Sunday, April 1, 2007

More Breaking News: Michael Kay is a Yankee Fanboy

Michael Kay is a Duke fan? Shocker. What you can't see is Kay's Notre Dame board shorts, Dallas Cowboy socks and Man. U. flip flops.

As previously mentioned, I listen to a TON of sports talk radio. Most of the stuff I listen to is nationally syndicated but there is one local show that I will not miss: The Michael Kay show. Kay is the broadcast face/voice of the Yankees on the YES network. He's always professional and Yankee leaning during the broadcast but doesn't take away from the viewing experience. His presentation is night and day from the mad cap routine of Remy and Orsillo on NESN, who spend at least an inning per night cracking up without calling a single on-field play. But on the radio, Kay is much different. He lightens up a ton and is helped along by some very good comedic foils in Don LeGreca and Joey Salvia. Together they put together about as entertaining a couple of hours of radio as there is. What I like best about Kay is that most of his stuff is purely opinion based. He'll come on and discuss his opinion citing observation, the occassional stat and then poll the room to see what the other guys think. He then throws it to the viewers who (unlike their WFAN counerparts) get a chance to speak. Kay usually doesn't take himself all that seriously and comes off as kind of an "everyman" crossed with a dirty old man and a touch of typical New Yorker attitude. By and large, his show is eminently listendable, even for a Sox fan. There is one subject, however, that Kay does take a seriously and gets a wee bit sensitive about. Anytime her is called a Yankee homer, he goes bananas. Kay takes a ton of pride in the appearance of objectivity on his radio show. To his credit, he usually comes off as only mildly pro-Yanks and does a fairly good job of offering negative as well as positive observations about where the Yanks may be headed. There are times you almost forget he's a complete Yankee homer. And then there are days like Tuesday when he puts his Yankee jockstrap on a little too tight and things go haywire.

On Tuesday's show, Kay decided to respond to the multitude of pundits who picked the Red Sox to win the AL East over the Yanks (and some who picked the Yanks to miss the playoffs altogether. A thought so pleasant my mind has trouble even processing the possibility.). First, I should say that I think the Yanks will finish ahead of the Sox and the Sox will likely miss the playoffs because the Twins or ChiSox will win too many games. As for Kay, he started by saying that he thought it ridiculous that people would even consider that the Sox are better than the Yanks this year. He then began comparing the teams and made his argument by citing a laundry list of reasons why the Yanks will finish ahead of the Sox. This is where things got weird for me. Some of these I kinda agree with, others I'm a little skeptical of and still others are just plain wrong. I thought I'd take the time to go through them a one-by-one and voice my concerns.

1. Doug Mientkiewicz is not a hole in the yanks lineup
Kay went through the lineups and asked where the hole in the Yanks lineup. He compared it to a Red Sox lineup that apparently looks like the Bengals secondary (I'll address the Sox lineup holes later). He concluded that the Yanks have no holes in their lineup. Erroneous. Mientalphabet is perhaps the worst offensive first baseman in baseball. He didn't rank in the top 30 for any positive hitting statistic last year amongst first basemen. Over the last 3 years, he's hitting .230 against the AL East. I think everyone can agree that he's horrible. This is probably the reason that Josh Phelps is starting ahead of him tomorrow, making the point about holes in the Yank lineup moot because Phelps can rake. The larger point is that Kay would have gained more credibility had he conceded that Mientalphabet is the hole and moved on. He didn't.

2. The Red Sox lineup is full of holes, namely Crisp, Varitek & Pedroia
Let me start by saying that I have no idea what to expect out of Tek or Crisp, so I'm not going to defend them. I'll say that I'm fine with Crisp playing crappy because I want to usher in the Jacoby Ellsbury experience as soon as possible. Tek is a whole 'nother ballgame. They don't need Tek to be great, they just need .250 and a .350 OBP, that's it (that'd be a miracle). But to knock Pedroia? Why? I'd circle Pedroia as a question mark for sure, but a hole? Kay supported this assertion by correctly noting Pedroia hit .200 in the majors last year. What he failed to mention is that it was over the course of 31 games and 89 ABs as the Sox nosedived out of playoff contention last year. I don't say that to make excuses for him, just to point it out (and maybe to offer some context). To gain a better feel for how relevant those numbers are, let's look at Robby's Cano's first 89 ABs. Cano was hitting a stout .245 over his first 89 ABs in a better lineup in 2005 when he was first called up. Not only that, but Cano struck out 13 times over those first 89 ABs and only walked 3 times. Pedroia struck out half as much and had twice as many walks. Through his amateur and minor league career, Pedroia's never hit below .300 when given 100 or more ABs and he K's about half as many times as he draws walks. Don't get me wrong here, Pedroia has proven nothing and is a question mark for sure. His progress will go a long way towards determing the fate of the Sox this season. To argue he's a "hole" in the lineup in the number 9 slot and then say that Doug Mientkiewicz is not? Let's be reasonable.

