Friday, October 7, 2011

Strike Three

TigerBlog had no doubt that Alex Rodriguez was going to strike out when he came up with the bases loaded and one out, his team down by two in the seventh. And he had even less doubt that A-Rod would strike out to end the game, down 3-2, two out, nobody on in the ninth.

And TB was right both times.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that Rodriguez is the highest-paid player in the history of American team sports. At the very least, he is in baseball.

And yet here he was in a season-saving, game-changing moment - not once, but twice - and he failed miserably both times. And it wasn't very surprising.

Rodriguez' career will be remembered as one of huge talent, huge money and a huge history of failing in the clutch. Last night was just another example.

TigerBlog doesn't like the Yankees, simply because their blueprint for success is to outspend every other team, and by a ton. It's not debatable.

The Tigers used four starting pitchers in the series - Justin Verland, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer - who made a combined $15.5 million this year. That's one million less than A.J. Burnett of the Yankees made by himself (and $13 million of that $15.5 is Verlander's).

The two Detroit players who set the tone for the game by hitting back-to-back home runs in the first inning (Don Kelly, Delmon Young) make less than $6 million between them; seven of the nine Yankee position players last night make more by themselves.

The Yankee with the highest batting average in the series was Brett Gardner (TB is pretty sure about that). He made $529,500 this year; what must it be like for him to see his high-priced teammates come up so small?

Oh, and A-Rod made $32,000,000 this year. Maybe he could have put bat on ball in one of those two crucial situations for all that dough?

With the Yankee season now history, TigerBlog can focus his attention on the Princeton-Hampton football game.

Princeton enters the game having snapped its 10-game losing streak, and no matter what happens tomorrow in Virginia, Princeton will still be undefeated in the Ivy League when he heads to Brown next weekend.

In fact, the game at Hampton is the first of three straight on the road, followed by back-to-back rides to Brown and Harvard. Check back in three weeks, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the 2011 football season will be like for Princeton.

Every Princeton fan TB has spoken to this week has the same two memories of the 2007 Princeton-Hampton game in Princeton seared into the brain:

1) the astonishing performance of the Hampton marching band
2) the physical toll the game had on Princeton for the rest of the season

Princeton entered the game against Hampton at 2-1 and then grabbed a 27-14 lead, only to see the Pirates come storming back for a 48-27 win.

From that point, Princeton lost four of its next five and finished the year at 4-6.

This time, Hampton comes in off a week off, and with a record of 2-2. Hampton's wins have come against Alabama A&M and Florida A&M, followed by losses to Bethune-Cookman and Old Dominion. For what it's worth, Hampton scored 23 and 21 points in its two wins and 42 and 31 points in its two losses.

Old Dominion, by the way, is 4-1, with a win over UMass and only a close loss to Delaware.

Beyond the game itself, this will be Princeton’s second game ever against a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and third-ever by an Ivy League team, with the first Princeton-Hampton game and a 41-0 victory for Yale over Morgan State in 1984.

The amount of excitement that led to the game at Princeton hasn't been matched for a Princeton game since the 2006 Ivy League championship, and neither has the attendance - a crowd of 15,329 watched the 2007 game between the Tigers and Pirates, and it's the largest crowd at Princeton Stadium since the 2006 championship season.

This time, the game is on the road, and when Princeton's travel party rolled out yesterday afternoon, it was the first time this year that it had left town for a game.

After this weekend, there are only Ivy games remaining for the team.

This Saturday, the final non-league game of the year, is special in its own right.


Anonymous said...

So should the Yankees NOT spend money to bring in the best ballplayers they can? It is their responsibility to do whatever they can this side of breaking the rules to build a winner. To do anything less is to not do their best. Your disillusionment is misplaced. It should be toward the owners and Bud Selig.

TigerBlog said...

The Yankees can spend as much money as they want, as long as the system allows it. TigerBlog doesn't have to root for them, though. It's like rooting for the new Starbucks to wipe out the old neighborhood coffee shop.

Anonymous said...

ESPN analyst John Kruk observed after last night's game that he could tell the difference between Rodriguez's swings during games in Detroit and those at Yankee Stadium.

The swings on the road were normal, full efforts. Kruk characterized Rodriguez's swings at home as abbreviated half-efforts. The "Baseball Tonight" crew then reviewed video of Rodriguez's last at-bat, calling his final swing for strike three a weak "hack" at the ball.

Kruk summarized by saying Rodriguez is so afraid of failing in front of the home fans that his anxiety makes his failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kruk concluded with, "I don't like using this term, but Rodriguez chokes."

By the way, I have to agree with the first poster. Baseball, with its lack of any meaningful revenue sharing, virtually ensures that New York and Boston (and to a lesser extent, Philadelphia) can outspend their rivals by an order of magnitude. The structure of MLB itself creates the unbalanced playing field, not the large-market teams themselves.

I used to believe that the lack of broad competition hurt baseball as a consumer product. But now I think that it might actually help baseball in a perverse way. So many fans love to hate the Yankees that this might actually increase rather than decrease overall television viewership. Exhibit A: Tigerblog.

It's hard to analyze whether baseball would be better off with genuine revenue-sharing. Football thrives with revenue-sharing and much more on-field parity, so that suggests the NFL has a better business model. But football is probably a more popular product anyway, so the comparison is not a controlled apples-to-apples evaluation.

So are the Yankees good or bad for baseball overall? In the absence of any structural change in MLB, it's hard to say for sure. All we can say with confidence is that the highest paid athlete in team sports is a choke artist.

Anonymous said...

Considering pay scale and situation, A-Rod's performance in the recent ALDS can best be compared to that of Lebron James in the 2010-11 NBA Finals.