Archive for October, 2007
So, the Yankees have chosen Joe Girardi to be their new manager, and now Donnie Baseball can go back to Indiana, having been jilted at the altar by the new hierarchy in the Bronx, and wow, oh, wow, has this ended up different than everyone thought it would. I’m not saying Girardi’s a bad choice, not by a long shot. I hoped the Giants would go after him the minute he was fired by the Marlins. It just seems like Mattingly was brought back specifically to take over for Torre, and he must be devastated:
“Don was extremely disappointed to learn today that he wasn’t the organization’s choice to fill the managerial vacancy,” said a statement from the agent Ray Schulte.
The statement thanked Steinbrenner for his “initial faith” and concluded: “Don will use this time to reflect on this experience while considering future family and career options. In the meantime, he did inform the Yankees that given the circumstances he won’t accept a coaching position within the organization during 2008.”
Don Mattingly seems like the front-runner to replace Joe Torre as Yankee manager, and Alex Belth just had a real nice article about the Hit Man, so I thought I’d talk about him a bit as well. Way back in the olden days, when OBM was fairly new, I wrote about Donnie Baseball quite a bit:
Don Mattingly wasn’t just a great first-baseman, he was one of the three or four guys who are in the argument for greatest defensive first baseman ever. Was Kirby Puckett the best defensive centerfielder in the game when he was in his prime? Probably. Was he ever considered the best player in the game? Not the way Donnie was. I was in my early twenties, living in NY at the time. Kirby was a ten time All Star, he won a LCS MVP, a WS MVP, an All Star game MVP; I think I had a good feel for his standing in the game, even though he wasn’t playing in my home town.
Don Mattingly was considered the best hitter in the game, by everybody, SI, TSN, everybody. He won a batting title his first full season, led the league in RBI’s his second (and won the MVP award), and the season after that he finished second to Roger Clemens in the MVP voting, (by just a few points), he hit six grand slams, establishing a major league record that has stood the test of time even through the home run happy years of today. He also hit a home run in eight straight games, that mark is also a major league record (that he shares with Dale Long and Ken Griffey Jr.)
…. In his first four full seasons, he won four Gold Gloves (9 overall), one MVP, (with a fifth, seventh, and a second (to Roger Clemens). He finished first, third, second and fifth in batting average, top ten in OBP twice, second, second, first and seventh in slugging, third, second, first and seventh in OPS, top six in runs scored twice, first, second, first and seventh in hits, fourth, first, first and sixth in total bases, first, first, first and third in doubles, finshed in the top six in home runs twice, finished fifth, first, third and fifth in RBI, was fourth, first, first and fourth in extra base hits, and finished in the top five in times on base twice.
There is no doubt that the argument for best player in baseball during these three seasons was between Mattingly and perhaps one or two other players, Rickey Henderson and Roger Clemens, and most likely Wade Boggs. That’s it. None of those players were among the very best hitters and the best defensive players at their positions; and none of them did either over a four seasons in a row span. Given that, I don’t see how you could conclude that any player was better. Tell you what, go to the Baseball-reference.com page for 1984 and look at the leaderboards. Look at 1985, and 1986, and 1987. You know who dominated the leaderboards for all four seasons? Donnie Baseball, that’s who.
…. Side by side (with Puckett), Mattingly won 9 consecutive Gold Gloves, Kirby got 6. Kirby finished in the top ten MVP vote 7 times, Donnie 4. Kirby made the All Star team 10 years in a row, ’86-’95, Donnie 6 in a row, ’84-’89. Offensively, Mattingly has the edge. He won a batting title, an RBI crown, led the league in hits twice , doubles three times, total bases twice , slugging, OPS twice, extra base hits twice. Kirby led the league in hits 4 times, won a batting title, led the league in RBI once, total hits several times, total bases twice. Baseball Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor has Kirby with 155 points, Donnie with 134. 100 gives you a good chance to get in. By the way, Donnie played for 14 years, Kirby 12.
As for Puckett suffering a catastrophic injury; Mattingly didn’t fade away, he suffered a serious lower back injury in, I believe, 1987, maybe 1988 (I’m having a tough time verifying when). He was never the same. He lost his ability to drive the ball, consequently; over the last 6-8 years of his career, he became JT Snow, 35 doubles, 18-25 home runs, 90 RBI’s, his batting average hovered around .290. He was still a major league player, but he was a shadow of himself. He retired at the relatively young age of 34, unwilling to continue to play with the pain and the risk of permanent disability. Should Kirby’s eye problems be considered more catastrophic because he couldn’t play at a reduced level of effectiveness?
Having continued to learn about baseball since I wrote that originally, I’d like to change a couple of my statements. I wouldn’t downplay Puckett’s greatness as much, and I’d say that Mattingly is a borderline HoF candidate, and that, barring injury, he would been a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He’d have gotten 3000 hits, 600 doubles, and would most likely rank in the top twenty in RBI and runs scored. He’d have been a shoe-in. Also, looking at Mattingly’s stats, I noticed something else; how close his career numbers are to Joe Torre’s.
