Don’t let some ruin everything that you have loved for the last few decades…
Everyone has the right to be skeptical with anything that they have witnessed over the past two decades. Anyone and everyone that has played baseball is going to be associated, their cleanliness will be questioned.
So in no way am I dismissing anyone from cheating during a period where cheaters were so prevalent.
But there were clean players. Optimism is the way that I feel when saying that. There were plenty of players that did things “the right way.” Plenty of players that should not be “tainted,” yet are, unfortunately.
Which players you say? That I cannot say with any real conviction. But some had to say to themselves; is money worth going bald and breaking down physically at an earlier age? Once my career is over, am I going to be satisfied after abusing steroids and having my muscles deteriorate on me?
Watch “The Wrestler.” A very well made movie by the director of “Requiem For a Dream.” And Mickey Rourke gives a great performance, one that is well-deserved of all that praise that his playing of the character Rodney “The Ram” has received.
And take it from me, I have never watched wrestling in my life. Never–other than flicking by it. I dislike it. And I dislike having the outcome already established. But the wrestling part of it should not turn anyone away. The film is greater than just some guys throwing each other around in a pre-determined fashion.
Anyway, it is a good example of what can happen after steroid use. The abusing of PED’s are just a part of the downfall of Rourke’s character, but nevertheless, part of the reason wrestlers lives decline at an earlier age.
Back to baseball…
Some think that everyone used, that it was a “level-playing field.”
Adding in amphetamines—which IS cheating, believe it or not. And it is just as much cheating as steroids are, whether one agrees or not–increases the percentage of “cheaters,” definitely.
Focusing on positives in the era is what we naturally seem to avoid doing, when surrounded by negativity.
However, leave it to me to throw some optimism in your faces, as you willingly listen.
There are two players that seem to stick out in an era of questions, to me, that I would be very, VERY surprised if they injected needles into their bodies to try and hit more home runs.
Amphetamines, maybe, but how can I suggest anything like that without knowing?
And there are plenty of other players that were most likely clean, but since these two carry star-power, then I will use them as examples of what I believe to be positive outliers during a negative time
Again, I am not sure, so I am not dismissing them entirely simply because I believe their body types were not changed, while others physique’s DID change.
And the two chosen candidates are…
Ichiro Suzuki: For everyone who questions his motives, who questions how much of a team player he is. At least understand that Ichiro plays the game in a way that should be modeled after. Ichiro plays defense, very well at the corner. Ichiro steals bases, although not enough for everyone to be happy. But Ichiro refrains from “taking off” so much because he doesn’t want to be caught.
Believe me, followers of “Sabermetrics” understand how valuable this is. Now maybe Ichiro doesn’t want to be caught, simply because he does not want to fail. But it seems like anyone who steals bases and succeeds over 80% of the time, is looked upon negatively (see: Tim Raines). Getting caught takes a man off the base-paths. If a player is going to steal, then they better be pretty confident that they will make it.
And everyone also negatively points out that Ichiro could hit for more power. Could? Well, what kind of power are we referring to? Are we talking about 35-40 home runs power? Because I doubt that. I doubt Ichiro would eliminate the power from his swing so that he could “succeed” a higher percentage of the time by trying to hit more singles.
I mean, maybe he could hit for more power, but come on. If Ichiro thought that he could do significantly more damage hitting more home runs, wouldn’t he have changed his approach? Maybe the increase in power and decrease in average/OBP would kind of cancel each other out.
Because even Ichiro understands that the glamour of the home run is what a lot of players strive for. And why wouldn’t Ichiro partake in the “dinger fest” that fans seems to love?
So, maybe Ichiro is arrogant. Maybe he “tries not to fail as often as possible,” rather than “failing more, but doing more damage when succeeding.”
If “trying not to fail” were the objective, which it normally is, wouldn’t Ichiro take more walks?
Ichiro may be be a terrible teammate, I really don’t know. But I am confident that he has not abused steroids, and hopefully people will glance at that, rather than focusing on all of his negatives—which I am sure he has–just as everyone does, and every baseball player, too.
Hopefully I am right in thinking that Ichiro was clean.
The other player that I want to “call out” in a positive light, and hope to be right about is…
Anyone who reads my blog knows how much respect I have for this guy. And that is simply because I have said multiple times that I have so much respect for him. I don’t do this to garner respect from Yankee fans. I do this because I believe it. I believe he plays the game in a way that should be commended, emulated.
I don’t want to go into it all that much as to why I like the way Jeter plays the game. I just do. His mental prowess. His “respect” for the game. His ability, and understanding, as to why a batter should hit to all fields. Etc, etc, etc. Derek Jeter has had a great career, period.
