Keefe To The City: Year In Review — Part 2
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By Neil Keefe
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The 20 People That Most Influenced My Writing In 2010 continues. If you missed Part 1, check it out.
10. The Goof Troop
The Goof Troop is Javier Vazquez, Nick Johnson, Randy Winn, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Chan Ho Park. Joba Chamberlain had some cameos in the Goof Troop, but I left him out of this. Brian Cashman made it easy for me to find material to write about by having these six players on the roster, but Joe Girardi made it hard for me to breathe during games in which they made appearances.
It’s hard to justify spending any more time on any of these guys since all of them except for Mitre are no longer Yankees, and I can only dream that Mitre will no longer be a Yankee in the near future. However, right now he is part of the starting rotation. Brian Cashman!
So instead of giving each player too much of my time, here are some quick thoughts on the Goof Troop.
Javier Vazquez was as bad as I imagined when the trade was made to bring him back to the Bronx for a second go-around. He failed to rewrite his legacy as a Yankee, and I will never forgive him for the worst night of my sports life.
My dad hated Nick Johnson before he was traded away. He hated him even more when he came back. I feel the same way.
There’s not much to say about Randy Winn. He looked like he was playing Dizzy Bat against above average pitching and he continued his streak of never seeing the postseason after the Yankees let him go and the Cardinals signed him.
If A.J. Burnett didn’t make so much money, I would probably hate Chad Gaudin more than any other Yankee.
Credit goes to Bald Vinny for the “Who ordered a meat tray?” line. And every time Mitre came in it, someone ordered one and it usually ended up in the seats.
Chan Ho Park blew Opening Night when he let Dustin Pedroia of all people to hit a bomb over the Green Monster off him. It took 27 appearances and a 5.60 ERA for him to finally get released.
9. Eli Manning
All of my non-Giants fan friends like to get on me about liking Eli Manning, but I remain an Eli Manning fan and supporter through the good and the bad, and right now it’s bad. He engineered the drive that finished my college career in Boston off on a winning note after having to watch the Red Sox win twice while live in Beantown, and if he never wins another game for the Giants, he will remain a legend in the New York sports landscape.
But like Joba Chamberlain, I don’t get Eli Manning sometimes. Once a game he has these brain farts where he just drops back with little to no pressure and lets a bomb go off of his wrong foot and the camera starts to pan down the field and I feel like Ralphie in A Christmas Story saying, ” Oooh fuuudge!” Except I don’t say fudge either. And sure enough it ends up being picked off.
On Nov. 19, I wrote the following about Eli:
“I am always defending Eli Manning against the haters (and there are a lot of them), who see the numbers at the end of the day, but don’t realize how good he is. No, he is never going to put up the numbers that his brother puts up or the numbers that Philip Rivers puts up because the Chargers lack a running game, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an elite quarterback in the NFL.”
Here we are six weeks later and Eli has thrown 30 touchdown passes this season and a league leading 24 interceptions. The Giants lead the league in turnovers and still have a 9-6 record. The next four teams after the Giants in the turnover department have losing records. Can you imagine where the Giants would be without their turnovers? Can you say No. 1 seed? It’s frustrating to think about.
Eli Manning has been Mr. October in his career with a 20-4 record, but aside from 2007, he is 0-3 in the playoffs, and will have missed the playoffs the last two years barring a miracle and some help from the Bears on Sunday. He will always be a hero even if he never wins again ins his career, but it would be nice to get back to the postseason before his career is over.
8. Boone Logan
It took several discussions during the year, but eventually Sweeny Murti got me to apologize for bashing Boone Logan so much on September 14. And the same day that I apologized, Logan came into the game with Willy Aybar up with runners on first and second and the Yankees leading 6-4. On a 1-2 pitch from Logan, Aybar gave the Rays a 7-6 lead. Also, the Yankees led 6-0 before the inning started, but Ivan Nova and Logan got tagged for seven runs. Don’t worry, that’s just the No. 4 starter and lefty specialist for 2011.
Logan did have a good run during the year where he was retiring lefties as frequently as Chad Gaudin was giving up hits, but I still don’t trust him. Maybe that will change in 2011. I hope it does.
7. Mariano Rivera
When I listened to the audio of Mariano Rivera talking about talking to the Red Sox, I felt like I needed to take a shower.
