June 6, 2007


Faith in Yankee Mystique Behind Bad Predictions (TIM MARCHMAN, June 6, 2007, NY Sun)

Easy as it is right now to kick the Yankees, there's someone else who deserves a boot in the ribs — this columnist. [...]

March 30 was an early date of shame for me, as I claimed in The New York Sun's season preview that "the Yankees should be, by far, the best team in baseball this year." Why? Among other reasons, I pointed out that at worst Mike Mussina, who currently has a 6.25 ERA, would be a league average pitcher; that Mariano Rivera, currently at 5.03, would do what he's done every year for a decade; that Johnny Damon would put up another solid year on his way to a possible Hall of Fame plaque; that Bobby Abreu, he of the .322 slugging average, would be an excellent hitter, and that Jason Giambi would be as good as Manny Ramirez. I actually got the last one right — there's not a hair's worth of difference between the way Giambi was hitting before he went down with a foot injury and the way the famed manchild is hitting for the Red Sox — but all the other predictions were way off. [...]

In proclaiming the Yankees a great baseball power, I ignored the fact that an old team will often be less than the sum of its parts, because having a lot of old players increases your odds that some of them will prove less reliable than they have in the past. Score one for Father Time, and one against both me and the Yanks.

While March 30 was moderately bad, April 30 was truly a cruel day. Making like the unfortunate former Iraqi Minister of Information, I claimed to be "highly impressed overall by the way the Yankees have played" and denounced the fretting of nervous Yankees fans as a "ridiculous spectacle," pointing out that while the Yankees ended the month 6.5 games out of first place, they'd done as badly in 2005 and nearly as badly in 2004 and still managed to win the division both years. I also implied that the Yanks looked on course for 98 wins.

What was wrong with this? Two things. First, in resisting panic, I probably descended into mere contrarianism. It's one thing to say a team has played well given a lot of injuries, another to say that you're "highly impressed" by a team with a losing record. Second, I succumbed to the logical fallacy that because the Yankees had done something unlikely in the past, they were likely to do so again. If anything, you'd figure that in 2005 the Yankees used their get out of jail free card, and that with an older, wearier team, this year's club would finally take the fall they'd avoided in the past.

All of this, I would hope, is nothing that would land me in the stocks. Claiming, as I did May 7, that signing Roger Clemens gave the Yankees "an advantage over the Red Sox roughly comparable to the Sox's lead in the standings" due to the difference between Clemens and the chumps he will eventually replace might be stock worthy, a triumph of mathematics over common sense — but at least Mike and the Mad Dog aren't playing that one 40 times a day.

If there's a lesson here, it's probably just that the fabled Yankee mystique and aura really do hold some power. If you look at the common thread between my big errors, it comes down to assuming that the players, and the team as a whole, would do this year more or less what they've done in the past.

Give a Yankee fan a hug and tell him you understand that he's not to blame for the nonsense he's spewing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2007 10:35 AM

I'd love to join the (Yankees are toast) Bandwagon but '78 and last year (where the Yanks were almost double digits down from the Sox in August and won the division going away) are still fresh. Yanks still have enough talent to win a lot of 10-8 ballgames. Let's see where things stand on 9/1.

Posted by: AWW at June 6, 2007 12:23 PM

Marchman is a Mets fan.

Posted by: mgarbowski at June 6, 2007 2:01 PM

No predictions from this quarter -- particularly not with a Yankees bullpen as lamentable as this one -- but I'd like to note that the Yankees have won the last two series against the Red Sox, who have lost five out of their last six games. Also, Wakefield and Schilling both got bombed in the last series, and Beckett got a loss. Papelbon's ERA is inching steadily upwards. Mark Ellis hit the cycle against them for the first time in about 30 years. Eric Chavez and A-Rod both have recent late-inning, game-winning home runs against the bullpen. Just noting...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 6, 2007 3:00 PM

Yes, the Yankees won these five days. If this were the playoffs they'd advance.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 5:02 PM

Already the "Nation" begins to panic.

Cano will of course end up being better than Carew, who only had a .822 ops for his career. (Cano was at .832 entering this season, but he's learning to take a bb still, and his power is only just coming in)

Quite funny how Cano was being written off after a poor start, when he's had similar Aprils and Mays the past 2 seasons, iirc.

Meanwhile, here's his numbers for the past week (and I believe the week before was similar):

Cano: 524/600/952

Meanwhile, in Sawx nation they prefer a jockey who got lost on his way to the track to Rockin Robbie.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 6, 2007 6:03 PM

Yes, Cano seems like he can post about an .850 for a couple years, as Dustin. Sadly, Robbie can't field a lick.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 7:42 PM

Much as I would love to see the Yanks continue to crash and burn, we all know they'll recover at the all-star break, probably with the mid season aquisitions of Mark Texiera and Dontrelle Willis. Every year we think the Yanks have finally run out of money, and every year they add the biggest names of trade season. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: MarkD at June 6, 2007 9:18 PM

Willis is the most overrated starter in baseball. The Yankees are certain to try for him.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 10:39 PM

Make that six losses for the Red Sox out of the last seven...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 6, 2007 11:46 PM

Oh, and Wang had a complete game this evening. Who needs a bullpen? ;-)

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 6, 2007 11:53 PM

26-31 The rest is noise.

Posted by: oj at June 7, 2007 8:14 AM

Well, as a fan of the best team in the AL (excepting when it plays KC), it seems pretty clear.

Boston played over its head and is falling back to earth. That still means about 90-94 victories, if everybody stays healthy.

Can the Yankees make it to 90? Probably, if Rivera gets back to 90% normal and they get a little help. They need a slightly better first baseman and 1 or 2 better relief arms. Clemens and/or Wilis would help. All of these things can be acquired at moderate cost.

So, I wouldn't count the Yankees out yet.

Posted by: Bob at June 7, 2007 10:59 AM


Assuming the Yankees stay healthy, which they won't.

Posted by: Mike Earl at June 7, 2007 1:48 PM

Yankees already had a lot of injuries so maybe they made their quota. Boston has been pretty healthy and they are no younger than NY.

Posted by: Bob at June 7, 2007 8:08 PM

The Sox have had just as many significant injuries--Beckett, Lester, Timlin.

Posted by: oj at June 7, 2007 10:41 PM