Upon Debating a Return

April 12, 2013

Every once in a while, I look back at this old blog of mine and marvel at just how often I used to post things here. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…etc have really taken away the need for blogs as they existed in 2004, when Kevin Coyne of Country Universe mentioned that he was creating a Blogspot account, and that I might want to do the same.

I knocked out something like 350 posts over the years, but production steadily waned as my early-20s free time became consumed by other things, and the aforementioned social media sites made posting a few quick thoughts much more convenient. I could post something like “I’m liking the way the Yankee rotation is coming together”, and have an instant exchange with a few Yankee fans or haters. On this blog, I put in a good bit of work on my posts, but I rarely heard from anyone in the comments. (The notable exception of was my Uncle, who posted as Sherm. We could argue in the comments for days.)

A thought-out and structured argument, with research and supporting evidence, has seemingly become less important. Supporting your point has become an afterthought, or is washed away on a tide of “relax, its just Facebook”.

I went to graduate school and received a Master’s degree in journalism, but the profession was changing at a feverish clip. I remember being the only one with a blog in my first class, and talking to classmates on AIM. I vividly remember how upset George Vescey (sports columnist for the NY Times and brother of Peter) got when I asked him if he was concerned about traditional print media going the way of the dinosaur. I realized after a semester or so that I more than likely would not be making a living as a sports writer or sports blogger. Bill Simmons, a Holy Cross alumni and espn.com (and now Grantland) star was going to be one of the few people with a background like mine to make it rich writing sarcastic and pop-culture laden sports columns. He’d already spawned a legion of copycats, and I didnt have the time or inclination to grind out entry-level positions or unpaid freelance work

The irony of the fact that I will be linking this post to my Facebook wall to draw attention to it is not lost on me. Perhaps it would be better suited as a page there than a stand-alone blog. For me though, the bigger questions are “Is this work worth doing?” and “Does anyone actually care enough about my thoughts on sports to warrant anything more than my posts/tweets?” In just the process of crafting this post, I am guessing the answer is “no”. At worst, I can say I posted something in 2013 on a blog that began 9 years ago. Maybe this is just like visiting an old favorite restaurant or bar. Maybe I’ll lose my gusto for the process, as I have countless times before.

Upon a Resurgence for the Captain

August 17, 2011

I decided to watch the HBO documentary on Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit last night. (feel free to skip this part if you only want to read about on-the-field stuff)

Conceptually, it felt like something hastily thrown together. It was a “see-it-now” version of something which might have been a pretty interesting book years ago. Instead of a writer trailing Derek for the season, we got HBO’s cameras tailing him for approximately two weeks. Cut-print-package, and its On-Demand a few weeks later. The thing is, that about as deep a look into Jeter’s life as most of us have ever gotten, which made watching it worthwhile for me.

The biggest thing I took from the documentary is that (not shockingly), Derek Jeter is a super-fucking-duper star. This guy may have the media/star thing figured out better than just about anyone I’ve seen come through this town. Forget the MTV Cribs generation, it felt weird and kind of cool to be in Jeter’s dope apartment. He walked out front, patted the doorman on the back and hopped into his Ford (yeah, he apparently does drive a Ford at times). No paparazzi, no fanfare, just hit and go. When he acknowledges that he’s on HBO and curses, its jarring, and then you realize that it shouldn’t have been. The fans and media have built up a St. Jeter thing that is extremely prevalent, and Jeter doesn’t do things to discourage it. He says the right thing, he never overexposes, and he projects a humility that people eat right up. Hell, how many super-duper-stars’ parents do we easily recognize and know on a first name basis(Iverson and LeBron’s mom) much less an unassuming, polite and pleasant interracial couple?

Jeter has dated a litany of the hottest women around, but they almost never become a Kate Hudson-sized star because of it, and if they seem to be headed that way it’s onto the next (Maraiah). We know who Minka Kelley is, and she’s been named the “hottest woman in the world” by some magazine or another, but she’s not constantly primping in the media or being photographed on Jeter’s arm. This is due in large part to the fact that we hardly ever see Jeter out being anything but a ballplayer or participating in a carefully controlled media event. That is why it was so unusual to get an inside look behind the scenes somewhat.

The key moment for me came after the 3000 hit game, when Jeter is making the whirlwind media rounds. He is headed toward the media room when he runs into Jay-Z. Jay-Z is one of the biggest stars in the world, and prides himself on that fact. He bragged to have made “the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can”. Jeter greets him warmly, but then fires off “are you gonna be here for a minute?” as he’s walking away. Jay-Z thinks for a second, seemingly considering “is Jeter expecting ME to wait for HIM?”, before responding “OK”.

