Tag Archives: Yankees

A DISAPPOINTING “NEW” YANKEE STADIUM

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

            

I was hoping for the best but wasn’t overly confident. I was one of those life-long Yankee fans who had hoped that the Yankees would stay in The House That Ruth Built. I didn’t think they could bring the ghosts across the street but I was hopeful. I’ve now been to the new Stadium three times, sitting in three different areas and, frankly, it just ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

       

DOES IT REMIND YOU OF THE OLD (EARLY 1970S AND BEFORE) STADIUM?

      

Not to me it doesn’t. If it did, you’d have the old bullpens (in left-center and right-center) on either side of the bleachers where, back in the good old days, if you could only afford the bleachers, you could lean over and talk to Steve Hamilton or whichever guys were out there. If it did, you’d have only a four-foot or so fence in rightfield and leftfield where players would sometimes literally go into the stands to get a ball. If it did, you’d have that beautiful Yankee logo on the scoreboard in dead center that would always be there.

        

Sure the façade is back (and that’s great), but the curtains or blinds or whatever it is all around the stadium (that may or may not be contributing to balls flying out of there) actually blend in with the façade at times to make it look very strange. Sure the scoreboards in the right-centerfield and left-centerfield walls are back (and that’s great), but they seem smaller than the old versions and they’re harder to see (no electricity and smaller size numbers on the boards). The crowds aren’t quite there (or maybe they are but everybody’s just walking around?), but it’s hard to believe that, when it’s rocking, it’s going to be like it was across the street in October/November (the May/June cheering sounds muffled for some reason).

            

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, MONUMENT PARK?

         

Well, it’s there, but you really have to go looking for it. It’s buried behind the big blue wall in dead center, but it seems much smaller. You can never get on line to get in there 45 minutes before game time (you’d better get on line more like 90) because you can’t (it’s “closed”) and, when you do go in, you get a claustrophobic feeling. It’s way too small, it’s out of view and, if you sit at field level from first base all the way around to third base, you literally can’t see Monument Park. It’s more like Monument Alcove. What happened?

              

The Yankees can’t fix that but they can do this: in a stadium where clearly you’re encouraged to walk around or sit in a restaurant or watch half the game on TV, why not open Monument Park DURING THE GAME? I personally just like to go to the Stadium to watch the game. I care very little about the “extras.” But, apparently, many others do. So if you want them to mill around and spend money and eat in five-star (or whatever) restaurants, why not open Monument Park so anybody who wants to see it can see it.

         

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE EMPTY SEATS?

               

Well, there were thousands of them at the three games I’ve been to in person. It’s not just the seats behind home – you know, the ones for the rich and famous. Up the third-base line, in two sections of what I’m told are $600 seats (but only $225 on the ticket – what’s up with that?), those sections are virtually always empty (although the Yankees are, apparently, giving away some of those seats to disgruntled season-ticket holders). And, if you’d like, you can go to Yankees.com right now and buy three season tickets in that area (between sections 115 and 125) and “get the fourth one FREE.” Yippee! How many of THOSE plans are they going to sell?

             

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE SEATS WHERE YOU CAN’T SEE THE WHOLE FIELD?

            

The seats against the Mohegan Sun restaurant on either side in the bleachers are laugh-out-loud funny. They’ve literally mounted three big-screen TVs on each wall of the outside of the restaurant cause you can’t possibly see the other side of the field from where you are sitting. In other words, if you’re against the wall in the bleachers in left-center, you have no chance to see right field or maybe even parts of the infield.

            

But, hey, don’t worry, the Yankees solved that. You can watch it on TV and the seats are only $5. Isn’t that great? Go to the game to sit next to a wall and watch half the game on TV. Mistakes were made. What can the Yankees do? Unbelievable.

            

WHAT ABOUT THAT GREAT JUMBOTRON (OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED)?

                 

Well, what about it. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it never shows you a negative Yankee replay. A guy on the other team hits a home run or makes a great play on the field. You won’t see it again on the big screen. A Yankee makes a mistake – sorry. A bang-bang play that doesn’t go the Yankees’ way. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the replay.

                

And, even though this may be the greatest big-screen TV in history, it only has room for what each batter did in three at-bats; if a player has been up four times, the biggest screen in the world can’t tell you what he did in all four previous at-bats. For example, Mark Teixeira homered in his fourth at-bat against Tampa Bay on Saturday, June 6th. When he came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the big board showed that he had popped up in the first, grounded out to short in the third and grounded out to short in the sixth. There was no room to tell you about that mammoth (Ruthian?) homer he had just hit in the eighth.

            

Now that’s something they have to be able to fix, no? You can’t make this stuff up.

         

HOW’S THE FOOD?

             

The food is great at those fancy restaurants. I was fortunate to go once to those close to the dugout expensive seats and eat in the fancy restaurant (as well as the Ketel Bar) at the game. While many people may want to do that (and that’s their right at $600 a pop), it seemed to me (as I was trying the lamb, I think) that this was over-the-top, opulent, something that the wealthy Romans would have had at the Coliseum if they had luxury suites way back when. When they start bringing you “free” food that you didn’t even order, it got to be a little weird. But, you know, it’s all part of the “experience,” it’s not just baseball, it’s “entertainment.”

              

Good grief!

               

When I got back to reality at the other two games, I had to take note of the $5 peanuts and the $5.75 Cracker Jack and the $4 cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee (small, by the way). I went down to Johnny Rockets to look at the $17 burger and fries but passed on it in favor of the $5 water (a large). Yikes!

        

A buddy of mine had a great experience at the 11-inning loss to the Phillies on May 24th. He had heard that the hot fudge sundaes at the Delta Air Lines Suite were fabulous. He couldn’t wait to try one and so, when I saw that the line was long in the sixth inning, I told him to go on up. He came back 45 minutes later with a hot fudge sundae without the hot fudge (they had run out by the seventh inning). He also had to eat it with a fork (they had run out of spoons). But, hey, it was only eight bucks.

