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Monthly Archives: November 2005

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Yankees Sign Matsui

As expected, the Bombers inked outfielder Hideki Matsui to a four-year deal, worth $52 million. It is a steep price to pay, but even if Matsui doesn’t give the Yankees great value on the field for the duration of the contract, his stature as Japan’s greatest star means big bucks for the team. Matsui was a relative bargain for the past three years and has been a solid, and exceedingly affable player.

The Yanks also excerised their option on Taynon Sturtze, who will make $1.5 million in 2006.


I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am to have the AL MVP race decided and behind us. In fact, I think I’m more pleased that I won’t have to hear about it any more than I am that the voters got the top two spots right. With that all said and done, the BBWAA will make its final award announcement this afternoon when they name an MVP for the National League.

Despite the cockamamie logic of some who think the trophy should be heading to Atlanta, this is a two-man race, and neither of those men is Andruw Jones. Observe:

Name AVG/OBP/SLG EQA (rank) VORP (rank) R HR RBI SB (%) POS Rate
Albert Pujols .330/.430/.609 .344 (2) 98.8 (2) 129 41 117 16 (89%) 1B 102
Derrek Lee .335/.418/.662 .347 (1) 106 (1) 120 46 107 15 (83%) 1B 109
Andruw Jones .263/.347/.575 .299 (26) 60.9 (11) 95 51 128 5 (63%) CF 102

It pains me to even include Jones in the above chart, but, having done so, I think it’s painfully obvious that he doesn’t belong.


Due Date

According to various reports, the Yankees are closing in on re-signing Hideki Matsui for a deal in the neighborhood of 4 years, $50 million:

“I don’t care much about the number of years,” Matsui told Kyodo News Sunday. “You might think the longer a deal runs, the better. But it’s not necessarily so because I can be given the same opportunity as I have now again if it runs over a relatively short period.”

By midnight tonight, Matsui will have his new deal.

In a minor note, relief pitcher Taynon Sturtze is due to become a free agent tomorrow if the Yankees don’t exercise his $1.5 million option today. Michael Morrissey reports in the Post that, “A team source said no final decision had been made, but the Yanks are leaning toward keeping him.”

Yer Great, but You Suck

As I happily reported the news that Alex Rodriguez had won the AL MVP to Yankee fans around the office yesterday, more than a few rolled their eyes and immediately made a disparaging remark about his performance against the Angels in the ALDS. Today, the back page of the Daily News reads, “More Bling (But No Ring)” while the Post screams “MVP But…Lack of rings rarnishes A-Rod’s second AL trophy.”

Rodriguez is the first Yankee to win an MVP since Don Mattingly nabbed it in 1985, and is the fourth player to win the award at two different positions. Jeez, I don’t recall there being so many qualifiers when Mattingly won. No, for this kind of contempt and lack of appreciation you’ve got to think back on how Darryl Strawberry, or Rickey Henderson or Dave Winfield were often treated in New York. Nothing they did was ever good enough. Give us a World Serious championship or You Stink. Wa-wa-wah. Sometimes New Yorkers are nothing but a bunch of big babies.

Forget about the fact the fact that Rodriguez has just recorded the two best seasons ever by a Yankee third baseman. Sir, he’s no Derek Jeter (nevermind that his regular season numbers against the Red Sox for the past two years are better than the captains, or the fact that Jeter’s two Gold Glove awards can be partly attributed to Rodriguez’s arrival at the hot corner). Rodriguez is a playoff bust. Nevermind the fact that he sported a .330 career playoff average going into the post-season this year. Forget the great series he had against the Twins in the ALDS in 2004. Let’s just recall how he did in the last four games against Boston in 2004, not the first three games. Let’s gloss over how poorly Matsui and Sheffield performed over that span. As a matter of fact, let’s forget everything Rodriguez has brought to New York but his failures.

When he won the award in 2003 it didn’t count because he played for a bad Rangers team, this year it doesn’t count because the Bombers didn’t win the World Serious. Mike Lupica, who has criticized the Yankees in recent years for being joyless, and Yankee fans for buying into Steinbrenner’s culture of entitlement, is just one of many local columnists who doesn’t appreciate what Rodriguez has done in New York. He focuses on what he hasn’t done. Man, Lupica kind of sounds like…a typical Yankee fan, doesn’t he?

