November 29, 2006

Cashman Or Cash Cow?

In spite of my earlier assertion that the Yankees would land a high priced free agent (i.e. Matsuzaka) before Christmas, Brain Cashman has been showing remarkable fiscal restraint this off season. Maybe this is due to a new philosophy in the Yankee organization where money is spent wisely, or the general manager is actually allowed to do his job. Or, maybe...just maybe...the Yankees are afraid of losing money? Nah. I think that Brian Cashman is finally allowed to be a real GM, and that he is being prudent.

The irony in this is that other teams are spending princely sums on free agents while the Yankees remain relatively stingy. The major moves they made so far are to dump a right fielder and a pitcher for more pitching help. Many believed that the Yankees would top all bidders in the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes, but the Red Sox threw down over $51 million dollars for the rights to negotiate with him. That was enough money to make even George Steinbrenner flinch. Now, the Red Sox are denying that this was a move to block the Yankees from signing him. Either way, the Yankees came in under the New York Mets as well, perhaps exercising financial restraint. Cashman seems content to let others make the mistakes that his team has made for decades, taking risks by spending giant sums of money on players who come to New York and fail to produce.

Now, it is reported in Newday that the Yankees have won the right to bid with lefthander Kei Igawa for the "surprisingly large winning bid of $26,000,194", according to Jim Baubach of Newsday. This isn't large compared to the huge sum of money the Red Sox threw at Matsuzaka. The Red Sox deny this was a blocking maneuver, as stated earlier. But, it is clear that the Yankees were willing to live without Matsuzaka as evidenced by their bidding strategy, and the Red Sox wasted their time if they were merely blocking the Yankees. This time, if the Yankees were afraid of being out bid by the Red Sox with Igawa, they would have bid a lot more that $26 million dollars than they did. That's restraint.

Baumbach writes: "The Yankees, however, obviously saw something in the Hanshin Tigers lefthander to think they were better off investing in him as opposed to some of the middle-of-the-rotation pitchers who have been receiving big-money deals this off-season. This move likely rules out free agents such as Ted Lilly and Gil Meche." If that's the case, then $26 million dollars makes sense for the Yankees. And while their extravagant spending of the past still taints their organization today. Looking at Cashman's moves this winter, they look like solid baseball decisions. Twenty six millions dollars is not money foolishly spent, but it's the cost of doing business in today's market.

November 27, 2006

Winning With Character, Or Characters?

Much has been said of the 1996-2000 Yankees which won four World Series championships in that time span under Joe Torre. In failing to win since then, many believe the Yankees have lost an ingredient which key members of the core group of winners from those championship seasons had, and that is character. If only they had more players such as Jeter, O'Neill, Brosius, Martinez, Posada, Justice, etc, the Yankees could win every year. Such is the mindset of many Yankee fans and baseball writers.

When describing the Yankee's universe, baseball writers summon up a corporate culture, using IBM as a comparison to the clean cut, professional image the Yankees wish to project. It is as though the clean shaven and short haired Yankees with only milk mustaches had the winning spirit, can-do attitude, and the proper work ethic to achieve post season glory. Character, it is suggested by these opinions, is defined by proper behavior, it would seem. No one questioned Paul O'Neill's character when he would attack the Gatorade cooler after striking out. That was considered intensity. But, character is often defined with intangibles. We know that is the true meaning of character which Yankee fans, writers, and even their detractors refer to. It's a safe bet we won't be watching "Yankeeography: Raul Mondesi" any time soon. He had some very tangible issues which caused him to be traded in mid-season. If you want to see "intangibles" at work, watch Derek Jeter both on and off the field. That's character.

Back to the corporate clubhouse, it was feared that Jason Giambi, hailing from the "Animal House" atmosphere in Oakland, would react poorly to the straight-laced environment in the Bronx. Jason did well, except when other distractions came his way (ahem...BALCO). One could make a case that Giambi showed character when he apologized, without saying what he was apologizing for, when the scandal broke loose. But, it would have shown tremendous character if he really did admit to what he was accused of. Yet, he didn’t. He get’s no credit for character for that.

Then, there's Randy Johnson who arrived to New York and greeted his new city and fan base by angrily shoving a reporter on the eve of his introduction to The Big Apple's fans and media. It took no character at all to apologize during his opening comments at his press conference. It was a face saving gesture, and he had to do it in order to survive. Yes, he may have been sincere in his regret; yet, if this happened in the middle of the season, one doubts if he would have summoned the courage, or would have even been motivated to ask for forgiveness. He get's no points for character there.