So yeah, I watched the documentary before watching the Yankees-Royals game last night. Jeter went 2-6 with a double and two RBI. His average now stands at .283, with an OPB of .344 and an OPS of .716. Earlier this season, the pressure was on Jeter, with the “has he lost it?” whispers getting louder and louder. When he went on the DL with a calf injury his average sat at .260, with a .324 OBP and a .648 OPS. When you consider that in 37 games he has raised his batting average .23 points, his OBP .20 points and his OPS .68 points. This all equates to hitting about .323 (estimated) during a time in which the Yankees have reclaimed first-place in the AL East.

Now there is still plenty of baseball to go, and his current average is still .30 points below his career mark. But the signs are there suggesting that maybe more of the old Jeter remains than had previously been thought. He’s collected 11 hits in his last 5 games. In the month of August he is batting .382 with an OPS of .906, 21 hits, 12 runs and 10 RBI. Gardner may still be the better leadoff hitter situationally, but as we hit the dog days the Captain is seeming more and more like himself. Alex Rodriguez is on his way back, and the lineup which features Teixeira and Granderson near the top of AL offensive players plus an emerging Cano gets longer and longer for opposing pitchers.

Upon AJ’s Place

August 15, 2011

As the Yankees put the finishing touches on a 7-4 victory over the Royals, I felt randomly compelled to post on my long-dormant blog.

AJ Burnett pitched a decent game, but struggled as usual to finish what he started. He was pulled in the 6th after allowing 10 hits and 3 runs, walking one and striking out two. While he was credited with a win when his team took back the lead he had given away, Burnett did little to inspire confidence, or to growing notion among some that perhaps he is better suited to be sent to the bullpen than either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. Burnett is paid like a stud #2, and you would be hard-pressed to make the case that he is currently one of the 5 best Yankee starters.

Most Yankee fans would have happily taken a deal in the Spring for August performances like this….from Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia. Instead, those two are currently our #2 and #3, while we find ourselves shaking our heads as Burnett coughs up a 2-0 lead to the light-hitting Royals. The win was AJ’s first in ages, and improved his record to 9-9…He’s not being paid to go 9-9, or to sport a 4.61 ERA or 1.38 WHIP. His 2009 cache is nearly depleted, and potential and flashes just simply aren’t enough. How he’s capable of performing carry more weight than how the other guys are performing.

Phil Hughes is on an extremely short leash, and he was 18-8 last year and is working his way back from injury. Nova is 11-4, with an ERA more than half a run lower than Burnett. One could be sent back to the bullpen and a potential Joba-esque fate while the other faces the prospect of maybe heading back to Scranton. Cashman went on talk radio last week to make some bizarre declaration like “we knew what we were getting with AJ”…essentially trying to paint his struggles the past two seasons as an expected part of the $88 million signing. A steadfast refusal to publicly entertain the notion of moving Burnett out of the rotation in favor of guys clearly pitching better is strange. It may have to do with his seemingly fragile psyche, which seems to overshadow the brilliant array of pitches he is capable of throwing.

Hard-luck losses like his 4-2 loss at Baltimore where he allowed all 4 runs but did so on only 5 hits while striking out 10, those can happen to any great pitcher. But a 4 inning no-decision while giving up 7 earned runs after being spotted 13 by the Yankees, that shouldn’t happen. Yet if the line was presented to a Yankee fan without the name attached how many of us would pick AJ as the culprit?

Random rain-outs, injuries and circumstance have allowed the Yankees to keep a 6-man rotation for a few weeks. In their last two starts:

Hughes-

DATE OPPONENT RESULT IP H R ER HR BB SO GB FB TBF Pit Dec. Rel. ERA
08/13 vs TB W 9-2 6.0 4 2 2 1 1 6 8 8 23 96 W(3-4) – 6.55

08/02 @ CHW W 6-0 6.0 3 0 0 0 0 4 9 7 20 65 W(2-3) – 6.93

Nova-

DATE OPPONENT RESULT IP H R ER HR BB SO GB FB TBF Pit Dec. Rel. ERA
08/10 vs LAA W 9-3 6.0 5 3 3 1 3 0 17 5 25 96 W(11-4) – 3.85

08/04 @ CHW W 7-2 7.2 6 1 1 0 0 10 11 6 27 102 W(10-4) – 3.81

Burnett-

DATE OPPONENT RESULT IP H R ER HR BB SO GB FB TBF Pit Dec. Rel. ERA
08/15 @ KC W 7-4 5.2 10 3 3 0 1 2 7 7 25 88 W(9-9) – 4.61
08/09 vs LAA L 4-6 6.0 7 4 4 1 3 6 7 12 28 105 – – 4.60

Which pitcher would you drop out of the rotation? Does past success and fear about what it could do to a pricey investment count for more than it should?