Look, I’m not saying that Rodriguez is the most likable player in town. In fact, I understand why it is easy not to like him. I also think that there is some truth to the notion that he can tense-up in big situations. Not always, but sometimes. But man, if a player ever has to have a flaw, I’d rather it be because he’s trying too hard and not hard enough. Regardless, Rodriguez’s performance in big games isn’t as poor as Barry Bonds’ was for many years, or even Mike Schmidt’s for a few years there. In fact, you can check the record books and find any number of great players–including the likes of Mickey Mantle–who had horrible post seasons. The point is, the coverage Rodriguez has received has been grossly unfair. Moreover, it is sad when we can’t recognize a player’s accomplishments because we are so fixated on what they haven’t yet accomplished. Yeah, yeah, I know, it comes with the territory with Rodriguez. But does it have to come with the territory for us as fans too?

Oh Yeah!

I’m proud to report that Alex Rodriguez was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League this afternoon. In a close ballot, Rodriguez got 331 total points, to David Ortiz’s 307. This is Rodriguez’s second career MVP. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, had a terrific year, and deserved to win the hardware. This is the first time a Yankee has won the award since Don Mattingly earned it in 1985 (Steve Lombardi had five on it, don’tcha know).

Beauty or the Beast?

So after all the hot air and furious debate about who should win the AL MVP, the award will be announced on Monday at around 2:00. I’m not interested in rehashing the arguments now, but I am curious as to who you think will win it (not who should win but who will win)?

My money is on Ortiz, though I hope I’m wrong.

Who You Callin’ a Mook?

According the The Daily News, the Yankees may have interest in the right-handed relief pitcher, Kyle Farnsworth. Ugh. There are few players in the game I dislike more than Farnsworth, and it’s not because I’ve read that he’s a complete mook off-the-field. It’s because he can throw the ball 100 mph but in a crucial spot (like Game Four against the Astros this past off-season), he’ll start mincing around with his slider, his splitter, falling in love with them, when he could just blow guys away with the heater. (His breaking pitches are nice, but that’s not the point, the point is they are not his strength.) Farnsworth is Nuke Laloosh come to life but without the winning personality, the flake to make him somehow tolerable. He’s probably best served as the team’s defacto brawler should a fight every break out.

Now, if the Yankees signed both B.J. Ryan and Farnsworth, I won’t complain. But if Farnsworth is an alternative to Ryan, I’ll be moaning ’til the cows come home.

The Bombers are expected to sign Hideki Matsui by Tuesday. When all is said and done, expect Godzilla’s pockets to be fat, not flat.

Wishful Thinking

As former Yankee Javey Vazquez officially requested to be traded on Friday, it appears as if the Yankees are seriously interested in Brian Giles. Again, according to The Daily News:

There was a pause of sorts in the Yankees’ negotiations with left fielder Hideki Matsui yesterday as GM Brian Cashman spent most of the day flying back from the GM meetings in California. But before he left, Cashman made contact again with the agent for another outfielder, Brian Giles, who could be developing into a candidate to take over for Bernie Williams in center field.

Cashman and Joe Bick, Giles’ agent, spoke for at least the third time and Bick said the two “moved things ahead, talked about some comparable players, things of that nature.”

Bick would not be more specific, but he reiterated that Giles would like to play in New York, though Giles has a reputation as a West Coast kind of guy.

Over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, SG thinks that a Giles-Matsui-Sheff outfield would be hard to resist:

Giles has not played center field regularly since 2000, although he has seen spot duty there as recently as last year. If the Yankees are considering signing both Giles and Matsui, they’ll probably have the best hitting OF in baseball, although defense will continue to be a problem. While Giles is going to be 35, he is still a very good offensive player who should be reasonable risk on a 2 or 3 year deal. While I wish the Yankees would stop signing older players, if this is the alternative that does not involve trading away young prospects, it’s probably the smart way to proceed. Let’s hope Joe Kerrigan can teach every pitcher on the staff a 2 seam fastball.

Steve Lombardi has a slightly different take:

Giles can help the Yankees – but not as a full-time CF. After watching Bernie Williams out there for the last few seasons, and seeing catchable balls fall for hits and not seeing any hits turned into outs, I’m shocked that the Yankees would consider putting another non-centerfielder in the 8-slot for 2006.

But, maybe what the Yankees are thinking here is that they use Giles to play some CF in 2006 – maybe no more than 50 games, and the rest of the time he plays RF (with Sheffield being the DH). And, Bubba Crosby gets over 100+ games in CF as a starter (with Giles in RF and Sheffield as DH).

SG goes on to mention that the Yankees will likely overpay for Matsui but they don’t have much of a cherce.

Plan B, C, Etc.

