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 2010 MLB Second Half Team to Watch Debate… Phillies Gear Up For A Second Half Charge

July 15, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

The second half of the MLB season kicks off tonight, and there are going to be some exciting pennant races. The biggest division lead at the break is just 4.5 games, and that is in the A.L. West. Looking over the standings I see a handful of teams outside of first place that may make a charge in the second half. One team stands out – and while it kills me to say this as a Braves fan (please, Braves fans, don’t go all Mel Gibson on me) – I think the Philadelphia Phillies aren’t going away quietly. I think they are set up for a second half charge.

As it stands now the Phillies currently sit in third place in the N.L. East, 4.5 games behind the division leading Atlanta Braves. They are also just 1.5 games back of the Dodgers and Rockies in the N.L. Wild Card chase. Many expected the Phillies to once again win the N.L. East and challenge for the pennant. That expectation was amplified by the offseason acquisition by Roy Halladay. But, injuries have complicated the quest.

The two most glaring injuries belong to perennial All-Stars Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Rollins, who has sat at the top of the lineup for the high-flying Phillies, is the spark that has been missing for the offense. To this point Rollins has only played in 31 games, as he has been on the disabled list two separate times. Even when he has been in the lineup his effectiveness has been minimal. For proof, please refer to his .254 batting average. Chase Utley, meanwhile, was placed on the disabled list on June 29 with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He is expected to be out at least another month. But he, too, was having a bit of a down season by the standard he set for himself. Those aren’t the only Phillies who have spent time on the disabled list at some point this season. Other guys that have missed time include Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, J.A. Happ, Chad Durbin, Brad Lidge, and others. Seemingly, the only guys who haven’t missed any time are Halladay and Ryan Howard.

Once the team gets fully healthy I expect them to make a run at the Braves. This team is too good not to be in contention. Believe it or not, the everyday lineup has played together only SEVEN times this entire season! This is essentially the same team, plus Halladay, that has made the World Series the past two seasons. The guys that have had down years to this point, Rollins and Utley to name a few, surely will get things going down the stretch. And the pitching staff, behind Halladay, has shown signs of life. Jamie Moyer, who has gotten a lot of editorial conversation between the writers here at The Sports Debates, quietly has nine wins. Cole Hamels is still seeking to return to his 2008 form.

The Phillies did close the first half with a sweep of the Reds. That gives the team a little bit of momentum coming into the second half. And the Phillies are due for some momentum.

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The Best Infield of the Modern Era Debate – Good Cannot Compete With Great

March 16, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

In an article published last week, Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Columnist Bill Conlin claimed that the Philadelphia Phillies infield of third baseman Placido Polanco, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley, and first baseman Ryan Howard is potentially the greatest infield of baseball’s modern era. He then follows that claim up with an open invitation to solicit opposing arguments.

Don’t mind if I do!

I could POSSIBLY accept that they are the best infield in the game today (although Conlin himself points out the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees infield of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira as being worthy challengers to that claim). I could also accept an argument that they are AMONG the best infields of the modern era. But that is as far as I am willing to go.

In response to Conlin’s very bold statement, which eliminates those qualifiers, I offer three simple words: Big. Red. Machine.

Career Comparisons

Polanco, Rollins, Utley, and Howard may be good, but when compared to the Cincinnati Reds infield of 1975 and 1976 they may as well be the Bad News Bears.

The names of the four Reds infielders during those seasons are probably enough to win this debate:

1B – Tony Perez (Hall of Fame, 7x All-Star)

2B – Joe Morgan (Hall of Fame, 10x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove winner, 1x Silver Slugger, 2x League MVP)

SS – Dave Concepcion (9x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove winner)

3B – Pete Rose (SHOULD BE in the Hall of Fame, 17x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 2x Gold Glove winner, 1x Silver Slugger, 1x League MVP, MLB’s all time hit leader)

Compare those totals to the current Phillies infield, which has only 10 All-Stars, eight Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, one Rookie of the Year, and two League MVPs.

