Tag Archives: Derek Jeter

The Mike Trout Conundrum

When it comes to Major League baseball my friend Jay is second to none. He isn’t simply one of the more knowledgeable when it comes to baseball, he’s one of the angriest fans you’ll meet. Especially when a sportscaster brings up a highly questionable comparison. That’s why I wasn’t surprised by the texts I received this weekend.

Jay: Dude, I have your next blog for you.

Wayniac: I told you I’m not blogging about my thoughts on the new Braves stadium, it’s too controversial.

Jay: Whatever, I’m not talking about that. Check this out. You know I love Trout, but Greg Amsinger on MLB Network just said if Mike Trout wins the MVP again it is the greatest start ever to a career. 

Wow. That is a pretty bold statement. So bold that it has gotten The Wayniac riled up a bit. Like Jay, I love Mike Trout. He is one of my keepers on my fantasy team (due to a ridiculous steal of trade concocted by my partner in crime JD) and he is one of the most exciting athletes to watch in sports.

But, what is defining Trout’s start as “the greatest ever”? Back-to-back MVP Awards? Certainly not back-to-back All Star Game MVP Awards, is it?

Jay: Those awards are given by voters. I’d rather go with most home runs through first four seasons or steals, or anything measurable. I don’t care about awards.

He’s right. The MVP Award, whether it is in the regular season, post season, or All Star Game is usually skewed. I mean, come on, Mariano Rivera won the All Star Game MVP three games ago for registering a hold.

Plus, there is always a bias when voters are involved. The Kansas City Royals currently have the best record in the American League. They have a very good shot at repeating as the AL pennant winners, and Lorenzo Cain is a large reason for that. Do you think he stands a chance against Trout at the end of the year? Trout puts up sick numbers, makes those big time wow plays in the outfield, and is just so darn likable.

That being said, the second Jay told me about that statement, I was able to think of five guys in the not so distant past that have had — at the very least — equal starts to their career. Should Trout win that second MVP Award, his trophy cabinet will be the fullest over the shortest amount of time, but greatest start to a career? That’s questionable.

Two things I am excluding from the list below are steroid use and pitchers. I don’t care to hear any of these well they played in the Steroid Era debates. Take a look at the Minor Leagues. There are close to 100 suspensions, many from PEDs. The Steroid Era is still alive and well, and that makes Trout a part of it — although I have no question he is clean. It happened, it’s part of the history, so it has to enter discourse.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Secondly, if hardware is all that matters, Dwight Gooden had one of the sickest starts to any career I have ever seen. Rookie of the Year in 1984, Cy Young in 1985 and a World Series ring in 1986. Let’s not forget that Dr. K’s 1985 season is still one of the sickest pitched seasons I have ever witnessed and he was only 20 years old. A league leading 24 wins to just four losses, a league leading 1.53 ERA, a league leading 16 complete games, eight shutouts, a league leading 268 strikeouts and a 0.96 WHIP. And I reiterate… he was 20 years old. For you SABR junkies, his WAR was nearly 12. It is widely considered one of the single greatest seasons in history. Hardware, history and a World Series ring. Not too shabby.


(USA Today archives)
(USA Today archives)

Ryan Howard

Howard won Rookie of the Year in 2005 while only playing in 88 games. He blasted 22 home runs in just 312 at bats. That’s a home run every 14.2 at bats compared to Trout’s 18.6 rookie year average.

Howard would never stop hitting home runs, as he would take home the NL MVP Award in 2006 with a league leading 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He wouldn’t win an All Star Game MVP Award, but he would win the Home Run Derby that year, which has to count for something. At the end of Howard’s fourth season — in which Trout is amid right now — he would lead the NL in home runs and RBI again and win a World Series ring.

By the time Howard finished his fifth season, he would be back in the World Series and become the quickest player in history to reach 200 home runs. That’s a pretty good start to a career.

Jose Canseco

Did he cheat? Yup. Is he a bit of a nut job? You tell me.

But there was no denying that Canseco was one of the most fun players to watch in the late 80s on one of the most dominant teams of that era. Canseco would win Rookie of the Year in 1986 and two years later would become baseball’s first 40/40 guy en route to the 1988 AL MVP Award. He would get injured (out of juice?) in his fourth season, but returned right in time to slash .357/.500/.571 with a home run in the World Series. Not a bad first four years either, ay?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 15:  American League All-Star Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees speaks with American League All-Star Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels during batting practice prior to the 85th MLB All-Star Game at Target Field on July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter

Am I a homer? So what? Derek Jeter lived every little kid’s fantasy. He won a World Series in four of his first five seasons. Not only was he on some of the best teams of the 90s, he was the centerpiece of them and the spark that made their engine go.

