Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
This Does Not Bode Well
2006-10-08 04:51
by Mark T.R. Donohue

OK, the Yankees and the Dodgers are out of the playoffs. Yankee and Dodger fans make up, what, about 97% of our readership here at Baseball Toaster? Why am I even bothering to post this morning?

I was thinking last night about what I was going to write about the Yankees and Dodgers. What can you say? I think piling on the Yankees would be unfair. I do think it's curious that the same thing that felled the Yankees (old and ineffective starting pitching) was the reason a lot of people thought the Dodgers had a good chance to beat the Mets. In the Mets' case, the hitting attack came through and the pitching was good enough. In the Yankees' case, the combination of career-best performances from several Tigers starters and the ridiculous pressure that started out on Alex Rodriguez but spread to the rest of the team proved too much to overcome. In a way, it took going down in defeat in such a spectacular manner for me to be able to feel any sort of sensitivity for the Yankees and their fans. There's no such thing as an invincible lineup. As unfair an advantage as it may seem to a fan of a team with a $40 million payroll, a $200 million roster presents its own special set of problems. I would rather the Rockies had the Yankees' problems and vice versa, but I do understand that there are no shortcuts for anybody no matter the size of their local TV market.

I suppose to the audience to whom I'm addressing this it won't come as any kind of original sentiment, but can we please make Thom Brennaman and Tim McCarver go away? During the Dodgers-Mets game last night they spent two full innings harping on how the Paul Lo Duca trade had ruined Los Angeles, possibly forever. Other than a few random uninformed mentions of the Dodgers' crazy-good farm system, the only good things they had to say about the Dodgers involved 38-year-old Jeff Kent and 40-year-old Greg Maddux, who didn't even pitch well. And they spent more time talking about the Lo Duca trade than both of those dudes combined! There were graphics! I thought for a while I had accidentally tuned into an ESPN Classic special co-presented by Bill Plaschke and Tommy Lasorda: "Why Paul DePodesta Is the Devil." They called Guillermo Mota a quality reliever, Brennaman and McCarver did. This trade happened two years ago. Brad Penny had a good year for the Dodgers in 2006, and so did Russell Martin, who plays Lo Duca's position. This was completely absurd. There was nothing else to talk about in the Dodgers' and Mets' third game of the postseason? They even failed to mention, going into the bottom of the ninth, that the score was 9-5, a recently significant tally for Los Angeles. I cannot believe we are stuck with these two clowns (and Joe Buck, no better) for most of the rest of the balance of the postseason schedule. I can't wait to hear them explain how the secret to the A's success is not actually having any good hitters, or how Jim Leyland's secondhand smoke gives the young Tigers superpowers. Nothing they could say from here on out would surprise me.

There's another bit of random in-game research from yesterday I thought you might like if I shared. You know that commercial with Lasorda and the Indians fans? Didn't it strike you as weird that one of them was wearing what appeared to be a Reds hat? It did the research department and I. We looked it up; Cleveland did indeed have hats like that at one point. As a matter of fact they wore them the last time they won the World Series. Good to know. I don't know why the Reds elected to steal that look. Not that it surprises me. I've come to expect that sort of thing over the years from the franchise of Marge Schott, Rob Dibble, and Paul O'Neill.

I can't explain why the Dodgers, who were my pick to win the NL West from the preseason onward, made such a meek exit from the playoffs this year. I can say that unlike the Fox TV guys, I am aware of what talent they have in the system and the expanded roles we can expect many of their part-time contributors from this year to play in the near future. It's a good thing that Kenny Lofton and J.D. Drew had such poor series. It's time to let the young guys take over. The Dodgers are lucky that they have enough money to spring for temporary solutions and make the playoffs in years that would be for flat-out rebuilding for clubs with less cash and in better divisions. I don't think there's much doubt after the first clutch of playoff games that teams like Toronto, Boston, and the White Sox that finished out of the money in the American League would easily be favorites to make the World Series were they only in the NL.

