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July 19, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Like I mentioned yesterday, there's no such thing as a clutch hitter. Selective memory and small sample sizes help create the false perception that players like Tino Martinez (.676 postseason OPS), Scott Brosius (.693) and Joe Carter (.739) are great clutch hitters, while other players, like Derek Jeter (.850 postseason, .852 career), are mistaken for being clutch when really, they're just good. Clutch hitting is an event, not a skill, and situation affects value, not ability.

The Yankees have won these first three games by succeeding in clutch situations, not because they are clutch, but because they are good, and good teams are more likely to succeed in clutch situations than bad teams. Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui had clutch home runs on Thursday; Bernie Williams had a clutch double yesterday, and Jeter and Giambi had clutch base hits yesterday. By succeeding in these high-leverage situations, the Yankees have now won four straight, and stretched their lead back to four games (and it would have been four games if the Blue Jays could have gotten one more out. Carlos Tosca is learning what we already knew--just because Juan Aceve-DOH! is likely to stop sucking eventually, it doesn't mean you should keep him in close games before he gets there).

Armando Benitez came into the game again today, this time with only a two-run lead. His performance was mediocre, as he struggled to get the ball over the plate, but he wasn't especially bad, either. Just as I said would happen, Benitez wasn't left out there to blow the game, Rivera came in for four outs and finished the Tribe off. Don't be too hard on Benitez, all he did was let a couple guys on, the last on a walk. It was a Jeff Nelson performance, but Jeff Nelson doesn't have the baggage of being a "failed" closer, so he's viewed, as Benitez should be, as a dominant setup man. Expect some of this, some of yesterday, and a lot of in-between the rest of the way--which will be more than good enough in the postseason.

With Hammond pitching well this season, the back of the pen is starting to come together. Cashman may look to acquire another reliever to solidify things a little more, particularly a lefty like Gabe White, Scott Sauerbeck or Mike Myers. One thing he won't be looking for is another hitter, being satisfied with his lineup as it is, especially with Nick Johnson coming back at the end of the month. I have no idea what Baseball Prospectus was thinking when the wrote on Monday:
Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera also missed substantial time to injuries; Johnson may well be out for the year.
Based on what? That his hand has healed? That he's starting his rehab assignment and might be back ahead of schedule? Sure, Nick Johnson seems injury-prone, but that doesn't mean he's going to be injured again. Of course, I do not subscribe to BP-Premium, so maybe Will Carroll had some inside information (which obviously was wrong) that he reported and I didn't read. Regardless, Johnson will be back very soon, and the offense will be just fine.

They could of course afford to improve in right field, but they do not have the resources to trade for a player that would be an upgrade over The Buffalo. Robin Ventura might be washed up over at third, but then he might also be in a huge slump. Still, at 36, it might be a slump he never gets out of. At the very least, they should be looking for an upgrade over Todd Zeile. Mark Loretta is nothing special with the bat, and even less with the glove at third, but he hits better than Zeile, and has more defensive flexibility (though Zeile did catch almost 15 years ago...). Even though Cash isn't looking for another hitter, it couldn't hurt to inquire about Loretta.

* * *

The Pete Rose "trial" on Thursday resulted in the jury idiotically voting 8-4 that he should be in the Hall of Fame, with one juror even going so far as to say he didn't believe he bet on baseball.

In my opinion, where Dershowitz really screwed up was in arguing that Rose should be in if he apologizes. By saying that, he is conceding that Pete Rose should not be permanently ineligible for the Hall of Fame, just conditionally, which is essentially conceding the case. The argument he should have made was that Pete Rose's crime was so heinous that it negates all the good that he did in his playing career, and he should never, ever, EVER, be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

Also, Dershowitz should have been representing the Hall of Fame, not Major League Baseball. The HoF is not a part of MLB. MLB's position is that he should not be allowed back into the game, and the only thing they can do to make him eligible for induction is to let him back into the game. Rose's grievance should be with the Hall, not MLB.

But I've said far too much anyway, and am getting into SNAB. I could write about this issue extensively, but I'm sure you're not interested in reading it. And so I'll drop it.

* * *

Not baseball, but funny. According to USA Today, WR Marcus Robinson was released by two teams this offseason, one of which he was never on. He must really suck. Thanks to Rob Moses for pointing this out.