Tag Archives: Baseball

Confession: Why I No Longer Hate the Yankees

yankee stadium

This is a post that probably won’t be popular with those back in Baltimore or in Boston, but I need to get something off my chest.

I’ve spent the summer in New York City, and have spent time interning in the sports department of a local television station. During that time, I have watched my fair share of Yankees baseball, which, at the beginning of the summer, would have sounded like torture. But two months later, I am no longer a Yankee-hater.

By no means am I a Yankee fan. I grew up hating the Yankees. Remember Jeffrey Maier? I cried during that game. Remember Luis Gonzalez’s World Series winning single in Game 7? I cheered just like any Diamondback fan may have.

But over the last couple of years, I have slowly softened on the Yanks. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but I like to think that I have solid reasoning behind it. My allegiances still lie with the Orioles, but I now want the Yankees to finish in 4th place in the AL East every year, rather than dead last.

So here it is: How I learned to stop worrying and start (not hating) the Yankees.

– The seeds were planted several years ago, when some of my closest friends at school happened to be Yankee fans, including my roomate, Between the Headset’s very own critic, Abfus. They would regularly tell me that it was only a matter of time before I started to root for the Yankees. And while their prophesy has been fortunately unfulfilled, the amount of time I spend listening and watching Yankee stuff, all discussed in such a positive manner (except discussion of A-Rod) laid the groundwork for my current change in feelings.

– Spending two summers on Cape Cod caused me to absolutely despise the Yankees’ biggest rival, the Boston Red Sox. Their fans are obnoxious and many jumped on the bandwagon after the 2004 World Series. My biggest problem with Sox fans is related to the Yankees. Whenever the P.A. announcer would relay MLB scores between innings, the fans would always cheer louder if the Yankees were losing than if their Red Sox were winning. This kind of fandom drives me crazy, and gave me a firsthand look into the perpetual inferiority complex to which Red Sox fans cling. It came off as pretty pathetic, in my opinion, and put the Yankees above the Sox in my book.

– Joe Girardi. The Yankee’s manager is a Northwestern alum, which already gives him major points in my book. But I also have heard him speak, both on television and live during press conferences, and he really seems like a great guy. He is comfortable in front of the media, answers questions that reporters ask honestly and straightforward, and seems to command the respect of his players. Of course, I don’t know what kind of manager he is in the clubhouse, or what the players really think of him, but my impressions of him have been very favorable. Plus, I will always remember watching a teary-eyed Girardi announce the death of Cardinal pitcher Darryl Kile in front of a packed Wrigley Field right before game time.

girardi kile

– EZ Baby brought up a great point the other night- the Yankees have a ton of lovable players on this year’s squad. Even if you don’t like Derek Jeter, which to me is hard to believe, because he doesn’t really have any bad qualities, there are still a bunch of great guys on the team. Mark Teixeira (though I wish he were an Oriole), Mariano Rivera, C.C. Sabathia, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon and Robbie Cano are generally guys that fans like. Melky Cabrera, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are also players who fans are not going to boo on a regular basis. Really, the only hated guy on the Yankees is A-Rod.

-Finally, I have gotten over one of the biggest reasons that baseball fans hate the Yankees: their ridiculously high payroll. The defense that Yankee fans use is valid: the team sells out its games and merchandise flies off the shelves. Instead of that money lining the pockets of ownerships, it goes back into the team (though the Steinbrenners are definitely well off). If you want to be angry about it, tell baseball to impose a salary cap. But don’t hate the Yankees for playing by the rules. I wish the Orioles would throw around that kind of money to attract free agents.

Overall, the Yankees are good for baseball. The Yankees sell out many games on the road (even if New York fans takeover the stadium) and cause a buzz that is non-existent in cities like Kansas City, Baltimore and Oakland in August and September. Plus, every league needs to have a villain; a team that is hated by the majority of fans across the country. The NFL has the Patriots, the NBA has the Lakers or Celtics, the NHL has the Red Wings and baseball has the Yankees. It’s more fun to beat those teams than it is a cellar-dweller.

So forgive me, Baltimore fans, for succumbing to the dark side. I promise I won’t be donning the pinstripes anytime soon, but you also won’t hear me roaming the streets of the Bronx shouting “Yankees suck.”

I’ll at least try to come up with something more clever than that.

