Tag: Andy Pettitte


Red Sox redefine what it means to be dynasty


These Boston Red Sox are a new kind of dynasty. I suppose there’s a question if they really ARE a dynasty, if that word “Dynasty” even means anything in today’s game, with 30 teams and the game’s structure pushing toward parity. But Boston did win its third World Series in a 10-year-span. Only eight teams have done that since the Live Ball Era began in 1920.

— The 1923-32 Yankees — powered By Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, etc. — won four World Series.

— The 1926-34 Cardinals – first Rogers Hornsby and then the Gashouse Gang with Frankie Frisch and Ripper Collins and Pepper Martin — won three World Series.

— The 1936-43 Yankees — with some leftovers from the earlier dynasty plus Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon — won six World Series.

— The 1942-46 Cardinals — Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion — won three World Series.

— The 1947-62 Yankees won 10 World Series. In the early years of baseball’s greatest dynasty the Yankees were driven by DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and so on. The later years was driven by Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and so on. It’s hard to draw dynasty lines when it comes to the Yankees because one dominant team simply bumps into another.

— The 1955-65 Dodgers won four World Series. The first was the last stand for Brooklyn and the Boys of Summer — Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and that great bunch. The last three championships were in L.A., with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale at the heart.

— The 1972-74 Oakland Athletics won three World Series in a row. The best players: Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi.

— The 1996-2009 Yankees dominated their time with five World Series championships — Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were on the first and last of those teams.

More: Red Sox win World Series after routing Cards | What a difference a year makes

— I went through all eight of those dynasties for a reason: There is something connecting them all. When you think of those dynasty teams, you think of players. You might think of managers — Casey Stengel, Walter Alston, Joe McCarthy, Joe Torre. You might think of a certain style, a certain rhythm, a certain ethos. You might think of the nicknames and rebelliousness of the 1970s A’s, the high mounds of the 1960s Dodgers, the Murderers’ Row lineup of the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees.

This Red Sox team? No. They have none of that. Oh, they’ve had great players. They’re just not the SAME great players. You’ve probably seen the answer already, but do you know how many players on this year’s Red Sox championship team were also on the Red Sox team that broke the curse in 2004?*

*Speaking of curses: A lot of people, it seemed, were trying to make a big deal out of the fact that this year was the first time that the Red Sox had clinched a World Series AT HOME since 1918. Television made it seem like the overriding story of the Series. The “clinch at home” angle seemed to give everyone a chance to trot out all the old curse talk, rehash the Babe Ruth trade, chat up all the old Red Sox fans who have been coming to the park for decades and had never gotten the chance to see a World Series clincher.

Seriously – clinching a World Series at home is a thing now? It’s not enough to just win two World Series in the previous eight years, not you have to win it at home for it to really count? I mean, look, it’s great that a wonderful town like Boston got to win the World Series in a wonderful park like Fenway. Happy that it worked out that way. It was great to see Red Sox fans get to unleash their happiness.

But I believe, and my Red Sox friends seem agree — not winning a World Series AT HOME is not a thing. It’s not a curse. It’s not a drought. It’s not anything. If you win a World Series you win a World Series, it doesn’t matter where. The Chicago White Sox have not clinched a World Series at home since 1906. The Reds did not clinch either of the Big Red Machine World Series at home. Those poor Giants fans have never clinched a World Series in San Francisco. So what? The Red Sox don’t have a losing tradition anymore. It’s over, you can’t just keep bringing it up like it’s a storyline. The Red Sox have won three World Series in 10 years. It’s time for everyone to just deal with being Boston being Goliath.

Sorry, back to the question: How many players from 2004 — even in a minor role — were on the 2013 team?

Answer: One. That’s ONE. Uno. Une. Odin. Um. Ett. David Ortiz is the only one left. He was an awesome DH for the 2004 Red Sox. He was an awesome DH for the 2013 Red Sox. That’s all. One.

And this goes beyond players. The manager is gone. The general manager is gone. The pitcher and catcher on that 2004 team — Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek — are now special assistants to Ben Cherington, who was a player-development guy back for the Red Sox then. The highest ranked guy in the front office who seems to have the same job he had in 2004 is writer, historian and sabermetrician Bill James. More on him in a minute.

