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Monthly Archives: January 2005

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Carlos Beltran was introduced at Shea Stadium yesterday morning. A few hours later, Randy Johnson made his debut in the Bronx. Johnson made the back cover of the Post and the News. Beltran and the Unit split the back page of Newsday, as well as the front page of the Times.

I’m Really Glad to Be Here…

When was the last time the Mets and Yankees held boffo press conferences on the same day? What I want to know is: Who will get the back pages of the News, Post and Newsday come tomorrow? Will they split? What? Any predictions? (I’m guessing that both will have a blurb on the front page of the Times.) Cliff Corcoran, recently back from bacation, offers his take on the Johnson deal:

Yes, Johnson is 41 years old, but he’s shown no sign of slowing down. Remember that Nolan Ryan, an inferior pitcher (just one 30+ RSAA season in his career) with a similar career path, posted a 138 ERA+ while striking out 203 men at age 44, and that Roger Clemens, who is more than a year older than Johnson, posted a 145 ERA+ while striking out 218 men this past season. And, yes, Johnson’s right knee conjures up memories of Andre Dawson as he’s had all the cartilage removed and has to receive lubricant injections before every start. But, frankly, that doesn’t really bother me. Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the NL last year pitching on that knee, which is on his plant leg, not his push leg. What’s more, Johnson doesn’t rely on his legs the way fellow aging fireballers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling do. Rather, he uses his height and long arms to sling-shot the ball to the plate using an upright delivery. Both Vazquez’s and Johnson’s contracts last through 2007 and I believe that, despite Johnson’s age and knee problems, it is not only possible, but actually likely that he will out-perform Javy Vazquez over those three seasons.

…The Yankees have sent the future packing in an attempt to guarantee themselves a championship in 2005 (in a broader sense, the Yankees traded Halsey, Navarro, Juan Rivera, Randy Choate and Nick Johnson and cash for Randy Johnson). And that’s how this trade must ultimately be judged. The addition of Johnson puts the Yankees closer to that elusive 27th World’s Championship than any other player in baseball would have (after all, Barry Bonds can’t pitch). Should Johnson deliver a championship to the Bronx by 2007, the trade must be seen as a success. Otherwise, barring the complete collapse of all three of the players they sent to Arizona, it must be seen as a costly failure, something that just might come to describe the Yankees as a whole before too long.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan isn’t thrilled about the moves the Yankees have made this off-season:

Vazquez makes $36 million over the next three years. The Yankees have spent an additional $7 million a year, plus a decent catching prospect, plus staff filler in Halsey, for what may or may not be an upgrade. Vazquez had a lousy second half, and bore too much blame for the Yankees’ inability to reach the World Series. A year ago, there’s no way anyone would have dealt him straight up for Randy Johnson. Is it possible that the two players have diverged in value that much in the course of one year?

No, it’s not. The Yankees have once again thrown a large amount of money at a situation without actually solving it. Signing Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright didn’t improve the rotation as much as it added payroll, and the additions the Yankees have made on the hitting side–Tony Womack and Tino Martinez–are an embarrassment. The Yankees have more than $100 million in new contracts this winter, pushed their 2005 payroll well over $200 million, and they still have Bernie Williams patrolling center field.

That last point is the salient one. The Yankees have been in need of a center fielder for at least three years. Williams, great in his day, has seen his defense decline past inadequacy. Worse still, he’s coming off his second straight season of an EqA in the .270s, not only driving his overall value down but making it less likely that he can be an asset as a DH.

Though they aren’t in exactly the same situation, I’m reminded of what Bill James wrote about the Bombers in the 1988 Baseball Abstract:

The New York Yankees are trapped on a treadmill. Although they have not won anything since 1981, the Yankees have the best winning percentage of any team during the decade, or should I turn that around: although they have the best winning percentage of any team during the eighties, the Yankees have not won anything since 1981. The are acutely aware of this, and so the winter of 1987-1988 was spent in frantic preparations to make the 1988 team season the season in which the great nucleus of this team is surrounded by a cast good enough to lift the Yankees…onto the championship rung. there is an irony in this, for it is exactly this philosophy that creates the treadmill from which the Yankees are so anxious to escape.

…The problem with the Yankees is that they never want to pay the real price of success. The real price of success in baseball is not the dollars that you come up with for a Jack Clark or a Dave Winfield or an Ed Whitson or a Goose Gossage. It is the patience to work with young players and help them develop. So long as the Yankees are unwilling to pay that price, don’t bet on them to win anything.

