Amazingly, Tom Verducci didn't think any of these guys were worthy of his "best players of today team."
I suppose the only thing more predictable than an outrageous Yankee-lovin’ column from Sports Illustrated hack Tom Verducci is a post from me expressing outrage over Yankee-lovin’ Verducci columns.
So for the sake of consistentcy, let’s dissect Verducci’s recent column where he picks today’s very best players at each position. He also picks the best of all-time and of the next five years and those are equally bad. But we only have so much time and energy to spend on Yankee-hacks.
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way:
SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees. And Verducci’s rationalization: “His defense is slipping, but he is a consistent offensive force who will march well beyond 3,000 hits.”
His defense is slipping? The wax dummy of Jeter at Madam Tussauds has as much — if not more — range as the real Jeter. And the wax version can at least claim it didn’t (allegedly) give herpes to Jessica Alba, as the L.A. Rag Mag celebrity gossip site reported.
Heck, Jeter couldn’t claim five tools if he walked through Lowe’s with a gift card.
Let’s look at some facts:
Player A: .327 ave., 8 HR, 57 RBI, 75 runs, 12 steals
Player B: .303 ave., 9 HR, 47 RBI, 86 runs, 56 steals
Player A, of course, is the object of Verducci’s man-crush. Player B is our own Jose Reyes, who is clearly the better player. Yes, Jeter has more runs batted in, but he’s the DH league and has an actual batter getting on base ahead of him to drive home, as opposed to the pitcher.
Plus, Reyes is an excellent defender and appears to be disease-free.
Player Verducci should have picked: Reyes, of course.
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees; “Best ever among a rare breed: a game-changing infielder.”
What Verducci is leaving out is that ARod has tried to change games by slapping the ball out of a first-baseman’s glove and shouting to distract at a third-baseman so he’d drop a pop-up, a move even his manager criticized.
I won’t deny that Arod hits an occasional homer. But the dude has accumulated enough baggage that the Skanks need a cargo jet to follow the team charter on road trips. This season alone we’ve had photos of him leaving adult establishments with ladies who did not appear to be his wife (Stray-Rod), and then his wife wearing t-shirts to Yankee Stadium emblazoned with an F-bomb (F-Rod). Jose Canseco has recently hinted that the source of Arod’s power might not be totally natural (A-Roid).
Then you have the on-going feud with the Blue Jays that led to bench-clearing brawls in a recent series and Roger Clemens getting suspended for throwing at a batter.
Player Verducci should have picked: David Wright. Wright hits for power, hits for average, is fast, is getting better in the field and is squeaky clean.
Closer: Marino Rivera, Yankees “His cutter is among the greatest pitches in history. When he's on, he's a one-pitch pitcher, but hitters still can't hit what they know is coming.”
Maybe, just maybe, this might have been justifiable in, say, 1998. But once people like Marco Scutaro start taking you deep, you can no longer make such claims. But Verducci also listed Rivera as the greatest closer of all time, which makes me think he has never heard of Dennis Eckersley and Rollie Fingers, closers who actually have things like Cy Young and MVP awards.
Player Verducci should have selected: Billy Wagner. Imagine, a closer who actually closes games.
C: Joe Mauer, Twins “Only 24, with a .316 lifetime average and .396 on-base percentage.”
You know it just killed Verducci not to pick Jorge Posada. I bet the SI editors forced him to throw some token non-Yankees on there so he could at least pretend he’s not biased. Mauer’s a nice player who probably should have won the AL MVP last year, which went to his teammate. But he seems to lack that fire a team needs in the on-field captain.
Who Verducci should have picked: Paul Lo Duca. Talk about fire! Did you see the absolutely crazed look in Paulie’s eyes when he got tossed back in July!
1B: Albert Pujols, Cardinals “Maybe the greatest start to a career in history: six straight seasons hitting .300 or better, with at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and a top-four MVP finish.”
Greatest start to a career? Did he forget about Mike Vail’s 23-game hitting streak? All I know is that when the All-Star Game was on the line, Pujols’ own manager sent Aaron Rowland to the plate instead of Albert.
Who Verducci should have picked: Carlos Delgado. You know that if LaRussa had Delgado on the bench at the All-Star Game he would have called Rowland back. Carlos doesn’t even need to swing the bat to win a game. Remember his walk-off walk? That’s how good he is!
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies. “He's clearly the best second baseman in the game and getting better. His batting average has gone up four consecutive years.”
First of all, the dude’s name sounds like he would be in Neidermier’s frat in “Animal House,” and the last thing we need on the best-of-today team is some uptight preppy with easily breakable hands.
Who Verducci should have picked: Luis Castillo. How good is Castillo? In 2003, a Cubs fan had to make a choice. He could let Moises Alou catch a ball and send his beloved team to the World Series. Or, he could have a glorious piece of memorabilia, a foul ball hit by Luis Castillo. As we know, Mr. Bartman wanted that ball. And that speaks volumes about Luis Castillo.
OF: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox: “His power numbers may be down slightly this year, but he's still as pure a hitter as they come.”
Hey, we all know Manny is a hitting savant. But the guy is just plain nuts – look at the hair! – and fields even worse than Jeter. If the guy is so good, why did the Sox try to dump him to anyone who would pay his salary a few years ago. And take note, no one took him!
Who Verducci should have picked: Moises Alou. I’m not saying Alou isn’t somewhat injury prone. He misses a game or two or 30. But dude’s been a monster since returning from the DL.
OF: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: “A hit machine, his graceful, gliding style at bat, and in the field, is a pleasure to watch.”
Ichiro might be the luckiest All-Star Game MVP in history, reaping the rewards of the ball taking a funky hop off the outfield wall and rolling away from Ken Griffey Jr.
Who Verducci should have picked: Carlos Beltran. Beltran, when he does swing, also is a hit machine with a graceful, gliding style and is a pleasure to watch on the field. But unlike Ichiro, Beltran actually hits homers, setting the Mets franchise record last year.
OF: Vlad Guerrero, Angels: “He's the most dangerous offensive force in the game because he can hit absolutely anything and hit it hard. Guerrero is a great combination of power and hand-eye coordination.”
I guess Vlad is OK, But there must be a reason the Mets passed on him when he was a free agent.
Who Verducci should have picked: Matt Holliday, Rockies. You thought I was going to pick Shawn Green, didn’t you? Not a chance! Blindly picking players from my favorite team would make me no better than Verducci!
Rotation: Johan Santana, Twins; Roy Hallady, Blue Jays; Roy Oswalt, Astros; Jake Peavy, Padres; Justin Verlander, Tigers.
The Yankees rotation is so horrible that not even Verducci could justify picking one, though I bet his first draft had Clemens in the mix. Some of those guys are decent.
Who Verducci should have picked: I’ll grant him Santana as a decent pick. But he forgot Tom Glavine – you don’t pile up 300 wins stinking up the field – John Maine, Oliver Perez and El Duque.
Now that’s the best team of today! How Verducci draws a paycheck is a total mystery.