Friday, July 29, 2011

…and now, the Oscar for best performance in a sports documentary…

And the winner is Derek Jeter in Derek Jeter 3K, the new HBO documentary that will premier tonight. Thanks to the guys over at RAB, River Avenue Blues, the Yankee blog, we get a look at an extended trailer for this documentary and from the very first moments, it is obviously a winner. This four minute clip has the following tidbits: Jeter’s November homerun, “The Flip’, Jeter’s dive into the stands against the Red Sox, Jeter holding a World Series Trophy, other MLB players gushing over Jeter, and Jeter’s 3000 base hit. The only things missing from this clip is his canonization by the pope and a bunch of thumbnails of the girls he has dated over his career ending with a shot of Ms. Lucky, Minka Kelly. Of course this last one could not happen as the documentary is only a hour long and just reviewing the thumbnails would take twice that long.

I kid but must admit I usually love these kind of documentaries. They are a way of summing up a career, putting a sports hero’s life into focus and reminding us about how lucky we have been. In Jeter’s case, we got a throwback to the Yogi and Mickey era when the Yankees were in the midst of glory days that can hardly be matched. Derek has 5 World Series rings and we have a trunk load of memories and good feelings and images we can never forget. It is almost like HBO got a legendary film maker like Glenn Bracken Evans, director of the Sarah Palin Epic “The Undefeated”, to make a positive movie and give it a baseball twist and this is what he came up with. Derek is seen in his entire splendor, without faults or flaws, just the way we most like our icons. Surely a match made in heaven.

(Minka is not wearing Yankee pinstripes here but they're good enough for me!)

Now, I don’t have cable so I do not get HBO but you can be sure I will find a way to see and study this documentary and put all of the things it espouses to good use. Derek is a true Yankee, with pinstripes running through his veins and comes wrapped in Yankee midnight blue. As best I can tell, the only thing we may want that didn’t make it into the documentary would be naked pictures of Minka. Oh well, nothing is perfect, except perhaps Derek…

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Now batting leadoff…

This past week, Joe Girardi set the Yankee blogosphere a twittering with the simple statement that Brett Gardner may deserve a look at in the leadoff spot. The unspoken meaning of this is OMG DEREK JETER IS BEING DEMOTED TO ANOTHER SPOT IN THE ORDER. This is immediately followed by comments like “it’s about time” or “how can they do that to him he’s (a) true Yankee, (b) a Yankee Hero, (c) Derek Jeter. I must admit that I am firmly in the “it’s about time” camp. Some thoughts…

Gardner is hitting maybe 30 points higher and has maybe a 40 point lead in OBP, at this point. The leadoff hitter is the set up guy, the one you want on base for the other players to drive in. This fact is very clear - Gardner is hitting better, is getting on base more often, and can steal a base or two (leads the AL with 30 right now). What is there not to like with him leading off.

NY has always had an uneasy relationship with most of its superstars across all the major sports. The Yankees are no different. Look at what happened historically with players like Babe Ruth, Phil Rizzuto, Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez and other like them. I understand that in order to be a superstar, to have that competitive edge, you must believe that the next hit is right around the corner even if you haven’t had a hit for a week. But at the same time is there not some pride in performance, some feeling that you are hurting the team in some way, having a negative impact. Seeing your superstars fade, your childhood heroes crash a burn, is difficult. All of which brings us back to Derek Jeter.

Jeter has had a tremendous impact on the NY Yankees for all of time he has been here. One needs to look no further than the championship rings on his fingers and the title of Captain of the Yankees to begin to understand the impact. But the facts speak for themselves. His is getting older; he has had his hitting decline for several years despite a bit of a blip up 2 years ago. Yes, he has 3000 hits now, the first Yankee ever to do that but his skills are eroded. He is NOT the best lead off hitter on the team. He HAS to know that deep down somewhere. And here is where he needs to make the most difficult decision and most difficult statement of his tenure as Yankee. To be a true Yankee legend, to finish his climb to greatness, to totally seal the deal as one of the greatest Yankees ever now is the time to make it easier on Girardi, easier on the team, and help the Yankees in the best way possible in their quest for Championship number twenty eight.

