Pinstripe Problems

I wanted so badly for my first baseball-related post of the 2017 season to be about the outlook of every team as Spring Training commenced. After all, optimism springs eternal for every team this time of year, and wouldn’t it be great to write a commentary on that for each team?

Yeah, it would have been, but Yankees President Randy Levine made sure that post wouldn’t happen. Yet.

Ugh. I’m so mad. As a Yankees fan, this whole episode with Levine makes my blood boil. For those of you reading who have no idea what is going on, let me fill you in: Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and the New York Yankees just finished an arbitration hearing to negotiate Betances’ salary for the 2017 season. Betances filed for $5mil, the Yanks filed at $3mil – that’s quite a difference. Dellin and his agents’ rationale was that he has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the last few seasons and should be paid what teammate Aroldis Chapman was paid after his first arbitration hearing (since 2014, Dellin has been a 3x All-Star, has a 8.5 fWAR, 392 strikeouts through 247 innings pitched, and a 14.28 strikeouts per 9 innings).

Arbitration hearings are always messy and not fun. The players have to listen to their team explain all of their shortcomings and why they are not worthy of a higher salary. But these hearings are part of the game and no matter what side wins, the loser still pushes on and the two sides tend to be amicable towards each other regardless. The Yankees won the arbitration hearing and all signs were pointing toward Dellin taking his salary and moving on, like a normal person.

Then team president Randy Levine opened his mouth.

Levine stated that Betances was not a closer, so even though he could be one, he was not worthy of more money. He said Betances was used by his agents to upset “the system”, referring to the idea that relief pitchers not given the “closer” title are not worth more money.

The idea that Betances was “used” by his agents is absurd – Betances did have a valid argument for wanting more money. Though he may not be a closer, he’s not exactly your typical set-up man. The fact is that even though the Yanks’ closer is Aroldis Chapman, Betances could easily fill that role.

Understandably, Betances and his agents were not going to take Levine’s comments lying down. Betnaces, when asked about the comments, said “I was planning on putting everything behind me until I was aware of Randy Levine’s comments saying I was the victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me, but then they take me in a room, trash me for about an hour-and-a-half.” He then added, “You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes.”

RANDY LEVINE YOU BUTTHOLE.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal then wrote an article with the response from Rick Shapiro, the senior union executive who was tapped to represent Betances. Shapiro gave details about Levine’s manor in the courtroom, which makes the whole story even more infuriating. Levine was said to bully the panel and didn’t even contribute to the majority of the hearing. When he did contribute, he called Dellin by the incorrect name repeatedly and began to blame him for declining ticket sales and for the Yanks lack of postseason appearances. ARE YOU SERIOUS.

Okay. Deep breath.

Let’s unpack this bit-by-bit:

First, Dellin Betances hails from the Big Apple and grew up a Yankees fan. He’s one of the fans’ favorite players and the fact that he is a home-grown player is even better. It makes my heart hurt that Levine unnecessarily damaged the relationship between a home-grown player who grew up a fan and the front office.

Second, it’s normal for players to feel ill-will towards the front office after arbitration hearings. Feelings get hurt, but players move on. Dellin wanted to move on, but Levine made his thoughts heard in a press conference (which is totally unprecedented, BTW). You don’t air out your thoughts and dirty laundry with a presser.

Third, HIS NAME IS DELLIN.

Fourth, Dellin is not responsible for declining ticket sales. MAYBE THE FACT THAT YOUR TICKETS ARE UNREASONABLY PRICED IS WHY YOU ARE NOT SELLING TICKETS. Like, I can hardly afford crappy seats at Yankee Stadium! It’s such a nice ballpark and the views are incredible, but dear Lord it’s crazy! After paying for my NJ Transit ticket, subway fare, crappy tickets to the game, and for food and beer, I’m out well over $150. That may not seem like a lot to someone like Randy Levine, but to a girl who is trying to pay off student loans, car payments, etc, $150 is huge. If anything, watching Dellin and some of the other young, homegrown players are INCENTIVE for me to come to the ballpark. I don’t get to watch #BaeRod anymore, so I want to see these young kids play, even if we don’t win.