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Things That Happen When Your Baseball Team is Bad, Part 2

ALCS Indians Fans Baseball

Reader Murray points us to another example of a team whose roster has been raided as a result of losing: the Cleveland Indians.

Here is their lineup in Game 1 of the 2007 ALCS vs. the Boston Red Sox

Here is their lineup last night vs. the L.A. Angels

Also consider the starting rotations for the Indians in ’07 and today, after the Indians traded away Cliff Lee:

2007- C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Paul Byrd, Jeff Westbrook, Cliff Lee

2009:  Carl Pavano, David Huff, Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey

There is also still talk that Victor Martinez may be traded before tomorrow’s deadline. What is so shocking about the demise of the Indians, as opposed to that of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is that two years ago, the Indians looked like a team that could compete for the A.L. Pennant for the next 5-10 years. Now, they look like the Kansas City Royals.

It is pretty remarkable how quickly things changed, so much so that GM Mark Shapiro essentially decided to blow up the team and start over. This must be very disheartening for Cleveland fans, who have to root for the Browns and also watched the Cavs choke in this year’s playoffs.

Things that Happen When Your Baseball Team is Bad

pirates bad

1. They trade away their best players

2. They get shut out in 10 innings after getting 7 scoreless from their starter

3. Fans lose hope…again

4. They trot out a lineup like this, after starting the season with a lineup like this.

(Hat tip to Frank Bauch for pointing this out)

What Omar Minaya Really Meant to Say

Sipkin/News

Sipkin/News

Omar Minaya did a bad thing yesterday. In the process of trying to fire executive Tony Bernazard, he decided to throw Daily News reporter Adam Rubin under the bus. Minaya claimed that Rubin had been inquiring about a job with the Mets, and insinuated that Rubin had written a piece about Bernazard’s bizarre behavior to put himself in line for a job.

Rubin vehemently denied the accusations, and Minaya and Mets management have since apologized. Regardless, it was another bizarre twist in the Mets’ roller coaster season. When my boy EZ baby messaged me yesterday telling me Omar was holding a press conference, I figured Bernazard would get the axe. We both wondered with Omar would actually fire himself. But never could we have anticipated what actually went dwn.

Minaya’s presser has gotten plenty of airtime in the last 24 hours, but we at Between the Headset are not content to simply take what he said at face value. Instead, we read between the lines to decipher exactly what Omar and Adam meant yesterday:

Omar: Once the reports came out, you know, of course we had to expedite more the investigation.

Translation: We knew about this all along, but once you guys figured it out, we had to act like we actually cared. Seriously, what’s wrong with a guy taking his shirt off and taunting players? It’s not like he whipped out his junk or anything. Didn’t you all see Bruno? I haven’t seen that much nudity since my 23rd birthday in the V.I.P. lounge of Stone Lotus.

Omar:Early in the process, early in the process, when the reports came out, I had to kind of tell myself, “Wow, these things are coming out.”

Translation: I spit out my milk when I found out you guys had uncovered this story. I mean, we even hired that guy Gene Parmesan from Arrested Development to help us cover it up. Seriously guys, what’s with all the muckraking? Haven’t you heard journalism is dead?

gene parmesan

Omar:And I say this because coming from Adam Rubin, okay, and Adam, you gotta understand this, Adam, for the past couple of years, has lobby for a player development position.

Translation: I know you guys aren’t going to believe me, and you’ll probably think I’m just trying to change the subject, but seriously, you gotta understand, the guy came to me and said he actually wanted to work for the Mets. I told him he could have the job. We were all set for the changeover and he backed out. I had my flight booked to Dubai. That little punk made me cancel. Do you know what cancellation fees are like these days? So now I’m gonna have to throw Adam under the bus.

Omar:He has lobby myself, he has lobby Tony.

Translation: Maybe if I speak in broken English, it’ll distract them. Then they won’t hear the bombshell I’m about to drop, because they’ll be too busy trying to add participles and all that good stuff to my quotes.

Omar:So when these things came out I was kind of a little bit, I had to think about it. And I was a little bit, you know, somewhat, kind of, we gotta find out about this. We really have to do a thorough investigation of this.

Translation: Ha! I think it worked. I don’t think one person in the room noticed that I just tried to link Adam’s article to the fact that he was asking about a job in baseball, thus implying that he had an ulterior motive for writing the article in the first place.

Adam Rubin: Is what you’re alleging that I tried to tear Tony down so I could take his job? Is that what you’re saying?