With all due respect to the Phillies’ infield today, they have a very long way to go before they can consider their collective careers on par with four legends.

Season-Specific Hitting Statistics

Conlin uses the hitting statistics of the four Phillies infielders to justify his claim of “best infield.” Using the very same criteria he selected, let’s compare the results of the 1975 Reds, 1976 Reds, and the 2009 Phillies. (Note that Placido Polanco’s 2009 stats were actually earned while with the Detroit Tigers).

1975 Reds
In 585 total games in 1975 the Reds infield combined for 2,178 at-bats and amassed 656 hits for a combined batting average of .301. They scored 355 runs, and racked up 326 RBI, 125 doubles, 14 triples, 49 homeruns, and 101 stolen bases. Each player also earned an All-Star selection, Morgan and Concepcion were awarded Gold Gloves, and Morgan was also named League MVP.

1976 Reds
In 594 total games the same four players combined for 2,240 at-bats, 665 hits, and an average of .297. They scored 394 runs, knocked in 334 runs, and hit 132 doubles, 24 triples, 65 homeruns, and notched 100 stolen bases. Once again, each player earned an All-Star selection, Morgan and Concepcion were awarded Gold Gloves, and Morgan was also named League MVP.

2009 Phillies
In 624 total games, Polanco, Utley, Rollins, and Howard combined for 2,477 at bats, 677 hits, and a batting average of only .273 (compared to .301 and .297 for the Reds). They scored 399 runs, knocked in 383 runs, and hit 139 doubles, 17 triples, 107 homeruns, and only 69 stolen bases. Only Howard and Utley were named as All-Stars, Utley also earned a Silver Slugger Award, and only Rollins and Polanco earned Gold Gloves.

What do these statistics reveal?

The current Philadelphia infielders – who last season combined for at least 30 more games played than did the 1975 or 1976 Reds – had a lower batting average and only 12 more hits than the (1976) Reds, five more runs, 49 more RBI, seven more doubles, and seven fewer triples.

Make no mistake, the 2010 Phillies offense has the potential to put up phenomenal numbers. But they have much to improve upon if they hope to compete historically with the Big Red Machine.

What Matters Most

At the end of the day, only one thing matters – winning. That is something Cincinnati’s infield of the mid-1970s was able to accomplish at will. During the 1975 and 1976 seasons, the Reds went on to win a combined total of 210 out of 324 games (a win percentage of .648), all en route to TWO World Series Championships.

That is the bar that has been ultimately set by the Reds, and THAT is the standard to which the Phillies must be compared.

The infield of the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies cannot yet match the collective career achievements, in-season production, or (most importantly) the wins of the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds. History may prove otherwise, but for today, Mr. Conlin, “the BEST of the Modern Era” is a claim that the 2010 Phillies cannot make.

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The Best Infield of the Modern Era Debate – Philly’s Infield Gets Much Love from Loyal Homer

March 16, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

We take a break from your scheduled editorial calendar full of March Madness debates to throw in a fascinating baseball debate that is sure to start some discussion. Babe Ruthless has asked Bleacher Fan to determine if the current Philadelphia Phillies team has the best infield in the modern era. I am not a Phillies fan by any stretch of ANY vivid imagination (being a fan of a National League East rival makes it difficult to root for the Phils), but I am someone who appreciates greatness, and greatness currently resides in the city of Brotherly Love. Yes, this Phillies infield, consisting of first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and third baseman Placido Polanco is the greatest infield of the modern era.

I realize this is a tough argument to make. The infield that up North that dons the pinstripes is pretty strong as a group, and Bleacher Fan has mentioned casually in editorial conversations about some of the mid 1990s Indians infields. But let’s take a closer look.