Fifth, the reason the Yanks haven’t made the postseason in a few years is because they are old, decrepit, injured, and frankly, not that of a great of a team. Let’s be real: it’s amazing they have still managed to have winning seasons the last few years.

Look, arbitration hearings are tough, but it did not have to get to this point. Levine could have shut his face and moved on, just like Dellin was trying to do. Dellin was upset with what he heard during the hearings, but he was more than happy to move on and contribute to the team. He is under contract until 2020, so I hope that the Yanks are able to mend fences with the fans’ favorite reliever. The Yanks front office and upper management have made several gaffes over the last few years (the whole Ticketmaster debacle, no digital tickets, the comments that basically said the casual fan doesn’t deserve nice seats – really, I could keep going), and they are all disheartening. But it is especially hard for me to see them trash one of their best players publicly.

Dellin Betances is a fan favorite and he is one of the best relievers in the game today. He deserves better.

 

 

 

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Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez announced his retirement from baseball today.

I streamed his press-conference at work Sunday and had to explain to a customer why I was crying as I watched. He was unfazed because to him, seeing A-Rod hang up his cleats after 22 years is not reason enough to cry. Maybe I was just overly tired, maybe I was just caught up in the moment, but watching Alex tear up with acknowledgment of his career in pinstripes ending and seeing him cry as he spoke about his daughters made me all kinds of weepy.

I have always been in awe of the career Alex has put together. I remember seeing highlights of his as a little girl and always hearing his name during broadcasts. I remember hearing about his massive contracts and his famous girlfriends. I remember when he went to the Yankees, a team I had yet to become a fan of. He became the ultimate villain: talented, charming, blithe, controversial, well-paid, selfish. He was the man you hated unless he was on your team, and even then, some who loved the Yankees didn’t care for him. I remember the sadness and disappointment I felt when I heard his name surface in the Biogenesis reports and I remember the anger I felt when he was suspended for a year. The anger was directed towards MLB, who in my mind, went on a witch hunt – a sort of last hurrah for Bud Selig and a way to make up for not doing anything during the Steroid Era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Most importantly, I remember the joy of watching Alex humbling himself and having a resurgent 2015 season, showing the world a glimpse of the man he strives to be.

But once you peel back the layers of who Alex is, you see a man who was blessed with a God-Given talent to hit a baseball. You see a man who had enormous expectations placed on him at a young age and you see a man who lived up to those expectations and then some. You also see a man burdened by those expectations and the compulsive need to please everyone. You see a fragile ego that often needed boosting by women, luxury, and yes, PEDs. You see a man who clubbed more grand slams than anyone in history. You see a man who came four home runs shy of 700. You see a man who has 2,084 RBIs and 3,114 hits. You see a man with 10 Silver Slugger awards, 3 MVP awards, 2 gold gloves, and 1 World Series ring. You see someone who put up some of the greatest numbers in baseball history, but still felt the need to use PEDs. But, perhaps most importantly, you see a man who is an excellent father to two beautiful girls and a man who is trying his hardest to become a better person.

There are so many players that I idolize, but Alex might be one of my favorites because he is human. And by that I mean he has never been a cookie-cutter baseball player and you never knew what you were going to hear when he opened his mouth. His ups and downs were something everyone could relate to, even if it was not on such a grand scale. His hubris and his allowance of fans to see behind the baseball curtain these last few years invited you to take a fresh look at a man so many had already painted in a certain light. His story of a second chance is something every person knows well because everyone, at some point in their lives, has needed a second chance. The story of Alex Rodriguez is not something that can be neatly folded into a box and tied up with a ribbon; his story and his career are far more complex. The story of  Derek Jeter’s career, for example, can be put into a small paragraph, but the story of Alex’s career is longer than a Stephen King novel.