More: Ortiz wins World Series MVP | Is Papi headed to the Hall?

The point is not that this team has changed from 2004. All teams change. The 2009 Yankees were very different from the 2000 Yankees. No, the point is that this is a completely different team from 2004. And, even stranger, the 2007 team in the middle that won a World Series is kind of distinct from either team. Take a look at the Top 5 WAR from each team.

2004: Johnny Damon, Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Varitek, Mark Bellhorn.

2007: Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Coco Crisp.

2013: Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ortiz, Mike Napoli.

Other than Ortiz on all three teams and Pedroia the last two, there are no matches. And top five pitchers by WAR? It’s even more striking.

2004: Curt Schilling, Martinez, Keith Foulke, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Timlin.

2007: Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima.

2013: Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Craig Breslow.

Other than Schilling, again, no overlap whatsoever. The Red Sox dynasty, if you are willing to call it that, represents three distinct and largely unconnected teams.

This is the time in which we live. Baseball is geared heavily against dynasties these days. There are the reasons everyone talks about how much it costs to try and keep a great team together. That cost can hit you two ways. One, the obvious way, it can cost too much to keep your best players. The Pittsburgh Pirates of the early 1990s won three consecutive division titles, then Barry Bonds and others left for more money, and the Pirates were dreadful. The 1990s Cleveland Indians went to two World Series, then Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome and Bartolo Colon and others priced themselves out and they had to start over. The 2003 Marlins had a young Beckett and Miguel Cabrera and others, but, not long after, did not have any of them.

But there the less obvious and perhaps deadlier way cost can destroy a great team. This happens when teams spend a ton of money to keep their best players (or to import new ones). This can often cripple the team in utterly unexpected ways. Look at the Yankees now. Look at the Angels. This, of course, happened to the Red Sox. They spent a fortune on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and Lackey and a fortune to retain Beckett, Youkilis and Papelbon. And what they found was that when things weren’t going well, they were powerless to do much about it. The team got stale. The older players faded but were huge investments and so played too big a role. There was no freedom to make changes. The Red Sox floundered away a playoff berth in 2011. They were the worst Red Sox team in a couple of generations in 2012.

That’s why the Red Sox get so much credit for the enormous trade they made with the Dodgers last year. They should. The Red Sox didn’t really GET anybody in that deal. And they traded away good players — Gonzalez had a good year for the Dodgers, Crawford wasn’t bad when he was healthy — but it was still a win for the Red Sox. They were able to take the team back. They were able to reorder and refocus the direction. And some good things followed, some expected, some not. Lackey rebounded, which was huge. Uehara decided to become unhittable, which was huge. Victorino, at 32, took to Fenway Park (he hit .322/.365/.485 there and was fantastic defensively) and had perhaps his best season. That, too, was huge.

And the rest came together. The starting pitching was good enough. The bullpen was terrific despite injuries. The lineup blended familiar Red Sox faces like Pedroia, Ortiz and Ellsbury with some shrewd choices like Victorino, Napoli, and 30-year-old minor-league lifer Daniel Nava. They led all of baseball in runs scored.

So, they were smart about the way they built this team. But it isn’t just cost that crushed dynasties. It isn’t just the crazy distractions that come after winning. No, there’s something more direct: You need postseason luck to win a World Series now. Take a look at the dynasties above. Six of the eight came before the 1969 expansion. That meant the teams who won their league went right to the World Series. They did not have to pass Go. They did not have to collect $200. There were no five-game Division Series. There was no seven-game Championship Series. Win the league, win the Series. Two steps.

The Oakland A’s of the early 1970s had three steps. They had to win five-game championship series each of their three seasons. They beat Detroit in 1972, Baltimore in ’73 and ’74. Two of those series went five games.

Then you look at the amazing Yankees run where they won four World Series in five years. It was an incredible run because suddenly there were FOUR steps. Win the division (or Wild Card). Win the Division Series. Win the Championship Series. Win the World Series. Even great teams need luck. The Yankees did. The Jeter flip (or the Jeremy Giambi non-slide). The Jeffrey Maier game. In 2000, the Yankees won only 87 games — they had the fifth-best record in the American League — but they made it into the playoffs, and they won the World Series.

