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Monthly Archives: February 2004

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The Dynamic Duo

Again with Alan Schwarz? Yup. Schwarz reprints an interview he conducted with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter in the summer of 1997 over at Baseball America. It’s worth taking a peek at, if you like that sort of thing. And Chris Isidore, senior writer at for Money magazine, writes about why the Rodriguez deal is ultimately good for baseball.

Puff, Puff, Pass

Graig “Puff” Nettles, a wonderful defensive third baseman–who was also an effective offensive player–will be in Tampa to help Alex Rodriguez make a smooth transition to the hot corner. Meanwhile, Bernie Williams is saying all the right things about competing for the job in center field, and Gary Sheffield is mum on the Balco scandal. (The same can’t be said for Sheffield’s uncle, Dwight Gooden.)

Welcome Back

Greg Maddux returned to the Cubbies yesterday, and should win his 300th game this season for Chicago if he remains healthy. Alan Schwarz has a terrific piece on Maddux over at ESPN detailing the early scouting reports on the future Hall of Famer.

You Could Look It Up

Aaron Gleeman had a good piece yesterday about Paul DePodesta, the new general manager of the L.A. Dodgers. Actually, Gleeman’s column was a scathing critique of Bill Plaschke–a journalist for The Los Angeles Times–who wrote an uniformed and snide article about DePodesta the other day. The most valuable aspect of Gleeman’s article is a link he provided to an article Branch Rickey wrote for Life magazine in 1954 about baseaball statistics. Thank you, Mr. Gleeman.

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight

John Henry’s critical comments of the Yankees yesterday was like serving George Steinbrenner a meatball right over the fat part of the plate. What? Did you think that the Boss could resist this one? Come on, now. The Yankees’ principal owner issued the following statement:

“We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction,” Steinbrenner said. “Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes.”

As Bill Madden writes this morning:

Crazy as this might seem, Henry and fellow Red Sox honcho, team president Larry Lucchino, have managed to make Steinbrenner look almost like a sympathetic character in all this with their cries of foul and outrage over his snaring of A-Rod. How foolish did they look, lobbying Selig to block the A-Rod deal to the Yankees – especially after the commissioner had threatened to intercede in their behalf to keep their deal for A-Rod alive after Orza’s kiboshing of it?

In his statement yesterday, which concluded, “Baseball doesn’t have an answer for the Yankees,” it was as if an exasperated Henry was laying down the gauntlet and saying: “Okay, George, take your best shot!”

Or as Dan Shaughnessy opines:

Hang your heads, Sox fans. It’s a sad day in the Nation when George Steinbrenner sounds like the reasonable party.

Joel Sherman adds:

The only insanity, however, was Henry thinking he could go bluster for bluster with the king of the art form. By late afternoon, George Steinbrenner had issued a statement so biting and cunning in return that Joe Torre, face in hands, literally was caught between chuckle and grimace as the words were read to him by a reporter.

Bud Selig later spoke with both owners and told them to behave themselves like big boys. Joe Torre, a genuine grown up, was having himself a fine day in Florida. Still high off the Rodriguez trade, Torre has had several good conversations with his boss over the past couple of days and there is even a possibility that he will want to continue managing the Yankees after his contract runs out at the end of the season.

All in the Family

In “Annie Hall” Woody Allen quotes the old Groucho Marx line, “I would never want to belong to any kind of club that would have someone like me as a member.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Any self-respecting, self-loathing individual loves that line. The self-hater in me wishes I could say that about the All-Baseball team, which now has a new-look as well as some new writers (the writers aren’t new to blogging, just new to the fold here at All-Baseball): Jon Weisman (Dodger Thoughts), Bryan Smith (Wait Til Next Year), Peter White (Mariner Musings), and Rich Lederer (Rich’s Weekend Baseball BEAT). But I can’t. I do want to belong to this club, and I’m proud to be associated with such a crop of lively talent.

I know I mostly write about the Yankees, but I do like to cover other stories around the league sometimes as well. But instead of stressing out about not having the time to cover the Paul DePodesta story or the Greg Maddux signing, I suggest you go right to the Dodger and Cubs sources here at All-Baseball and let the experts take you through it.


Ken Rosenthal has an entertaining column up today in which he blasts…well, just about everybody. But he says his best for Alex Rodriguez. Bob Klapisch weighs in on the Rodriguez circus, and so does John Henry, owner of the Red Sox. Anyone got a tissue for Mr. Henry?

