Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Turkey Day (from WKRP)

Here's the longer HD version, which they have blocked from embedding. Seriously priceless. If your'e too young to remember WKRP, tough.

Holy temple of awesome

Larry Dubrow was lucky enough to get a tour of The New Yankee Stadium as a potential "Premium Offering" seating buyer. Suffice it to say, he was blown away:

About 13 seconds later, after we proceeded into the so-called Great Hall, I started mentally filling out a Bank of America job application. Holy temple of awesome. Big (around 1.6 times the square footage of its predecessor, even with a few thousand fewer seats).

Shiny (lotsa glass and chrome). Bright (the old Yankee Stadium, mystique-y and aura-tastic as it may have been, was perpetually caked in grime). If this is the future of the stadium experience, I humbly request to be teleported to next April. You can have your quaint ivy walls and forbidding monsters of green; me, I'll take the laser beam turbo rocket ship.

Now, it sounds like Larry is slogging thru a modest means, like most of us. I am guessing that while he was ga-ga over the tour, the new amenities, seeing the clubhouse, the field, etc., the real kicker came via email the next day. And you know what, I could not agree more.
Alas, I returned to my computer on Monday morning to find an e-mail awaiting me from my guide. The note contained the usual pleasantries and directed me to an attached file for more information. It was there that the Yankees dropped the hammer: the seats cost $550. That's per ticket per game, not per month or per season. For a 20-game plan, that's 22 grand for a pair.

I love my team irrationally. I love attending ball games. I don't love them that much.

To invest or re-invest

If you were a community-conscious owner of a team, would you rather invest, say, $30 million in a free agent superstar for your club or re-invest that money in the community in the form of 50 new ballfields around your larger metropolitan area?

"If you bring somebody in to play and pay them, pick a number, $30 million, does that seem a little weird to you?" Jamie McCourt asked in an interview at the Evergreen Recreation Center in East Los Angeles. "That's what we're trying to figure out. We're really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans. We're really trying to understand, would they rather have the 50 fields?"
How would YOU feel if the ownership if your favorite team decided to forego that splash signing and chose rather to commence construction on that many ballfields, including one in your neighborhood? (Check the poll to the left to vote!)

It's due to the Domino Effect

Ben Shpigel wonders aloud if the fact that the economy is in the crapper is the reason for the relatively quiet free agent signing period so far. Ben notes the "Domino Effect" but also dismisses it.

Player agents and front-office executives often speak of the domino effect that occurs after the premium free agent at his position makes a decision. For instance, as soon as Sabathia, the most coveted starting pitcher, chooses where he will play for the next six or so years, interest in the other top starters — A. J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Oliver Pérez and Ben Sheets — should sort itself out.
He goes on to speak about that while the biggest fish (Sabathia, Teixeira) will get theirs, maybe the economy will jump up and bite some of the other guys. I disagree, to a point. Once Sabathia lands, the dominoes will tumble quickly. If the Yanks are left watching Sabathia take the podium in Anaheim, you can bet that they will step up their offers and interest in ALL of the best remaining pitchers, plus Teixeira. And I'd expect it to happen pretty quickly.

Let's say that Sabathia signs somewhere the week after Thanksgiving. The rest of those big ticket pitchers (Lowe, Burnett, Sheets) plus Teixeira will be signed before we take Christmas break. That's not the economy, stupid (nothing personal, Ben!). That's the Domino Effect.

Sure, the economy will shrink the deals offered to the lower level free agents, but the best guys will still do just fine once the first --very large-- domino comes a'tumblin' down.

Rock, Chalk, ORANGE!

First the hapless football team beats ND. Now, after beating #18 ranked Florida, 'Cuse hoops beat the reigning champion #23 ranked Jayhawks to win some corporate-y "classic" or something.

Go 'Cuse!

Shysterball on the move

I've made it clear many times how helpful and thoughtful Craig "Shysterball" Calcaterra has been to me since I launched this blog 11 months ago. I had toyed with the idea of doing something like this for a while but would always find an excuse. Then, by chance, I saw a chat from Rob Neyer that asked him which blogs he liked to read and one he mentioned was Shysterball. Once I saw what Craig did, how he did it while holding down a busy full-time career, and making it look both easy and fun....I decided to take the leap.

Except that he makes it look much easier than it really is. And that's a tribute to his talents.

I probably owe most of my readership to Shysterball in one way or another. For that, I am grateful. That you guys keep coming back is more meaningful than you can imagine.

So now, Craig is moving on from the lonely, independent blogosphere to the higher rent district known as The Hardball Times. I couldn't be happier for him. Craig had his "And That Happened" daily recap picked up by Studes & Co. at THT last season, so this is only an extension of an already successful relationship. Craig's off-beat, witty and astute voice will ring loudly in the super-analytical realm of THT. Success is inevitable.

I wish them all the luck in the world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I love the Haka

Not much else to say, but wouldn't it be great if one NFL team (I'm thinking the Ravens in their all black uni's) pulled this off:

(h/t to

Baseball in Ottawa

Read this, because I said so. Also, because Pete Toms wrote it and it's damn good. My New Yorker point of view doesn't allow me to know that some of these things exist. Yeah, I need to get out more.

Is the upcoming 17th consecutive season of professional baseball in Ottawa also the last? Many factors will determine whether professional baseball continues to be played here, including support, municipal politics, the local pro sports landscape, real estate and CanAm League fortunes.
Pete also had this excellent post at The Biz of Baseball about the Rule IV draft that's worth reading if you feel like learning something. If today's not that day, bookmark it and get back to it when you're feeling brainy. A taste:
The past two drafts have seen a trend of small and mid market franchises outspending many larger market franchises. The Rays and Nationals ranked #2 and #5 in dollars spent on signing bonuses in the 07 draft with the Royals and Rangers also in the top 10. The 08 draft saw an increase in this behaviour with the Royals, Rays and Pirates all in the top 4 along with the Giants, Brewers, Rangers, Twins and Indians all in the top 10.

Note: Pete and "brevity" do not belong in the same sentence. Clearly, Pete and Joe Pos came from the same school.

Grading the nine digit deals

There's a solid review of all of the $100+ million deals done by today. Here are only the grades; you'll have to check out the link for the full review:

  • Kevin Brown, Overall grade: C-
  • Ken Griffey Jr., Overall grade: D+
  • Alex Rodriguez, Overall grade (first contract): C; Overall grade (second contract): Incomplete
  • Manny Ramirez, Overall grade: A-
  • Mike Hampton, Overall grade: F
  • Jason Giambi, Overall grade: D+
  • Todd Helton, Overall grade: C
  • Albert Pujols, Overall grade: A
  • Carlos Beltran, Overall grade: B-
  • Vernon Wells, Overall grade: C
  • Alfonso Soriano, Overall grade: B-
  • Barry Zito, Overall grade: F
  • Carlos Lee, Overall grade: C
  • Miguel Cabrera, Overall Grade: Incomplete
  • Johan Santana, Overall grade: Incomplete

Maybe it's me, but I forgot how many guys were given contracts this size. I flat out forgot about Wells, Lee, and even Soriano, to a lesser degree.

The Yanks don't hold the key

While the Yanks have certainly made the most noise with their proclamations that they want to sign every possible free agent, I don't think they are the most important team this off-season. The Yanks don't hold the singularly most important key; though they certainly hold the most cash. So who's the keymaster?

The Angels, unwilling to meet Mark Teixeira's desire for a 10-year contract, are in discussions with CC Sabathia and could offer him a contract that approaches the $140-million bid extended to him by the New York Yankees.