             

WHAT ABOUT THOSE FABULOUS OLD-TIME PICTURES OF THE YANKEE GREATS FROM YESTERYEAR?

           

They are truly fantastic. I encourage all of you to go see them. They give you a real sense of Yankee history. Except for one thing — THEY DON’T TELL YOU THE NAMES OF THESE GUYS. Seriously. The Yankees should immediately label every picture in the place (OK, maybe you can wait on pictures of the Babe. Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle). But 21st Century fans, for the most part, have no idea who Red Ruffing or Charlie Keller or Joe Gordon or (fill in 200 names here) are – they just don’t know. So, please, tell us.

          

IT’S A NICE PLACE TO VISIT …

           

It’s going to be a while before this remotely resembles the past – at least a championship or two. Until then, the least the Yankees can do is identify their greats of the past.

          

Oh, and one more thing, when I ask one of those guys with the “May I Help You” signs (there are dozens, maybe hundreds, walking around) if they can lower ticket prices, maybe they can now answer “Yes, come with me.” Just kidding. I think.

                  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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YANKEE STADIUM A BANDBOX? THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

         

Hard to believe, but the new Yankee Stadium, obstructed-view seats and all, is playing like a bandbox.  Homer after homer after homer, the balls are flying out of the new Stadium, even making the deflated “Death  Valley” (that’s the post-1975 Stadium) not so hard to reach anymore.

    

As the ahead-of-the-pack Lou Piniella predicted when his Cubs were in for two exhibition games right before the season started, there’s some kind of jet stream in right centerfield that will increase greatly the number of home runs that will be hit.  Coupled with the always-there (since 1923) short right-field porch, homers are leaving Yankee Stadium like there’s no tomorrow.  With TWENTY (yes, 20) homers in just four games, Yankee Stadium is already being compared to the Rangers ballpark in Arlington which, if nothing else, should make former Ranger A-Rod salivate as he does his rehab.

        

SO, WHAT’S A BASEBALL TEAM TO DO WITH A BILLION DOLLAR BANDBOX?

     

Well, that’s a great question.  The theory (blind hope?) is that, when the old Stadium is knocked down across the street, the winds and the jet stream will somehow change so that players can’t lunge and/or be fooled and/or hit the ball off the end of the bat and still hit the ball out of the park.  You can bet that, whatever the original date for knocking down the old Stadium was, it’s going to be moved up.  If that is really going to help, the Yankees want to tear down the old Stadium yesterday (even if fans like this writer think it should stand forever).

    

What about those open screens in right field behind the stands?  Well, presumably the Yankees are already experimenting with opening or closing them (part way or all the way) to see what effect, if any, they have on the jet stream.  Imagine a situation where the Yankees might try to keep them open when the Yankees are up and close them when the visitors come to the plate.  If it comes to that (and if there actually is some kind of effect on the jet stream), the league will have to step in and make sure it’s equal for both sides.

       

BUT IT MAY NOT BE JUST RIGHT FIELD

     

While you can point to a number of home runs as great evidence that balls that were not hit very well went out for homers, I think the best proof of the easiness of this ballpark was a double.  Did you see the Yankees 7-3 win over the Indians on Sunday, Apriln19th?  Cody Ransom came to bat in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and proceeded to break his bat in half and hit a high pop up (fly ball?) down the left-field line.  While everybody made a point of the fact that the ball was misplayed by Indians left-fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the real story was that Ransom, who certainly has some power, broke his bat in half and still hit the ball 310 feet down the left-field line.  Imagine if he had hit it solidly and didn’t break his bat in half.  That ball says more about the new Yankee Stadium than any home run that’s been hit to date.

       

So the Yankees have their work cut out for them on a number of levels.  What to do with Chien-Ming Wang?  Joba Chamberlain – starter or reliever?  Do they need another outfielder yesterday? 

       

But, most of all, they need to do something about the field that’s playing like a softball field.  We’ll see what they come up with in the not-too-distant future.

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM – NO TRADITION AND NO BAT DAY

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

So they opened the new Yankee Stadium yesterday.  It’s big, it’s beautiful – but it’s not quite there.  Can you walk across the street and bring the history of the old Yankee Stadium?  Of course not.  Can you walk across the street and bring the ghosts of yesteryear (or even 10 years ago)?  Probably not.

    

But hey, they’ve got more urinals, a bigger Jumbotron and you can buy sushi!!!  If you can afford it.  Like Madison Square Garden before it, the Yankee crowd has become more of a corporate crowd.  It’s not as bad as the Garden has become, but only because you can fit three times as many people at the Stadium as at the Garden.  So, although they’ve priced out many people (and that’s before the absurd parking, program and food prices), it will give the façade (no pun intended) of being in the pre-1974 Stadium.  But no matter what they do, they can’t bring back the glory of the old Stadium (unless and until they win a few (not just one) World Series).

       

WHERE THE GREATS ONCE PLAYED

     

And don’t ever forget that, until now, you could take your kid, as your father took you, as his father took him, to the real Yankee Stadium and say the following: “Son, see out there in rightfield, that’s where Babe Ruth once played.”  Or, “Son, see out there in centerfield, that’s where Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle once roamed.”  Or, “Son, see over there at first base, that’s where Lou Gehrig used to stand.”

    

So, you have a young kid now or you’ll have one born in the next few years and in two or five or ten or fifteen years from now you will take your child to the new Yankee Stadium and you will say, “Son [or Daughter], you know about the history of the Yankees, about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, you know all about them, right?  Well, they once played, they once played, they once played … across the street.”  Good grief.

      

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BAT DAY?

         

As if to make matters worse, much has been made of the fact that there are many less “promotion” days this year, presumably because of the recession (depression?).  Well, with the list out now and still with a few promotion days where the promotion is “TBD” (to be determined), there’s no Bat Day.  No Bat Day?  This is Yankee Stadium?

