Perspectives: Not Andy Nor the Mailbag
Updated: 1 day ago
By Paul Semendinger
April 21, 2023
NOTE - I'm substituting for Andy this week. Andy is consumed by work right now, but will be back here in his regular spot next week.
The following comes from a brief point I made in a comment yesterday. Today I'll expand on this thought a bit...
In 1996, the Yankees won the World Series. One of the big contributors to that team on the diamond with his .340 batting average, and in the clubhouse with his "We play today, we win today" motto was Mariano Duncan.
Duncan was a 33-year-old who had a lifetime batting average of .262. His lifetime On Base Percentage was .298. He didn't hit much. He didn't get on base much. And he wasn't a particularly gifted defensive player. On top of all that, Duncan hadn't even played 100 games in either of the two previous seasons. He bounced around from team to team over the course of his ten year career at that point. No one talked OPS+ back then, but he was typically a below average player. Only once had he had an OPS+ of 100, in his entire career. But, even without that stat (or WAR), it was clear to fans that Mariano Duncan was what he was. Mariano Duncan was a back-up type middle infielder. He was the definition of a "replacement player." No fan was excited that the Yankees were bringing in Mariano Duncan. When he signed with the Yankees in December 1995, I don't think it made the back pages of the tabloids.
Had there been bloggers back then, some may have complained that the Yankees should have better addressed second base than to count on Duncan getting the job done. Having Mariano Duncan as the second baseman didn't seem like a particularly smart move. It probably, in fact, wasn't. But, the end, Duncan performed with excellence. He was a key cog in the championship machine. Duncan's career year helped the Yankees reach and win the World Series.
Likewise, jettisoning Buck Showalter for Joe Torre as the manager didn't seem so brilliant at the time. Nor did bringing in a weak hitting Joe Girardi to replace the power hitting Mike Stanley at catcher.
Heading into the 1996 season, long-suffering Yankees fans had some legitimate concerns. It has been forever since the Yankees had won a World Series, and 1996 did not look so promising.
But sometimes questionable moves, even moves that could be considered incorrect at the time, work out for the good.
Thus far in 2023, the moves the Yankees made seem to build this club have resulted in a team that wins and wins and wins. Many have rightly doubted the decisions the Yankees made regarding the roster, the manager, and more... but the Yankees haven't lost a series yet this year. They are the only team, the only team, in the MLB that is still able to state that in 2023. They're keeping on, keeping on.
In the end, that's all that matters.
Sometimes the correct decisions don't work out. Other times, the wrong ones do.
One player who did get a back page when he signed with the Yankees was Jack Clark. Many thought that he'd lead the Yankees to the promised land in 1988. It didn't happen...
I might not buy-in on the 2023 Yankees until that last out of the World Series is recorded. But, who among us believed in the 1996 Yankees before the season? Many people (most?) (all?) probably didn't even believe in them during the season. Later, who believed that that upstart team had any chance against the mighty Braves in the World Series - especially after losing the first two games at home?
Fans can be skeptical. And there are lots of reasons to be skeptical about the 2023 Yankees, but they are (so far) proving the skeptics (including me) wrong.
In a similar vein, if one were to compare the rosters of the 1978 Red Sox and the 1978 Yankees (or the Royals and the Yankees... and maybe even the Dodgers and the Yankees) it might be reasonably concluded that those other clubs (or at least some of those other clubs) were more talented than the Yankees were.
But it was the Yankees who won the World Series.
Sometimes the sum is greater than the total of the parts. That might be the case with the 2023 Yankees as well.
Experts give all sorts of reasons why teams win.
"Teams win because of guts and character and toughness..."
We all know the cliches.
But sometimes the component that drives (or allows) a team to win is something completely undefined. It just... is.
Historians, writers, and fans, then go back and try to define the reasons a team won:
"Those 1978 Yankees were tough."
That was true, but, let's be honest, so were the Royals. Was there a tougher player in baseball than Hal McRae? George Brett. Amos Otis. On and on. Those were some pretty tough characters on the Royals.
"The turmoil helped the Bronx Zoo teams win. It kept them on edge and winning."
Maybe, but, quite possibly it was the classy approach from players such as Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Ron Guidry, and Roy White that kept things smooth enough that allowed the controversy to not detract from the winning.
"The Yankees were more talented..."
But, were they? Among the position players, the 1978 Red Sox had three Hall of Famers (Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski). The Yankees had one. Reggie Jackson.
On and on, people come up with reasons for what happened. Many of those reasons are logical and sensible. They may or may not be true. But, they often become the narrative and the accepted wisdom.
The truth, in the end, it might be something completely different. Sometimes, teams win because... it just works. Sometimes the collection of players gathered together in spite of logic or reason or any other factor, just works.
That might be what is happening with the 2023 Yankees.
Maybe, in spite of the potential flaws, and the moves questioned by some (really many), this collection of players, at this moment, and in this year, will just work. Sometimes the wrong decisions work out. There are no guarantees.
Maybe the Yankees are a better team with Aaron Judge in center field. Maybe they're better with Jhony Brito rather than Carlos Rodon starting. Maybe they have a better approach up and down the lineup with Giancarlo Stanton on the bench. Maybe... Maybe... On and on...
For now, bottom line... they Yankees are winning. They're on the right path.
That's all that matters in the end.
Keep it up Yankees!
My baseball season started last Sunday. I pitched the opener got the win. We won via the "mercy rule." I scatted only two hits, struck out two, and didn't walk a batter. I didn't even get to three balls on any hitter.
It was a great start to the season.
I love playing baseball.
I'm in my mid-50's and I hope my arm stays strong forever.
(Of course, I work out daily, I take care of myself, I started my winter throwing program in January, etc. This isn't just based on hope, I work at being the best I can be physically, but the human body is an interesting thing and there are no guarantees in life...)
As long as I can play, I will. This is now my fifth season playing hardball, real baseball, after being away from baseball since I was 16-years-old.
There's nothing like it.
As Satchel Paige once wondered, "Maybe I'll pitch forever."
Let's Go Yankees!