Results tagged ‘ New York Yankees ’

Baseball Miscellany for 10/13/16

cubs-world-series-1908

This October has been everything a baseball fan could ask for thus far. Well, unless you’re a fan of one of the teams already heading home for the winter. More to the point, we’ve seen plenty of postseason drama. We’ve also been seeing the lists popping up all over the place now that the Chicago Cubs have advanced to the NLCS. There is no shortage of fun facts about the last time the Cubs won the World Series. After all, much has happened since 1908.

Some of my favorites:

  • The United States was comprised of only 46 states
  • Sliced bread would not be sold is stores for another 20 years
  • The Eiffel Tower (984 feet) was still the world’s tallest building
  • Halley’s comet has passed the earth twice
  •  BONUS: Germane to today’s events, women did not yet have the right to vote

Needless to say, I did a little research on the last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series. The year was 1945 and World War II had come to a close just months prior to the Detroit Tigers besting Chicago in seven games in that year’s Fall Classic.

Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser went the distance in Game 7 as the Tigers closed out the series with a 9-3 victory over the Cubs. It was Newhouser’s second win of the series after getting rocked in a Game 1 defeat. Interestingly enough, when Newhouser was pulled in the third inning of that loss, he was replaced by a right-hander by the name of Al Benton, a man who holds a truly unique place in baseball history.

al-benton-topps

Al Benton 1952 Topps

Benton tossed 4.2 innings and allowed just one run in three appearances during the 1945 World Series. A two-time All-Star for the Tigers, Benton paced the American League with 17 saves in 1940. At the time, that was the fourth best single-season save total in baseball history. Of course, the save did not become an official statistic until 1969 (more on that in a bit). All in all, Benton enjoyed an effective 14-year career.

So what makes him so interesting?

Well, on April 18, 1934, a 23-year-old Benton made his major league debut against the New York Yankees. He entered in relief for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics when starter Johnny Marcum could not escape third inning trouble. An inning later, Benton went toe-to-toe with Babe Ruth and got the Yankees legend to ground out to the mound. This was Ruth’s final season with New York.

Eighteen years later, Benton was summoned from the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox as they battled the hated Yankees on July 2, 1952. The 41-year-old came on to face a fellow Oklahoman, a 20-year-old Mickey Mantle, who lined out to Benton in their lone encounter on that day. That made Benton the only pitcher to face both Ruth and Mantle.

In fact, according to Baseball Reference, Benton is also the only man to face the group of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. I’m inclined to add Jimmie Foxx to that list, personally. Those men were among 38 Hall of Famers that Benton faced between 1934 and 1952.

More miscellaneous fun with saves:

mordecai-brown-card

Mordecai Brown 1911 T3 Turkey Red

Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown holds a special place in Cubs history. The Hall of Famer enjoyed his success thanks in large part a right hand that was mangled in a farming accident as a kid, costing him part of two fingers. Brown won two of the four games for the Cubs in their 1908 World Series triumph over the Tigers. The Cubs and Tigers met again in 1935 and in that 1945 series, in which Al Benton was a part of Detroit’s championship team.

Did you know, Brown was MLB’s all-time saves leader from 1910-1925? That’s 16 seasons as the record holder, good for a three-way tie as the second longest time any pitcher has ever held the saves record in baseball history.

The rest of the list:

Firpo Marberry (20 years, 1926-1945)
Mordecai Brown (16 years, 1910-1925)
Johnny Murphy (16 years, 1946-1961)
Hoyt Wilhelm (16 years, 1964-1979)
Lee Smith (13 years, 1993-2005)
Rollie Fingers (12 years, 1980-1991)

In case you’re wondering, Mariano Rivera has been the all-time leader since 2011. With 652 career saves, Rivera should surpass all of the aforementioned pitchers in the longevity department when it comes to holding onto that record.

Is Andy Pettitte Hall Worthy?

andy-pettitte2-540x360.jpgThe Hall of Fame debate usually follows the retirement of a productive high profile player, particularly one who made his name with the New York Yankees. Such is the case with Andy Pettitte, a solid if unspectacular lefty who was an integral part of multiple World Series Championship clubs.