Then, for the next eight years, the Yankees did not win the World Series. They were almost annually the best team. The Yankees had the best record in the American League in 2002, ‘03, ‘04, ’06 and ’07 (tie) and did not win the World Series any of those years (You can throw in ‘11 and ’12, too). This is the essence of the playoff system. It brings a lot more luck into the game. It basically invalidates the season. It gives the surviving teams a fresh start in a much more volatile kind of tournament. Not one time from 2000-12 did the best record in the American League play the best record in the National League.

So, to win three World Series in a decade the way the Red Sox have, they have needed to win nine postseason series. And in many ways, winning the actual World Series has been the easy part. In 2004, the Red Sox had to come from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS. In 2007, the Red Sox trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the ALCS. They roared back and stomped Cleveland three in a row. This year, the real challenge was probably Game 2 against Detroit in the ALCS. The Red Sox had lost Game 1 at home, they trailed Game 2 by four runs in the eighth inning when Jim Leyland went to his calamitous bullpen and Papi hit the grand slam. No slam, it’s hard to see the Red Sox winning that series.

More: Cardinals will be back, and often | Ellsbury, Drew take star turns in possible Fenway finales

But they did. Three times in the last decade they got into the postseason and then navigated through. It’s a different kind of success from Stengel’s Yankees or Koufax’s Dodgers. This is what a 21st Century dynasty looks like.

Finally, Bill James. As mentioned, he seems to be the highest-ranking front-office guy — not counting the executive guys like president Larry Lucchino and owner John Henry — to have been around for all three championships. It’s hard to say exactly what Bill does for the Red Sox. He’s very discreet about it, and he would never take any credit whatsoever for Boston’s success. It was funny to see Jonny Gomes, in the glow of winning a World Series, choose to rip sabermetrics — a word Bill James coined — since I’m guessing it was probably some sabermetric thinking that got Gomes to Boston in the first place.

But here’s something to think about. A little more than a year ago, when the Red Sox were in the middle of their disastrous season, Henry went public with his complaint that the Red Sox had not listened enough to James in recent years. James is one of the great baseball minds in the history of the game. He has changed the way countless people look at baseball – and other things too. He is constantly questioning what we know, what we think we know, what we should know, what we can’t know. In his role with the Red Sox, he does not decide who to trade, who to draft, who to acquire, who to start or how to play. He is just there to ask questions and to be a different voice.

The Red Sox had stopped listening to him for a while, and they fell off considerably. I’m not saying ignoring Bill James was the reason why they went in the tank. But I do think it was a symptom of why. They stopped asking questions because, I think, they believed that they had all the answers.

John Henry announced last year that Bill James would report directly to him, and his voice would again be heard in the organization. Did that make a difference? I suspect people in Boston are too busy celebrating another World Championship to worry too much about it.

Yankees close to extension with pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Larry Rothschild Reuters

After announcing a four-year extension for manager Joe Girardi yesterday, the Yankees are now turning their attention to other members of his staff.

According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Yankees are close to an extension with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Hired after the 2010 season, Rothschild’s contract is set to expire at the end of the month, along with the rest of Girardi’s staff.

Under Rothschild, the Yankees finished eighth in the American League this season with a 3.94 ERA. While CC Sabathia wasn’t his usual ace-like self and Phil Hughes turned in another disappointing season, pitching was only part of the problem along with multiple injuries and a lack of offense. Still, they’ll have holes to fill this winter with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera retiring and Hiroki Kuroda and Hughes headed into free agency.

Andy Pettitte pitches the Yankees past the Astros in his final start

Andy Pettitte Getty

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte shut down the Astros tonight in his final start of his career. The left-hander allowed one run on five hits and two walks while striking out five in a complete game effort. The lone Astros run came on a Chris Carter ground out in the fourth inning.