The haters have already come out in full force, saying that Alex should be denied a spot in the Hall of Fame. They say his accomplishments should come with an asterisk. But I can’t help but wonder why so many people think they are on a moral high-horse. He never killed another human. He never physically hurt someone (other than in bench-clearing brawls). He’s never hurt a woman. He took PEDs. That’s his biggest baseball transgression. But here’s the thing: PEDs don’t allow you to have the God-given talent Alex has. PEDs don’t make you universally liked by all of the teammates who have played with you. PEDs don’t make you give considerable time and money to charity. PEDs don’t make you a good father. I know that not everyone will admire and idolize Alex the way that I do, but I do ask that they at least acknowledge that he is one of the greatest players who ever played the game. He was, and will always be, one of the greats whether you like him or not. And yes, he 100% belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Alex Rodriguez will leave a long, complicated legacy. He will be remembered in as many ways as you can count. I will remember him as a brilliant, if flawed, baseball prodigy. I will remember him as someone who gave everything he had to the game he loved and as someone who will continue to give to the game as he gets older. He says he was always meant to be a teacher and I can’t wait to watch him tutor the younger generation of players. I will remember him as the anti-hero we all needed in our lives, and as the man whose redemption story is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.

At his press conference this morning his said poignantly, “I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level. Someone who loves to learn it, play it, teach it, coach it. And also, I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.”

Thank you, Alex, for everything you’ve given to baseball. Thank you for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thank you for showing everyone that it’s okay to trip and fall, as long as you get back up. Thank you for 22 great years and for allowing a girl from Arizona to grow up with you. I don’t know what I will do without you playing baseball, but I do know that I can’t wait for whatever you do next.

#BaeRodForever

30 Games

A few quick thoughts on Yankees’ relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s 30-game suspension…

  1. 30 games seems a bit low.
  2. It seems like it was a negotiated amount, but that’s just me.
  3. I have a lot of respect for Rob Manfred, even though I don’t agree with his punishment.

To expand on my first point, I was expecting him to be suspended for about forty-five games. Given the harrowing details of his alleged crime (gun shooting and choking are the headliners), I was surprised the he will only have to sit out a little over a month. However, I will admit, as a huge Yankees fan, I am a little pleased I get to watch him pitch as soon as May…

I feel like his suspension was negotiated because he has elected not to appeal. He just wants to get it over with and there is no way MLB wants to start the 2016 season with a lawsuit. Not only that, but a suspension of 45 days would delay his free agency by a year. This means that after the 2016 season, he is eligible to be a free agent (and he will get PAID this off-season). I think had he been suspended for longer than 30 games, he would have absolutely appealed the decision. People also are saying that if his free agency was postponed for a year, that is a win for the Yankees, who many felt made a grave mistake pursuing a man who was accused of DV. I don’t care if it would be a “win” for the Yanks – a longer suspension still sends a message that DV is not okay.

Though I don’t agree with the length of the suspension, I have nothing but respect for Commissioner Manfred’s reasoning. In the statement he released, he made it abundantly clear how important the victim was in his consideration. He said the use of a firearm impacted the severity of the suspension, as it should. It is so so so so so important that we do not forget the victims of these domestic disputes.

Chapman is going to be suspended without pay for 30 games. Fine. I have no tolerance for a man who puts his hands on a woman (or visa-versa), but this is a good start. The NFL looked ridiculous for it’s handling of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, and I don’t think MLB will be viewed the same way. In a way, this is a big win for baseball.

Final quick thought: The Yankees should donate Chapman’s salary for the games he will miss to Joe Torre’s Safe At Home domestic violence foundation.

 

 

Rooting for the Laundry

Boy, I am in one hell of a moral quagmire.

My dear, darling, beloved, pin-striped Yankees have just added the best reliever in baseball to their bullpen. The Yanks now boast the only three relievers in baseball who had 100+ strikeouts in 2015 and all of them throw over 100 mph. The dominate three are Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and a guy who just happens to be under investigation for some horrific domestic violence charges.

The Yanks’ latest addition, Aroldis Chapman, has been accused of domestic violence charges that includes (but is not limited to) choking his girlfriend, pushing her against a wall and firing a gun eight times in his garage. Basically, he is accused of the stuff human garbage piles are made of. It seems as though, with this trade, the Yankees have undone all of the good work Joe Torre has done in bringing domestic violence issues to light (check out his DV outreach foundation, Safe At Home, at joetorre.org).

All of their good karma seems to have been burned up.

The price for Chapman was too good to pass up. The Yankees sent four minor prospects, only one of whom is close to major-league ready, for a man who is arguably the best reliever in baseball. When two teams backed out of trades when these allegations surfaced, Chapman’s price was driven way down. The Cincinnati Reds were desperate to get rid of him and I don’t blame them. The deal for Chapman is risky because we are not sure how many games he will miss due to suspension and he is in the last year of his contract.

As a baseball move, it was a brilliant no-brainer. As a moral move, it makes you wanna barf.

So how am I, as a woman and a huge Yankees fan, supposed to react to this signing?

In my other blog earlier this year, I wrote a scathing critique of the Dallas Cowboys and Greg Hardy. The big difference is that I have no attachment to the Cowboys. I hate them, in fact, so it was easy to skewer them. Now, I am forced to ponder how to root for my team while still being disgusted with Chapman. I am SO EXCITED for the Betances-Miller-Chapman three-headed monster that will be the bullpen, but I’m sick about what Chapman has allegedly done. I don’t want him playing for my team, but I really want him playing for my team.

Cheering for the Yankees does not mean I cheer for domestic violence. Cheering for the Yankees also does not mean I am ignoring the awful things Chapman has allegedly done. Perhaps I am simply rooting for the laundry, as Seinfeld coined so appropriately. I root for the Yankees, but I won’t root for Chapman. He will get support through osmosis until he can prove to me that he is changed. If he takes the Ray Rice route and owns up to what he has done and takes steps to better himself, perhaps I will cheer for him genuinely.

Until then, I am going to die of happiness because of the amazing bullpen the Yanks boast, but I am also going to hate myself a little.

Oh, and by the way, don’t think that PED use and domestic violence are the same thing and warrant a similar suspension. Nope. Nope nope nope. If you think that, you’re wrong. I’d rather see DV offenders suspended for 80 games and PED users suspended for far less. I’d rather have someone cheat than have them put their hands on a woman. When I have kids, I’d rather them look up to someone like A-Rod or Ryan Braun instead of Greg Hardy or Aroldis Chapman. But whatever.

 

http://www.pinstripealley.com/yankees-editorials-opinions-analysis/2015/12/30/10687970/mlb-aroldis-chapman-yankees-brian-cashman-trade-domestic-violence ………This article by Pinstripe Alley was wonderful and perfectly describes how I feel about the trade. 

 

 

 

Big Bucks in Beantown

Leave it to the Boston Red Sox to pull an Evil Empire-esque move.

Yesterday, news broke that the Boston Red Sox offered marquee southpaw David Price a record contract. Get this: Price is set to make $217 million over the next 7 years.

Yep, Boston took a page out of ol’ Boss Steinbrenner’s book of free agent spending.

Well, actually, last year was the start of an Evil Empire-type series of signings in Beantown when the Sox signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Of course, I am sure they would love to take those signings back. Pablo the Panda was about as productive as a regular panda would have been and Han-Ram quickly showed that he was not a man destined for the outfield. Panda and Han-Ram were signed to spark serious offense, but the Sox had one of the worst team batting averages in all of baseball in 2015. Which is why, to some, throwing money at another big-time free agent seems foolish, especially considering how strong their farm system is.