If the Angels shift their focus and decide that their resources are better poured into Sabathia, who prefers the West Coast as strongly as Teix prefers the East Coast, they will absolutely shift the dynamics of this off-season.

If Sabathia lands in Anaheim (talk about a great rotation!), you can bet that the Yanks would not only shift their focus on Teix, but also go harder after Burnett, Lowe and Sheets. I can hear it now:
  • to Burnett: "You want a fifth year? If you agree right now, we'll go to 5 years, $75 million"
  • to Lowe: "You're 36 but if you agree right now, we'll go to 4 years, $55 million"
  • to Sheets: "You're coming off an arm injury, but if you agree right now, we'll go to 3 years, $40 million"
  • to Teix: "How's 7 years, $150 million grab you? Look at that short porch in right. Batting in front of ARod. Manning first base, where your idol, Donnie Baseball, earned his pinstripes."

I honestly don't think the Yanks are going to go 4 years on Lowe, or at least I would hope they don't get that desperate. I would like to see Sheets, though. I would also be shocked to see any team go to 10 years on Teix. Seven or eight, maybe.

..."in the best shape of his life"

For some reason, I am skeptical hearing that about players during the off-season. Over the past decade and a half, it often had some PED-binge undertones. Sometimes it spoke to a player's previous lack of dedication to his craft (i.e.: his body). As for Robinson Cano, I think it's more the latter than the former.

He’s got a personal trainer, and he’s probably down to 10 or 11 percent body fat,” [Kevin Long, the hitting coach] said. “This kid is focused, he’s determined. I’ve never seen him like this. His arms are cut, his stomach is cut. He’s doing hitting, throwing, agility work — and these workouts at night, I watched them, and they’re grueling. I told him I was so proud of him.”
We want our favorite players to be 110% dedicated to themselves, the team, their teammates. We expect them to get and stay in a decathalete's condition. We consider it an affront when they show up like Carlos "Buffalo" Silva. The conditioning has never been an issue for ARod, who maintains his body better than anyone. As for the mental side, Long said:
I can’t even imagine going through a divorce in the middle of a season and trying to compete at the highest level. He was able to do a good job, but there were days last year when you could just tell he had a lot on his mind. He’d be looking through you, and not completely focused like I’d seen him. You try to push that to the side for a couple of hours and do the best you can, but it’s easier said than done.”
At least we know it's an odd year, and we all know how ARod does in odd years, don't we? In case you forgot, he's won the MVP the last three odd years (2003, 2005, 2007)

So where can Long see Cano batting this year:
The way Long figures, Canó could bat directly ahead of Rodriguez, who hits cleanup, or directly behind him. Either way, Long expects both to improve.

Delta signs on as Official Airline of the Yanks

Well, thank goodness.

As the exclusive sponsor of the Delta Sky360 Suite, the airline will offer suiteholders an opportunity to sample the Delta brand and customer experience. The Suite encompasses the nine sections of the Main Level directly behind home plate, and its elevated position allows for some of the best views of the field in Yankee Stadium, which is set to open in April 2009 with a capacity of 52,325.
Sample the brand and "customer experience"? Since when has that ever been a GOOD thing for an airline? So the games will start late after 45 minutes of waiting with no heads-up on when it will get started, you will only get half a soda at a time, there will be only two tiny bathrooms for the entire suite, chances are your souveniers and other food purchases will be lost in transit to you and there will be some schlub with his seatback resting cozily in your lap. Best views? Out of plastic one foot oval windows.

/end snark

* Thanks to Pete Toms for the heads up

Monday, November 24, 2008

Whither Moneyball?

Remember when Moneyball came out and the (oft-mistaken) premise was how Billy Beane and the A's were succeeding by valuing things that other teams undervalued or misunderstood? Part of that was due to necessity (smaller market, less financial resources) and the other part was being smart and opportunistic.

Well, first they trade FOR a highly-paid outfielder (Holliday) and now they are reportedly offering Rafael Furcal a four-year deal deal worth $48 million plus $2 million in additional incentives.

Furcal revealed that he has been offered a four-year, $48-million contract by the A’s that includes incentives that could push its value to more than $50 million.
Due to concerns about the condition of Furcal’s surgically repaired back, the Dodgers have been hesitant to extend him an offer of four years.
I like Furcal a bunch, but the bad back that sidelined him most of last year would be a huge red flag for me (he'll be 31 at Opening Day). If I had the reigns of a small/mid-market team, I might not be as aggressive. But kudos to Beane for "going for it", I guess. Color me skeptical.

3:58pm: ESPN's Enrique Rojas says Furcal traveled to the West Coast today, where he could sign with the Giants or A's. However, a third team remains involved.

Yahoo's Tim Brown talked to Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer. Kinzer called the El Caribe report "bogus." Apparently there has been no four-year, $48MM offer from Oakland nor are the Mets interested. And Furcal doesn't want to move to second base anyway.

The Tazawa Conundrum

Junichi Tazawa is a 22 year old from Japan who seemingly has a very bright future. He asked the Japanese teams NOT to draft him so he could be a free agent, likely to make the leap right to MLB. Except there seems to be some "gentlemen's agreement" that have kept the MLB teams away from the Japanese amateurs. We already know about the Posting method (Dice-K was the biggest posting ever) for players who have grown up thru the Japanese major leagues.

Yanks GM Brian Cashman fully honors that agreement, and that might cost the Yanks a chance to get a relatively cheap, high potential pitcher.

“I’m old school — there has been an understanding,” said Cashman, whose team has a formal cooperative relationship with the Yomiuri Giants, a team particularly upset with the Tazawa affair. “There’s been a reason that Japanese amateurs haven’t been signed in the past, so we consider him hands off.”
Except the Red Sox clearly don't see that as a barrier and appear to have the inside track on signing Tazawa.

Clearly, the Japanese have grown exceptionally comfortable with the Sox following Dice-K's success (and maybe the lack of "comparable" success that Matsui has --or hasn't-- had). While I don't have a problem with this, per se, what I don't like is that appearance of rule or agreement that only some clubs honor. Yes, it's not dissimilar to the MLB's draft slotting rules, which are equally ridiculous. But that's merely a suggestion. Is this agreement with Japan any different?

UPDATE: I finally found the scouting article I was looking for on Tazawa.
Tazawa, who stands 5 feet, 10 inches -- "5-11 if you really like him," Wilson said -- will get a major league deal this winter but is unlikely to make it to the majors during that first season.

He has good command of his fastball and slurve, but he lacks velocity, stamina and the ability to keep the ball down.

At 22, Tazawa is unlikely to throw much harder than he does now; his fastball barely tops 90 mph when he is rested, and he struggled to hit 88 mph at the end of last season.

In Class A or Double-A, Tazawa likely will get hit harder and harder as the season wears on.

How defense hurt Moose

We can all agree about this: The Yanks' defense over the last decade has never been particularly good. So how much has it cost Moose during his tenure on the Yanks?

Fortunately for Mussina, another necessary adjustment goes in his favor: correcting for defensive support. Although E.R.A. is supposed to insulate pitchers from the impact of their fielders by ignoring runs that result from errors, it does so poorly, because it ignores the effects of defenders’ range. Those who pitch in front of sure-handed but immobile fielders will be charged with many hits and earned runs, while those whose defenders botch some routine plays but make up for it by taking away hits from their opponents will fare much better by E.R.A.