As 2007 approaches, fans, writers, and even the Yankee haters, await another perfunctory regular season where the Yankees are destined to trot effortlessly into the playoffs to win another World Series title. A strong argument can be made that character is a necessary component of a winning team. Looking into the recent past, the Yankees better do some re-tooling this off season and bring in players with character, and don't bring in any more characters.

November 21, 2006

Just When You Thought It Was Okay

Michael Richards has demonstrated for America once again, that people are racist, and bigotry is boiling just beneath the surface. Richard's comedy club tirade makes Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic blathering during his DWI arrest seem all the more disturbing. That celebrities of both Gibson's "A" list stature, and Richards' pop culture fame as "Kramer", can go off on a racial tear with little or no provocation makes one wonder what the rest of America is thinking.

I would have thought that men like these, who enjoy fame and fortune that many only dream of would somehow become more enlightened, or cultivated, as they climbed the ladder of success. Apparently not.

Just when you thought that maybe, just maybe things might be getting a bit better in this country, that it might be okay to think that racism isn't so prevalent, someone like Richards or Gibson reminds us that hate exists, and it isn't going to go away any time soon.

The sad part of this whole ordeal is that Mel Gibson might actually be able to resurrect his career. He's amassed a fortune from "The Passion of the Christ", and his new movie "Apocalypto" is due out soon. Will anyone care that Mel Gibson produced a movie that they want to see, or will they stick to their guns and continue to be disgusted by his anti-semitism and boycott his films? My guess is that bigotry and anti-semitism are so widespread that a man with Gibson's resources can obscure his input in future projects enough that people will overlook him. "Mel as executive producer, who cares?" You mean he hates Jews? Oh, he apologized, so what?

It's disgusting to think that Gibson can still make millions in the entertainment industry while being such a blatant anti-semite. We can't stop him from making movies, but certainly, enough decent folks can boycott his projects and not give him their money.

As for Richards, he's had it. Since "Seinfeld" he hasn't put a whole lot on his resume to impress anyone. He should be truly is sorry for his angry, racist outburst, and hope that he isn't too old for civil service work.

November 17, 2006

Yanks Prefer Proctor

As Brian Cashman has been permitted to act like an actual GM, his moves this winter have been both bold, and conservative at the same time. Consider the trades of Jaret Wright and Gary Sheffield. Wright was a disappointment for the team as he rarely went deep into games and continuously pitched himself into jams. Gary Sheffield? Enough said. But Cashman was able to get some young pitchers in return. The market being what it is, pitching is at a premium.

Cashman's strategy of patience and frugality seem to be working (financial restraint and patience aren't familiar qualities to the Yankees or even their fans). reports that the Yankees will instruct Scott Proctor to prepare for next season as a starter. Why not? He's been so effective as a reliever, able to give Joe Torre innings and keep opposing teams bats at bay that this move could be a highly successful one. I've always been of the opinion that Proctor is overused, and that he gets into trouble because he's trotted out to the mound nearly every game and by August his arm is ready to fall off. If Proctor is really going to be groomed as a starter, and not merely dangled as trade bait, then I am becoming a huge Brian Cashman fan. How ironic that a man with the last name "Cashman" has to teach the Yankees how not to waste money.

If the Yankees do indeed eventually sign Barry Zito or even Ted Lilly, my guess is that Cashman by then, has waited out the market and played his hand as well as he could. As a fan, I'd prefer that than to the Yankees simply showing up to the bargaining table with the biggest check and possibly trading a reliable, and proven pitcher like Scott Proctor..

November 16, 2006

Got Melky? Then Keep Melky

A few articles ago I offered up the possibility of the Yankees signing free agent Nomar Garciaparra to play first base with Giambi as full time DH. Rumor has it that Nomar is looking to stay on the west coast. The Yankees reportedly want a right-hander to fill this position, and with Gary Sheffield (thankfully) gone, the search begins for a new first baseman. That person should be Melky Cabrera.

Melky, a switch hitter, filled in admirably for Hideki Matsui while he was on the disabled list. His ability to hit, run, throw, and make incredible plays helped save the injury plagued 2006 Yankees from disaster. In fact, because of players like Melky, one of the "Baby Bombers", the Yankees strode into the post season well rested after clinching early.