Pettitte’s legacy and Cooperstown candidacy are bolstered immensely by his work in October and, on occasion, November. He retires with the most wins in postseason history. The fact that Pettitte appeared in the playoffs in all but three of his 16 seasons in the majors no doubt enhanced his ability to accumulate those 19 postseason victories, but that’s not the “enhancement” that will be under scrutiny.

Make no mistake, Pettitte will have to buck a recent and growing trend of this generation’s stars who put up hall worthy numbers, yet will fail to gain admission to Cooperstown because of direct ties to or even the suspicion of performance enhancing drug use.

We don’t have to debate the moral platitudes in Pettitte’s case. He admitted his use, and to his credit continued on with his life and career. Contrition may have earned points with some fans, but it’s unlikely to lessen the impact that his outright admission will have on hall voters. The next chapter appears to be Pettitte’s participation in what is sure to be the very public legal drama involving his friend Roger Clemens. We’ll table that discussion for now.

To be frank, I don’t believe Pettitte’s regular season numbers warrant his entry. I’m further more not convinced that his postseason numbers are enough to make up the difference in Hall of Fame credentials, or to erase the damage done by his admission of PED use. Coming clean to some extent, while it does not erase the transgressions against the game, afforded Pettitte an opportunity to reconcile with fans. Baseball writers will not be so forgiving when they fill out their ballots in five years.

I’d like to take this argument outside of that dreaded acronym (PED) for a bit, to look solely at Pettitte’s body of work. In other words, let’s look at the numbers and the accolades that made him a very successful pitcher for 16 seasons in the major leagues.

Pettitte is the first member of the vaunted Yankees “Core Four” – with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada – to retire. Those four players were the only men who were members of New York’s five World Series Championship Teams since 1996.

Today, pitchers who pile up postseason victories in bunches have a distinct advantage over those who pitched solely in the World Series (pre-1969). The expanded playoff format, which will likely swell again within the next two years, means that a pitcher could make between six and eight starts between LDS, LCS, and Word Series play.

Despite career numbers that are very solid by most standards, Pettitte is still not the greatest left-hander in Yankees history. Whitey Ford holds that distinction. Ron Guidry and Lefty Gomez would have to be thrown in the mix as well.

Pettitte sits high on the Yankee wins list, trailing only Ford and Red Ruffing for most victories in franchise history. In fact, Pettitte is one of just three pitchers in franchise history to reach 200 career wins. If you look up and down the Yankees pitching leaders, you’ll find that Pettitte’s name appears behind Ford numerous times.

It’s not merely the statistical comparison of the two that led me to bring Ford into the Pettitte discussion. There are some that regard the Yankee’s original lefty legend as a borderline Hall of Famer.

Perhaps it was Ford’s failure to reach the 300-win plateau, or the fact that he only had only one Cy Young Award. In fairness, Ford lost two seasons to military service and made just 16 starts combined in the final two years of his career. Ford’s career 55.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is better than Sandy Koufax (54.5), so it’s possible to make the stats – newfangled or not – say what you want them to. The Hall debate always brings out the best in statistical maneuvering.

Putting both stats and Yankee legends aside to look at awards and accomplishments, it’s pretty clear that at no time during his career was Pettitte ever considered the best pitcher in baseball. He received Cy Young votes in five different seasons. His highest finish came in just his second in the Bronx (1996), but he also finished fourth (2000), fifth on two occasions (1997, 2005), and sixth (2003) as well. It surprised me to see that he was selected to just three All-Star teams.

I’m not one who enjoys playing this game, but the number of “if-then” scenarios that would spring up in newspaper articles and in the internet community would dwarf those brought about any time that the name Bert Blyleven is mentioned.

The candidacy of Jack Morris, whose ERA of 3.90 is just .02 runs higher than Pettitte’s career mark would gain a new lease on life. In my mind, the discussion would have to expand well beyond just the Morris case, and include guys like Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Dennis Martinez. None of whom are immediately seen as Hall worthy candidates in and of themselves, and I’m not saying I support the “if-then” philosophy of awarding spots in Cooperstown for reasons other than individual merit.