This issue is particularly pressing in Mussina’s case, since by signing with the
Yankees before the 2001 season, he chose to pitch in front of what was perhaps the worst fielding team of the last 20 years. With liabilities like the late-model Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter at shortstop — every respectable quantitative measure finds Jeter’s range atrocious — virtually any ball hit into play against the Yankees was a potential disaster. In the worst year, 2003, the defense cost the club’s staff nearly 50 points of E.R.A.
I enjoy seeing a new angle on an argument.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

IIATMS Interview with Eric Hacker, NY Yankees

For many (if not most) of you, this will be an introduction to one of the newest members of the Yankees: Eric Hacker. I had the good fortune of getting to spend some time on the phone with Eric recently to discuss his recent promotion to the Yanks 40 man roster, his ascension from the minors, his numerous comebacks from two serious injuries and what it must be like for a 25 year-old to get "the call" to play for the Yanks. His easy-going Texas drawl belies his dogged determination to make it to the Bigs no matter the obstacles. From what I could tell, the Yanks have a guy who won't be afraid of anything, any challenge and has the character to succeed.


Eric was born in and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. Eric recently married his high school sweetheart, Christine. Eric attended Duncanville High School and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Yankees in 2002. He made his minor league debut in August of 2002 with the Gulf Coast Yankees. He quickly jumped to Single-A Staten Island Yankees in 2003 before suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery in 2004. Returning in 2005, Eric pitched for the Charleston Riverdogs in Single-A ball. After missing 2006 due to a shoulder injury, Eric made a successful return in 2007 and was promoted to AA Trenton Thunder in 2008, helping the team capture the Eastern League Championship. He was named to the 40 man roster on November 11, 2008, just a few weeks before getting married.

Over his five minor league seasons, Eric's amassed a 30-15 record with a nifty 2.70 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. More of a control pitcher than a power pitcher, Eric has averaged a bit over 6 K/9 IP. His numbers in Trenton (AA) to finish 2008 over 17 starts were strikingly similar to his minor league career averages. (Eric's minor-league stats can be found here)


It's About The Money, Stupid: What was it like getting the call that you’re being added to the 40 man roster? Who told you about it?
Eric Hacker: [Agent Matt] Sosnick called me with the news. Brian Cashman had called him to let him know that I was going to be added to the roster. After Matt called, I saw it on the Internet. It was incredibly exciting. I’ve only been with the Yankees organization my whole career, so I didn’t know what to expect if I wasn’t going to be protected [from minor league free agency]. It felt great knowing that the Yanks still believed in me, after all I’ve been through, with the injuries, the ups and downs. Just incredibly exciting.

IIATMS: Who’d you call first? Next?
EH: My wife, naturally. She was more excited than I was. Then my parents and my in-laws and it snowballed from there. It was a lot of fun. Most of all, the call gave me some peace of mind as I was about to be married in less than two weeks from getting the call. It’s hard enough getting married but not knowing what was going to happen with my career made it that much more stressful. Being able to get married, go on a honeymoon, knowing that I still had a job with the Yankees….

IIATMS: What are you most looking forward to?
EH: The opportunity to play at Yankee Stadium. I can’t wait to be part of the team, doing whatever it takes to help the club win a world series.

IIATMS: Have you ever been to Yankee Stadium? Seen the new Stadium?
EH: While playing for the Staten Island Yankees, I got to see Roger Clemens pitch in the old stadium. I’ve only seen pictures of the new Yankee Stadium and I can’t imagine what it will be like to pitch there. I’m really excited to pitch in front of a packed house of 50 or 60,000 screaming fans.

IIATMS: Talk a bit about your injury that sidelined you in 2006: How’d it happen? What was done to fix it? How’d you approach the rehab?
EH: First of all, I had Tommy John Surgery in 2004. Then, 62 innings into my rehab, I pitched 7 or 8 innings and felt fine. I woke up the next day in a ton of pain, but I thought maybe I slept wrong or something. I took a few days off and then went to throw bullpen. I could barely reach home plate. I took a few weeks off to rehab with a therapist and came back but I still couldn’t do anything because of the pain. Took some more time off and shut it down for the third time. I had all the MRI’s done and they came back clean. Tendonitis or bursitis, whatever, they’re all the same! I’m a competitor and all I wanted was to get back and do what I could do to help my team, but after the third time, I had to get smart. This is my career and I couldn’t throw it away by being stupid. I ended up visiting Dr. [James] Andrews because I knew something was just not right.

Dr. Andrews suggested that I get it scoped right there on the spot to see if it’s nothing major but if he found something, he could do the work right then and I’d be ready to rehab and get ready for the following season. After I woke up, he told me it was a torn labrum. I missed all of 2006.

As I sat in recovery, I realized that this was not the end of the world. My goal has always been to pitch in the big leagues and I wasn’t about to let this stop me. I couldn’t worry about this. I spent the rest of the year rehabbing and was able to get back in 2007.

IIATMS: Do you view yourself as a starter or reliever?
EH: I’ve been a starter my whole life. I’ve always envisioned myself as a starter. I like to mix pitches up, conserve my pitches. It’s takes you deeper into games when limiting your pitching. As a reliever you don’t have to do that as much.

IIATMS: If the team came to you tomorrow and said "We see you as a reliever", would you be willing to transition?
EH: I will do whatever the team needs me to do. If they want me to pitch out of the bullpen, I will do that. It will be an adjustment, but that’s part of being a professional. I’m a competitor so I’ll do whatever they want and whatever they think is best for the team.

IIATMS: In your time in the minors, what do you consider your best experience? Worst?
EH: Rehab! But, I did learn a lot from the rehab sessions and I’m a better person having gone thru it. Aside from the rehab, the travel is the worst part. It’s not just being away from your family and friends, it’s the being on the road. The long bus rides, living out of a suitcase. Taking a bus for 7-8 hours, someone next to you, behind you, in front of you. No space.

Best experience, being apart of our championship team in Trenton this year.

IIATMS: Who was your best minor league instructor and why?
EH: Nardi Contreras for mechanics. Scott Aldridge for his ability to read hitters.

IIATMS: What sort of hazing goes on in the minors? Funniest hazing story? Anything like what we see the rookies having to go through?
EH: Nah, nothing quite like that. No real hazing. The guys that come up from the lower levels just have last choice for seats and have to double up before the other guys. Me, I’m more sneaky, like a prankster. I tend to pull off the little harmless pranks like setting up middle of the night wake-up calls, or ratting out someone for making too much noise when they weren’t doing anything. Nothing too serious, though.

IIATMS: Do the guys with major league contracts rehabbing in the minors have to buy meals for the team?
EH: Some guys are definitely more generous than others, but when a big leaguer visits, we know we’re in for a good meal, like Outback. The guys get excited for the steaks and chicken.
[IIAMTS' Note: Outback?!? I hope he's excited for some real dining when he gets to the City! I'll even treat.]

IIATMS: Are you often recognized and asked for autographs?
EH: A little bit. Usually after the games, I’ll get asked for a few and I’m happy to do that. But since I never was a #1 draft pick like Phil Hughes or Austin Jackson, the crowds aren’t chasing me, yet. But I always make sure I sign for anyone who wants.

IIATMS: Given any thought to what number you’d like? You wore #28 last year in Trenton but that number’s already being worn by Melky Cabrera.
EH: No number in particular. I’ve worn a few different numbers so whatever they give me is fine. I just want to put on the jersey and pitch, someone else can decide what’s on the back.

IIATMS: If you could sit down from any major leaguer and pick their brain for an hour, who would it be and why?
EH: Billy Connors [the Yankees pitching guru in Tampa]. Billy’s great to talk to about anything, not just baseball. His knowledge of the game, mechanics, how to face different types of hitters.

