Monday, May 08, 2006

Yankee Diary #5

by Michael Carlucci

Monday, April 24

There is no game today so I can opine on a favorite topic. Bernie, oh Bernie; he was once a phenomenal player but is now chasing his own shadow. He is no longer even an adequate player, especially in the field. Does this dawn on Joe Torre? Or does he think Bernie's performance is acceptable?

Some regular readers of this diary have been disappointed in my anti-Bernie position. The retort is this: Bernie has had a great career but right now he hurts the team. One should not feel sorry for him. He's extremely talented. Look at these accomplishments: he's got more skill than all but one or two of his generation's center fielders. He's won a batting title and four Gold Gloves. And, of course, he's got four rings. If that's not enough, he's a classically trained guitarist, having released his own CD. He speaks two languages fluently. He is rich beyond most of my lottery-winning fantasies (I'm one of those people who daydreams about hitting the pick six but have never actually played). He just hasn't aged well by major league baseball standards and should ease his way into coaching.

Think of it this way: if I botched your diagnosis, would it comfort you to know I used to be a terrific doctor?

Monday, May 1

Tonight was ugly. And preventable. Or at least we would have had a better chance if Torre used the proper players. You have to play games against the Red Sox as playoff-level. Instead, Torre used Aaron Small for two adventurous, yet scoreless, innings. Small allowed four baserunners over two innings, had another batter hit the ball hard, and did not record a strikeout. Torre was apparently pleased with this, and rewarded Small (but punished the team) with another inning. Small walked Alex Cora (he of the .550 OPS), hit Kevin Youkilis, and thus left a mess for the next guy. Unfortunately, Torre chose Tanyon Sturtze to be the next guy, and he promptly gave up a run-scoring single. Then came the move that has been pre-determined since December: he brought in Mike Myers to face David Ortiz. The result was predictable. The steroid-bloated slob hit a three-run homer.

What should Torre have done? He should have used his best pitcher when the game was on the line, that's what. But because this was not a save situation, Mariano Rivera sat and watched from the bullpen. The one stat that Torre actually uses is the most harmful and useless. I might be a bespectacled, science-loving stat geek, but I would make an excellent in-game manager. Actually I'd be even better as the General Manager. Anyway, Torre does not see things my way. He recently said he doesn't look at numbers but rather evaluates players based on "what he sees." The logical response is to ask what he's looking at. The problem with Torre -- and the many like him -- is that he views the newer stats as unrelated to baseball. He's lived his whole life in the game and has been successful without having to think too hard about OPS and VORP, etc. What he doesn't realize is that these statistics are simply a more precise means of evaluating performance.

The first doctors used to talk of humors. They occasionally tasted urine to diagnose diabetes. They would have found an EKG not only incomprehesible but also irrelevant to medical care. Torre is in his urine-drinking phase, and I'm afraid he's not going to advance without a lot of therapy.

But don't get me wrong. Torre has many good qualities as a manager, chiefly his sense of calm. He is also the anti-me in this regard. When I was seven and playing in my first Little League game, I rapped what should have been a single to the hole between short and third. I ran slowly to first because I was afraid of being hit by the shortstop's throw. The umpire, who was ancient to me then but was probably about 12, actually called me safe, anticipating I could easily beat the throw. But then I stopped completely, relieved that I wasn't going to get hit by the ball, which arrived at first before I did. Out. My fear then mixed with embarrassment, and I hurled my helmet across the field toward my dugout. I was removed from the rest of the game for that stunt. I never became a better sport than that. But at least I would make the right decisions about player acquisition and use.

Sunday, May 7

We're 18-11, on pace to score 1,000 runs, and face the Red Sox on Tuesday on a five-game winning streak. What's not to love?

Michael Carlucci's column appears alternate Mondays


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"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine