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June 29, 2004

Sweet, Sweet Vengeance
by Larry Mahnken

Two pitches into last night's game, there was a sinking feeling... "Here we go again"

But Johnny Damon's home run didn't unleash a torrent of Red Sox runs down upon the Yankees, and after four innings, two months of doubt had been erased. The Yankees could beat the Red Sox after all--they could crush the Red Sox. Sure, anyone who put aside their passions could see that the team that Boston beat in April wasn't playing at it's peak, but until the rematch came, and the Yankees could win a game decisively, there were going to be doubts. And while the Yankees may still lose this series, those doubts are gone. The Yankees can beat the Red Sox.

They did it with a relentless attack, scoring in 6 of the 8 innings they batted, taking advantage of 3 Boston errors, clubbing two homers, including one into the black by Tony Clark. Derek Jeter stroked another three hits to get his average up to .272, his GPA up to .262--.411/.468/.750/1.218 (.398 GPA) since May 25th, and almost three times as many Runs Created in the last month as in the first two. Jeter's overall numbers don't warrant his likely All-Star appearance, but if he plays like he has the past month until the game, he'll have a batting average around .290, 18 HRs, and an OPS over .850--clearly warranting his spot.

So what does this victory mean, in the bigger picture? The symbolic meaning of this win is fleeting--it simply brings us back to where we were before that first game at Fenway. The practical implications of it are that it solidifies the Yankees' grip on first place, expanding the lead to a season-high 6½ games, a larger gap than any other division leader has between them and the third place team in their respective division. Greater than Chicago and Philadelphia's leads over the fourth place Indians and Braves, equal the Cardinals' lead over the fifth place Astros. While this says more about the tightness of the other races, it shows that the Yankees are where every other team aspires to be--comfortably on the top of the heap.

But the victory cinches nothing, nor would a sweep--devastating to Boston though it would be. Not with the immense talent on the Boston roster, and the potential for debilitating injuries on the Yankees'. Brian Klingensmith, a Red Sox fan friend of mine at work claimed the other day that Boston's just been toying with the Yankees for the past 85 years--just to make their ultimate victory that much more bitter for the Bombers. I pass that on for its humor, but there is a caution that comes with it: Boston will eventually beat the Yankees out, they will eventually win the World Series, some day. The Yankees rebounded in '78 later in the season from a larger deficit than Boston could possibly face entering July, and the circumstances that brought that Red Sox team down could happen to the Yankees. Celebrate the victories, rub it in--but don't ever allow yourself to believe it's over until the champagne bottles are uncorked.

The series now turns in Boston's favor, with Tim Wakefield and Pedro Martinez facing off against Jon Lieber and Brad Halsey. Wakefield's had tremendous success against the Yankees recently, and Pedro Martinez shut them down in their last meeting in April, so a series victory by Boston is still very much a possibility, almost even a probability. But if the Yankees can keep the offense going like it has in the past three games, and get reasonable outings from their starters... well, just watch. It's New York/Boston--it feels like October baseball already, and it's barely summer.

June 25, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

It was pointed out early this season that I "conveniently" missed some Yankee losses with the blog--yeah, it was convenient, but sometimes that's just how it happens. I'm sometimes unable to write something about the game because of my work schedule, and it's also tougher to get up for writing about a loss than it is for a win.

Last night's win, for instance, while a solid one, and another comeback, seemed sort of pedestrian, and closer than it should have been. Yeah, I'm a spoiled Yankee fan, but they just haven't played that great in the past week, and it's their overwhelming talent that's allowed them to be 3-4 in that stretch.

They go into the weekend facing a Mets team that isn't extremely talented, but is hovering around .500, and right in the thick of the pennant race. You know they'll be up for this series against the Yanks, we can only hope the Yankees are just as ready. With Halsey, Contreras and Mussina slated to go, and Sheffield still not back through Thursday's game, the Yanks certainly won't be putting their best squad on the field--nor are they likely to be facing Boston and their best, either. Of course, with the Sox now six out in the loss column, they're likely to be in first place on July 2nd no matter how things turn out, but who's in first on July 2nd doesn't matter that much.

While it's not directly related to the Bombers, Carlos Beltran got traded to the Astros last night, ending speculation about him coming to New York this year--unless the Astros have a horrid July, that is. While Beltran would have been an excellent addition to a team that could use a strong defensive centerfielder (and his bat wouldn't hurt), the price for him would likely have been too high.

Now, Houston only gave up a relief pitcher, and Oakland gave up three prospects, but the Yankees are going to need the prospects they would have had to trade down the line--either to fill holes in the roster, or more likely, serve as trade bait for deals the Yankees actually need to make.

The most positive outcome of this deal is that Beltran stays out of Boston without the Yankees getting involved--and while another outfielder isn't at the top of Boston's list of needs, either, Beltran would have improved their outfield defense considerably by shifting Manny to DH, and their lineup, too. The Yanks lead by 5½, but that don't mean jack in the ALCS, if they meet up there. Keeping Beltran away from Boston keeps that potential series from getting any tougher, and also allows the Yankees to forget about making that deal, and focus on a second baseman or rotation depth.

Fans of other teams look at this issue and think, "those spoiled Yankee fans, they think they're entitled to have ALL the best players!". Well, that's bullshit. The Yankees are no more entitled to have the best players than any other team, they're just more capable of accquiring them. But every fan wants all the best players on their team, and they're not going to say, "well, we have enough good players now, we don't need another", if their team was built like New York's. They're holding Yankee fans to an unreasonable standard. We're spoiled, but that doesn't mean we're any more selfish than other fans.

Well, some of us aren't, at least.

June 23, 2004

Completing The Dream
by Larry Mahnken

If these pictures don't make you happy, you have no heart. (Thanks to Rich for the article link).

Earl Weaver Day
by Larry Mahnken

I swear to you, Camden Yards is a pitchers' park.

Still, the Yanks beat the crap out of the Orioles once again last night, taking a 3-0 lead before a single out was recorded with Alex Rodriguez's 3-run HR, and after Moose gave up a 3-run shot to Miguel Tejada, they took it right back on Derek Jeter's 3-run dinger of his own.

The O's and Yanks each scored another run in their next at-bats, and the score stayed there until the Yanks put another run up in the sixth, and A-Rod hit another homer, his 18th, in the seventh.

