Friday, October 21, 2005

More baseball thoughts

Shorly after I posted my firat Baseball Thoughts message, sportswriter Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote an article criticizing the Yankees for not playing what some writers refer to as "small ball." I agree with the idea, but I don't like the name, which doesn't do the practice justice. So-called "small ball" is basically well-rounded baseball, where the team doesn't sit back and wait for somebody to knock the ball out of the park the way the Yankees do. Small-ball teams also bunt runners over, hit sacrifice flies, steal bases, and so on. With the notable exception of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees are not really equipped to play small-ball. They're a home-run hitting team. In the meantime, the Chicago White Sox and Anaheim Angels, "small-ball" (read: complete) teams, made it to the American League playoffs while the Yankees stayed home and watched.

I'd like to see the White Sox win the Series, just to hopefully rub it in George Steinbrenner's face that the most expensive, most home-run-reliant team does not guarantee anything. Complete teams generally go much further than those as one-dimensional as the Yankees.

I hope "General Von Steingrabber," as NY Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo calls his Steinbrenner caricature, doesn't overreact and fire Joe Torre (neither does Gallo). Torre wasn't responsible for signing all these home-run hitters who can't or won't steal bases or go all out for the team (*cough*Gary Sheffield*cough*). It wasn't Torre's fault that all these expensive players broke down at some point in the season, making them reliant on the likes of Robinson Cano (destined to be a fine player, just the kind a small-ball team needs) rather than the multimillionaires the fans paid to see. But Steinbrenner has hired former Philadelphia Phillies manager Larry Bowa as a coach, and is pursuing ex-Met and ex-Yankee (and ex-manager of the Baltimore Orioles) Lee Mazzilli for another coaching job. Maybe hiring these men as coaches means that Torre is safe as manager for the time being, but having two newly fired managers around on the coaching staff during the last year of his contract can't make Torre feel too secure in his job.

It'll be interesting to see what happens, especially if the Yankees stumble early in the season.

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