An aside: I am not sure why I don’t post like I used to. I kept this thing up fairly consistently for the better part of 6 years. However, work got busier, grad school came and went, and social media microblogging have made things like this somewhat obsolete. Mostly though, I felt that not many people visited the site, and that I wasn’t putting the effort into it which would warrant FB/Twitter pimping. (I will probably link to this post, but as Doc Holliday said “my hypocrisy only goes so far”.)

Upon the 2011 Yankees, Better or Worse

January 5, 2011

The Boston Red Sox are loaded with the additions of AGone and Crawford. The Phillies are loaded with Cliff Lee, who spurned the Yankees (essentially). So where are the Yankees for 2011, as of January? Lets look at lineup and rotation first:

Is a starting rotation, right now, of CC, AJ, Hughes and __________ enough to keep up with the other clubs?- Short answer, no. However, the January rotation as currently constructed will not be the rotation which emerges from Spring Training, and certainly not the rotation which the Yankees use for the season. But lets look deeper, because there are many unanswered questions. Is AJ Burnett going to be as bad as he was last season? Is Hughes going to continue to improve in his second full season as a starter? Will Andy Pettitte come back at all? Will CC continue to be a stud? Who will be the 5th starter? (and if no Andy, who will be the 4th?) What effect will the departure of Dave Eiland and the arrival of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild have on the starters.?

Will the lineup be as strong as in year’s past?: Short answer, yes, maybe even more so. Age is a factor to be sure. Several older players are surely not getting any younger. Jorge Posada has been removed as the starting catcher, and will be replaced by Russell Martin as Posada transitions to full-time DH. This does clog the DH spot for resting other hitters, but Posada can always step behind the plate when someone needs a day off from fielding. Plus he will likely backup catch along with Montero. Jeter had a down season last year, but if my suspicions are correct, this will be a Jeter year where he has something to prove. Kevin Long is a great hitting coach and Jeter is a hard worker. I am sure the hole in his inside-out swing will be gone by March/April. Nick Swisher will have a tall task in replicating his 2010, but on the other hand Curtis Granderson will look to continue a hot second half. Brett Gardner will need to play as well as he did in 2010, but A-Rod should be a year healthier. Russell Martin will need to revert to his Dodger All-Star ways, but Robinson Cano is one of the best hitters in baseball. Mark Teixeira had rough patches but also went without his protection in Alex for stretches. Nick Johnson is gone, but so is Larry Walker.  

My ideal lineup would be Jeter, Granderson, Cano, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Posada, Swisher, Martin, Gardner. How does this lineup stack-up against

Jeter, Damon, Tex, Arod, Matsui, Cano, Posada, Swisher, Gardner?

Upon the New York Knicks and Remaining a Fan

December 23, 2010

So the first official post of the return of TWG is about the New York…..Knicks?

That’s right people, for the first time in almost a decade, this team has given us something to be excited about. An 8 game win streak? Winning 13 of 14 games?  Being road warriors? These are not phrases which have recently been assosciated with our basketball team. Last night’s win has restored some of the momentum which had been lost with 3-straight losses, as beating at talented West team like the Thunder (however tired they were) was not likely in year’s past. The litmus test will come on Christmas day, when the Knicks face the revamped Chicago Bulls in a marquee matchup. Yes, its not Lakers-Heat, but fans can still remember how much NY-CHI games used to mean.

So what has changed? Obviously, the addition of Amar’e Stoudamire is the biggest reason for this turnaround. 26.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg, while shooting 52% from the field and nearly 80% from the line. There were those who claimed “Stat” was a star being paid like a superstar, but his performance thus far flies in the face of those accusations. He’s not just putting up numbers, he is dominating games. Look at the difference between him and David Lee, who could be considered the Knicks best player in previous years. Lee had about 11 rpg at his peak, but averaged only 20 points a game at his peak. A 30 point game was rarified air for Lee, while Stoudamire just broke a Knicks record for consecutive 30 point games, with a few 39 point games for good measure.

