Archive for February, 2009

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Motivation and Why I Love Baseball

February 19, 2009

The 2009 MLB season gets underway six weeks from now, and with its shadow comes the annual spread of great things; fantasy baseball is back, baseball prospectus 2009 is out, Mike Hampton is injured and pitchers and catchers have reported. And while I enjoy them dearly, What if Sports, Baseball Reference and MLB Network no longer have to provide me with my main intake of baseball.

For someone who grew up watching and playing baseball, all of those sources of historical information are a Godsend. Going through old box scores, reading statistics of players I’ve never seen, and watching games I can remember watching a decade ago can all make a person quite nostalgic. It is also quite easy to indulge such feelings, and I earlier came across the box score of the single greatest event I’ve ever attended.

The 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks was an incredible matchup, a seven game stretch of great baseball with four of the games being decided by a single run, two extra inning games, and three walkoff wins. The particular game that I attended was game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Mike Mussina, the Yankees brand name signing from the previous off-season, was starting against Miguel Batista, who was coming off an inexplicable career year in which he posted an ERA+ of 139.

Even before the game started I could really feel the excitement of the World Series. The entire pre-game was like Christmas morning, and the ceremonies for each game in the stadium were particularly moving, with 9/11 a very recent memory. The Blue Angels and a bald eagle both flew above the stadium, and the entire cost of admission was worth it just to be there before the game even started.

I should thank my mother for paying 15 year old Brian’s way into the game, and my Aunt and Uncle who brought me (along with two of my cousins). I did not grow up poor, nor did I ever do without something I needed or without many things I wanted, but baseball games are certainly a luxury and my birthday is a long way from October (or November, I should say). Undoubtedly the most unexpected gift I’ve ever gotten.

One debate I remember having at the game was over how boring the game was (this was probably in the 7th or 8th inning). Not everyone enjoys great pitching, and a 2-0 game in which the home team is losing for 8 innings isn’t most people’s ideal game, but I was thrilled the whole way (this was as opposed to my cousins, both of whom fell asleep at one point or another).

In the 9th inning, all star closer (not a typo) Byung-Hyun Kim was brought in, and in spite of the fact that he had given up a homerun to Derek Jeter the night before he had been lights out all season prior. Jorge Posada led off with a double, almost as good a start as the Yankees could ask for. Kim recovered to  turn away the next two hitters; Arizona was now holding a comfortable two run lead with two outs, and Scott Brosius came to bat, the number 8 hitter with a career 94 OPS+ and who had hit 13 home runs all season.

The entire crowd was already standing, clapping and yelling before Brosius even got a chance to swing. When he finally did, hammering a homerun to tie the game, the stadium literally began to quake. The enormous concrete and steel structure of Yankee Stadium was shaking rather violently from the crowd jumping up and down. Alfonso Soriano came to bat next, and flew out, and all the while the noise level never dropped one bit.

Several innings later in the bottom of the 12th, in a quick strike of National League style baseball, the Yankees scored a walk-off victory:

C Knoblauch Single to CF (Line Drive to Deep SS)

S Brosius Bunt Groundout: 1B unassisted/Sacrifice; Knoblauch to 2B

A Soriano Single to RF; Knoblauch Scores

I have always had a love of baseball, but I had never (and haven’t since) been to a game or in an environment as exciting as that one. The game was great, and the ending was perfect. Better yet was being a part of a massive group of people in a great and recovering city. Nothing will compare to the way people got along in the weeks and months of the autumn, and cheering together for the city’s favorite team was just a small part of that, but a small part that was thrilled to be a part of. There are very few memories I hold that I can still close my eyes and not only picture but feel them; It was cold and it was late, but it was perfect, and things like this are why I want to have this blog to share with everyone.

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Roarin’ Good Times

February 15, 2009

Here is the outlook for the coming season: I will of course be on top of everything the Yankees do, and will probably post/bitch/gloat at least once a week, depending on the course of the season. Also, more importantly, every post title from here on out will be dinosaur related. Think I can come up with upwards of fifty dinosaur jokes? WE SHALL SEE.

Now, onto real baseball related musings. Even after the expected departure of Bobby Abreu (to the Angels) last week, the Yankees have quite a bit of depth in the corner outfield positions. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon are still around, and each is still more than capable of putting up better than league average numbers in left field. If he doesn’t end up in center field, Brett Gardner also provides a great glove and incredible speed, a similar skill set to Jacoby Ellsbury. Last year’s mid-season pickup Xavier Nady is a starting caliber player, and newly acquired Nick Swisher has a career OPS+ of 112. The Nady trade was at best questionable last season, and after picking up Swisher only seems all the more unnecessary. Damaso Marte, also picked up in the Nady trade, could have at least fetched a pair of first round picks (should the Yankees have offered him arbitration and he turned it down), but I will save complaints about that debacle for another evening. Instead, while Nady and Marte are serviceable players, they cost the Yankees a promising and (very) young player in Jose Tabata, who after recovering from a hand/wrist injury finally started putting together a solid string of games in Pittsburgh’s minor league system. The presence of Swisher and the dearth of bullpen arms in the Yankees high minor leagues only further cement the notion that the trade with Pittsburgh was unnecessary. Considering Marte and Nady each got new contracts and raises, and you really wonder what Cash was thinking last Summer, other than that it was time to panic.

Of course, all of that leads to the Yankees current situation, which in all honesty is a good one. Depth is a plus, especially with several players past their prime in the outfield. However, the best course of action at this juncture would be to make a trade to essentially “undo” last season’s version. Sending Nady to a team like Atlanta, Cincinatti or even the Mets (any of whom would likely require eating much of the raise Nady got this season) for a prospect or two would go a long way in repairing the Yankees minor leagues, which suffered in the last year due to a poor draft. Adding an offensive prospect via trade, followed by a strong June draft (the Yankees still retain a first round pick, even after their spending spree on Type A free agents, because they failed to sign last year’s number 1 pick Gerrit Cole) would do a world of good for a system scarce in hitting after Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero.

The Yankees are certainly not in any offensive trouble this season, but Jeter, Posada Damon and Matsui are all going to be gone or displaced to new positions in the next several years, and the way the team handles the minor leagues in the next season and a half is going to be a huge determiner in how the A.L. East standings look for the next decade.