    

But even Bat Day ain’t what it used to be.  Once upon a time, when, you know, kids actually USED wood bats, everybody would beg, borrow or steal to get into the old Yankee Stadium to get a bat.  Then they would go home, get the bat laminated and place it on their mantel over the fireplace to hang forever.  Right?  WRONG.  Back in the 1960s into the 70s, kids actually got a bat at Bat Day and took it home and played baseball with it.  You know, on the street, in the park, in the Little League.  I grew up in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan and went to Bat Day every year and don’t know anybody who “saved’ their bat.  Of course, none of us could really afford new bats.  That’s why we went to Bat Day.

    

Nowadays, of course, and, frankly, for the last 25 years or so, with the advent of aluminum bats (pathetic), hardly anybody uses their wood bats.  With the re-emergence of wood in some leagues, maybe kids (of Little League age) would actually take the bats and use them.  But, of course, there isn’t even a Bat Day to date this year.  Maybe somebody with a brain at Yankee Stadium can fix that.

         

DOES THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM REMIND OLD-TIMERS OF THE 1923-1973 YANKEE STADIUM?

         

You bet it does.  But, what does that really mean?  It’s kind of a phony feeling, frankly.  What are you going to tell your kids?  “Yeah, this is what it was like.”  What does that mean?  I don’t think the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle are coming across the street.  I’m not even sure that the ghosts of Martinez, O’Neill, Williams and Brosius are coming across the street.

    

And, as a life-long Yankee fan, I hope I’m wrong.

       

HOW ABOUT THOSE OBSTRUCTED SEATS?

        

Can you believe that, in the 21st Century, they can actually build a Stadium with obstructed seats?  Well, believe it, cause that’s what happened.  With the greatest architects and the greatest planners and the greatest contractors, they actually have hundreds (thousands?) of seats where you can’t see a lot of the field.  But, hey, they’re cheap, so maybe poor people can come to the Stadium.  Yeah, maybe they can actually watch the game – from somewhere else.  Unbelievable.

        

WHAT GOOD IS A BIGGER, BETTER JUMBOTRON IF THEY DON’T SHOW ALL THE REPLAYS? 

       

For years, big-time Yankee fans have complained that the Yankees would never show replays of plays that were bad for the Yankees — the great catch by an opponent, the pitch right down the middle that’s called against the Yankees, the bang-bang play that hurts the Yankees, the long home run by an opponent.  It’s one of the least enjoyable (and most aggravating) things about actually going to a game at Yankee Stadium.  So maybe, this year, the Yankees will decide to show replays for both sides so, you know, baseball fans can see the baseball play again.  It’s beautiful that you can see a bigger, clearer picture – but how valuable is it if the Yankees continue to censor what’s actually being shown to a captive audience?  We’ll see. 

         

WHO’S THROWING OUT THE FIRST BALL? 

              

It would be great if the Yankees could trot out, one final time, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra for the first ball on the real Opening Day.  Maybe Whitey can’t throw it and maybe Yogi can’t catch it anymore, but, hopefully, they can both be on the field if healthy enough.  Also, it would be great if Bob Sheppard (is he “retired” or not?) could at least announce, even from a distance, the starting line-ups, if nothing else.

    

Those two things would remind people of the glory days as much as (or more than) anything else.

 

SO, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

       

Well, it leaves us with an over-priced (tickets, parking, programs, food) stadium that purports to be just like the old Yankee Stadium.  Can the new one ever take the place of the old one?  Of course not.  Will it have a heart, a pulse, an excitement that equals that of the old Yankee Stadium?  Well, yeah, it will – when the Yankees unfurl another World Series banner or two.  And not before.

    

We’ll see how it goes.

            

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE, PART II

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

     

It was hard to believe that Joe Torre would actually write a book and throw some of his former players under the bus.  But it certainly seemed that way when the excerpts got out.  Torre and others said wait until you read the book.  Torre did a number of interviews (Larry King, Mike Francesa, Bob Costas) and essentially said “I don’t think I broke the code” of whatever goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, something Torre had accused pitcher David Wells of when he wrote his book.  In Say it Ain’t So, Joe, Part I  (Kallas Remarks, 1/30/09), this writer thought there was little or no difference and that Joe, having already won the battle and the war, decided to keep fighting (by writing a book) and, as a result, lost some ground. 

    

Well, after reading the book cover to cover, listening to the entirety of the King, Francesa and Costas interviews with Torre (and partially, in Costas’s case, with his (Costas’s) MLB Network colleague, co-author Tom Verducci), it still says here that this was a clear violation (with multiple offenses) of the code and that hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of Yankee fans will always look at Torre in a different light now.  And, yes, this is being written by a life-long Yankee fan who thought (and still thinks) that Torre did a great job and will someday (but no longer soon) have his number retired at the new (but not the same) Yankee Stadium.

 

A COUPLE OF SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PAPERBACK EDITION

         

The whole “who wrote what part of the book” quickly became a moving target for critics of the book.  When the paperback edition comes out, maybe they can put Torre’s words in red ink and Verducci’s words in blue ink.  When there’s a vivid description of trainer Steve Donahue rubbing hot liniment all over the body of Roger Clemens, including his testicles (p. 132, too much info there?), is it Torre’s insight or Verducci’s?  When talking about the Red Sox, when Grady Little was named manager, Pedro Martinez, according to the book (p. 190), “was so happy he danced naked around the clubhouse, cracking up his teammates by playing with his ‘member’.” (again, too much info).  Presumably, Torre wasn’t there, so (I guess) those are Verducci’s words.

    

Another suggestion would be to check Joe Torre’s acknowledgements section right after page 477.  Torre has stated numerous times that he read the book over and over and apparently, if he didn’t understand anything (like the Single White Female reference about A-Rod), he “trusted” Tom Verducci.  He wouldn’t change anything in the book and firmly believes that he didn’t cross any lines.  Aside from the absurdity of that position (that’s Joe’s story and he’s sticking with it, almost with a What, Me Worry? tone), the “Acknowledgements” section starts first with a thank you to George Steinbrenner and then he acknowledges Arthur Richman, who suggested to Steinbrenner that Joe would be a good candidate, by writing, in his own book “Arthur Richmond for suggesting to The Boss that he hire me.”