I will even write it out for him. It goes like this. “I have been the NY Yankees leadoff hitter for most of my career. During this time I have been able to experience a wealth of success as we have won the World Series five different times. I have been blessed with the success of 3000 hits to go along with that. However in my heart I feel that the best way that I can help this team again reach the goal of a championship is for me to do what is best for the team. Today I told Mr. Girardi that I am willing to bat anywhere in the batting order that he feels is appropriate and gives us the best chance at winning a pennant. I will continue to strive to do my best everyday in meeting that goal and expect no less from every teammate, Yankee management and Yankee ownership. This is the only statement I will make about this as I want to continue to focus on the job at hand. We are in the midst of a pennant race and all energies should be going toward finishing the job we started back in Florida in February. Thank you.”


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Baseball crimes

Back in early July, there was a newspaper article about the NY Mets playing the Atlanta Braves. Jose Reyes, one of baseball’s hottest players right now slipped several times on the base pads around first base and the umpires ordered some drying agent put down. He eventually stole two bases and keyed a Mets win. It seems that the grounds crew got a little overzealous in trying to keep the dust down when watering the infield and made mud. This is reminiscent of how the San Francisco Giants dealt with Dodger speedster Maury Wills by doing the same thing like 50 years ago. This got me thinking about this sort of “wink-wink” cheating that goes on in baseball, anything to get a competitive edge.

Let me begin by saying that I have no issue with this sort of creative competitive efforts. In the long run how different is something like this then a team, not in a dome, using artificial turf and then stocking their team with slap hitting, quick running, and good fielding players to gain a competitive edge. Or how about having loads of space in foul territory to help pitchers getting extra outs. There are lots of them out there and I thought I would highlight a few of my favorites and also identify those that go beyond attempts at competitive advantage.

First up, stealing signs. Whether a base coach tries to pick off the catchers signs or a coach in the dugout tries to figure out what signs the third base coach is giving, this has been around since Abner Doubleday (I know Maqz, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball but most people think he did and I playing to the masses here!) One thing I don’t understand though is why this effort is considered an ultimate baseball skill (some coaches have remained in the game because of their ability in this area) yet if you put an eye in the stands or in front of a TV set they consider it cheating. This is like saying its ok to steal money from a bank but not ok from the corner grocery store.

Watering down the infield to slow runners is on a par with watering down in front of home plate to slow infield hits or letting it bake rock hard to favor your own slash hitters or letting the infield grass or outfield grass grow long to compensate for slow fielders or “tilting” the foul lines to encourage or discourage bunts. All part of the environmental approach to baseball skills I guess. No problem for me here.

Next up, feigning success. Why is it that every outfielder who attempts to make a diving or sliding catch tries to sell it to the umpire as if he was successful even when it obviously was not? Why does a fielder make a sweep tag and hold the glove up even if he didn’t come close to touching the runner. Why does a catcher hold his glove up when the ball was in his hand and not involved in making the tag? Why does the middle infielder straddle the bag or come across it even if he doesn’t touch it officially for the out? These are all gamesmanship and everyone gets away with it. It seems the only time there is controversy is when an umpire makes the correct call when no one was expecting anything other than a phantom tag. Again, no issues with that either.

Finally, a question. Why is it wrong for a batter to cork his bat or a pitcher to scuff a baseball but is ok for a first baseman to use an elongated glove or a catcher using a flexible glove with a knuckle ball pitcher or an outfielder to use a extra long glove to reach farther over the fence or lower into the grass on a shoe string catch. It seems inconsistent to me. I’d ask why a batter doesn’t get credit for a sacrifice fly on a long out that advances a runner from second to third but does for a short fly that gets a runner from third to home but that is rules issues not cheating issues and so it is a topic for another time.

One final note; I know it has been a while since I have written but circumstances required a bit of a break. But I am back, I'm loud, proud and ready to take on baseball once again!