Lee excited fans with 27 point-20 rebound games, but they often came when he was working harder than everyone else, and sometimes in a loss. When Stoudamire is dominating a game, it frequently accompanies a win. He has a jumpshot which I must admit I didn’t know was as accurate as it is. If you give him room, he will nail the 15-18 footer. If you play up on him, he can drive the lane. Collapse on him, and he will find a shooter. Leave his man one-on-one and often its look out below. Stoudamire can finish with the best of them, either with soft touch or rim-rocking slams. I was struggling to describe what its like having someone like him on the team, but its really like a super-sized version of that 8th grader who is better than everyone else. When Stat has it going, he becomes a force of nature. He’s second only to Kevin Durant in scoring league-wide.  Its not like having a guard or forward get his jumper working from all angles. He attacks the rim, but also has the touch to pull up and shoot, or drop a floater over a bulkier center.

So while Stoudamire has been paying dividends, he certainly owes some of his success to the supporting cast around him. You can stick one stud with a crap team and he won’t do much but go for his own numbers. The Knicks are certainly not a crap team, and one of the main reasons for them functioning as cohesively as they have been is the addition of Raymond Felton.

I was briefly horror-stricken when I saw a rumor online that the Knicks were considering bringing back Chris Duhon. I have no personal beef with Duhon, but he was definitively not a good point guard. Ray Felton is a good point guard.

In his 6th year, Felton is looking like the #5 pick he was in the 2005 draft. When he came out from North Carolina, Felton looked like a potential star, and a hometown favorite while playing with the Bobcats. With averages of approximately 13 ppg, and 6 apg, he seemed to be a solid, serviceable NBA PG. Fast forward to this season…Felton is averaging 18.2 ppr, 9.1 apg, and nearly 2 spg. I contend that this team really found its stride when Felton began truly running the show. He found confidence in his shot, and his 18 ppg average contains huge games of 26, 28 and 35 points. He is getting all of his teammates involved, and will often have a 13-15 assist game to go along with his scoring. Superstars Rondo, Nash, Paul and Deron Williams are the only PG with more assists per game. Hes also 4th in scoring among PG. Pretty exclusive company, no?

Felton is also fortunate to be running point with a guy like Stoudamire, and for a coach like D’Antoni. The Bobcats had played more of a half-court system, with scorers who worked off the dribble. Felton is now unleashed, and he is responsible for getting his team running and gunning. More on the system later, but suffice it to say that Felton’s new coach may be much more suited to him than Larry Brown (who coincidentally just steped down after the Bobcats struggled out of the gate).

So there have been obvious upgrades at two key positions, but it takes more than that to make a team. So who else is getting it done?

Wilson Chandler- 17.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.62 bpg. Chandler was coming off the bench to start games, but is now firmly planted in the starting SF spot. Its easy to forget that Chandler is only 23 and only in his third pro year. He seems to finally be coming into his own, and frequently switches with Felton as the team’s second leading scorer in any given game. His three-point shooting has improved, and when that shot is falling he becomes an extremely dangerous weapon for the team. As a third option, Chandler seems to be an emerging star.

Landry Fields- You can mark me down as pleased but skeptical on Fields. Much has been made of this rookie out of Stanford, and his 7 rpg and occasional flashes (21 and 17, 16 and 11) have raised some eyebrows among those who didnt think much of this 2nd round draftee. I still believe he is playing these minutes for his hustle, and to raise his trade stock for a potential Carmelo deal. Still, for someone who almost nothing was expected of, Fields has been a nice surprise.

Danillo Gallinari- Ahh, the enigma. Still just 22, Gallo could be placed in the same category as Chandler. He is extremely talented, but also extremely raw. He can go 3-14 from the field, 1-10 from 3-point range and give you just 7 points, as he did in a recent loss to Cleveland. Or, he can explode for 31 points, go 4-6 from three and 13-13 from the line, as he did in a big win against the Clippers. Gallo may also be trade bait for Carmello, but the flashes of brilliance from a 22 year old 6’10″ guard makes me want to keep him if possible.

Ronny Turiaf - Sometimes you can’t measure the contributions of a player in terms of numbers. Turiaf is muscle, toughness, shot blocking, NCAA tournament level bench cheerleading. He has been injured, but his presence as the only true size backup (not yet Timofey Mozgov) is immeasurable.  Turiaf seems to be this team’s heart, and I think he will continue to be valuable.

The rest of the team has been OK, serviceable, decent. Toney Douglas is improving, but still needs work. Shawne Williams has shown promise, but needs to knock off rust. Bill Walker is more like the old Knicks teams, individual talent which may or may not show up. The aforementioned Mozgov is a project, and a kid, and will need much more experience.

So, 1200 words on the Knicks. Welcome back indeed.

Upon a Return

November 30, 2010

It lives….IT LIVES!!!!

That’s right people. TWG is still alive. A new job has reeeeeeally put a hitch in my posting, but I’m still here. The Knicks are relevant, the Jets and Giants are in first place, the Yankees are trying to sign stars, and the Mets have the highest-paid front office in history (hyperbole alert).

