Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Lightning 11.21.2010

Former Yankees post-season hero Jim Leyritz was acquitted on charges of manslaughter in his trial for DUI in which a 30-year-old woman was killed----NY Times Story.

I'm not getting into an analysis of the legal circumstances surrounding this; the allocation of responsibility; whether or not there was a "starstruck" aspect to the verdict.

A) It's not what I do; B) I don't know exactly what went on in the jury room.

Instead, what happens now with Jim Leyritz?

Will he be able to resume his life as it was before? Partying hard; contributing occasionally as a broadcaster; autograph signings and appearances for past glories? Or will he be scrounging for a living as a pariah like O.J. Simpson did after his acquittal for murdering his ex-wife and Ron Goldman?

This is not to equate what Leyritz did to what Simpson did. Clearly Leyritz didn't intend to kill anyone whereas Simpson plotted, schemed to do it and, as Nicole Simpson said years before he actually followed through, "he's gonna kill me and he's gonna 'O.J.' his way out of it."

After the acquittal, Simpson moved to Florida to protect his pension from seizure after being found liable in the Goldmans' civil trial; he also started consorting with the same people who ultimately wound up sending him back to jail----in short, sleazy bottom-feeders.

These were not even smooth, clever criminals whose intelligence and adaptability deserved admiration; they were outliers of society; ill-thought-of in all environments whether they were perceived as legitimate or shady.


It was exactly those kinds of people----on the outskirts of legality and propriety----who wound up sending Simpson back to jail; presumably for good.

Of course it's not the same thing as being in jail for that which he should've been in jail, but at the very least, he's not on the golf course; not partying with women; not having a still-enviable life.

So how's it going to go with Leyritz?

As Leyritz's crime was without the malicious intent of Simpson, he doesn't have the stigma that Simpson did. But nor does he have the fame Simpson had as an athlete. His memorabilia doesn't have the value; and, in a darker sense, there are more people interested in the autograph and appearance of an acquitted murdering sociopath than someone who drove drunk and crashed into another driver, killing them.

Regarding Leyritz's prospects for getting a job in baseball, it's not as if he was well-liked enough before this incident for such an offer to be presented. Arrogant, obnoxious, loud, self-promoting and tolerated because of his penchant for big post-season hits, Leyritz wouldn't have gotten a job before and isn't going to get a job now.

This isn't a Pete Rose situation where he's not getting a job in baseball because of a banishment----Rose would at least get a job as a spring instructor because he has something to offer in terms of baseball intelligence; Leyritz wouldn't because people don't want him around.

His appearances will be autograph shows for low money----the equivalent of a clown at Bar Mitzvahs and a novelty act at children's parties.

Leyritz isn't going to jail, but he's going to get sued by the poor dead woman's family; he's not going to have a job in baseball in any context; he's not going to be treated as anything other than an unwanted interloper at baseball events he does attend. The Yankees don't want him around.

He's free, but he's not free.

I have to wonder whether his existence in the aftermath will be, in some strange way, worse than if he'd been convicted.

  • Yankees hire a quality pitching coach:

While he doesn't maintain the fleeting status of pitching "guru", Larry Rothschild is a stable and quality pitching coach in the Mel Stottlemyre mold and is a great fit to replace Dave Eiland with the Yankees.

Of all pitching coaches in baseball, the only one for whom it can be said that "this guy will make a tremendous difference" is Dave Duncan. Apart from that, the results determine whether or not they know what they're doing.

How far have erstwhile "gurus" the likes of Leo Mazzone (can't get a big league job); Joe Kerrigan (fired by the Pirates); and Rick Peterson (fired by the Brewers) fallen?

It's a job based on getting credit for what works; blame for what doesn't.

Naturally, the focus for Rothschild won't be maintaining C.C. Sabathia, Mariano Rivera and the pitchers who do their jobs well. It will be on what he does with A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. Will he be able to "fix" them where Eiland couldn't? We won't know until we know. It's nonsensical to hold Eiland accountable for the inconsistency of Burnett and the stagnation of Chamberlain.

Burnett is what he is----what he's always been----a .500 pitcher who drives observers to near murder with his inability to harness his prodigious talents and win 22 games with a 2.50 ERA and 230 strikeouts. If Rothschild can get through to Burnett or find the trigger point for him to go beyond the limitations, more power to him; don't expect miracles.

With Chamberlain, the Yankees themselves have done everything in their power to destroy him. The well-meaning and misguided Joba Rules have overtaken the force of nature that arrived in late 2007; back then, Chamberlain spread awe and terror throughout baseball; now he's diminished to a joke and perhaps trade bait. Rothschild would have more to do with a renaissance from Chamberlain than he would with Burnett. Presumably, part of his interview with the Yankees had to do with how he'd go about rebuilding Burnett and Chamberlain.

I find the criticism of Eiland to be ludicrous. Much like Rothschild shouldn't be held accountable if it doesn't work with Burnett, nor should it be so with Eiland. Eiland was the pitching coach for a championship team in 2009; that cannot be taken away from him.