IIATMS: Do you model yourself after any current/past major leaguer?
EH: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’m a four pitch guy, so maybe someone like Brett Myers. I’ve got a sinkerball so maybe closer to Derek Lowe. Although, I take a lot of pride in fielding my position also. Maybe a bit of Mike Mussina.

IIATMS: Harder to pitch to younger undisciplined players in low minors or more developed ones in AAA?
EH: It’s not really harder to pitch to the younger guys in Single-A, but it’s more frustrating. They’re too impatient and aggressive; they hack at everything. With hitters at the upper levels, I can really “pitch” to them more. I can set them up and have some fun with the mental side of pitching. The low-A guys will come up swinging. There are a few exceptions, guys like Ryan Zimmerman, who you could tell at the lower level he was a more mature hitter; a guy who had a plan up at the plate.

IIATMS: Do you rely on heavy film study? How do you prepare?
EH: There’s not much film study in the minors. I’m big into stats, watching hitters. I take notes on everything: where the pitches are (up/down in the zone), what sort of leads runners take, which hitters like to run, hitting in certain counts, opposite field hitters vs. pull hitters. As I’ve progressed, I’ve become much more of a student of the game. I have a pretty detailed notebook that I am constantly writing in.

One thing I focus on are the guys on base. I love to use the pick-off move. Since I study who runs, I have a pretty good idea when one of them gets on base. I have a pretty quick delivery, which prevents many stolen bases. I didn’t give up to many stolen bases this year, which also a credit to my catchers.

IIATMS: How do you train for the season? What advice would you give to kids looking to develop themselves? How much cardio vs. weights vs. stretching vs. anything else?
EH: First of all, after any season, I make sure to take time off to let my body recover. The aches, pains, bumps and bruises all need time to heal.As I begin to get ready for the season, I start with cardio and light weights for my upper body. I use heavier weights on my lower body. The lower body strength is so important. That’s what gets you through the longer games and the season. Once I’m in-season, I have a routine that includes a lot of running, lower body work and “explosion” training (keeping the “quick twitch” muscles sharp). I like to run so I do that a lot.

IIATMS: Which player(s) are you most excited to meet as a teammate?
EH: I’m very excited to talk to Mariano Rivera. He’s the best and I hope to be able to sit with him and pick his brain a little.

IIATMS: Which player are you most excited/curious about facing?
EH: Tough question! I’d like to face the biggest challenge possible. ARod would be good to face but that’s not possible. Honestly, I’m just looking forward to facing whoever steps in the box.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Go 'Cuse!

Go 'Cuse!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Papi on the block?

Shocking, surprising.... just idle speculation, but what if...?

Consider: Should the Red Sox win the Mark Teixeira lottery — and we’re absolutely convinced that a lucrative-bordering-on-obscene offer will be forthcoming from Yawkey Way — manager Terry Francona will be obligated to try to cram four high-quality everyday players (Ortiz, Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell) into three positions (third base, first base, designated hitter).

Rather than dealing with that conundrum (not to mention the egos), it’s more likely that the Sox would deal one of the quartet — most likely Lowell, assuming he returns in good form after hip surgery. But it’s no longer blasphemous to suggest that Epstein should at least gauge interest in the 33-year-old Ortiz as well.

Random thought of the day: Twins-style

I was clicking thru various links from Buster's blog (which really isn't so much of a blog in the first place) and clicked on one about the Twins wearing the 1982 uniforms every Saturday at home during this, their final season in the Metrodome. OK, that's cool. I love the throwbacks.

And that lead me down a strange path of thinking about the Twins new stadium, Target Field. Looks to be gorgeous (click here to see a virtual tour). I hadn't thought much of it until seeing that virtual tour and layering in the memories of the poor weather that affected the World Series. My eureka moment: Target Field has no roof. I repeat: THERE IS NO ROOF!

Let's review: Minnesota, cold. Minnesota, snowy. Games in April and October are potential weather "situtations". What if the Twins, you know, make it far in the playoffs, even into November? I can hear the "neutral site" panic already growing. And you know what? In that case, I agree. Playing baseball in the snow/sub-freezing temperatures is not natural. I know a retractable roof would add at least another $300 million to the tab but wouldn't it behoove MLB leadership to INSIST upon this?

Average climate in Minnesota by month (emphasis mine):

April: Average high= 57 degrees F; Average low= 36 degrees F; Average precipitation= 2.31 inches. Okay, don't bring out the shorts yet, but you can lose the long underwear. There's plenty of annoying freezing rain.

June: Average high= 79 degrees F; Average low= 58 degrees F; Average precipitation= 4.34 inches. June is usually the rainiest month, but everyone's so happy it's summer that no one cares. Thunderstorms can be frequent, along with the threat of tornadoes.

July: Average high= 83 degrees F; Average low= 63 degrees F; Average precipitation= 4.04 inches. This is the "hot" month, so to speak! There's often a spell of 90 degree days, and the humidity and thunderstorms can be nasty. However, with an average high temperature of only 83 degrees, July is Minnesota is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, the mosquito problem really gets bad around July.

October: Average high= 58 degrees F; Average low= 39 degrees F; Average precipitation= 2.11 inches. Snow is possible--in fact, the Halloween blizzard of 1991 dumped over 28 inches of snow on the Twin Cities!

November: Average high= 40 degrees F; Average low= 25 degrees F; Average precipitation= 1.94 inches. The calendar may say that's it's fall, but winter has begun. Expect about 8 inches of snow.
Someone tell me how this ends well. I can't see it.

Here is a YouTube video of Target Field and artistic renderings:

All I want for Christmas is a 9 digit contract

It must be good to be Mark Teixeira:

"I don't want to put a timetable on it, but Christmas morning, I want to know where I'm going to be for the next couple of years, so hopefully, by Christmas it will be done," Teixeira told ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews...
Teixeira said that he and Boras are on recon at the moment but will hopefully have a decision to make in the next few weeks. The Nationals, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox and Giants are projected to be suitors.

"I want to go where I can win and my family is happy," Teixeira said. "Whether it's the East Coast -- that's where I'm from -- but I loved playing in Anaheim, too, so we'll see what happens."

So if he wants to win, he can cross off the Nats, Orioles and the Giants. That leaves the Angels, Red Sox and Yanks. If the Yanks actually pull that Sabathia offer, they can bury Teix under an avalanche of cash.

MLB Network madness

Get ready for more blackouts with the launch of the MLB Network.

MLB owners, yet again, tabled restructuring the local and regional television territories for the league at today's quarterly owners meetings in New York, and in doing so, leaves an arcane and convoluted system in place just before the MLB Network launches on January 1.
If the owners, yet again, table the issue in January, then the odds will continue to dwindle for a fair and equitable system that allows as many baseball fans as possible to enjoy MLB's product. Limiting your product to the masses is a backward way of thinking.
Amen, brother, amen.

False promises and idle threats

Yesterday, I was excited to hear that Hal, not Hank, was named uber-lord of the Yankee Empire. I viewed it as a directional positive that the silly proclamations and buffoonery that came from Hank would stop.

Except I was dead wrong and it only took a few hours to prove me wrong. I was hoping to look semi-smart for just a day.

[One thing I try not to do as a parent is make promises to my kids that I can't (or have no intention to) keep or throw out idle threats. After a while, the kids realize it and the threats and promises fall on deaf ears. The same applies to baseball players and their agents.]