3. Julio Lugo = 35-40 errors
Kay said Julio Lugo could make 35-40 errors this season. Really? Is that even possible? It's been almost a decade since the last player had 35 errors. Julio Lugo is not a great defensive shorstop by any stretch of the imagination. He gets to a lot of balls but his throwing mechanics border on shameful. That being said, the most errors he's ever had in a season is 25. Over the 150+ games he'll play this year, he'll likely get close to that again. Only one player in the last 5 years has even come close to 35 errors--Aramis Ramirez in 2003 with 33. The Sox have a solid backup in Alex Cora and if Lugo struggles that severely on D, it's Cora's show. If he had just said that Lugo is a downgrade from Gold Glover Alex Gonzales, I'm on board 100%, but he was on a roll I guess.

3. Johnny Damon will hit 30 home runs this year
When I first heard this I was shocked. 30? That's Giambi territory. I checked the stats and realized that Damon had hit 24 (I thought it was closer to 20) last year and was hurt most of it. So I guess I'm less shocked than I was initially. The fact remains that Damon's hit more than 20 home runs only twice in his career and he's not a 27 year-old 3-hole guy. He's a leadoff man who's turning 33 this year, misses ten games due to injuries every year and plays the other 150 hurt. I like Damon and love how hard he plays, but if he hits 30 home runs this year I'll walk down Broadway nude and dish out free reach arounds.

4. Yanks bullpen is light years better than the Sox
With apologies to Brian Bruney and Jeff Karstens, how the F is the Yankees bullpen that much better than the Sox. I'm not blaming Kay solely for this one. Everyone is saying it, but then they aren't explaining why the Sox bullpen is so bad. The Sox have Brendan Donnelly, J.C. Romero, Okajima, Lopez, Pineiro and long-man Kyle Snyder, with Papelbon closing. Of course Mo is light years better than Papelbon, but how is the combo of Farnswoth, Proctor, Meyers, Vizcaino and whatever other scrub they go to next any better than what the Sox are throwing out there? Meyers is a one hitter guy and he can't get that one hitter out (Ortiz says hello). Kyle Snyder can pitch 5 innings out of the pen if necessary while Scott Proctor was so overused last year that while warming up for a game against the Orioles his arm actually flew into dead yankee alley, or whatever it's called back there. Let's reserve judgment on this one. Both the Yankees and Red Sox have bullpen question marks. Fair?

5. At 35 years old, Posada's production has not and will not drop off
This will be short. Posada had a great bounce back year last year after it looked like his productivity was going downhill quickly. He would defy the odds by producing in that manner again. Kay may be right here.

6. The problems with the Yanks rotation are overexaggerated
Holy shit. This one made me laugh out loud. Ok Michael, how would you characterize the Yanks rotation? Solid? Stable? How about Clusterfuck? So far, they lost their best starter for a month due to a hamstring injury (and that's if they don't panic and bring him back too soon when they fall into 3rd place going into May), they have two starters on the downside of their careers who are both coming into the season with significant injury concerns in Mussina and Pettitte, their uber-prospect looked shaken when he realized that you can't just throw a flat 97 mph fastball past a major leaguer and now he's not even the first pitcher they'd call up if necessary, and the last time they're opening day pitcher pitched in a major league game Brad and Jennifer were still married. I've got a question: What is positive about this staff? Name one thing. I'll even give you a minute... ready? I didn't think so. If the Sox lineup has holes, then the Yankees' rotation is a hole. One giant stinking septic tank of a hole.

7. Schilling can't pitch late into games anymore
This one is comical. First, Schilling hasn't pitched fewer than 5 innings in any game he started since May of 2000. That's the longest such streak in the majors. Of his 31 starts last year, Schilling pitched 7 innings or more 17 times. Comparing that rate to some of the other horses from last year: Wang 19, Mussina 14, Bonderman 18, Sabathia 18; he doesn't look half bad. Is he the 9 innings and 130 pitch guy he was even 3 years ago? Nope. Is he still the guy who'll get you into the 8th and ninth inning with a lead and very few walks, most likely.

As I said above, I like Michael Kay a lot. Amongst his New York based contemporaries, he's a breath of fresh air and about as down to earth a radio host there is available (yeah, that's how bad it is). What I don't like is when shots in the dark like these are taken in order to fire up his core group of listeners who are just itching to find a reason to undercut all these predictions that do not have their Yanks in first. Kay didn't need to go this route. His gut feeling that the Yanks have it what it takes was enough to carry the show and foster discussion. Creating absurd projections is not Kay's forte and it only undermined his credibility on the matter. It's shame too because Vinny and Tony are going to be sitting at some bar in Staten Island citing Kay's "projections" and they're going to get laughed at by anyone who has a clue. If Kay's point was to make Vinny and Tony look like assholes, mission accomplished. To me, that just seems mean.

1 comment:

Southpaw said...

Wow! How wrong you are. It's laughable. Where did CashMAN get that bullpen, the Royals? Pavano the twirp, a spent Pettite, the Stanford biggot and a few injuries. Good luck homer.