Donnie 1007 R 442 2B 222 HR .307/.358/.471 .829 OPS
Torre 996 R 344 2B 252 HR .297/.365/.452 .817 OPS
They both didn’t walk very much. Sure, Torre played a bunch more games, in a different era, at a different position…. Mattingly was a defensive wizard, and Torre was just a hitter. I know they weren’t really comparable as players (Puckett ranks as Mattingly’s 4th most comparable, by the way), but still, those total numbers are close enough to make some interesting barstool fodder.
Mattingly worked his ass off to become a superstar, which earned him the respect of just about everyone in the game; baseball fans, sportswriters, management. He was the guy who played the game right. I think, if he were to manage the Yanks, he’d be as likely as anyone to be able to make the transition to the modern game. I’d rather have Mattingly running my team than Bochy. Really.
I’m as apathetic about this Serious as I can be, with two teams from my two favorite teams (Yankees and Giants) respective division’s representing their leagues. Really, I don’t want either of these teams to win it all, but one of them will, and I’ll be bummed either way. If the Red Sox win their second in four years, while the Yankees suck the pipe –again– I will feel cheated and disappointed.
And if the Rockies win, well, then the most disgusting possible outcome will have happened, two teams that didn’t even exist when the Giants got Bonds will have each won a World Series during his time with team, and the Giants, with the best player in history for 15 years; will have won nothing. A more damning indictment against Sabean can hardly be imagined.
So, I guess I’ll go with Grant, and root against the Rockies.
Joe Sheehan notes the lack of excitement in the postseason this year, in today’s Premium article. I coudn’t agree more. There hasn’t been a game, or a series yet that’s had any of that special flair of competitive, edge of your seat intensity, and with the Giants content to move ther chess pieces around instead of doing anything, I haven’t had much to say, or even think about baseball-wise.
The Yankees are saying they will not participate in the A-Rod circus, which means nothing. They still might anyway, but it does bear mentioning that, if Sabean really thinks he has the pitching all lined up, a bat like A-Rod’s could make all the difference in the world to a team in need of some offense, (if, by need, you mean, wandering in a desert looking for a home run).
Without the Yanks, common sense suggests the A-Rod express will struggle to get that $300 million deal, so maybe the Giants could get in for a 5 or 6 year offer. It’s hard to know, since, as you’ll recall, no one expected A-Rod to get that 10-year $252 million dollar deal from Texas back in the olden days of yore. Of course, everyone also should remember that that deal ended up being a huge albatross that only two teams could really afford to take on, and things are no different today. $30 million dollars a year for one player means that there are only a handful of teams that could bid on A-Rod, I’d say, the Cubs, the Red Sox, the Yanks, and possibly the LA Angels. Any others that I’m missing?
A-Rod finally got a hit that mattered, but was still far from making the kind of impact he had hoped to make in the divisional series. After an historic regular season that will almost certainly net him his third MVP award, A-Rod was –again– rendered invisible by a Yankee first round opponent, running his RBI-less streak to 55 postseason at-bats before his home run that brought the Yanks to within 6-3. They lost 6-4, and were ousted from the first round for the third straight year.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner seems likely to fire Torre, and while I’ve argued before that Torre deserves to keep his job; last night, I started to feel like maybe the time for a change has come to the Bronx. Yes, Torre is the best manager the Yankees have had in my lifetime, and, given the challenges of today’s game, has elevated himself into a Hall of Famer with his 12 years of success. That said, I felt like his steadying hand could’ve benefited from a kick in the ass the last couple of seasons. His behind-the-scenes mangerial approach has kind of left the players searching for a spark while they’ve been getting their asses run off the field these last two playoffs.
Watching the players going through the motions last night, I felt like if, say, Zimmer were there, Wang might have lifted after the second hitter reached base that first inning. The team could hardly have needed a dominant Wang more, and to give up a leadoff home run was unforgivable. Not to mention, it was a BLAST. Bad enough he gave up yhe lead immediately, Wang proceeded to allow four runs in about ten minutes, which left the team in a desperate situation before half the fans had sat down.
Coudn’t the coaching staff have known that he wasn’t ready to go? Couldn’t they have seen that when he was warming up? He was guilty of the same problem from Game One? His pitches were up, up, up, and it was obvious the Indians were ready for that? Why let him stay in until he had allowed a four-spot?
And how, HOW, HOW IN JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY CAN THOSE UMPIRES MAKE A CALL ON WHETHER HE HAD HIT THAT BATTER WITHOUT CHECKING THE HITTERS HAND FOR A BRUISE OR SOME OTHER SIGN THAT HE HAD BEEN HIT!!??!!?? That was the single worst umpiring decision-making I can remember. All they had to do was walk over to first base and look at his hand. Instead, they stood in a circle and made the call while IGNORING ANY EFFORT TO SEE SOME ACTUAL EVIDENCE. Brilliant.
Maybe Torre needed to get thrown out. Anything would’ve been better than that heartless laydown by the whole team.
Holliday missed the plate.