The big fear is that the Yankees will trade him away for a starting pitcher or some other high-priced free agent. Melky is too good to be let go, yet he deserves to be a full time player. Rather than trade him, let him take over at first base. He's young enough and talented enough to make the switch. Yes, it is easier to change from the infield to the outfield; but, if the Yankees were willing to risk putting thirty eight year old Gary Sheffield at first, in the post-season, no less, then keeping the talented, fan favorite Melky Cabrera and giving him a shot at first should be an easy thing to do.

If the Yankees do indeed remove Melky from the outfield and place him at first, then what do they do about filling in the utility man's role for the outfield? One attractive possibility is free agent Frank Catalanotto of the Blue Jays. A native of Smithtown, a seasoned outfielder who hits for average, Frank Catalanotto would be suitable replacement as he already knows the role. To keep Melky, a young and valuable player, as a utility outfielder, or to trade him would be a waste of a homegrown talent. Melky should play every day, and play at first. Got Melky? The Yankees do, and they should keep him.

November 14, 2006

Coping With A-Rod

At least three times I've been approached in the last week by knowledgeable baseball fans who insist that Alex Rodriguez be traded. Well Yankee fans, this may be hard to digest for many of you, but he isn't going anywhere...and he shouldn't.

Granted, players such as Alex Rodriguez are brought to the Yankees so they can be a factor in the post-season. Admittedly, A-Rod has been awful in the post-season, even causing Joe Torre to make a controversial move and drop him eighth in the batting order during the ALDS against Detroit. However, getting to the post-season is not a foregone conclusion. Many Yankee fans consider the regular season to be merely a practice session before their favorite team's inevitable and glorious ride to the World Series. With that said, Rodriguez's contributions, even this past season need not be minimized. Not dismissing A-Rod's surprising number of errors at third (twenty four), he still performed well (.298 batting average, 35 HRs, 121 RBIs, 15 SB). You don't take numbers like that lightly. Toss in the argument that A-Rod isn't "clutch", and I'll say that 121 RBIs are the kind of production that a team needs to be assured of a post-season berth.

Now David Lennon of Newsday has an article today which gratuitously examines Alex's "escape clause" in his contract, which affords him the possibility of leaving the Yankees after the 2007 season. While Rodriguez was careful in his response stating "Well, you know options are there for protection and choice," Rodriguez said. "And my choice is to play for the New York Yankees ... I love being a Yankee..." (quote taken from How many more times does Alex Rodriguez have to assure everyone from the media to the fans that he is ready, willing, and able to play next year?

Come next spring, when Alex plays for the Yankees again, fans should cut him a break, stop booing if he doesn't hit a home run every time he comes to bat, and shrug of his less than "A-Rod-like" 2006, and appreciate the fact that Alex's bad years are still pretty good ones.

November 13, 2006

Manager's Meetings

There have been a couple of expected, yet big moves made by the Yankees this off season so far. Good riddance to Gary Sheffield, the multi-millionaire who's lucky enough to play baseball for a living and who is never satisfied with his situation. His big bat will be missed, but only for a short while. It seems the Yankees (Cashman) are focusing early on their pitching needs as the traded Sheffield for three young pitchers. In this market, any pitcher worth trading for is worth taking.

It was no surprise that Jaret Wright was dealt away. It was a rare move to send him to division rivals, the Orioles, but the return value came in the form of a right handed reliever. Being as that Wright rarely went more than 5 1/3 innings for the Yanks, and that he routinely pitched into jams, he won't be missed by Yankee fans. The good thing for Wright is he will be reunited with Leo Mazzone, his former pitching coach with Atlanta who is now also with the Orioles. The Yankees got rid of two headaches and came up with four young arms. That sounds like a good deal to this Yankee fan.

Now comes the real fun. This is the time of year when followers of the "Hot Stove League" really heats up. The General Managers Meetings begin Monday in Naples, Florida. There 's a lot of anticipation in the air as many Yankee fans expect something big to happen. All Yankee fans need to do is sit back, cross their fingers, and think: "pitching, pitching, pitching". Oh, and let's not forget first base. Close your eyes and wish for Nomar Garciaparra.