    

I’ve never seen a name spelled incorrectly in an Acknowledgement.  After all, this might be the most personal part of a book for any author.  Maybe Torre read the book over and over again, but it doesn’t seem that he read his Acknowledgements even once.

       

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF BREAKING THE CODE

     

“I’ve always tried to respect guys’ privacy” – Joe Torre (p. 182)

    

About Chuck Knoblauch (pp. 56-57), Torre said “I never realized how fragile he was.”  He then went on to describe conversations with Knoblauch (and with others about Knoblauch) that went on in the clubhouse after Knoblauch walked off the field on June 16, 2000 after having one of his inexplicable I-can’t-throw-from-second-to-first games.  Whatever the content of the conversations, it violates what is said in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse.

    

About Roger Clemens (pp. 77-78), Clemens asked Torre if he could use the office phone to call his mother (that’s what the book says).  The two men then had a conversation about Clemens fitting in and, when Torre told Clemens, “fit in my ass, you be who you are.  Be Roger Clemens,” Roger replied “That’s what my mom is always telling me.”  Funny?  Yes.  Breaking the code?  Absolutely.        

    

More on Clemens (p.135):  After the Piazza bat-breaking, Clemens-throws-it-in-his- direction World Series fiasco, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was eating a cheeseburger with George Steinbrenner in Torre’s office (?), found Clemens in the locker room, crying uncontrollably.

    

On Jason Giambi (p.170):  Torre couldn’t believe that Giambi needed his personal trainer to motivate him. “You need to be self-motivated here.  You don’t need somebody to push you. He [the trainer] had to tell him everything.”  Torre went on to say that Giambi didn’t always work hard enough.  Code?  You be the judge.

    

It gets worse.  Alex Rodriguez, whether Torre understands it or not, was going to take a lot of grief for A-Fraud, which, as the book states (p. 245): “People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel, were calling him “A-Fraud” behind his back.”  With his now admitted steroid use, A-Fraud might seem mild.  But that misses the point.  When Torre, on the interview circuit, said Larry Bowa called him A-Fraud as a joke, that’s great.  But a) so what?; and b) what page of the book is that on? Answer: it’s not in the book.

    

The whole get-your-own-cup-of-coffee statement by Torre to A-Rod (pp. 249-50, so A-Rod would seem more like a member of the team) is both funny and sad.  It’s funny, because A-Rod actually goes and gets his own cup of coffee and tells Joe Torre about it.  Torre, of course, uses that as one example to show that Alex “just didn’t get it.”  It’s sad because it also makes A-Rod appear to be a simpleton.  Code violation?  Of course.

    

There are plenty more examples, but we’ll just give you the page numbers for Kevin Brown (p. 323, “curled up on the floor after getting hammered by Tampa Bay; Torre: “I think he had some emotional issues”) and Kyle Farnsworth (p.425, Torre found Farnsworth on the floor in the Shea Stadium trainer’s room, crying).

    

Carl Pavano, there’s not enough space to write about him.  But suffice it to say that when Mike Mussina criticized Pavano to reporters during spring training, Torre is quoted in his book (p.320) as saying that “Moose didn’t do the right thing, the way he went about it.”  Code?  What code?  Is there one or not?  Even Bernie Williams was made to look like an idiot (pp. 352-53). 

       

WHAT ABOUT BRIAN CASHMAN AND THE YANKEE FRONT OFFICE?

          

Well, clearly it became more difficult to operate with the Yankee front office as that group got bigger and bigger and bigger.  Did Brian Cashman and others make a lot of bad moves?  Of course they did.  Did Brian Cashman get the Yankees to the playoffs (and, to some degree, a World Series victory) in 2000 by acquiring David Justice (20 HR, 60 RBI in 78 games)?  Of course he did.  Now, I’m no fan of the Yankee hierarchy (not mentioning Torre at the final Yankee game at the Stadium was an everlasting disgrace), but you shouldn’t slaughter a guy publicly for plenty of bad moves without mentioning David Justice.  Or does the code not apply to non-players?

    

And I guess we’ll never know what George Steinbrenner thought when Joe Torre told him that, in 1996, the Yankees were going to sweep Atlanta in Atlanta and come back to win the World Series in Game 6 at the Stadium.  We had all heard that famous story for years.  But I never heard (until now) that down, 1-0 in games, Torre told Steinbrenner, just prior to Game 2 (p. 16), “You should be prepared for us to lose again tonight, but then we’re going to Atlanta.  Atlanta’s my town.  We’ll take three games and win it back here on Saturday.”  Yikes!  Presumably, Verducci (not Torre) goes on to write, “Sure enough, the Yankees lost to Maddux, 4-0.”

    

I’ve never heard of such a thing – a manager tells an owner we’re going to lose tonight?  In the World Series?  That’s bizarre.  This whole prophet thing is right out of Kreskin.  Joe Torre, the magician.  Could he really have told the owner that we’ll lose tonight?  Well, that’s what the book says. 

    

As for Cashman never telling the hierarchy at the final meeting that Torre wanted a two-year deal for one year of security, well, that’s also bizarre.  Assuming it to be true, if you were looking for a new contract and you asked for a meeting and you flew down to Tampa and you sat in the room to discuss your future, wouldn’t you be intelligent enough to bring it up at the meeting?  According to Torre, he forgot about it until he saw Cashman after the meeting at the elevator.  Could you, in Joe Torre’s shoes, actually forget your own idea for your own security (or, at least, your perceived view of your own security)?  That’s Brian Cashman’s fault?  Come on.    

      

DID JOE TORRE MAKE AN ON-THE-FIELD MANAGERIAL MISTAKE IN 12 YEARS OF MANAGING THE YANKEES?