The game was a blowout, but the Yankees should have won by more. They stranded 11 runners, left the bases loaded multiple times, and Mussina really was terrible at the start. He settled down, pitched okay the rest of the way, but the quality of his pitching wasn't the important part last night--the mere fact that he pitched was. With Kevin Brown unable to go this weekend the Yankees needed Mussina to come back so they didn't have to pray for Tanyon Sturtze to be effective again.

Hopefully Brown can be back for the Boston series next week, but the Yankees can't overlook these games this week. Baltimore's a last place team that's still capable of running with the Bombers offensively, and the Mets are a solid team that you know will be up for the challenge this weekend. Yeah, those Boston games are more important, but these ones are important, too. If the Yanks can win four or five of these games, they should at least hold, perhaps stretch their lead going into the showdown.

More good news came for the Yankees, as Jose Contreras' wife and children were able to defect from Cuba and will be reunited with The Big Enigma today. What the impact will be on Contreras' pitching is unknown, and largely unimportant--forget the political issues, no child should be forcefully seperated from their father.

June 21, 2004

Rashomon Project
by Larry Mahnken

My friends over at have each taken their view of last night's game. For a good read, head over there.

by Larry Mahnken

Right from the start: yes, it was a ball. So was the pitch to Alex Rodriguez. They weren't just bad calls, they were obviously bad, indefensible calls, and the umpire should be ashamed of himself.

But if you want to believe that's why the Yankees lost last night, you're wrong. They lost because they only managed five hits off of Jose Lima, because Jose Contreras had a Jose Contreras inning in the second, and Hideki Matsui tried to do way too much in the seventh. Eric Gagne didn't need the help he got, but they also only got one hit off of him with four of the game's best hitters up, they didn't deserve to win.

Yeah, it's a crappy loss, but let it go. They've gotten plenty of breaks and bad calls in their favor in the past, including a few that helped them on the way to a World Title or Twenty-Six.

Boston lost anyway, so they didn't lose any of their lead--though it would have been nice to be 5½ up again, 4½ is plenty nice.

Some good things to come out of the weekend: the start by Halsey, the offensive breakout Sunday by Giambi and Matsui, a homer by Miguel Cairo to hopefully shovel a little dirt on top of Enrique Wilson. I'm somewhat ambiguous about trading The Porn Star, especially with The Run Fairy™ left as the only lefty, but White made a good point: the Yankees didn't really need him--Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera can all get out lefties, so he was only going to pitch when the game was out of hand, or in a crucial situation early on. Those would be far and few between, so of course he'd be ineffective. I guess Steve Karsay would be better for that role--he could probably use time off between outings.

Next up, the last place Orioles. Moose comes back after missing only one start, so the Yanks kinda dodged a bullet there. In fact, having won both the start by Sturtze and the one by Halsey, the bullet missed them completely. Man, Boston can't catch a break.

June 19, 2004

A Cup of Tea and Butter Pie
by Larry Mahnken

Now, I haven't been posting on weekends lately, because you haven't been showing up on weekends lately. It's a good deal, it works out well for both of us. You get the weekend off to do things other than read my silly ramblings, I get the weekend off... well, I always work on the weekends, and I have to write Rivals in Exile with Ben, so I guess I don't get the weekends off, and what with the Yankees always playing on the weekend, I'm probably missing something by not posting weekends.

But that's beside the point. You ain't coming, so I felt it was a wasted effort.

I'm writing today for a couple of reasons: the first is to write about my Dad, what with it being Father's Day and all.

I'm a lot like my Dad. We're about the same height, the same build, we've both got red hair--though he has more, damn maternal hereditary baldness gene! We're both smartasses, though I think his filter is a little better than mine, though maybe Mom will disagree with that ;-). We both love the Yankees. And while a lot of people tell me how smart I am, I know that my Dad (and my Mom) are just as smart as me, and all my brains just came from them. I love my Dad, he's about as good a friend as I've ever had.

I guess a lot of guys have semi-adversarial relationships with their dads, I never did. I took out all my teenage bitterness on my Mom. I don't get to see Dad that often, because he and Mom live in Pennsylvania right now, but I think of them all the time.

So Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.

The other thing I came to write about was the start by Brad Halsey yesterday (oh yeah, this is a baseball site!). He was everything I could have hoped for, and more than I could have hoped for. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, and he didn't have pinpoint control, but what he did have was confidence in himself. He wasn't afraid to throw the ball over the plate and let hitters get themselves out. Something that gets misconstrued by some people when they interpret Voros' DIPS theory is Balls in Play. Balls in Play are good, not bad, even when you're on the Yankees. As long as you don't walk people or give up home runs, you'll be an effective pitcher. Halsey doesn't do either (despite what happened with Nomo), I think he'll be a good pitcher.

Unfortunately, it probably won't be with the Yankees. With Gabe White being traded to Cincy, that leaves Felix "The Run Fairy™" Heredia as the team's only lefty in the pen (I forget which Chatterer coined that nickname, but I'm letting you know in advance that I'm using it for Monday's RiE). The Yankees obviously won't let Heredia be their only option against Trot Nixon and David Ortiz, so they'll have to get someone else.

I'd like to see them use Halsey in the role, especially because he can be an emergency starter. But with his stock high right now, I see them packaging him with Navarro and perhaps even Duncan to get Freddy Garcia and Mike Myers from Seattle, and pushing Contreras into the pen. I don't like that move, though having Freddy Garcia as the fourth starter probably settles things down a little bit. I just don't see him or Myers being anything special, and certainly not worth trading quality prospects for. They don't need either of them, and I really think Halsey can do the job.

Yanks won yesterday, though it was a fairly weak offensive effort again. But it really looks like Bernie Williams is an offensive force again, and if we can just use our psychic willpower to get Joe to DH him against righties and put Lofton in center, I'm gonna feel awfully good about things for the rest of the summer. Yeah, Giambi, A-Rod, Posada, Matsui and Sheffield are slumping a little, but they'll heat up. It happens.