Translation: You mother$#$#%$%! Why does this always happen to me? In 4th grade Jack Toner tattled on me to the teacher because he said I stole his Oreo cookies. But that wasn’t true! I merely asked what I would have to do to get the Oreos from him. I didn’t actually do anything about it.

Omar: No, no, I’m not saying that. All I’m saying was, that I know that when you wrote the reports, but I am saying, that in the past, you have, have lobby for a player, for a for a job…

Translation: Damn, he heard me. Well now I better start backpedaling. This could get ugly. What would George Costanza do in this situation? He would have a good lie ready. I better think of one soon, because I sound like a bumbling idiot right now, and Sportscenter is going to show this clip while Charlie Steiner giggles on top of it. Remember that video of Carl Lewis singing the National Anthem? Francis Scott Off-Key? Funny stuff. Man, is this guy still talking to me?

Adam Rubin: If I were interested in working in player development somewhere in the major leagues at some point in my life, how did that impact this situation at all?

Translator: You really think I’m dumb enough to try to get Tony’s job by writing this article? Come on, man, you should know better than this. I hired that guy from Arrested Development, Gene Parmesan, to get as much blackmail of you as he could. But so far, all he had gotten were some pictures of you walking out of a nightclub with A-Rod and Kate Hudson.

Omar: I said, because, when the reports came out a lot of these things were cross… I said “Who’s writing these reports?” and I said well okay who’s writing the reports and in the back of my mind, Adam, you have told me you have told other people in the front office that you want to work for player development in the front office.

Translation: Words…question to myself…Adam…player development…nonsense…give up.

Adam Rubin: So what you’re alleging is that.. the only conclusion I can draw from that is that you’re trying to allege that I tried to tear everyone down so that I could take their position. Is that what you’re saying?

Translation: Listen Omar, I’ve got an entire room of journalists here that have my back. You’ve got nobody in this stadium that has your back. Sportswriters have each others’ backs, except for Jay Mariotti. So I’m just going to act really mad and turn the tables on you and you are going to have to meekly back away into your shell.

Omar: Adam…

Translation: Of all the bad moves I’ve made here, is this what I’m going to get fired for?

Adam Rubin: It seems pretty despicable to say that.

Translation: You lose. Good day, sir.

To Be or Not to Be? The Homer Announcer

mets broadcast

There’s an obvious difference between a national PxP sports broadcaster working for a big-time network and a local television or radio announcer. The difference, of course, is the fact that the national broadcaster (think Joe Buck, Al Michaels, Marv Albert) is supposed to stay neutral, giving equal time and excitement to both teams during a game.

The local broadcaster, on the other hand, does not hide behind a cloud of objectivity; rather, they make no secret of their hope for their team to win, and, for obvious reasons, devote more time and attention to that team. There are clear reasons behind this. For one, the broadcasters are often employees of the team, so if they are too harsh on their employer, they probably won’t last very long. The broadcasters are also playing to their audience, who is overwhelmingly going to be fans of that team.

For instance, Pat Hughes, radio PxP man for the Chicago Cubs, is going to yell louder when a Cubs player hits a home run as opposed to a Cardinals player because most people listening to the game on WGN are Cub fans.

But there is a line between pulling for a team and being an outright, obnoxious homer. Below are a couple examples of calls from announcers, both national and local. I want to know whether you feel any of them are too over the top in their excitement for the team, and whether the national broadcasters are being too objective (not showing any sort of passion).

John Sterling, Yankees’ Radio PxP Man:

Pat Hughes and Ron Santo during the ’98 season:

Marv Albert’s radio call of David Tyree’s great Super Bowl catch:

Hawk Harrelson’s call of a Mark Buerhle homerun:

A collection of NBA announcer Kevin Harlan’s best calls:

I actually don’t have a problem with a broadcaster favoring the team he announces; in fact, I prefer it when I am watching my local sports teams. As a fan, I want my announcer to share my passion for the team, without taking it too far. But if my team hits a three at the buzzer to win a game or a grand slam in the 11th inning to win, I want the announcer to go crazy just as I am.

But I don’t want the announcer saying “We are winning,” as Harrelson does. The announcer, even if he used to play, is not a member of the team, and thus has no business saying “We need some runs” or “The bad guys are winning.” That’s just plain amateurish.