Opening Day at the Bronx Zoo

Let the mishegoss commence. With Alex Rodriguez being introduced as a Yankee in the Bronx yesterday, the storylines are predictably plentiful in the New York papers this morning. Joel Sherman is gearing up for an eventful season:

No one covering the Yankees this year will ache for storylines. That is for the poor suckers assigned regularly to the Mets.

…We have come to think Joe Torre could extinguish any fire; however, this team is so big now that we are not talking blazes in The Bronx Zoo, but infernos in the Amazon.

Jack Curry reports that Joe Torre may consider sticking around after his contract expires at the end of this year:

“It certainly is a possibility,” Torre said. “I’m not closing the door to anything. I’m just not ready to commit to that. That’s the only thing.”

Interestingly, Torre’s value as a soothing manager who succeeds under stress and duress in the Bronx has surely been strengthened by Rodriguez’s acquisition from the Texas Rangers. Teflon Torre, who was bruised by Steinbrenner’s public criticisms last year, looks sturdier.

The Yankee front office didn’t include Torre in the Rodriguez deal. The manager was informed of the trade last Friday night:

Torre was not annoyed by the snub and showed that being humble, at times, has helped him thrive. When a reporter related that Cashman had said Torre would make the lineup decisions, an incredulous Torre said: “It’s my decision? Well, he’s playing third.”

Naturally, the “Who’s on Third?” controversy was a hot topic too. And it will remain one for a long time. Yesterday, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggested that Rodriguez won’t play 160 games at third this season, but I’m not so sure. While moving Jeter may make the best baseball sense, I don’t think you can underestimate the human element here. It’s easy to say that Jeter simply needs to get over himself and relinquish his position, but as Jamey Newberg mentioned to me in an Instant Message this morning, playing shortstop is like being a quarterback. It’s a tough spot to walk away from. I think Jeter is smart enough to do what is right in the long run. It just may take some time.

Mike Vaccaro points out that it would behoove Jeter to move:

The burden of selflessness falls on Derek Jeter now. Soon enough, the cue cards will be shredded and life around the Yankees will go back to being strictly improv.
That’s when Jeter truly begins to earn his captain’s “C.”

Steven Goldman adds:

Everyone who swears fealty to Jeter at short is undoubtedly sincere, but the baseball season creates exigencies, moments where sentimentality and saving face comes second to winning. Jeter misses an inning or two, Alex Rodriguez slides over and makes a few good plays and voila, the truth will out. At least, this happens in principle. It doesn’t always happen on the Yankees, who sometimes — despite the franchise’s cutthroat rep — nurture players they like ahead of players who are good.

As has been written in this space many times, none of this should be construed to mean that Jeter is not an exceptionally valuable ballplayer. Even if he remains at shortstop, the singles that elude his glove are compensated for by the many singles that come off of his bat. A-Rod is no Ozzie Smith, so the difference between them may be small potatoes. Still, the best alignment should be arrived at through competition, rather than by fiat.

Until then, as the old Jellyfish song goes, the king is half-undressed. No longer the best shortstop in town, no more the biggest star — heck, Jeter plays in the same town as Mike Piazza, so for all we know, he might not even lead the league in SMATA (Stylish Man About Town Activities). What remains now is for the second-best shortstop to be the biggest man.

Still, so long as Joe Torre is the skipper, Jeter and Bernie Williams–who got some support from George Steinbrenner yesterday—will receive the benefit of the doubt. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is.

In addition to the events at the Stadium, it turns out that Alfonso Soriano is not really 26, but 28. The Yankees were informed of this last summer and the Rangers knew about it before the deal was done. According to Brian Cashman:

“Sori’s a good guy and it was something on his mind,” Cashman said. “He wanted us to know first, before it got out. It would’ve been updated in our media guide this year.

“We never would’ve known about it if he didn’t want to tell us. He told us when he was young, he did something stupid. A two-year difference in a 40-40-type player (homers and steals), you look at the numbers and it’s not that big of a deal.”

Gary Sheffield also made the papers this morning, in relation to the Balco affair, which has conveniently been bumped off the backpages in recent days.

Meanwhile, Greg Maddux has signed a three-year deal with the Cubs (!), and Mets fans are still smarting over watching the Yankees land Rodriguez. So is Mets pitcher, Al Leiter:

“I don’t think salt in the wound describes it enough. It’s more like rubbing salt, and then pouring hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol and rust in there at the same time.”