      

Apparently not.  I can’t find one in the book, unless you count this:  At one point, Torre said he wanted to tell Mariano Rivera to be aggressive against Bill Mueller in Game 4 of the 2004 playoffs with the Yankees about to sweep the Red Sox.  He decided not to because Rivera had easily struck out Mueller earlier in the series.  Mueller, of course, walked and started the beginning of the greatest collapse (by the Yankees) in the history of baseball.

    

What?  I’m sorry, but you have to tell the greatest relief pitcher ever to be aggressive?  Come on.

    

There’s no discussion of pitching out to get Dave Roberts (who pinch ran for Mueller).  There’s no discussion of trying to steal on Tim Wakefield later in the series when Jason Varitek was catching.  How about bunting on Curt Schilling in Game 6?  Bringing in Jeff Weaver in the 2003 World Series for two innings (with Rivera in the bullpen as the game ended — one inning was a huge gamble but two was ridiculous)?  Torre (or Verducci) tries to explain some of these blunders away.  But to no avail.

    

But without question, the biggest blunder took place in the 2007 “bug” game against Cleveland.  It’s impossible to believe that, if either Don Zimmer or Mel Stottlemyre had still been around (Torre’s in-game decision-making suffered greatly when these guys left), Joba Chamberlain would have been left in the game to give up the tying run in Game 2 (after the Yankees had lost Game 1) of the best-of-five playoff series (see Kallas Remarks, 3/29/08, A Torre Error Ended the Torre Era) with the greatest reliever ever in the bullpen.

    

The chapter in the book devoted to the game (chapter 15), entitled “Attack of the Midges,” should have been entitled “Where’s Mariano?”  It’s hard to believe that a top baseball writer like Tom Verducci didn’t realize the mistake (then or now) because he sure wrote in the book what virtually every Yankee fan knew:  that the rookie Chamberlain, in his first playoff appearance, was quickly in trouble for whatever reason.  Verducci (I assume) writes (p. 438):  “It was quickly evident how badly Chamberlain was compromised [due to the bugs].  He walked the leadoff batter, Grady Sizemore, on four pitches.  Chamberlain had faced 91 batters during the season and only twice even went so far as a 3-and-0 count.”

    

Well, that should have been enough to get Mariano in the game.  Virtually every Yankee fan knew that.  But, apparently, not Joe Torre.  It was all downhill from there with Mariano (later) pitching two scoreless innings in a tie game.  The Yankees would eventually lose and, in the next two games, Torre would bring Mariano in in the eighth inning (too little, too late).  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that, if Torre had brought Mariano in after the four-pitch walk by Chamberlain, there would be a good chance that he’d still be managing the Yankees.  A stunning mistake, never discussed in the book.

    

Of course, to this day, Torre says his big mistake was not taking his team off the field.  That, of course, would be a non-baseball mistake.  Not putting in the greatest closer ever (in the eighth inning), as he had done dozens of times before, ended the Joe Torre era.

       

SO, WHY DID HE WRITE THE BOOK?

        

It is still a mystery.  The party line (Torre and Verducci) is that this is a “piece of history” for your bookshelf.  But it’s a piece of history, according to Joe Torre, like David Wells’s book is a piece of history according to David Wells or Jose Canseco’s books are a piece of history according to Jose Canseco (and his books ring truer every day). 

    

If Brian Cashman ever wrote a book that blamed all of the Yankee problems on managerial decisions and none on his (or the front office’s) player moves, it would be a piece of history according to Brian Cashman.  Of course, Cashman, to date, has elected to take the high road, but the point is he’d be laughed out of town if he took that position.  Torre’s reputation has been hurt because of the breaking of the code and the one-sided nature of the book (let me know if you find any on-the-field managerial mistakes), but it says here he still is a Hall of Fame manager who simply made a big post-Yankee mistake (you don’t think some Dodgers are worried? – even Larry Bowa said recently that it could be a problem for a few guys this year in the Dodgers clubhouse).

    

Maybe he wrote it for the money.  Maybe he is mean-spirited (Yankee announcer Michael Kay recently said that he is).  But this book and the decision to write it was not made by the guy we knew and loved as Yankee manager for 12 playoff-bound years.  After all of the attempted explanations (wasn’t anyone around to give him some good advice?), it’s still inexplicable.

      

WE’LL LEAVE THE LAST WORDS TO BOB COSTAS

       

After doing the Torre and/or Verducci interview on TV, Costas did a spot on New York radio.  While he did say that Torre “broke the code” (although he was quick to point out that it was “only by degree” (whatever that means)), here’s what Costas had to say:  “There are scars there that are going to take a long time to heal, if ever.”  Later, he said, “The hurt feelings take a long time to heal.”

    

Finally, maybe not even knowing that he was speaking for hundreds of thousands or even millions of Yankee fans, Bob Costas said, talking about Joe Torre writing a book:  “Does Joe Torre need this?  How big is the upside to Joe Torre? That’s what has me scratching my head.”

     

We’re all scratching our heads, Bob.  

     

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE!!!

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

What possibly could have gotten into Joe Torre that allowed him in his mind to even think about (let alone write, with Tom Verducci) a book called “The Yankee Years”?  Who could have given him such bad advice as to take a wonderful reputation and, at a minimum, have thousands (tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?) of Yankee fans shaking their heads in disbelief or disgust or shock.  What could he have possibly been thinking?

 

WHY EVEN BOTHER TO WRITE IT?

 

In a five-season span (1996-2000) doing a job that very few (if any) people thought he could do, Torre went from mediocre (at best) manager to Hall of Fame manager.  And he certainly deserved all of the accolades.  However, his last four years as Yankee manager were, from a post-season perspective, probably the worst four-year stretch in baseball history (the epic 2004, up 3-0 collapse against the Red Sox followed by three first round exits).