Jeter won Rookie of the Year in 1996 and would go on to hit .361 in his first postseason with a very memorable home run (thanks Jeffrey Maier). He would “digress” in ’97, but comeback with two of his best seasons in ’98 and ’99. Jeter would make history in his fifth season by being the first player to win All Star Game MVP and World Series MVP honors in the same season.

Is his trophy case filled with shiny MVP Awards or fancy bats commemorating other honors? No, no it isn’t. But his hand is certainly too heavy to point that out to you with all those damn rings on it.

Albert Pujols

Talk about an unreal start to a career? Pujols was amazing. If you were a baseball fan at the turn of the millennium, when you watched Albert Pujols play, you thought you were watching a kid rewriting history.

He won Rookie of the Year (notice the trend?) and would start his career by going 12 — TWELVE — straight seasons before hitting less than 30 home runs. He wouldn’t win an NL MVP Award in his first four years, but he did win the 2003 Major League Player of the Year Award as well as the 2004 NLCS MVP.

Pujols quickly became the heart of the St. Louis lineup, known for his monster power and uncanny ability to hit over .330. People often forget that he led the league in runs scored three years in a row.

Now Trout’s team mate and possibly his stiffest competition for the 2015 MVP Award, Pujols’s first four seasons ended with the following stat line: .333, 500 runs scored, 160 home runs and 504 RBI. That’s not just good, that’s video game good.


Buster Posey

People either love him or hate him, but Buster Posey has been Jeter-esque to start his career.

Guess what? Posey won Rookie of the Year in 2010 and would pretty much instantly become the centerpiece of baseball’s current dynasty. Posey would hit .300 with a home run as a 23-year old rookie in the World Series and start a run of winning three rings in his first five years.

Posey was mangled in a play at the plate in his second season and the Giants would miss the playoffs in their title defense. He would return in 2012, win the NL batting title, NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, the NL MVP and his second World Series title. Posey would belt yet another home run in that World Series victory against the Tigers.

Jay: Buster’s start has been pretty damn good and I hate Buster. If Trout gets another MVP, Buster could trade him one of his World Series rings for it… and still have more rings than Trout.

If hardware is what matters, I’ll take an MVP Award and three World Series rings over consecutive All Star Game MVPs and back-to-back AL MVPs. Trout is an absolute stud. I can’t argue that he isn’t the best player in the game right now, because that he is. But to say with such confidence that his will be the greatest start to a career — especially when Pujols put up better numbers, Jeter won more rings, and Posey became immortal — is a bit unfair.

The Storybook Ending for Derek Jeter

What needs to be said? Throughout the entire final season of The Captain’s career, he has been coronated king of all Yankees and lambasted for his ego-driven, self-righteous farewell tour. We’ve seen Top Ten plays of his career and endless retrospects about the 20-year career of the kid from Kalamazoo with big dreams of pinstripes. I’ve written about it myself on Yanks Go Yard as most recently as yesterday with my Farewell Captain piece and his retirement was one of the first things I covered as a blogger here at Wayniac Nation. It quite literally has all been said.

CC? The first one out? That's almost as bad as Wade Boggs on the horse in '96! (Photo credit: USA Today)
CC? The first one out? That’s almost as bad as Wade Boggs on the horse in ’96! (Photo credit: USA Today)

So, on this Friday morning, let’s just sit back and watch. Let’s watch the play over and over that epitomizes why even those who hate the Yankees, why even those Yankees fans who pretend to be tired of Derek Jeter, and why every true baseball fan tuned in to MLB Network last night to say Farewell Captain.

A Universe, A Nation, and a Sting Ray

The Madenss is creeping up on us, folks. I hope you have been enjoying the conference tourneys because there have been upsets galore which should make Selection Sunday quite unpredictable. Surprisingly, Jared Allen, Chris Clemons, and Julian Edelman remain unsigned in this quickly evolving NFL free agency season. And the bats are coming alive and the arms are getting looser in Florida and Arizona as we are just a few short weeks from Opening Day 2014.


The AL East is the only division in baseball that the “worst” team has a legitimate chance at winning the division. That’s because no one team is a great team. Their offenses are stacked and all five teams are very good, so they should beat each other up all season long. It will be a war of attrition and who comes  out on top will be the team not with the most powerful bats but the deepest pitching.