Hey Good Lookin’

I watched most of the Alex Rodriguez press conference from my desk at work. Torre, Jeter and Reggie Jackson were there. Rodriguez looked sharp and was predicatably smooth answering questions. He answered several of them in Spanish which I thought was cool. You know my daily subway commute takes me through Washington Heights. I tend to see more Red Sox hats than Yankee gear in that part of the world thanks to Manny and Pedro. I wonder if that will soon change.

Rodriguez tells Tom Verducci that moving to third is not going to be an issue:

“I look at it as a new challenge. I won two Gold Gloves and an MVP at shortstop. I thought I achieved just about everything personally at shortstop. Now it’s time to win. I’ve always thought of myself as a team player. Playing third base is the ultimate team move.”

Like I said, smooth. Then again, what is he going to say? That he’s the straw that stirs the drink and that Jeter only stirs bad? Oh, that’s a different era, excuse me.

Where does this leave Soriano? Early reports out of Texas have him moving from the infield out to center. Soriano could have great success hitting in Arlington, but both David Pinto and Lee Sinins are skeptical. In his ATM report today, Sinins writes:

It is no secret that I am not optimistic at all about Soriano’s chances of
long term success. I believe he’s already peaked and it will be downhill
from here. The Yankees are gambling that people like me, who have been
saying trade Soriano, he’s currently not as good as his hype and his peak
is going to be real short, are correct. The Rangers are gambling that
everyone calling Soriano one of the best young players in baseball are
going to be right.

Pinto agrees:

I think we’ve seen the two best years we’ll see from Soriano offensively. He’s had OBP the last two years of .332 and .338. That just doesn’t cut it, especially if he’s used as a leadoff man. Maybe Showalter can get him to lay off the outside pitch. But at some point, he’ll hit a HR off one and fall in love with it all over again. Pitchers realize this. There’s no reason to throw the man a strike to get him out.

It will be interesting to see if Sori’s best years were in the Bronx. What do you think?

Let’s Get This Party Started Right

Right On

Alex Rodriguez will be announced as the newest member of the Yankees today at a noon press conference in the Bronx. It is a sweet moment for Yankee fans, a glorious day for Washington Heights, and a sickening affair for Red Sox, and Mets fans. There are some baseball fans who are even more upset by the fact that Rodriguez–who is widely considered to be the second greatest shortstop in baseball history–will move positions and not Derek Jeter. But for now, like it or not, Jeter will remain the Yankees’ shortstop. (I don’t think sabermetricians necessarily hate Jeter personally–although some might, of course–they just hate the perception many fans and mainstream media types have of Jeter’s defense.) Jeter needs to stay healthy though. One trip to the DL and he could be the modern-day Wally Pipp.

Jeter and Torre will be in New York for the A Rod press conference today, while pitchers and catchers report to camp in Tampa. (Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams have already reported).

I’ll be back later this afternoon with more. The schmaltz should be pretty thick today. But before I forget, make a point to check out George Vecsey’s nice piece in The Times today on Lawrence Ritter, the baseball historian who passed away on Sunday in his Upper West Side apartment.

Yeah, You Get Props Over Here

Doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well

One of my favorite parts of following baseball is reading about baseball. I love the high-end analysis as well as the “hulluva-good-story” tabloid kind of writing. I find that I can learn things from both of them. It doesn’t always bother me to read lousy writing. Mainly, I like the regularity of it all. And the Internet keeps a baseball junkie more regular than your daily dose of Flax seed oil. In New York, we’re spoiled. There aren’t too many days in the year when the Yankees don’t make the any of the local or national papers.

And when a deal like this goes down, it’s like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. Sure, there is a lot of pedestrian writing out there, but there is also a lot of remarkable writing too. I think Tyler Kepner has done an admirable and thorough job for the Times. And witness Jay Jaffe’s expert break-down of the Rodriguez-Soriano trade. Jay kicks off the props parade by citing a prescient comment made by Joe Sheehan on BP Radio last a few weeks back. Sheehan said:

The willingness the Yankees have to assume contracts is such a huge advantage over just about every other team in baseball that any hole that develops, they can probably fill. It actually doesn’t matter. If George Steinbrenner decides he wants to go out and assume a contract, he can fill a hole, even if Jeter goes down, Soriano, Posada, the Lofton/Williams platoon in centerfield. I honestly think that we may be seeing a perpetual success machine… I now realize money simply isn’t going to be an object. With so many teams willing to give up contracts regardless of the talent they get back, the Yankees are in a great position.

