Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mark Teixeira---Old School

  • Playing hard, serious and clean:

The distaste engendered throughout baseball by Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez is, symbolically and fittingly, mitigated by his counterpart across the Yankees diamond, first baseman Mark Teixeira.

Whereas ARod is simultaneously respected for his baseball skills and despised for his antics and attitude, Teixeira is admired and feared because of his serious nature and hard play straight out of the old school.

Baseball is pockmarked with fraternization; the reluctance to take players out with necessary physicality; and the "brotherhood" that's morphed from a respect and agreement----unwritten and unsaid----that "I won't try to end your career if you don't try to end mine" to a "buddy-buddy" atmosphere that's diminishing the game.

When you hear the crusty, jealous and miserable lamenting the way the game is played today (Bob Feller), it's easy to ignore as "old man stuff"; when you hear the players' players from not all that long ago like Keith Hernandez and Nolan Ryan shaking their heads at the prevalence of communal life, it should be taken more seriously.

Player movement has bred familiarity and overdoing of the "friends" bit. In the Mets-Nationals series, Hernandez was bewildered at Adam Dunn venturing over to second base to chat with David Wright while a pitching change was being made. Hernandez was loquacious as a player; when playing first base, it's part of the landscape to casually make small talk with the baserunners, the umpire and the first base coach; but this has seeped into on-field play.

"He's my friend; I don't want to hurt him."

There aren't many players who genuinely wanted to "hurt" any of their opponents without reason. (There were some, of course.) But to consciously and intentionally keep oneself from doing what needs to be done----friend or not----is a disservice to the employer; to the cause.

Mark Teixeira has no such qualms.

He's a businessman; there to do a job and that can be just as important as his substantial playing skills.

Last night, Teixeira was hit on the elbow by an Ervin Santana pitch; he didn't glare at the pitcher; didn't shout; didn't pull a Kevin Youkilis and intimidate through glaring and staring. He simply walked to first base...and got his own back when he tried to score and nailed catcher Bobby Wilson with a crushing and classic home plate collision. That Wilson didn't even have the ball was irrelevant; he was in close proximity to the plate and while Teixeira might have been able to score without the crash, he was making sure he scored the run and sending a message that he was there to win, not to make friends. What's even more impressive about Teixeira's seriousness is that he's a former Angels player.

Much was made of the cold-blooded way in which Teixeira chose the Yankees over his other prominent suitors in free agency, the Angels and Red Sox. The Angels were angry that they thought they'd reached the numbers demanded by Teixeira's agent Scott Boras and he shopped the deal around to extract more money from the Red Sox and Yankees. It was so egregious in the eyes of the Angels that they want nothing more to do with Boras clients. The Red Sox also thought they were the only remaining club willing to ante up the cash for Teixeira until the Yankees swooped in at the last second to snatch him from their grasp.

It wasn't personal; just like the hit on Wilson----which gave the catcher a concussion and an ankle injury----wasn't personal. People were taken aback as Teixeira didn't go and check on Wilson as he was writhing in the ground and had a cartoon-like facial expression of seeing birds flying around his head. All Teixeira did was make sure he touched the plate and return to his dugout.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia was the king of the home plate collision in his heyday as a defensive minded Dodgers catcher. He relished them as his trademark and he was recognized throughout baseball for his willingness to block the plate. His most memorable home plate mano-a-mano was in 1985 with Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark. Scioscia was knocked into next week; Clark was staggered; but Scioscia held onto the ball and recorded the out.

Scioscia himself wasn't bothered by Teixeira's hard, clean play.

He knows Teixeira and knows how he conducts himself.

Much was said about Teixeira's seriousness when he signed with the Yankees; that he turned off his cellphone when he entered the clubhouse; that the was there to work and work alone like a determined and focused businessman. Every team can use such a player and leader.

Last night was part of Teixeira's all-around game on and off the field. He was concerned about Wilson, his former teammate, but didn't let that take precedence over his job.

Other players should take heed.

Oh, and so too should speak volumes my silence regarding the hypocrisy of Yankees manager Joe Girardi in defending the (clean) Teixeira hit while savaging Elliot Johnson ad nauseam for his (also clean) hit on Francisco Cervelli in March of 2008.

They were both clean hits.


You all knew I'd go there.

This move makes no sense whatsoever.

Cruz did not pitch well last season; but he's been pretty good this year and he's better than the alternatives the Royals have---they called up Bruce Chen and Brad Thompson to replace Cruz and Luis Mendoza, who was also released.

In a similarly bewildering decision to the Cubs shifting Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, the release of Cruz isn't just an on-field mistake; but they're swallowing the money on Cruz's contract ($3.75 million for 2010-2011) and giving away a player they could've used to pitch or traded for something later in the season.

Everyone is going to be looking for bullpen help in July and August and if Cruz's velocity is normal and he's pitching serviceably, they probably could've gotten at least a mid-level prospect with some useful talent----a good glove; a power fastball; speed.

Why release him in April?


Cruz will land on his feet. Someone will sign him to bolster their bullpen----the Phillies; the Mets; or my bet, Cruz's former team, the Diamondbacks----and he might have use; plus they don't have to pay him anything more than the minimum.

The Royals are paying him.

Because they released him.

