The Windup (cont.)
From the Mailbag
Do you think there is any chance CC Sabathia can win the NL Cy Young Award? He certainly is dominant enough.
-- Greg Maddox, Colorado Springs
Greg -- if that's really your name, and I don't think it is, but I'll play along anyway -- sure, there's a chance. But it's not very good. As you point out, CC (no periods, please) has been Cy-ish since his move from the AL. He's 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts, including four complete games and two shutouts. Great numbers, but the fact is, he's pitched only 64 innings in the NL. That's not going to cut it with voters. Yes, he might be the best pitcher in the NL right now. But over the course of the year? It's going to be hard to get past Arizona's Brandon Webb and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, who have been doing it all year. In the NL. There is precedent, both good and bad, for pitchers who change leagues during the season. In 1984, Rick Sutcliffe went 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA and three shutouts in 20 starts for the Cubs after a mid-June trade from the Indians and won the Cy Young; in 1998, Randy Johnson was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA after moving from Seattle to Houston in 1998, with 116 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings. He finished seventh in the NL Cy Young voting.
Sorry, John, but there is a little something in the Tighty Whities' way called the Minnesota Twins. Your little fantasy ain't gonna happen, my boy. What do you think of that?
-- Mike Lindner, Cottage Grove, Minn.
It's not my fantasy that the White Sox meet the Cubs in the World Series. OK, maybe it's a little fantasy. That would be pretty cool, you have to admit. But I know the Twins are for real. And the White Sox know it, too.
... and nothing would make Brewers fans happier than to beat the Cubs to go to the World Series and then beat the White Sox to win it all. Two rivals beaten in one year ... YES!!!!
-- Fuzz Feltman, Menomonee Falls, Wisc.
Fuzz -- man, we have some names in the 'bag this week -- I'm not counting the Brewers out, either. I had, at one time. And not all that long ago. But the Crew is playing well (11-5 in August), leading me to think that the wild card is coming out of the Central now, not the East.
What is wrong with Derek Jeter? Is he getting old, is he just having an off year or what?
-- Falk Scheffer, Cologne, Germany
OK, Falk, I know this e-mail came in before a four-hit Sunday, but the question is legitimate. And the answers are yes and yes. Jeter is on his way to career-lows in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and, perhaps, batting average (.356, .404 and .295, respectively). That qualifies as an off year for Jeter. And he just turned 34 years old. So, yes, he is getting older, too. Is he too old? Is he done? Well, no and no. He's still a very tough out, still an above-average hitter. I'm not counting this guy done for another three years, at the minimum, and I could see him playing relatively well -- at least at the plate -- until 40, or close to it.
I am a die hard Phillies fan and I have been for my 19 years of life. I just read Jimmy Rollins comments about Phillies fans and I was hurt by his opinion that we are "front-runners." With his lazy play and late arrival this year, how long will it be before this is another Scott Rolen situation?
-- Tim, Bowie, Maryland.
Well, Tim from Oriole Land, the fan/team dynamic in Philly has always been tricky. And nobody knows it more than Rollins. "In Philly," Rollins also said, on the Best Damn Sports Show, "can't be no punk." Rollins, with his tardiness this year and sounding whiny with this, is being a tad punkish. But here's the deal: If he starts playing better, if the Phillies start winning, everybody's happy. Simple as that. If not ... yeah, it could get nasty. Or nastier.
I agree with your "calling out" Prince Fielder for his attack on Manny Parra. Losing control is a pathway to disaster in a team environment. The unanswered question is whether Fielder will turn this incident into an opportunity to grow as a ballplayer and team leader or will his temper be a detriment to his team and his career. The outcome will have a profound effect on the Brewers' pennant aspirations this year and beyond.
-- Harry, Milwaukee
We'll see, Harry. The Brewers certainly are playing well since the Parra incident. As I said above, they have a real shot at the wild card now if they can't catch the Cubs. I still wonder how Fielder will react when things go a little south again, as they are bound to do. I didn't wonder before.
I'd really like to see you or a colleague have a look at large contracts. I'd define "large" as $75 million or more. I suspect a grand total of four would be characterized as successful -- A-Rod, Jeter (though he seems to be tailing), Manny (this year's drama notwithstanding) and Vladimir Guerrero. And notably, not a pitcher in the bunch. Long and expensive contracts tie teams' hands -- even the Yankees'. I'm the only Mets fan in the world that was against the Santana contract. I just don't think you can give that kind of money and length to a pitcher, and especially one who rarely goes longer than seven innings. It skews the payroll. Add to it seven and eight-man bullpens, and you have way too much money going to the people who play the least.
-- David Copperman, Highland Park, N.J.
David, you're right on. I did a look at pitchers' long-term contracts a couple of years ago that will give you an idea of how these things work out. Not well, as you suspect. I think the interesting thing is your definition of "successful." I read recently -- and I apologize for not linking to this, but I don't remember where it was -- that Omar Minaya considers the four-year, $53 million deal he gave to Pedro Martinez before the 2005 season a success even though Martinez missed tons of time in '06, '07 and this season. The reason: Martinez, according to Minaya, brought a legitimacy to the team (which paid off in signings of Carlos Beltran and others) and put butts in the seats. You can see his point.
The Yankees seemed like they had built up some momentum and were running hard till a few key injuries hampered them after the All-Star break. Then you hear about the team getting on Ian Kennedy for some comments that he made. Do you think they should focus more on their lack of stellar pitching and consistent hitting rather than the rumblings of a AAA pitcher that's trying to work his way back into the bigs? Are the Yankees turning on each other?
-- Errick Chiasson, Syracuse
The flap over Kennedy's comments was overblown, as many things in New York are. But it's indicative of how things are going for the Yankees. Everybody's frustrated. Every little misstep is magnified. Nothing is going right. I'm not ready to call the Yankees done and their streak of 13 straight postseason appearances at an end yet. But come back next week. I might be then.