Whether or not the struggling pitchers get better under Rothschild is irrelevant. He's been successful before; he's won a championship with the Marlins; and he's respected. The Yankees hired someone qualified and that's all you can ask for.

  • Since I mentioned Mazzone and Peterson:

The "guru" status is so unquantifiable that you need to look beyond the words; the deeds; the successes and failures before coming to an accurate determination of the usefulness of a pitching coach.

Mazzone openly campaigned for the Yankees job and didn't even get an interview; the loquacious Peterson was fired from the Brewers after they hired Ron Roenicke as their new manager, re-interviewed Peterson, and decided to go in another direction.

With Mazzone, his tenure with the Orioles sullied a career that was built on being the Braves pitching coach during the Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine/John Smoltz years. This begs the question as to how much credit Mazzone should get for their successes; how much blame for the fall of Steve Avery; and whether he's been blacklisted for some reason. Publicly campaigning for jobs never works.

When thinking of Peterson, I hearken back to Tom House, whose analytical and computer-based approach was seen as revolutionary in the 90s. He co-wrote Nolan Ryan's book on pitching and has his own line of pitching videos and the like spouting his philosophies. I'd been a fan; read his books and sent him a technical question about Tim Lincecum's unique motion to which he responded by trying to sell me something.

While House has interesting and useful things to say, it made him appear to either not want to be bothered answering me or as a huckster trying to make a few extra bucks and gain some free promotion because he deigned to respond.

Peterson too has his own company dedicated to similar exercise techniques, biomechanical analysis and forward thinking preventative exercises. Like Mazzone, he received credit for the development of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson; for the brief Mets success of Oliver Perez and John Maine. He didn't have much to work with for the Brewers.

Peterson is a respected pitching coach whose shtick has a short shelf life. He's always in the pitchers' collective faces; inundates them with jargon, tips and techniques and, in time, they tune him out.

Unlike Mazzone, Peterson will get another job in the big leagues as pitching coach either this winter or sometime next year when a team makes a drastic change mid-season.

And unlike Duncan, none of the three pitching coaches mentioned have the Hall of Fame credentials to fix anyone and everyone within reason. They may not be journeyman coaches, but their extensive travels make them appear to be such.

  • Ah, the Pirates:

A year after they could've and should've sold high on Zach Duke after he had a fine 2009 (despite an 11-16 record), the Pirates have designated him for assignment. Looking at his Gamelogs from 2009----had he been on a better team----Duke would've won 22 games.

He went 8-15 for a 105-game loser in 2010 and, while not pitching as well as he did in 2010, could still have been a useful back-of-the-rotation starter for a good team.

Naturally, the Pirates dumped him for nothing.

They also made similar transactions with Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young.

Both LaRoche and Young are former top prospects who haven't made it in the big leagues as anything more than interchangeable parts. Young isn't a player with great value; he's never gotten a legitimate chance to play every day, but he's a 24th-25th man on a roster. In 2009, LaRoche showed flashes of the talent that made him such a hot prospect with the Dodgers before he was traded. He'd lost his job as a regular in 2010, but to give him away for nothing? I'd think they could've gotten a live body for LaRoche; an arm; a player with speed or defensive ability----something.

Along the lines of the way the Pirates under team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington have run the team since they were hired, this makes no sense. In fact, I'm convinced one of the main reasons they traded for LaRoche in the first place was because they wanted the marketing ability to have Andy and Adam LaRoche on the infield corners as if that was going to bring fans in to see brothers manning the corners for a team that was going to lose close to 100 games.

Of course they traded Adam LaRoche in July of 2009, sabotaging the marketing genius.

Someone's going to pick up Andy LaRoche (I say the Astros will bring him in to compete for the job at second base and shift Clint Barmes to shortstop). He's not a great loss; nor is he a difference-maker; but he was someone who might have had some use.

This is why they're the Pirates.

Does Clint Hurdle know what he's gotten himself into?

If not, he'll learn. The hard way.


She-Fan said...

I don't think Leyritz could even get a gig at a signing at this point. He's toast.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Dave Eiland not so much, but I think the Yanks broke a string of sub-par pitching coaches. Rothschild was a very good move.

I look second tier with Leo Mazzone. Take away the three potential HOF'rs. Steve Avery you mentioned... how did Kent Mercker, Kevin Millwood, Denny Neagle develop under him? Add in other youngsters like Mark Wohlers and Mike Stanton; then Jason Schmidt and Jason Marquis came up under him. Maddux learned his trade in Chicago, but Glavine and Smoltz(Detroit) developed with Mazz. So who knows what happened in Baltimore and what can you do about injuries? Question is how generous do we want to be? History will look on him favorably. How many Pitching Coaches actually get remembered? He's one of them. He'd be a great case study...(right up your ally).

Joe said...

22 games would be very generous. And in 2010, he was pretty awful. Could he be a back-end starter on a bad team, like you said? Probably. And the Pirates are a bad team. But no way he wins 22 games in 2009. And no one cares about pitcher wins in most front offices anyway, so I doubt that is why they made this move.

Jeff said...

The Pirates are an awful, awful mess. So happy they're in the NL Central.

And I'm with Jane. Leyritz is toast. For good reason.