"Favorites" doesn't mean that much, though, does it? It's like our man Eric Chavez said, the playoffs are a crapshoot. Look, 19 out of 19 ESPN "experts" had the Yankees beating the Tigers in their ALDS matchup.

Couple links you should look at. First of all, ESPN is reporting this morning that Joe Torre is going to lose his job as New York's manager. Well, you can't say that he didn't know what his job was, and you also can't say that since 2000 he's gotten it done. I think that Torre's skills as a game manager are overrated. How hard is it, really, to manage that roster? Also, the past few seasons Joe has done a less than satisfactory job of parceling out the workload in his bullpen so that his top relievers weren't totally fried come October. There was absolutely nothing he could have done differently to win this series with Detroit. New York just got smoked in all phases of the game there. The whole shuffling of A-Rod around the lineup I guess was supposed to be some sort of motivational technique that completely backfired. Torre ended up only making the rest of the team besides Jeter and Posada as tense as Rodriguez was. The fact of the matter is teams get tired of managers. It can happen sooner or it can happen later, but it happens, and Torre's failure to reach Alex Rodriguez is probably what ultimately cost him his job. The whole convoluted scheme involving the Sports Illustrated article sure didn't do the trick. Regardless of his failings, I'd have to think that the Cubs would be foolish not to try and hire Joe Torre. Lou Piniella apparently is going to take the Yankees job (which he's wanted for years). I suppose the Cubs could still go after Joe Girardi, but Girardi learned everything he knows from Torre anyway. Torre also has demonstrated an ability to deal with meddling and frequently self-contradictory bosses with grace. It's his top skill, even. In the interests of making themselves look slightly less like incompetent jokers, the Cubs would do well to bring him on board. He'd be the classiest manager they'd had in decades. In fact, have the Cubs ever had a classy manager? Dusty, Don Baylor, Jim Riggleman, Lee Elia, Don Zimmer, Leo Durocher, the College of Coaches...this bears further research.

And, just to remind you that we're still a Rockies page (or, as I like to say in the vain hopes of attracting more readership than the Rockies' 12 devoted fans, a baseball page written by a Colorado fan), here's the obligatory Todd Helton end-of-season article where he admits he's been playing hurt all year and promises next year will be better. Fool me once, Todd...well, you know how it goes. Dave Krieger implies that no one would want to trade for Helton without the Rockies paying so much of his remaining salary that it would be pointless, but I am not sure if that is true. In any event, last year Helton had enough of a specific complaint that you wanted to believe him when he said the next year would be better. This time around he has more trouble pinpointing what the problem was and convincing us that it won't bother him again. Besides, last year Helton was awesome down the stretch; this year he was merely good (and still without any power). There's a huge difference between good and awesome.

I have been deliberately avoiding linking to Troy E. Renck stories for the last couple of weeks ever since he mentioned Purple Row instead of me in a column where he wanted to make a point about obsessive Internet Rockies fans. To hell with you, Troy E.! Anyway, he writes in advance of the Rockies' organizational meetings that Coco Crisp will indeed be a trade target this offseason. I'm down with that.

2006-10-08 06:38:23
1.   Chyll Will
I'm here with ya, Mark. I admire people who stick with their principles, and you're a good writer, so I'll keep coming around. I spend most of my time on Banter, but I do like to check on what everyone on Toaster has to say, without delving into hyperbole. I think I'll be staying away for a little while to let cooler heads prevail from what was obviously a stunning loss for Yankee fans, but it's not to say we weren't aware or concerned that it was possible, and that doesn't even take 2004 into consideration. The teams that prevailed in these series, and down the stretch, will be the ones who continue to pitch well. Detroit pitched well; if the Yankees couldn't handle that, it's not because they have sucky hitters. They have better pitchers, period. If Yankees pitching matched up with Detroit pitching, you're likely looking at the series being tied right now. Didn't happen, nothing you can do, what can you say?