Boston grabbed onto an outcropping on their fall down the cliff, and climbed back up a little, but they slipped again a little bit yesterday. Yanks spend next week with Baltimore and the Mets, while the Sox get the Phils and Twinkies, so let's hope we can kick them in the head a few times until they let go. Unlikely though it is, I'd like to put this division away early, so Rivera and Gordon can get a lot of September rest before the playoffs.

June 17, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Tanyon Sturtze was adequate last night, nothing more. He only gave up 3 runs in six innings, only six hits, only two walks--but that was against a weak-hitting Diamondbacks team, and he would have given up a lot more against a superior squad.

As it was, he got himself into trouble. He loaded the bases in the first after getting a 4-0 lead, gave up 3 runs in the third with a 5-0 lead. If not for the Arizona defense, and some good luck, the Yankees might have lost. But they didn't, and they won a game they probably shouldn't have expected to (not that they should have expected to lose).

Boston lost again--the third time in their last four--and the Yanks are now 5½ up, which passes from the category of "lead" to "breathing room". The Yankees have been ten games better than Boston since "The Sweep", in less than two months. But it's not Boston's doing--they've been a solid 25-21 since then, it's the Yankees who have earned their standing, going an incredible 34-10, and having faced some very good competition along the way. Injuries are starting to catch up with the Yanks, but the schedule is getting easier, their lineup is red-hot, and Boston's schedule gets tougher as they get healthy--and Gehrig38 might be going on the DL (well, at least it'll give him time to chat).

I've gotta go to work now--the Yanks go for another sweep tonight at 9:30. These late games suck, but at least I get to see them.

June 16, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

In the bottom of the fifth inning last night, after the Yankees had put up two runs to take a 3-0 lead, Jose Contreras got into trouble. Two batters into the inning, Jose had given up two runs--a single to Juan Brito and a home run to pinch-hitter Andy Green.

It was at this point that Contreras would usually implode; he'd fall behind hitters, and either walk them or give them fat pitches to hit. Sure enough, he quickly went 2-0 on Scott Hairston.

But he didn't implode. He came back to strike out Hairston, retired Steve Finley, and struck out Doug Devore to end the inning. It wasn't one of those situations where he dominated the rest of the game--he gave up a single and a walk to his next five batters--but he didn't fall apart. It wasn't a great start, but it was a good start. And on the day the Yankees placed Kevin Brown on the Disabled List, it couldn't have been more important.

With Brown on the DL, and Mussina possibly headed there, too, the Yankees are relying on Tanyon Sturtze to not completely put them out of the game tonight. Casey Fossum has struggled this season, but is coming off on an excellent start in Baltimore. The Yankees should be able to put some runs up against him, but they can't depend on it, and they'll probably need five or six innings out of Sturtze without more than four runs.

To start on Saturday, the Yankees are freeing Brad Halsey, just as the movement was getting started. I haven't talked about Halsey at all, but here is his career line:
Year   Age Level  W  L   ERA    IP HR BB  SO K/9 BB/9 HR/9 qDIPS

2002 21 A 6 1 1.93 56.0 0 17 53 8.5 2.7 0.0 2.36
2003 22 A 10 4 3.43 84.0 3 14 56 6.0 1.5 0.3 2.96
2003 22 AA 7 5 4.93 91.1 4 22 78 7.7 2.2 0.4 2.94
2004 23 AAA 6 2 2.52 82.0 2 19 51 5.6 2.1 0.2 3.07
Career 29 12 3.36 313.1 9 72 238 6.8 2.1 0.3 2.88

Those are some outstanding numbers, and while the low strikeout rate makes you think he probably won't be anywhere near that good in the majors, the low walk rate and infinitesimally small rate of home runs allowed give me optimism that he can be a solid pitcher, if not as a starter, then as a lefty reliever. Halsey may earn himself a permanent job on Saturday, if he can pitch well. If he doesn't, at least it's a FOX game, so we won't have to hear Kay calling him "Bull" or "Admiral".

Though the Yankees are moving past the most challenging part of the schedule, these next two weeks are going to be a huge test. Brown is out, and Mussina might follow him. They've completely reversed the gap between them and Boston--now leading by 4½ when they had once trailed by that margin--but with Nomar back and Nixon coming back today, Boston may go on a roll, and gain ground before the big series at the end of the month. If the Yankees can hold their ground until Mussina and Brown are back, they'll have had two good weeks, and if they can gain ground, then they've strapped themselves firmly in the driver's seat, and will probably lead the division for most, if not all of the summer--and maybe all the way to the finish.

June 14, 2004

Miracles on Grass
by Larry Mahnken

I worked yesterday.

I worked 11:30-8, and didn't get home until about 9. And so I taped the game.

I came home, and first watch the Lakers go down to the Pistons once again. That made me happy. Seeing Boston win... not so much. And then I started watching the game.

The story early on was David Wells' return to the Bronx, and the uncertain reception he'd receive. He got a standing ovation and tipped his cap, but the story before the game usually doesn't end up being the story of the game, unless your team really stinks, in which case the story of the game often has nothing to do with the game. But I digress.

Boomer was fantastic in his return, pitching 7 scoreless innings, and outdeuling Javier Vazquez, who was pretty damn good himself. 8 innings, 2 runs, 8 strikeouts and no walks. His only mistakes were a homer by Khalil Greene in the 3rd and an RBI double by Terrence Long in the 7th. But those were two mistakes too many, and with one of the great relievers of all time, Trevor Hoffman, retiring the first two in the bottom of the ninth, it looked like it was over.

But if we've learned one thing from the Yankees this season, it's that baseball is the greatest game that's ever been invented, and you really can't turn the game off until the last out is recorded. Hideki Matsui--who hit all of 16 HRs last season--absolutely destroyed a 2-0 pitch, and hit it over the right-center field fence, halfway into the bleachers, and it was 2-1. And Kenny Lofton, pinch-hitting for the slumping Tony Clark, followed it with a game-tying homer into the right-field box seats. The improbable--the nearly impossible--had happened, and the Yankees were tied.

But with two outs, they couldn't generate anything else, and went into extra innings. The Padres got a runner to third with 2 outs in the tenth, but didn't score. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but they too were unable to score.

San Diego got two hits in the top of the 11th, but with a caught stealing following one of them, they couldn't generate a rally. The Yankees went down in order in the 11th.

