Results tagged ‘ C.C. Sabathia ’
After watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days. This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:
Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.
Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently. The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities. It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.
That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.
Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive. But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered. Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services. Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.
Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny. Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.
After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game. Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.
This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players. Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit. This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:
The Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana. Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor. Those “moves” were all we could afford. Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.
Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:
1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system? It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism. First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography. Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels.
Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try? The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).
2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.
That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them. Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it. If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.
Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me. I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive. It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.
I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct. Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.
It’s been way too long since I updated this blog, but in part it is because of exactly what I am about to say. Last week, the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, and I’ll admit that I hardly watched any of it. Was it because my beloved Twins were knocked off by the hated Yanks? Partially, I will admit. But I think the real reason is just because of how depressing it was to see the “haves” of baseball continue to lay the unrequited smackdown on the “have nots”. This line of thinking was epitomized by the Game One starting pitching matchup:
The Yankees opened the Series with burly lefthander C.C. Sabathia, who had pretty much dominated any opponent sent to face him all season long. Just two seasons previous (2007), though, old cap-tipping C.C. (the Yanks must have straightened that out along with Jason Giambi’s mustache, Randy Johnson’s dangly hair, and Johnny Damon’s Jesus-mane) had been the star of Cleveland, winning the AL Cy Young award.
Sabathia’s mound opponent in Game One was Cliff Lee:
Much like C.C., Lee had lead his Phillies with dominating performance after dominating performance down the stretch the throughout the playoffs. But, again like Sabathia, just one year previous Lee won the AL Cy Young while in Cleveland.
So, while most baseball fans may have just seen a great pitching matchup, I saw what is wrong with the very fabric of what was once America’s Pastime (much more on that topic in my next post). Instead of a level playing field, some teams are given advantages (based no more than upon the geographic territory they happen to inhabit) that allow them to dominate the lesser opponents. I mean, just imagine how Cleveland fans must have been feeling while watching that Game One? It would probably be like how you and I (Twins fans) would feel should the Mets ever stop sucking and Johan Santana gets the chance to shine in the postseason. It is a very helpless feeling, and one that completely turned me off to the rest of the Series.
About the only excitement I got out of it was watching old Pedro Martinez turn back the clock one more (last?) time against the team he will be forever paired with:
Other than that, I don’t have much interest in watching teams steal young talent from around the league and then calling it “high drama” when they invetabily meet in the biggest of games. I can’t begrudge the fans of either team, as I guess I can’t blame them for their economic advantages, but I personally find it very disheartening.
Coming up next: Why football is quickly approaching my beloved baseball in terms of “favorite sport”.
In the previous post, I made the point that the Twins have nobody to blame but themselves for the ALDS sweep at the hands of the Yankees. But is this really true?
This is kind of a touchy issue, at least for me, as it implies that the Twins (or any small-market “David” vs. a big-market “Goliath”) really never have much of a chance to compete against the “big boys” of the league.
Any competant baseball fan knows that the economic system of the game is messed up due to the fact that no salary cap is in place. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in the American League) have such a huge advantage over the Twins and Royals of the world that its a wonder any other team ever represents the league in the World Series (I guess that is the crapshoot of a playoff structure that features a 3-of-5 first round). Sure, Bud Selig’s supposedly brilliant luxury tax system (where, much like Robin Hood, the league robs from the rich to give to the poor) helps a little bit, but in reality all it ends up doing is narrowing the free agent pool each year (as the middle-market teams are able to lock up a few key players to long-term deals). It most definetly, however, does not prevent teams like the Yankees from nabbing the best free agents year after year (case in point: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett brought in before the start of this season). The Twins could never have dreamed of signing guys like that.
Of course, baseball will likely never changed (at least not with Selig at the helm), as the success of the Yanks, Sawx, and Halos fuels the revenue machine, especially in the World Series. Though it might provide some sanctity back into the game, nobody wants to see the Twins and Athletics, to use two examples, duking it out in the ALCS. If the MLB execs had it their way, it would be New York and Boston every single year.
The whole situation kind of reminds me of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech from the movie A Few Good Men:
“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”
While more parity would be great for baseball, it will never happen because admittedly it would weaken the short-term (until new rivalries are formed, at least) revenue stream of the league.
Thus, can the Twins even be expected to compete with the Yankees in any series? They have Sabathia and Burnett, we have Baker and Blackburn. They have the best middle of an order (Teixera, A-Rod, Matsui) since Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri batted consecutively, while we have one stud (Mauer) and two others (Kubel, Cuddyer) that are by and large overmatched by quality pitching. They have guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano at the BOTTOM of the order, while we have Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, and Jose Morales because they are all we can afford. They can throw arms like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes at us, while he have Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares. No comparison.
