January 18, 2007

Are You Sure That's What They Were Saying? Perhaps It Was Loud In There

Gary Sheffield's new book -- the existence of which was first reported way back when by Yanksfan vs. Soxfan, I believe -- sounds like just what you'd expect: some whining, a little Bonds dirt, but nothing particularly controversial. Sheffield just seems to be one of those guys who likes to use perceived slights and offenses as motivation:
Sheffield called Manager Joe Torre “an enigma” and recalled how, in 2004, his first season with the Yankees, he grew infuriated that Torre had said he wished the team had signed the slugger Vladimir Guerrero.

During a meeting in Torre’s office before a May game in Baltimore, Sheffield told him: “I’m tired of hearing you talk about how much you love Guerrero. That disrespects me.”

It's with issues just like this, though, that Torre is a true managerial genius:
The next season, Sheffield recounted, he and Torre had an argument in St. Louis the day after Torre called him out during a team meeting for his uneven defensive play.

Sheffield said they quickly patched things up once Torre explained how he viewed him as a team leader and as someone who could handle the pressure.

Nicely played, Joe.

In semi-related news, is the Yanks' payroll really only -- er, "only" -- 167 million now? That's the number they cite in a USA Today story on the off season's "most puzzling moves" (link courtesy of BB). The story itself doesn't seem very knowledgeable (ignoring obvious answers and quoting, shudder, Jay Mariotti), but it does have some interesting quotes from the GMs. Brian Cashman is honest about Johnson's unhappiness with the Yanks:
"I didn't see him smile the whole time here. But he looked like a whole different person in that (Diamondbacks) press conference."
Also, here's Royals GM Dayton Moore on the now-infamous $55 million Gil Meche deal:
"We have 25 guys in that clubhouse, and all we heard was, 'Go get Gil Meche.'"
Really? You heard that from every guy on your roster? Who the hell is on that team? I'm guessing none of them are in a fantasy league. Also, is it really wise for anyone to be taking career advice from the Kansas City Royals at this point?

I got all excited when I thought of nicknaming their new pitcher Gilgamesh, but, of course, others had the same idea before me. But I hadn't realized that Gil Gamesh is also a fictional starting pitcher in Philip Roth's "The Great American Novel." Huh. I'll be ordering that one from Amazon...

January 12, 2007

I'm Not Here To Talk About The Past... Well, Maybe Just A Little

So I never commented on the Mark McGwire Hall of Fame issue. Simple reason: I honestly don't know if he should be in or not. It's unfair to single him out when so many other juicers will get away with it, and he had a huge impact on the game; but it's also wrong to put him in at the expense of clean players, and without some sort of asterisk. The truth is, I think the Steroid Era may mark the end of the Hall of Fame as a relevant institution... to the extent that it ever was relevant, anyway.

As for Barry Bonds, I am utterly unsurprised that he tested positive for amphetamines last year (whether or not he also tried to blame it on a teammate is less clear). As far as I can tell, greenies were basically like aspirin for players throughout the 20th century; I don't think this even cracks the top ten list of off-putting, criminal things Bonds has done. I am curious to see, however, whether the Giants seize this deus-ex-machina of an opportunity to get out of their terrible tentative contract with him for next year. For just $16 million, an expensive lounge chair, and an entourage of 20 hangers-on, you too can procure the services of a gimpy, angry, juiced-up sleazeball! Man, if I were a Giants fan, I'd be beside myself.

I'm even more curious to know who leaked the test results. Someone at the Giants, hoping to do just what I suggested? Someone at Major League Baseball trying to drag Bonds into retirement? Or some lab technician or official who doesn't want to see Aaron's record go down? I will say this: I always thought the guy was just paranoid, but it turns out Bonds does have a lot of enemies.

Meanwhile, all's quiet on the New York baseball front. The Yankees signed Jeff Nelson to a minor-league deal, but only so that he could retire as a Yankee. That's actually kind of touching, and surprising, because Nelson seemed like a rather irritable guy in his time here -- I remember a lot of complaining and grousing about various managerial decisions. I never found him very likable; maybe his creepy mustache just rubbed me the wrong way. On the other hand, I also remember a lot of exceedingly competent late-inning pitching. The Yankees still haven't found a duo to set up Mo as reliable as Mike Stanton and Nelson were during those years. Their talent was certainly recognized at the time but, looking back, maybe under-appreciated.

Finally, on a genuinely serious note, I'll join the many thousands of people who are keeping Bobby Murcer in their thoughts.

January 09, 2007

Ad Age

I forgot to mention in the last post -- I have a story in the Voice this week on the Jets, the Giants, and my continuing inability to get interested in football. And, speaking of plugs...

One interesting note on the NFL: on his blog (link via Deadspin), Mike Harding tallied up the ad time for the Chiefs/Colts game last weekend and finds that the program featured 86 minutes of content, and 80 MINUTES OF ADS... and that's not counting plugs and product placement.
There were 80 minutes of dedicated ad time in the programming, amounting to 48% ad time and 86 minutes of content accounting for the other 52% of programming. Within the 86 minutes of content time, there were 218 plugs (142 of which were “fast plugs”) - or a plug every 22 seconds. This is exclusive of the scoreboard crawler/ticker which was nearly continuously displayed with NBC and NFL logos.

Even backing out the fast plugs, the NBC logo with accompanying sound at the start and finish of each replay, there were 76 “regular” plugs in the 86 minute content time meaning there was a plug every 68 seconds. A total of 63 distinct advertisers paid for the ads, plugs, and fast plugs in this 166 minutes. Now wonder my brain was jello by the time this broadcast was completed.
I'm not sure I would have counted the "fast plugs" -- the mere appearance of the NBC logo. Nevertheless, that's a truly staggering figure.

