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December 9, 2005

Don't Forget A Courtesy Flush
by Larry Mahnken

And, thank God, the Tony Womack era is over.

It's been a terribly disappointing offseason. The Yankees need a centefielder, DH and relief pitching. Well, the acceptable centerfielders are too expensive and not really that great, they haven't really looked at any DHs, and the best relievers all want to be closers. So the dream of having BJ Ryan setting up Rivera was stillborn, Tom Gordon is a Phillie, and who have they gotten? Kyle Farnsworth. Color me unimpressed.

But Tony Womack is gone, and that's a plus no matter what else happens. Signed a year ago to give the team the "Dave Roberts-type" player who was overcredited with Boston's ALCS win, he did almost nothing to help them win games, save for a couple of hits in crucial spots (and I mean COUPLE). His overall offense was putrid, costing far more than those clutch hits gained. The best thing he did for the team was get Bernie out of center for a while and get Robinson Cano into the majors.

The bizzare thing about the initial acquisiton of Womack was the reaction of the media -- there were actually people complaining about the Yankees getting Womack from the perspective of other teams! They complained how unfair it was that the Yankees could just snag a player like him, as though they'd gotten someone who was actually, you know, good.

Part of it was that he batted .300, which people overrate. Another is that he stole a lot of bases, which is also overrated. That he didn't get on base or hit for power was generally ignored.

Well, in 2005, he didn't get on base, he didn't get for power, he didn't hit .300, and he didn't steal bases. The reaction to that was even more surprising.

The Yankees have brought in many overrated players in the past - Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, to name two recent ones. When they flopped, the media reaction wasn't, "Oh, I guess he wasn't that good after all," but rather a critque of their ability to play in New York, in the pressure cooker. With Womack, the reaction, stunningly, was "Oh, I guess he sucks." His suckiness actually trancended cliches.

The deportation of Tony Womack is an absolute positive. No hole is needed to be filled by his departure, money is freed up for useful players, and they actually got players who could some day make it to the majors. But the latter two reasons are irrelevant -- even had the Yankees dumped him and eaten his entire salary, they'd be better off. He's just that bad.

Now the focus is on filling the holes left. It won't be easy, there's not much out there. If Johnny Damon comes for 3 or 4 years, it's acceptable. He will make the team better next year and they won't be stuck with him for too much of his decline.

Despite all the rumblings and signings, the Blue Jays aren't contenders for the AL East title, or even the Wild Card, unless a lot of things go exactly right. They've got a great 1-2 pitching punch and a solid closer, but not a lot else. They'll be better, but if the Yankees finish behind them and miss the playoffs, it'll be because of themselves, not Toronto.

Anyway, I'm back, for today at least. Hopefully tomorrow and the next day, too. It's been a horrid year. Time to try and restore some normalcy.