and per capita income, Russ Maschmeyer determines that Cubs fans are the most loyal die-hards. Baseball’s most pathetic fan base can be found Toronto, a disappointing conclusion, if not very surprising.

Naturally, we’re most interested in what Maschmeyer’s study has to say about Boston vis a vis New York. Apparently, Sox fans’ fealty to their club, measured objectively, falls short of the devotion we Yankee fans shower on the bombers.

But this humble infographic, despite being wonderfully rendered, won’t put to rest the canard that each individual member of Red Sox nation is the epitome of fandom in its purest form. But every little bit helps.

Memo to Cashman: Trade for Chris Iannetta

Posted May 23, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

The last time the Yankee brass made a deal that defied conventional wisdom was 1994, when Gene Michael dealt Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O’Neill. Kelly, a two-time all-star and arguably the team’s best player during dark days of the early 1990s, was considered by many a superior player to the Reds’ O’Neill, a talented but flawed right fielder whose inability to hit left-handers was seen as a liability. Years later, after Kelly’s career petered out and O’Neill became a central figure in the Yankee dynasty, the move was hailed as one of Michaels’ greatest accomplishments.

These days such bold transactions are far and few between. Nearly all of the trades the Yankees have made over the past decade are of the prospect-for-pricey-veteran variety. Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson were both acquired this way, and both, it can be argued, have contributed less to their new employer than the prospects used to net them have to theirs. Alex Rodriguez became available because the pinstripes were willing to part with Alfonso Soriano, who was then a few years removed from being a top prospect but was considerably more affordable than A-Rod, whose Yankee-sized contract always seemed more fit for New York than Texas.

For the Yankees, it seems, creative deal-making is a thing of the past. For the foreseeable future our best talent will be shipped off to bring in those players we can’t get on the open market. Aside for the free agent superstars and the few stud prospects we keep around — Hughes, Chamberlain and Cano are notable exceptions — the remainder of the roster will be filled out with replacement level scrubs and veterans who have flamed out long ago.

This complete lack of flexibility is a pity. The Yankees, of course, can afford to buy championships, but the break-the-bank style of player acquisition should be supplemented by a dogged determination to get players who, for whatever reason, are undervalued by their employer. This was the overriding impetus behind the O’Neill-f0r-Kelly swap, a perfect buy low, sell high deal.

To his credit, in 2008 Cashman  persuaded Kenny Williams to deal Nick Swisher for the Wilson Betemit, who is currently floundering in the minor leagues. Now Cashman should turn his attention to another undervalued position player: Chris Iannetta. It comes as little surprise that the Red Sox have been long rumored to be after Iannetta, a catcher relegated to the minors by the Rockies’ short-sighted management. Iannetta boasts excellent power and a sharp batting eye; plus, he’s affordable, and under contract until 2012.

Cashman, like the rest of the New York, seems enamored with Francisco Cervelli, a slap hitter who, despite his hot star, does not possess the skills to become an above average catcher. For 13 years the Yankees have had the luxury of  having a top-tier bat at the position. But if Jorge Posada can’t catch full time when he returns from the disabled list, the team will have lost one of its most precious advantages over its competitors.

It is unlikely that Chris Iannetta will become an impact bat on par with Paul O’Neill. Like O’Neill, however, Iannetta is vastly undervalued by his team. And we’re betting that if the Yankees wanted him, they wouldn’t need to offer up their best player.

A mammal, made of flesh and blood

Posted May 20, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been the post-game quote of choice of years. Managers and teammates love to say it; journalists love to print it.

Mariano Rivera, they like to say, is human. Having witnessed a few of his blown saves over the years,  we agree with the majority opinion on this point. Having reached a consensus, can we now agree to drop the phrase once and for all? Applying the word “mortal” to Mariano after a rare moment of failure is equally lacking in originality.

If a baseball observer wants to add to the discussion of reliever’s relative homosapien-ness, she’d be better off noting that Mariano is an old human, and one who has seen a drop-off in his peripherals. It may be too early to tell if we’re approaching the end of his super-human run, but great pitchers who remain dominant past the age of 40 are rare. Aging, after all, is one of the limitations of being mortal.