Jaffe touches on each point of the trade with insight and wit. I especially like his tribute to ‘Lil Sori:

Though occasionally the most frustrating, Soriano was the most exciting, electric Yankee to watch over the past two years, and he may well go on to hit 500 home runs and steal 500 bases in the major leagues. Bless him if he does, because he’s a fantastic talent, and a good, likeable kid to boot. He deserves to go someplace where he’ll be appreciated for what he is rather than scrutinized and scorned for what he isn’t.

You know, I’ve been so punch-drunk by the thought of A Rod coming to town that I haven’t thought much about Soriano at all. I was focused on what we were getting, not who he were losing. But I’m sure it will hit me. I do like Soriano. I felt badly when Yankee fans turned on him so quickly last fall. He did have a brilliant Yankee career, and I hope he continues to get better. He’s more than a fighting chance hitting in Texas.

Jaffe placed ESPN’s coverage of the deal in the “Under More Irony” department:

The deal happened so quickly that the cottage industry of pundits who placed their round-the-clock reportage at the center of the affair were nowhere to be found this time around. Can a blockbuster deal happen without Peter Gammons telling us about it ten times a day? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

As a reader pointed out in the comments section of the previous article, Gammons was active reporting the story for ESPN Television over the weekend. (I didn’t see any of it.) But ESPN didn’t lead the industry with the scoop on this one. George King was the first one to it in The Post I believe, and John Heyman at Newsday took it from there. I was home this afternoon and caught several reports from Gammons on ESPN News, and it got me to thinking that for better or for worse, that’s what Gammons is now. He’s a TV personality, ESPN’s Baseball Top Correspondent. And he’s excellent at it. I find him comforting, and easy to watch. He’s aged just fine over the years.

The criticism directed at Gammons print work is legitimate, but to me, his sins are forgivable. I don’t need Gammons to be a great writer to enjoy him. So long as he’s going to be great on TV, it doesn’t really matter how sketchy his writing is. There are enough other good writers to concentrate on without it being too big a deal anyhow.

But here is Gammons’ latest piece for ESPN. It’s good stuff. While you are at The Sports Leader, check out Rob Neyer’s take too.

Gammons spoke on TV talking about how hard this must be to take for Mets fans. I haven’t talked to any of my Met fans friends yet except my cousin Gabe, and this is the kind of a deal that he just hates, so he’s probably not representative of the average Mets fan. Joel Sherman thinks it exposes the Mets has second-rate hacks. But not all Mets fans are sulking. Just ask my friend Steve Keane.

Can’t wait what Tim Marchman and Steven Goldman have to say. Goldman was dreaming about A Rod from jump this off-season. Speaking of which, Goldman has joined Baseball Prospectus and will write a weekly column “You Could Look it Up.” The first one is on the house. And so is an excellent Baseball Prospectus Roundtable on the A Rod Deal (The good people at BP are running a Spring Training Special). You could link it up.

A Robbed

When my grandfather died in the spring of 1994, my mother flew my brother, sister and me to Belgium for the funeral. We arrived on Good Friday and returned on Easter Sunday. The entire time we were there I was hyper-aware that I would remember much of what would happen during those couple of days, right down to the small, seemingly innocuous details. It was an emotionally-heightened experience, and my sense memory picked up and retained almost everything.

I had a similar, though far less upsetting, experience this past weekend. On Friday, Emily had an examination under anesthesia, and for the first time in our relationship, I was the only one at the hospital with her. Em’s mother now lives in Vermont, but has always been Emily’s primary advocate and caretaker; she has been there for all of her daughter’s medical experiences. Without discounting the comfort and support that Emily’s mom brings to the table, we thought it would be a good step for our relationship to go at this procedure by ourselves. Not just at the hospital but at home, as Em recovered. (I’m happy to say that things went as well as could be expected, Emily was great, and we both appreciate all of the notes of support that were sent our way.)

Yeah, I was a little spooked by the fact that Emily was going to be in the hospital on Friday the 13th, but to be honest, I’m far more superstitious when it comes to sports than I am in real life. (How about the fact that A Rod may wear the number 13 as a Yankee?)

Anyhow, the point is, this weekend was meaningful for Emily and me in a deeply personal way. But throw in what will soon be known in Boston as “The Valentine’s Day Massacre,” and by yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t shut up to Emily about how we’ll remember this weekend for the rest of our lives. We certainly won’t be alone.

