Posts Tagged ‘Tino Martinez’

The “Core Four”

December 9, 2010

The "Core Four"

Recently some genius’ have begun referring to four Yankees players as “The Core Four”: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. It’s supposed to be a reference to how important they have been to the Yankees winning ways in the last fifteen or so years. It’s catchy, but because it totally ignores the contributions of a number of other players, it’s utter nonsense.

The argument goes that these four players are the “core” of Yankees teams that have won five World Series. First, that’s difficult to sustain if you know that Posada played only eight games in 1996 (the first of the five World Series championships), none in the postseason, and that Rivera was the setup man, not the closer in 1996 (John Wetteland was both closer and Series MVP). It’s kind of like giving Sandy Koufax credit for the Dodgers winning in 1955 when he pitched in only 42 innings over 12 games and five starts (“Boy are we lucky we had him. We woulda never won the damned thing if he wasn’t on the roster.”)  Most importantly it completely downplays the contribution of other players, a sort of second “core four” (actually five).

As Posada was no factor in the 1996 World Series championship, and Rivera’s contribution was important, but not primary, we may only consider the “core four” as winning in 1998, 1999, 2000, and after a significant break, 2009.  There are another five that may be considered equally crucial in winning the 1998-2000 championships: Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, and Paul O’Neill (this without reference to pitchers). All five participated in the same three wins as the “core four” (and Williams, Martinez, and O’Neill made the 1996 Series also). I question how their contributions can be considered less than the so-called “Core Four.”

You might also argue that once Williams, Knoblauch, Martinez, Brosius, and O’Neill left, the “Core Four” were unable to secure a World Series championship until the arrival of a second four: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and Mark Teixeira. Perhaps it is those four that made the difference. In fact, following this idea to its conclusion, one could argue that the key player was Teixeira. After all the “core four” couldn’t win until he arrived. Or maybe it was Melky Cabrera. Heck, the Yanks didn’t win until he took over in center. Or maybe it’s really all about Andy Pettitte. Pettitte left after the 2003 Series loss and the Yankees failed to make a World Series until 2009. Meanwhile, Pettitte went to Houston, a team that went to the World Series in 2005 for the first time ever, then returned to New York in 2008, exactly one season prior to the last Yankees championship. So maybe Pettitte, not the “Core Four,” is the key.

Now you can rightly argue the idea that Teixeira (or Cabrera) was the crucial element is silly and I wouldn’t complain.  I wouldn’t mind if you laughed at the idea that it was all Pettitte. Because the point is that it requires a lot of good players to win, not just a “core four.”  With no loss of respect to the “Core Four”, how about a little credit to the rest of the team Yankees fans? It’s been a heck of a run and a lot of guys have been responsible for the success (several of which I didn’t name).

The January 2011 Hall Vote

December 6, 2010

I promised before I left that I’d comment on the writer’s vote for the Hall of Fame. That’s the vote that will be announced in January (not the one that’s coming this week). I commented that because they let you vote for ten, I’d vote for ten. Here they are in alphabetical order, holdovers first:

Roberto Alomar: Probably the finest second baseman of his era. Missed out by a handful of votes last time.

Bert Blyleven: I think this is the most important person who can be voted in. The writer’s haven’t elected a starting pitcher with less than 300 wins since Fergie Jenkins (the Vets Committee put in Jim Bunning). With all the excellent pitchers coming available with less than 300 wins (Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, etc) someone has to break through or we’re going to see a lot of worthy candidates dismissed. Hopefully Blyleven will be the player that opens the door.

Barry Larkin: If Alomar is the finest second baseman of his era, Larkin is the finest shortstop. He has an MVP and a World Series ring. Both should eventually help his cause. I’m not sure either should.

Edgar Martinez: One of the best hitters I ever saw. I don’t want to hear “Well, he was mainly a DH and not much of a fielder.” Putting Paul Molitor into the Hall of Fame should end the DH issue and besides there are a lot of Hall members who were lousy fielders.

Don Mattingly: The argument against him is that his career is short. So was Ralph Kiner’s (and Dizzy Dean’s and Sandy Koufax’s). For a handful of years he was one of the best players in the game and possibly the best. He was a good enough first baseman and a wonderful hitter.