So I’m back, and I promise to try harder.

Upon a West Coast Reflection

April 26, 2010

After a six-game West Coast swing where they finished 3-3, the Yankees will be headed to Baltimore with a 12–6 record. Some thoughts:

  • Javier Vazquez is on the verge of big trouble. His performances have done nothing to allay the concerns of fans who still vividly remember his 2004 exit from the Bronx. His ERA is high, and he hasn’t won games. I am still on the side that thinks he needs time to readjust to the AL, but he risks losing the fans for good if he can’t start providing quality starts.
  • At 12-6, the Yankees are still off to a solid start, but they cannot let up. With Tampa Bay charging out to a 14-5 record, the Yankees will have to keep their foot on the gas to keep the AL East lead within sight.
  • Andy Pettitte has been excellent in the early going, and leads the team in ERA and Wins, and is second to CC in WHIP and Ks. As a #3, Pettitte is giving the Yankees all they could ask for.
  • Phil Hughes is back to the exciting Phil Hughes who had everyone so worked up a few years ago. His no-hit bid against Oakland brought back memories of his no-hit bid against Texas, with the added bonus that he didn’t leave the game due to injury.
  • Strong starts by Posada, Jeter, Gardner, and Cervelli are being tempered by the woeful batting of Teixiera and Nick Johnson.
  • Robinson Cano has come storming out of the gate. If he keeps this up, this could be the year he takes the superstar leap.

Thats all for now. More after the Baltimore series.

Upon Contract Years

April 16, 2010

Interesting article from Forbes:

Http://cptl.st/bvvRZE

Upon Reflections from the Opening Road Trip

April 12, 2010
  • 4-2 on the opening road trip is not too shabby. The Easter game could have been a victory too. Now its on to the Bronx for rings and banners and all that good stuff.
  • The other loss, on Friday to the Rays, was a bit troubling. Javier Vazquez’ last appearance with the Yankees was the disastrous Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. His work on Friday was not much better, and has put a lot of concern in the minds on the Yankee faithful. It is only one start, but it wasn’t the start he needed to engender confidence.
  • Curtis Granderson is showing positive signs left and right. He has two big HR, including one off of Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the 10th inning. He has made some diving and leaping catches in the outfield. He has shown speed on the bases, which when combined with Gardner, gives the Yankees two burners in the bottom part of the lineup.
  • Nick Johnson is batting a lowly .136 so far, which is troubling for a number 2 hitter. However, he has drawn a team high7 walks, which speaks to hit patience and his eye at the plate. He has had some hard hit balls which have found defenders, but I think he will also be a nice addition.
  • Chan Ho Park looks like he might be an enigma. He appears in the first game of the season vs the Sox and promptly gives up the lead on a two-run bomb- Bad. Then he appears two games later and provides three scoreless innings of relief Good. then he provides these comments to the media : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GIEHPGj9sI- Weird.
  • Robinson Cano may be someone to really watch out for this season. Thus far he is hitting .360 with 2HR, 6 RBI, 9 hits, and 5 runs. His move to the five-hole means that big things are expected from Cano, and he will be asked to drive in the table-setters at 1-4. His RISP numbers will need to improve from last year, and .333 with 3 RBI is a decent start so far.
  • Mark Teixeira is starting slowly again, as seems to be the trend with him. He was mired in a career-long 0-17 slump to start a season before picking up 3 hits on Saturday. Again, it is early, and its worth remembering that he ended up leading the league in HR and RBI following a slow start in 2009.
  • CC and AJ both had so-so first starts, and followed them up with excellent second outings. CC had a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings on Saturday and AJ  went seven strong yesterday after allowing two runs in the first. Pettitte went 6 in the 10-inning win against the Sox, and will start the home opener on Tuesday.
  • Aside from the first game of the season, the bullpen has looked strong. With Joba, Robertson, Aceves, Marte, Mitre and Park, the Yankees have a good group of arms, mixing power with finesse. Mariano remains Mariano until further notice.

I am pleased with the start of the season, and look forward to some home games prior to the first West Coast trip next week.

Upon What I’ve Been Getting at with Jeter

March 29, 2010

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/preview10/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=5036408

In the article above, Jayson Stark takes a look at the “intangibles” that make certain baseball players winners. Not surprisingly, Derek Jeter is mentioned as one of the models of success.  Certain people don’t believe in ethereal ideas like “clutch” and “winner”, but I do. I think certain players are wired for success, both in critical moments, and overall.  And I am not alone.

Worth a read if you have a minute.


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