(Sadly, yesterday was also memorable because Lawrence Ritter, author of one of the most important baseball books of all, “The Glory of Their Times,” passed away at his home in New York.)

Bud Selig is expected to approve the trade later today, and the Yankees are set to land the best player in the game not named Barry Bonds. This is what those in the business call Bofo, babe. It is as glamorous a trade as you’ll ever see. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s utterly one-sided. The Yankees didn’t trade Erick Almonte and a bag of balls for Rodriguez, they traded a 25-year old All-Star in Alfonso Soriano. The deal makes sense for both teams, but it’s not as if the Red Sox don’t stand a chance now. Yes, the story fits all nice and snug in the continuing saga of the rivalry, but just how many wins did the Yankees gain here? According to Bill James’ Win Shares system, a scant few. Maybe three. And hey, as Tony Massarotti correctly points out in The Boston Herald, the Yankees still need to go out and win on the field. Think there will be any pressure on them?

But as far as pure theater goes, this is a classic. (Just think how much sweeter it will be for Boston should they beat the Yankees now. At least they can remain comfortable with their “underdog” status a little while longer.) I think it’s safe to say that Aaron Boone will now get his own special chapter in Yankee-Red Sox history. Not only does he beat the Sox with a game-winning home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but his freak basketball injury this winter sets the stage for the Yankees to snag Rodriguez. This after the Red Sox were unable to swing a deal for A Rod earlier in the Hot Stove campaign. (Newsday is reporting today that Boston tried in vain in make a last-ditch effort over the weekend!)

One of the most stunning developments in the deal is just how financially reasonable it is for the Yankees. Tyler Kepner covers this angle thoroughly in The Times and Gordon Edes explains why the Red Sox valued finances more than acquiring Rodriguez in The Globe. The combination of the Yankees’ bankroll (not to mention good fortune) and another team’s desperation wins again. I think it’s important to note just when this trade happened–on the eve of spring training. The Yankees also swung big deals late in the winter for Chuck Knoblauch (February 6, 1998) and Roger Clemens (February 18, 1999) too.

Also this morning, Murray Chass writes about how the Yankees continue to show the Red Sox (and everybody else) how to win, while Jack Curry profiles the history of Rodriguez’s relationship with Yankee-captain, Derek Jeter.

Much of the early debate about the deal involves who should play shortstop. Yesterday I sided with those who think that moving Jeter and not Rodriguez to third was the right thing to do. But there were some good points made in the comments section of yesterday’s entry about the difficulties of playing third base.

As Tim Kurkjian noted in his latest column over at ESPN:

Third base requires power, a strong arm, great reflexes and tremendous courage. Former gold glover Doug Rader once said that playing third base “is like recovering a fumble.” Unlike shortstop, the ball is on you in an instant, there is no time to set your feet, sometimes the only play you have is to let the ball slam into your chest. It is an extremely difficult transition from shortstop: Rico Petrocelli and Jim Fregosi, among others, had a very hard time making the switch late in their careers. Cal Ripken made the move as seamlessly as one can, and we’re betting that Rodriguez in time will be a great defensive third baseman. But Ripken began his career as a third baseman. “I used to get hit in the (protective) cup all the time at third,” Ripken once said. “Then I moved to shortstop, and didn’t get hit there for 15 years. Then I moved back to third, and got hit again.”

Joel Sherman thinks that Rodriguez is a better fit at third too:

Jeter’s shortcoming at short is that he does not react well to the ball off the bat, which particularly limits going up the middle. Third base is even more of a reaction position and, therefore, would further exacerbate his deficiency, especially on those one-step and dive plays so intrinsic to the hot corner.

Will A-Rod have difficulties making the transition? Probably. But he possesses better tools to make the switch than Jeter. I believe Rodriguez can win a Gold Glove at third. I do not think that fathomable for Jeter.

“A-Rod may be a better third baseman than shortstop because he’s very reactionary,” an AL GM said. “What shocked me about him is how quickly he dives and gets up, and he has great hands, much better hands than Jeter.”

Sherman brings up Robin Yount when talking about Jeter’s future, and intimates that perhaps Rodriguez will eventually play short anyhow:

One AL executive said yesterday he thinks Rodriguez is Machiavellian enough to accept these conditions now, believing he is an injury to Jeter away from Wally Pipp-ing Jeter out of a job. The executive said he would avoid that by simply moving Jeter to second. But, like with third, Jeter’s skills might not translate to second well either.