    

But Torre left town viewed, at least publicly (and certainly by this life-long Yankee fan), as the victim, as the guy who was wronged by the Yankees, who “only’ offered him a one-year, $5 million deal (plus those famous incentives).  While that was a 33% pay cut, it also still made him the highest paid manager in baseball, not a bad deal for a guy with a stunningly poor, recent post-season record.

    

Most thought Torre was wronged by the Yankees.  He certainly had won the PR race.  He left town for L.A. (and must have found out that, despite winning, L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home).  The final feather in his cap was that the 2008 Yankees didn’t make the playoffs and the 2008 Dodgers (a poor team that hovered around .500 until Manny showed up) did make the playoffs.  Short of staying in New York and winning, Torre couldn’t have scripted it any better.  

    

So we have a borderline legendary figure who won the public relations battle and the on-the-field 2008 war.  So what did Joe Torre do?  He kept playing after he had won the game (by writing a book) and, now, is on the precipice of a big loss.

    

Why did he write it?  Hard to believe it was for the money, because he’s made millions and millions more than he could ever have thought he would make in even his wildest dreams.  While people say Joe loves a buck as much as (or even more than) the next guy, he’s got to have tons of money.  Hard to believe it was to “get the truth out,” because the overwhelming majority of people believed he was right (when leaving) and was great (when managing).  Maybe it’s just sheer pettiness because the claims he makes (especially the anti-Cashman claims, killing his biggest supporter of his (Torre’s) prior three-year mega-contract) seem to be petty and, of course, unbelievably hypocritical.

 

TORRE’S MADE HIS BED AND NOW HE GETS TO SLEEP IN IT

 

Hard to believe a man would knock his players and his general manager just one year removed from a storied managing career in New York.  Remember when David Wells wrote his book and Torre slaughtered him with the now famous “what goes on in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse”?  Torre does essentially what Wells did by airing some of the dirty laundry in the Yankee clubhouse and the Yankee boardroom.  He’s playing the part of David Wells, the why-would-you-write-a-book author?

    

Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!

    

It’s going to be hard for Torre to save face and wiggle out of this one.  He’s already gone with “my name’s on the book” (exactly what he said to David Wells about Wells’s book when Wells tried to back away from it) so I have to deal with it.  Tom Verducci said, essentially, that some of Torre’s words were taken out of context in the New York media but that he stands by the book. 

 

And what would you do if you were a player on the Los Angeles Dodgers?  Would you be worried about what you say to your manager?  Absolutely.  The next book might be “The Manny Year” or “The Dodger Years.”  Unlikely, you say?  Maybe true, but who thought Torre would ever write a book like this?  You get the point.

 

COULD JOE TORRE, MASTER OF THE MEDIA, BE NAÏVE?

 

Much of the Torre criticism of Brian Cashman comes from the idea that Torre needed security, that he wanted a two-year deal and that Cashman failed to notify (until the very end) the deciding group of Yankee execs of Torre’s proposal – two years, if you don’t fire me in the first a buy-out for the second or two years, if you do fire me in the first I get paid for both years.

    

Assuming, for now, the truth of that statement, and aside from the absurdity of going into a season on an unbelievably negative note with an almost negative contract (fire me, fire me – the second option has an almost Marbury-like quality to it), could Torre have read the tea leaves (no Bigelow pun intended here) so poorly as to think the Yankees would go for that on any fact pattern?  On the one hand, he strongly believes that the Yankees didn’t want him back.  Yet on the other hand, he wants some kind of conditional payment if (when?) he gets fired.  It’s both naïve and bizarre.

 

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, CAN TORRE SAY TO BAIL HIMSELF OUT?

 

It’s clear from his first comments that Torre knows he’s in a bind.  The joke (sad part?) is that he put himself in this bind.  He can come out and say that he was just stating what others said about A-Rod (A-Fraud, immaturity, etc.), he can say he was just trying to tell the truth, he can say that, for the most part, he and Cashman worked well together until the (now, apparently) bitter end.

    

But whatever the average Yankee fan views the hit on Torre’s rep to be (large, medium or small), it says here that Joe Torre hit himself in the head with a hammer and, whatever he says, it will be virtually impossible to get back to where he was, reputation-wise, prior to his own book coming out.

    

It still all seems so surreal, so inexplicable.  Does he have the right to write such a book and say what he wants?  Absolutely.  But you’d like to think that someone with a brain who had Joe Torre’s ear would have said: “Joe, what could you possibly be thinking?  This book can’t possibly do you any good.  In fact, it will damage your reputation.  Please think long and hard before you write it.”

    

Apparently, that never happened or, if it did, that person was ignored. 

               

SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

 

Well, Joe Torre has a book signing in New York City next week.  He is supposed to appear on Larry King Live on CNN and with Mike Francesa next week on WFAN.  If he says “I was just trying to set the record straight,” hopefully somebody (Mike Francesa?) will say “the record was in your favor during and after your managerial success (at a Hall of Fame level) in New York.  What exactly was wrong with the record the way it was?  How could you possibly write this book?”

    

If it finally dawns on Joe Torre that he’s made a huge mistake, it’s hard to believe that he’ll take responsibility for it.  Remember, this is a manager whose baseball decision-making skills went down once Don Zimmer and, later, Mel Stottlemyre, left town.  In fact, in his book, Joe claims that his great error in the 2007 playoffs was not pulling his team off the field in game 2 against the Indians (forever known as “the bug game”).  Of course, the far greater mistake (and, essentially, season-ending one) was a baseball one – not bringing in the greatest closer on earth when your rookie reliever was clearly having problems (see Kallas Remarks, 3/29/08, A Torre Error Ended The Torre Era).

    

Maybe someone can ask him about that, as well. 

         

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

IS MIKE MUSSINA A HALL OF FAMER? YOU BETCHA

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

You’ve heard the arguments as to why Mike Mussina, who announced his retirement this week, is not a Hall of Famer:  He never won a World Series (getting to the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with a one-run lead doesn’t count), he never won a Cy Young, he didn’t win 300 games and, of course, until this season, he never won 20.  The following will point out the reasons why he is a Hall of Famer.