And then in the 12th, Torre brought in Bret Prinz. Prinz had been outstanding for the Yankees so far this season, and had started to gain Joe Torre's confidence--but what happened yesterday afternoon had to shake that confidence a little bit. A single, a force out, a single, and then he lost the strike zone. He walked Sean Burroughs on 4 pitches, then went 3-1 to Mark Loretta before he hit a sacrifice fly to give San Diego the lead. And then he threw another ball to Brian Giles.

Then Joe Torre did something stupid; he brought in Felix Heredia, instead of Mariano Rivera. Rivera's been used probably far too often this season--9 out of 11 games at one point, 8 out of 10 at another--but having only pitched one of the previous three days, with Monday a scheduled off day, the Yankees should have been willing to use him Sunday. Instead they brought in the Human Gas Can, who gave up a line drive single to right, to score another run, and when the ball got behind Sheffield, a second one scored, and Giles went to third.

It was at this point that I stopped the playback, frustrated, and wondering whether the ninth-inning dramatic home runs had been worth it, as they merely had delayed the ultimate result.

But just in case you didn't learn the lesson already, the Yankees decided to teach us one more time: baseball is the greatest game that's ever been invented, and you really can't turn the game off until the last out is recorded.

After turning off the game, I went to the computer to check the final score, and how bad it was. It wasn't that bad.

It started with a walk to Bernie Williams, and Derek Jeter followed with a double to right, sending Bernie to third and bringing up Alex Rodriguez as the tying run. A-Rod couldn't tie it, but he did get Bernie home with a grounder to third.

And then Sheffield singled. And then Giambi singled, and the tying run was on third base, with one out. A line-drive double down the right-field line tied the game, and sent Giambi to third with the winning run. Matsui was intentionally walked, and Ruben Sierra hit a fly ball to deep center, scoring Giambi and winning the game. And giving Felix Heredia a win just as cheap as the one Tanyon Sturtze got in Baltimore.

It was an exciting game, and presumably an excruciating one for Padre fans. Overshadowed in the comebacks was the outstanding performance by Javier Vazquez, who has really eliminated all question about his quality. It was a dramatic return for Kenny Lofton, who, considering the slumps of Sierra and Clark, should be given regular starts in center against righties, relegating Bernie to DH. Not that it'll happen...

The Yankees are extremely overdue for a slump, but the way they've been playing lately, winning despite poor efforts, you have to wonder if it'll ever come. A playoff spot looks like a lock at this point, 100 wins probable, and a historic win total is, at this point, conceivable. Injuries will probably derail that last opportunity, and may be the only thing that sends the Yankees into a real slide--or perhaps another series in Boston, who is probably the only team talented enough to go toe-to-toe with a healthy Yankees team right now. But while they're not fading away, and probably won't, they're not uncomfortably close right now, and while it doesn't mean all that much, it still feels pretty good.

June 10, 2004

Bernie Day
by Larry Mahnken

While John Flaherty's Grand Slam was the crucial difference in the game, Bernie Williams' performance was the highlight of the afternoon yesterday. Reaching base all five times, walking twice, Bernie's 3 hits raised his batting average 15 points, and more importantly, brought him to exactly 2000 for his career.

The Yanks got a passable performance by Jose Contreras--and more importantly, seven innings to give the back of the bullpen a day off--and put ten runs on the board to win their fourth in a row, and their 30th of their last 39 (.769 Winning Pct. since "The Sweep"). If you think that's impressive, consider that the 1906 Chicago Cubs played this well... for six months! And lost the World Series in six games (but the postseason isn't largely luck).

The Yankees have pretty much established that they're the best team in baseball right now, and the only team that can reach far enough to tap them on the back is probably a healthy Red Sox team, something they seem likely to see when Boston comes to the Bronx in 2½ weeks.

With Bernie having reached a milestone--and having been particularly hot in the past week--I'd like to focus on him a little. It probably doesn't come across too much on the blog, but Bernie is my favorite Yankee, and has long been so. I don't know exactly why, maybe it's because he's the last connection to when they stunk and I first became a hardcore Yankees fan, or his demeanor. I don't know. But I'd like to take a look back at Bernie's career and determine whether he's worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame when he retire's. To do so, I'll use another one of those Bill James tools, the Keltner List.

On a vaguely related note, the first thing I had ever read by Bill James was "The Politics of Glory" in the early 90's--which I found fascinating, and very persuasive (and where I get the Keltner List from). The first I had ever heard of Bill James was when he was on a late-night sports talk radio show saying how Phil Rizzuto didn't deserve to be in the Hall, and I thought, "Man, what an idiot". How times change.

Anyway, here's the Keltner List:

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Bernie was often called one of the most underrated players in baseball during the mid-to-late 90's, and may have been suggested as one of the very best in baseball by a few people, but he was never considered the best by very many people.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Yes. With the exception of 1999, Bernie led the Yankees in OPS from 1996-2001, led them in Win Shares in 1995, 1996 and 1998 (and was second with 33 Win Shares in 1999).

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

In 1995, 1999 and 2002, Williams led all Major League centerfielders in Win Shares, and finished 2nd to Ken Griffey, Jr., a certain Hall of Famer, in 1998. He was never the best centerfielder in his league but not in all of baseball.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Hell yeah. In 1995, he hit .364/.465/.570/1.035 in September and October as the Yankees went 22-6 to win the Wild Card, and hit .429/.571/.810/1.381 in the ALDS, though the Yankees lost in five games. And Joey Cora was out of the baseline. Both times.

In 1996, he hit .333/.434/.615/1.049 in September as the Yankees held off the Orioles to win the AL East. He hit .467/.529/1.067/1.596 in the ALDS and was ALCS MVP, batting .474/.583/.947/1.530. He hit poorly in the World Series, but did hit an important HR in Game 3.

In 1997 he hit .327/.370/.561/.931 in September as the Yankees went 17-11 and nearly caught the Orioles for the AL East title, and won the Wild Card.

In 1998, there was no pennant race. He hit .381/.536/.429/.965 in the ALCS.

In 1999, he hit .317/.437/.490/.927 in September and October as the Yankees held off the Red Sox for the AL East title. He hit .364/.417/.727/1.144 in the ALDS, and hit the game-winning HR in Game 1 of the ALCS against Boston.