Jeter could end up moving because George Steinbrenner decides to move from nightlife to range to tweak him. And Jeter would hardly look magnanimous if a case could be made that the team would be better with A-Rod at short, especially since A-Rod already has accepted a switch. It is just I anticipate Jeter will ultimately take the Robin Yount route and switch to the outfield; do keep in mind Jeter is spectacular at tracking balls in the air.

Regardless of who you think should play where, one thing is for certain: Jeter and Rodriguez are an irresistable storyline. While there is much being made about the ugly personalities of the new Yankees like Lofton, Brown and Sheffield, nothing tops the focus that Rodriguez and Jeter will command. Talk about a soap opera. Grown men will follow these two around all season hoping for fireworks, a cat fight. When I attended the Winter Meetings last December I thought the whole affair felt like a seventh-grade dance, except there were no girls. Well, Jeter and Rodriguez aren’t just girls, they are Divas.

Of course there is a natural rivalry between the two players, but I think they are too smart to become Thurman vs. Reggie. I expect them to turn their competitiveness into a positive, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league. (Madison Avenue, you haven’t seen nothing yet.)

There will be a lot less heat on guys like Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi with Rodriguez here. (And what about the quiet man, Bernie Williams? Remember him, the senior member of the team? He could have a sleeper year.) Whether you believe that the new guys will destroy the fabric of the clubhouse or whether you think they’ll revitalize the team, you can bet this Yankee team will be covered more closely than any Yankee team since the Bronx Zoo Era. I haven’t even mentioned the attention Don Mattingly (and to a far lesser extent, Roy White) will get for joining the coaching staff. And what about the massive attention that Hideki Matsui gets from the Japanese media?

This Yankee team is more star-studed and chock-full-of-nuts than a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. (Fragile as Joe Torre’s position seems to be, he’s no Billy Martin. Torre’s calm is more needed than ever, and it’s unlikely that he’d make any situation worse: he’s no meshuggener.) As Kurkjian commented, there will be no rest for the New York Press corps in 2004:

Say goodbye to your wife and children, fellas, your lives are over. Although there’s nothing better than having something to write about every day, the 2004 Yankees will be relentless from today until the end of the World Series. What if the Yankees start slowly? Will Joe Torre be fired? What if Jeter makes a few errors, will they want A-Rod at shortstop? What if A-Rod struggles mightily at third base? What happens if the Yankees don’t win the World Series? Gary Sheffield? Kevin Brown? Kenny Lofton? How will the chemistry in the clubhouse, which was once the ultimate strength of the Yankees, be affected by all these new faces and dominant personalities? It is a fascinating story, one with no end. Check back in eight months to see who is still standing.

The mainstream media won’t be alone of course (As a side note, has anyone else noticed that Peter Gammons has not been part of the media coverage over the weekend? What gives there?). There has been a steady growth of new baseball blogs over the past two years, and I can only imagine that several more Yankee and Red Sox blogs will appear before now and Opening Day. Hopefully, we’ll have some great new additions. For starters, Jamey Newburg, Larry Mahnken and my man Cliff C wrote terrific articles on the trade yesterday (Aaron Gleeman and Ed Cossette weigh in with their two cents today). The 2004 Yankees are a writer’s wet dream. With each twist and turn, writers will be able to enjoy their own Gloria Swanson moments as they rush to their computers and say, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Why is it so hot?

According to the Associated Press, the Yankees and Rangers have agreed to terms on “the trade,” and the Player’s Association has given their blessing as well. Now, all that is left is for Bud Selig to sign off on the trade that will bring Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees. He is expected to do so either later today or tomorrow.

Apparently, Texas will pay $67 million of the remaining $179 million on A Rod’s contract. This is how the contract breaks down:

Texas will wind up paying $140 million for three seasons with Rodriguez. The Yankees will owe him $112 million for seven years.

Under the deal, the Yankees pay Rodriguez $15 million in each of the next three seasons, $16 million each in 2007 and 2008, $17 million in 2009 and $18 million in 2010, according to contract information obtained by the AP from player and management sources.

In each of the first four years, $1 million will be deferred without interest, to be paid in 2011.