Both he and Ichrio play hard, and play with a sense of pride, a sense that they can do anything on a baseball diamond. These are players that hopefully subscribed to ARod’s “never felt overmatched on the baseball field” theory. And hopefully the aforementioned duo of players subscribed and held up to that standard regarding PED’s (refraining from partaking in the unnatural enhancement).
Again, no one is dismissing anyone. But I like to believe that Ichiro Suzuki and Derke Jeter went about things the right way, in an era when many chose to do it the wrong way.
Derek Jeter in the city…another city…
Rob Neyer– I’m sure the Steinbrothers would love to see Derek Jeter wearing
pinstripes forever, but I believe they’re even more infatuated with winning,
and in two years it’s going to be terribly obvious that spending $20
million on a 37-year-old shortstop who can’t play shortstop may be
tantamount to losing. So I think we can dispense with the
speculation, because I’m ready to tell you right now: It’s just not
going to happen. The Yankees will have a younger and better shortstop
The inevitable ending. The ending that involves Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees ending their incredibly rewarding relationship. An ending that will almost definitely leave mixed emotions, and leaving some crushed emotions all over the table.
Is Derek Jeter a 20 million dollar player at this stage of his career? No. In all that is quantifiable, Jeter is no longer that caliber a player. Derek, however, is still a capable player. So with that being stated, Derek Jeter will be worth even less when his contract is to be renewed. He will fall well short, and will not be worth even close to that $20 mill, when 2011 arrives.
The unfortunate aspect of this is that what is the best for the club, will be very disheartening to the fans. The Yankees have to do a better job cutting ties with aging veterans than they have in past seasons, either that or not signing so many extra long deals when they bring a player in. Because what they end up with is a few overpaid players running around, players that the Yankees would gladly move, if someone else would absorb their salaries.
But Neyer’s conclusion is that the Yankees don’t have to necessarily let Jeter walk, if they and Jeter could come to reasonable terms on a deal. But is that likely? Does Jeter want to take a significant paycut to stay within an organization that he has does so many great things for?
This is when some fans may feel differently about their favorite player. Maybe the Yankees offer him a reasonable contract for the value that Jeter actually has, and maybe Jeter doesn’t feel that offer is enough. Maybe he feels that the offer is underappreciating all that he has accomplished wearing pinstripes. So maybe Jeter leaves, goes to another team. Some fans will always love Jeter. But some fans will probably turn on him, at least with their minds, saying he was greedy, saying it was all about the money.
But maybe, MAYBE, in Jeter’s mind it was about how the Yankees valued his dedication to the team all those years. Maybe it wasn’t too much to do with the extra 3-4 million dollars, but more to do with the fact that Jeter feels like his “family” wants to move in another direction. In a direction where their shortstop can actually get to balls up the middle, and can still hit with the best SS’s in the game.
Remember this is 2011. Right now, Jeter can still swing the bat with a lot of the top SS’s in the game, outside of a few truly great ones. But in 2011, after Jeter’s bat speed declines a little more, when his range becomes unbearable, when his body aches a little bit more, then all of that will add up to Derek Jeter probably being a liability at SS. And can anyone blame the Yankees for not wanting to spend an insane amount of money on him? Can anyone defend that position?
I have repeated myself numerous times on how much respect I have for Jeter. And to be honest, it isn’t painful at all to praise him even though he does in fact wear Pinstipes. To reiterate, it does not pain me at all, as it does a very large part of the Red Sox fan base. But this situation has the making that maybe it doesn’t end fan friendly. Is everyone in Yankee-land prepared for that? Because there are few players that I have watched in my day that it would be more difficult to part with than Derek Jeter, from a fan and organizational standpoint. A player that has been a more than an “adequate” piece to four World Championships. A more than “capable” player during a run of 12 straight postseason appearances.
But don’t think purely pessimistic thoughts. There is a possbility that the Yankees and Jeter agree on a deal. That Jeter accepts his ability and/or the Yankees pony up the money.
Jeter may very well be in the same city in 2011 also.
Is Nomar More Valuable Than Jeter?
If Nomar played SS full time, could he be roughly what Jeter is defensively? Possibly even better, but that isn’t really saying all that much. It isn’t a question of whether or not Nomar can hit like a middle infielder when he actually plays. We know that he can. Three of his last four seasons have been OPS+’s of 97, 105, and 122. With one aberration of 78. Nomar is a better hitter than that 78. But he isn’t a middle infielder all that much, and he does not play enough games to begin with.