It took the Red Sox getting involved in stealing away the most important Yankee of the last 15 years (and the greatest closer in the history of the baseball) for the Yankees to cave in on that important extra year – for a pitcher that was as good as anyone at his position this season. Pride! Power! Pinstripes! Prestige! Tradition! History!
The post-George Steinbrenner Yankees might be what we saw over the last couple of months. The same team that decided that Jaret Wright was worth three years and $21 million didn’t think Mariano Rivera was deserving of an extra year on his contract and tried to vandalize Derek Jeter’s image. (When I looked up to make sure I was correct with Wright getting $21 million, I came across this story. It says, “After failing his physical, ESPN learned that Wright took another one Saturday night and passed, paving the way for the eight-year veteran and New York Yankees to finalize their three-year, $21 million deal.” I guess that failed physical wasn’t a good enough sign for the Yankees.)
6. Cliff Lee
Since the beginning of the year I envisioned Cliff Lee in pinstripes in 2010. The only problem I had was trying to decide what number he would wear during my envisioning him with the Yankees.
I wanted Cliff Lee to be a Yankee. It was all I wanted for Christmas. I didn’t care if I got anything else as long as I knew the Yankees would have CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee at the top of their rotation. Instead I have A.J. Burnett and Sergio Mitre currently in the middle of it.
When I woke up in July and my Blackberry was vibrating with updates about the Yankees making a run for Lee, I looked like the kid who gets the Alexander Ovechkin jersey for Christmas. Then Lee went to Texas and embarrassed the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, but everyone knew he would be a Yankee the following year…
I can’t talk about this anymore. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Cliff!
5. Derek Jeter
I have said it before and I will say it again … I rarely ever write about Derek Jeter. And I shouldn’t have had to since the end of the season. But the Yankees front office decided to let their negotiations with the most iconic Yankee in generations turn public and tried to ruin No. 2’s name and reputation to save a couple bucks. It only makes sense to start counting your pennies with the face of the team!
The same team that didn’t care about giving an extra year and $82.5 million to A.J. Burnett, or bidding $26 million just for the negotiating rights for Kei Igawa and then an additional $20 million to Igawa decided to get stingy with Derek Jeter. The same team that didn’t mind paying Carl Pavano $39.95 million to not pitch for fours years, and didn’t mind giving Alex Rodriguez a 10-year, $275 million deal at the age of 32 after he embarrassed the organization by opting out decided to draw the line on spending with Derek Jeter.
The Yankees became the Yankees because money has been no object for them. That is until it involves paying the face of their franchise or the best closer in the history of baseball. Then it’s time to nickel-and-dime. You can’t let Derek Jeter possibly burn you for a couple bucks!
4. A.J. Burnett
I wrote more words about A.J. Burnett in 2010 than anyone else, and I couldn’t wait to write more about him for this. The only problem is, what’s left to say?
A.J. Burnett is without a doubt my least favorite Yankee, and I don’t think it’s even close. I like to say that I hate Boone Logan, and I do, but I don’t hate anyone as much as I hate A.J. Burnett. I don’t blame him for taking the absurd contract that Brian Cashman gave him since if someone is going to offer you $82.5 million and give you the extra year that other teams won’t after you pitched to an over 4.00 ERA, well lucky you. But you would like to think that Burnett could at least earn some portion of that contract? Right?
Luckily for Burnett the Yankees won the World Series in his first year with the team, so he has this free pass that other big name under-achieving pitchers that came to the team from 2001-2008 didn’t get. Burnett is 23-24 with a 4.62 ERA in two seasons with the Yankees, and while he did win Game 2 of the World Series against an old, sad form of Pedro Martinez, he is 1-2 in six starts with a 5.67 ERA in the postseason for the Yankees. Not to mention he lost the potential series clincher in Game 5 of the ALCS and Game 5 of the World Series in 2009.
Nothing was better than when Burnett stumbled down the stretch and said the following about possibly being out of the postseason rotation:
“I don’t have anything to prove. He [Joe Girardi] saw what I did last year in the postseason.”
I am giving A.J. Burnett a clean slate when the calendar turns to 2011, but the over/under on how many starts it will take me to turn on him again next season is four. I have the under.