In 2000, he hit .435/.480/.609/1.089 in the ALCS.

In 2001, he hit .235/.409/.765/1.174 in the ALCS, with 3 homers (including one huge one off of Arthur Rhodes), as the Yankees beat the 116-46 Mariners 4 games to 1.

In 2003, he hit .400/.471/.533/1.004 in the ALDS, and .400/.444/.720/1.164 in the World Series, though the Yankees lost.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

He's no longer a very good player, and his defense should keep him out of center field, but he still hits well enough to be a passable everyday DH. I'll give this a "Yes".

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?


7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

No. Of Williams' 10 most comparable players, only Earl Averill is in the Hall of Fame, and he wasn't inducted until he was 73.

However, a large number of Williams' comparable players were corner outfielders, not center fielders. This gives Williams a slight edge, but not a big one.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Yes. Right now, Williams scores a 51 on Bill James' Hall of Fame Standards, and by the end of the season, or at least sometime next season, should rate a 56, with 50 being average for a Hall of Famer.

The Hall of Fame Monitor rates Williams as a 146, with 100 being a possible inductee, and 130 or higher being a probable lock.

Williams rates so highly on the Monitor largely because of his four rings and six league titles. However, voters tend to vote for players who play key positions on championship teams, and Williams certainly qualifies under that standard.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Well, Bernie is a switch hitter who is better as right-handed hitter, and has batted lefty twice as often as he has righty. However, Yankee Stadium is better for lefty hitters than righties, so it probably balanced out, more or less.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

Though Williams is likely to retire (and thus be eligible before him), Ken Griffey, Jr. is more worthy than Williams. There are several non-HOF centerfielders who are about as good as Williams, but none who were clearly better.

I'll go with, "Yes", but not strongly.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

He was worthy of the MVP in 1998, and was a second-tier candidate in 1999 and 2002. He finished 7th in 1998, and 10th in 2002.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame?

He had All-Star-type seasons in 1995, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, 2001 and 2002. He played in 5 All-Star games from 1997-2001. I don't believe this is a particularly exceptional total.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Absolutely. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996 and 1998 when Williams was the best player on the team, and in '99 when he was very nearly the best on the team. Having a player of Bernie's caliber in centerfield gives a team a headstart on putting together a great squad.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?


15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Absolutely. Bernie is about as classy a player as there is in the game. His laid-back nature, however, may have hindered his notoriety, and may hurt his Hall chances.

Conclusion: While Bernie's numbers don't look overly impressive, especially in an offensive era, he was a key player on one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, and will have at least four rings, and perhaps more, when he retires. He was one of the better players in baseball at a crucial position for several seasons. He's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but should get in after only a few ballots. Should he rebound and have a couple more solid seasons, and play long enough to attain 2500 hits and 300 HRs, it makes his induction more or less assured.

A good comparison can be made to Kirby Puckett, who wasn't as good as Bernie, but won two titles, and was well liked, just as Bernie is. Injuries ended his career, while it appears they have seriously damaged Bernie's. Puckett may not have deserved induction, but the fact that he got in on the first ballot bodes well for Bernie.

What do you guys think? I'm sure some of you disagree, so let me know in the comments.

Good News, Bad News, and Baaaaaaaaaaaaaad News
by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees needed some good pitching, and for two straight games, they got it. Unfortunately, the offense conveniently vanished at the same time, and they won two straight 2-1 games on the strength of brilliant starting performances by Mike Mussina and Javier Vazquez.

Yesterday, the starting pitching wasn't so much good, and the Yankees found themselves down 5-0 in the third inning.

It didn't take them very long to get back in the game, scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the third, the last two on line drive homer by Gary Sheffield off the left field foul pole, and taking the lead on an opposite field 2-run homer by Derek Jeter (after fouling off about 30 pitches) and a homer by Bernie Williams immediately after it. The bullpen made it stick, and with Boston being pounded by San Diego, the Yankees found themselves 3½ games ahead of Boston by the end of the night.

But the really bad news is that starter Kevin Brown had to leave the game after two innings with "stiffness" in his lower back, an injury he says he suffered in the first inning--and may have been to blame for his dreadful second. Brown says it doesn't feel like the injury that he had surgery for two years ago, and the Yankees can hope that they were able to get him out of the game before he seriously hurt himself. If they can get out of this with a stint on the DL, they should consider themselves fortunate, and if they can get out of it with just a missed start, they should consider themselves blessed. We all knew Brown would get hurt eventually, it was just a question of when and how badly.

More bad news came from the performance of Tanyon Sturtze, who walked in a run in the third, but was otherwise very good in emergency relief (compared to his poor, scoreless outing against Baltimore last week). While some might say that 8.1 innings of 1-run ball are worthy of the increased work he's likely to get now (and probable starts, as well), I'd say that 641.2 innings of 5.18 ERA are a lot more indicative of what the Yankees can expect out of Sturtze--and he's past his prime, too. So that's probably the high end of we can hope for from him long-term.

We'll wait and see how this turns out--if Kevin's out very briefly, and the Yankees go out and accquire an okay starter in the interim, it could turn out very well (either solidifying the rotation or adding depth to the bullpen).

I said after The Sweep that Bernie Williams' April probably wasn't a good indication of his level, that we'll likely have a better idea of what he's got left from his May. It looks like I was probably right on that count, as his May numbers--.271/.352/.438/.789/.268 GPA--were much better. Those are substandard, but still acceptable numbers for a DH, and right in the middle of the pack for Major League centerfielders. Bernie isn't what he once was, but he's still got something left in the tank.

June 9, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

No blog post this morning because my internet connection was going in and out on me last night and I had to work this morning. No blog post tonight because... let's just say I'm not functioning at 100%. We'll see about the morning.

June 8, 2004

Lucky or Good?
by Larry Mahnken

Not being very knowledgeable about amateur baseball, I can't say exactly what the quality of the Yankees' draft was, but I do know it wasn't that good, especially considering that they had 4 of the first 40 picks.

It's not like they drafted a bunch of talentless crap, these players could turn into something worth having, but it's not going to offer much help in the next couple of years; not for the major league team, and not for trades. The team seems happy with the guys they got--well, that's no surprise--but I feel a bit disappointed by this draft, like it was a lost opportunity.

