Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

teixeiraThe last thing I’d ever do is begrudge a player, any player, for going for as much money as the market will give him. 8 years for more than $170 million is a good haul for Mark Teixeira, and it sets him up for the rest of his career, which, if he plays up to the form he currently has, will be as a New York Yankee. So don’t even try to bring outrage about oversized player salaries in a bad economy or saying the league needs a salary cap because the rest of the owners can’t compete. This is invalid because:

a) The Steinbrenner family has clearly managed the franchise well enough in order to have the reserves to spend $400 million in one off-season

b) Just because the cheap-shit owner in your city is sitting on his piece of the revenue-sharing while raising your ticket prices doesn’t make that the Yankees’ fault.

Teixeira in the Bronx is an obvious move. Jason Giambi was off the books, they’ve had a gaping defensive hole at first base for years, they need another power bat. Here’s the problem: now the Yankees are the most talented team on paper. Wonder how that might work out once the season starts? Let them play the games before declaring the Yankees the masters of all once again. There’s still an aging Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the outfield, and a defensively suspect Derek Jeter manning short — and don’t think the Red Sox or the Rays will simply fold in fear. The Phillies won last season and the Red Sox a year before that with a core group of players either from the farm system or who made their names with the team. Where is that with the Yankees right now?

(Also, if you’re a NYC taxpayer, how do you feel about billions of your tax dollars funding the new Yankee Stadium while they blow $400 million on free agents? Since when did the Steinbrenners need a bailout?)

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This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race

krodcitifieldMy mild disappointment at learning that Omar Minaya had pitched in $13+ million per year to land Francisco Rodriguez was leavened somewhat by learning that it was only a three-year deal. Having watched a large slate of Angels games over the past few years, I’m mildly concerned about the knock on him as a 9th inning flower, who rarely, if ever came in to have to get four, five, or six out saves in the AL.

Then again, anyone to solidify ANY inning not pitched by a starter is a considerable upgrade over the mess the Mets bullpen was last season — even when Billy Wagner’s elbow didn’t give out on him.

Getting Seattle’s former closer J.J. Putz in a three-way trade to play set-up man also seems like a step in the right direction — any direction is good as long as it involves getting rid of the long-reviled Aaron Heilman, who was nothing but a leaking gas tank for the past couple of season. Whether it actually pays off would be dependent upon the rest of the bullpen being reliable enough to handle innings six or seven — and whether the starting rotation remains in good enough shape.

Across Manhattan Island, the big news is the agreement in principle to make CC Sabathia the highest paid pitcher in baseball with a 161 million dollar deal over seven years.  The money was so stupid that Sabathia had to take it and ditch his preference to play in his home state of California, but the nagging questions about the hurler are his physique (6’7″ and 311 lbs.) and more importantly, how much form will he regain in returning to the American League?

Bear in mind that Sabathia was mired in a half-season of mediocrity when the Tribe shipped hiim off to Milwaukee — he then proceeded to destroy NL line-ups, with the easier turnover of the bottom third.  He may like hitting, but you can’t be so sure that AL pitchers have figured him out, although so much of his struggles with Cleveland were due to the offense not hitting for him. (These things can be fickle: obviously Cliff Lee got enough run support in combination with wicked stuff to win 20+ games and a Cy Young.)

There’s a reason the Yanks are also looking at A.J. Burnett despite his injury history, is all I’m saying.

A-Rod & Good PR Are Obviously A Lost Cause

arodboatshotDefending Alex Rodriguez on the field is a tough act, these days, because every decision he makes off of it continually obscures how talented a player he is and only focuses people on how badly he has played at times during the playoffs during his tenure in New York.

And he continues to shoot himself in the foot. Talking too much to the media about his feelings, getting caught with strippers, a nasty divorce from his wife Cynthia.  The whole hooking up with Madonna thing was a final jump of the shark; the merging of Hollywood goosip farce with the man possessing the most artifice in the major leagues, or at least the most concerned with artifice.

Now he really has to compound it by deciding to switch teams in the World Baseball Classic and play for the Dominican Republic, according to David Ortiz — he played for the U.S. in the inaugural contest after a huge amount of hemming and hawing over whether to choose the country of his parents’ birth and that of his own.

I can empathize with that sort of identity thing, but baseball is, at its heart, a curiously American thing and particularly nationalistic: you’re really better off sticking with the country of birth, particularly if you played for them the last go-round.

If Rodriguez confirms it, it’s just gonna give ever more baseball fans a reason to dislike him and find him completely lacking in any personal conviction.  Of course, that means there have to be fans left that believe he has any desire than to try to be everything to everyone (and fail miserably at it.)

Stealing Signals: Sox In, Yanks Out

Red Sox 5, Indians 4 – Tim Wakefield outhurls for-certain Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon gets out of a bases-loaded jam to lock up a playoff spot and send the New York Yankees home early.

Yankees 3, Blue Jays 1 – Mike Mussina pitches 5 innings for his 19th win; Jason Giambi homers; all for naught.

Rays 5, Orioles 2; Rays 7, Orioles 5 – Tampa gets its first doubleheader sweep in franchise history, putting thme three games up on the BoSox in the battle for the AL East crown (and the right to avoid the Angels in the Division Series.)

Mets 6, Cubs 2 – Eight innings and 10 Ks for Johan Santana and a broken-bat infield single to spur the offense. Jose Reyes adds a bases-loaded triple, and the Mets are now 1.5 behind the Phillies…

Braves 3, Phillies 2 – …because Mike Hampton got his first win in a month by holding Philly to two runs over six innings.

Twins 9, White Sox 3 – Hell of a day for Jason Kubel — two homers and a triple as Minny routs the South Siders, moving 1.5 back in the AL Central.

