Introducing the Yankees Doom Watch

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I noted last week that people seem to be underselling the Yankees quite a bit. I’m seeing more and more of it. So much so that I’m getting the sense that one-dooms-manship of the Yankees will become a pretty prevalent meme between now and April. A contest of sorts between who can be most extreme in selling the Yankees short and predicting the ignominious end to the Jeter dynasty.

So let’s keep track of them, shall we? We’ll call it the “Yankees Doom Watch.”

Now, I’m not talking about merely being somewhat circumspect about the Yankees’ chances.  It’s totally rational and fair game to note that the team has some issues heading into the season. They don’t have a catcher. They’re relying on Kevin Youkilis to rebound way more than a contending team should be relying on a brittle and declining veteran to rebound. Everyone is getting older. There’s a decent chance that this team, like any other successful team, could crater. It’s a tough division. All have their strengths and all have their weaknesses and any of the five teams could reasonably win it or lose it.

No, I’m talking about examples of Yankees pessimism that go beyond the circumspect and tread into the dire. Conclusory predictions of futility that overstate the challenges they face. Failure to acknowledge that the team won 95 games last year.  Failure to acknowledge the weaknesses of the other teams in their division. Treatment of the 2012 ALCS as though it were the entire 2012 season. References to this team being like the 1965 Yankees are always a plus.

I’ll make an inaugural nomination: Bill Madden in this morning’s Daily News:

You have to go all the way back to 1992 for a spring training of lower expectations than this one for both the Yankees and the Mets, where in both cases, our locals have a better chance of finishing last than finishing first this season.

I’ll buy it for the Mets, but the Yankees? Really? Better chance of finishing in last place?  OK.

Last week Madden reported that A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again. This week he’s saying the Yankees have a better chance of finishing in last than first. What are the odds of a mea culpa on Madden’s part if A-Rod comes back midseason and leads them to a division title? You probably don’t want to bet your first born on that one.

Anyway, this one is definitely worthy of notice by the Yankee Doom Watch.  Please apprise us of any other examples you see between now and Opening Day.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.