A Little More Yankee Hatin’

I don’t know if it is absolutely fair to hate the Yankees for signing CC Sabathia for a record $161,000,000 over the next six years, but just can’t help it.

As a fan of the Texas Rangers, I will always remember how offended the media was when the Rangers offered A-Rod, the best player in baseball at the time, a record $150,000,000 contract.  The media beat the Rangers up and down about how ridiculous the contract was.  Because many people allow their opinions to be determined by the things that knuckleheads in the media say, the outcry was pretty loud.  Eventually, even though he was still the best player in baseball during his tenure with the Rangers, public opinion soured him on the team, and he left (to the Yankees, no less, sticking the Rangers with a good portion of his contract).

Obviously, the best position player in baseball is worth more than the best pitcher in baseball.  Why then is it OK for the Yankees to spend these sums of money, but not the Rangers?

The problem I have is with a sports media which is largely driven and controlled by Eastern press agencies who do little to mask their biases for teams like the Yankees, but never acknowledge these biases.  What I see in all of this is that it is alright for a team such as the Yankees to spend whatever they want on any player, but heaven forbid an upstart, second-tier team like the Rangers even attempt to play ball in the same marketplace that the Yankees play in.  If that were to happen, then perhaps some team other than the Red Sox and Yankees would go to the playoffs every year, and the Eastern media obviously could not deal with that.

So, because the media will not police itself in this manner, I am left with no other option but to wish failure on the Yankees.  And, I do.

Confessions of a Yankee hater

The first step in a Twelve Step Program is to admit that you have a problem.  It has been a long hard road filled with a lot of denial, but I can finally admit to myself today, that I am a Yankee hater.  Just saying it feels as if a load has been lifted off of my back.  This has been a hard realization to come to, but seeing how Jonathan Papelbon was treated in New York last night caused me to finally reconcile my feelings on the subject.

 

I consider myself a baseball fan, as much as I can be having chosen the Texas Rangers as the team that I root for.  However, in considering myself a fan of the game, I have found it difficult to place my hatred appropriately on the Yankees.  I mean, how can you hate Babe Ruth?  How can you hate Lou Gehrig?  How can you hate Mickey Mantle?  I really can’t.  So, I have decided to compartmentalize my hatred of the Yankees.  Though he is not the absolute reason that I hate the Yankees, I will use George Steinbrenner as the delineator of my hatred.  I will choose to respect the Yankees and the great players who played for them up until Steinbrenner purchased the club, and choose to hate the Yankees and the players who have played for the ball club since then.

 

So, why do I hate the Yankees?  I asked myself the same question, and came up with a lot of things that I hate about them.  Then I asked myself what do I like about them, and the only thing I came up with was their old great players.  There was really nothing from the past 35 years to like about them, so I admitted to myself, and now I admit to you that I really don’t like the Yankees.

 

Most of my hatred for the Yankees is generated through media bias.  The Eastern media that controls much of the sports information in this country never fails to prostrate itself at the foot of the Yankees.  The Yankees are never criticized for the money that they spend (more on this when I get to the A-Rod part of the post).  The Yankees could be in last place, and they would still be in the first 15 minutes of Sportscenter.  I have missed compelling Ranger’s games, and turned to Sportcenter for a recap only to have to wait 52 minutes for the five second mention of the Ranger’s game if it is mentioned at all.

 

Yankee management and their fans have such a sense of entitlement (which the media also promotes) that it makes me ill.  The owner and management of the team continually overreact.  If the Yankees are not in first place, obviously someone has to be fired,…today. 

 

Every year either ESPN or SI will do an article about the best fans in sports or baseball in particular.  Yankee fans are often at the top of these lists.  The viewing public is continually reminded how smart the fans in New York are, especially when compared with fans in other parts of the country.  If this is the case, why is it Yankee fans that screw up and grab a ball that is in play?  And, if Yankee fans are so smart, why do they fall for disingenuous articles that are printed in newspapers with the sole purpose of causing them to make asses of themselves which they inevitably do. 