My favorite broadcast team, though, might be what the New York Observer aptly named “The Anti Homers” crew of New York Mets’ television broadcasters. I have listened to these three a lot this summer, and find myself laughing out loud throughout the entire game. I highly recommend this article, which highlights all the reasons Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling make such a great team (hat tip: Whitehead).

The problem I have with some local announcers, such as Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox and John Sterling of the Yankees, is not their fanaticism for the team they broadcast; instead, it’s their gimmicks. I can’t stand “You can put it on the boaaarrrddd….YES!” I cringe when John Sterling goes into his “It is high, it is far” routine, only for the ball to land on the warning track. And, like everyone else, I can’t stand Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back.”

Genuine excitement is one thing. Gimmicks are another. Something simple like Marv Albert’s “Yes!” is fine with me, because it’s simple and pure and doesn’t sound forced.

Announcers don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend their nights coming up with a catchphrase. I just want them to show some passion and let their calls come to them. Is that too much to ask?

My Morning with the Old Timers

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Some quick thoughts from my day spent as a member of the working media at the new Yankee Stadium…

-The old-timer who received the most attention today may have been Tom Watson, but on the other side of the pond, a group of former baseball greats were reliving their glory days. Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ken Griffey Sr., Doc Gooden, Joe Pepitone, Mike Mussina and many more former Yankees were on hand for Old Timers’ Day to chat and then play an actual game before the real Yankees took the field to play the Detroit Tigers. I was lucky enough to have access to be on the field while the former players were taking BP and chatting with the media.

Listening to these players took about the game was incredible. For some reason, former baseball players always tell the best stories, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the game of baseball, where individual pitches and at-bats can become instantly legendary. Or maybe it’s because the season is so long and there are so many games, which in turn gives players a lot more story fodder. Whatever the case, it was remarkable to listen to some of these players recount stories of their on-field triumphs from decades ago. Standing next to Yogi Berra on the field before the game is something I will not forget anytime soon.

-The new Yankee stadium is awesome. Very big and very nice while still maintaining the Yankee Stadium feel. I do have two major complaints, however. The first is the ridiculous dimensions of the ballpark, which look even sillier in person. It appears the walls aren’t the only problem, but they are definitely playing a factor. The wall seems close enough to reach out and touch down the lines. I would not at all be surprised if this comes back to bite the Yankees at some point. Pitchers just aren’t going to want to pitch there if they know their ERA will inflate pitching at home.

My second complaint is directed at the staff working at Yankee Stadium: Please realize that you are working at a baseball game, where people come to have fun and pay lots of money to attend and be entertained. You are not working at a maximum security prison. Just because your shirt says “staff” does not mean you are a military general. So stop acting that way. If you agree to stop being so uptight all of the time, I’ll agree to stop trying to sneak into the really expensive seats (just kidding).

-The Yankees have very good food for the media. An $11 buffet that included food from every food group and health range, from parfaits to fried chicken and everything in between. There was even an omelette station. Awesome.

girardi

-I really like Joe Girardi, and not just because he’s a Northwestern alum. He’s very personable and good with the media. He seems to hold his own with the ready-to-attack press in the Big Apple, and is doing a pretty good job this season managing 25 Yankee uniforms filled with stacks of money.

stinkees

– If you don’t have to drive to Yankee stadium, don’t. We had to drive (had TV equipment) and it took forever to get out of the parking garage. The subway is cheap, easy, and is right next to the stadium. Use it so that the media can get home in less than two hours.

-As much as I dislike the Yankees, their fans are great while at the stadium (and generally obnoxious at all other times). They know when to clap, actually stand up and make noise, and come up with clever chants. This is in stark comparison to Met fans who turn on their team after the first base hit and whose most clever chant is “Yankees suck.” I hope one day the Orioles can pack Camden Yards like the Yanks pack their ballpark.

-Baseball is the greatest sport in the world.

Are Baseball General Managers foolishly unselfish?

omar minaya

It’s a question posed to me in an e-mail, once again, by Fus, who is becoming a regular muse for me on this blog. During the All-Star game the TV crew was discussing Toronto ace Roy Halladay,  and the possibility of a trade that would send him to a team back in the States.

