The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate Verdict

December 21, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

There are many different prophecies of those things that will signal the end times – falling skies, boiling seas, broken seals, death riding on a pale horse, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA!

The Yankees failing to sign any of their top free agent targets did not make the list, though, so all you fans of the Bronx Bombers can rest easy tonight. Michael Stipe will not be singing his anthem song.

It is true that the Yankees were dealt a very difficult sucker-punch in the ego region as they were turned down (or perhaps not even considered) by both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, but as Babe Ruthless points out in his winning argument, this should not be taken at anything more than face value.

Because of unique circumstances, the New York Yankees were not the preferred destination for two baseball players. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong. Loyal Homer is absolutely correct in stating that everyone (including us) expected the Yankees to land at least one big fish. The fact that they failed to do so this year raises questions about the allure the Yankees actually possess. But I just do not believe that you can allow the admittedly surprising decisions of two athletes to serve as a generalization of shifting tides in Major League Baseball.

There are two “usual” reasons that drive a free agent toward choosing one team over another – money, or the promise of a championship. Realistically speaking, are the New York Yankees lacking in either of those arenas?

As far as money is concerned, the Yankees have proven that they are still the standard bearers. They offered Cliff Lee a far more lucrative deal than the Phillies did, but as Babe Ruthless highlights, it became evident that money was not the most important factor in Cliff Lee weighing his options. Meanwhile, in terms of championship contention the Yankees still remain a favorite every year for the post-season. They are only one year removed from a World Series championship, and last year entered the ALCS as favorites to once again represent their League in the World Series.

The reasons why Crawford and Lee chose to play elsewhere this year are certainly intriguing, and I would recommend that Brian Cashman head back to the drawing board to analyze exactly where they went wrong. The business manager in me believes that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and this could serve as a critical learning opportunity for a team that perhaps allowed arrogance to make them lazy in their pursuit of people who they REALLY wanted. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that it signifies a shift in the free agent mindset.

For any top-tier baseball free agent with a desire to earn a RIDICULOUS salary while at the same time contending ANNUALLY for a championship, the New York Yankees will continue to play the role of the alpha male.

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate

December 20, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Allow me to apologize on behalf of all of us here at The Sports Debates for breaking the first rule of clichés.

That’s right – we assumed. And you all know what happens when someone assumes…

So, what is it that we assumed? Well, we assumed that the Yankees would get AT LEAST Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee in free agency this off-season, if not both of them.

As it turns out, we were wrong.

With Carl Crawford now playing in Fenway, and Cliff Lee returning to the city of brotherly love, the Yankees are for the first time in a long time watching their truckloads of money come back to the Bronx with their deliveries refused.

This very shocking turn of free agency events begs a new and unexpected question: Are the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees still the main destination point for free agents in baseball?

Yankees’ money used to mean something in baseball, but this year the top free agents left millions of that money on the table to play elsewhere. Loyal Homer believes that this is a sign that market tides are shifting in baseball and free agents are looking for more than just chasing the Yankee dollar. Babe Ruthless, however, feels this off-season was an anomaly and that the Yankees are still the premier destination point for free agents.

Before we begin, though, I want to offer a bit of advice to both our debaters. Unlike Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, I CAN be bought for a truckload of money.


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The Scariest Three Words in Sports Debate… You’ve Been Traded

August 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

The three scariest words in sports are undoubtedly, “You’ve been traded.”

Yes, I realize that’s more like two words and a contraction, but you get my point. The simple utterance of this phrase has the ability to make or break an entire career. A trade can mean the difference between playing for the Los Angeles Lakers or the Utah Jazz, the New England Patriots or the Detroit Lions, the New York Yankees or the Kansas City Royals.

Every season in every professional sport trades are made, many of them advantageous to the players involved. But that is not always the case. Sometimes up and coming stars are relegated to obscurity. As a lifelong Yankees fan I have watched this happen to plenty of young guys in the farm system. Obviously not every prospect is going to make it, but an untimely trade to the wrong team can be disastrous. A player’s future can be derailed because a new team uses them ineffectively or at the wrong position. Or maybe the new team simply overworks a young star so much that their body breaks down.