 

This brings us to last night’s All Star Game.  Jonathan Papelbon made the horrible mistake of suggesting that he, as a closer, would not be afraid to close the All Star Game.  A sorry New York newspaper suggested that Papelbon was saying that he should close the game instead of Mariano Rivera.  So, these great New York fans take it upon themselves to verbally assault Papelbon and his pregnant wife during the parade on the way to the game.  Very nice.  Then these genius fans decide to boo him and chant against him when he came in to pitch.  Never mind the fact that he was pitching for the American League.  Idiots.  What a sense of entitlement they must have.  It was absolutely right for Papelbon as a closer in the major leagues to want to close the game.  Considering the fact that Terry Francona (the Boston Manager) was the American League manager for the game, it would have been absolutely appropriate for him to choose to honor his own player over a player from another team.  It was his call, and if I had been in his place, I would have left Papelbon in for the ninth to teach the Yankee fans a lesson about treating my player that way after I had gone out of my way to honor Rivera by putting Papelbon into the game in the eighth inning.

 

Yes, I have my reasons, but the biggest one is A-Rod.  Being a Rangers fan, I have suffered through decades of bad baseball.  Longtime Ranger fans know well what it is like to be frustrated with ownership that wants to win on the cheap.  Finally, Tom Hicks bought the team, and we had an owner that was willing to spend some money to make the team better (at that time).  Several times when the Rangers went after a player in the past, they went to New York, even when the Rangers were offering more money.  Why wouldn’t they go and play for a team that would still play them well, and would also pay every other position on the field well?  The Yankees routinely have All Stars or ex-All Stars at every position.  This makes a player look even better, and gives them a better chance to win a pennant or World Series.

 

The Rangers wanted to compete with this.  One way of doing this was to pay what it took to get a good player on their roster.  This would have a three-fold benefit.  They would get a very good player.  They would show other players that they were serious, and willing to pay what it took to win.  And finally, having a great player on their roster like A-Rod would entice other players to want to join a club that had players of his caliber on their roster. 

 

There was a high upside to paying the $25,000,000 a year salary to A-Rod at the time, that is until the eastern media lost their collective minds over the fact that an upstart team like the Rangers- that definitely was not the Yankees- would have the gall to sign a player to such a deal.  The general negative attitude that was expressed toward the A-Rod deal, both nationally, and unfortunately locally, eventually soured the fans, A-rod and the Rangers.  Then where does he go?  New York, of course, on the Rangers dime, that was until they decided to pay him even more, but no one in the eastern media had anything negative to say about that.  That was because it was the Yankees paying out a big contract this time, and that was OK.  Best of all, Tom Hicks had his hand slapped and learned that he was not allowed to play the salary game with the big boys.

 

Through the years, as a Dallas Cowboy fan, I have enjoyed hating the Redskins, the Eagles and the 49ers.  I’ve never really had a team to hate (other than the White Sox while Robin Ventura played for them).  Now, I find it liberating as a baseball fan to embrace my hatred of the Yankees, and realize that I actually have a baseball team to root against.

 

Why Sabermetrics is not going to save the Rangers

I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful baseball game this afternoon between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals.  It was about 80 degrees with a nice breeze.  There were only about 5,000 fans in the park (Texas has done little to draw fans so far this year).  However, on this day, the Rangers and the Royals got involved in a pitching duel.  Both pitchers went eight innings (very rare in any game much less one involving these two teams), and there were no errors in the game (just as rare if the Rangers take the field).  In the end, Texas won 2-1 on two home runs in a game that took only 2:10 to play.  Games like this make baseball more enjoyable.

Getting home earlier than I intended, I began to think about the problems with the Rangers as a team.  There is some anticipation around the Dallas area regarding the eminent demise of Ranger manager Ron Washington.  If this happens, I would like to see Buddy Bell given another opportunity to succeed as a manager. Getting rid of Ron would be a nice first step, but much more needs to be done.