5. The Toronto Blue Jays

(Covers.com has the O/U at 82-80 while FanGraphs has them finishing 82-80)


There are three primary factors holding back Toronto. First and foremost, they play in the province that gave us Justin Bieber so they don’t deserve to win anything. Secondly, their pitching is old. Lastly, they simply cannot avoid the injury bug.

Jose BautistaJose Reyes, and Melky Cabrera are enough to make any line-up powerful and strong, but not one of the three were on the field for over 120 games last season. Edward Encarnacion is a total offensive beast, but he also has never played an entire season. Adam Lind had a nice bounce back last season after a lost 2012 and is slated to bat clean-up in this potent line-up (making him a great option in fantasy). They really need former first round pick Brett Lawrie to play a full season and come into his own at third base. It may be time to move on should he flop again this season.

39-year old R.A. Dickey anchors this staff as its ace, but the crafty knuckle-baller returned to earth after his 2012 Cy Young campaign. Now 34-years old, Mark Buehrle is not much more than a .500, innings-eating pitcher. Brandon Morrow spent last season working his way back from injury after a promising 2012. He showed he can be a solid top-end of the rotation pitcher prior to going down, and the Jays will benefit greatly if he can return to his 2012 form. Where’s Ricky Romero? That guy got a case of the Knoblauchs and completely fell apart!

Casey Janssen leads a rather uninspiring bullpen. He does have former closer Sergio Santos setting him up, so they do have a nice one-two punch. As long as the Blue Jays hold on to those 11-10 leads in the 8th inning these two should shut down a fair amount of games.

Projected 2014 finish: 80-82. To purchase tickets to any game this season check out Ticket Monster.

4. The Baltimore Orioles

(Covers.com has the O/U at 80.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 79-83)

Like the Blue Jays, the Orioles are another power-house line-up with minimal pitching. The O’s did bolster their starting rotation this offseason but it may be the move they couldn’t make that comes back to haunt them.

21-year old all-world third baseman Manny Machado is the key to this offense. Unfortunately he is still recovering from offseason surgery and is projected to start the year on the DL. When he does return, the Os will have one of the best one through six line-up runs in baseball. Nick Markakis is never going to be the superstar people projected but he’s still very good and becoming a quality leadoff hitter no matter how unorthodox he may be in the slot. Chris Davis is a beast and is still maturing. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts (199 in 2013), but there is no reason that he can’t match his 2013 league leading 53 HRs and 138 RBI. Adam Jones is one of the best all around outfielders in baseball and is a 20-20 threat every year. The addition of Nelson Cruz makes them even stronger. Batting behind Cruz, Matt Wieters is one of the best hitting catchers in the biz. They need to improve in creating runs and not solely relying on the long ball. They led baseball with 212 HRs but were near the bottom with a .313 on base percentage.

The Ubaldo Jimenez signing gives them an ace. I personally don’t project him translating well to a full season in the AL East. He’s always had a bit of a problem with the long ball and pitching more games at Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Toronto, and Camden may be bad news for him. They had a shot at Ervin Santana but were unwilling to part with draft picks. That leaves Chris Tillman at number two and a bunch of uncertainty filling out the rest of the rotation.

The Orioles need to replace 101 saves over the last two seasons as Jim Johnson left town. I’m not so sure Tommy Hunter is going to be the answer, but he should do just fine. Johnson got a lot of lucky saves with a high WHIP and a powerful offense to bail him out of his mistakes. Should Hunter fail, Darren O’Day is one of the better set-up men in the game and can quickly jump in to the closer spot.

Project 2014 finish: 81-81. For ticket purchases click here.


3. The Boston Red Sox

(Covers.com has the O/U at 87.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 88-74)

You hairy bunch of bearded buttheads. The Red Sox Nation get to raise another World Series flag on Opening Day, and I am not happy about it. They were Boston Strong last season, so for the city of Boston on the heels of tragedy I applaud them. Now I want to watch them crumble.

There was no one better than the Sox at producing runs last season. They were always on base as David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia led a line-up that had 6 players finish with over a .350 OBP. In fact, they led baseball in runs scored, RBI, and OBP. That means a lot has to go right for them to return to those heights. And so far it hasn’t: their leadoff man and newest Boston turncoat left town, they got older at catcher by adding AJ Pierzynski, and they are banking that their elite prospects are ready to mature.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. is struggling to beat out Grady Sizemore, who was once elite, but injuries have stolen his best years. Will Middlebrooks needs to finally play a full season because his two partial seasons have shown a lot of promise. Xavier Bogaerts looks ready to take over at shortstop and produce immediately.