Obviously trades can be beneficial. But, they also have the infamous ability to marginalize burgeoning stars and established veterans alike. Nomar Garciaparra is a case study. Nomar was Boston’s answer to Derek Jeter. He was a Red Sox Nation fan favorite if there ever was one. He was a rookie sensation that blossomed into one of the fiercest hitters in the league. He was respected and liked by his teammates. But his career took a dramatic turn for the worse because of a trade.

Once the face of the Boston Red Sox, Nomar’s entire legacy was undermined by a 2004 trade to the Chicago Cubs. He was dealt at the trade deadline in one of the most pivotal seasons in Red Sox history, the year the ended the 86 year drought and finally won another World Series. It was a campaign for the Red Sox that meant so much more to Boston than just winning the most coveted prize in baseball, it was a rebirth. The team finally won, but more importantly, they vanquished the New York Yankees to get there. It must have been an indescribable feeling for the Red Sox, one Nomar Garciaparra would never fully know.

Nomar continued to play, but both his skills and his star power seemed to diminish rapidly. His power numbers fell first, followed by his batting average, health, and, ultimately, playing time. He ended his career less auspiciously than it began, playing in a limited role for the Oakland Athletics. Nomar went from one of the most recognizable faces in baseball to Mr. Mia Ham. His fall from greatness was swift and painful to watch, and it was triggered by a trade.

No one is safe, no matter how iconic they appear to be or how much the media likes them. Donovan McNabb is proof. While he had a wild ride and somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Philadelphia since he was greeted to boos in the 1999 draft, he also went on to take the Eagles to new heights. With McNabb under center Philly made eight playoff appearances – including four consecutive NFC East championships from 2001-2004, five NFC Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl appearance. You would think those kinds of results would keep him safe from criticism and second guessing, but alas, no. McNabb’s fate was a trade within the division to a much less appealing Washington Redskins team.

Although McNabb figures to use this slight as motivation to succeed, he faces immense obstacles. Thus far he has remained optimistic even comparing his relocation at age 33 to John Elway in Denver, when Elway received a new head coach – and a big change – at age 34. But, as writer Matt Mosley points out, “Elway had Terrell Davis at running back and a stable offensive line,” something McNabb doesn’t bring with him to Washington. In fact, he doesn’t even have the young receiving corps of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant that he had back in the City of Brotherly Love, meaning this trade could be the abrupt punctuation on an otherwise impressive career.

Modern sports superstars wield considerably more power in controlling a career than those of the past. Since the advent of free agency, these privileged pros have literally gotten to choose the team of their liking on a semi-regular basis. Contemporary stars may even have an entourage of agents and publicists that work to secure even more career control. These players have their own dedicated staff working around the clock trying to place their client in the most lucrative situation possible–with full no trade clause and 4th year option, of course. But even when athletes land in scenarios they deem unfavorable they can still use a variety of tactics, including everything from holdouts to a highly publicized war of words, and try to get what they want. Unfortunately for players, however, this is not the reality for all professional athletes. Some still live and die by trades.

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The Most Hated MLB Team Debate… Beantown Wannabes

May 5, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

If this debate was ten years ago, my answer to the question of who the most hated team in baseball was would definitively have been the New York Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers of the last 20 years have represented everything about baseball that I despise. Rather than go about winning championships through development of talent, hard work, and long-term strategy, the Yankees would allow other franchises to do all the dirty work. Then, right when all of that hard work by “lesser” franchises was about to pay off because one of their athletes had established himself as a true superstar, the Yankees would swoop in, price almost every other team in the league out of the market for that player (including the very team that had invested so much into his development), and simply acquire an already cultivated superstar.

