It's been seven months and thousands of emails since this little tête-à-tête between myself and readers, and I promise never to take such a break again. Because beyond the whole staying-accountable thing, it's forever a pleasure to get letters from Cardinals fans crushing me for a column written more than a year ago.
Let the pugilism begin …
I have been a partial season-ticket-plan holder for the Yankees for 23 years. The stadium is very nice, but it definitely has a touch of Rio de Janeiro. The poor people are up the mountain in the favelas, and the millionaires are on the ground near the beach (or the playing field). Don't forget, premium elevators are reserved for premium ticket holders, we were told at the Cubs game, perhaps so the wealthy can come upstairs and appreciate the difference in accommodations. My main-level seats are what we called "loge" in the old stadium, except no overhang. Somehow they forgot that it rains in NYC, and we have hot, sunny days. Maybe the people in the $2,600 dollar seats will have servants waving palm fans to cool them, or holding umbrellas over their heads.
P.S. I lost my option to purchase playoff tickets this year, now requires a 41-game subscription to retain this right.
The upper deck as favela. That's poetry.
Look, the new Yankee Stadium is for wealthy people. They get the best treatment, they can afford to buy whatever the team peddles and the team's culture ensures there is zero shortage of such merchandise. The Yankees are a machine that subsidizes a baseball team, and never believe otherwise, because any halcyon days are long gone, victim to rampant commercialism that succeeds due to the Yankees' … success.
Look on the bright side. At least you're allowed to buy a 2,473-calorie heart attack of popcorn like everyone else.
Are you envious? Envy is as much of a sin as greed.
Fr. Marc Solomon
And here I figured gluttony the patron sin of new Yankee Stadium.
Interesting article about the new Yankee Stadium. Reminds me of "The Great Gatsby." All that's missing is the jazz band. As a recovering glutton (used to be 330 pounds, now at 225 and still losing), that's one place I will avoid like the plague, even though I was planning a trip there this summer.
San Gabriel, Calif.
I am not ashamed to admit I, too, buy into it all! "Buy" being the key word. I'm looking forward to seeing the Yankees in July. Not at $2,000 seat, $33.
So about those $2,000-plus seats behind home plate sitting empty every game and looking more like Nationals Park than Yankee Stadium: Are the Yankees really going to go through and raise prices 4 percent next year? Because that sounds like a totally awesome idea.
Can you explain why four of your last six articles were on the Yankees and all with some sort of negative spin?
P.S.: You suggested some time ago that Yanks might be better off with Cody Ransom. Have you looked at his stats lately?
Two-pronged answer: I'll start by asserting that three of the four stories – on CC Sabathia's
As for ripping Alex Rodriguez: Guilty as charged. That was pretty negative. Though looking back, the premise for the original A-Rod comment, about how the Yankees would be better off without him, still stands: They don't miss the constant nonsense that accompanies him and will continue to well into the next decade. Though the Yankees haven't thrived without him, their offense hasn't exactly suffered. Their .854 OPS ranks fourth in baseball, aided, certainly, by their juiced stadium. But still.
And as long as we're looking back, let's rehash my original Rodriguez v. Ransom thought, as written March 5, long before Ransom bombed before tearing a quadriceps and hitting the 60-day DL: Rodriguez remains one of the game's great players, and the difference between him and Cody Ransom – the 33-year-old career minor leaguer who replaces A-Rod, barring a trade – is like tasting Coke and then switching to diet.
You claim that it was extremely difficult for a player to reach this mark prior to 1965 and cite as evidence the fact that only four players had posted 500 home runs up to this point. But your conclusion neglects three facts. No player even tried to hit home runs until Ruth in the 1920s, so what we're talking about here is only a 40-year period. Second, you're forgetting that World War II robbed several players in their prime – Stan Musial (who hit 475 home runs and lost all of 1945 to the military), Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize – of the at-bats necessary to reach the 500-home run mark. Finally, you're ignoring the fact that MLB drew from a relatively small talent pool prior to 1947 when it relied almost exclusively on white, American-born players. Do you think that, perhaps, Josh Gibson or several other Negro League sluggers just might have hit 500 home runs in the big leagues? Note that 15 of the 21 players (or over 70 percent) who posted 500 after 1965 were African-American or Latin American ballplayers.
First point: Fair enough. Second point: DiMaggio, Greenberg and Mize each missed three years because of the war. DiMaggio finished 139 home runs short of 500, Greenberg 169 shy and Mize 141. Sorry. None of them was a 500-homer guy.
Third point: Can't argue that, either. Josh Gibson would've hit more than 500.
Still, the proliferation of the 500-homer guy today would have legs even if all those guys hit their 500th because extracurricular activities cast aspersion on the accomplishment.
Speaking of …
I started reading your columns right about the beginning of the steroid issues coming to the surface. And at first, I completely loathed them. Mostly because you seemed like yet another sportswriter yearning to make their fame by opportunistically dragging stars through the proverbial mud. Since then, I've come to realize that your articles are well-written, articulate and sometimes contain insights and points of view that I've not considered before.
That being said, please, enough with the steroids. We get it. I dislike hearing about it all the time, and I particularly dislike the rabidity of the media.