I don’t know that what James wrote is exactly true now, but in general, his point is right on. Eventually, this treadmill effect will burn the Yanks like it did in the eighties. That’s why some writers are understandably upset that the team didn’t sign Beltran. He would be keeping them young. It’s hard to believe that the Yankees will replace Bernie Williams with someone nearly as good or as young.


Carlos Beltran wanted to be a Yankee. According to multiple reports, his agent, Scott Boras approached the Bombers on Saturday evening and said Beltran would wear the pinstripes if they gave him a six-year, $100 million deal. The Yanks passed. The Astros offered Beltran more money, but they wouldn’t give him a full, no-trade clause. So he moved on to his third cherce, the New York Mets, who were the highest bidder, offering him a seven-year, $119 million contract. Nice work if you can get it.

The Yankees, who are often criticized for their spending habits, are sure to be knocked in some circles for letting Beltran get away. He would have made them younger and better at a key position. If they had not over-paid for Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, perhaps they would have been able to ink Beltran. (Come on, which deals do you like better: Pavano and Wright, or Matt Clement and Wade Miller?) Irregardless, it speaks to the reality that the team is likely stuck with Jason Giambi‘s contract…and Kevin Brown‘s too. Even if they are intent on dumping Brown, they will still have to eat most, if not all, of the money owed him.

So, Beltran now plays for the Metropolitans. I think they paid too much for him, but he makes them a better team. Now, if they have the chutzpah to go and get Carlos Delgado, they sure will have a promising team in 2005. However, Tim Marchman thinks the deal could come back to haunt the Mets:

It’s far too early to tell whether Beltran’s contract was a mistake, but there are some real reasons to think that it is.

Foremost among these is that Beltran has never been a truly great player. His hitting statistics are not those of a superstar, and put in the proper context, they’re less impressive than they seem. For most of his career Beltran played his home games in Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium at a time when it inflated offense more than any other park in the American League. (In 2002, for instance, it increased run scoring by 17% as compared to an average park.) Despite that, Beltran’s career on-base average is .353, and has never risen above .389. His career slugging average is .490, though he has slugged above .500 the last four years.

Adjusting for league and park effects, and weighting his last three seasons so that each is worth twice as much as the last, Beltran looks to be worth about 30 runs a season more than a league-average hitter. That’s a very good number, but it’s not superstar-level. The same method shows Bobby Abreu, whom few think of as a great hitter, as being worth 49 runs above average per season.

The Mets also signed Miguel Cairo as well as the Korean left-hander, Koo Dae-sung, who had been rumored to be going to the Bronx. The Yanks? They’ll have to settle for Randy Johnson, who is due to take a physical today. Cue the strings. The team also signed Ruben Ruben Sierra to a one-year deal to do the cha-cha, hit a couple of dingers and strike out a whole bunch.

You Talkin’ to Me?

Have you ever read something that you feel describes you to a tee? Yesterday, I read a couple of articles that resonated so strongly with me that I just had to share them with you. They are from the PBS website, from a show called, “Do You Speak American?” and are about how New Yorkers talk and relate to the world. Deborah Tannen, a socilolinguist, explains:

New Yorkers seem to think the best thing two people can do is talk. Silence is okay when youíre watching a movie (though it might be better punctuated by clever asides), or when youíre asleep (collecting dreams to tell when you awake), but when two or more people find themselves together, itís better to talk. Thatís how we show weíre being friendly. And thatís why we like to talk to strangers


The Yanks, not making money? Say it ain’t so. Richard Sandomir takes a look at the financial state of the Bronx Bombers today in the New York Times:

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has written about baseball finances and who consulted for the players’ union a decade ago, said the numbers might not add up for the Yankees.

“If you do a profit and loss, I don’t think there’s a plus at the bottom,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense for Steinbrenner.”

Zimbalist and other sports business experts said that beyond Steinbrenner’s craving for more World Series titles, his goal is to build the value of the team and the YES Network, in which the Yankees and the former owners of the Nets are majority owners. That goal prevails, even if it means operating at a short-term loss. Last May, the Goldman Sachs Group arranged lending worth $225 million to the Yankees to help finance losses, provide working capital and consolidate debt.

The experts saw the acquisitions of Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and other marquee names as a strategy to keep nearly four million fans jamming Yankee Stadium annually, to keep the team winning and to keep YES ratings high.