Second baseman Robinson Cano helped the Yankees tie the game in the sixth with an RBI single. The go-ahead run would eventually score on a wild pitch when catcher Matt Pagnozzi had a snafu behind the plate. Pagnozzi attempted to pick off Cano at second base, but spiked his throw into the ground and the ball bounced behind home plate, allowing Eduardo Nunez to score.

Pettitte will finish his career with a 256-153 record, a 3.85 ERA, and 26 complete games in 3,316 innings over 18 seasons.

Mariano Rivera holds Rays scoreless in final appearance at Yankee Stadium

Mariano Rivera Reuters

Mariano Rivera’s final appearance at Yankee Stadium is in the books. While he didn’t get a save chance, he retired all four batters he faced tonight in a 4-0 loss to the Rays.

Yankee Stadium was buzzing well in advance of his appearance, as loud chants of “Mariano” could be heard while he was warming up. The all-time saves leader entered the game in the top of the eighth inning with runners on first and second and one out. The Yankees had the recorded voice of former public address announcer Bob Sheppard introduce him as he trotted in from the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Rays were all standing in front of the dugout clapping for him. It was quite a scene.

Rivera induced a fly out from Delmon Young and got a comebacker from Sam Fuld to end the eighth inning. He then walked back out to the mound one last time in the ninth and got Jose Lobaton on a comebacker and Yunel Escobar on a pop-up to second base. We then saw his two long-time teammates, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, come out to make the pitching change. Not sure it could be handled any better than that. Rivera was in tears as he left the mound at Yankee Stadium for the final time. Now that’s a moment. Just in case there was any doubt, baseball is pretty cool.

You can watch video of Rivera’s introduction below:

And here’s the scene as Rivera was greeted by Jeter and Pettitte before leaving the mound. It’s getting a little dusty in here.

Yankees eliminated with Indians’ victory

Yankees' Ryan, Cano and Reynolds wait for new pitcher after the Rays scored four runs in MLB game in New York

It’s official: the Yankees’ season is over after 162 games for just the second time in the wild card era.

The Bombers were eliminated from contention when the Indians topped the White Sox 7-2 on Wednesday evening. Just a few minutes later, they wrapped up an 8-3 loss to the Rays, leaving them with an 82-76 record.

Regardless of what happens in their final four games, the Yankees will finish with a winning record for the 21st straight year. However, they are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the second time since 1994, when the strike eliminated the postseason. The Yankees were in first place when play ended after 113 games that year. They failed to make the postseason at 88-74 the year before in 1993. The last time they finished under .500 was 1992 (76-86).

Even if the Yankees do win out and finish at 86-76 (.531), it will be their worst record since that sub-.500 season. Their next lowest winning percentage was .540 in 2000, but they still finished in first place (and won the World Series) that year.

It’s a disappointing send off for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but still an impressive record giving the myriad injuries dealt with by Joe Girardi’s crew. Consider this: Chris Stewart has the sixth most at-bats this year on the Yankees roster. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki will be the only three to finish with 500. Fourth and fifth on the list are Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells.

As they head into what surely will be a busy and probably controversial offseason, the Yankees have question marks everywhere. Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson are free agents. Alex Rodriguez has a 213-game suspension hanging over his head. Derek Jeter, who has a player option, isn’t likely to be a full-time shortstop going forward. Plus, the Yankees, who are expected to try to get under the $189 million luxury-tax figure, won’t know how much money they have to spend until the A-Rod saga is resolved.

Practically certain to depart in free agency are longtime Yankees Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. David Robertson could replace Rivera in the closer’s role, but then the Yankees would have to sign someone to pitch the eighth. There are only two locks for the rotation in CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, but there’s some hope that Michael Pineda will return from his shoulder woes to contribute. The lineup will have Gardner, Alfonso Soriano and the rehabbing Mark Teixeira at first base, plus Suzuki and Wells hopefully in lesser roles.

About the only positive thing the Yankees can take from this season as they head into 2014 is Nova’s rebound campaign that has him looking like a legitimate No. 3 starter. Even though he’s been typically working with two pitches (fastball and curve), he’s notched two complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, leaving him with a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts and three relief appearances this season.