So Hal comes out yesterday, with his shiny new sheriff's badge glistening in the midday sun, and declares:

"We've made [CC Sabathia] an offer. It's not going to be there forever"

Holy crap.

Lemme get this straight: If you set a deadline of --just for the sake of an example-- December 1st and Sabathia takes his time and ultimately decides that he wants to take the offer... but waits until December 5th... you wouldn't welcome him with all the fanfare you could muster*? Hal, don't you realize that you are giving him the out he might be looking for to take a lesser offer? Do you really think he gives a rat's backside whether you set an arbitrary deadline or not? He, and everyone else who cares about baseball, knows that the Yanks would be ga-ga to have Sabathia. You don't bully the guy you are begging to save your franchise and shower with enough cash to put his great great grandchildren on Easy Street. Something like attracting more bees with honey instead of vinegar?

Instead of an idle threat, go the other way: make him feel comfortable taking all the time he needs to make what is a major life decision. Don't put a date stamp on an offer like a carton of milk. Don't give him the excuse to take less money from the Dodgers ("Well, the Yanks pulled their offer, so this was the best available to me and where I wanted to be all along...")

Maybe, having Hal steering the ship isn't what I hoped it would be. Looks like he backed it up into the dock backing out. Shipbuilder George won't fix it, either.

* Doesn't this have the same look and feel of Hank telling ARod that if he opts out of his contract after the 2007 season, there would be no way he'd be back as a Yankee... except he then signed ARod to a 10 year behemoth of a contract that broke ARod's own record contract?

: Looks like Shysterball had the same thoughts on this silliness.
For what it's worth, I think that's a pretty empty threat. Sure, maybe it won't be there forever-forever, but I have this feeling that if CC said he needed a few weeks to consult whatever God he believes in, Hal wouldn't pull the thing off the table.

UPDATE (11/21/08, 10:25am): Buster's in agreement, too, almost verbatim (Insider access required, sorry):
Put it this way: If the Yankees pulled their offer to Sabathia on Dec. 10, and on Dec. 13, Sabathia's agents called and told them he wanted their $140 million offer, do you think the Yankees would say No, sorry, our deadline has passed? No, of course not.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All Hail Hal

Ladies and gents, we have a new sherriff:

Major League Baseball owners approved the shift of control of the New York Yankees from George Steinbrenner to his son, Hal, on Thursday.

I believe this should be taken as a positive for fans of the team.

What this means for Hank, I have NO idea. Will he slink off into the background? Drift into the ether? Keep acting as a petulant brat with the big mouth?

I dunno but stay tuned!

Stark's (Yankee) Rumblings

From Jayson Stark, first about Sabathia (who really sounds like he doesn't want to be in NY):

We've heard the arguments that Sabathia's contract is too important to his fellow players for him to turn down the most dollars. And it's hard to imagine that the Dodgers will attempt to beat the Yankees' total dollars. But one longtime friend of CC told Rumblings this week that if the dollars he's offered in California are "anywhere close [to the money in New York], he'll go there."

Another veteran baseball executive asked this question: "
Let's say he takes less money than he'd get in New York, but he still signs the richest pitching contract of the winter. Wouldn't he be able to sell that [to the union]?"

Our suspicion is: As long as he beats the average annual value of
Johan Santana's deal (just under $23 million), he would.

And this tidbit about Hughes, from a review of the Arizona Fall League:
Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes (1-0, 3.60 ERA, 28 K's, 25 IP): "Saw him two games, and he cruised. He dominated, and he should. His curveball was very sharp. All those people who think he's lost his luster -- no way. Hell, he'd be our No. 2 starter right now."

Maple bats and minus 3.5

Among many of the esoteric and rarely known/discussed rules includes the rule that the specifications for a bat's length and weight must not exceed -3.5. Adding to the list of things for which I am clueless, this rule is one of them.

"We've been told that they probably won't ban maple, that they will come up with some recommendations for changing what we do now," said [Brian] Hillerich, professional bat production manager for [Hillerich & Bradsby, which makes the Louisville Slugger], which has a 60% share of the MLB market.

One of the remedies to reduce the number of broken bats is to change the difference between the length and weight of a bat. According to MLB rules, bats can be no more than minus-3.5, which means the difference between the length in inches and weight in ounces cannot be greater than 3.5.

"A 34-inch, 30.5-ounce bat is waiting to be broken in half," Hillerich said.

I have no idea whether what Hillerich says is indeed true, but I'm in favor of any change that will help prevent the epidemic of exploding bats.

Thanks Moose!

Moose is calling it a career.

The biggest question around the blogosphere and MSM today is "Is Moose a Hall Of Famer?" Personally, I have wavered on this. Was he ever THAT guy, the truly dominant pitcher of his era? Well, maybe back in his Baltimore days and maybe a bit in his earlier Yankee days, but generally speaking, no he wasn't.

But what really got me leaning towards answering that question with a "yes" was the fact that he spent his entire career in the AL East through what will go down in baseball history as "The Steriod Era".

The knocks on him include:

  • Only one 20-win season
  • No Cy Young awards (though he finished 2nd in 1999)
  • No gaudy strike out numbers/ratios (roughly 7 K/9 IP over his career)
  • No defining post-season moment (his bullpen/teams let him down more than a few times)
  • Never thought of as a true #1 ace of his era
  • 7 Gold Gloves
  • .638 winning %
  • 117 wins over .500
  • ERA+ of 123 [ERA+ - the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher. > 100 is above average and <>]
  • Career 3.68 ERA in the AL East during "The Steroid Era"
  • Entire career in the 5-man rotation era
  • Top 6 in Cy Young voting 9 times

Now, using B-R's wonderful HOF standards "tests":

  • Black Ink: Pitching - 15 (141) (Average HOFer ≈ 40)
  • Gray Ink: Pitching - 244 (23) (Average HOFer ≈ 185)
  • HOF Standards: Pitching - 54.0 (28) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
  • HOF Monitor: Pitching - 121.0 (67) (Likely HOFer > 100)
  • Overall Rank in parentheses

The "black ink" test has Moose well below the average HOF'er. What's that mean? "The essential point is to measure how often a player led the league in a variety of "important" stats. This method penalizes more recent players as they have 14-16 teams per league, while the older players had just 8. To get a point you must lead the league in that category." I think this speak to the fact that Moose was rarely a league leader in many of the most focused-upon stats. Fair or unfair, that's what many writers hone in on in determining HOF or not.

The balance of the tests all firmly point Moose to Cooperstown. The "gray ink" test is similar to the "black ink" test but it uses Top 10 rankings rather than leading the league in a particular category. The HOF standards test and HOF Monitor test are all points-based given several different areas of achievement. And all three of these tests indicate that Moose is HOF-worthy.

Lastly, B-R also has a list of comparables
. This is tricky and the group seems to highlight the fact that Moose appears to be straddling the line of HOF/not-HOF.

So of the Top 10 players that B-R deems as most "comparable" to Moose, half made the HOF while half have not (noting also that Wells, Schilling and Pettitte are obviously not yet under consideration). If you make the leap that Schilling will eventually make the HOF, that tips the comparables scale in Moose's favor, for whatever that tidbit is worth. [Did you know Jim Palmer had a nearly identical W/L record as Moose? Palmer was 268-152 while Moose is 270-153. Neat.]

To conclude, I think Moose will eventually be elected to the HOF. I don't think he'd be in on the first ballot, unless, it happens to be a weak class. Given that Maddox may join him, along with some others, he might have to wait a bit.