Brewers 7, Pirates 5 – Prince Fielder tees off of T.J. Beam for a walk-off shot to keep the Brew Crew one game behind the Mets in the Wild Card.

Dodgers 10, Padres 1 – Three-run homers from Nomar Garciaparra and Blake DeWitt, plus a two-run double from Manny Ramirez. San Diego ran Wade LeBlanc out to start, who gave up seven runs in less than 3 innings of work.

Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 4 – St. Louis may be out of it, but they’d be happy to ruin someone else’s playoff dreams. Ryan Ludwick hit his 35th homer off Randy Johnson in the first.

Stealing Signals: Ya Gotta Bereave

Nationals 1, Mets 0 – [sighs]. How much do you suck when Odalis Fucking Perez is throwing seven innings of shutout ball against you?  Even better, the Mets lose Fernando Tatis, who was having a pretty good year after coming up from Triple A with some clutch hits and homers for the team.

Phillies 8, Braves 7 – Ryan Howard gets four hits, including the go-ahead homer in the eighth, while Brad Lidge works his way out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth to take first place from the Mets.

Rays 2, Red Sox 1 – Catcher Dioner Navarro drives in the winning run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.  Carlos Pena ruined a very good start by Josh Beckett by teeing off with a solo homer in the 7th; Andy Sonnanstine threw six good ones, only giving up a sac fly to Kevin Youkilis. The Rays take the AL East lead back.

Dodgers 6, Pirates 2 – Casey Blake homers and triples, Manny Ramirez gets three hits for the second straight game, and L.A. wins its 14th game in the last 16 with Derek Lowe throwing seven innings.

Diamondbacks 2, Giants 0 – Dan Haren strikes out 12 in his first career shutout to keep Arizona 4.5 games back of L.A.

Cubs 5, Brewers 4 – The North Siders become the first team to deal CC Sabathia a loss in a Milwaukee uniform, as he gave up four runs and was outpitched by Ryan Dempster. Alfonso Soriano teed off on Sabathia in the seventh; Prince Fielder took yard shots off Dempster and reliever Carlos Marmol.

White Sox 6, Yankees 2 – Gavin Floyd only gives up 2 runs to the Yanks in seven innings while the Pale Hose knocked around Andy Pettitte for a few runs.

Indians 12, Twins 9 – Minnesota sinks to 2.5 behind the White Sox when Victor Martinez tees off for a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning.

Stealing Signals: 15 Straight No-Hit Innings

Cubs 6, Astros 1 – Ted Lilly decided to try and follow up Carlos Zambrano’s no-no with one of his own, getting 6.2 innings of no hit ball before giving up a hit to Mark Loretta.  Homers from Jim Edmonds, Derrek Lee, and Geovany Soto provided the muscle on offense. You have to feel for the Astros, though — that’s a situation (playing in Milwaukee, a short drive from Chicago, with all their families in Houston) that they shouldn’t have been in.

Dodgers 8, Pirates 2 – Hiroki Kuroda throws seven shutout innings while Manny Ramirez has three hits and James Loney drives in two.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1 – That Adam Dunn trade is now providing some actual impact with an eighth inning two-run shot to make the difference (and maybe quite a few games too late.)

Yankees 4, White Sox 2 – Mariano Rivera enters second place on the all-time saves list behind Trevor Hoffman. A double by Wilson Betemit broke the tie game in the seventh.

Red Sox 13, Rays 5 – Six homers off the Tampa pitching staff provided one hell of a margin, and pushes Daisuke Matsuzaka to a record of 17-2 despite being one of the most on again, off again pitchers — he has had the luxury of getting good offensive support.

Nationals 7, Mets 2 – Watch it all go down the drain. The lead over the Phillies is now half a game, Pedro Martinez gives up four runs in six innings and the heart of the order (Beltran, Wright, Delgado) go 0-for-11.

Stealing Signals: Z’s The One

Cubs 5, Astros 0 – Carlos Zambrano threw the first Cubs no-no in 36 years in a road game at Miller Park, re-located thanks to Hurricane Ike. The home run that Alfonso Soriano led off the game with turned out to be enough, as Zambrano struck out 10, walked one, and hit another batter.

White Sox 4, Tigers 2; White Sox 11, Tigers 7 – The South Siders sweep a doubleheader thanks to DeWayne Wise knocking a pinch-hit grand slam in the bottom of the 8th, minutes after Marcus Thames went yard with the bases loaded in the top of the inning.

Phillies 7, Brewers 3; Phillies 7, Brewers 1 – And now, the NL Wild Card race is tied. Didn’t I say something about the Wild Card winner definitely coming from the central in the senior circuit? Well, shit. Brett Myers threw a complete game in the first game.

Yankees 8, Rays 4 – Three hits for Derek Jeter, an Alex Rodriguez grand slam, and the Yanks knock the Rays down a bit.

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3 – Boston uses the opportunity to pull within a game of the Rays in the AL East.

Braves 7, Mets 4 – Hm. Bullpen blows another lead. Same story, different day for the Mets, now only a game ahead of Philly. Jon Lester gives up four hits over eight innings to top Roy Halladay.

Rockies 1, Dodgers 0 (F/10) – Troy Tulowitzki drives in the winning run in extras, snapping a 7 game losing streak. The Dodgers are still 4.5 ahead in the NL West despite blowing a 7-inning start by Gerg Maddux.

Reds 2, Diamondbacks 1 (F/10) – That’s because a Corey Patterson homer in extra innings put away Arizona, a team that is swooning hard and falling faster with young players who aren’t quite there in terms of putting the wins together.