But the thing with drafts is that while you can criticize the decisions that were made in drafting a player right away, it's tough to say how good the draft itself was in terms of talent acquired, at least for a few years. If a draft brings you a major league regular, then it was a good draft, regardless of the decisions made.

* * *

The Yankees come into today's games 2½ games ahead of the Red Sox, but the Sox have a slight edge in run differential--4 runs--and ½ a game behind Boston in Pythagorean Record. They're currently four games better than their Pythagorean Record, while Boston is only one game ahead of theirs, largely because New York is 10-6 in one run games, while Boston is 3-6.

And it doesn't really mean that much.

Pythagorean Record isn't some magical indicator of a team's true quality, the most important thing about James' Pythagorean Theorem is that it shows the relation between run scoring and winning, but there's a lot of things that can, and will throw it off. Record in one-run games is one of those, but a large number of blowout wins can skew things, too.

That a team is outplaying it's Pythagorean Record doesn't mean that they're lucky. Winning a lot of one run games doesn't mean that a team is lucky, either, because not all one-run games are equal. For instance, a team could win a one-run game that they should have won by four or five runs, but didn't because the breaks didn't go their way. If luck evened out, they wouldn't lose that game, they'd win by more.

In general, teams will finish .500 in 1-run games, but that doesn't mean the Yankees are likely to play 4 games under .500 in 1-run games the rest of the way. They're likely to play .500 in 1-run games the rest of the way--just like Boston.

That being said--and excuse me if this seems contradictory--Pythagorean Record is a useful tool when evaluating a team. It tells you how well they've done outside of their record, but it doesn'supersede their record.

Another important tool when evaluating a team is the strength of their schedule. The Yankees have the best record in baseball, but only Tampa Bay, Seattle, Houston and Pittsburgh have played a tougher schedule so far (opponents' record minus games played against team), while only eight teams have had a weaker schedule than Boston.

Going the rest of the way, the Yankees have the fourth easiest schedule, while Boston has a tougher schedule than everyone but the Rangers and the Cubs. Ooooh, that makes me happy.

Anyway, I used that information to make a projection of the final standings:

AL East W L Pct. NL East W L Pct.
Yankees 106.7 55.3 .659 Florida 93.0 69.0 .574
Boston 93.0 69.0 .574 Philadelphia 85.3 76.7 .526
Baltimore 77.2 84.8 .476 Atlanta 81.9 80.1 .506
Toronto 71.8 90.2 .443 NY Mets 79.3 82.7 .489
Tampa Bay 68.5 93.5 .423 Montreal 54.1 107.9 .334

AL Central W L Pct. NL Central W L Pct.
White Sox 90.8 71.2 .560 Cincinnati 95.3 66.7 .588
Minnesota 81.7 80.3 .504 St. Louis 92.1 69.9 .569
Cleveland 74.0 88.0 .457 Houston 89.7 72.3 .553
Detroit 70.9 91.1 .438 Chicago Cubs 81.7 80.3 .504
Kansas City 62.4 99.6 .385 Milwaukee 80.3 81.7 .496
Pittsburgh 73.3 88.7 .453
AL West W L Pct.
Anaheim 96.4 65.6 .595 NL West W L Pct.
Oakland 91.4 70.6 .564 San Diego 89.9 72.1 .555
Texas 89.2 72.8 .550 Los Angeles 88.5 73.5 .546
Seattle 65.7 96.3 .406 San Francisco 82.5 79.5 .510
Arizona 62.5 99.5 .386
Colorado 60.8 101.2 .375

Now, as awesome as that would be, we know it's highly unlikely to go down that way. It assumes that every team is going to play the rest of the way like they've played so far. It doesn't account for teams playing over their head, playing below their talent, or injuries. Like Pythagorean Record, it's highly flawed. But it's awful nice to think about--107 wins, and a runaway victory in the division. Now, if Oakland could be two games better...

Now, the injury factor is likely to give Boston a boost and drag the Yankees down, since Trot Nixon and Nomar Garciaparra are coming back, and the Yankees haven't had any devastating front line injuries yet, which a lot of people expect to be somewhat inevitable.

But the other question has to be, are the Yankees playing over their head? Forget about what Boston's doing, the Yankees have the best record vs. one of the toughest schedules, is it because they're playing better than they should?

I took a look at this using Bill James' most recent incarnation of Runs Created (which accounts for homers with runners on, and hits with runners in scoring position, to give a more accurate estimation of runs scored), and projected how many runs each player would have created in the same number of plate appearances in 2003, in his last three seasons, and his career. The results:

Name 2004 2003 2003 Career

Derek Jeter 24 39 39 39
A. Rodriguez 43 47 51 47
G. Sheffield 39 50 47 43
Hideki Matsui 41 31 31 31
B. Williams 23 27 34 34
Jorge Posada 32 32 30 29
Jason Giambi 30 28 32 29
E. Wilson 15 12 8 11
Ruben Sierra 19 14 15 17
Tony Clark 17 12 13 16
Kenny Lofton 12 11 11 13
Miguel Cairo 10 7 8 9
John Flaherty -1 5 4 4
Bubba Crosby 7 0 0 0
Travis Lee -1 3 3 2
Homer Bush -1 0 1 0
Total 309 318 327 327

I also projected the number of earned runs given up by the pitchers in each situation (The numbers in parantheses on the bottom is the 2004 total for players who have data for the listed season):

Name 2004 2003 2003 Career

Bret Prinz 0 9 4 4
M. Rivera 4 6 8 9
Tom Gordon 8 11 11 14
J. Vazquez 31 27 29 34
Kevin Brown 34 21 25 28
P. Quantrill 15 7 10 14
Mike Mussina 41 31 32 32
T. Sturtze 5 6 5 5
Jorge DePaula 5 1 1 1
Jon Lieber 26 - 20 22
Gabe White 14 9 10 9
J. Contreras 25 12 12 12
D. Osborne 14 - 12 8
Scott Proctor 6 - - -
Felix Heredia 8 2 3 4
Alex Graman 6 - - -
Total 242 141 181 195
(190)(230) (230)

What this data shows is that the Yankees have in fact underperformed their track record on the whole, despite surprisingly good seasons by some players. However, being an older team, that can't be too much of a surprise, a decline should be expected.