Last week, I posted something about Jack Morris and his HOF chances. I viewed him as a borderline HOF, but ultimately not a HOF'er. I think Morris' career is enhanced through the lens of one magnificent post-season, namely the game against Smoltz. I differentiate Morris and Moose by the era in which they pitched. That's not insignificant, to me.

Then there is the Bert Blyleven case. In short, Blyleven was a product of the 4 man rotation. I don't view him as a good comparable to Moose.

Lastly, I am open to discussing Moose's HOF chances. I want to hear the arguments pro/con. I keep an open mind to these things. What say you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I love me some tongue-and-cheek humor

The epitome of tongue-and-cheek humor, Yanks style:

Things were so much better when Scott Brosius was around. That's a third-base plan. Third basemen who put up on-base percentages of .307 and .299 in consecutive years just don't grow on trees. Factor in his twice-monthly barehand pickups and some timely postseason hits and he goes from prized commodity to once-in-a-lifetime talent. Even at age 42, he would be a great fit for this team in 2009. Bring him back. The Yankees haven't won a World Series since Brosius retired after 2001, and they've made only one in that span. That's just too much to be a coincidence. It has nothing -- nothing -- to do with bad luck or a lack of pitching.
Sad part: ARod's still judged only on his post-season (and how it stacks up to Scotty B, fair or not). No matter if he carries the team TO the playoffs, he's expected to WIN it for them.

I wouldn't mind his checkbook, but that's an awful amount of pressure. Especially when wrapped up in Madonna's sinewy arms and old-looking man-hands. Plus having to be reminded about Jeter's 4 rings and "never do wrong" legacy.

600 lbs of pitchers?

Was checking in on the chat at MLBTradeRumors today and someone asked about the Yanks making a 1 year offer to Bartolo Colon.

Q: are the yank looking at bartolo colon
A: I havent heard that but it would make sense. Colon could be a solid signing at the right price.
Holy fat pants, Batman. Can you imagine those two in the same rotation? Can we come up with some new stats to impress the Bill James crowd, please?

Of course, Baseball-Reference has them each listed at, ahem, 250 lbs each. If they are each 250 lbs, then I'm the size of your average 5th grader. Bartolo hasn't seen the scale stop at 250 in at least a dozen years, easy.

Who would your Ultimate Fatboy Rotation consist of*? Have at it.

Some suggestions to get you started (additions as noted):

* Here is a good list of the best seasons by heavy pitchers. I don't care much for performance; I want guys who would scare a Chinese Buffet owner into closing early.

Broken record alert

Peavy to the Braves. Nope. Wait, maybe.
Peavy to the Cubs. Nope. Wait, maybe.
Peavy to the Yanks. Nope. Wait, maybe.

You get the picture.

So what will it take? Honestly, I have no idea and even less of an idea after reading this (emphasis mine):

The Yankees' farm system is strong enough to match up with the Padres if the teams revive their discussions on right-hander Jake Peavy. The Padres, according to one major-league source, told the Yankees that a deal would be possible even if the Yankees declined to offer right-hander Phil Hughes.

The Padres scouted Hughes in a recent Arizona Fall League game, but the Yankees have zero intention of trading him ...
If they don't want Cano and will do a deal without Hughes, who are they after? Brackman? Austin Jackson? Betances? I'm curious to know what the roadblock is, from the Yanks side, if Hughes is off the table. Where's the tipping point? Who's holding it up?

Meh, I give up. Just email me when something's done.

Yanks, Sox to wage war for Burnett?

Here we go again.

According to an industry source, Boston plans to be a major player for A.J. Burnett, one of the pitchers the Yankees are targeting along with CC Sabathia to bolster their starting rotation. Derek Lowe, another arm coveted by the Bombers, is also on Boston's radar.
I honestly can't see the Sox going all out for Burnett. Not with what it will likely take to get him, both in terms of years (at least 4, likely 5) and dollars (at a minimum $13.5m per, greater than the $13m that Dempster just got over 4 years). Boston seems to value flexibility more than the Yanks do, probably because their pockets, while miles deep, do have a bottom. I can see Lowe returning to the Sox, though.

Call me crazy, but this reeks of an awful déjà vu: The battle the Yanks and Sox had over both Jose Contreras (which brought the "Evil Empire" moniker to the Bronx) and Carl Pavano. Remember, it was just 4 years ago when the Yanks were giddy to sign Pavano after a long tug-of-war with Boston. Remember, too, the good feelings each side had back then:
"Since I was seven years old, I always dreamed of playing for the Yankees, so this is a dream come true," said Pavano, a native of Southington, Connecticut -- about two hours from Yankee Stadium.

"My heart was always with this team,"
Pavano added. "I felt this was my best situation, not only having my family here but the winning tradition. Who doesn't want to play for the Yankees?"
I feel sick. Just re-reading those quotes by Pavano, four years and $40 million later, rings so awfully hollow, so fake.

I'm not calling Burnett "Pavano II", but the battle between the Yanks and the Sox, if true, always leaves me feeling queasy. There's nothing about Burnett that would seem to indicate that he'd take less to go to any particular team. This guy did opt out of his BlueJays contract to seek a bigger, longer term deal. He still hasn't accepted the Jays extension offer, which is for 4 years and $54 million. Burnett has proven his ability to handle the AL East, something Pavano never did. That's a good thing. Except that I have that "even if we win, we lose" feeling.

I still can't see the Sox extending Burnett to five years when they can have Lowe for three.

Remember: Check your work

As I tell my kids when I review their homework: Always check your work before handing it in. Note to BBWAA voters: DO THE SAME!

Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News clearly didn't check his work and completely left AL MVP Dustin Pedroia off his ballot. To his credit, he fessed up, but it still doesn't make it OK:

Did I perhaps get too "cute" at the bottom of the ballot? Yeah, probably. Was that a mistake? Yeah, probably. Was it a mistake to leave him out of the top five; in retrospect, yeah, it was. My colleagues all thought he belonged in the top five. My opinion on this one was obviously wrong. What I'm happiest about is that if my analysis was so wrong, at least it did not cost Pedroia the MVP award. I can assure you I give the MVP vote an awful lot of time. In this case, perhaps I gave it too much time and overanalyzed, particularly at the bottom of the ballot. In retrospect, it's hard to argue that Pedroia wasn't one of the 10 best players in the league.
Maybe he did check his work, but maybe he also needs someone to simply check his work before he handed it in. Someone who could say "Evan, don't you think you ought to consider Pedroia somewhere in your Top 10?" You know, like an editor. It's possible he couldn't see the forest thru the trees due to spending so much time "being cute". Still, inexcusable if you ask me. Which you didn't, but so what.

And this concludes my complaining about the BBWAA voting (until the next time they screw up).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A view from the reporter's chair

Ken Davidoff of offers us a pretty unique, frank and open view of what the challenges the beat writers face with regards to rumors and scuttlebutt. Pretty darn interesting.

Best parts of the read were the behind-the-scenes stories about Pettitte's signing with Houston in the Winter of 2003 and the whole Sheffield saga of that same off-season. And I still wish we let Sheff walk to get Vlad instead. Sheff's story was awesomely funny:

Here's the kicker: Because the Yankees didn't submit the paperwork for the deal - in the effort to deceive the Braves - it wasn't yet an official contract. And the moody Sheffield decided, in early December, that he was worth more. He started threatening to back out of the deal. Cashman, sensing opportunity, quickly hammered out a five-year agreement with free agent Vladimir Guerrero for about $65 million.

Sheff backed down, however - and the Braves didn't offer arbitration - and The Boss decided he wanted Sheffield over Guerrero.