This led Fus to consider the following situation: Prospects in baseball are cheap, plentiful and great bargaining chips. Yet, these young players are far from sure things when it comes to producing at a major-league level. Still, baseball GM’s savor these prospects, waiting for them to ripen and become Hall of Famers, even when the large majority of them are out of baseball by the time they reach their mid-20’s. So the question Fus posed is this: why do GM’s, most of whom have relatively shaky job security, insist on hanging on to these prospects when trading a couple of them for a veteran could get them to the playoffs and lock up a playoff spot, thus extending the GM’s shelf life? In other words, why aren’t GM’s selfishly bigger buyers at the trade deadline?

An excerpt from his email: “The best examples are the Rangers, Mariners, Tigers, and Rockies: those teams are all good right now, without any guaranteed lasting power. Why wouldn’t that GM trade a couple of prospects – who may or may not pan out – for a guaranteed ace. Think how good the tigers would be with a rotation of Halladay, Verlander, Jackson and Porcello. Maybe they won’t win it all, but they’ll lock up a spot in October, and extend the security of the GM. In 3 or 4 years when their prospects are ready, that GM probably won’t even be around, ya know?”

It’s a very interesting question, and I don’t think there is just one answer that prevents GM’s from doing this. Instead, I think a number of factors keep those in charge from selling the farm every July for short-term investments. Here is a list of reasons for you, my man:

1. Just as there are no sure-thing prospects (except Matt Wieters), there’s also no sure-thing when it comes to making the playoffs. Remember, the Yankees and Mets both missed the playoffs last year. Teams collapse and injuries occur. It’s hard to assume a team in July is a lock for the playoffs. And if the unforseen happens, and the team misses the playoffs AFTER trading away some of the organization’s best prospects, instead of securing a few extra years of employment, the GM may find himself looking for work immediately.

wieters

2. Being the GM who trades away a future hall-of-fame player lands you in the fan and media doghouse for the rest of your life, and sometimes even beyond. The move will forever plague you, and you will be asked about it on the streets by reporters and total strangers alike. Even if the move was a good one at the time, fans will rarely look at the history books to vindicate you. Instead, you’ll forever be known as the dimwit who “traded so and so away for washed-up veteran X,” even if washed-up veteran X helped the team reach the playoffs. GM’s are acutely aware of this, and this often causes them to act conservatively.

3. While the buck may stop with the GM when assessing a team’s success, a team of executives make player personnel decisions. While the job security for some of these executives may be tied to the GM, many have more stable positions, and thus are going to advise against trading away lots of homegrown talent, even if it means short-term success. And though a GM can get away with ignoring those other voices in the organization for some time, if the team isn’t winning, those other voices will eventually prevail, and the GM will be the odd man out.

4. (Most) owners are not stupid. If they see that a GM is mortgaging the future of the franchise for a quick-fix playoff run, they won’t be happy. If a team has the potential to be good for seven years down the line, or one year this season, the owner will take the seven-year run, no matter who the GM is. But the GM might not have time to wait for the prospects to develop, which, as Fus pointed out, should cause him to play his hand early. But if the GM makes the bold move and it doesn’t work out, he’ll have a hard time getting another job. A mistake like that is potentially career-damaging, and that reputation is tough to change.

5. Money. Prospects are cheap. Successful veterans are not. For a team to borrow a veteran for a couple of months, they are shipping away cheap talent that will need to be replaced at some point. For smaller market teams, they probably won’t be able to resign the veteran (see: Brewers, C.C. Sabathia) after season’s end. This might buy the GM a little time if the move works, but could also sacrifice the team’s future, which would presumably end the GM’s tenure prematurely.

sabathia

Still, despite the stated reasons above, there are convincing arguments for Fus’ position. For one, the goal each season for any team, GM included, should be to win the World Series. If the GM believes that he has an opportunity to put his team in a position to win it all, he should feel some obligation to make that happen. So many things change from year to year, and, as has been mentioned, prospects are risky. If the title is in sight, it only make sense to try to grab it. Nothing does more for a GM’s job security than a World Series ring.

And, when it comes down to it, GM’s are concerned about themselves, and rightfully so. If their jobs are in jeopardy, and they think they can make a move to extend their contract and get the media off their backs, it’s human nature to want to do that. Of course, then the reasons above come into play, but that desire, I would imagine, is present within many general managers.

So as the trading deadline in Major League Baseball nears and as deals are completed, take a look at the rationale and potential motivations that teams have for making the trade. It just might be a little more complex than it seems.

There might just be a man, sitting in an office, hoping he’s not moving his stuff out in October. More than just wins are riding on the deal.