So, those are the two theories as to why our beloved Twins were brutalized by the hated Yanks. Which one is more valid? I think it is a mixture of both. The Twins would need to play a perfect series to even give themselves a chance to beat the Yankees, and instead we choked in every big opportunity.
Now that a bit of time has passed and my initial reaction to the ALDS sweep has lessened a bit, I wanted to take a look back and see why the Twins got the broom. Here is one theory, with another to follow in a later post:
We beat ourselves. Plain and simple. No B.S., no excuses. Each and every game the Twins gave their all against a very tough Yankee ballclub, yet there was one key collapse and enough mistakes to go around that the only entity to blame for the sweep is staring us in the mirror.
Game 1: As expected, young starter Brian Duensing had trouble containing the big bats of the Yankees, and C.C. Sabathia was mowing us down like a shiny new Briggs & Stratton. However, in the middle innings, the Twins were just down by a pair of runs and manager Ron Gardenhire decided to go to the bullpen in a key situation to retire Hideki Matsui. Twins fans expected Ron Mahay, but instead Francisco Liriano trotted into the game. My reaction: OMFG. Matsui poked one into the seats and the Yanks never looked back. Poor managing, plain and simple.
Game 2: Too many mistakes to count, really. First was the now-infamous rounding of the base from Carlos Gomez (him being in the lineup in the first place could also be viewed as another Gardy Gaffe), where he allowed himself to be tagged out before Delmon Young could cross home plate and thus erasing a potential early lead and key run for the Twins.
Next, was the complete and utter implosion of closer Joe Nathan. Way too many times down the stretch of the regular season (and in this game, obviously), Joe would come into games with no life on his fastball, the pitch that sets up his nasty breaking stuff. Thus, he would be forced to throw the breaking stuff (which rarely gets over the plate) early and, when the patient Yankee hitters would lay off, he would then have to groove a fastball, exactly what happened to A-Rod.
The thing that sticks in my (and Gardy’s, I bet) craw the most, though, was the debacle when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eleventh inning. Both Gomez and Delmon Young proceeded to swing at the first pitch of each at-bat (proving that they still just don’t “get it”, yet) and record outs en route to no runs coming in at all. I bet that Gardy could have wrung their necks at that point. Thus, the walk-off from Mark Teixera was all but imminent (if we can’t score with the bases loaded and no outs, when would we ever?).
Game Three: The Nick Punto baserunning blunder was the deflation-point of this game, as Punto got a little too excited when he heard the roar of the crowd and decided to round third with his head down at full speed, completely ignoring (well, not even seeing, actually) the “stop” sign that was clearly given from Scotty Ullger. Jeter snagged Span’s bouncing up the middle and easily doubled Little Nicky off. The Yankees then went on to dominate us (especially our bullpen once again) in the later innings.
Not only were those blunders quite apparent, but also present was the fact that the Twins left about a week’s worth of runners on base throughout the entire series. Basically, we rarely got the big hit, and when we finally did we found some way to screw it up. Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young (the hot hitters who propelled us to the AL Central crown) were downright atrocious in nearly every at-bat.
So, grouse all you want about a botched fair-foul call that went the Yanks’ way or the fact that their payroll triples ours, but the sad truth may be that we lost this one all by ourselves.
The last time the Twins and Yankees met, earlier this season in mid-May at Yankee Stadium, the Twins got owned, plain and simple. We played tough in every game, yet the Yanks always found a way to come back and beat us in the late or extra innings.
However, things have always been a bit different at the Metrodome (save for the ’03 and ’04 ALDS series’) for the Yankees. While they haven’t exactly struggled at the park, they also haven’t come in too many times and waltzed all over us, either. If the Twins are on their “A” game, they can compete with anybody, but the difficult part is doing it for all nine innings against the Bronx Bombers. With other teams you can have easy outs or innings, but against New York it is easy for things to spiral out of control at any time, what with the cavalcade of hitters they send up to the plate one after another (no Buscher-Punto-Gomez combination in that lineup).
As you can probably tell, I’m pumped for tonight’s contest. Maybe we’ll even see some of this…
Mean? Yeah. Deserved? Absolutely!
Preview (43-40, 2nd, 1.5 GB DET): C.C. Sabathia (7-5, 3.85) vs. Scott Baker (6-6, 4.99). All things considered, there really couldn’t be a more fitting way for this series to begin. Baker is, rather mysteriously, a historic Yankee killer, while the Twins will be reacquainted with old nemesis C.C., who either owns us or gets rattled in the early innings.