Texas will pay $43 million of Rodriguez’s salary over the remaining seven years: $3 million in 2004, $6 million each in 2005 and 2006, $7 million in 2007, $8 million in 2009 and $6 million in 2010. In addition, the Rangers will pay the $24 million remaining in deferred money from the original contract, with the interest rate lowered from 3 percent to 2 percent.

All the deferred money owed by Texas — $36 million including salaries from 2001-03 — will be lumped with the original $10 million signing bonus, of which $4 million is still owed. The payout schedule will be pushed back to 2016-2025 from 2011-20.

This must be a a tough day in Boston. Just ask Red Sox pitcher, Derek Lowe:

“We had every opportunity to get him — a number of times — but we didn’t,” Lowe said. “And it’s even more upsetting to know that he was willing to switch positions and we could have kept Nomar too.

“Everything that I heard, I thought it was going to get done. I thought he was going to play for the Red Sox. All sides seemed to want that to happen. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

…”I’ll tell you what, this rivalry is at an all-time high,” he said. “I don’t hate the Yankees. And they don’t hate us. But when we step on the field against them, the passion we have to beat them is unlike anything else you can experience. Now it’s bumped up another notch.”

“But I’m sure they have the same respect for us and some of the changes we made. This rivalry is at an all-time high.”

I should note that both The Daily News and The New York Post ran graphics today comparing Jeter to Rodriguez, using advanced metrics like Range Factor and Zone Rating. The results are what the sabermetric community has known for a long time now: the two aren’t even close as defensive players. There has been a wide gap in the public perception of Jeter’s defense: many mainstream analysts and casual fans believe that Jeter is a good defensive shortstop, while sabermetricians and the more astute fan know that Jeter is a poor defender. There was no telling how long this gap in perception would continue, but now, A Rod’s arrival in the Bronx just may force the issue. If so, I think that is great.

Again, I think that many baseball fans will be like Rich Lederer, and feel cheated if Rodriguez is asked to move from his natural position at shortstop. Jeter, who is known as a team-player, will not look good if he is ultimately hurting his team. But is Joe Torre going to ask him to move? Or will Boss George do the dirty work himself? It is a sensitive issue, as big egos are involved here, but I think after a reasonable amount of time, Jeter will do what is best for the team. (I certainly hope he does.) Whether that is in spring training or even this year, I can’t say. But I do know that the first couple of ground balls that easily skip past Jeter into center field will be hard for Jeter apologists to defend. Forget the excuses, the Yankees now have a significantly better option on their roster. Jeter’s flaws will become more apparent then ever before. And come oh, the middle of April, they will be tabloid fodder.

If only every team could have such problems.

I Had the Strangest Dream Last Night

Oh, you think I could actually sleep? Fat chance, man. But when I woke up this morning and jumped on-line, there it was: Alex Rodriguez is going to play for the Yankees. Here is some of the media coverage this morning: John Heyman, who first broke this story, in Newsday;Mike Lupica and John Harper in The Daily News; Mike Vaccaro in The Post; Jack Curry and William Rhoden in The New York Times; T.R. Sullivan in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Gordon Edes and Bob Ryan in The Boston Globe; Ken Rosenthal in The Sporting News; and finally, Buster Olney at ESPN.com.

I spoke with Rich Lederer for close to two hours last night. I asked if this made him hate the Yankees more, and he said that it didn’t. What he did find upsetting as a baseball fan was the prospect of Rodriguez

Boomin’ System

Greed is Good

When I first heard the rumor today that Alex Rodriguez might be coming to New York for Alfonso Soriano and a package of players, I thought it was just that: a rumor. A doity, stinkin’ rumor. Yet another in a long line of A Rod rumors. Will Carroll e-mailed me about it and I spoke with him later in the day, but I still didn’t think it was much more than a nice fantasy. Now Newsday says the trade will happen and Tom Verducci concurs, saying that the trade isn’t yet official but the deal is done: Alfonso Soriano and a minor league pitcher to be named later for Rodriguez. There are still financial issues that need to be settled.

Part of me still doesn’t believe it. Couldn’t be. I feel numb.

Thank you, Aaron Boone. Thank you forever. Evidently, Rodriguez is willing to play third. While that is sure to cause some debate, as A Rod is clearly a better defensive shortstop than Jeter is, ultimately it is what you’d call a good problem if you are the Yankees. Now, if the Yankees can acquire a slick fielding second baseman, perhaps Jeter’s defensive flaws won’t be such an issue.

