Day 4 of “Operation Jeter Countdown”
Today was sort of interesting with regard to Operation Jeter Countdown. First, I read in the Post that Casey Close and his client were hanging out in Miami to ponder their response to the Yankees’ offer and that Jeter looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.
Later, I read Tom Verducci’s piece on SI.com and thought it was the best summary yet of how the Yankees should be viewing these negotiations. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Even if you did see it, I still have to highlight the points that jumped out at me.
What do you do about a 36-year-old beloved franchise icon with fading defensive skills but enormous brand value? Why, of course, you give him a 15 percent raise to make sure the team benefits from his legacy. That’s exactly what the Baltimore Orioles did for Cal Ripken Jr. on Opening Day 1997, a sort of global view of the player that stands in stark contrast to how the Yankees are valuing Derek Jeter at the same age.
The key to his opening paragraph? CAL RIPKEN JR.
Verducci continues to make the comparison.
When rewarded, Ripken still was a year away from free agency and entering the final year of a five-year contract for $32.5 million, once the richest total deal in baseball history that included post-career compensation ($2 million for four years) and special hotel, parking, security and merchandise arrangements.
Did you catch that? The Orioles gave Ripken post-career compensation. And that wasn’t all.
The Orioles adhered to the same perspective in 1997 — not even letting the face of their franchise get to free agency. They gave Ripken a raise from $6.5 million per year to $7.55 million per year in what was a two-year extension with an option. Not only was the option picked up at $6.3 million, the Orioles also brought him back at age 40 and with a bad back and coming off a .256 season again without a pay cut, giving him another $6.3 million.
The point is, Derek Jeter, like Cal Ripken, isn’t your average ballplayer (or even your average superstar ballplayer) and shouldn’t be measured by his stats alone.
Putting a number on iconic value — especially when introducing a pay cut — is at the heart of the Yankees’ negotiating troubles with Jeter. To compare Jeter in a one-year statistical vacuum to shortstops such as Marco Scutaro is foolish. Jeter is the most marketable player in baseball, has the sport’s highest Q rating, a measurement of not just popularity but also appeal to fans, has accumulated 16 years of tremendous goodwill for the Yankees and is their modern link in the chain of Yankee Hall of Fame everyday players who never wore another uniform, from Gehrig to DiMaggio to Mantle.
Does everyone remember the ad campaign for Blackglama furs? I know, mink coats aren’t politically correct anymore. But the campaign featured legendary women in their minks – from Judy Garland to Janet Jackson.
Where am I going with this? If Derek Jeter were a woman, he’d be in one of those ads. He’s a legend, and legends don’t come along every day. Tonight’s Jeter video doesn’t have Jeter in it. Its star is Cal Ripken, since he inspired Verducci’s spot-on article.
Doesn’t Ripken remind you of Jeter? No flash. All substance. A legend, in other words.
Good News/Bad News Sunday
The Good News was the return of Andy. If I could have hugged him, I would have.
He not only pitched well but went six innings. Now there are no more “What’ll we do without Pettitte” thoughts setting off panic in my brain. The Bad News was the Yankees’ inability to score with men on base – not with a man on third and nobody out, not with bases loaded, not with an opposing pitcher who had a tendency to walk batters. What happened to the sac fly? Is it not in this team’s arsenal? If I sound grumpy it’s because I was seriously frustrated by this game.
Then more Bad News: a blown save by Mo. Cue the people who will start saying, “He’s not the same. He’s done. He should retire.” Please. I don’t want to hear it. As a matter of fact, I’m mad at Mike Mussina right now. Yeah, Mussina. I finally caved in and bought the paperback of Joe Torre/Tom Verducci’s “The Yankee Years” for my flight home from the east coast. I was reading it last night when I came upon Moose’s quotes after the ’04 loss to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Here’s what he had to say about Mo:
“We were up 3-0 and Mo came in again with the lead and lost it. He lost it again. As great as he is, and it’s amazing what he does, if you start the evaluation again since I got here, he has accomplished nothing in comparison to what he accomplished the four years before. He blew the World Series in ’01. He lost the Boston series….I know you look at everything he’s done and it’s been awesome, I’ll admit that. But it hasn’t been the same.”
Excuse me? Mo has accomplished nothing? He lost the Boston series – like all by himself? I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about Mike Mussina again. Even if he had those thoughts, how could he make them public and trash his teammate – the same teammate who’s been picking up starting pitchers for years? I don’t get it.
Sorry for the digression. Anyhow, the Yankees lost today, but the Good News is they won the series and, with loses by Tampa and Minny, don’t give up ground.
Speaking of Joe Torre, I read that he and Mattingly are coming to the Stadium Monday night for the unveiling of Steinbrenner’s monument in Monument Park. I know Donnie will get a huge ovation and I hope Torre will too. He deserves it. I’m having trouble with what he says in his book about his players, but there’s no getting around the championship years and his relationships with the Core Four. It’s Good News that the big chill appears to be over between him and the organization.
And finally, I went to see “The Town” today, the new movie directed by and starring Red Sox super-fan Ben Affleck. (Yes, there’s stuff at Fenway.) I absolutely loved it. This is a heist film that goes beyond the car chases and shoot ’em ups. It’s great entertainment and I highly recommend it. Here’s the trailer.
Apparently, MLB wasn’t wild about letting Affleck shoot his scenes at Fenway, given the R-rated material. But here’s what the New York Times said on the subject:
For the finale, the production spent 11 days in and around Fenway Park, but only after Major League Baseball was cajoled into putting aside its usual reluctance to cooperate with a film that is rated R, this time for violence, language, sexuality and drug use.
Good for MLB and Good News for movie lovers. Go see this one.
Congratulations, CC, On Win #20!
I could talk about the game (it was a relaxing one thanks to big hits by Cano, Grandy, Gardy, Jorge, Swish), but this post will honor Carsten Charles Sabathia for achieving his personal best 20 victories in a season.
I saw Chad Gaudin ask the ump for the ball to give to CC, but I think our ace deserves more than a baseball. Here are some other commemorative ideas:
* 20 steaks for dinner tonight.
* 20 glasses of champagne.
* 20 massages by someone other than Stevie Donahue or Gene Monahan.
* 20 bottles of Jeter’s cologne.
* 20 rides in A-Rod’s Maybach.
* 20 appearances on Letterman.
* 20 copies of a Yankees-related book, signed and personalized by its author.
AJ pitched well tonight against the O’s, despite not getting the win. I was so frustrated watching the Yankees continue to waste scoring opportunities and do absolutely nothing against the thoroughly mediocre Kevin Millwood. Well, except for A-Rod, whose solo shot put us on the board. When A-Rod came up again in the ninth, down to his last strike and our last out of the game, I was feeling pretty low. But then….boom!
Did he spank that ball or what? I jumped up from the couch and started dancing around the room, totally elated. I knew Mo would take care of business, and he did. Never has beating the O’s been such a relief. With the Rays’ loss to the Angels, the Yanks are in first place for another few hours anyway. But here’s the other storyline: AJ’s black eye. He wouldn’t discuss it after the game. Neither would Girardi. All we know is that it’s “not baseball related.” So here are my theories for what could have happened:
1) AJ got in a fight in a bar. Except: his hands were fine and there was no police report.
2) Brian Cashman slugged him. Except: Cash is too short to reach AJ’s eye.
3) One of AJ’s teammates punched him on the plane. Except: That’s baseball related.
4) AJ’s wife hit him in the face with a golf club. Except: That’s so Tiger Woods.
5) AJ had a little “work” done on the off day and plastic surgery takes time to heal. Except: Why wouldn’t the other eye be black too?
OK, I give up. Anybody? Ideas? Or do I have to track down David Wells and get his input?
I Admit It: I’m A Total Swisher Convert
When Cashman first traded for Nick Swisher, my reaction was: “WHY?” He was batting like .211, was supposed to be our first baseman and sometime outfielder and was not particularly proficient at either position, and he had the look and demeanor of a non-Yankee.
I figured I’d get tired of his clownish act and, in spite of the fact that I wouldn’t miss Wilson Betemit, I kept questioning Cashman’s wisdom in making the trade. But then we got Tex, so Swisher wouldn’t be playing first base after all and giving me nightmares of Giambi. And then he kept having impressive at bats, working counts, hitting with power. And when he pitched that game at the Trop and seemed to take such joy from being able to help out the pen, I could see what a good teammate he was.
When he came to spring training this year in such great shape, determined to boost his average and be more serious about his work, I was doubly impressed. It’s not everyday that a player actually tries to grow and change, and Swisher has done that. As we anticipate the series in Baltimore this weekend, it’s Swisher who hits so well at Camden Yards, Swisher whose bat I want in the lineup in the #2 spot, Swisher who gives us a credible right fielder, Swisher whose injury needs to heal – and fast. (I’m really hoping the cortisone shot did its thing).
As I said at the top, I never expected to like him as much as I do – or count on him for the Yankees’ success. But it happened. I’m in his corner. I have his back.
Or is this all about how much I don’t like Austin Kearns?
Jorge’s Head And My Nervous System
Today’s game nearly drove me nuts.
I was up after the Yankees went up over the O’s 1-0.
I was down after Wieters hit that homer because Nova had pitched so well.
I was up after we had a rally going in the 7th and it looked like we’d come back.
I was down after Cervelli swung at the first pitch and killed the rally.