Admittedly, part of my resentment stems from the fact that the strategy works. From 1996 until 2000 the Yankees pulled off an impressive FOUR World Series championships. George Steinbrenner had monopolized the game of baseball, and it took all of the fun out of the game for fans anywhere else in the country.

Leading the charge for the anti-Yankees bandwagon was the Boston Red Sox, their bitter rivals, whom many had perceived as the yin to the Yankees’ yang. While the Yankees had gone on to purchase one World Series after another, the Red Sox were in the throes of an 80+ year World Series Championship drought. For all of the reasons that the Yankees were despised, the Red Sox loved.

Compounding the pro-Red Sox support was the fact that they, just like every other team in the Majors, fell prey to the big-budget mentality of George Steinbrenner and had to sit back while once revered players from Fenway celebrated World Series championships in pinstripes. Even Red Sox stalwarts like Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens ultimately wound up defecting to the Dark Side, WILLINGLY signing contracts in New York later in their careers, and were perceived by many as having sold their soul for a World Series ring.

Then the Red Sox changed. Like so many of the players that Red Sox fans (and those who vicariously supported Boston through a shared hatred of the Yankees) cursed for having sold out just for the prospect of a World Series championship, the Red Sox themselves hypocritically became sellouts. Under the philosophy of “In order to BEAT the Yankees, we must BECOME the Yankees,” guys like Theo Epstein and Mike Port began to seek out and steal the high-priced talent in the league for themselves, taking players away from other teams… even that team in New York.

Since 2000 the Red Sox have bought talent like David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar, and Curt Schilling. They have overpaid in bidding wars for guys like Eric Gagne, and have dropped $50M just to reserve the rights to TALK to Daisuke Matsuzaka. Basically, they had become the very thing that they once hated.

In fairness, this new strategy has worked for them, which makes their treachery that much worse! Like the Yankees of the late 1990s, the Red Sox have since won multiple World Series championships, and are now perennial postseason contenders in the AL East (although this year has been anything but a success for Boston thus far). However, that success came at the price of their principles. For the very reason that they once berated the Yankees, they now are guilty of committing the same infractions.

Once perceived as bitter rivals, the New York Yankees almost became role models to the Red Sox, as they graduated Valedictorians from the “George Steinbrenner School of Winning in Baseball.”

The Boston Red Sox are the most despised team in baseball today because they not only bought (rather than earned) their way into the forefront of MLB competition, but more importantly, they did so in hypocritical contrast to all that they once stood against.

At least the Yankees come by it honestly.

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The 2010 MLB Manager On The Hot Seat Debate – A Foreboding Sense of Despa’RAY’tion

March 3, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Ahhh, Spring is just around the corner. For most people, the changing of the seasons is a time to enjoy warmer weather, perhaps get a little spring cleaning done, and for baseball fans it signifies the approaching start to a new season, complete with all the hope, excitement, and expectation of a new unknown. The tables have all been reset, and EVERYONE is still in the hunt for an October invitation.

Well, at least in theory.

While the prospect of a new season may bring hope and promise to some organizations, there are others who are still reeling from the carryover baggage of a less-than-spectacular close to 2009. For those organizations, the records may be new but the problems are not. And although some of the questions from last year may have been answered, we still have yet to determine if those answers are satisfactory.

As the managers from THOSE organizations enter spring training, they bring with them a heavy load of expectation, heightened with a sense of desperation, because they may fear (whether founded or unfounded) that their window of opportunity is quickly drawing to a close.

One such manager with the weight of the baseball world on his shoulders is Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Before we get into Maddon’s list of worries for 2010, I must give him his due. When he took over the reins in Tampa, he was inheriting a 100-loss team. During the time since his arrival, he has since led the Rays to a World Series appearance in 2008, and the last two seasons mark the first ever winning seasons in franchise history. In fact, before 2008 the Rays had finished DEAD LAST in the American League East Division 9 out of 10 years, with 2004 being they only year they didn’t finish in the basement (they finished in FOURTH place out of five teams that year).

There can be no denying that Maddon has brought improvement with him to the Tampa Bay organization.