However, I think it was wise for Boston to spend big money on a pitcher. Not $217mil, but I do think they needed an ace. Price is worth a lot of money, and I don’t take issue with him making about $31 million a year. However, I DO have an issue with the length of his contract. Price is 30 years old, so it would naive to think that he would still be worth so much money four or five years down the road. Did the Sox learn nothing from watching the Yankees suffer through the end of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez’s monster contracts? Goodness knows the Yanks could use the cap space to get better and younger talent.

I guess I should have prefaced that I do not favor contracts of more than five years for ANYONE over the age of 30 in baseball. I think it is flat-out fiscally irresponsible. Yes, the players like job security, but do they like being a liability later on in their contract? Players are not ignorant to the fact that they are not holding up their end of the contract in the latter stages of said contract. Regardless, I just don’t think teams should offer long-term deals to older players – As a Yankees’ fan, I have seen this backfire A LOT.

I think David Price is a fantastic pitcher and worth the gobs of money he is going to collect. The dude has a career ERA of 3.09, a career WHIP of 1.13, and has amassed 1372 career strikeouts. Not only that, but he has a career win-loss record of 104-56.

But my goodness the Sox were silly to sign him for so many years.

If the Sox are going to tap into the Yankees’ fondness for throwing money at big-time players, they should also remember that there is a price to be paid (pun totally intended) for big-time spending. The Sox will probably be cursing themselves in about five or six years when Father Time eventually catches up with David Price and they can’t move him.

In the end, if I have learned anything from this signing, it is that if I ever have a son, I am tying his right hand behind his back and forcing him to pitch left-handed.

 

 

A New New York Attitude Goes a Loooooong Way

Last night’s Twins/Yankees game was probably the best game I have watched in a really long time. As a Yankees fan, around the fourth inning, I was smelling yet another shellacking at the hands of the surprising Minnesota Twins. The Bombers were down 5-0 after another(!) poor outing from CC Sabathia. But then, the 2015 Yankee savior stepped up to the plate. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez clobbered a homer to the third deck (it was later deemed to be a 480+ footer!) and set the wheels in motion for one of the biggest games of the year. Three (THREE!!) homers from A-Rod, one massive 3-run homer from back up catcher John Ryan Murphy, and a sac fly later, the Yanks won the game in spectacular fashion.

This year, with this group of guys, makes for one fun team to watch. It’s not just that the Yanks are actually playing like they are being paid to play, but there seems to be a whole new attitude amount the players in the dugout. There seems to be a little more life to this team. Maybe it’s because they are all relatively healthy. Maybe it’s because they are starting to get production from the bottom of their line up. Maybe there is an over-arching sense of optimism about not just getting to October this year, but how they could be getting to many more Octobers to come given the influx of homegrown talent coming up through the farm system.

Or, maybe, it is the presence of new (and recently returned) guys in the clubhouse. It’s amazing how just a few players can change the dynamics of a clubhouse. This year, I’ve noticed things are a little looser in the Big Apple, which is not a bad thing at all. There have been more bat flips, more enthusiastic interviews, and a lot of fun moments in the dugout.

I know it sounds crazy, but is it possible that with Derek Jeter no longer in the clubhouse, everyone is a little more rambunctious? It’s blasphemous, I know, but just hear me out: DJ was a quiet leader who kept to himself and felt that all the other players should do the same. His mentality was that he only wanted his bat and his glove to do the talking. Perhaps with his stoic leadership gone, the stoic nature of the Yankees’ clubhouse is gone, too.

Let’s face it: A-Rod is the new OG (Originial Gangster) in town and he is anything but quiet and stoic. He’s been acting as a pseudo-coach to the younger players and has quietly mentored them, too. He’s taken the pressure off his teammates in terms of the media attention, and not only that, but he has given every teammate the highest of praise. He has also shown, more indirectly, that you can’t take the game for granted. My guess is that his teammates see how much he embraces the game now and how excited he is to not just produce in the line-up, but thrive. A-Rod has been a humbler man this year and he looks like he is having the time of his life everyday. That childlike enthusiasm is rubbing off on his teammates, too. Everyone seems happy and lighter in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Whether that is because of A-Rod is anyone’s guess, but I’d like to think that he has contributed to that somehow.

