Friday, November 04, 2005

On Continuity

I think I’ve told and retold tales of Yankees yonder a hundred times in the past few months, and if one idea has really dug it’s claws into my noggin, it’s that of continuity. The Yankees were always best when they more or less brought back the same team. A large reason for the recent run of relative failure is certainly due to the swapping of parts during each off-season.

Yes, I realize it is slightly ironic that I am bemoaning player swapping in the off-season right after I finished up talking about who the Yankees need to import for next season. But remember, these are open spots that someone needs to fill. The farm is obviously a little lacking in the upper levels, so a promotion doesn’t look to be in the works – though I’d rather start Kevin Thompson in center field next year than trade Cano for Hunter.

This of this off-season as a final fix, where the team (read: George) will go out for some temporary position holders until the guys in the lower level minors begin to develop. Now, I don’t know any heroin fiends, but from the stories I’ve heard two things can happen when an addict goes back for a “last fix.” A) They relapse or B) they die.

In other words, I don’t want to go offering big money at Brian Giles if it means more of the same in years to come. Sure, stockpiling free agents was fun for a while, as was dishing prospects for big names. But after the novelty wears off, what remains is just a pile of egos who can’t get along as a team. If anything, the Yankees have proved something to the baseball world: buy your team, watch them come up short.

I’m only advocating the pursuit of a big name free agent this year because there are few other options. There is an outfield spot that needs filling, and the answer isn’t at Columbus. So where else to look? Trades? Not much out there on the market at a reasonable price, as I discussed on Wednesday. Lesser talent free agent? After Giles, there really is no one worth the millions they’ll make (read: Damon, Jacque Jones, Preson Wilson). After those screwheads, the most attractive name is probably Juan Encarnacion. ‘Nuff said.

But if it all came down to it, and signing Giles meant more of the same, and starting Bubba means a more progressive approach to building a ball club (and I have no idea how such a scenario would arise), I’d be behind Crosby without a doubt. Basically, I wouldn’t be overly pissed if the best move the team made in the off-season was a non-move. If the Yankees returning starters were a football injury report, four of them wouldn’t be on it (Giambi, Jeter, A-Rod, Posada), and three would be in the “Probable” category (Sheff, Cano, Matsui). And when was the last time a guy listed as probable didn’t play on Sunday?

(Note: please don’t take that too literally. I don’t scour the injury report weekly, so for all I know, it could have happened this year. I was just making a point that it’s rare for a guy listed as probable to miss the game)

In addition to seven position players coming back, the starting five will be some incarnation of five starters that were on the team last year. The most likely scenario is what I listed yesterday, with RJ, Moose, Pavano, Chacon and Wang as the guys. Of course, the bullpen may undergo BoTox treatment, but there’s something about bullpens that’s just different than position players and starting pitching.

Usually, guys are in the bullpen because they’re not good enough to be starters. This isn’t always the case, but it’s pretty common (hey, Mariano Rivera was a crappy starter in ’95, moved to the bullpen in ’96, and look at those results). Accordingly, finding good bullpen help is tough, because most of the guys who are successful in the bullpen are usually just riding a streak (Tanyon Sturtze, to name one), and will eventually return to their “not good enough to be a starter” form.

So bullpen swapping is a normality nowadays. Sure, sometimes a team will find a guy they’re truly enamored with (Oakland with Chad Bradford), but that guy is usually the closer, and his supporting staff morphs yearly. I don’t necessarily agree with this interchanging of bullpen help, because it involves blind risks most of the time. But I didn’t write the rules. I just observe them.

This whole idea of continuity was sparked by Bill Simmons’s NBA Preview (the link is to Part II because it has a link to Part I and not vice versa). In it, he mentioned that building an NBA team (and really, any sports team) is like cooking a Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza. And for the sake of keeping his original thought in tact, I’ll just quote the paragraph:

“Think of it this way: Putting together a basketball team is like cooking a Stouffer's french bread pizza -- you have to preheat the oven, wait 15 minutes, slide the pizzas inside, wait another 35 minutes, check to make sure you didn't burn them, let them cook another five minutes, pull them out, then let them cool down for another 10 minutes so you don't burn your mouth ... and then, and ONLY then, do you eat the pizzas. That's how the good general managers build their teams. But these new-wave owners and general managers want to eat the pizza right away, so they slip them in the microwave, zap the hell out them, scarf down in three bites and end up burning their mouths, and the pizza doesn't even taste good as it's going down. That's what Cuban did for the last few years. And it didn't work. Now he's cooking the right way. Whether it lands them in the Western Conference Finals remains to be seen, but that's a potential 60-win team.”

Isn’t how the 1996-2000 Yankees operated? You could say that’s actually the perfect analogy for that era of Yankee success. And when George wanted some more pizza, instead of doing it the right way again, he made the blunder as described by Simmons. Take the pizza out of the microwave, George. We’re all eating this one, and no we don’t like the bread mushy and the cheese hard. I want my bread crusty and my cheese oozing, thank you very much.

Well, my thoughts are concluded for the day, but this is actually not the original posting I had for the day. In that one, I ran a little short of a normal post, so I tacked on some links and inane commentary to the end. And since this is my site and I can do what I please with this space, I’m going to copy and paste them right at the bottom of THIS post, just for the 20 of you who so graciously read this site daily.

Boston Dirt Dogs: because there’s nothing more satisfying than watching your enemies piss and moan about their ill fortunes.

Tony Pena Joins the Yanks: because now the Yankees have former managers at third, first, and on the bench. This is a strategy I normally employ in Madden football, where I vastly overpay for guys who are normally head coaches to be my coordinators because they make your players better. And what’s $10 million in play money to me, anyway? So now the goal becomes apparent: lure 73-year-old Roger Craig to the Bronx to become the new pitching coach.

Matt Lawton: because I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a blogger (I’m not a blogger!) if I didn’t mention this. Back in September, there were waves being sent throughout the press, saying that MLB had nailed someone on steroids, that it was a name people would care about, and that it was from one of the larger market teams. This, of course, had Yankees haters frothing at the mouth, since an ambiguous statement like that obviously points Giambi’s way. Alas, it was Lawton, making MLB’s statement false by the time it was release: he’s no longer on a large market team, and no one gives a sh-t about Matt Lawton (except those who like to make fun of him).

Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?”: because I used to read all of the New York Times op-ed columnists every day, and found her the most consistently unbearable. I may start reading more Katie Roiphe because of this piece.

Rafael Furcal Wants Chicago: because just three days ago,he said he’d move to second base for the Mets. And since the Braves don’t want to lose him, Furcal could become the most overpriced free agent this year.

TJ Simers on Tommy Lasorda/Frank McCourt: because A) I like Simers, B) I hate McCourt, C) how old is Tommy again?, and D) say it with me in a Frank Costanza voice: HOW COULD YOU FIRE PAUL DEPODESTA AFTER TWO SEASONS??.