Right now as I write, the NY Daily News is boosting their Sunday circulation by being the first with the "scoop" that Joe Torre will get fired and replaced with Lou Pinella. Let's stop and think for just a minute. This is the same paper that called Torre "Clueless Joe" when he first came in, then proceeded to win 4 rings in 5 years. I don't think they've gotten over that, being so wrong for so long, so they relish the fact that the Yankees have not lived up to expectations in the last five. Consider the source is the lesson here.

Of the matter in general, it makes great headlines and speculation whether it happens or not, but stupidity will reign for the next few weeks while the only people that matter in the process try to do their thing. I'll be the one to say that If Torre is fired, it will be a shame, but not a surprise. He has his virtues and his faults, and no doubt other teams would love to have any of the starters on this team, but owner Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman has the right to consider their options, regardless of what the tabloids "demand".

I don't know anything, so I'll wait for the moves to happen. Nevertheless, I will continue to come around and commnet on the fine writing here and elsewehere on Toaster. You deserve a lot of props, Mark.

2006-10-08 08:39:40
2.   Philip Michaels
The theory advanced by Joe Morgan is that the A's are now able to win playoff series because Ken Macha took over control of the team by stealing Billy Beane's 20-sided dice or pouring coffee onto his computer's hard drive or something. So I suspect that the Fox announcers will pick up that rallying cry.
2006-10-08 09:08:19
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
You know, I would be more than happy to suggest that the Yankees trade for Todd Helton. Except New York already has what, like five DH/first base types on the payroll?

A player on the Rockies who could REALLY help the Yankees is Jason Jennings. He's a reliable middle-of-the-rotation guy, his health record is great, he eats up innings, and he's a decade younger than any other good pitcher they have aside from Wang. However, I'm not willing to say you can have him until Colorado exhausts every available possibility of re-signing him (2007 is his walk year) and I have seen some evidence that the New York farm system has anything left.

Then again, last year I thought the Rockies got robbed when they traded Shawn Chacon for two unknown Yankee farmhands. One of those guys turned out to be Ramon Ramirez, who had a fantastic year in the Colorado bullpen.

2006-10-08 09:28:03
4.   Chyll Will
If I were Cashman, I'd hold onto my chips and look for top-flighters on the international market. The way the current contracts are running, they could likely fill their own holes when they end, rather than take on more bloat. Jennings would be an upgrade over Wright, but what they Yankees need is 'better than Wang', who isn't bad to say the least, but aim for better than best is the way I like to think. Zito is a left-handed Moose in that regard, so you're not really improving much there; both him and Jennings would in essense perpetuate what already exists: great regular season, fall out in the post- season.
2006-10-08 09:36:15
5.   rfessenden
Not that I ever want to truly defend Joe Buck, but he wasn't in the booth with McCarver last night. That was Thom Brennaman. Between Brennaman and Josh Lewin in the Yankees game, Joe Buck was starting to look good yesterday.
2006-10-08 10:01:28
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
5 Yeah, I got several e-mails about that. When I write passionate defense of things, no one writes, but when I mistake Thom Brenaman for Joe Buck, I get scads of e-mail.

I fixed it, so as to not get any further e-mail on the subject. I believe the point still applies.

2006-10-08 12:02:27
7.   ralfthewiseandpowerful
Hey, thanks for trivia bit about the Indians hat. I had been wondering why that guy was wearing the Reds' "C", and now I am enlightened.
2006-10-08 14:10:38
8.   Linkmeister
Charge: That Fox broadcasters by any name are worthless when doing baseball.

Your witness, counselor.

My client pleads nolo contendre, Yer Honor.

Case closed. Remanded to MLB for renegotiation of playoff baseball contract.