I compared the 2004 numbers to PECOTA to get an idea of how they're doing compared to a reasonable projection, which accounts for decline:

Name 2004 PECOTA Name 2004 PECOTA

Derek Jeter 24 36 Bret Prinz 0 4
A. Rodriguez 43 48 M. Rivera 4 11
G. Sheffield 39 43 Tom Gordon 8 11
Hideki Matsui 41 34 J. Vazquez 31 27
B. Williams 23 32 Kevin Brown 34 31
Jorge Posada 32 28 P. Quantrill 15 16
Jason Giambi 30 30 Mike Mussina 41 30
E. Wilson 15 12 T. Sturtze 5 5
Ruben Sierra 19 15 Jorge DePaula 5 5
Tony Clark 17 15 Jon Lieber 26 27
Kenny Lofton 12 11 Gabe White 14 9
Miguel Cairo 10 9 J. Contreras 25 13
John Flaherty -1 4 D. Osborne 14 -
Bubba Crosby 7 3 Scott Proctor 6 4
Travis Lee -1 3 Felix Heredia 8 5
Homer Bush -1 - Alex Graman 6 3
Total 309 320 Total 242 200

So, even using PECOTA, the Yankees are at least 29 runs worse than their PECOTA projection, and yet they still have the best record in baseball.

Some of the slumping guys--Mussina and Jeter, primarily--seem likely to play closer to their projections the rest of the way, and Hideki Matsui might sustain his improvement. But Bernie might really be done, and there are several players who have improved who are unlikely to sustain it.

But, on the whole, I'd say these numbers are encouraging. If I had the time, I would have done the same thing for Boston, but I think these numbers pretty clearly show that the Yankees are going to be able to hold their own against Boston the rest of teh season. Unless, of course, they get hurt--which was the number one variable all along.

June 7, 2004

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack...
by Larry Mahnken

Kevin Brown was untouchable to start the season, but since then has been merely good. Javier Vazquez has mixed a couple of terrible starts and a couple of great starts in with some merely good starts. Jon Lieber did really well at first, but has struggled recently. Jose Contreras has just plain sucked.

The Yankees' starting rotation has been disappointing in general, but probably the most disappointing performance--with the possible exception of Contreras--has been that of Mike Mussina. He was winning games, with a 6-4 record, and a five-game winning streak. But Mussina had a 4.96 ERA, it was only the Yankees' offense, scoring 6 runs a game for him, that kept him winning. Moose had only 4 "Game Scores" of 50 or higher, and an average GSc of 26. He was no longer pitching like an ace.

Until yesterday afternoon, that is. Mussina was simply dominant yesterday, striking out ten batters, giving up only four hits (and only one through 6 2/3). He could have pitched a shutout if he had a real centerfielder, as the only run was scored by Rod Barajas, who tripled to centerfield in the ninth, though it was only a hit because Bernie Williams has no range.

Mussina had to settle for a 1-run outing, and the fifth-best Game Score in the AL this season, as Rivera came in after the triple to close out the game (though he allowed the tying run to get to third again).

Jason Giambi came back--and hit what proved to be the winning home run--but the Yankees still had to field a substandard lineup. Jeter got hurt on Friday and is out until Tuesday at the earliest, and Gary Sheffield was sidelined with a stomach ailment. Neither injury is something to be particularly worried about, though, and the Yankees should be ready to pound the Rockies tomorrow.

Things are really clicking for the Yankees' offense, with Jeter finally hitting, Sheffield hitting for power, and even Bernie smacking two homers over the weekend. The Yanks actually scored all their runs on homers this weekend, and their only loss was a blowout where they only managed 7 runners--smallball wouldn't have helped any.

Boston won the last two games in Kansas City to keep pace with the Yankees, but I'd say the Bombers had a better weekend, having beaten a tougher opponent. If Boston doesn't pick up their game soon, they might be forced to sweep the Yankees again at the end of the month just to stay close. With Garciaparra likely back tomorrow and Nixon starting rehab soon, they could get the shot in the arm they need, but if those two aren't on their game from the start, it might not be enough.

June 4, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

The name of the Jeter Watch is now "Jeter Meter!", after Joe's suggestion in the comments. The exclamation point was my addition, as it just seemed to fit.

The Yankees can't play Baltimore again soon enough. Six games, six wins, and they've got them 13 more times this year. They're sure to lose eventually, and they didn't necessarily deserve to sweep both series', but games against the Orioles sure do feel wins in hand.

It took the Yankees a little while to take control of the game yesterday, in part because they had their bad lineup out there, giving Bernie and Posada the day off. I understand that you want to give the catcher and your aging, injury-prone centerfielder the day game after a night game off, but wouldn't it have been better to give Posada or Williams Wednesday off, and play them today?

Fortunately, the Yanks got a good start by Javier Vazquez, and A-Rod, Sheffield and Sierra all had two hits. But for a while there, it looked as though the Yankees would be beaten by the rookie Cabrera.

It was Baltimore's bullpen that did them in again, giving up three runs in the seventh with the score tied. The Yankees' bullpen did the job again, as Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera only gave up one baserunner combined in two innings of work.

What really won them the game was Javier Vazquez. Vazquez looked okay at first, giving up a double in the first, a homer in the second, and retiring the O's in order in the third, but he got into trouble in the fourth. Three straight Oriole singles loaded the bases with nobody out, and Vazquez hit Javy Lopez to force home the go-ahead run. But Vazquez got Surhoff to pop out to Flaherty, struck out Matos, and Jeter threw Bigbie out on a hard-hit grounder. Vazquez went on to retire 12 of the last 13 men he faced, keeping the Yankees within one until they tied it in the sixth on Ruben Sierra's double.

Vazquez has pitched well for the Yankees this season, but you've gotta be worried about his low strikeout rate and high home run rate. He's been incredibly fortunate that he's not giving up hits on balls in play--he's got a .223 BABIP. That's sure to go up, and if his K rate doesn't go up with it, the Yankees might not be getting very good outings out of Javy. We'll see.

