Wednesday, November 28, 2012

0 comments If George Steinbrenner Were Alive Then He Could Fix Everything

Upon the New York Yankees playoff loss to the Detroit Tigers (in a sweep nonetheless), quite a few New York sportswriters have trotted out the usual tired lines we hear after a Yankees playoff loss. The New York Post came out with the classy headline that said "Dear Yankees, We Don't Date Losers! Signed New Yorkers" and some other columnists wrote about what George Steinbrenner would have done, since now that he is dead, Steinbrenner is a god to these writers and no longer a temperamental jerk who makes personnel decisions on a whim. Filip Bondy said heads would have rolled if George Steinbrenner were still alive. Bondy is showing his astute business acumen in wanting heads to roll. We all know a successful organization (which the Yankees are) should immediately start firing key employees when faced with any kind of setback or failure. That's just good business, who gives a shit about continuity or stability within the organization?

Not be one to pass up a good opportunity to thrash the Yankees, Mike Lupica levels with Yankees fans and says that it is clear with George Steinbrenner dead winning games has taken a backseat to making money. Obviously the MLB team with the highest payroll in the major leagues isn't a team overly concerned with winning. To a team spending $200+ million on payroll, they are really spending all of that money to make sure they DON'T win a World Series this year. As usual, Mike Lupica doesn't have any ideas on how the Yankees can show they care about winning. Perhaps Lupica thinks the Yankees should go spend more money on expensive free agents? That is showing a dedication to winning games, but the high-paid players on the Yankees roster seem to be the players Lupica has the biggest issues with. So this would be a somewhat endless cycle. The Yankees would show they are serious about winning by signing expensive free agents, the free agents don't perform to Mike Lupica's standard, and then he suggests the Yankees shouldn't sign underperforming players and be more serious about winning games.

Yankee fans really need to take a deep breath here, be a little more realistic about who their team is, has been for a long time.

"For a long time." The Yankees won the World Series in 2009, which may as well have been 1909 in Mike Lupica's mind. This year is all that matters to him and he feels free to speak in terms of "a long time" even when this only means 2-3 years in the past.

Well, here is what the Yankee brand has become: Winning a lot of regular games, drawing a lot of people, making a lot of money.

(Revolts in horror)

Who the hell wants that? The Yankees are a team that is financially successful and competitive on the field? This would ordinarily seem like the perfect situation for a sports organization, but it only hides the dark truth underneath the Yankees seemingly-perfect facade.

They are big winners, unprecedented winners, April through September. Just rarely in October.

"Rarely" in October. This is just overdramatic bullshit. Here are three things I wish Mike Lupica knew or cared about prior to writing these two sentences.

1. The Yankees have missed the playoffs once since 2002 and have played 105 games in the playoffs over that time. If I really wanted to call Lupica out for this stupid statement, I would include seasons prior to 2002 in these calculations. I don't because I want to show the Yankees "down" decade really isn't a "down" decade.

2. The Yankees record in those games where they "rarely" win? The Yankees are 63-42 over this time.

3. That means the Yankees have a 60% winning percentage in the playoffs since 2002. Seven times since 2002 the Yankees haven't had a 60% winning percentage in the regular season. So really, a case (a weak case based on small sample sizes) could be made the Yankees are bigger winners in October than April through September more times than not. Mike Lupica doesn't care about facts and he certainly doesn't care to do research before writing his columns.

October was the old brand.

The Yankees record in the playoffs from 1995-2001?

47-20. That is a 70.1% winning percentage. Very impressive. There is a difference in a 70% and a 60% winning percentage in the playoffs. I'm not sure there is such a huge difference that Lupica could say the Yankees "rarely" win in October from 2002-2012.

The comments from members of the Yankees’ high command after the team doesn’t make it to the World Series have become as predictable as their baseball team not making it to the World Series. Once the bottom line for Steinbrenner the Elder was winning it all, or else.

I always enjoy hearing about the fond memories of George Steinbrenner and how he would not stand for losing or else heads would roll. Apparently this "heads are going to roll" strategy didn't work very effectively from 1982-1994. It's no coincidence the Yankees started winning games once they got a great core of players together and had stability in the organization. It's amazing what creating stability and creating a farm system that develops great baseball players does for a team. George Steinbrenner did want to trade Mariano Rivera, but was talked out of it, which further leads me to wonder if this pining for the George Steinbrenner-led days isn't somewhat misguided. Not freaking out every time a plan doesn't work isn't accepting failure as an acceptable end result, but is accepting failure as a natural part of executing a successful long-term plan.