Don't be THAT guy, Joe

Joe Pos asks the question: Should a grown man wear a sports jersey with your name on the back?

Answer: Never. Ever. Never.

(and Joe, I'd pay you for the Brewers jersey, if you first signed it then donated my "price" to the American Cancer Society!)

MVP Voting = crapfest

I contemplated a post about the MVP voting shenanigans and the craptastic logic spewed by the BBWAA, but then I read ShysterBall's "Albert Pujols: 'not an embarrassing selection'" and I concluded that I could add nothing more to a well-crafted rant. Trust me, go read it.

I wonder if Sheridan -- a Philly journalist, mind you -- is willing to go tell Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge that they had nothing to do with the NL East crown. A crown, by the way, that was won with only two more victories than the winner of the "watered-down farce" that was the wild card race.

An expensive station car

For those of you who don't rely on mass transit to get to the office, you might not be familar with the concept of a "station car". A station car is (usually) a second car that a family owns that is used almost exclusively to shuttle back and forth to the train/bus station. It's also not usually glamorous, dent-free, freshly washed, or from this decade*. The most basic and elemental form of transport.

* if this describes your everyday car, hold your head high and don't send me any nasty emails. Use that bucket of bolts to your advantage. Park really close to that BMW or Mercedes. Cut in front of that Range Rover who was waiting for that parking spot that you want. Merge signs to not concern you.

Living where I do, I sometimes see station cars that I'd easily swap for my car. Good for those folks doing that well, I guess. I generally see it as a foolish expense done to make a statement, but either maybe I'm more practical than my neighbors or they're making that much more than me.

Assuming for a moment that the Yanks "overbid" offer will win Sabathia's affections, the Yanks are looking to make a very expensive offer for a station car:

The Yankees, according to several industry insiders, spent yesterday preparing an offer - perhaps a five-year deal worth about $80 million - for Toronto righty A.J. Burnett. This would come after they offered Milwaukee lefty CC Sabathia a six-year contract worth between $140 million and $145 million.
"It wouldn't surprise me if they went to five years with [Burnett]," a baseball executive said of the Yankees. "[Ryan] Dempster is going to sign back with the Cubs for four years and $13 million per, and Burnett is worth more than that."
Coming off a career-high in victories, the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is easily the second-best pitcher on the free-agent market behind Sabathia, so $15 million to $16 million a season for four or five years isn't out of the question.
I can't wrap my feeble and fading brain around the concept of adding two pitchers for $220 million dollars. Not to mention, while I like Burnett and his stuff is certainly ace-worthy (at times), add me to the growing list of people who are really worried about his injury-riddled past. He has thrown 200+ innings three times in his career; twice during a contract year.

Having watched/followed many of Burnett's games this year, I noticed a trend: He's subject to that one bad inning. He can be absolutely cruising for 5 innings (with 7 K's, 2 hits) then give up 3 or 4 runs and not make it thru the 6th. Almost like Pettitte but with the high K rate. That K rate certainly is appealing, especially in the post-season, when a shut-down ace is needed.

Burnett has done very well against the AL East, particularly the Yanks. Over his career:

Versus NYY
  • 11 games
  • ERA: 2.43
  • 77.2 IP, avg 7 IP/start
  • 78 K's, over 1 K/IP
  • WHIP of 1.036
Versus BOS:
  • 8 games
  • ERA: 2.56
  • 56.1 IP, avg 7+ IP/start
  • 53 K's, nearly 1 K/IP
  • WHIP of 1.179 (including IBB)
Versus TB:
  • 16 games
  • ERA: 2.98
  • 117.2 IP, avg 7.1 IP/start
  • 123 K's, over 1 K/IP
  • WHIP of 1.062 (including IBB)

For a more recent view of his performances in against these three team, here are his 2008 splits:

Versus NYY:

  • 5 games
  • ERA: 1.64
  • 38.1 IP, avg 7.2 IP/start!
  • 43 K's, over 1.1 K/IP
  • WHIP of 1.064

Versus BOS:

  • 4 games
  • ERA: 2.60
  • 27.2 IP, avg 7 IP/start
  • 24 K's, nearly 1 K/IP
  • WHIP of 1.227

Versus TB:

  • 3 games
  • ERA: 3.15
  • 20.0 IP, avg 6.2 IP/start
  • 26 K's, over 1.3 K/IP (11.7 K/9IP)
  • WHIP of 1.400
If you want to check out his performance by ballpark, please check here. Of note, Burnett has pitched three games IN Fenway and boasts a 0.40 ERA with only 9 hits allowed over 22.2 IP. Pretty fancy. Also, not a bad indicator about his mentality and lack of fear pitching in big, bad Fenway.

In short, I like Burnett's bulldog approach, potentially dominating stuff and his physical size. I'm concerned extending him to five years. Maybe I'm gun-shy after the Pavano Experiment, but at least Burnett's trial-tested in the cauldron of the AL East. If I can get comfortable with the idea that Burnett will only pitch 27 starts a year rather than 33, I'll be happy with the signing, but I am not sure.

Either way, he's a nice station car.

Bullpen? check!

Pete Abraham was trying to figure out which free agents the Yanks would be after by position and when he came to the bullpen, he realized that the Yanks bullpen was largely complete:

Closer: Mariano Rivera.
Left-handed set-up: Damaso Marte, Phil Coke
Right-handed set-up: Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez
Promising young guys who are moving up: David Robertson, Mark Melancon
Injured guys who could have a role: Humberto Sanchez, Jon Albaladejo
Guys you get a sense could help if they didn’t send them back and fourth to Scranton 500 times: Chris Britton
Assorted long reliever candidates: Dan Giese, Alfredo Aceves
Guys they’re still holding a candle for: J.B. Cox
Minor-league starters who could be good major-league relievers: Chase Wright, Alan Horne, Eric Hacker
Prospects below AAA who could make a move in 2009: Kevin Whelan, Anthony Claggett, Zach Kroenke
What I like about this is that Pete gives us some names that aren't exactly familar to all of us, namely the prospects and minor league starters who might become useful. Personally, I am excited to see what Mark Melancon can do. He's been discussed/mentioned as a possible heir apparent to Mo in a few years.

Also, as a sneak preview, I have an interview coming up with one of the minor leaguers mentioned here. Hopefully will have something to share within a week or so. Stay tuned!

The Lou Piniella Classic

Looks like the Cubbies have been invited to help christen TNYS with a pair of exhibition games April 3rd and 4th 2009.

The Cubs will be visiting the Bronx for the first time since a three-game Interleague series across 161st Street in 2005. The two clubs also met in the the 1932 and 1938 World Series, with the Yankees sweeping both Fall Classics and the former becoming well known for Babe Ruth's alleged "called shot" off pitcher Charlie Root.
Themarksmith was kind enough to shoot me this link last night, but he asked the key question:
"It makes business sense, but wouldn't it be grander if it was Opening Day that was the first time people had seen the stadium and watched a game?"
Good question. But does it really matter? The pomp and circumstance will be saved for the true Opening Day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

And you thought the WBC created turmoil

And you thought that the World Baseball Classic created problems and havoc with the usage of MLBers.

Baseball made its pitch for reinstatement in the Olympics on Friday, one the seven sports fighting for two spots on the program for the 2016 Summer Games.

A team of six, led by International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller and featuring Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, spent an hour putting their case to an IOC panel.

So we have 8 or so years to figure out how to blame Bud for all the problems this will create. Of course, there may not be any surviving insurance companies to cover the MLBers wishing to play (against their owners' wishes).