The pitching staff only got older this offseason already losing Ryan Dempster to old age. Jon Lester is the most confusing ace in baseball. He can be a shut down, Cy Young candidate one season and a middling .500 pitcher the next. John Lackey and Jake Peavy are crafty veterans who use to be former aces, but they, like Lester, are boom or bust. Clay Buchholz was on his way to becoming the ace until injuries derailed his season.

Their bullpen is deep (how deep is it?). It’s so deep that I project newly signed Edward Mujica replacing Koji Uehara at closer sooner than later. Uehara had a great 2013 but older closers (he is 38) rarely produce back-to-back elite seasons. Andrew MillerCraig Breslow, and Junichi Tazawa round out a solid back end.

Projected 2014 finish: 85-77. For ticket information click here.

2. The New York Yankees

(Covers.com has the O/U at 83.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 83-79)

ANGELS YANKEESThey are old. They are beat up. They are prone to the nagging injury. But there is simply no way this team is not going to rally and get Derek Jeter to the playoffs one last time. Plus, I’m a total homer and there is no way I’m ever going to project the Red Sox to finish over the Yankees… ever.

This line-up is barely recognizable from last year’s debacle that finished dead last in the AL East in every offensive category. Jacoby Ellsbury brings a reliable table setter to the top of the line-up. Carlos Beltran brings a veteran presence to the outfield. Brian McCann will make the right field porch his beyotch and handle this pitching staff better than anyone since Hip Hip Jorge left.  Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts… well I guess they need to play. At least we don’t have A-Rod. All eyes of the baseball world will be on Jeter’s every move. He will be just fine and win the AL Comeback Player of the Year.

The pitching staff is a huge question mark but if they do click, then the Yankees could actually win the division. CC Sabathia is no longer the CC of old, but he still has a bounce back in him. Despite being shelled this spring, he is working on new pitches and simply can’t be as bad as he was last season. Masahiro Tanaka will be under the microscope both for the lucrative contract he signed and the fact that he is coming off of a 24-0 season in Japan. He will be a solid addition to the middle of the rotation. The fifth starter spot is still up in the air, but the Yankees really need Michael Pineda to claim it. He could be the Yankees x-factor if he can return to his 2011 form.

There is absolutely no pressure on David Robertson in replacing The Sandman. He only needs 644 more saves to match what Mo brought to the Yankees for two decades. The Yankees bigger problem is in moving Robertson to closer, they lose one of the best set-up men in baseball. This bullpen is going to be a revolving door all year.

Projected 2014 finish: 87-75 AL Wild Card. For ticket information click here.

This thing is just weird
This thing is just weird

1. The Tampa Bay Rays

(Covers.com has the O/U at 88.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78)

There is one reason and one reason alone the Rays are perennial contenders: Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball. This team has never had a potent offense and they haven’t had any consistency in the bullpen, but the 2-time AL Manager of the Year will have the Rays back on top again.

The offense begins and ends with Evan Longoria. If he puts up god-like numbers the Rays are tough to beat but when he plays  like a mere human, the entire line-up struggles. It will be exciting to see reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wll Myers‘ encore. The coveted Royals’ prospect came over for James Shields and didn’t disappoint. Desmond Jennings needs to continue his growth and become the 20-20 threat he can be.

David Price leads one of the best rotations in baseball. He will bring home the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 as the unquestionable leader to this young staff. The rotation is full of names that will be in Cy Young conversations for the foreseeable future. Matt Moore needs to get his control issues resolved (he led baseball with 17 wild pitches) but still finished 17-4. If he continues to fine tune his stuff, he will be lights out. As long as Alex Cobb can mentally comeback from being hit in the head by a comeback liner, which all signs show he can, he will be a Cy Young winner one day soon. Chris Archer had a strong first season as a full-time starter. All four finished with ERAs under 4.00.

Gone is Fernando Rodney and his wacky antics. Enter Grant Balfour. Balfour has been a dominant closer for the back-to-back AL West Champions As and has the avocados to lock down important games. He brings stability to a deep bullpen that also acquired Heath Bell this off season. Should Balfour struggle at all, Bell can immediately jump in and shut down games. The Rays are going far in 2014 because of their pitching depth both in the rotation and the pen.

