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Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Rollins’

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell Brian Cashman that the holiday season is one of good tidings and cheer. In particular, Cashman seems to have amped up his inner Scrooge when it comes to a pair of Yankee stalwarts, men who’ve symbolized everything the Yankees are now and hope to be in the future. Quite frankly, the posturing is baffling: he runs a billion-dollar franchise in large part because of these players, not in spite of them. As much as any executive hates to admit, the Yankees truly do have two franchise players – men who mean much more to the Yankees brand than the new Stadium or even the Steinbrenner family. Men who are as iconic to the Yankees as the pinstriped uniforms with the interlocking NY they wear.

I’m talking, of course, about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

While the Yankees reportedly offered Cliff Lee megabucks (6 years, $140 million), they’ve offered Jeter and Mo peanuts. Lee is undoubtedly a wise investment for a team with a hole as wide as the Lincoln Tunnel in the starting rotation. But would Lee even consider the Yankees without the 14 post-season appearances since 1995? That is what Jeter and Mo mean to this franchise. Before their arrival in the Bronx, the Yankees had once again returned to the sort of losing remembered form the late 1960’s: a team that couldn’t hit, couldn’t field and couldn’t pitch. Rather than playing to a packed house every game, the echoes were often louder than the cheers at Yankee Stadium. How bad was it? Imagine being able to walk up to a ticket window on game day and getting tickets, 3rd base dugout, field level. Against the Red Sox. Yes, you could do it in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

The handling of Jeter’s contract couldn’t get much more bizarre. They’ve reportedly refused to offer arbitration, for fear the captain would accept and the Yankees would be on the hook for roughly $25 million in 2011.Their opening offer, reportedly 3 years for $45 million, is supposedly based on evaluating him the same way a team would evaluate Jimmy Rollins or Hanley Ramirez. This isn’t to knock either of those guys, but they are not in the same class as Jeter. Ramirez is the best player on his team. Rollins is an all-star and former World Champion. But neither is the face of their respective franchise, neither has legions of fans who care little about baseball but live and die with their play and neither is the biggest draw in the biggest sports market in the country. Cashman’s concern is that at 37, Jeter’s play is deteriorating and the .270 performance of last year may be more realistic than his career .314 average. Whatever, Brian – get over it. There aren’t too many middle infielders who hit .270 and score 100 runs, either. Even at his reduced level of play, Jeter’s performance alone makes him an all-star caliber player. Add in the fact that the guy is a leader, both on and off the field – that the Yankees are just another good club without him; that the guy is proven winner and the kind of player New Yorkers love and other fans love to hate. But those pesky intangibles you apparently want to ignore mean more to your bottom line than your ego wants to admit, and you had better pay him for them.

Then there’s the matter of Mariano Rivera, the Greatest Post-Season Closer Ever. Mo would reportedly be perfectly happy to sign a two-year deal for around $36 million. In all, that seems a perfectly reasonable expectation for the man who owns nearly every record for relievers. Mariano is like a fine wine – he just keeps getting better with age. He has been and continues to remain baseball’s ultimate weapon; bring him in and the game is over. And unlike so many other 9th inning specialists, the greater the pressure, the better he performs. It’s been that way for the past 15 seasons in the Bronx and Mo shows no sign of slowing down. So why hasn’t Cashman done what should have been his easiest contract negotiation of this offseason and signed him already? Is he hoping to talk Mo down to $15 million for one year? Are the peanuts really that expensive in your supermarket, Brian?

When Cashman let Johnny Damon walk last year, I wasn’t happy about it but I could understand and even appreciate the motives. (Although I did rip him for even thinking Nick Johnson was a suitable replacement.) But giving Jeter and Rivera the Damon Treatment is unimaginable. The idea that you only pay any free agent based on future performance is laughable, especially for the Yankees and Brian Cashman. Otherwise, Carl Pavano would have been paid in Topps cards and hot dogs. In the case of Jeter and Rivera, you have to pay them for what they’ve meant to the franchise, the city and (in Cashmans’ case) your own career. If you really think the Yankees would be a billion-dollar franchise without them, then send them on their way. But stop quibbling over a few million dollars as if you’re trying to rebuild the Royals or A’s – if you honestly understand what those two mean to the team. And if you honestly don’t, then maybe it’s time for you to pack your bags and head elsewhere.

UPDATED 4:22pm: Of course, right after I posted this, Wallace Matthews at ESPN reported that Cashman thinks Jeter isn’t all that valuable, either as a player or as a commodity:

“We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account,” Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”

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Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is widely considered one of the most enduring records in sports history. It’s right up there with Cy Young’s 511 wins, Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games, Celtics’ eight consecutive NBA championships and Gretzky’s 2,857 career points.

The streak began on May 15, 1941. During the streak, he had a batting average of .408, 15 home runs and 55 runs batted in. The streak ended on July 16, 1941. In the process, he snapped “Wee Willie” Keeler’s 45-game hitting streak. On July 17th, Cleveland Indians pitchers, Al Smith and Jim Bagby held Joe hitless. He hit two hard shots, but Ken Keltner was flashing the leather at 3rd base that day, and it was all over.

When the streak ended, DiMaggio began a new one. This one lasted only 16 games. Over the span of both streaks, Joe hit safely in 72 of 73 games during that 1941 season.

It’s been just about seventy years since “The Yankee Clipper” achieved this remarkable feat. The only one to really challenge the record was Pete Rose in 1978, when he had a hit in 44 consecutive games. Just like everyone else who went after it, they all came up short (Molitor [39], Rollins [38], Castillo & Utley [35]). A person has to wonder if the record will ever be broken.

Hitting StreaksPlayers With At Least 1 Hit in At Least 30 Consecutive Games
Rank Year Name Team League Games
1. 1941 Joe DiMaggio (AL Record) New York AL 56
2. 1896-1897 Willie Keeler (NL Record) Baltimore NL 45
3. 1978 Pete Rose Cincinnati NL 44
4. 1894 Bill Dahlen Chicago NL 42
5. 1922 George Sisler St. Louis AL 41
6. 1911 Ty Cobb Detroit AL 40
7. 1987 Paul Molitor Milwaukee AL 39
8. 2005-2006 Jimmy Rollins Philadelphia NL 38
9. 1945 Tommy Holmes Boston NL 37
10. 1896-1897 Gene DeMontreville Washington NL 36

“Now this is over thirty years later and the guy said he was that cab driver (who drove DiMaggio to the game on July 17th). He apologized (for telling DiMaggio that he thought the streak would end that day) and he was serious. I felt awful. He might have been spending his whole life thinking he had jinxed me, but I told him he hadn’t. My number was up.” – Joe DiMaggio (more…)

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