Monday, February 16, 2004

Da trade

So A-Rod's going to the Yankees. As a card-carrying Yankee-hater who really likes a lot of the players on that club, I actually think this deal is pretty cool. I mean, only baseball would allow this sort of transaction to take place -- allowing the game's highest-paid player, who may end up being the best at any position of all time, in the prime of his career, to go to the team with the biggest payroll. This could happen in no other major professional sport. The all-consuming obsession for "parity" shared by basketball and football -- and the accompanying necessity for salary caps to make that happen -- is ruining those sports, leading to the constant roster churning which causes fans, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, to "root for laundry."

Not in baseball. If The Boss wants to spend six times as much in player salaries as the owners of the Brewers or the Pirates, so be it. And the beauty part is, there's no guarantee the Yankees will actually win anything, even with A-Rod on the hot corner.

This column by the AP's Paul Hagen points out some of the Yanks' potential pitfalls. Here's my take: The Yankees have an aging, inflexible roster. Aside from second base, where the job is wide open, and third (A-Rod's 28), by the All-Star break, the Yankees will start someone who's 30 or older at every position. Three starters will be on the far side of 35. The catcher will be 33. So will the first baseman, who hasn't played defense regularly in years. The bench is suspect, at best. The minor leagues are thin on prospects. And as Hagen points out, the pitching staff has undergone a major transformation (but I do like Vasquez a lot).

Since the typical position player's physical skills start to decline about age 30 (according to Bill James), the Yanks are playing with fire. They'd better win this year.

Misty-eyed moment

Driving in to work today, XM's Americana station was broadcasting a tribute to June Carter Cash, who died May 15 last year, exactly one month before my dad passed on. One of the songs played was "Church in the Wildwood," from her final (Grammy-winning) recording Wildwood Flower. The song happens to be one of Dad's favorites ... the choir at the Wilkesboro United Methodist Church sang it at his funeral last June. It's been a week to reminisce. My mom passed away 15 years ago last week, and last week Lola and I enjoyed a brief visit from two of my best friends from Chapel Hill -- poker buddies from way back -- and some of their family members, too.

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