3. Tom Coughlin
When the Yankees lost to the Indians in the 2007 ALDS, I wanted to Joe Torre fired and wanted Joe Girardi to replace him. I thought that Torre had become too comfortable as the manager and the team needed a change and they need a Billy Martin-like personality to take over. I wish I could take a mulligan on that one.
I was wrong. Torre should have stayed because Girardi wasn’t the manager I thought he would be and I think Torre would have done just as good as a job, if not better than Girardi has in his three years as manager.
This is what scares me about Tom Coughlin. I have wanted Tom Coughlin out several times, but who’s to say that Bill Cowher or anyone else they bring in will be better? Coughlin is the only coach that Eli Manning has every played under in the NFL, and I don’t know if right now is the right time to be changing the whole landscape of the coaching staff at this stage of Eli’s career.
There are many times when I wish I could confront Coughlin and just say, “Are you effing kidding me?” Like when he wasn’t ready for the Eagles’ onside kick or when he ripped into Matt Dodge in the middle of the field after DeSean Jackson’s punt return. Joe Girardi’s pitching changes usually get the most four-letter words out of my mouth, but Tom Coughlin’s decision making this season has taken the belt away from Girardi.
If Coughlin is fired, then so be it. He has never won a playoff game outside of 2007 and after the disastrous collapse last season and what has happened the last two weeks with the Giants giving up 73 points in their last 68 minutes of football, Coughlin has basically written his resignation letter.
And if Coughlin isn’t fired, I’m OK with that too. Let’s not forget that Bill Cowher has as many Super Bowls as Coughlin.
2. Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi wrote the book on leaving yourself open to be second-guessed. Not a game goes by that he doesn’t make a move that can create three hours of material for sports radio the following day. The man simply doesn’t believe in emotions or the human element. He believes in numbers and statistics and whatever his binder says is the law.
The way Joe Girardi used his bullpen in September when it looked like the Yankees might be ready to take on the 2007 Mets in collapse history was just disgusting. Watching Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre pitch in close games or with leads was just wrong and painful to watch. And then for Girardi to say that he was trying to win every game? Who does he think he is talking to when he says things like that?
His decision to pitch A.J. Burnett in Game 4 of the ALCS put the season on the brink and his decision to walk Daniel Murphy and let Burnett face Bengie Molina ended the season. And it wasn’t until Josh Hamilton had hit 56th home run of the ALCS that he decided to start intentionally walking him. And what happened once he started doing that? Vladimir Guerrero woke up, of course!
I had a lot of fun doing the Joe Girardi Show pieces this season, and I look forward to doing them again. Hopefully he will make it hard for me to come up with material.
1. Brian Cashman
For Brian Cashman’s next general managerial trick, he will make a pauper turn down the Yankees’ money!
We are nearing the point where it might be time for Hal Steinbrenner to tell Cashman to “test the open market” the way that Cashman told Jeter to this offseason. Because I have a bad feeling that Cashman is going to try to make it to July 31 with Ivan Nova and Pitcher “X” making up 40 percent of his rotation, and by then I might be counting down the days until the start of the season for the New York Football Giants. And if that is the case, we all know what will happen next offseason … Mark Buerhle will get the money that was supposed to go to Cliff Lee. He won’t get all of it, but he will get a lot more than he deserves.
Every day when I wake up, I thank my dad for raising me as a Yankees fan instead of a Mets fan, and after I do that, I think, “Maybe this is the day that Brian Cashman trades for Felix Hernandez or Josh Johnson and totally redeems himself the way Lloyd Christmas did when he sold the sheepdog van for the moped!”
I hope this “patience” plan is a real plan. I understand that right now it is a stalling tactic for Cashman to buy a little time before he talks himself into trading away the farm system he has been working so hard to rebuild for the last few years for one pitcher. But if this “patience” plan is a “wait until 2011″ plan, then we are going to have a serious problem, and I might have to pull a Clark Griswold and tell Cashman how I really feel about him.
Start 2011 off the right way, Cashman. Get an ace or a No. 2. Someone that will make me confident about the 2011 Yankees and someone that isn’t named Jeff Francis. That’s all I ask for.
Happy New Year!
Follow Neil on Twitter at twitter.com/NeilKeefe