This inexplicable decision is the latest in a long line of haplessness from the Dayton Moore-led Royals, all dressed up and going nowhere.

  • Viewer Mail 4.24.2010:

A bit of inter-Family squabbling----nothing major----has broken out among my top lieutenants regarding the Dallas Braden-Alex Rodriguez territorial infringement debate.

I'm the Boss of this Family. I'll keep the peace.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

Oh, please. Braden's reaction to A-Rod's Gran Torino act was like a 2 year old having a tantrum. Sure, he can yell something, but stomping around and throwing stuff and talking about retribution? Now that's bush.

Gabriel (Capo) writes:

I think it's the typical reaction from a nerd when the bully does something you expect he would respect. I agree with the Boss in that it's part of A-Rod personality, but as such, I agree with Jane in that Braden should know better than throwing cups around in his dugout. I'd have retaliated against the Yankees' next batter.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes:

Sorry, Jane, I gotta side with the Prince here. Why? Because A-Rod's track record is FULL of bush league shenanigans. Full of 'em!

Oh, that AND he's a stone cold liar. Remember the blue sweater?

Of course we do.

Braden's screaming at ARod was justified. He had to do it for the reasons I stated yesterday.

That said, Jane's right in the criticism of Braden's reaction after the fact in the dugout and with his comments.

It appeared that Braden was going over-the-top to show everyone, everywhere what he was doing; to make sure it was known. The throwing things in the dugout and especially the comments about retribution were laughable.


Anyone with half a brain knows that you don't place yourself square in the spotlight announcing what you're going to do.

The proper way to retaliate is to nod silently with pursed lips; smile and note what happened; keep quiet about it and, when the opportunity arises, drill ARod in the ribs. Or, to make it even more of a message and cause a problem in the Yankees clubhouse, drill Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada or Teixeira.

Hitting ARod doesn't do much, but hitting one of his teammates because of something ARod did? There's a message. The bruise on ARod's ribs would heal, but the rift his actions continually create with his teammates from his gamesmanship/bullying might not be so easily repaired.

I guarantee you none of the aforementioned Yankee players would've run across the mound.

Disagreement settled.

We're all in this for a greater cause.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) also writes RE ARod-Braden:

Went to the first two A's-Yankees tilts, but sadly missed l'affair A-Rod. Can I just say I love Dallas Braden? I've always loved him, actually (how can you NOT love a guy who can still pitch effectively when he only has sensation in eight toes), but now my hardcore man-crush is on. I guess now that Jack Cust is at triple-AAA, I had to transfer my affections elsewhere.

I'll just add that A-Rod's dismissive hand gesture and 'handful of wins' sneer were both the very definition of 'bush league'.

Man-crush on Jack Cust? Dallas Braden?

John, need I remind you of a little player named Coco Crisp? Currently on the DL, but fitting right into the pitching and defense mantra that's gained such steam in stat zombie circles and is (so far) failing miserably when put into context, Crisp is the stuff of man-crush heaven.

Seriously, with ARod, there's nothing he says and does that doesn't have some reasoning behind it. The running across the mound was a typical ARod shot against a young player in an effort to exert his will and show his dominance; at worst he wanted to rattle the young pitcher and help his team with the game.

It didn't work in either case.

The "handful of wins" stuff was an after-the-fact attempt at letting Braden know his place in the ARod universe. This is what ARod is; this is what he does. Sometimes it even works; but credit goes to Braden (even with his overdoing it later) for standing up to ARod.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Jerry Manuel:

Manuel ~ There's a reason Bobby Parnell led our staff in appearances last year and isn't on the team to start this season. Nieve? You pegged it. My pet is Jenrry...send him down now for his own protection from Manuel. He's a starter. He also isn't Joba and we aren't the Yanks. Get him out of our bullpen and away from Manuel. Get him back in AA or AAA. Get him stretched out and starting again. We'll need him hopefully, in July and after. Desperate managing and bullpens are not good bed fellows.
I've waisted enough breath on A-Rod over the years. No Mas.

Manuel has abused Fernando Nieve and it's going to cost them unless the pitcher is superhuman. You'd think that the Mets front office would try to steer Manuel into the direction of taking it easy with the likes of Nieve, but if they have, he's not listening.

One thing I'll disagree with regarding Jenrry Mejia is that it seems that Manuel has been cautious and judicious in his use. I don't have a problem with a pitcher being utilized as a reliever to get accustomed to the majors; learn to pitch out of jams from the stretch position; and be used in moderate pressure situations and handle failure. Earl Weaver used to do that with his young starters. Tony La Russa has done that for years with young pitchers, the latest being Adam Wainwright. Mejia and Chamberlain are two different beings. I don't think anyone sees M2010BaseballGuideCover.gifejia as a long-term reliever. Everyone agrees that he's going to get a chance to start; best case scenario, it's next year.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. It's all you really need in the event of catastrophe.


She-Fan said...

Well, A-Rod certainly does generate blog comments and good material. We have to give him that. As for Elliot Johnson/Cervelli, that was in spring training, talk about unwritten rules of baseball.

Jeff said...

Teixeira and Keith Hernandez are a lot alike, especially on defense. My dad and I argue over who's the better defensive 1st baseman ad nauseum.