For his heirs, it seems the bottom line is more about profit and loss, and that sure doesn’t mean the kind of loss the Yankees just suffered at the hands of the Tigers.

Again, Mike Lupica is saying this about the organization that has the highest payroll in the majors. If the Yankees aren't trying to win games then none of the other MLB teams are trying to win games either.

You better believe the Yankees are the most successful regular-season team of all time, even more successful than the Atlanta Braves were when they kept making the playoffs in the 1990s. And the Braves, by the way, didn’t just make the playoffs, they made it to four World Series in that decade, even if they only managed to win one.

The Yankees made three World Series in the 90's and won all three of them by the way. They also won the World Series in 2000. So the Yankees are more successful than the Braves in the regular season and in the playoffs. I'm not sure of the point Mike Lupica is trying to prove.

Starting in 2002, the Yankees have made it to the World Series twice over the past decade, have won one. The people in charge still make it sound as if the Yankees not making the Series is some kind of aberration.

It seems like Mike Lupica has the formula on how to make the World Series every single year. If he does have such a formula, it would be nice if he could share it with the Yankees.

Actually it’s become the norm. In that decade we’re talking about, the Yankees have lost in the first round five times.

The Yankees have also made it to the ALCS or better five times. So half of the time, the Yankees made it to the ALCS over the last decade. What other MLB team can claim this? Anyone know of another team that can claim this? Without a little perspective, Mike Lupica sounds like he has a point. That's what I am here for, to give perspective. I did my research and no other team can claim to have made the ALCS or better five times over the span of 2002-2012. So basically Mike Lupica is bitching the most successful postseason team over the last decade still isn't successful enough for him.

Brian Cashman, the general manager, says he is going looking for more home-run hitting monsters, even though we all saw what just happened in the postseason when good pitching kept the monsters the Yankees already have in the ballpark.

Let's cut to January after the Yankees have traded Curtis Granderson, signed Michael Bourn to a five year contract, signed Kyle Lohse to a four year deal and signed Angel Pagan to play right field. I'm guessing at that point Mike Lupica is going to bitch about the Yankees losing their home run power and how they chose to sign players who have speed, but no power. Lupica is the typical sportswriter who complains a team goes in one direction and then when that direction doesn't work he complains they didn't go in another direction.

Lupica also fails to understand the market. I didn't realize there was a large amount of quality starting pitchers on the free agent market last year. There doesn't seem to be a ton of quality pitching available this offseason either. If the Yankees want good pitching they may have to trade or overpay for it.

Understand: The Yankees clearly have a tremendous business plan. It’s just not exactly the one they’re selling about how every season is World Series or bust. They are a long-running TV series for YES (even though ratings were down this season), the money absolutely keeps rolling in.

Only a New York sportswriter could try to frame a team's financial success in such a negative manner. If the Yankees weren't running a profit then Lupica would criticize the Steinbrenners for not understanding how to run an organization and make a profit. Since the Yankees are making money, this just goes to show how the Steinbrenners only care about making money. It's a no-win proposition because Lupica will change his objection to fit the situation.

But what happens in the postseason keeps happening, no matter how surprised they act every time it does.

Any every other less successful team in the majors cries huge tears at the idea the most winning organization in baseball history can't win the World Series every year. Money should be able to buy championships! It's just not fair to Mike Lupica that the Yankees can't use the uneven playing field to their advantage. Really, if Bud Selig were a commissioner worth a damn he could step in and make sure the Yankees get their money's worth out of their roster every year.

Understand: They have made a lot of smart decisions in that time to keep the pump primed, don’t worry. Cashman had one of his best years in 2012 with Ibanez, Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda, and maybe it’s fitting that his best work turned out to be with guys whose ages are 40, 38, 37.

Screw Brian Cashman and his good work. That doesn't matter because the results didn't turn out like they should have. There's no possible way another team should have done a better job of putting a team together and then play better over a seven game series. No way should another MLB GM be as competent as Brian Cashman is. Every year the Yankees need the best team on the field and anything less than that makes Mike Lupica scoot to the front of his chair and stomp his feet in anger.

But when it comes to the World Series, they have become a win-then team.   Under Joe Torre they won four times in five seasons, made it to the World Series five times in six seasons, finally six times in eight. But starting in 2002, they have  become the New York Braves.

