Eric Wedge is out in Cleveland along with his whole coaching staff. The interesting thing here is they’re going to finish out the season. This is a very unique situation and it speaks volumes to the character and type of person Eric Wedge is.
Now to his future. He will get another managerial job. This guy is one of the top managers out there. He’s got great vision and he can help build an organization. He works well with both the young and veteran players. When I look back over his 7 years in Cleveland he helped develop players like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez just to name a few. They did good things together including a playoff appearance in 2007 and that year they were only one win from making the World Series.
I thought it was interesting what Indians GM Mark Shapiro said. The next manager should have the right to pick his own staff. They’re going to have a whole new situation with a new manager and new coaches with a brand new philosophy. It will be interesting to see what happens next spring when the Indians break with their new club.
Let’s talk about Bobby Cox today. He’s coming back in 2010 and I think that’s fantastic.
In listening to Bobby’s comments it’s interesting because he’s so humble. He says they’re even going to allow me to be a part of the organization after I stop managing. Come on Bobby! They should name the Braves after you. It should be the Bobby Braves.
Think about what this guy has done for this franchise and where the Braves were before Bobby showed up. So many people misrepresented the fact that they went to the postseason 14 straight seasons. Do you know how hard it is to get to the postseason? They did it 14 years in a row and did win one World Series. Now that’s amazing.
This is one of the great franchises in all of professional sports and you can thank John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox for that. Bobby Cox leaving the Braves doesn’t seem right. Bobby Cox. One of the greatest managers we’ll see in our lifetime.
I think it’s awesome what Derek Jeter accomplished on Friday night. This is one of my favorite players of all time. You just have to look at how Jeter handles himself. Every night he comes to the ballpark ready to play. He runs out every groundball and has a tremendous approach to the game. I’ve loved watching him progress from 1995 until now with the adjustments he’s made along the way. This is a huge thing to be the all-time hits leader for the New York Yankees. The surprising thing though is the number and that no player in Yankees history has 3,000 hits. That’s the next thing that’s going to separate him from a lot of people in the history of baseball. He will get to 3,000 hits within the next couple of years for sure if he stays healthy. It’s an amazing feat for Jeter. Congratulations to him as he is now the all-time hits leader in Yankees history, which is amazing.
Let’s talk about Matt Holliday today. I talked with Matt a few weeks ago when he was in New York to play the Yankees right before he got traded. There were two big things that we discussed. One was his slow start and two was a possible trade to St. Louis and getting back to the National League.
The second thing we talked about was the possibility of him going to St. Louis and getting back to the National League. He loved the idea at the time. I asked him what has been the biggest challenge going to the American League after being in the National League for so many years. He said it’s not just the fact that they throw more breaking pitches in the American League, but it’s recognizing those pitches as well. In the National League he may anticipate a breaking pitch, but he also knew how it was going to break. In the American League he would also anticipate a breaking pitch, but he didn’t know how it was going to break. That was the biggest challenge for him. As the year progressed and he saw pitchers for a 2nd time he was able to adjust.
Now going back to the National League he’s been off to a hot start, but he’s seen these pitchers before so he has a better idea of what these guys will throw him and how it’s going to move. It was pleasure to talk to Matt that day at Yankee Stadium. It’s tough to pick against the Cardinals now in the NL Central with him and Pujols in the middle of that lineup.
The Victor Martinez deal is a very interesting trade to me and here’s why. His trade to Boston affects 5 different players.
Who is going to play first base? Will it be Youkilis or Martinez? When Martinez plays first base somebody at third base will be affected. Mike Lowell will most likely have to sit because they’ll probably move Youkilis to third. If they decide to sit Youkilis then he’s been affected. So both Lowell and Youkilis have to deal with Martinez playing first base.
The 3rd player that has to deal with this Martinez trade is Jason Varitek. Now think about it. This is a guy who has handled the Boston pitching staff for the last 12 years. All of these pitchers have grown up and trusted him so he knows their stuff better than anyone. His greatest worth to his team is calling the game so now you affect Varitek.
The 4th player on this list is David Ortiz. Martinez can DH, too, so on days he does Big Papi sits. I know he’s struggled this season, but he’s starting to swing the bat well of late. Alright, that’s 4 players who have instantly been affected by this trade.
Number 5 now is Casey Kotchman who was traded for Adam LaRoche as we all know. He now becomes that player off the bench after starting in Atlanta.
So 5 players were directly affected with the trade for Victor Martinez without talking about Martinez, which is still a great pickup by the Red Sox. It will be interesting down the stretch for Terry Francona to get all these players enough playing time. We’ll have to see how it all shakes out in Boston.
It’s been real interesting in the last couple years as I’ve watched how the importance of statistics has taken over how to analyze a baseball game. I used to play for an old time manager named Dick Williams who used to tell me, “The situation will dictate what happens.” He used to call me to his office and say, “I should never have to give you a sign. You should know this is a bunt situation, you should know this is a situation where you need to take a trike, you should know the situation calls for getting the man over. I should never have to give you a sign, the situation dictates what happens.”
But what I’ve been witnessing while I’ve been a broadcaster is everyone using these stats to try and explain the game of baseball. Not all statistics work. Some do, some don’t. And one of the stats that has become real popular is OPS. On-base plus slugging. All of a sudden, it’s this stat that defines whether a guy is a good ball player or not. And the fact of the matter is, if you’re a power hitter then the situation will dictate what a pitcher does with you – either walk you or pitch you real careful. So more than likely you’re going to end up on base and therefore your on-base percentage goes up. This in my mind has become the stat the everyone thinks is the be all and end all. It is not. If you have a ball club that’s a great offensive team then that changes everything. But if you have a guy like Adrian Gonzalez, for example, his OPS is going to be high – he’s got a lot of home runs and walks a lot…because you’re not going to pitch to him. Power guys like Giambi and Dunn have always had high OPS because no one wants to pitch to them. But it takes two hits to score them from first.
