So, if you’ve read my previous column, you may be of the mind that I like top 5 lists – and that would be true. I could even write a column, listing the Top 5 Reasons I Like Top 5 Reasons lists, but Mr. Abruzzese probably wouldn’t publish it in BBD as it has much more to do with my adult ADHD than it does baseball.
Still, as an expatriate Yankee fan living in Tampa Bay, and a believer in the unconventional axiom that good hitting beats good pitching, it galls me that we can’t beat the 24th best team according to team batting average. Two nights ago, Andy Pettitte‘s 10 strikeout masterpiece was wasted because they couldn’t generate any offense. Alex Cobb is a good pitcher to be sure, but last night, the Yankees made him look like vintage David Cone.
So, I took the liberty of painstakingly researching the top-5 non-reasons the Yankees can’t use in explaining their routine butt-whoopins (as they say down here in St Petersburg) by the Rays ….
5. Payroll . Even with the $189 million budget coming, the Yankees payroll is still the highest in the game at $230 million. The Rays, meanwhile, check in at (gulp) 28th with a mere $57 million in payroll. To put this in perspective, the Yankees are paying that for the left side of their infield for just this year and only about three million more for the disabled services of Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira.
4. The Trop is an Intimidating Place to Play! Um, yeah, no, it’s not. When you think of the toughest venues in sports, the Trop registers somewhere behind my son’s Tee Ball field (don’t kid yourself though, Tee Ball parents can be quite intense!). No one will ever utter “the Trop” in the same conversation with Yankee Stadium, Lambeau Field, or the Swamp. The Rays ranked dead last in attendance last year, averaging 19,255 fans last year. Against the Yankees, half the attendance at the stadium is wearing pinstripes. At their rowdiest, Tampa Bay fans will wear ironic tee shirts which disparage rude New York fans with rudeness. Of course, there’s that cow bell ritual they insist on resurrecting every so often, but on a good night, that amounts to about 30 fans. At any rate, I’m not sure that any stadium named after orange juice can ever lay claim to anything remotely related to the generally accepted understanding of “intimidation”.
3. The Intense Florida Heat . Good argument for football in August and September, but the Trop is a rather pleasant place. Beneath the dome, the air conditioning is routinely set at a comfortable 76 degrees.
2. Yankee Injuries . I know, I know, Vernon Wells and the boys are just holding down the fort until Teixeira, Granderson, and A-Rod get healthy. Against the Rays, this doesn’t exactly bode well. Consider that since 2010, the Yankees, with Teixeira et al are a mere 25-29 against the Mighty Rays. Consider that last year up until July 3, 2012, the Yankees had lost nine straight at Tropicana Field.
1. Joe Maddon is a sabermetric genius. Maybe, but pitchers still have to hit their locations and batters still have to make contact. Joe Maddon will lose as many games as he wins with “the shift” and platooning. For every Dan Johnson call (2011, tying home run in game 162) there’s a Fernando Rodney call(on April 23, pulling a dominant-over-8-innings David Price in favor of Rodney, two run single by Ichiro, game over). I like Joe Maddon, I like his antics, and if you’re a baseball fan, you’ve got to like what he’s done with practically no resources. Still, at the end of the day, he simply sets the lineup cards and makes pitching changes. The erstwhile “Devil” Rays stunk for a long time, accumulated multiple strong draft classes and have one of the premier farm systems in baseball. They also know how to scout and develop pitching prospects. They don’t seem to know how to identify hitters who can hit a 90 m.p.h. Fastball though.
So there you have it. The Rays and Yankees meet again on May 24th for a three game series in Tampa. My prediction is that they will win the game I can’t go to (May 25th) and lose the other two (for which I will be in attendance).
(April 21, 2013 - Source: J. Meric/Getty Images North America)