Yes, but prior to 1995 the last time they made the playoffs was 1981. So the New York Braves is a good place to be compared to the Yankees under Lupica's idol, George Steinbrenner, in the 1980's and early 1990's. Who needs perspective though? Perspective doesn't give pageviews. Perspective forces Mike Lupica to look at his unrealistic expectations for the Yankees' season honestly, when he would much prefer to make his unrealistic expectations as the only way to judge the Yankees' season.

Obviously there is no shame in that, the people in charge can point to other teams spending big money and not having nearly the regular-season success the Yankees have had.

Well OBVIOUSLY there is no shame in this, even though Mike Lupica is writing this entire column about how there is shame in being the New York Braves and not winning the World Series every year. If there is no shame in only making the World Series twice in a decade, then why is Mike Lupica writing an entire column about this isn't acceptable and acting like the Steinbrenners don't care about winning?

Lupica wants his cake and eat it too. He wants to acknowledge every other big spending team hasn't had the success the Yankees have had, but he also wants to criticize the Yankees for not having more success.

But the idea that the sky is falling because they just did what they usually do — fell hard before they got to the Series ­— is just plain dumb.   They consistently fall short of what they say their mission statement is, but nothing really changes in the organization.

So in short, I'm not sure entirely what this column is supposed to be about. Lupica says the sky isn't falling, but seems to indicate the Yankees have now just accepted making the playoffs every single year. So I am interested in hearing what Lupica would do differently to the Yankees roster that would show they aren't just accepting a playoff berth and happily going home assuming their work for the year is finished? What possible move could the Steinbrenners make to unconvince (that's a new word I just made up) him they only care about making money?

They paid the Pirates to take Burnett off their hands. They might pay somebody else to take A.E. Rodriguez off their hands. That is the modern Yankee idea of holding somebody accountable.

This is as opposed to the George Steinbrenner way of holding someone accountable, which was to fire them? I guess I'm confused as to how trading an underachieving player is different from firing a manager who isn't getting the Yankees to perform at a high level. Either way, you are getting rid of a player/manager who isn't working out.

For the record, here is part of Hal Steinbrenner’s response to his team’s performance against the Tigers, by the way:   “Make no mistake, this was a bitter end to our year, and we fully intend to examine our season in its totality, assess all of our strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary steps needed to maintain our sole focus of winning the World Series in 2013.”

Mentions of how much money the team made: 0
Mentions of the goal being to win the World Series: 1

I can totally see where Lupica gets his belief the Steinbrenners only care about making money. It seems Mike Lupica is much smarter than the rest of us and sees this statement really reads as:

"Make no mistake, this was a hell of a year for the Yankees. We made a shitload of money, and we fully intend to examine how we can make even more money next season by assessing how to raise ticket prices, reduce the strength of our team and take the necessary steps needed to maintain a 5% increase in profits and the sole focus of winning a playoff series in 2013."

But whatever Steinbrenner the Younger does say, you have to say he seems pretty happy with the way his team is being run, and managed. For now he doesn’t say a word about his manager benching A-Rod in favor of a guy, Eric Chavez, who couldn’t hit or field by the end. 

Mike Lupica thinks benching A-Rod against the Tigers was a bad idea. Of course if Girardi didn't bench A-Rod then Mike Lupica would accuse him of doing nothing to prevent the Yankees from losing the series to the Tigers.

But in the end, and with as much money as they spend, they are mostly about big coin that keeps coming in. That’s the real difference between the way they are run now and the way they were run when the old man was still in charge. That’s the real bottom line with the modern Yankees.

Yes, but the New York media would have it no other way. If the Yankees started dramatically cutting payroll then they would be criticized by Mike Lupica for being too cheap.

The people in charge say what they think George M. Steinbrenner would have wanted them to say. But with the old man, it was more than just talk. 

Steinbrenner would just go fire someone, which as we know from 1982-1994 worked incredibly well. It's amazing what a saint and genius a person becomes once they have died and all of their faults can be forgotten.

Forget about Cano, you know who should wake up whistling that A-Rod is across the diamond from him? Mark Teixeira. List all his big postseason hits for the Yankees and win valuable prizes.   But not to worry, we’ve got him locked up for four more years, and about $100 million.

He hasn't been great in the playoffs, but he did hit .353/.500/.353 in the ALDS this year. Of course much like the 2009 World Series title for the Yankees, that was a long time ago in Mike Lupica's mind.

Mike Lupica is the worst.