The problem for Tampa Bay, though, is that they have arguably one of the toughest regular season draws in the entire Major Leagues, as they are ANNUALLY forced to keep pace with the two most dominant teams of the last fifteen years, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In the twelve years since Tampa Bay’s inaugural season in 1998, Yankees and Red Sox have combined for EIGHT different American League Championships, SIX of which led to World Series Championships.

That domination is not surprising, since the Yankees and Red Sox own two of the five highest payrolls in the baseball, and it definitely puts the Rays at a disadvantage as they come in with the sixth LOWEST payroll in the league.

For a team like Tampa Bay, the ability to maintain consistent success is virtually impossible. Last year, for example, they followed up their 2008 World Series appearance with an impressive 84 wins to their credit. 84 wins would have had them in a VERY close race for the postseason had they been playing in the Central Division (where 86 wins was all it took for the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers), but in the East, they were left 19 games BEHIND the Yankees, and 9 games BEHIND the Red Sox.

Compounding the early season pressure for Maddon this year is the impending departure of the Rays’ brightest star, Left Fielder Carl Crawford, who is in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. Although Crawford has stated a desire to stay in Tampa Bay, there is little hope that they will be able to cough up the dough necessary to keep him around. The recent decision by both Crawford and the Rays to cease any further contract discussion until the end of the season serves only as greater indication of that likely separation.

If the Rays reach a point before the trade deadline where they do not believe they have a REAL shot at the playoffs, there is a good chance that they will try to trade Crawford away in a fire sale, hoping to get some kind of value for him. The alternative of seeing him walk away at the end of the year with absolutely nothing to show for it will not be acceptable to the organization. And let’s be honest – As Carl Crawford goes, so go the hopes of the entire Tampa Bay Rays organization.

What does that all mean for Maddon? In a nutshell, he likely faces one of two options this season –

A) Miraculously manage the virtually impossible task of remaining competitive with both the New York Yankees AND the Boston Red Sox (you know, MINOR expectations).


B) Watch the Rays’ best player walk away, along with any hopes for REAL success – Not only this year, but for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know about you, but I call that pressure!

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The Dave Duncan Debate – If There’s a Great Woman Behind Every Great Man, Then Who Is Behind a Great Pitcher?

September 10, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s arguments on whether or not Dave Duncan has been the best pitching coach of the last 30 years.

Think about some of the great pitchers of the past 30 years. Names like Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Dennis Eckersley, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson quickly come to mind.

Much of those pitcher’s success can be credited to talent, but much credit must ALSO be given to the pitching coaches who helped those players develop, hone, and perfect their technique over the course of their careers.

Just as some players are better than others, there are also those coaches who seem to have a certain knack for bringing out the best in those they are coaching. Dave Duncan, pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, is one of those coaches. Over the course of his career as a pitching coach in Major League Baseball, Dave Duncan has helped to develop some of the most dominant pitchers of the era, including several Cy Young Award winners.

Recently, Duncan took the opportunity to prove once again why he is one of the best in the business when pitcher John Smoltz was brought into the Cardinals organization. Smoltz, who was pitching with the Boston Red Sox at the start of the season, had pitched himself to a 2-5 record with an 8.33 ERA by mid-August. Because of his struggles, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein decided it was time to make a change, so he Designated Smoltz For Assignment (DFA). Whenever a player is named as DFA, he is essentially placed on a 10-day waiting list while other teams within the league can claim him off waivers. If no team claims the player off waivers within that 10-day period, his current team can either release him outright or send him to the Minors. Many thought this was the beginning of the end of a likely Hall of Fame career for Smoltz.

Fortunately for Smoltz, the Cardinals decided to take a shot, believing that the 42-year-old pitcher still was capable of producing on the mound. They signed him as a free-agent for the remainder of the season, then let the master, Dave Duncan, go to work.

During his workout, Duncan and his staff noticed several things Smoltz was doing that lead to some of his recent struggles on the mound. After working with Duncan to correct some of those issues, Smoltz made his first start for the Cardinals on August 23rd against the San Diego Padres.