I was up after watching Joba take the mound in the 9th and throw the ball like he used to.
I was down after wondering why Girardi didn’t use Posada in place of Cervelli back in the 7th.
I was up – way, way up – after A-Rod led off the 9th with a solid single and Swish smacked a walkoff. In fact, I danced around the room and yelled “Yaaaay” like an idiot.
And then I was down after reading that Posada might have a concussion.
And then I was up again after reading that he didn’t have one and was day to day.
The point is that I now need a vacation from my vacation because I don’t feel very rested at all.
Tonight’s whipping by the O’s was frustrating, disappointing and downright maddening. I was really hoping CC would be his usual dominant self, stop the Yankees’ little losing streak and notch his 20th win. But not only did he not get #20, he was bad. Like mediocre bad. So the question is, was he just having an off night or is there something more serious going on? Like maybe he has a phobia about the number 20, the way some people fear the number 13, and whenever he approaches a possible 20th win he thinks he’s being attacked by a flesh eating virus.
Well? I’m just trying to figure out why he’s never won 20 games before and why he stunk tonight. Of course the offense didn’t exactly contribute much, not even when the O’s made mistakes we should have taken advantage of. I hate losing, so I’m throwing myself into the U.S. Open where Venus and her pink sequined dress, Federer and his between-his-legs shot and Nadal and his famous wedgies are far more entertaining at the moment.
OK, Let’s Get Serious
The Yankees dropped their second in a row. Not a big deal, given that Matusz pitched well, that A.J. did a decent job of not imploding, that Brian Roberts has always been a Yankee-killer, that A-Rod notched his 100th RBI for a Major League record 14th time and that there’s no shame in losing to the O’s anymore. But here’s the thing: the clock is ticking.
We’re heading down the stretch now and it’s time to turn up the heat (and every other cliche I can think of). I have no interest in watching the Yankees lose a bunch of games – and their division lead. Instead, I’d like to see them pull away from the Rays so that when we play them, it won’t be cause for a heart attack. In the meantime, I’m turning on the TV so I can watch the Rays-Red Sox game tonight. Which team will I root for? This one. Always.
Tonight’s Game Was Why I Love Baseball
No, not because the Yankees beat the Red Sox, although beating the Red Sox is always sweet. And not because our offense (with the help of a couple of miscues by Boston), made quick work of Beckett, although sending him to the showers is very satisfying. The reason I loved this game is because it proved yet again that you never know what will happen when two teams go at it. Which is another way of saying that what looks like a pitching mismatch on paper might not be a mismatch after all.
So, when I heard that A.J. had a back problem and would be replaced by Dustin Moseley, who’s been a pretty good spot starter but isn’t exactly a Cy Young Award winner, I figured we were toast.
But then the Yanks put two runs on the board early and Moseley held the lead, giving up a homer to Hall but otherwise throwing with poise and efficiency. What’s more, he made a couple of great defensive plays and was just plain impressive. When Joe pulled him in the seventh, the crowd gave him a well deserved standing O.
I kept thinking, as John Sterling is fond of saying, “Who would have predicted this?” Does it mean that Moseley will be brilliant his next time out? No. That’s the point. Anything can happen on any given day in baseball. Just ask Brandon Morrow of the Jays. I doubt he was expecting to miss a no-hitter by a hair. And what were the odds that the Orioles would go 5-1 under Showalter today? Getting back to the Yankees, did I expect Jeter to break Babe Ruth’s hits record in tonight’s game? Or that A-Rod would record his 300th stolen base? Or that Tex would bang out his 25th homer in a season that started off awfully slowly for him?
OK, there was one thing that was entirely predictable: Mo threw one pitch and got one out to end the game. Sometimes predictability is very welcome.
Tonight’s Game: Weird But Entertaining
Q: How often does CC get pounded with singles?
A: Hardly ever.
Q: How many times has Jeter hit an inside-the-parker?
A: Only once before.
Q: Did I expect to see Wilson Betemit be a candidate for “Player of the Game?”
A: Not in my lifetime.
Q: Did Posada make two bonehead throws tonight?
Q: Did Dave Robertson perform another Houdini act?
A: He did.
Q: Did Joba load the bases and give fans another heart attack?
A: He did.
Q: Did the Yankees score 10 runs for the second day in a row?
A: They did.
Q: Did A-Rod inch closer to #600?
A: He did.
Q: Did the umpires make some bizarre calls?
A: What else is new.
I could go on, but the main thing is the Yankees won the series opener against the Royals. And speaking of the umpiring, did anyone see clips from the O’s-Twins game? The hapless O’s got a raw deal on a call at first, and Ty Wigginton went so nuts his manager had to choke him.
And could someone explain how Carl Pavano and his porn star mustache have 12 wins? And is there any way the Yankees could ask for their money back?