 

100 WINS OVER .500

 

Pitchers with over 200 wins who are also 100 wins over .500 are Hall of Fame pitchers.  And while Roger Clemens (354-184) may not make the Hall of Fame, that will be for different reasons.  Mussina, at 270-153, is a staggering 117 games over .500.  A stunning statistic.

 

JIM PALMER

 

Nobody would confuse Mike Mussina with Jim Palmer.  Although they have virtually identical won-loss numbers (Mussina 270-153, Palmer 268-152), Palmer’s three Cy Youngs and three World Series rings put him on another level.  In fact, the only person who might confuse Mike Mussina with Jim Palmer is … Jim Palmer.

    

Interestingly, Palmer was interviewed by Suzyn Waldman before a Yankees-Orioles game a few years ago (before Mussina won 20).  When asked about Mussina, Palmer said he was a Hall of Fame pitcher.  In fact, Palmer said that “you really had to see Mike pitch week-in and week-out for the Orioles [as Palmer did] to understand his greatness.”

    

Palmer has been quoted elsewhere as saying if Mike Mussina had stayed an Oriole, “he would have been the greatest Oriole pitcher ever.”  While none of us who saw Palmer (and Mussina) pitch will agree, the point is an interesting one because it comes from the greatest Oriole pitcher ever.

 

SEVEN GOLD GLOVES

 

With all the emphasis on hitting in the last 20 years, and the number of starting pitchers doubling (tripling?) over the last few decades due to expansion, five-man (v. four- man) rotations and injuries, seven Gold Gloves is a stunning number for this position.

 

10 SEASONS WITH AN ERA OF 3.50 OR LESS

 

It’s hard to equate ERA today with ERA in the past, especially with the common knowledge about the existence (but not the depth) of the steroids era.  The rule of thumb on National League ERA v. American League ERA is about a half-a-run (due to the pitcher hitting, the number eight hitter, the existence of the AL designated hitter, etc.).  Back in the “glory” days of baseball (before they lowered the mound in the late ‘60s), under a 3.00 ERA was considered very good.  Today, that’s virtually unheard of.  For Mussina to have 10 seasons at 3.50 or less (and one season of 3.51) is an amazing stat.

 

THE MYTH OF 20 WINS IN A SEASON AND 300 WINS IN TODAY’S GAME

 

This is old news, but people have trouble grasping the concept.  I was fortunate to interview Jim Kaat in 2001, as he was, at the time, doing Yankee games on MSG.  Kaat said that, because the Mets, in the late 1960s, to protect their young arms (Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, etc.), changed their rotation from a four-man to a five-man, they also changed the dynamic of the number of wins starting pitchers could have over the course of a season and a career.

    

Kaat said that all great pitchers strive to win half of their starts to win 20 games.  In a four-man rotation, the starters get 40-41 starts a year.  Thus, a top pitcher could win 20 games by winning half of his starts.  In a five-man rotation, that same starter would get only 33-34 starts a year.  Thus, without even discussing the fact that starters don’t complete games and the rise of the relief pitcher as a virtually every-game appearance, simple math shows you that, since the starters before (we’ll say the 1980s) started 15% more games than today’s starters (40 v. 34), by simple math the equivalent of 20 wins then is 17 wins now.

    

Where are the “stat experts” on this simple example?

    

I wrote about this at length when Mike Mussina won his 255th game on May 8, 2008 (see Kallas Remarks, 5/14/08).  In fact, based on Jim Kaat’s statements in 2001, I wrote that Mike Mussina winning 255 in the five-man rotation era is just like winning 300 in the four-man rotation era (300 less 15% equals 255).  And nobody knew.  You don’t have to be a brain surgeon, a mathematician or even a knowledgeable baseball person to figure this out.

    

If you ask, today (and a stunning number of people do), how many times did he win 20?, you lack the basic knowledge of what happened to baseball over the last 25 years or so.  And, again, that’s before there is any discussion of six-inning pitchers and multiple relievers.

    

If you’re going the 20-win question route, understand that the question should be “How many times did Mike Mussina win 17 or more?”  The answer is eight (17 twice, 18 three times, 19 twice and 20 in 2008).  Imagine if Mussina pitched in a four-man rotation era and won 20 eight times?  Nobody would deny that he’s a sure Hall of Famer.

 

WON OVER 50% OF HIS STARTS

 

Back to the Jim Kaat example of what great pitchers set out to do every season (win half of their starts (20 wins before the 1980s, 17 wins nowadays)).  Mike Mussina started 536 games in his career.  He won 270.  That’s greater than 50% and a staggering stat.

 

THE CONCLUSION   

  

We’ll go back to Jim Palmer, who might have seen Mike Mussina pitch more than anyone over the course of Mussina’s career.  Palmer recently told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that Mussina was “one of the most gifted guys I ever saw.”  That should help a deserving Mike Mussina get into the Hall of Fame.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE GOOD — AND THE BAD — AT THE END OF YANKEE STADIUM

      

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

I was fortunate to be in the building last night for the final game at Yankee Stadium.  The game was expected to be anticlimactic – and that turned out to be true.  But getting in was a disaster and the future, in a new, expensive building across the street, is anything but bright.

But first, one had to actually get into the building yesterday.  You may have heard the plan.  The Stadium would be open from 1-4 in the afternoon so fans could go through Monument Park and literally walk on the field (at least around it on the warning track), a once common-place occurrence that hasn’t been allowed for decades.  Lining up at 1:45 at Gate 2 to do that (when I was a little kid a hundred years ago, I routinely walked out of the bleachers with my father after 30 or 35 games a year to walk on the field and touch the (three, at the time) monuments in dead-center on my way to the D train), I saw lots of people in their 60s, 70s and even their 80s there to do something they had done in the 1930s, 40s and/or 50s and 60s.    