Man, talk about Boffo. How do you think Yankee-haters all over the world are feeling now? Ah, the hatred will reach a fever-pitch in 2004, but the Yankees will sell em out with regularity on the road.

When I first read about the story this morning Emily

Looking After My Bulldog

I won’t be available to post on Friday the 13th on the count of I’m going to spend most of the day at New York Hospital with Emily, who has an examination under anesthesia first thing in the a.m. Good thing I’m only superstitious about important things like baseball games. It’s not an operation, just an exploratory exam. Still, she’ll be knocked out something good. Those of you who have been reading the old Banter here for a minute know that Em had a major surgery last spring, which made nine since 1996. She originally suffered from Crohns; her current problems remain somewhat of a mystery, but they stem from complications that occured during her initial procedure if you can believe it.

Anyhow, Emily is a more than a trooper. She’s down right inspirational. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone as brave or willing to do the work she needs to do to get better. She may appear dainty, but let me tell you: the goil is tough. She’s a bulldog, for cryin’ out loud.

I’m sure everything will work out OK tomorrow. We’re hoping that the doctors will have some concrete answers this time round. We’ll be back in the Bronx for a chill weekend. I’m happily playing the role of caretaker

Cooperstown Confidential

Hot Stove Edition

By Bruce Markusen
February 12, 2004

Beantown Bunts
Theo Epstein has rightly received credit for completing two master strokes of pitching makeover with the acquisitions of Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, but he deserves just as much acclaim for the subtle moves heís made in fortifying Bostonís bench and platoon options. The recent signing of solid citizen Ellis Burks makes so much sense that thereís virtually no downside. Heís the perfect man to platoon at DH with David Ortiz; over the last three seasons, Burks has thumped left-handers to the tune of a .384 on-base percentage and a .564 slugging percentage, all coming in a decent sampling of 305 at-bats. And even though Burks has played only 28 games in the outfield over the past three years, he still might be able to spell Manny Ramirez in left from time to time. Letís face it, the more that Ramirez serves as a designated hitter, the better off the Red Sox will find themselves in cutting down the risk of injury and bonehead plays in the field

Hooray for Hollyrock

Peter Gammons is reporting that Paul DePodesta, Billy Beane’s right-hand man in Oakland, will be announced as the new general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend. How will this affect Beane in Oakland, let alone the Dodgers in La-La Land? Head on over to Elephants in Oakland and Dodger Thoughts for the lowdown.

I’ve Been Wanting to Do This to Ron Cey For Years

My friend Adam sent me the following link and called it “the greatest thing in the history of the Internet.”

Here is what you do:

Click the mouse to drop the penguin off his glacial ledge.

Click again to swing your bat.

Enjoy. Yeah, I ripped it. Hope you weren’t planning on getting any work done for a few hours.

More Madness

Excuse me if you’ve heard this one before, but George Steinbrenner is out of his bird. Bob Klapisch has a piece at ESPN today about the madness of King George. This is not new territory here, and we are bound to see much more of this kind of article during the coming season. Klapisch praises the calming influence of Joe Torre and Brian Cashman (can you imagine the headlines if and when Steinbrenner fires Torre?). Cashman’s buddy, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, doesn’t hate George either:

“What you have to remember is the Yankees don’t spend more than they make. There’s obviously a method to their madness. The real evil is spending what you can’t afford,” Beane said. “As much as the Yankees spend, they still only have a 25-man roster, so that creates opportunities for us. We can trade for a guy like Chris Hammond and have the Yankees pay a significant amount of his salary.

“It’s like a shark feeding on a swordfish carcass. You have to choose from the chunks of flesh that fall off.”

There will be a lot of fleshy third basemen available soon.

Back to the Lab

Rick Peterson is blinding the Mets with science. The former pitching coach of the Oakland A’s is known for his motto: “In God We Trust. All others must have data.” Peterson currently has some of the younger Mets pitchers strapped up with reflexive markers–which are connected to high-speed cameras and computers–to evaluate their pitching motions, at Dr. James Andrews’ American Sports Medicine Institute. Very interesting stuff, indeed. In case you missed it, here is Jonah Keri’s highly informative intereview with Peterson for Baseball Prospectus last year.

At the same time, deep in the heart of Florida, Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui—the Mets’ new double play duo—are working out for the first time together.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are talking with Scott Boras about signing first baseman Travis Lee to a minor league deal.

Six days until pitchers and catchers report for the Yankees; eight days for the Mets.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver