By Eddie Mayrose
Major League MVP?
That Derek Jeter is enjoying perhaps the finest season of his Hall of Fame career comes as no surprise to those who believed he should have always been the Yankees’ leadoff man. Why it took so long to insert him into the top spot remains a mystery, especially since he was always the choice to bat first in most of the post season games played during the dynasty of the late 90’s. Regardless, he’s there now and is one of the main reasons the Bombers seem poised for another World Series run. What Jeter is not, however, is a serious candidate for the American League MVP award, as Minnesota’s Joe Mauer should be the unanimous choice.
Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen deserving, small-market candidates like Justin Morneau and Matt Holliday robbed of the award as voters focused on the more highly publicized exploits of Dustin Pedroia and Jimmy Rollins. To shun Mauer, though, would be a monumental oversight, as his incredible performance at the plate may be second only to the job he’s done behind it. Never has a catcher so prodigiously combined such excellent defense with as lofty a batting average. That he’s also on pace for 30 HR and 100 RBI despite missing a month to injury only adds to the resume.
So, celebrate Jeter’s season as one of his best and settle in for a long playoff run. Just don’t go overboard when Awards Season rolls around.
A New Yankees Closer?
Is Joe Torre a Cheap Seats reader? Maybe not, but he was my hero for a day last week when he used his closer (and best available pitcher) Jonathan Broxton to face the middle of the Cubs’ batting order in the 8th inning. George Sherrill finished the game by facing the bottom of Chicago’s lineup in the ninth. Finally, a manager chose not to drink the Tony LaRussa kool-aid.
After the game, Torre faced questions about whether Broxton would be upset that he wasn’t credited with a save. A sticky point, actually, as saves are the basis for a closer’s salary level. “We’re not as concerned about who gets the stat, as the only stat that’s important is that ‘W’ on the left-hand side”, said Torre. “If somebody gets offended by pitching to the 3-4-5 hitters in the eighth inning, they’re not the person I think they are.”
Regular readers are well aware of where I stand on how closers are used. I do acknowledge, however, that, as long as the current statistical situation exists, bullpen stoppers will insist on being in position to get the save. So, how about a rule change that puts the onus on the official scorer to assign the save? After all, in facing the meat of the order, hadn’t Broxton done more to preserve the lead than Sherrill? A similar rule already exists to cover situations where a starter does not go the mandatory five innings for a win. In such cases, the win is assigned by the scorer to the reliever determined to be the most deserving; not necesarily the first man out of the pen. Well, maybe that’s too much to ask in one column. I’ll have to be satisfied with a little progress and hope for more.
NY Jets’ Worst Kept Secret
Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan revealed the worst kept secret in New York when he named Mark Sanchez his starting quarterback this week. Considering all the Jets gave up to acquire Sanchez; two picks, three players and $50 million, there was no way Ryan could hand the car keys to Kellen Clemens.
Sanchez has a world of talent and all of the tools to become a star in the NFL. It just won’t happen overnight. So, with the Jets likely facing, at best, a 1-3 start to their season, here’s hoping Jets’ brass and fans have the patience to allow the rookie all the mistakes necessary to learn the league and achieve that lofty status.
Mets and the ER
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the emergency room, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana become the latest members of the Mets’ casualty list. If you’re scoring at home, that’s four starting pitchers, one reliever and the number one, four and five hitters down for the season. In addition, every opening day starter has had at least one stint on the disabled list. So, how, exactly, can manager Jerry Manuel be held responsible for a lost season? Love him or hate him, you can’t decide on him till next year.
….appeared in a Newport News, Va. courtroom yesterday morning to address the details of his Chapter 11 filing and then returned to Philadelphia in time for the Eagles’ exhibition game last night. In doing so, he might be the first person transported to and from his own bankruptcy hearing on a private jet.
Little League World Series Coverage
As I do every August, I’ve enjoyed the Little League World Series from Williamsport, Pa.; this year’s version, especially, as it featured the Mid-Atlantic champs from Staten Island. And, as I also do each year, I’ve resisted the urge to throw a shoe at my television every time ESPN/ABC commentator Orel Hershiser tries to minimize the commitment, skill and aptitude of these accomplished Little Leaguers.
Hershiser would have us believe that the actual playing of the tournament games is almost an inconvenience to these kids; that the swimming pool, food and video games offered to the players in their living quarters, (“the Grove” as Orel endlessly reminds us), are the main reasons they’ve come to Williamsport. Pitcher gives up a home run? “He’ll forget about it in a minute once he starts playing video games back at the Grove”. Second baseman makes a crucial error? “He’ll be fine once he has some pizza and gets in the pool.”
Now, I have five children of my own and have coached a few hundred others so no one need educate me on the qualities of resilience possessed by a child. However, to promote the idea that these players don’t really care all that much about their own performance is to disrespect the hours of practice and sacrifice they’ve endured to get to this level. As a matter of fact, Hershiser’s very presence contradicts his own theory. His employer pays big bucks for the exclusive rights to broadcast the event. Would that be the case if, as Hershiser asserts, the outcome didn’t really matter to its participants?
When I was sixteen, I relieved our ace pitcher in the eighth inning of a championship game that would eventually go eleven. In the top of the eleventh, the opposing catcher, big kid named Perez, took me deep on the longest ball I’d ever seen hit, costing us the title. Today, thirty one years later, I just wrote that sentence with clenched teeth. I rebounded, enjoyed the rest of my summer and came back the next season but never got to a point where I wasn’t upset when I thought about it. I just thought about it less as time went on. However, it still bothers me now because it mattered so much then. Just as it matters so much to these Little Leaguers and, I suspect, just as it mattered to Hershiser when he was young.