Oh, and those pesky stringent drug testing rules:
"We're committed to bringing the best players ever to the Olympic baseball tournament," [Schiller] said. "We talked about our advances in drug testing. We have an agreement with the professional leagues in terms of out-of-competition testing for the events we sanction."

Thanks to Ron Rollins for the tip

Top 25 Under 29

Via The Baseball Analysts/Rich Lederer, here are Bill James' Top 25 players under the age of 29 (The rankings are based on "proven major league talents, not prospects or young players who are not yet proven as major league players.")

  1. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, age 24  
  2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins shortstop, age 24 
  3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants pitcher, age 24 
  4. David Wright, New York Mets third baseman, age 25 
  5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, age 24 
  6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, age 24 
  7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, age 23 
  8. Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, age 26 
  9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets shortstop, age 25
  10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles right fielder, age 24
  11. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals pitcher, age 24
  12. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman, age 23
  13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, age 24
  14. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies shortstop, age 23
  15. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners pitcher, age 22
  16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox pitcher, age 24
  17. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, age 22
  18. John Danks, Chicago White Sox pitcher, age 23
  19. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres first baseman, age 26
  20. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, age 24
  21. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop, age 25
  22. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher, age 24
  23. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, age 25
  24. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians center fielder, age 25
  25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman, age 24
Bill James is the Godfather of the Stats and I don't have a copy of the book to dig in further, but some of these surprised me. Grady at #24? Longoria at #17?!? And Joakim Soria way up at #11, ahead of Hamels, Felix, Lester?

Hank on Facebook

Seriously, this is brilliant. I'll post the picture below but either click on the picture to view full size or click on the link. Here's the link to the whole page.

(h/t to

If he said it, it must be true

Just ask LeBron, who seems to be channeling Hank (or looking to buy a piece of the team):

Asked before Cleveland's game against Utah on Saturday night if he thought the Yankees would win the Sabathia sweepstakes, James smiled and said, "We're gonna get him. Absolutely."

How not to become a MLB owner

Doing this does not endear you to the MLB ownership militia fraternity.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban of insider trading.
Of course, being young, mouthy, media-savvy, forward-thinking, etc., doesn't either.

Buster on Peavy, Yanks

If you believe Buster, and I happen to like most of his stuff --neutral site for World Series notwithstanding--, here's his take on Peavy and the Yanks:

The past conversations between the Padres and the Yankees about Jake Peavy never developed into anything that close to being serious, sources say, and it's highly unlikely the Padres and Yankees will ever get serious about a Peavy deal.

The Yankees are focused almost entirely on adding pitching through free agency, because they won't have to part with their prospects in a deal. CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett are the Yankees' targets, and not Peavy.

So, in practice, two things would have to happen before Peavy-to-the-Yankees became serious:
1. A whole bunch of other pursuits would have to end badly.
2. The price on Peavy would have to come down.

When I started floating the "trade for Peavy" idea mid-summer, it was without much due diligence. I have also been consistently saying that I won't believe the Yanks are out of any Peavy deal until the ink is on another team's paperwork, or the team reports to Spring Training without Peavy in pinstripes. Not that I can really perform "due diligence" from my desk, but I certainly have been able to give it a more in-depth look. What I posted recently:

Here's some data on Peavy's late inning stats and some others that piqued my curiosity (yes, selective stats):

  • Peavy faced only 69 batters in innings 7-9
  • With only 27 games started, Peavy averaged facing 2.56 batters after the 6th inning
  • Batters hit .290 against him later in games
  • Peavy faced only 38 batters after throwing his 105th pitch; Averaged 106 pitches per game in 2008 (103 PC/game for a career).
  • Peavy's away ERA in 2008 was 4.28; .258 Batting Average Against (BAA)
  • Peavy's home ERA in 2008 was 1.75; .205 BAA
  • Peavy's almost a neutral GB/FB pitcher, with a 1.11 GB:FB ratio in 2008, in line with career numbers. The bigger Petco keeps the flyballs within the fences for long outs.
  • K-rate of 8.60 lowest since 2003, down from 9.67 in 2007. As a result, his K/BB rate of 2.81 was also a low since 2003 and down from 3.53 last year.

My thought on Peavy-to-the-Yanks remains this: If the Yanks can dictate their price (ie: not Hughes), then go for it. But to get into a Santana-like trade+big contract scenario is not a smart move. The team has the obnoxious cash to throw around and can do so without dumping the prospects. I'd like to believe that Cashman will try to do just that.

A league of her own

My wife sent me this. I don't know if I am scared that she knew this before I did, or that she even cared enough to even send it my way. But nonetheless, a woman getting drafted to play in a pro mens league, in ANY SPORT, is newsworthy.

A 16-year-old schoolgirl with a mean knuckleball has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside the men in Japanese professional baseball.

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel.
Yoshida, 155 centimetres (five feet) tall and weighing 52 kilograms (114 pounds), says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

I am sure Neyer will love her!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Peavy Waiting Game

Whaddya know, this is starting to look like the scenario I have envisioned: The Padres, unable to find a suitable trade partner, will come back to the Yanks for a possible Peavy deal. Lo and behold:

A quick update on Jake Peavy. On Thursday, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune said it was clear that neither the Braves nor Cubs would be acquiring Peavy. The Braves are moving on, looking at A.J. Burnett, despite Buster Olney's suggestion that both sides need this deal. Krasovic wondered if Kevin Towers might approach the Yankees and Angels.

Ken Rosenthal reports Brian Cashman and Towers have been discussing a Peavy deal since the GM meetings earlier this month. Towers apparently wanted to engage NL clubs - a "strong preference" for Peavy - before touching base again with the Yankees again but talks have now officially recommenced.

This continues to be mentioned as it makes good news, and who knows, but it remains a longshot. Peavy would need to be given financial reason to waive his no-trade clause to play for a high-profile AL club on the east coast, and the Yankees would need to trade more prospects (despite already dealing five young pitchers away for Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady) rather than solve their rotation needs through free agent signings.

Sayonara Rasner

Shysterball sent me this last night. I know Rasner was never going to be a long term part of the Yanks rotation, but I would have liked to see him hang around a bit longer.

Right-handed pitcher Darrell Rasner, who started 20 games for the New York Yankees last season, has been sold to a team in Japan for $1 million, his agent said.

Rasner, 27, expects to sign a two-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Pacific League, agent Matt Sosnick said.

Sosnick said he and Rasner recently approached New York general manager Brian Cashman and told him that Rasner would like to pitch in Japan, and that Cashman and scout Hiroshi Abei helped facilitate the deal.
The rationale for asking for the trade: He simply has greater earning power in Japan than here. Can't say I disagree, though that's a tough call to make. But with a rare skill (pitching) that only has a (relative) few years of useful life, he's got to capitalize on it while he can. If he can go make $5-10million in Japan over 2-3 years, he will have provided a fair degree of security for his family. I wish him well.

MLBTradeRumors provided the zinger:
The cash from this deal would provide 0.7% of the money needed for the contract that has been offered to CC Sabathia.
From my interview with Rasner earlier this year:
IIATMS: What was it like stepping on the field as a major leaguer for the first time? At Yankee Stadium?
DR: Neither one was such a jolt that I forgot about my primary goal, which was to get guys out. The first game that I played as a big leaguer made all of the long, lousy bus rides in the minors worth while. Yankee Stadium has such a history that I know how amazing it is to be playing on the same field and for the same team as Ruth and Gehrig.