As for the actual premise of the article. It defends Nomar as being a “useful” player. Please define “useful” for me though. I for one would not feel comfortable penciling in Nomar’s name on the lineup card unless I had a viable starting SS waiting behind him. It is unrealistic to expect more than 120 games from Garciaparra at this stage in his career, and even that may be too much. I guess between 100-120 would be a safe bet, but having him as a utility infielder makes much more sense.
As a utility player, Nomar and “useful” make much more sense. Garciaparra can play all four infield positions if needed, and a team could work in enough AB’s I would think for him to be “useful.”
But at what price? A few million wouldn’t be bad, but the risk is so great for Nomar, and he isn’t exactly a brilliant defensive player at any of the positions he can play. Nor is he always on base. Nor does he slug like he used to.
I have no problem with Nomar being referred to as “useful,” when it is used in the right context. But I do have a problem with him being in the same category as Jeter when it comes to “value.” Jeter can play 150 games in a season, with ease. Nomar cannot. When Nomar stays healthy long enough, then maybe we can compare the two, more so. But Nomar is not going to experience consistent good health at this stage in his career, not when he hasn’t experienced it during much of his first 12 seasons.
And this is coming from one of Nomar’s biggest supporters. From someone that wants nothing more, as far as baseball is concerned, but for Nomar Garciaparra to have success as an everyday player again.
Hitting To The Opposite Field.
Forget drawing walks for a minute. Forget on base percentage for a sec. Forget the long ball, as exciting as it may be. What is one beautiful aspect of hitting? Turning on one and pulling it out of the yard is excitement no doubt, but sitting on a pitch away and driving it to the opposite field, now that is truly a pretty sight. So much respect and admiration for a hitter that looks to hit the ball to all fields, for it is a sign that the hitter is mentally aware of what is going on while he is in the batters box.
Our natural tendency is to try and pull the ball. Anyone who has played at any level, even wiffle-ball, can understand this. If a pitch comes on the inner half of the plate, we want to rip over the left field fence. Or the right field fence, depending on which side of the plate we are standing. And sometimes if the ball is located on the outer half, we still want to drive it over the wall that corresponds best with our pull-happy mentality. There is a reason that announcers, as clueless as they can be at times, say that a hitter is at his best when they are “hitting the ball to all fields.” No player, that has the spotlight, is more adept at hitting the ball to all fields than Derek Jeter.
I know, I praise the way Jeter plays the game a lot, and I am not oblivious to what he fails to do well. But what he does very well, and always has, is use all of the field to be an effective hitter. Last season, Jeter used the right side of the field to the clip of 38.6% of the time. That is batted balls we are referring to, not all At Bats. This is no mystery for we all hear about it every time Jeter appears on ESPN for a Sunday Night game. Or anytime the Yankees play the Fox Saturday Game of the Week. Jeter likes to go the other way. Everything he does on a baseball field, and some off of it, we hear about. But that doesn’t take away from it any, it is remarkable that he continues to show such discipline, such focus, in driving the ball to the first base side of the diamond. That level of focus is why Jeter is a Hall of Fame caliber player, it is why stats actually do not sum up everything a player does, even though those same stats are a darn good indicator most of the time. All of this in what was the worst season that Jeter has had at the plate in a while.
While Jeter does it well, Manny Ramirez also does it well, except with exceptional power. Manny goes the other way as well as any hitter I have ever seen…when he feels like it. Ramirez is hands down, clear cut, a much better hitter than Jeter. But while Jeter may lack the power that Manny has, he maintains that high level of focus much more so. During Manny’s tenure with the Red Sox, he went through periods where one could tell he was determined to drive the ball the other way, and that is when Manny was being Manny, which first and foremost meant crushing the ball. But it seemed that he could focus for a few weeks, then when Manny got bored, when his mind cluttered, he begin to disregard it, it seemed anyway. If Man-Ram wants to pull the ball, he can do so, but golly was he great when he would drive the ball into the gap in right-center. I sometimes wonder if Manny had the kind of focus that other players have, how much better he could have been. It’s truly scary, because he is already one of the greatest hitters ever, especially from the right side of the plate.
It seems that whenever a player gets hot, they are hitting the ball to all fields. It is impossible to maintain the level of concentration that Jeter has, at its highest, at all times. Which is why it is so astonishing that Jeter does it as much as he does. Maybe it’s just me, I lack the ability to focus for extended periods of time, or even for a short period of time. Maybe that is why I have so much respect for athletes, baseball players in particular that can sit on the outside half of the plate (or stay focused in between pitches, but that is a different story). Players that can look to drive the ball to the right fielder if they are right handed. Players that can drive the ball into the left-center field gap if they stand from the left side.
