Thursday, February 5, 2009

Would Someone Take This F____r Out Of The Division?

As first reported by Joel Sherman this morning, it appears that Kevin Millar is heading to the Blue Jays on a minor league deal. Sherman added that the Nationals, Rangers and Mets all considered signing him, along with the Yankees, on the strength of recommendations from Johnny Damon (understandable) and Alex Rodriguez (WTF?).

A-Rod, you have never played on the same team as Millar. Not even the same All-Star team (because Millar never made one). He was on the Red Sox, remember? The only thing you guys have in common is that you both like to dye your hair blonde. Perhaps you share a stylist?

In 110 games against the Yankees, Millar has a 120 OPS+, the highest against any AL team, save for the Tampa Bay Jesus Rays. Just last year, on May 27th, Millar went 3-6 with two home runs against the Yanks in an 11 inning showdown the Yanks ended up losing after Millar was intentionally walked to load the bases.

I hate Kevin Millar. I hate him a lot. From the "Cowboy Up" and "Idiots" bullshit, to his Slim Shady haircut and his stupid fucking goatee. I hate the fact that he came back and threw out the first pitch at Fenway for Game 7 of the ALCS in 2007, when he still played for the Orioles. If he was still on the Red Sox, I would have probably figured a way to name this blog after how much I hope he loses an arm in trash compactor.

Fack you Kevin Millah, you Bobcat Goldtwhait-looking motherfackah.

Number of Days Until Spring Training: Yogi Berra (#8)

Nice to finally enter the single digits in the countdown.

Today, there are 8 days left until Pitchers and Catchers Report. The Yankees are lucky to have two #8's retired: Legendary catchers Bill Dickey and Lawrence Peter Berra. No disrespect to Dickey (who is currently is the only Yankee with a retired number not yet featured on the YES Network series Yankeeography), but Yogi will be the subject of my post.

Yogi Berra began his storied Yankee career as a callup in 1946. In 1947, he became a mainstay in the Yankee lineup until 15 years later.

Berra’s on-the-field accomplishments speak for themselves.

Yogi, a 15-time All-Star, appeared in fourteen World Series, won ten championships, both of which are records. Because Berra played during the Yankees' most dominant era, it enabled him to establish the major league records for World Series games (75), at-bats (259), hits (71), doubles (10), singles (49), games caught (63), and catcher putouts (457). He was one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times and one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. In 1972, he was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Sandy Koufax and Early Wynn.

Between 1949 and 1955, on a team filled with offensive studs including Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Berra who led the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons. Not bad for a 5 foot, 8 inch catcher.

As a fielder, Berra was also tops at his position. He led all American League catchers eight times in games caught and in chances accepted, six times in double plays (a major league record), eight times in putouts, three times in assists, and once in fielding percentage. Berra left the game with the AL records for catcher putouts (8,723) and chances accepted (9,520). He was also one of only four catchers to ever field 1.000 for a season, playing 88 errorless games in 1958. Later in his career, he became a good defensive outfielder in Yankee Stadium's notoriously difficult left field.

In June 1962, at the age of 37, Berra showed his endurance by catching an entire 22-inning, seven-hour game against the Tigers. In today's day of pampered, high paid prima donnas, I think Cy Young's all-time wins record has a better chance of being broken. Nothing against manager Ralph Houk, but it is also stupid to let a star player play that long for 1 game in a 162 game season...

Yogi also caught the only perfect game in postseason history—catching Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 Fall Classic against the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers. On July 18, 1999, Larsen and Berra celebrated the feat with a ceremonial pitch for "Yogi Berra Day" at Yankee Stadium. Yankees pitcher David Cone then went on to throw his own 27 up, 27 down masterpiece against the Montreal Expos.

In 1999 he was named to The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players, ranking number 40, trailing Bench (16), Josh Gibson (18) and finishing ahead of Roy Campanella (50) and his mentor Bill Dickey (57).

Stats back up his greatness as well. According to the win shares formula developed by leading sabermetrician Bill James, Berra is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitcher in major-league history.

Like Vladimir Guerrerro today, Berra was excellent at hitting poor pitches. Despite swinging at pitches in the dirt and those over his small frame, Berra had more home runs in a season than strikeouts. In 1950, Berra struck out only twelve times in 597 at-bats. When asked about swinging at "bad pitches", Berra was reported to say, "If I can hit it, it's a good pitch." [Note: A-Rod, how about adjusting to pitches in the postseason instead of guessing all the time?]

Yogi also served 2 stints as the manager of the Yankees, the first coming in 1964. Despite leading the Yanks to the World Series where they lost to his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in 7 (which began their slide that lasted until the mid-70s when George Steinbrenner bought the team), Berra was fired. According to insiders, Berra could not control his players.

In 1976, he rejoined the Yanks as a coach, and voila, the Yanks returned to their winning ways. The team won its first of three consecutive AL titles. This uncanny ability to bring about good luck was not unnoticed. Casey Stengel once said of him, "He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch." Berra was eventually elevated to Yankee manager before the 1984 season.