When the season starts, I'll definitely have to measure the percentage of ad time in the average baseball game -- I'm sure it's high, but I'd bet not quite at the NFL level. Isn't it only a matter of time, though? What would you estimate? And at what point, if any, will you stop watching?

Kei Sera Sera

Kei Igawa was officially introduced to the media yesterday. Given that the Yanks bid significant cash for his rights, it's sort of amazing how low everyone's expectations are; they HOPE he can be a #5 starter? His stats in Japan were very solid, though, and he's beginning to seem like an interesting guy. Check out this interview in Sports Illustrated: at first he seems, like a True Yankee (TM), single-mindedly determined to avoid any kind of controversy whatsoever:

SI: Hideki Matsui is nicknamed Godzilla. What's your favorite Japanese film monster?
Igawa: I have none.

...SI: The Boston Red Sox made a Mechagodzilla-sized splash this offseason by bidding more than $51 million for the rights to Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka and signing him to a $52 million, six-year contract. Did the hard-line shenanigans of his agent, Scott Boras, hurt Matsuzaka's image in Japan?
Igawa: I have no idea. Please ask Daisuke directly

...SI: Who's your favorite American ballplayer?
Igawa: I have a tremendous respect for all big leaguers. I do not have a particular favorite.

At this point, I felt terrible for the poor interviewer; Randy "Sunshine" Johnson was starting to look voluble in comparison. But then Igawa gets a little offbeat:

SI: How about a personal hero?
Igawa: The goalkeeper for Belgium's national soccer team.

SI: And your favorite historic figure?
Igawa: Mitsukuni Tokugawa, a feudal ruler known for his political influence in the early Edo Period.

The goalkeeper for Belgium's national soccer team? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a pulse! He goes on to say that he spent his first paycheck in Japan on candy, and that he has lost his wallet four times but always had it returned to him (the odds of this happening in New York are... slim). Also, his motto? "Quest."

We also have (from NYYFans.com, link via the excellent comments at Bronx Banter) this list of facts about Igawa, translated from the Japanese. I have no idea how reliable this info is -- either on the original site, or in translation. But we can only pray that some of these, at least, are true:
9.Really wanted to go home to watch “Pride GP” (Note: A Martial art fighting contest) and hence accelerated his pace of pitching.

17.Still a virgin when he turned pro. Manager Nomura ordered him to lose it.

21.When lived in “Village of Tiger Blow” (Dorm for new players and rookies), the dorm supervisor shouted “Go out and have some life!” at him for he always spends all day in his room playing remote control model car. So he started to play remote control HELICOPTER instead.

23.When he was forced to move out of the dorm, he asked his team if he could live in a trailer house in Koshien Stadium’s (home court) parking lot. Of course team rejected that.

27. Didn’t really care about the division title and go back to the dorm to take a nap before the game they clinched. He was called to the field when the team was about to win.

68. Feel ashamed about his large appetite. Eat sukiyaki by facing the wall to feel better.

99. Camp in line to buy DQ8 (a video game) at seven in the morning. Left his contract negotiation to his agent.
Yeah... #27 might not go over too well here. And... "Village of Tiger Blow?" In general, though, I like that he sounds like such a dork. Should be interesting to watch his dynamic with Matsui, who appears to have a very different sort of personality.

This one just confuses me:
31. Not intend to join the division title beer shower. Tried to be unnoticed in the corner of the locker room and happily distributed the beers to all his teammates. Unfortunately he finally got his teammates’ attention and instantly got knocked out by the beer shower. Scheduled appointments for following days were all cancelled because of that. (Note: Igawa is probably the most vulnerable player to alcoholic beverage in the world.)
Are they saying that just being sprayed with beer was enough to incapacitate him for days? Is that even physiologically possible? If some fan in Oakland throws their beer on him, is he going to get drunk?

This could be an interesting year.

January 02, 2007

May Auld Acquaintance Be Traded For Mid-Level Prospects

Happy New Year, kids.

The Randy Johnson deal is almost complete, as the D-backs have agreed in principle to an extension. I'm still all for this (age, back -- they can't all be Roger Clemenses... er... Clemensi?). But, that said, there's no need to trash the Unit on his way out the door: he was often ineffective, but he gave full effort every grumpy inch of the way, and pitched through a lot of pain. Balky back and all, he gave the Yanks a heaping pile of innings over the last two years, even if they came with a generous side order of home runs. He also handled his indirect trade request with some class; he never demanded a move, just let Cashman know that he'd accept one if it made sense for the team. Well played.

Furthermore, the Doug Mientkiewicz signing is apparently imminent. I know a lot of people who are not going to take this well, but I've gotta say, I'm not against it -- it sounds like a one-year deal, not all that expensive; this is just a stop-gap until they can trade for or sign someone better. Hitting in a platoon might help both him and Andy Phillips (or Josh Phelps; I'm just going to refer to them both as Andy Phelps until one of them's named the starter), and I think the team's got enough offense to carry them, even if first base is the last place you want a slugging void.

Sounds like he may be a bit of a hothead; when he played for the Mets, he left town in a huff and feuding with management over his playing time. Metstrodamus (link via MetsBlog) has a fun collection of quotes from his time at Shea. My personal favorite:

"...Would I like to be in there every day? Yeah, of course. Everybody would. But that’s why it’s called a team and not the New York Mientkiewiczs."
I'd buy that team's t-shirt.

Finally, Twins fans, say hello to your replacement for Francisco Liriano: Sir Sidney Ponson! I'm so sorry.