Mr. Grudge Is In Gotham Baseball Magazine

Mr. Grudge's article "Mighty Mussina At Bat" has been published in Gotham Baseball magazine on line. You may read the article in it's entirety by clicking here. Please visit Gotham Baseball, read the columns, check out the message boards, and subscribe to the magazine.

November 7, 2006

Mighty Mussina At Bat

One of the things I love and also hate about baseball is when a player makes a position switch. The old adage is that the ball will find them all the time to test them. For example, watching Sheffield at first base made me cringe because the switch from right field was made at a critical time of the year and extended into the post season. One needs a lot more than the time Sheffield was given to feel comfortable in a new spot, much less develop the instincts that go along with making a play. Still, it was interesting watching the experiment unfold as the heavily muscled right fielder nearly did splits at first base to dig the ball out of the dirt on bad throws.

Fans of American League baseball always sense the awkwardness a pitcher feels when stepping up to the plate in a National League ballpark during inter-league play, perhaps for the first time in his major league career. The pitcher is out of his element, and that adds a whole new dimension to the game. You root for the pitcher, hoping for a hit, a single, double, or a home run. I especially enjoy watching Mike Mussina at bat. He's so serious as a pitcher, and looks so uncomfortable with a bat in his hand, the disparity is amusing. But, a manager, even in the National League, never counts on his pitcher to hit, so Mussina's uneasiness with the bat isn't catastrophic. That's what I mean by fun.

Position moves are nothing new in baseball, the most prominent one in recent times being Alex Rodriguez's switch to third base from shortstop when joining the Yankees. Also, utility players often are adept at playing two or three positions. But, it is entertaining, to say the least, when these changes occur, if the game or the season is not on the line.

There are so many elements of the game dictated by the player's agility, power, baseball "intelligence", and attitude, that a move of a distance of a few yards to the left or to the right has the potential to throw the entire game out of whack, or even cost a team their season. Much will be written about Sheffield's brief term at first base. It certainly wasn't the cause of the Yankee's collapse in against the Tigers, but it didn't help. Remember Chuck Knoblauch's seemingly incurable throwing "yips"? Thanks to Tino Martinez's athleticism, many a ball headed for the stands were retrieved by his glove. A move of many yards to left field solved that problem for both Knoblauch and the Yankees as in his case, throwing the ball five or six feet off line from left field wasn't as dangerous as throwing from second to first.

Also, when a player you're a fan of sadly leaves your team and dons the uniform or another, you feel remorse when you see him swing the bat in a game for the "new team". The player seems alienated, a stranger to you, and you want to cheer for him again. Gone are the familiar pinstripes, and there are other fans from some different city claiming your hero. That's where the fun ends. I remember watching Tino Martinez in a Cardinals uniform as I was flipping through the channels following a Yankee game. Yes, I rooted for Tino, hoping he'd get a hit with a runner on first a no one out. He didn't get a hit, but he moved the runner over. Go Tino.

Tino did come back to the Yankees for one final, farewell season. It was great to cheer him one last time, to see him reluctantly come out for a curtain call as all modest baseball heroes do. Now he is gone, Sheffield will be gone soon too, hopefully, and that leaves Giambi. Time for a position change for DH.

November 6, 2006

The Steady Hand Steers The Ship

After Joe Torre narrowly missed getting fired for his team's elimination from the American League Division Series by the Detroit Tigers, Yankees fans had time to take stock of Torre's tenure as the Yankee's skipper. As the longest running manager under George Steinbrenner many thought that it was time for Joe to go. His style was "too laid back", many thought. Also, it was widely suggested that he wasn't aggressive enough, perhaps resting on his laurels. Lou Pinella, the polar opposite of Torre's poker-faced and calm managerial style was widely touted to be his replacement.

Piniella served as the Yankee's skipper from 1986 - 1987, and was general manager for the rest of 1988-1989, and is reported to be on of the most ejected managers in history by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Fans and baseball analysts alike believed that Piniella's aggressive managerial approach would better suit a Yankee team composed of mainly all-stars with big contracts and perhaps even bigger egos. But, as one person who follows baseball closely said to me concerning Piniella "that does not mean he's a better manager." One may agree or disagree with that statement, but Joe Torre can wave a hand with four World Series rings he won as a manager of the Yankees to Lou Piniella's one managerial World Series win as the skipper of the 1990 Cincinnati reds (Piniella won two World Series championships with the Yankees as a player, 1977,78).