Jack Morris: He was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s (which alone isn’t enough to get him into the Hall). His ERA is big for a Hall of Famer, but the latest statistics show us how much ERA can be overrated. He has multiple rings and his game 7 of the 1991 World Series was masterful. A dominant pitcher who may be helped by the explosion of new stats.

Tim Raines: One of the great base stealers ever. He has a batting title to go with all those stolen bases. I think his nomad phase toward the end of his career hurts him a lot.

Alan Trammell: Great, great shortstop. If Ozzie Smith was the premier shortstop of  his era in the NL, Trammell was, with the possible exception of Cal Ripken, the premier shortstop of the AL. Trammell hit better  than Smith and was a heck of a shortstop (if not quite so acrobatic as Smith). I think Trammell gets hurt because of the comparison to Ripken, rather than to Smith. He also has a ring. I’d be interested to know how much his disastrous stint as Tigers manager hurts his chances.

Jeff Bagwell: An MVP, a heck of a hitter, a team leader. He got hurt and missed out on 500 home runs but is still a Hall of Famer. To me, the only sure-fire Hall of Famer on the new list.

Larry Walker: I could say a lot about him, but I’ll simply suggest you go to Bill Miller’s site at The On Deck Circle (link to the right) for a fine overview of Walker’s career and qualifications. Sorry, Bill, but you didn’t convince me to vote for him. I’d already decided that.

So there’s my ten. Feel free to disagree.

There’s one player on the list I’m sorry to leave off, Tino Martinez. I think he may be shorted on the ballot, but hope he stays on so he gets more chances. I’m not sure he really belongs in the Hall, but I’d like to see him get a chance. I think a closer look at his stats is in order (and I want to do a later post on him and this so-called “Core Four” nonsense).

The Way to Win: Observations

August 13, 2010

This is the final post in the series. I want to make a few observations about what the series is and isn’t. Let me begin by saying what prompted it.

I noted the comments about the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera in alphabetical order). I thought it was catchy, but immediately decided it was incorrect. The “Core Four” should be the core about eight or nine. Because the late 1990’s dynasty that ended in Phoenix in 2001 (the 2003 team is not, in my opinion part of that dynasty) had more than those four as significant members of the dynasy. There was Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Joe Girardi, and of course manager Joe Torre who were significant contributers to those winning teams. When I sat down and listed all the significant parts I decided to compare them with the other great Yankees dynasties of the past (1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1970s). I simply wrote down the major players from the 1996-2001 team, then listed beside them the same position players for the other teams. It became fairly obvious that all the teams were a lot alike. They were all built very much the same. So I wondered if that worked for other dynasties as well.  As I’m spending a lot of time this year looking at the 1910 season, I especially wondered about the A’s team of that year. I decided to find out. I looked at a number of other teams (72-74 A’s, 29-31 A’s, 10-14 A’s, 57-59 Braves, 06-10 Cubs, 01-03 Pirates, 62-66 Dodgers). Turns out all of them had the same broad characteristics as the Yankees.

Let me emphasize these are broad characteristics and do not look at the details of the teams. In other words, I wasn’t looking at the stats so much as the quality of the players involved. This is, if you will, a macro look at the teams, not a micro look. Let me also emphasize that this is not a rigid formula to win. I don’t think there really is a good one of those (except maybe to keep your best players healthy). Back about 20 years or so I looked for the baseball stat that was the best predictor of getting to a World Series. I found it to be opponent’s runs. That was the stat the World Series contenders most frequently led their league in on a yearly basis. Don’t know if that’s still true (and there are new stats that weren’t available to check then). This current overview of mine is not meant to be something you can hang your hat on and say this is the winner this season.

Having said all that, I’ve begun to realize that a properly constituted team of stars, good players, and role players has a good chance of winning. Teams of all-stars don’t do it (Except, in the 20th Century,  for the 1930s Negro League Crawfords, and even they had role players.). It also helps to have a fluke; what I call the “one year wonder” rule. You can never account ahead of time for a Shane Spencer (of the 1990s Yankees) to have a short run that will help the team to victory or a Hurricane Hazle (of the Braves) to put you over the top. But they do happen and good teams take advantage of them.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the series and will look at teams a little differently now.