Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – May 23, 2013

The Giants remind me of the Yankees.

Specifically the current San Francisco Giants remind me of the Joe Torre Yankees of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

I make the comparison today on The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast, Remove all the negative associations with the Yankees and bear with me. The analogy makes sense.
Jose Bautista, C. J. Wilson, Francisco Liriano and Carlos Gonzalez all owned baseball on May 22, 2013.

To see the up to date tally of “Who Owns Baseball?,” click HERE.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – May 23, 2013

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What if Hideki Irabu had signed with the Padres?

Hideki Irabu, one of the fastest throwers in Japanese baseball history and his leagues greatest strikeout artist, died today in Los Angeles County. The first reports say it looks like a suicide.
For a pitcher who has been the butt of many jokes and a Frank Costanza rant, there suddenly is nothing funny about him. Like Donnie Moore before him, a player who was a source of ridicule suddenly became a tragic figure.
In 1997 he was brought to New York as a newly minted millionaire potential hero and given the key to city by Rudy Guiliani and a spot in the defending World Champion Yankees’ rotation. 11 years later his credit card was declined in a bar in Japan and he got into a brawl.
And today, trying to find work in an independent minor league, he was found dead.
Sitting at my dining room table, I can’t sit and pretend to know all of Irabu’s demons. Clearly anyone who could go through with ending their own life has plenty. But it is impossible to avoid the thought that failing on such a grand scale in New York may have contributed to his downfall. Joe Torre had him on the roster for the 1998 and 1999 post season but used him in a single game over 6 series. He pitched in mop up duty for Roger Clemens’ dreadful Game 3 start in the 1999 ALCS.
I remember being startled when he came out of the bullpen against the Red Sox that day. I forgot he was even on the team.
He became a symbol of a Steinbrenner move to make a backpage splash and tap into the Japanese market instead of improving the team. (Of course if he delivered, Steinbrenner would have taken the credit of being forward thinking.)
And his debut in 1997 was a solid win where he pitched into the 7th. And remember in 1998, he started off as a very effective pitcher. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month for May, 1998. By mid June of 1998, he was 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA and was a big contributor to the Yankees stellar first half. As late as July 20th he had a terrific record (9-3) and a very good ERA (2.86.) A string of 6 bad starts, plus the emergence of El Duque Hernandez, pushed him out of the post season roster.
But his 1998 could hardly be called a total failure. But 1999 was not a good year for him and by 2000 he was an Expo. By 2002 he was a Ranger, his last season in the majors. He pitched in 2009 for the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League. Former Padres shortstop Garry Templeton was his manager. His teammate was Jose Lima, who passed away last spring.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he played in a smaller market.
The Padres paid the posting fee for Irabu to bring him to America and they owned his signing rights. But, wanting to be on the biggest stage (and have the greatest marketability) he refused to sign with San Diego. He and his agent engineered the trade that sent him to the Bronx.
Had he stayed with the Padres, his fame would not have been as great, but neither would the magnification of his failures. Like the Yankees, the 1997 Padres were coming off a post season berth and had talent.
If he had put up the same numbers with the 1998 Padres as he did with the 1998 Yankees, he would have been beloved by the fans instead of being cursed out.
Remember the ’98 Padres were a terrific team that went on to win the National League pennant. They were not as good as the historic 1998 Yankees, but they had a deep lineup and a tough bullpen.
And their fan base is forgiving. Playing for a large passionate fanbase has its disadvantages. Not being able to hide any flaws is one of them. Trevor Hoffman had many high profile critical game blown saves in his career with the Padres. Had he blown those games in New York, Philadelphia or Boston, he would have been run out of town on a rail. In San Diego they are retiring his number.
I wonder if Irabu had pitched in San Diego, if he would have been able to develop and adapt to America better than in New York, where he was expected to be the next Nolan Ryan right out of the gate.
I wonder if Padres fans could have accepted him for what he was instead of tormenting him for what he wasn’t. 13 wins and an OK 4.06 ERA mixed in with a pitcher of the month award would get a lot more respect in a smaller market gunning for their second ever pennant.
Maybe he pitches well along side Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby, Sterling Hitchcock and Joey Hamilton. Maybe he fares well against the Yankees in the World Series.
Or maybe his demons were just too strong to conquer. Maybe this has nothing to do with bis baseball career.
But seeing how far he fell makes it impossible to wonder. Did he have to perch himself up so high?

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Bruce Bochy – Hall of Famer?

Don’t laugh… Bruce Bochy already has a pretty amazing resume as a manager. If he wins 4 more games as a manager this year, it might be time to start whispering his name around Cooperstown.

Don’t believe me?
Well first of all he has already padded his resume with some solid credentials.

He took over a Padres team after the 1994/1995 strike/lockout.

Remember the Padres were a team lost in the woods after the 1984 pennant. They went through managers (Larry Bowa… Jack McKeon… Steve Boros… Jim Riggleman) and philosophies (We’re all about our deep farm… no wait, we’re all about signing free agents like Bruce Hurst and Jack Clark… no we’re keeping our prospects… no we’re trading them for Joe Carter… no we’re trading Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar away…)

In his second season (1996) and just three years removed from the 1993 101 loss firesale debacle, Bruce Bochy had the Padres back in the post season as National League West Champions, beating the defending Division Champion Dodgers on the last day of the season.

We won manager of the year that year.

In his fourth season, 1998, he beat out two 100 win teams in the post season (the Astros and the Braves) and stormed into the second World Series in the history of the franchise. Granted, beating the 114 win Yankees was a BIT too much to ask, but he became a World Series manager.

The Padres dismantled again, running off 5 straight losing seasons and making Bochy’s future uncertain. But the Padres and Bochy stuck together and by 2004 they were winners again.

By 2005 he had the Padres back in the playoffs (granted with the single worst post season team I have EVER seen). In 2006 they were legit and had home field advantage in the Division Series as back to back champs.

Only Trevor Hoffman played on all four division winners for Bochy. The turnover of talent from 1996 to 1998 was tremendous… as was the turn over from 2005 to 2006. Bochy remained the steady force.

He came over to the Giants, a team whose philosophy seemed to be “Hey! People are showing up to see Barry… so why bother putting a good team on the field?”

He had nothing to work with, especially after Bonds retired after 2007. But by 2009 they were winners again… and now, counting his two rebuildings in San Diego, has built his third division champion from the ground up.

Manager of the year… turns teams around… multiple playoff trips… pennants with two different franchises…

That sounds like a GREAT manager’s resume.
All he is missing is the ring.

If he wins a World Series title this year… and do what teams featuring Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Perry and Bonds could never do… and do it with a cut and paste line up… do it defeating the much heralded Phillies… then what else does he have to prove?

Yes you can point to a sub .500 career record. But also remember that he managed the Padres who had firesales under his watch… and took over a rudderless Giants team that was looking to shake off their Bonds identity.

Bochy could be giving them the identity they’ve been seeking since they played at Seals Stadium: World Series Champion.

And then the consideration for Cooperstown will need some good long thought.

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