Winning counts in baseball, more so in with the Yankees than any other team. Joe Torre had the credentials, skill, and a talented roster to win the 2006 World Series; but we all know what happened. There were times in the past that George Steinbrenner was tempted to cut Torre loose as there have been many disappointments in recent years, including the historic collapse of the Yankees versus the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, losing four games in a row after winning the first three of the series. As distasteful as that defeat was to Yankee fans, this one was worse because this time, the team had everything going for them. What made firing Torre easier this time was that "Sweet Lou" was waiting in the wings, looking to return to his old spot in on the bench as manager of the most storied baseball franchise in baseball history. But now, with Piniella signed as manager for the Cubs, the heir apparent for the job as Yankee's manager is Don Mattingly, who was recently promoted to bench coach, replacing Lee Mazzilli (the only head to roll for the Yankees post-season fizzle).

Mattingly has Joe Torre's level head, calm demeanor, and clout as a player to lead a team of high priced super stars. Once the captain of the Yankees himself, it is certain that Donnie Baseball can not only manage in New York, he can win a championship, a feat he was never able to accomplish as a player. The fans love him, and so does George Steinbrenner. The transition should go smoothly, if and when Joe Torre ends his career with the Yankees and looks forward to entering Cooperstown. Yes, as fans we have much to anticipate as one great manager leaves the helm of the Yankees and hands the team over to a first class Yankee legend. It will be a pleasure to watch as Mattingly is promoted from captain to skipper.

November 3, 2006

Look For An Early Christmas Present

The Yankees entered the bidding war for the rights to negotiate with Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions, and why not? After the Team's sudden and disappointing ejection from the post season, courtesy of the Detroit Tigers, Yankee fans deserve a Christmas present in the form of highly touted, high-priced talent. Not every Japanese player has thrived in a Yankee uniform. Hideki Irabu inspired "The Boss" to utter one of his most famous lines about a player, saying he looked like a "fat (expletive deleted)toad"
However, one can't say anything bad about Hideki Matsui. He may not be the greatest left fielder in the majors, but with his quick release, he makes up for a weak throwing arm. He's a smart base runner and a very clutch hitter.
There's not too much to gamble by going after Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka who is being posted by the Seibu Lions as it will cost only money. Matsuzaka is a celebrity in Japan, and should thrive here as he is used to a lot of attention. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have fellow countryman and super star Hideki Matsui around to show him how things are done in New York.
The Yankees need to make a splash by signing a big name early on in the off season. This signing makes sense because Yankee fans deserve a bit of salve for their wounds after the playoffs. The Yankees sorely need pitching, and they need to keep Matasuzka away from teams like the Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, and oh yes...the Mets, for the sake of their cross-town rivalry.

Jeter Is Golden

Derek Jeter was awarded his third straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award, according to Not much to say here, except congratulations. Anyone who's ever witnessed Derek's gymnastics at shortstop, especially his signature "jump in the air and throw to first" maneuver, knows that this is a well deserved honor.

November 2, 2006

Vote & Win! More Reasons to Commit Voter Fraud

A story in Yahoo! News reports that there is a proposition in Arizona offering a one million dollar prize to encourage voter turnout. Wait until the winner turns out to be some dead guy who passed away in 1982 who, in spite of no longer being alive is still registered to vote and mysteriously casting ballots. Or, maybe this will benefit those enterprising individuals who manage to go from district to district and vote several times under many different names. Hey, you have to be in it to win it, and these folks are into it a lot.
So, if this proposition is passed, you can cast your ballot and hope you'll be lucky enough to marry someone related to the local political party boss so you might actually have a chance to win the jackpot.

November 1, 2006

Mr. Grudge Is In Gotham Baseball Magazine

Dear Readers,
Mr. Grudge has been published in Gotham Baseball magazine! Go to Gotham Baseball online, read my article, and get yourself a subscription to this fine publication. If you're a fan of New York baseball, this magazine is for you. Not only am I published in the magazine, I'm an avid reader. Thanks for visiting Mr. Grudge's blog, and thanks for reading. Now, do yourself a favor and visit Gotham Baseball.


Halloween Is Over...Back To Work

My mini-writing vacation is over. While Mr. Grudge is not a diary blog, I do write what is current. So, keeping pace with sports, news events, and posting writing articles does take time, and it demands that I be relatively prolific. With that said, I have some writing to do.