One would have to look at contributions to the game, right? If so, John was on the cutting edge of a career-saving medical procedure that now carries his name. He came back better than he was before the surgery and won 288 games over 26 seasons. Kaat was a 283 game winner who claimed 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, transitioned into broadcasting and has been a distinguished member of the baseball community for five decades now. Martinez is the top winner (245) in baseball history among all Latin American pitchers.

Are those things not indicative of some high level of contribution? None of those men I just mentioned have their names attached to PED’s, which will almost certainly be enough to keep Pettitte out.

The Hall of Fame discussion often times degenerates into a Hall of Numbers debate, but the statistics aren’t everything and “fame” is a relative term. Would anyone ever say that Pete Rose is the worst player with 4,000 career hits? While it is an absolutely ridiculous argument, it is true. That Ty Cobb guy accomplished a few more things than Rose. Still, this entire line of discussion isn’t really worth pursuing any further.

What should we take away from the Pettitte Hall of Fame discussion?

Based on recent voting patterns and my gut instinct, while he was an outstanding pitcher who contributed to the success of the modern day Yankee dynasty, Pettitte will likely never receive his bronze plaque in Cooperstown. He was on multiple World Series winners and got paid quite handsomely. That may have to be all the reward baseball has to give in this case.

Who knows, maybe we haven’t seen Andy Pettitte take the mound for the last time. After all, “retirement” is another relative term these days.

Yankees strike again, sign A.J. Burnett…

Well, I will say this for the free-spending kingpins of sports in the
free world: When they want somebody, they go out and get them. The New
York Yankees made another bold move to rebuild their rotation, agreeing to a 5-year $82 million contract with righty starter A.J. Burnett on Friday.

This means the Yankees have spent about a quarter of a billion dollars on starting pitching in less that 72-hours. That’s right, billion.
And you thought we were in a recession? Given, they cleared some
salaries (Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Carl Pavano, Bobby
Abreu
and Kyle Farnsworth), but that is still more spending that any
other club in baseball could possibly imagine. And it comes roughly
one-year after giving Alex Rodriguez a contract that will be worth over
another quarter of a billion (that’s $250,000,000 for those needing
another illustration of the dynamic we’re talking) by the time it’s
said and done.

Now Atlanta and general manager Frank Wren will
have to find a plan B. Whatever that may be is anyone’s guess, but I
would say it starts with the second tier free agent starters – lead by
left-hander Randy Wolf et al. Perhaps the Braves seek a shorter term
agreement for much less overall money with Ben Sheets, who is the only
real power pitcher left in the free-agent market. Let me go ahead and
say, I don’t think this is going to do anything to revive the very dead
Jake Peavy to Atlanta talks.

But now soon-to-be 32-year old A.J.
Burnett
,
the same pitcher who has won more than 12 games only once
(last season) and the same pitcher who has pitched 200+ innings on just
three occassions, is going to be raking an average yearly salary of
$16.5
million for the next five seasons in the Bronx. His history of injury
doesn’t swallow like a bitter pill in New York, since they are the only
team in baseball that could afford to
lose him for a significant amount of time and feel little-to-no effects
on their October aspirations. They can simply buy a new one if he
breaks down, again.

This signing allows the Braves to save what
I believe will be a tremendous amount of money on an arm that already
comes with more than a few red flags attached. The trade market is
still an option, even if Peavy is not the answer. Atlanta lost the
ability to deal Yunel Escobar when Brent Lillibridge was dealt to the
White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal. There are still other possibilities though, many of which have proven to be off the radar when it comes to the Braves.

So
the Braves went to
Las Vegas and essentially left the table with nothing to show for it,
having been unable to get their ace in Burnett and the power hitting
outfielder they were seeking. But there could be some bargains out
there if the markets
don’t develope for some of the free agents still lurking. The Braves
came into the off-season with more
money to spend than perhaps any other time in the club’s history and
they may be running out of priority players to spend it on.