Ryan Howard needs no explanation, but we are going to explain anyway. Howard, who won the 2005 Rookie of the Year despite only having 312 at-bats (which is quite impressive if you think about it), has continued to improve each season. His defense is definitely improving as he is not the most agile guy over at first base. The thing is, he can still get so much better. He has won an MVP award and is a strong candidate to win more. In essentially five years of playing he has amassed 222 home runs and 640 RBI. I will let you pull out the calculator and do the math. He is so good that his name was recently rumored to have been mentioned in a trade for the arguably the game’s greatest player, Albert Pujols.

Chase Utley, who is my favorite Phillies player, is arguably the best second baseman in the game today. The thing is, he would have been a starting second baseman sooner in his career if not for the fact that second base was manned by his current (again) teammate at the hot corner. He has been a full-time starter for four years now (he was not a full-time starter in 2005 until Polanco was traded in June) and in those four years, he has put up impressive numbers. He’s made the All-Star team as a starter all four years and is in the conversation for MVP every season. He has had 118 home runs in four years as a starter and has 161 home runs for his career.

Love him or hate, the brash Jimmy Rollins definitely reigns as one of the game’s best overall shortstops. He has pop in his bat (146 home runs), he has speed (326 stolen bases), and he has the glove (three-time Gold Glove winner). He also won a league MVP award in 2007. I would have to say that he is the spokesman for the Phillies, and is likely also the team’s leader.

Polanco’s career has come full circle with the Phillies and now he mans third base after being their starting second baseman several years ago. Polanco is one of those guys who flies under the radar, and he is going to fit in nicely with this current Phillies team. He is going to get on base quite often, as evidenced by his career .303 batting average. He, along with Rollins, will likely be responsible for setting the table at the top of the lineup for the big guns like Utley, Howard, and Jayson Werth. He’s a former All-Star and a two-time Gold glove winner. In short, a very nice resumé.

So there you have it. Excellent gloves on the left side of the infield and pop on the right. Show me an infield that is better OVERALL.
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The 2009 World Series Pivotal Decision Debate – It Is Better To OVER-Manage Than To UNDER-Manage!

November 5, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which was the most pivotal coaching decision of the 2009 World Series.

New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has taken a lot of criticism this year for being a micro-manager in how he led the Yankees through the 2009 season. Look who is laughing now!

In a twist of ironic fate, it was Girardi’s critical analysis, combined with a lack of critical analysis by his World Series counterpart, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, that ended up winning him his first World Series ring as a manager, and the 27th World Series championship for the Yankees.

At a crucial point in the series, after the Yankees had just taken a 2-1 lead in the series, Girardi decided it was time to play strategy, while Manuel decided to play convention. It was a move with very high risk, but also very high reward!

During Game One of the series, Cliff Lee, the ace in Philadelphia’s pitching rotation, had put on one of the most dominant performances in the history of the World Series. Lee threw a complete game against the very dangerous Yankee offense, giving up only one run on six hits. Lee had done his part for the Phillies, outshining his former teammate, Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees responded strongly, though, winning the next two games to take that 2-1 lead in the series.

It was at this point that Girardi saw an opportunity to position his team to win the series. Rather than go with the fourth pitcher in his rotation, he decided to pitch C.C. Sabathia again, on only three days rest. With that move, Girardi was attempting to position his team to take a 3-1 lead in the series, which would be extremely difficult to overcome. How did Charlie Manuel respond? He stuck with a conventional rotation.

Instead of putting his best pitcher, Lee, up against Sabathia in an attempt to give his team the best matchup possible, he decided to rest Lee for the extra game. The matchup he seemed comfortable with was to have the fourth pitcher in his rotation, Joe Blanton, take on the 19-game winning Sabathia. As expected, Sabathia went on to pitch 6.2 solid innings, with the Yankees going on to take that 3-1 lead in the series.

During the next matchup, Cliff Lee, who was by far the most dominant pitcher of the series, won his second game with another very impressive showing, but it was too little too late. Manuel had already handed the series to Girardi by not pitching Lee one game earlier.