The 2015 Yankees are having a fun time playing baseball and it’s making it fun for the fans to watch. Of course, baseball is always more fun when your team is winning. If the Yanks, God forbid, go on a skid, we will see how this new attitude holds up. However, I think it’s been fun to see the Yankees playing with the enthusiasm and attitude of little leaguers. Baseball is, after all, a game. In 2015, the Yankees are not all uppity and prissy, high and mighty, but rather a club full of guys who are having the time of their lives. Regardless of why this team has a new attitude, it’s a fun team to watch and I am so excited to see them perform the rest of the season, and hopefully into October, as well.

…and in Other News, the Sky is Blue

Today on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, it was revealed that they had obtained notebooks alleging that Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader and recipient of a lifetime ban, was betting on baseball games while he was still a player in 1986. Yeah, Rose bet on baseball, grass is green, and I should work out more. All of the above are facts that no one is disputing. Rose has long denied that he never bet on games while he was playing, only managing, but these notebooks are saying otherwise. Is anyone surprised?

I’m not surprised. I’m over it.

Really. Call me ignorant or flippant, whatever you want, but I really don’t care. Is that bad? Is it bad that I don’t view betting on baseball as a terribly egregious offense? Rule 21, which reads “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible”, is why Rose is banned from baseball. Yeah, Rose really shouldn’t have done this, but he didn’t fix the World Series, like the Chicago White Sox did in 1919. And, as far as we know, he never bet on his team to lose, therefore showing that he would never try to throw away a game for the sake of winning money.

I think one thing that has formed my thinking about this is that I grew up the steroid era of Major League Baseball. I watched in awe as sluggers like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire hit baseballs with little regard. I saw the competitive advantages players have gotten through PEDs. To me, those are far more damaging offenses than betting on baseball. I know what you’re thinking, “But Hannah! You love Alex Rodriguez! How can you say this?”. True, I love that man, but I don’t love that he cheated. I stand up for Bae-Rod because I was disgusted with how MLB treated him and the tactics they had used. But, my feelings about PEDs are a whole other blogpost waiting to happen…

Look, gambling has not been a problem for baseball BECAUSE of Pete Rose’s lifetime ban. We really haven’t seen any betting from anyone since MLB brought the hammer down on Rose. Really, Rose has done MLB a great service. But, now that we are no longer seeing gambling happening, does anyone really care about what Pete Rose did 30 years ago? This news OTL broke today didn’t really phase me. Watching Monday Night Baseball on ESPN, former player/current broadcaster Mark Mulder shared similar sentiments that I feel: he’s over the whole gambling thing and views PEDs as a much bigger problem. Coming from a former player, that says a lot. Besides, people like Pete Rose. They respect how he played the game and they recognize how big of an ambassador he has been for the game. It’s been a joy watching him as an analyst on Fox and it’s been great to see him continue to contribute to and promote the sport he is banned from.

With the 2015 All-Star Game being held in Cincinnati, I was really hoping that MLB was going to be able to let Pete Rose participate in some capacity. As a player who meant so much to his team, to Cincinnati, heck, to the whole sport, it’s a shame that he probably will have to watch the game and festivities from his couch. As a fan of baseball, that sucks. I’m over everyone talking about Rose through the lens of his punishment. Can we please talk about the great player that he was and the great ambassador he is currently?

Let’s move past 1986 and let’s start tackling the problems affecting baseball today. Like PEDs. Or the lack of Yankee mustaches. Or still having SEVEN Royals starting the All-Star game.

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/13114874/notebook-obtained-lines-shows-pete-rose-bet-baseball-player-1986