Saturday, November 22, 2003

Two recent stories warmed the Fan's Yankee sensibilities. First, Derek Jeter will not need thumb surgery this off-season. That is a major breath of relief as the soul of the Yankees would have started on the bench. What Jeter has accomplished the past two seasons despite chronic pain and injuries is phenomenal. He is the Brett Favre of baseball.

The second story was the trade of Tino Martinez from the Cardinals to Tampa Bay. Martinez will join another ex-Yankee, Lou Piniella which is fitting because the two are major cogs in separate Yankee championship runs. Piniella was the crusty, professional hitter that kept the Yankees together many times during the early Steinbrenner years and Martinez was a prominent member of the Yankee, post-Mattingly teams that won four championships in five years.

Martinez has never had it easy. He followed a saint in Don Mattingly in New York and I remember my own negative feelings about him taking the place of a beloved first-basement who was adoringly called "Donnie Baseball." All Martinez did was come in with remarkable consistency in anchoring the Yankee attack through all their championships.

Where Paul O'Neill was the fiery leader of the team, Martinez was the rock who drove in runs and hit important homeruns. There is no coincidence that the Yankees haven't won since Martinez moved on and O'Neill retired. Martinez drove in 690 runs in his six years with the Yankees. Now that is the definition of a rock.

The Yankees then let Martinez go and he signed with the Cardinals. There he replaced Mark McGuire. Mattingly and McGuire...imagine replacing those two players? Tino never got going in St. Louis and his production dropped off. Perhaps a fresh start in Tampa will revive his career for at least one season. I hope so as Tino has never been given the credit for those great Yankee seasons that he deserves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Today was one of those days that fans of MLB enjoy. There was a surprising trade, another award, a free agent signing and the culmination of another scandal. Let's look at the trade first.

Ted Lilly was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty. The move was surprising as Lilly seemed to be coming into his own as a pitcher. There must be cash considerations involved as the A's consistently have to hold down their budget. The A's also have Rich Harden who showed promise in a few starts this past year. Lilly will be a big addition for the Blue Jays, especially in their multiple series against the lefty vulnerable Red Sox and Yankees.

Kielty also has a lot of promise and is excited about the opportunity to play in Oakland. He is a selective hitter and felt that the Twins wanted him to be more aggressive. The A's stress patience when hitting and he should fit right in. So this deal does both teams well, at least in foresight. Hindsight will have to wait.

Toronto also signed Pat Hentgen to come back home after four years away. Hentgen, who has won 129 games in his career, came back this past year from Tommy John surgery to post his best ERA since 1997. Hentgen was 6-3 in the second half with an ERA of 3.10 after the break. Toronto now boasts an effective starting staff with Lilly, Hentgen and Cy Young winner Halladay. If these moves work out, the Blue Jays could contend strongly this coming year.

Bobby Bonds won his third straight Most Valuable Player award. It's hard to argue with the selection as the Giants would have been a .500 ball club the last two years without him in the lineup. Pujols was also deserving but should have plenty more years to contend with the honor.

That leaves the AL MVP award as the only one of the year that seems arguable. There have been years where Alex Rodriguez could have won the award but played on non-contending teams. This year, he had a year that was less spectacular than past years but he wins the award. Carlos Delgado should have won the award as his batting average was higher and he drove in an amazing 145 runs.

A case could be made for David Ortiz, who carried the Red Sox into the post season. Ortiz had an amazing number of huge hits and provided an emotional core for the team. In my mind, he was the MVP.

And finally, Bill Singer paid for his stupid comments at the GM meetings with his job. Singer, who was just hired a few weeks ago, did not understand that these are a different time and world from the locker room he used to share with his fellow players. This is a world where our words are measured and an insensitive joke is going to blow up in your face. The man is probably a decent sort of guy who made a really stupid mistake. Gone. Thanks for playing.