Girardi had made a strategic decision that gave his team the edge it needed to steal victory away from the Phillies. Had Manuel pitched Lee in Game Four instead of Game Five, he may have been able to give his team a better chance to draw even in the Series at 2-2. Instead, he seemed unwilling to deviate from his rotation, not wanting to put too much strain on Lee.

What I don’t understand is the benefit that Manuel felt he was gaining by saving Lee for the extra game. This wasn’t the sixth week of the regular season, this was the World Series. You need to play to your strengths at all times. Entering into Game Four, the assumption had to be that Sabathia, despite pitching on only three days rest, would still outperform Blanton. Even IF Lee managed to win Game Five, the Phillies would still have to win Games Six AND Seven in order to take the title. In the case that the Phillies did manage to reach Game Seven, though, Manuel would THEN be faced with the prospect of pitching his ace, Lee, on shorter rest than Sabathia. It essentially created a lose-lose situation for Manuel and the Phillies. Either way, he was faced with the need to pitch Lee on short rest, so why not do it on the same night that your opponent is pitching HIS star on short rest? The only way the plan would have worked in Manuel’s favor would have been the very unlikely event that Blanton outpitched Sabathia in Game Four.

Baseball is a situational game. Although Girardi took a lot of heat during the season for sometimes overthinking a situation, he understood the philosophy of allowing the situation to dictate his play. Rather than stick with conventional wisdom, he saw an opportunity to leverage the situation into his favor, which is why he is celebrating a championship today instead of Manuel!

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The Most Important Player In the World Series Debate – Good Pitching Means Nothing If the Team Can’t Score!

October 26, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about who will be the most important player of the 2009 MLB World Series.

The 2009 World Series matchup has been set, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies against the New York Yankees. Although it will be torturous for Cleveland Indians fans like myself to watch C.C. Sabathia pitch against Cliff Lee in game one, the stage is set for what should be a very exciting Fall classic! (If it is any consolation, Tribe fans, at least you can take comfort in knowing that Manny Acta is your new manager, and he is really good at… ummm, nevermind!)

Both sides are loaded with talent, but when questioning the most important player in the series, the answer is Phillies first-baseman Ryan Howard.

Simply put, Howard is an RBI machine! During the 2009 postseason, Howard has already batted in 14 runs (which is the highest total in baseball) with a .355 batting average including two home runs, four doubles, and – yes – even a triple for the 255-pounder! He is the most productive hitter of the postseason, and that will have to continue if the Phillies hope to repeat as World Series champions this season.

It is Howard’s position in the lineup that makes him so dangerous (and so important to the Phillies). Hitting in front of Howard are Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, both of whom are batting above .300 with an on-base percentage of .439 this postseason. They should have no problem setting the table for Howard because they give Howard ample opportunity for even more RBI in the World Series, even against the likes of C.C. Sabathia.

Simply having consistent hitters in front of the best hitter in a lineup is not enough, though. Howard also has the luxury of being followed in the batting order by Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, who have had nearly the same success as Howard in the RBI category, combining for an additional 19 postseason runs batted in between them. Collectively, Howard, Ibanez, and Werth alone have combined for 33 of the Phillies 54 total RBI. With a great supporting cast around him Yankees pitchers will have no choice but to pitch to Howard, often with runners on base.

It is a familiar cliché, “good pitching wins championship.” But, the Yankees and Phillies BOTH have good pitching this season. The 2009 World Series will be decided by the team that can still figure out how to score runs despite the dominant pitching on the bump. The Yankees, a team that is not a slouch at the plate withhitters like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter, will manage to put runs on the board against Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and the rest of the Phillies pitching staff. It will be up to Howard, who is the leader of a Phillies offense that is the most prolific of this postseason, to make sure that his team can get ahead early, giving his pitchers the cushion they need to be successful.

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