Why Jeremy Hermida is like David Ortiz

Posted May 19, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

On the face of it, comparing Hermida, a fourth outfielder with 61 career home runs, to a borderline Hall of Famer is outrageous. But a point of similarity can be found in how each player was a high-upside talent brought in by Boston to fill out their bench.  When Ortiz was signed by Boston to a one-year deal in 2003, he had a paltry 50 home runs to his name. While recognizing that Ortiz possessed prodigious talent, the team’s success was hardly staked to the underachieving slugger realizing his potential. As it turns out, David Ortiz blossomed into Big Papi, and a free agent signing that was barely news turned out to be of the best moves of the past decade.

It is highly unlikely that Jeremy Hermida will ever come close to matching Ortiz in his prime. But the trade of two fringe minor leaguers for Hermida, a former blue-chip prospect with Marlins, illustrates Boston’s intelligent approach to roster construction. Their core group of players is replete with established stars; their bench is filled out with players with star potential. To contribute to the team, all that is required of Boston’s backups is a level of player below what they are capable of. Anything above that, as they say, is gravy.

Boston’s habit of signing of acquiring low-risk, high-reward bench players contrasts with the Yankee’s theory of roster management, which values declining veterans and AAAA subs destined for a career on the bench.  Even if Hermida never cracks more than 20 home runs in a season, he’s still equal to the player that Randy Winn and Marcus Thames are now (and, it can argued, ever were).  And it’s definitely worth a few million for Boston to find out if he’s more than that.

The Cervelli problem

Posted May 15, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

We love home grown kids as much as the next blogger, but here at SMF  we take no satisfaction in Francisco Cervelli’s awesome start to 2010. Don’t be fooled by his gaudy numbers: Cervelli is as futile at the plate as he is awesome behind it.

The Venezuelan with a double layered helmet has never hit well enough at any level to justify regular playing time. But in Yankeeland praise is easy to earn for likeable farmhands unburdened by the weight of expectations.  We may be unduly harsh on high-priced free agents, but all that replaceable types like Andy Phillips have to do is smile during interviews to remain in the team’s (and media’s) good graces.

In short, we seem stuck with Cervelli for the long-term future. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if he were consigned to back up duty. But now that our 38-year old starting catcher can be slotted into a newly vacated DH slot, our low-ceiling backup may be pressed into regular service.

You’d hope that the Yankees wouldn’t be satisfied with a regular in their lineup who sported a sub .750 OPS in the minors. But a few more weeks of anomalous production could lead the brass to wrongly conclude that Cervelli is fit for the job. The sooner he falls back to earth, the better the chances are that a move will be made.

What isn’t newsworthy

Posted May 11, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

Johnny Damon homered last night, scripting a memorable reunion with his old club. It lacks the human interest angle, but it’d be a nice if an enterprising reporter took a look at Sergio Mitre, the mediocre right hander whose offering Damon clubbed into the right field seats. Specifically, we’d like to know about the dirt Mitre is using to blackmail Joe Girardi, whose attachment to pitcher only makes sense in a criminal context.

Mitre hasn’t been awful this year, but, if his 376 career innings are any indicator, we can expect a regression to levels that would make him suitable for mop up duty on the Pirates or Royals. The Red Sox or Rays have the depth to ensure that no starts are wasted on quadruple A pitchers, regardless of injuries. We’d have thought that with all their resources the Yankees could also have achieved this modest accomplishment.

Alex Rodriguez can’t win

Posted May 10, 2010 by searchingforfishman
Categories: Uncategorized

Alex Rodriguez never seems to catch a break. Fresh off his post-season heroics, A-Rod seemed has appeared more relaxed than ever this year, batting a comfortable .278 in the middle of a productive Yankee lineup. Having shed his reputation as poor clutch performer, the fan’s have embraced him. While the steroid revelations have tarnished his accomplishments, A-Rod is not the face of the steroid era, a dubious honor many of his former contemporaries (and an ex teammate) will be in the running for.

Last month’s spat with A’s pitcher Dallas Braden, who before yesterday had a total of 17 wins to his credit, seemed trivial by comparison to recent bugbears.  Then Braden won his 18th game, and A-Rod, inevitably, was back in the spotlight.  He’s survived far worse, but you’d understand if Alex Rodriguez is wondering if his bad karma has at last run its course.


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