2006-10-08 16:38:32
9.   Todd S
The Paul Lo Duca love-fest, anti-DePodesta rant (that went on and on) was hideous. I, too, thought Plaschke had somehow infiltrated the booth. What horrible commentary.
2006-10-08 19:47:37
10.   EricGagnesGoggles
Since we're (somewhat) on the topic of terrible announcers. Anyone everheard an Angels TV broadcast? Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler make my ears bleed. Especially Hudler. I think he's been eating bugs again or something.
2006-10-08 20:18:05
11.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I kind of like the Angels guys, actually. Hudler is so completely out of it that it's kind of poignant. He's on the drugs, you know.
2006-10-09 02:26:16
12.   scarface
Actually, I would guess that you'd be stuck with Buck and McCarver only for the Mets-StL series. That means the better series (A's-Tigers, I mean :) ), will probably have Brenneman and Lyons announcing (in the estimation of another Toaster reader). I wonder if Lyons can keep Brenneman from ruining the awesomeness of that series.
2006-10-09 03:53:35
13.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I'm sure anyone attempting to offer an independent live podcast "alternate" commentary would get hauled off to jail faster than Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada. But this is a serious issue. Couldn't MLB start offering radio feeds on its website of people who weren't complete and utter boneheads? I would pay for this! Well, I mean, I already paid for the Gameday Audio subscription, so I don't know if I would pay again, but I would have paid slightly more if this feature was included.

I can think of roughly 200 people whose opinions on the championship series would be more valuable to me than McCarver and Buck's. This list includes Will Carroll, Denis Leary, David Duchovny (he wrote and directed the Negro Leagues "X-Files" episode plus, hey, sexy voice), my uncle who remembers like every player's uniform number ever, the big fat rapper from D-12, the entire Top Secret Steroid Inquiry Commission, and hell, even Jeff Huson. Oh, and Steve Stone. I love Steve Stone. There should be more of him everywhere.

You know, a few years ago the White Sox tried putting a younger, hipper commentary team on the SAP channel of some of their cable broadcasts. I know because I tried out for it. I got down to the final five but I didn't make it because a) I am not a White Sox fan and I'm not a super good liar and b) for my final live audition they kept encouraging me to engage in suggestive banter with the female "sideline reporter" which I flat-out refused to do.

Anyway I don't think the whole project lasted even the fifteen games it was supposed to, not in the least because the producers had the absolute wrong attitude. Baseball fans who don't like the old guard guys don't want commentary that has EVEN LESS to do with the game. I hope. They want people who actually watch the game and react to what's going on down on the field. They don't want announcers who decide what the story is going to be before the game even begins and try to shove it down our throats, ignoring all evidence to the contrary going on during the game.

Basically what I want is announcers who have some sort of basic idea of what actions really win baseball games. It seems odd that guys like McCarver and Joe Morgan who won tons of games have zero understanding of how they did, but I've long since reconciled myself to that reality.

2006-10-09 09:58:39
14.   Kels
"His contract didn't seem so outsized next to Larry Walker's and Mike Hampton's, but these days he would have to be Spider-man not to be overpaid."

Can Spider-man play ball? I guess he would be pretty good defensively but I don't think he could hit.

2006-10-09 10:02:57
15.   Mark T.R. Donohue
14 But on the other hand, Spider-Man would play for free. Action is his reward.
2006-10-09 22:32:15
16.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Well, listening to the immortal Joe Morgan on ESPN is hardly a better alternative than McCraver ack.. can we get someone who actually knows what they are talking about on THE FREAKIN NATIONAL TV? I have no idea why they have so many better guys on local TVs...

As for Torre and the Yanks it's hard to really say that 6 years of playoff berths and 2 WS appearance (most during that period) is bad... the Yankee standard is just unreal... Torre's real job is not managing the roster... it's not letting the boss or the media kill the team or the team killing themself... he probably did better in this department then most guys would but still.. that's a pretty hard job when your talking about crazy George, the crazy New York media.. and the huge and numerous egos in the club house...

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