Sorry, but steroids and performance-enhancing drugs are so entwined now in baseball – in its culture and its history and its presence – that ignoring the issues would be ignoring the game's reality. It exists, it stinks, and to cover things otherwise would be irresponsible if the goal is to always portray an accurate representation of history.
Just a quick comment regarding the 500 home run club article: You omitted Chipper Jones with his 410 home runs. If he can stay healthy, he does have a shot at 500 home runs as well as 3,000 hits.
El Paso, Texas.
Do I think Chipper will hit 500? No. He's 37, has averaged only 26 homers per season in the last seven years and may well break down before then.
That said, I absolutely should have included him in the column. Mea culpa.
I was reading your 500-home run piece and I saw Ryan Howard's name as possible contenders for 500. I love the kid, and I really hope he sustains a long career, but at what point do we really start looking at him for what he really is and realize that he's actually declining? Consider that since his MVP year all three of his slash stats have been going in reverse, add in his miserable contact rate and the fact that even though he hits homers, he hits few doubles and has old player skills, and are we looking at a flame out here? I think he has Cecil Fielder written all over him.
I'm not sure he's going to fall off that fast. Howard is a better athlete than Fielder, plays in a much better hitters' ballpark and is on a winning team, which is something of a salve, no matter how minimal. That said … there's something to the comparison, enough so that Fielder is Howard's best comp through age 28.
Big-bodied sluggers tend to fail with greater frequency and rapidity than almost any position. For what it's worth, his adjusted OPS this year is around 124 – right where it was last year, when Howard challenged Albert Pujols and his 190 OPS+ for MVP, and almost won.
The reason most 1-6 starting teams finish so poorly is because – big surprise – they are bad teams!
Which was sort of the point. It's not to say the Indians are bad, per se, but that there is a correlation between bad starts and bad teams. Whether there's a causation factor is impossible to prove, though when asked about bad starts and how they affect a team's psyche, the majority of players would later admit that, at minimum, it throws some adversity where none previously existed.
Regarding the Indians' 1-6 start, you say "there's a natural inclination to scoff at it, to laugh it off as some kind of reactionary hokum not worth discussing." Upon reading your article and pondering its arguments, the premise remains as absurd as it did at the start of the article. The correlation you cite aside, there's no possible relevant information seven games can provide other than meaning the Indians now have only 155 games left to make up their deficit.
Well, yeah. All that is true. The sample size – the last 25 full seasons – was large enough to make me comfortable that this wasn't a random occurrence. Teams that start 1-6 or worse tend to stink.
This was no indictment on the Indians, who could've gone 1-6 in June with nobody noticing. It did beg some research, though, and the data showed something very interesting: the fortunes of 1-6 teams are significantly worse, perhaps because of an early-dug hole or because, yeah, teams that start 1-6 do tend to stink some kind of awful.
Let's remember, the AL Central isn't exactly the East. A little over .500 should win the division. We're two weeks into the season and Kansas City leads. The Indians are 6-6 since their first seven games. Sorry, but no data on teams that go 6-6 in their eighth through 19th games.
Um, dude! Ever heard of the Eric Gagne trade? The Rangers robbed Epstein for a has-been reliever that damn near wrecked their season.
From the Braves, the Rangers got Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones. By July, that should account for two-fifths of their starting rotation and their everyday catcher and shortstop, perhaps the two toughest starting positions to fill. Boston dealt David Murphy (1 for 24 this season), Kason Gabbard (who just got sent back to the Red Sox for cash) and Engel Beltre (a toolsy center fielder struggling in Class A).
Now, certainly a season plus a stretch run of Teixeira is far more valuable than half a year of Gagne. Though let's be honest: Unless Beltre pans out, Jon Daniels didn't fleece Theo. It will have been like the majority of trades: one that didn't work out for either side.
It's great to see you picked the Marlins for the postseason. The guys on MLB Network, ESPN, and newspaper writers acknowledge the Marlins' talent but don't have the balls to call them a playoff team. You do. That's cool.
Honestly, I've never understood why many of my colleagues – some of whom I respect greatly and are far smarter than me – refuse to take risks in preseason picks. If you like a team that much, don't wait a year to hop aboard the bandwagon. I happen to love the Marlins because their home runs offset their defense (which has improved), and their starting pitching plays in a division supposedly replete with it.
Even if they've lost six straight games.
(I'd like to re-examine the starting-pitching issue at midseason and see if it is, in fact, a fallacy. While the Mets' rotation looks excellent on paper – and every year I fall for the Mets-on-paper trick – is there really any substance to it beyond Johan Santana? And with Cole Hamels hurting, Joe Blanton looking awful, Brett Myers always on tilt and Jamie Moyer's 78-mph fastball, are the Phillies any good? If anyone is close to Florida, it's Atlanta, with Javier Vazquez comfortable back in the National League, Jair Jurrjens some command away from acehood and Derek Lowe dealing as he does.)
VERBATIM ANGRY CARDINALS FAN LETTER OF THE WEEK
I'm very supprised you have a job outside the lawn care industry. If you did take a degree in journalism from Syracuse, they should have their doors nailed shut. What a dork.
"Cardinal fan," aka firstname.lastname@example.org
I, too, am very supprised that a Cardinals fan can't make it a sentence without butchering a word. Shocked, I tell you.