Tag Archives: New York Yankees

Control Freaks in Sports

Just thought I’d chime in on something that was brought up by Colin Cowherd today: being a control freak isn’t such a bad thing – at least when referring to sports. Some names that come to mind are Belichick, Saban, the late George Steinbrenner, and George Karl. When management lets one guy rule with an iron fist, it tends to work out better than when everyone gets to help shape a team philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, I hate communism as much as the next guy, but when we’re talking about building a team, you need clear direction and having a group of people calling the shots instead of one definite leader can complicate things.

Back when (a younger and less senile) George Steinbrenner was running the Yankees, everyone was kept on a short leash. Sure, this lack of freedom wasn’t the most fun way to do things, but obviously it worked. Same goes for Bill Belichick’s Pats; if a player doesn’t fit into his system perfectly, he doesn’t compromise his beliefs to make them fit – think Ochocinco. It seems harsh and perhaps illogical at the time (like when they cut Randy Moss), but it’s hard to argue with the results of his no-nonsense approach.

When an organization trusts one man’s vision of how he wants to build a team and they don’t interrupt the process, they allow him to do what he was hired to do without having to look over his shoulder. For example, Gregg Popovich – the longest tenured coach in the NBA – has been in control of the Spurs since 1996 and hasn’t had to worry about his job security too much. Ask the Spurs how this approach has treated them.

It may take time for an appointed leader to implement his system, but growing pains in the early stages are to be expected – regardless of how good he is. Belichick’s first few years in New England were not pretty, but Robert Kraft trusted that he was leading the team in the right direction and again, look how well the Patriots have been doing under his reign. However, many times management becomes impatient and decides to blow everything up before the previous rebuilding process had a chance to finish.

This is where Jerry Jones of the Cowboys fits in.

Jones isn’t quite a control freak, because he is never completely in control – at least not anymore. Yes he does have the final say about who stays and who goes in Dallas, but he isn’t calling all the shots. He brings in guys like Parcells, Phillips, and Garrett and lets them believe that they are allowed to develop a squad the way they want for a time – then he pulls out the carpet from under them, voicing his dissatisfaction with the team and calling for change. Back to square one. It pains me as a Yankees fan to say it, but I’d be lying if I said that George Steinbrenner didn’t do something similar in his later years. Al Davis was the same way, too. These are all guys who were great control freaks when they were mentally intact, but refused to let somebody else call the shots when they should have – becoming more of a freak than a controller, if you will.

So for the most part, I’d say that when an organization picks a coach and lets him mold the team to his style of play with limited interruption, the results will be much better than they would if the team was run as a democracy.


Cano, Yankees hanging in there

You don’t have to bleed pinstripes to notice the Ed-uar-do Nun-ez chant doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Der-ek Jeet-er. And if a fellow fan came up to you on the street and asked: “Who’s playing 3rd base for us right now?” you couldn’t be mad at them (because that’s a tough question). It’s a difficult time for us fans, and we’re looking for a reason to believe we can ride out and survive this injury bug.

Although the team is only a couple games out of first, these goddamn injuries have us watching games through our fingers, knowing the next player could go down this inning. The bullpen that once was a strongpoint of our team is now made up of guys like Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne, with Boone Logan as our setup man. Tell me that doesn’t make your stomach a little uneasy.

Another part of what makes this period in time so difficult for Yankees fans is watching the remains of the old foundation continue to wither away, especially when it doesn’t seem like there is anyone capable of picking up the slack. Vernon Wells is no Curtis Granderson, and Eduardo Nunez is no Derek Jeter. Everyone knows this, and it would be unreasonable to expect more of these backups, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

You’d think that these injuries would crush New York’s chances of winning the division – and it still may turn out that way – but somehow they keep plugging away and find themselves in the middle of it all.

But how is this possible?

Its Robbie Cano, don’t cha know?

The man leads his team in every offensive category – which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when comparing him to anyone else on the active roster. We all expect Cano to play like the best position player on the team, because he is. That fact is becoming more apparent now that the infield surrounding him has been reduced to practically nothing. His supporting cast of Jeter, Youkilis, and Teixeira is now Nunez, Nix, and Overbay – of course he is going to shine brighter by comparison.

Here’s a stat I stumbled upon today: Cano has played more games as a Yankee than the other 12 position players on the active roster combined. This bit of information says it all: he is no longer defined as the young, swing-happy second baseman caught in the shadow of Jeter and A-Rod. He is a superstar that has slowly but surely come into his own, and now, by no choice of his own, Robbie Cano has inherited this team — at least for the time being.

It will be interesting to see how Cano handles himself once help starts to arrive around midseason, but until then, he is a leader by default. I think he is finally ready for this role, he has done a great deal of maturing since the Melky Cabrera days when he seemed to lose focus at times. We need him to finally develop into the team leader everyone expects him to be.


Jeter: Back in the Swing of Things

On July 9th 2011, Derek Jeter became the 28th player in MLB history to join the 3,000 hit club, and he did so with a home run in a game where he went 5 for 5.  Since that point, Jeter is batting .344 with a .395 On Base Percentage and has a .496 Slugging Percentage.  Needless to say, he has picked up his game.  Many believe the reason he returned to form was because the pressure was lifted when he hit number 3000 out of the park.  That surely played a part, but that’s not the only reason the Yankees Captain has been hitting the ball as well as he ever has.

What the casual fans don’t know is that during his time on the Disabled List in June, he took a trip down south to the Yankees’ training complex in Tampa, Florida.  During his time there, he met with Gary Denbo to try and find out why he was struggling so much at the plate and what to do about it.  Denbo was Derek’s first professional hitting coach, and has worked with him for almost twenty years.  Knowing that, it is no surprise that he knows more about Jeter’s swing than anyone else.  The advice was simple, but the effects were drastic.  After analyzing film and working with him firsthand, Denbo found that Jeter wasn’t staying back in his stance long enough, and it hurt his timing.

“Most guys struggle, regardless of who it is, because you’re not staying back.” Jeter said. “It sounds easy: ‘Why don’t you just stay back?’ It’s not that easy. You try, but you don’t.”

Jeter called it a blessing in disguise, and that is putting it lightly.  This small mechanical tweak appears to have resurrected his career and by doing so, silenced any critics that claimed he is over the hill.  I personally never thought that his career was in jeopardy at this point.  He may have lost a step on defense, but not to the degree that he is considered a fielding liability.   That is the only knock on him that I would consider reasonable.  And even though sabermetrics show that his range has fallen in recent years, I would still take him over most other shortstops in the league, looking at defense alone.

People look to the past for players to compare Derek to, but they seem to overlook that he is not your average baseball player.  There’s only a handful shortstops that compare to Jeter’s offensive numbers at any point in his career, and even fewer that had such success over a 17 year period like he has.  Jeter will maintain a high level of play and continue to contribute to New York for another 3 to 4 years, barring injury.

I often find myself wondering how Derek’s career will come to an end.  His life story to this point is something of a fairy tale, and I can’t pretend that I know where its headed from here.  But that has been the fun in watching Jeter play: he is unpredictable, yet never seems to disappoint.  Anybody who has watched him play can tell you that there is something special about him, he has a set of intangibles unlike any other.   I look forward to watching him play out these final few chapters of his career, and seeing exactly how many tricks he has left up his sleeve.  I expect the end to this story to be just as special as it has been to this point.  It will be perfectly fitting and still amaze us all the same.  As Mr. Sterling would say it, it will be simply Jeterian.