How did he do?

The “washed-up” pitcher that left the Red Sox was nowhere to be found. Instead, Smoltz dominated on the mound for the Cards, throwing five scoreless innings and striking out nine batters during the outing. It was like the “Smoltzie” of old was back (much to the chagrin of the Padres).

After just a few short days with Dave Duncan, Smoltz was seemingly able to correct several technical flaws and return to his Cooperstown-esque (yes, that IS a word… at least for THIS article) level of performance.

Without a doubt, Duncan is one of the best pitching coaches in baseball, but how does he compare to the other great pitching coaches of the last 30 years?

Is Dave Duncan the best pitching coach of the last 30 years in Major League Baseball?

Sports Geek will argue that none have been better in their role as pitching coach than Duncan. He has produced so many dominant pitchers, over such a long period of time, that he is without a doubt the best of his era.

Loyal Homer will argue that Duncan, who has had an exceptional career, still falls short of being considered the best. While he has been among the best, there are others whose credentials supersede his.

Debaters, the stage is yours.

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The Speaking the Unspoken Rules Debate – Baseball Needs More Honesty, Less Secrets

August 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument to keep the unspoken rules unspoken.

Welcome, baseball, to the Internet Age – the age of information. Every google search result turns up a “sports insider” or “team insider” result. No information is sacred or secret anymore. Information will be leaked (just ask Bud Selig’s President in charge of the Steroids List). The lesson? Baseball can avoid embarrassment by being honest.

No one in baseball is more honest than White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. That is mainly because the filter between his brain and his mouth is broken… and that is perfectly okay with me. Ozzie Guillen adds the honesty the sports landscape that fans have not seen in eons. Honesty is good, no great, for fans. I know that because anytime baseball is considering a fine for someone simply for being honest, the fan probably wins.

Guillen speaks the truth – a truth that is blasted to the world thanks to the Internet Age – and he is willing to stand up for his players, too. That is a good thing for his team, and a good thing for baseball. The fact that he is speaking an unspoken rule when defending his players just proves how ridiculous unspoken rules are.

Here is the main reason why it is perfectly okay to speak the unspoken rules of baseball – it is insulting not to. Every baseball fan in the world knows when a New York Yankee plunks a member of the Red Sox, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, or Dustin Pedroia better strap in because they are about to be hit. And now the league knows that about White Sox players, too, because Guillen said it. Good for him.

Also, baseball is not the Central Intelligence Agency, where a spook will retire then pen a book about all of the things they were unable to talk about when they were on the job. It is just baseball. No high-minded gentlemanliness is here to protect anyone. No one is doing the right thing by not blowing the whistle. If a manager wants to call out a player for intentionally throwing at one of his players, or a pitcher for having a weird smudge on their hand, they should do that. Speaking the unspoken rules of baseball enhances the fairness of the game and eliminates the secrets that keep fans frustratingly in the dark.

We need to understand, too, that not all of the unspoken rules of baseball are controversial. It is an “unspoken rule” not to out the tying run on base, or go against percentages when building the lineup or deciding a pinch hitter, or no to make the power hitter bunt, or not mention a no hitter while it is in progress. There are a bunch of these unspoken rules, and they are all good… if not a little antiquated.

All of the supposedly unspoken rules of baseball have a common link – common sense. If they are logical rules, why not talk about them? Some of them are unspoken because they are obvious. For the ones that are not obvious (but should be) I am glad baseball has people like Ozzie Guillen to shine light on issues that need to be spoken about so fans do not have to have their intelligence insulted. If baseball is implementing instant replay to keep the game more fair, why not use simple honesty to achieve the same end? Calling out a player with sandpaper in their glove, or a razor blade in their mitt (ahem, Don Sutton, ahem), the game is improved. Honesty is good for the fans, and so are honesty people like Ozzie Guillen. Baseball could use a few more like him.

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