So remember, when player x catches fire this season, listen for the phrase “hitting to all fields.” Trust me, it will come up.
Is It Time for Jeter To make the Move?
For a long time, Derek Jeter has been overrated on the defensive side of the ball, according to basically every reliable defensive metric there is. I have stated many times how I feel about Jeter; Mentally as aware as anyone who has played the game (It seems anyway), plays the game the right way, a good hitter, who has always been a great hitting SS. When it is all said and done, even with his lack of range, he will be one of the five best SS’s to ever play the game, and a no doubt Hall of Famer. So do not take this as an attack on Jeter. But since he is now 34 years of age, and has declined even more so with the glove since his younger days, isn’t it about time to make the transition? They need a replacement for Jeter, that is obvious. So without having someone to take over the position, this really isn’t much of a discussion. But they could very well look into a stop-gap: Adam Everett, someone else, etc. Someone who could give them a great glove, but obviously in Everett’s case, would be a lousy hitter.
But there is a fact, the FACT is that the Yankees were 25th in DefensiveEfficiency this season, which could be a reason why they only won 89 games. Which is still pretty good, but not up to what they are accustomed to. Improving the defense, would improve the team. Simple. But not so simple in how they would appoach doing this. As for why this season would be a good season for Jeter to make the transition? Because if the Yankees want to part ways with Giambi, it will cost them $5 million to do so. And I am sure that they want to get out of that contract, even if Giambi DID have a solid 2008 (Far from what one would for $22 million however). Abreu will also leave if the Yankees do not give him the money. I agree with what Keith Law said: If Abreu will accept a two-year contract, or even better a one-year deal, then ink it up. But if he wants any more than that, then it is probably wise to let him seek out another team. Abreu is 34 also, which would be the reasoning for this. He is still a solid player, but how good will he be when he is 37?
So there are two positions that the Yankees could move Jeter to, if they choose to do so. First base, which is something Jeter should be able to handle relatively easy. Now a lot depends on whether or not they make a play on Teixera, and whether or not this is where Posada will need to play. If they want Tex bad enough, then they can give him the most money. In this case, something else would need to be done with Jeter, or of course just leave him at SS if they wish.
Right Field is the other option for Jeter. I don’t know how well this transition would go though. Jeter has always shown to handle balls in the air well enough. But the outfield is a different story. I would think he would be able to handle it, but of course am not totally sure of it. Third base would be another option, but one of the greatest talents ever resides there, so that is out (unless of course they switched positions, which probably isn’t likely or realistic at this point).
According to THT’s RevisedZoneRating, Jeter actually improved a lot at the position I am saying he should move from. But it is probably somewhat of a fluke, or this stat just doesn’t have much weight. It is, unfortunately, the only defensive metric I have available to me right now until the 2009 version of “The Fielding Bible” is released. I have a hard time believing that Jeter will be better than 25th or so among all SS’s once it comes out though.
Which leads me to something else, for all the criticism the stat guys, including myself, give to Derek Jeter’s glove-work, he still has the ability to field the position. Eventually, he will not. Which is why the move will be made sometime anyway. But there are always going to be poor fielding defenders with respect to their given position. So it isn’t a necessity that Jeter be shifted somewhere else on the diamond. And after 2009, Damon and Matsui come off the books, so there will be another position open for Jeter in Left. Obviously, a lot of the acquisitions that the Yankees will make in the upcoming offseason, will dictate what they can do with Jeter. But if they sign, say, Derek Lowe, then they will have two sinkerball pitchers anchoring the front end of the rotation. And with the poor team defense that the Yankees played this season, it seems like making this move could benefit them.
What I Believe…
Here’s what I think: Hitters really want the use of Instant Replay to come into the game of baseball. So, to push the subject, they are aiming to hit home runs that barely make it over the wall, to increase the odds that a controversial call will take place. Yes, hitters have that kind of bat control, folks. They aren’t trying to simply put a good bat on the ball, or to drive it as far as humanly possible, they are trying to hit off the most unique spot, the most difficult spot for the umps to make the RIGHT call. I am not making this stuff up…
Another good article on Jeter. Although Yankee fans may hate it. But it is just another explanation about how Jeter is not perfect (A Hall of Famer, no doubt though), and his defense has never been anywhere close. I stole the link from Rob Neyer, who stole it from JoPo. Jeter Article.