Berra agreed to stay in the job for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be fired. However, the notoriously impatient Steinbrenner fired him after the 16th game of the season. Instead of firing Yogi personally, Steinbrenner dispatched GM Clyde King to deliver the news for him. This caused a rift between the two men that would not be mended for almost 15 years. Yogi's replacement? If you guessed Billy Martin you may or may not be a baseball historian.

On August 22, 1988, Berra and his predecessor Dickey were honored with plaques to be hung in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Berra's plaque calls him "A Legendary Yankee" and cites his most frequent quote, "It ain't over till it's over." However, the honor was not enough to cure the relationship between Steinbrenner and Yogi. That would not happen until January of 1999 when Steinbrenner publicly apologized to Berra. According to Steinbrenner at the time, "It's the worst mistake I ever made in baseball.'' The power broker behind the meeting? Suzyn Waldman. Thankfully they made amends as I cannot imagine Yogi as not part of the Yankees today.

Yogi is a National Treasure. Despite having only an 8th Grade education, he is perhaps best known for his wisdom. Among his famous modisms are “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” and "It's like déjà vu all over again"—referring to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hitting back to back home runs in the Yankees' seasons in the early 1960s. Yogi has been featured in advertisements for Yoohoo, AFLAC, Entenmann's, and Stovetop Stuffing. Nice to see an old-timer make some money.

Many wonder how Berra got his nickname “Yogi.” A friend of his said he resembled a Hindu holy man (yogi) they had seen in a movie, whenever Berra sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat. Years later, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after Berra, something Berra did not appreciate after he started being periodically addressed as "Yogi Bear." Can’t blame the guy.

Yogi's best friend on the Yankees was fellow 5-foot paesan Phil Rizzuto (R.I.P. Phil). The two bought and ran a bowling alley together in North Jersey to supplement their relatively small income that they received from the Yankees. This special friendship lasted beyond their days on the diamond. When Scooter's health began to decline, Yogi visited him every Wednesday at his home. According to Yogi, "When I first came up to the Yankees, he was like a big - actually small - brother to me." It seems to me that it is rare in sports for teammates to remain best buds after their playing careers are finished. Yogi made an appearance in the YES Broadcast Booth with the day Phil passed away because he thought it was what his long time friend would have wanted. Here is a pretty lengthy interview he gave with Joe Torre in the Yanks' dugout that same day.

Berra has 10 rings, but only wears his 1953 ring, in commemoration of the Yankees' record 5th consecutive World Championship. What a nice luxury to have...

Perhaps if Yogi had been able to manage past the 1964 season and past the 1985 season, the Yankees wouldn't only be going for World Championship #27. Is it a coincidence that the Yankees reached their lowest points after Berra was fired as manager? Maybe, maybe not.

Given his offense, defense and leadership, it can definitely be argued that Yogi is the most valuable Yankee ever.


Pretty busy today, so here's another quickie:

Via LoHud, released the odds of all 30 MLB teams winning the World Series:
Arizona Diamondbacks 30/1
Atlanta Braves 35/1
Baltimore Orioles 150/1
Boston Red Sox 15/2
Chicago Cubs 7/1
Chicago White Sox 25/1
Cincinnati Reds 50/1
Cleveland Indians 25/1
Colorado Rockies 60/1
Detroit Tigers 20/1
Florida Marlins 40/1
Houston Astros 40/1
Kansas City Royals 150/1
Los Angeles Angels 11/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 17/1
Milwaukee Brewers 35/1
Minnesota Twins 25/1
New York Mets 7/1
New York Yankees 5/2
Oakland Athletics 55/1
Philadelphia Phillies 11/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 200/1
San Diego Padres 200/1
San Francisco Giants 40/1
Seattle Mariners 100/1
St Louis Cardinals 30/1
Tampa Bay Rays 12/1
Texas Rangers 60/1
Toronto Blue Jays 60/1
Washington Nationals 150/1

If you have $50, are you putting it on the Yanks to win $125 or the Sawx to win $375?

(Tigers to win $1000, White Sox to win $1250, Diamondbacks to win $1500, Pirates/Padres to win $10,000? )

ESPN Widget Headlines Compelling, Current [Part III]

I'm going to keep doing this until ESPN realizes that the point of a widget is to bring forward breaking stories that people may have not heard about yet. You know, something like this. Or this. Or this. At least there isn't any mention of this dumbassery.

We Will, We Will, Sign You [Clap] Sign You [Clap]

Yesterday on the Max Kellerman Show on 1050 ESPN Radio, they had callers propose an chant for Knicks fans to serenade LeBron James with at the Garden. They settled on the above one, based on Queen's famous arena song.

The night after Kobe dumped 61 (with no rebounds and 3 assists) on the Knicks at the Garden, LeBron topped it by scoring 52 with 11 dishes and 10 boards, the most points in a triple-double since the merger.