Projected 2014 finish: 91-71 AL East Champs. For ticket information click here.

How Derek Jeter Taught Me to Love Again

This was supposed to be a quiet week for sports bloggers. There was no more football, Spring Training is just about ready to begin, there was only a half of a week of NBA action, and for those of you that actually noticed the NHL is on a 2 week break for the Olympics. Then the fireworks started: Marcus Smart goes Ron Artest on an old fat guy, Michael Sam comes out as the soon-to-be first openly gay NFL player, and Tyler Ennis hits a miracle three to keep Syracuse undefeated. If that wasn’t enough, yesterday, via a Facebook letter to all of his fans, Derek Sanderson Jeter announced he was hanging it up.


For the last 19 years, Jeter has represented everything good about baseball. He has never been vocally arrogant, he has always put the team above himself, and he has never been linked to steroids. If you have been a Jeter hater for the last two decades it is for one of two reasons: you are a Red Sox fan or you hate the Yankees and Derek Jeter is the epitome of everything Yankees.

Photo courtesy of The Daily News

Until Jeter and The Core Four came along, being a Yankee fan was miserable. We were young fans of the winningest franchise in professional sports, but had never seen a winner. Sure, we had our Yankee legend in Don Mattingly, but they couldn’t win when he was our Captain; Not one first place finish and one lone playoff appearance in Mattingly’s last season. In fact, we endured some of the most awful seasons in Yankees history between 1982 and 1993.


Then it all changed. Jeter and his three wingmen came along and taught Yankee fans how to love again. Five World Championships, 7 AL Pennants, and 11 AL East crowns later Yankee Pride was restored for my generation. Like I said, the children of the 80s had Mattingly, but he didn’t win. Yankee fans of my era finally had their Gehrig, their DiMaggio, their Mantle, their Munson.

Getty Images

Jeter did it all with style, grace, a sense of dramatic flair, and the patented Jeter fist pump. Was he the best fielder of his generation? By no means, but he sure made some of the most memorable plays in Yankee history. Was he the best power hitter of his time? No where close, but he hit bigger home runs than Bonds, A-Rod, Griffey, or Big Mac ever did. Was he the best hitter of his era? Considering he played in a time of Tony Gwynn and then later Ichiro, I would have to say no.

That was never important to Jeter. He has no regular season MVP awards in his trophy case. The Yankees all-time hits leader has no batting titles to his name. All Jeter ever did was his job. He did what was best for the Yankees. He got on base more times and scored more runs than anyone for one of the most prolific offenses of our generation. His reward was ring after ring after ring.

He was always more about being a Yankee than being Jeter. The fact that he did it with Jorge and Mo by his side for 17 straight years shows family values. Throw in Pettitte for all but three of those years and you have a heart that beats strong. The Core Four could have signed anywhere throughout their career, for any amount of money they wanted, but they always returned home because together they could win. Alone, who knows what they would have been.

That was the environment that Jeter established in 20 years in pinstripes. Sure, some of the big-time free agents came to New York for the money, but they didn’t last. The ones that stuck were the ones that realized they came to New York to win. David Cone was a hired gun most of his career, but he left it all on the field every start for the Yanks. Roger Clemens had done it all, Cy Youngs, MVPs, back-to-back Triple Crowns, but he never won until he was a Yankee. It was something you had to accept on Jeter’s Yankees: winning and the fans happiness, no matter how bright your star shined, was always first. I still don’t think A-Rod gets that.

I’m glad that we get one last season together with Jeter as a Yankee family. He deserves every accolade, speech, and gift he will get on his Farewell Tour. I have no doubt that, just like Mo, the most emotional and touching send-off he will receive will be from the Red Sox because when you’re a stand-up guy, even your biggest enemies respect you.


So I say thank you, Oh Captain, My Captain. Thank you for 1996 when Bisach, Bret, Ross, Varrass, Bull, Rosie, Andy, myself, and others squeezed onto the tiny Courtney Street couches to watch the birth of a dynasty. Thank you for all those sunny Saturdays and cool weeknights with Big Lar, D-Sant, and Greene at the old ball park. One of the writers I work with at YanksGoYard.com tweeted how Jeter’s retirement marked the end of his childhood. He’s 20. At 38-years-old, I feel the same way.

(For more on Jeter’s illustrious career, check out my piece on Jeter’s Top Ten Moments at YanksGoYard.com)