In other news:

Atlanta non-tendered left-hander Chuck James
on Friday, making him a free-agent. James, 27, went 11-4 as a rookie in
2006 and 11-10 in 2007 before injuries and ineffectiveness put his
career with the Braves in question. Shoulder surgery performed in
September is expected keep James out for most of 2009. Last season,
James went just 2-5 with a 9.10 ERA in seven starts and allowed 10
homers in just 29.2 innings of work. James was sidelined for much of
spring training and spent the majority of last season in Triple-A
Richmond, where he went 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 15 starts.

Till next time

G-Mc

Damn Yankees? You bet…

I certainly won’t be the only scribe writing on behalf of a club that will be hard pressed to sign a premier front of the rotation starter, because the New York Yankees are throwing more than their allowance out there to build a strong squad for that new stadium you may have read about.

We’ve seen the Jake Peavy saga cool off considerably, with the Braves publicly stated that they will being “moving on” to fill their needs. At least for the time being. Numerous reports have shown that the Yankees are going to be setting the bar quite high when it comes to Grade-A starters. Take their reported offer to CC Sabathia for example – 6-years and $140 million. How do you think the Milwaukee Brewers feel about that? Not so great, but this is nothing new when it comes to the Yankee way.

Maybe the folks in Wisconsin haven’t been affected directly by the Yankees persuing their free agents, but you can rest assured that all of baseball has felt the effects of big money Bronx deals. You can chalk the Braves up for one tough off-season when it comes to bringing in their new starting pitchers.

sheffyankees.jpgThe Braves have lost free agent players to the Yankees in the past five years, including Gary Sheffield, Jarrett Wright and Kyle Farnsworth. This year, they will be competing for what looks to be A.J Burnett and Derek Lowe. Reports have right-hander Ryan Dempster heading back to the Chicago Cubs for a 4-year $52 million deal. If you do the math between the Sabathia offer and the Dempster deal, you are starting to get a pretty good idea what the years and the money on Burnett will be. Throw in the fact that he can openly shop that 4-year $54 million deal that Toronto had on the table. It boils down to the simple fact that every agent has to love: If you can get the Yankees involved then you can make your client a rich(er) man.

Never to be outbid, even when they are bidding solely against themselves, the Yankees have taken to the offensive and are preparing an offer that rests somewhere around 5-years and $80 million for Burnett’s services. When reading that the Steinbrenner boys plan to follow in their father’s footsteps of setting the bar rather high when it comes to player contracts, it became apparent that not only were the Yanks going to be players in the free-agent market but that they may well end up owning several of the shiniest pieces this off-season.

baberuth.jpgThe Yankees have taken this route for years, signing free-agents to big deals, rewarding their stars with big deals, trading the farm and taking on big contracts of stars that other clubs seek to unload. Maybe all this started when they purchased Babe Ruth? None of this necessarily should make them the real life pirates of baseball (all apologies to the Pittsburgh franchise). The city and the organization simply likes to win and they have the money to make happen more quickly that every other team in baseball. Put those two things together and it always leads to interesting storylines and sometimes whimsical back-and-forth fun. It also serves to make them easily hateable for many. Hard economic times or not, the Yankees are going to be spending aplenty this winter.

So what does all this mean for Atlanta?

Having somewhat put the lid on the Peavy discussions (believe that if you like), the Braves will have the tough task of assigning a value to their future and signing one of these star pitchers. I’m starting to think that if Dempster signs with the Cubs, Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees, and Lowe opts to go back to Boston (for example), the Braves will have to get creative via trade or start kicking the tires on Ben Sheets.

It could play out the way I just outlined. Or it could turn back around, leading the Braves and Padres back to the table to complete that long-running trade rumor, and Burnett or Lowe to different pastures. Atlanta could end up finding an entirely different trading partner to boost the rotation with. That’s the fun of the the off-season.

Who’s ready for those Winter Meetings?

Till next time,

G-Mc