This is how the game has changed. Dick Williams is pulling his hair out. This is not something people have reinvented in the game. You can go all the way back to Dave Kingman. When Kingman was hot, you didn’t pitch to him. If he wasn’t hot, you pitched to him. Big power hitters swing and miss and strikeout. Or they hit home runs and walk. And at the end of the year their OBP is always going to be higher than most of the other guys on the team because they clog the bases.
A few years ago this stat grabbed my ear when someone said that Ichiro doesn’t walk enough. So I said, “What do you mean?” And they said his OBP could be so much higher if he walked more. The guy gets 200 hits a season! And he scores over 100 runs. I think that speaks for itself.
So as the old, wise Dick Williams used to tell me, “I should never have to give you a sign. The situation dictates what happens.”
My mindset hasn’t changed, I still think the draft is for the worse teams to get better. If you look back through the history of turning franchises around, if the Mets weren’t able to sign Darryl Strawberry, then what happens to that organization? If the Mariners can’t sign Ken Griffey Jr, what happens to them? Roger Clemens? That’s the purpose of the draft, the best players go to the worst teams and the worst teams have a chance to get back to the top. What has happened recently is that you don’t always have the worst teams getting the best players because of “signabiliy”. Signability? What kinda word is that! To me, If someone is not “signable” then he doesn’t want to play baseball. At the end of the day, if you’re any good at all in this day in age, you are going to make $50-$100 million playing baseball. And everyone now thinks they’re supposed to make that right out the gate. There’s a reason that you have a three-year process of arbitration, a reason for free agency and a reason they’re getting paid the money they get paid because they’ve gone through all the trials and proven their worth. Part of that is putting people in the seats, part of that is having a following and part of that is taking an organization back up to the top.
Where are the Yankees if they don’t get to draft Derek Jeter? Where is Tampa Bay is they don’t get to draft many of the guys on their current roster? That’s the purpose of the draft. Sure, teams miss on some players. Injuries happen. But where are the Twins if Joe Mauer was not “signable”?
All of this leads up to this years draft and Strasburg being the #1 pick. All of a sudden there’s a price tag out there that is unreachable for the Nationals. Although they say they’re going to draft him and sign him for what I hear could be about $50 million, how can the Nationals justify that after they just signed one of their top players, Ryan Zimmerman for about $45 million AFTER he has established himself. That’s the most anyone has ever made in franchise history. I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, they’re not going to sign him at that price. Telling you now, it won’t happen. And at the end of the day he’ll be going somewhere else because someone’s going to say they can afford it and that’s the sadness of the draft.
It’s a great day with a lot of excitement but it’s meant for the worst teams to get the best players, and if the worst teams don’t get the best players then the draft has not been successful.
When I watch Jon Lester, I see a unique left-handed pitcher. Traditionally, most lefties are softer throwers and if you see a guy throwing 90 MPH’s it’s usually an exception to the rule. The traditional lefty is a guy who throws mid-80’s – look at guys now like Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer and throughout history with guys like Bruce Hurt, John Tudor and Fernando Valenzuela – they relied on a change-up that floated away from right handed hitters or a fastball that tailed away. So when someone like Lester comes along it changes the whole mental approach of how to hit a left-handed pitcher. Now all of a sudden he’s coming in on your hands and sinking that fastball. He has changed how a batter approaches a lefty pitcher. And when you start throwing 95 MPH like Randy Johnson you’re getting into that category where you just haven’t seen lefties throughout history like that. When you throw 95 AND you can throw a cutter in on the hands and a slider like Lester does and still be able to hit the outside corner against a right-handed batter, you’ve got the complete package.
I think his unique ability – pinpoint control, assortment of pitches – set him apart from most pitchers in today’s game.
Across MLB, I think it’s a better brand of baseball right now. Not as much power as far as sit back and wait for it. Teams are trying to make things happen, they’re running a lot more, going base to base. Defense is going to become a premium and I like what I’m seeing. I still think a lot of managers have to adjust, some are being exposed by not moving runners over in certain situations because I don’t think they’re grasping the fact that the game has changed. Clearly the veteran managers who has always managed that way – Piniella, LaRussa – are not affected by the lack of power that might be in their lineups. They’ve always made great adjustments on the fly and as the season progresses that’s going to be the tell-tale sign of which managers are going to be able to get their teams an extra 10-15 wins based on the style of play.
Once of the reasons this rivalry is so great is the simple fact that David Ortiz is popping off just before the Yankees got to town and he’s basically warning Joba Chamberlain not to throw inside. This is headline locker rood fodder that everyone wants to talk about. But, from a baseball standpoint, it all sparks a lot of offense because if the umpires warn the pitchers not to pitch inside – and I’m not talking about throwing people’s head or hitting guys like Joba did with Youkilis – I’m saying just pitching inside to brush guys off the plate, then we’re going to see a lot of offense.
It’s going to be one of the most exciting weekends for the players new to the teams. Teixiera, CC, A.J., to experience the Red Sox – Yankee rivalry amped up to another level is really cool.
This is a great rivalry, second to none, and I look forward to watching it.