    

But a funny thing happened on the way to these people reliving their respective childhoods (or time spent with long-gone parents).  At 2:25 came the barely audible announcement that the Yankees had closed both entrance to Monument Park and access to the field.  Was there booing and cursing?  You betcha.  The many elderly in the group then had a tough decision to make (as they were told by the announcer):  If you go into the Stadium (keep in mind we were all still on line outside of Gate 2), at 2:30 or 3 or whenever, you couldn’t come back out and re-enter.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s SIX hours (maybe) before game-time.  Or you could walk around outside and be bothered by the incessant ticket scalpers (who needs two?, who’s selling today?), something we were told that modern ticketing would eliminate (or at least, in reality, would be taken over by American Express or the team).

    

(When the new stadium closes in what, 20 years or so, maybe they’ll be smart enough to open the field at 9 in the morning, not one in the afternoon.  Of course, the new stadium will never duplicate what the old Stadium had inside its walls.)

    

Given this Hobson’s choice, the resignation on the faces of many seniors was obvious.  Some left and some went in – to do nothing for five hours until the glorious ceremony started on the field.  Yeah, there are a lot of Yankee bashers, but nobody can trot out the people that the Yankees can trot out at an old-timers day or a Stadium-closing day.  Last night was no exception.

    

To bring out guys in old Yankee uniforms to “represent” Ruth, Gehrig, etc. was a little much.  But to trot out excellent (Skowron, Nettles, Randolph, etc.) to great (Yogi, Whitey, etc.) Yankee players at their respective positions was awesome – and to have Mickey Mantle’s son and the wives of Thurman Munson and Elston Howard, etc. come out to the field was spectacular.  Bringing out Gene Michael (who certainly deserves as much or more credit than anyone for the Yankees late ‘90s revival) and embattled manager Joe Girardi onto the field with these greats was a bit much – as players they don’t rank anywhere near the Yankees who were on the field.

    

And to have the Babe’s daughter throw out the first pitch of the last game was fabulous, especially since, as many of you know, her father had hit the first-ever home run at Yankee Stadium in 1923.

    

Then the game started – and the crowd went quiet.  While it was nice for the Yankees to get a win, it really was a meaningless game.  It took home runs from Johnny Damon and Jose Molina to wake the crowd up – but all went according to plan as the Yankees would beat the Orioles 7-3 with Joba throwing part of the seventh and all of the eighth and the great Mariano finishing things off in the ninth.  Andy Pettitte fittingly started and got the final win (but only making him a .500 pitcher for the year – just one of many Yankee disappointments this season).

    

To great applause, the great Derek Jeter was taken out of the game with two outs in the ninth inning.  While we often see this at the end of NBA playoff games, it’s rare for this to happen in a baseball game.  Jeter got the requisite standing ovation and gave rise to this following great trivia question:  Who was the last shortstop to grace the field at Yankee Stadium?  Yeah, that’s right, Wilson Betamit.

    

Jeter gave a stirring speech after the game but, say what he will, it won’t be the same across the street.  You see, many old-timers think the Stadium lost its luster when the Yankees moved to Shea for the great refurbishing of 1974 and 1975.  While there is certainly some truth to that, it’s always been about the location of the Stadium for me.  And here’s the best example I can give of the biggest problem with moving across the street that somehow, those in favor of “progress” (profit?) can’t grasp:

    

When I was a kid, my father took me to the Stadium and pointed to right-field and said: “Son, that’s where Babe Ruth played.  Nobody remembers that he was a pretty good defensive player with a gun for an arm and could even run in his younger days.”  Then he’d point to center-field and say: “Son, that’s where Joe Dimaggio played.  He was the smoothest player I ever saw and there’s no telling how many home runs he would have hit if he batted lefty or played in a normal ball park” (don’t forget the massive dimensions at the pre-1976 Stadium – the real Death Valley, not today’s A-Rod porch by comparison).

    

So I got the message loud and clear and when my son was five and he would go to the Stadium I would point to center-field and say:  “Son, that’s where Mickey Mantle played.  He could run like a deer before he got hurt and he had massive power from both sides of the plate.  Like Dimaggio, he would have hit a heck of a lot more homers batting righty in a normal ballpark but he, at least, was a switch-hitter so he got his share to right-field.”

    

Now, here’s the REAL problem with moving across the street (obscene ticket prices and other things are for another time):  When my son takes his child to the new stadium, he’s going to say:  “Son, Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle – they all played across the street.”  Maybe you have to be a Yankee fan to understand that difference but it’s VERY significant and, frankly, irreplaceable.

    

So was the pre-game ceremony great?  Absolutely.  Was the game great, in so far as a meaningless late-season game against the Orioles could be?  You betcha.  It would have been nice to have Babe Ruth’s daughter and Mickey Mantle’s son pull the lever down for the final countdown of games left at Yankee Stadium (although that was changed from 0 to “forever,” maybe that sign will stay there when they actually tear the structure down, another disgrace if this landmark is destroyed).  Whitey and Yogi with one hand each on the lever would have been a nice touch as well.

    

Was Derek Jeter’s post-game speech fabulous?  Of course it was, Jeter always says the right thing.  But the Yankees, playing at the new stadium, have many issues to deal with.

    

It really was a great night at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, September 21, 2008.  But I (and many others I’m sure) couldn’t help but notice the asymmetry of the following:  the New Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923, with Babe Ruth hitting the first home run as the Yankees were on their way to winning the pennant and the first of 26 World Series.  The Stadium closed on Sunday, September 21, 2008 with Jose Molina hitting the last home run for a Yankee team that not only won’t win the pennant but didn’t even make the playoffs.  For the 1923 Yankees it was the beginning of an unprecedented run, both through the next 15 years and, frankly, the next 80 years.  For the 2008 Yankees, unanswered questions remain and the future, with no Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio or Mantle on the horizon, isn’t nearly as bright as it was 85 years ago.  A new stadium won’t solve those problems.

         

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.