With Boston idle, the Yankees tacked on another half game, and now host the Rangers, who took two of three for the Yankees two weekends ago. Texas cooled off after the Yankees left town, losing 2 of 3 to the White Sox and Blue Jays before sweeping the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday. With Boston going into Kansas City this weekend, the Yankees will have a tough time putting much more space between themselves and the Red Sox before interleague play starts.

June 3, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees got only three hits last night, they made three errors in the field, Jose Contreras got knocked out after nine batters and two outs, and Tanyon Sturtze gave up five hits and 4 walks in 4.2 innings of relief.

And, oh yeah, the Yankees won.

It would be more accurate to say that the Orioles lost the game last night, because the Yankees really had no business being in it, let alone winning.

Jose Contreras was truly terrible last night, but he might have gotten out of the first inning without giving up any runs if it wasn't for his defense. Derek Jeter made an error on a grounder up the middle to start the game, and after Contreras loaded up the bases and gave up a sacrifice fly, Enrique Wilson threw a double-play gounder into left field, allowing another run to score.

But just because he was let down by Jeter and Wilson doesn't mean Contreras wasn't responsible for what happened. He was wild, throwing more than half his pitches out of the zone, and unable to fool any of the Baltimore batters. In all probability, he's now lost his spot in the rotation.

And unfortuately, he's probably lost it to Tanyon Sturtze. Sturtze didn't pitch well last night, either, giving up five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings, but Baltimore didn't capitalize on any of their opportunities, and he didn't give up any runs. As a starter, he'll likely get pounded just as badly as... well, just as badly as he always has been. A 5.19 career ERA in 637.2 innings isn't a fluke.

But, the Yankees came back, getting their hits at the most opportune times. Four batters into the first inning, Williams and A-Rod had walked, and Gary Sheffield homered to left to make it 5-3. Another homer by Jeter in the fifth made it 5-4, and a two-run/one-hit rally in the sixth gave the Yankees the lead on Ruben Sierra's sacrifice fly. Bret Prinz may have earned himself a job with 1.2 innings of dominant relief, and Tom Gordon redeemed himself for Tuesday night by pitching a scoreless eighth. Rivera allowed the tying run to get to third with two outs again, but was able to strike out Jose Leon to end the game, and the Yankees had stolen a victory.

With Boston being humbled by the Angels in a two-game sweep in Anaheim (and a terrible performance by Pedro), the Yankees expanded their lead to two full games. Pennants aren't usually won or lost in June, but the Yankees have an opportunity right now to save themselves a lot of grief. With a much easier schedule than Boston until their meeting at the end of the month, Nixon and Garciaparra still out, and much of the Red Sox roster performing poorly, the Yankees might be able to establish a comfortable lead of five or six games. They don't have to do that, and it won't guarantee anything, but it would make things easier, and they do have an opportunity to do it.

June 2, 2004

O Captain!
by Larry Mahnken

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning
-Walt Whitman

Er, let's just hope nobody shoots Jeter in the back of the head now...

When Jeter homered in the bottom of the eighth, it was a big home run for two reasons. The first was because it was Jeter's second homer of the game, and a clear signal to everyone: "I'm back". It's nearly impossible to be hotter than Jeter's been this past week, and you can't discount it by bringing up the competition. If it was the Orioles' and Devil Rays' pitchers who were responsible for Jeter's red-hot hitting, they'd be giving up 40 runs a game. A bad pitcher might have helped him get out of this slump, but it's no illusion.

The second reason it was a big home runs, though we didn't know it at the time, was that it was the game-winner. Jeter's blast gave the Yankees a 5-run lead going into the ninth with Tom Gordon on the mound, but Gordon loaded the bases while retiring only one batter, and Rivera let the tying run get to third base before finally finishing off the Orioles.

You can't put all the blame on Gordon and Rivera for what happened last night--the Orioles' hitters did a great job, and it was entirely walks and singles--but you can put a whole lot of blame on them. If Flash and Mo had pitched well, Baltimore might have scored one or two runs, but never four, and they never would have gotten the tying run 90 feet away.

But that was yesterday, and the Yankees won (and with Boston's loss, extended their division lead to a full game). I highly doubt we're going to see Gordon and Rivera giving up huge leads like that again, especially since they and Quantrill are the only pitchers Torre trusts even a little. Karsay might be back in a couple of weeks, but it'll take a little while before he's reliable.

The Yankees need to forget about the ninth inning yesterday--it sort of makes up for Sunday, though they had a better shot at winning Sunday than Baltimore did last night. The Yankees can focus on the positives: Mussina was shaky early on, but effective overall, Quantrill was excellent in 1.2 inning of relief, and the lineup destroyed Sidney Ponson yet again. There's also Jeter's explosion, and the MVP-caliber play of Godzilla and Posada.

Frustratingly, I didn't get to see this game live, because it wasn't broadcast in the Rochester area (which usually shows the CBS 2 games on the WB). I had to listen to Sterling and Steiner, which reminded me of how much I've tuned out announcers in ballgames. Oh, sure, I still get frustrated when Jim Kaat goes into a Moneyball rant, or Michael Kay goes into play-by-play, but for the most part, my mind focuses on the images, and the crowd noise.

On radio, all you've got is the words, and while I used to love listening to Sterling and Kay on the radio as a teenager (being the only way I could follow the game, on my Crystal Radio while trudging eighty miles uphill in ten feet of snow to get to the General Store to buy an onion to wear on my belt, as was the fashion at the time), it's pretty unbearable now. I think Sterling has become too enraptured by his cheesy catch phrases, and Steiner tries to cater to his cheesiness. They also say a lot of stupid things. Like when Steiner compared Rivera to when Indiana Jones went "bang" to the guy who was "whish whish whish whish".

They also say stupid things, like "This isn't a fluke, Melvin Mora is a great hitter!". Which is amazing, because at 32, coming into this season, his career MLB Batting Average was .262 and his minor league batting average is .285. Maybe it's not a fluke, but a great hitter? Mora's hitting spectacularly, but he's gotta do it for a couple more months to negate .161 in '99, .275 in '00, .250 in '01, and .233 in '02. The most I'll say about him now is that he's a lot better than those numbers there.

* * *

I'm going to start tracking Derek Jeter's return to respectability, plus his Zone Rating (which really I have to go by whenever updates it). I'll be going with the name "Jeter Watch" until I (or you) come up with something clever.