Graig Nettles

Should Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles be added to Monument Park?

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Monument Park in Yankees Stadium was once reserved for the best of the best. The Mantles/Berras/Ruths of the world. In some ways that was a bit silly. A function of George Steinbrenner’s obsession with casting Yankees history in near-mythic terms and peddling the notion that anything less than uber-elite and perpetual champion players and teams was not up to Yankees’ snuff. That’s the kind of thing that leads to the sort of eye-rolling that a lot of Yankees fans have toward that franchise today.

And it also did a disservice to the merely good players who, if they played for any other franchise, would likely be honored somehow with a plaque or something in whatever that team’s particular hall of fame happened to be called. Lots of teams have those, by the way. They just don’t have press agents as good as those that Monument Park has had over the years.

The Yankees seem to be changing this. Last month they announced that Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez would be honored in Monument Park. I scoffed a little bit at that when the news came out, but after the weighing-in by some Tino fans and a month or so worth of reflection, I’m feeling cooler about it. Indeed, if this is truly a move by the franchise to come down off its “Only The Titans Are Worthy” stance toward its history, I’m all for it. Making Yankee Stadium a more populist place is good thing. I mean, you don’t go honoring Kevin Maas or anything, but people liked Paul O’Neill so why the heck not? At least as long as you don’t make everyone buy the notion that the standards haven’t been relaxed and that, really, Tino Martinez is worth every bit of praise that, say, Lou Gehrig is.

Anyway, Sweeny Murti thinks that if you’re letting O’Neill and Martinez in, you gotta do more:

O’Neill and Martinez will enjoy wonderful days this summer when they are honored. But if they are being recognized for their vital contributions to a Yankees dynasty, then I think we have to start opening the door to countless more players who could be considered Yankees greats.

We could add dozens more names if we wanted to, and maybe we will. But I’d like to start with two — Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles.

I suppose people’s mileage may vary, but they are pretty much the 1970s equivalents of O’Neill and Martinez. Not the biggest stars on the team, but certainly the sorts of players who could be strong second bananas on any championship club.

What say you, Yankees fans? You all for opening the doors like this? Or does Monument Park need to be reserved for only the inner-circle Yankee greats?

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.