General Manager John Daniels claims to subscribe to the ‘Billy Ball’ theory otherwise known as Sabermetrics.  I am not here to denigrate the Sabermetric theory.  It works or it has worked in the past.  Just look at Oakland making their yearly attempt to rise to the top of the AL West with another group of pseudo-stars.  Boston, of course, is the biggest example of how Sabermetrics can work for a team.  They believe in the idea so much, they have retained Bill James, the father of Sabermetrics, as a consultant for the team.

The Sabermetrics method assumes that all teams must function within a given budget, and therefore to maximize your potential to win, you must sign players that give you the biggest bang for the buck.  It really just makes sense, but Sabermetrics uses a set of expanded criteria that are used to determine a player’s ‘worth’ to a team.  In the end, the method tends to focus not on the elite players of the game as much, because they cost too much money to pack a roster full of them (unless you are the Yankees), but rather it focuses on very good, difference makers that are salary friendly.  By dropping out of the bidding for players such as A-Rod who may cost a team upwards of $25,000,000 a year, a team can focus on players who are very good, but not elite.  After applying the Sabermetrics methods to the players that may be available in free agency or for trade, a team can concentrate on packing its roster with these types of players and using them to complement a couple of truly elite players it may also have on its roster.  It is argued that by adding these players who ‘statistically’ make a difference to your team, you make your team better than other teams. Simple.

As I said before, this idea has definitely led to success for several teams in the past few years.  The problem I see is this, Sabermetrics, by being successful has given itself a definite lifespan.  For a number of reasons, Sabermetrics will have, and has already begun to deliver diminishing returns.

As more teams use these criteria for evaluating talent, the group of players that Sabermetrics has identified as ‘budget-friendly difference makers’ will be artificially inflated.  When there were only a couple of teams going for these players, those teams could focus on the ones at the very top of their Sabermetric statistics.  Now, many teams (including my Texas Rangers) have adopted this philosophy, and all teams know about it.  As a result, there is a lot more competition for these types of players.  Teams that do not even necessarily admit to using the Sabermetrics philosophy will make an extra effort to keep the players already on their roster that fit the Sabermetrics profile because their value will be more apparent.  This will further dilute the pool of players that fit the profile.

Another problem with Sabermetrics is that it does not effectively take into account the players that surround a particular player, and as a result, teams that are already pretty good tend to benefit more from its philosophy.  A player in the middle of a line-up with four other good hitters around him may look better that he actually is because he gets more at bats in that line-up, he is driven in more in that line-up, pitchers are forced to pitch to him in more situations, and he has more opportunities to drive in runs in that line up.  Put him on a team with a worse line-up, where he has to carry a lot more of the load, and his stats go way down as his opportunities decrease.  However, take the third best batter from say, the Marlins and plug him into a Red Sox line-up that is already filled with good hitters and he suddenly he is a much better player.

Coming to these ideas a part of a team philosophy as the Rangers have done will eventually be proven to be a losing endeavor.  Due to scarcity, these teams will reach for less talented players in an attempt to find players who fit these newly adopted philosophies.  It also will instill the catastrophic idea that championships can be won on the cheap if you only use this method.  This will sound great to owners who will think that they may be able to spend less, not hire superstars, and still have a contending team.

As far as salaries go, the Sabermetrics philosophy will end up driving them up.  The scarcity of players that fit the sabermetrics mold will drive their prices up.  And as teams attempt to do a better job of holding onto this talent, more teams will reach for talent that is not quite as good, and the salaries for those players will rise as well.  Trades for these types of players will cost more prospects, depleting a team’s farm system.  And don’t think that statisticians and GMs are the only ones paying attention to all of this.  Player agents and the players themselves have already started crunching these numbers, and when the numbers come up saying that they are more valuable, they are going to expect to be compensated accordingly.

As far as I can see, the Ranges have made every misstep possible in their attempt to adopt Billy Ball.  They spent the last few years building up their farm system, and recently have traded a lot of the talent that was almost ready for the major leagues for a group of guys who may not have been as good as they looked statistically.