It may not be a coincidence that the addition of huge stars with enormous salaries has come since YES went on the air in 2002.

Meanwhile, the team is close to agreeing to a contract extension with Randy Johnson. Steven Goldman weighs in on the boffo deal in this week’s Pinstriped Bible:

Under most circumstances, it would be fair to say that the Yankees were acting rashly in dealing Javier Vazquez, a 28-year-old of proven quality of whom the worst can be said is that he had a few bad months. At the same time, whatever the cause of his four-month slump, physical, psychological or mechanical, the Yankees proved unequal to correcting it, and they obviously lack confidence in the pitcher’s ability to fix it himself. It makes sense, then, to acknowledge that someone else might have better luck diagnosing his problem and move him on.

…But there’s one exception to the rule, although trying to characterize it seems silly: you make an exception for gods. The official definition of pitching gods is like the judge’s definition of obscenity: you know it when you see it.

And speaking of boffo, the hottest topic in baseball right now is where Carlos Beltran will land. His agent says that five teams are in the hunt. Various reports say that the Cubs and Yanks are invovled–and there is a rumor that the Mets have already agreed to a deal with him. Yentas, start your kvetchin’. I’ve thought all along that Beltran will return to Houston, but who the hell knows. Think the Yanks will swoop down and nab him at the last moment, or what? And should they? What do you say?


Congrats to Boggsie and Ryno. Mets to make an offer to Carlito. And a fond farewell to Will Eisner, a true New Yorker as well as one of the great comic book artists of em all.

Randy Aprobados

So says the headline on the back cover of El Diario this morning. And it’s true, Bud Selig signed off on the Randy Johnson-Javier Vazquez deal yesterday. Players still need to take physicals and the Yanks now have until the end of the week to work out a contract extension with the Big Unit. From what I’ve been able to tell reading the papers, nobody expects anything to trip things up at this point.

Interestingly, it looks as if the Yankees are not aggresively pursuing Carlos Beltran. According to Murray Chass:

The Yankees will not sign Carlos Beltran, the most attractive, and expensive, position player on the free-agent market. But it’s not just that the Yankees will not be signing Beltran. The story would be that the Yankees will not even try to sign him.

That was the surprising signal from a baseball official over the weekend. The official, who is in a position to hear such things, heard last week that the Yankees did not plan to pursue Beltran.

“Someone told me the other day, if they get Johnson they wouldn’t go after Beltran,” the official, who refused to be named, said. “Even the Yankees have to have a limit.”

Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon, on the other hand, courted Beltran in Puerto Rico yesterday. Lee Jenkins reports:

Beltran has met with the Mets and the Yankees, but there are critical differences. George Steinbrenner played host to Beltran in Tampa, Fla., but Wilpon went to Puerto Rico and, along with Minaya, visited him on his home turf. Such a minor move could foreshadow a major one.

The Yanks not interested? Chass thinks it could be the story of the off-season. The Mets out-bidding The Boss? Say it ain’t so. My feeling is that Beltran will return to Houston, but never underestimate General Von Steingrabber…right? While I can understand the Yankees’ reluctance to sign a player to a six or seven year contract, the truth is, Beltran would make them younger, and better, at a key position. Dayn Perry writes:

Any number of teams can use a potent offensive center fielder, but the Yankees especially need him. Bernie Williams hasn’t been able to pass muster defensively for about three years now, and the Yanks badly need to shift him to DH. Beltran would be a mammoth defensive upgrade and add another quality bat to the lineup.

Larry Mahnken agrees:

Brian Cashman has said the Yankees aren’t necessarily going to go all-out to sign Beltran. Please think again, Cash, they need to go all-out for Beltran. They need to overpay him, if that’s what it takes. They need a young, good player at a key position, who plays good defense. They need Carlos Beltran. Give him $18 million if that’s what it takes, this is something that the team needs to do to win long-term.

Hey, at least this week won’t be boring. The newest member(s) of the Hall of Fame will be announced this afternoon. Other than Boggs, does anyone else get in? (I think that Ryno has a shot and hope that the Goose makes it but I ain’t holding my breath.)

Can I, Can I Start This?

Today, the proposed Randy Johnson trade will reach Bud Selig’s desk; tomorrow, the Hall of Fame class of 2005 will be announced. Up next for the Yanks: Carlos Beltran? (Meanwhile, out west, here’s a couple of items of interest.) You may click when ready.

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