While Brian Cashman’s dinner with Godzilla’s agent apparently went well last night, the team is still looking for a center fielder. According to The Daily News, the Bombers approached the White Sox about the possibility of acquiring Aaron Rowand in a trade only to find that there currently isn’t a match that fits. However, the Yanks still are interested in Brian Giles:

There is some skepticism within the organization about whether he’d be suited to handle playing center field every day, but the Yankees made contact with Giles’ agent, Joe Bick, during the period when free agents could talk money only with their former clubs and are expected to check back with Bick now that the exclusivity window has passed.

Privately, the Yankees believe Giles would prefer to remain on the West Coast, but Bick said his client has no geographic restrictions. “I know that’s been said, but I can tell you that Brian’s preference is to be in a situation where the team has a real chance to win,” Bick said in a telephone interview. “There’s no doubt, he likes the convenience of being on the West Coast, but he is going into this with a totally open mind.”

Giles may not exactly fit the Yankees need for a defensive upgrade, but man, if they could ink both Matsui and Giles, I will not riff. I maintain that he’d be a great Yankee.

NL Cy Young

As went the American League Cy Young Award, so shall go the National League Cy Young. Last year’s winner was clearly the best pitcher in the league, but won’t win the award due to an unsatisfactory win total:

Roger Clemens 13-8 185 1.87 221 1.01 6.43 0.47 7.88 2.64 80.6 53
Andy Pettitte 17-9 171 2.39 174 1.03 7.61 0.69 6.92 1.66 72.4 43
Chris Carpenter 21-5 213 2.83 151 1.05 7.60 0.67 7.93 1.90 68.4 46
Dontrelle Willis 22-10 170 2.63 153 1.13 8.11 0.42 6.47 2.09 68.1 50
Pedro Martinez 15-8 208 2.82 148 0.95 6.59 0.78 8.63 1.95 66.1 32

There are two reasons that Roger Clemens not winning this award will be less troubling than Johan Santana not winning in the AL. The first is that, while both pitchers took home the award in 2004, only Santana deserved it. Randy Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the National League in 2004, but, as we learned when discussing Santana’s case this year, his 16 wins simply weren’t enough. Instead the award went to the 18-4 Clemens, marking the second time this decade that Clemens had won a Cy Young award that should have gone to someone else (the other being the 2001 AL award, which Clemens won with a 20-3 record despite being clearly inferior to the 17-11 Mike Mussina). As a result, I won’t cry any tears over the fact that the Rocket won’t win his eighth Cy Young when he should only be winning his sixth.

What also makes Clemens not winning this award easier to take than Santana not winning in the AL is that the NL race is much tighter. Eliminating Clemens from the discussion, a solid case could be made for any of the remaining four pitchers on the chart above. Pettitte is second in ERA, ERA+ and VORP and leads in BB/9. Pedro Martinez leads in WHIP and K/9. Carpenter leads in strikeouts and is second to Pedro and Pettitte respectively in K/9 and BB/9. Willis leads in wins and HR/9 and is a surprisingly close second in RSAA, he also lead the majors with five shutouts and seven complete games.

Of course, wins are a team-dependent stat, and Willis’s HR/9 is a result of pitching in an extreme pitchers park. His RSAA is attractive, but he’s worst on this list in loses, Ks, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. Martinez, meanwhile, is worst in ERA+ (again due to pitching in a pitchers park), HR/9, VORP and RSAA.

Eliminating those two boils it down to Carpenter and Pettitte. Of the two, Pettitte has the better VORP, Carpenter the better RSAA. Their WHIPs, H/9, HR/9, and K/BB (4.17 and 4.18) are all nearly identical. Pettitte has a clear lead in ERA and ERA+, but Carpenter has the more attractive record and the even more eye-pleasing triple crown stats that all start with 2s (20 wins, 200 Ks, sub-3.00 ERA). Carpenter also tied Willis with 7 shutouts and finished one behind Dontrelle with four shutouts. The temptation is to favor Pettitte because he pitches his home games in an extreme hitters park, but shockingly the Juice Box played as a slight pitchers park this year (park factor of 98 to a 101 for Busch in its final season). With that in mind, it’s really a coin flip as to who the second best pitcher in the National League was this year. I’m fairly certain the writers will choose Carpenter. If so, I won’t complain.

Center of Attention

“Absolutely, staying with the Yankees is my first priority,” [Hideki] Matsui told Sankei Sports. “But I want to feel that the Yankees really need me. I want to be respected. If I feel the Yankees do not need me anymore, I am ready to [talk to another team].”
(Hartford Courant)

Brian Cashman met with Hideki Matsui’s agent, Arm Tellem last night (in an editorial today in the Times, Murray Chass explains why Tellem is such a shrewd operator). It is expected that Matsui will remain in New York, but he won’t be a bargain. While Joe Torre has acknowledged that Matsui is most comfortable in center field, it is unlikely that the Bombers will go that route. Well, how about Rafael Furcal? Say again? Well, according to Ken Rosenthal:

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman asked one of Furcal’s representatives if Furcal would be willing to play center. Furcal, 28, likely will rule nothing out at this early stage of free agency — he routinely shags fly balls with Braves teammate Andruw Jones and jokes about replacing him in center. He not only is athletic enough to play the position, but also could bat leadoff for the Yankees, forming a dynamic 1-2 combination with Derek Jeter.

Even if the Yankees aren’t completely serious — and when are they not? — the high demand for Furcal almost certainly will enable him to land a five-year contract and possibly a six-year deal.

That’s rich, huh? Meanwhile, Joe Torre tells Daily News Yankee writer Anthony McCarron, that he’s spoken with Bernie Williams:

The two old friends had played phone tag for about a week before finally talking yesterday and Joe Torre came away with the sense that Bernie Williams wanted to continue his career as a Yankee, though Williams knows that he’d be a sub rather than the team’s starting center fielder.

…”I think he’d like to stay. Nobody’s making commitments either way and he knows center field isn’t what I’ve had for 10years, where he’s been the first man on the field…. I sense that he wants to come back in a different role.”

In the same article, Torre also endorsed the idea of giving Andy Phillips an opportunity to be the second-string first baseman.

Cliff Notes

There are Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez rumors involving the Mets this morning, but not much in the way of our boys in the Bronx. One item that caught my eye though, concerns what the Yanks might do about a back-up first baseman. According to Sam Borden in The Daily News:

GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees are looking at Andy Phillips as the likely replacement for Martinez at first, since he provides a cheap, righthanded option to complement Jason Giambi.

“We’d like to see what (Phillips) can do,” Cashman said of the 28-year-old. “That’s our initial thought and we think he’d do very well if given the chance. We’re not locked into it, but it’s a direction we’re looking at.”

Can you dig it, Cliff? Next thing you know they’ll be giving Colter Bean a shot at middle relief. Say it ain’t so, my brother.

Posada on the Block? Unlikely. Yanks Part Ways with Tino

Tom Verducci has this from Palm Springs:

The New York Yankees declined the 2006 option on first baseman Tino Martinez, opting to pay a $250,000 buyout rather than bring him back at $3 million for 2006.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman denied that the club would use catcher Jorge Posada as their first baseman, with Jason Giambi filling the designated-hitter role full time.

According to baseball executives at the general managers meetings here, the Yankees have floated Posada’s name on the trade market. He does not have a no-trade provision. The Yankees, though, have no real expectations of moving Posada because of his hefty contract.

Second Fiddle

Bartolo Colon won the American League Cy Young Award this afternoon. Mariano Rivera placed second, Johan Santana came in third. While it may have been nice for Yankee fans to see Rivera win it, I do not think he deserved it, even as a kind of lifetime achievement award. As reader KJC put it, “Mo’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame — that’s his lifetime achievement award, not the ’05 Cy.”


AL Cy Young

The Baseball Writers Association of America is off to a solid start this awards season, having chosen Hudson Street and Ryan Howard, two deserving candidates, as the Rookie of the Year in the AL and NL respectively. Of course, one need look no further than the second place finishers to see that those selections are not necessarily evidence of sound objective analysis throughout the BBWAA. Today, the American League Cy Young Award will be announced. So, before our ink and paper friends give us something to complain about, let’s take a good look at the candidates.

Looking at the traditional “triple crown” statistics (wins, strikeouts, ERA), as many writers are sure to do, there is no clear favorite in the American League. The league’s only 20-game winner, Bartolo Colon (21-8) struck out just 157 and posted a less-than-exciting 3.48 ERA. ERA leader Kevin Millwood (2.86) actually posted a losing record (9-11) for the 93-69 Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, strikeout leader Johan Santana won a “mere” 16 games.

Santana’s win total is significant because no starting pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award in a non-strike year with fewer than 17 wins, and only Randy Johnson in 1999 and Pedro Martinez in 1997, both in the NL, ever won the award with as few as 17 wins. In those two cases, Martinez struck out more than 300 with an ERA below 2.00, while Johnson struck out 364 men, 126 more than Santana did this year (238), with an ERA almost a half-run better than Santana’s 2.87.

History aside, Santana, who won the award last year with a 20-6 record, was once again easily the best pitcher in the American League in 2005. Here’s a look at Santana and his five closest competitors:

Johan Santana 16-7 238 2.87 153 0.97 6.99 0.85 9.25 1.75 73.0 39
Bartolo Colon 21-8 157 3.48 120 1.16 8.69 1.05 6.35 1.74 51.1 17
Jon Garland 18-10 115 3.50 127 1.17 8.63 1.06 4.68 1.91 50.1 26
Mark Buehrle 16-8 149 3.63 143 1.18 9.13 0.76 5.67 1.52 54.2 36
Kevin Millwood 9-11 146 2.86 143 1.22 8.53 0.94 6.84 2.44 52.3 26
John Lackey 14-5 199 3.44 122 1.33 8.96 0.56 7.04 2.88 50.3 13


Rookies Of The Year

The Rookie of the Year Awards for both leagues will be announced today, so I thought I’d take a quick look at the candidates. Although there has been a lot of noise in comments about Robinson Cano winning the AL ROY, at best, Cano played well enough to insert himself in the discussion. Ultimately, there’s no argument for him to actually take the award home. You don’t even have to go beyond the three major rate stats to see why. Here’s Cano along with the other top offensive candidates in the American League:

Name Pos Team AVG/OBP/SLG
Robinson Cano 2B NY .297/.316/.458
Tadahito Iguchi 2B Chi .278/.355/.438
Jonny Gomes OF TB .282/.371/.534
Nick Swisher RF Oak .236/.322/.446
Dan Johnson 1B Oak .275/.355/.451
Chris Shelton 1B Det .299/.360/.510
Joe Mauer C Min .294/.372/.411

Gomes is the clear standout here, leading the pack in slugging and trailing Mauer by just one point of OBP. Of course, Gomes also had the fewest plate appearances of the seven players listed above, just 407, trailing the criminally ignored Chris Shelton’s 431 and Dan Johnson’s 434. But despite his limited opportunity to display it, Gomes’ bat was so much more potent than the other players on this list that he finished second to only Mauer (554 plate appearances) in VORP (36.9 to Mauer’s 40.9–Cano, for those wondering, finished at 27.5). Mauer also played excellent defense at a more challenging defensive position (Gomes actually spent half of his time at DH and was well below average in the field) and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts against Gomes’ 9 of 14. Still, 123 points of slugging are a lot to overcome, and I’m hesitant to penalize Gomes for the Devil Rays’ refusal to give him a job until mid-June. Thus, from this list, my vote would go to Jonny.

Of course we haven’t taken the pitchers into account yet. Here are the top five rookie hurlers in the AL with their ERAs and Runs Saved Against Average. I’ve also included Chien-Ming Wang, just for fun:


Bronx Boitday

The GM meetings start today in Palm Springs California, but the morning papers are almost completely without any baseball stories. (Shrug.) Ah, welcome to the winter. It’s too early still for trades and signings and the 2005 awards are just starting to trickle in (Steve Lombardi and David Pinto do have their paws on the latest Bill James Handbook though, and are finding it to be tons’o’fun.) One item of note around these parts is that today marks the start of Bronx Banter’s fourth year. My first post appeared on November 7, 2002. The subject: Bill James joining the Red Sox.

Hey Good Lookin

The day after the Yankees lost to the Angels in the ALDS, my friend Rich Lederer suggested that Brian Giles would look good in a Yankee uniform. I agreed (as do the fellas over at No Maas). According to Anthony McCarron in today’s Daily News:

Hideki Matsui remains the Yankees’ outfield priority, but GM Brian Cashman also has started looking into other outfield possibilities and recently called the representative for Brian Giles to express interest in the free agent.

“I’ve had a conversation with Brian (Cashman),” said Joe Bick, Giles’ agent. “He said they are assessing what they are going to do and, obviously, Brian is an attractive guy to them and they are interested in talking about him. We have nothing specifically set up, but I’m sure we’ll have another conversation.”

Giles in not young and wouldn’t figure to help improve the Yankees outfield defense significantly, but he’s a terrific hitter, and is the kind of all-out hustle player who would be embraced in New York, don’t you think?

Home Cookin’

Ron Guidry, the taut, electrifying left-hander who was my favorite pitcher as a kid, was named as the Yankees’ new pitching coach on Friday. Joe Kerrigan will man the bullpen and presumably show Gator the ropes (as well as care for Randy Johnson, who he coached in the minor leagues back in the 1980s). According to The Daily News:

“It’s not a secret that pitchers don’t throw a lot of complete games anymore,” Guidry said. “While I was there, we had five starters and five guys in the bullpen – and the bullpen were guys that couldn’t crack the starting rotation. … You rely on a lot of computerized stats to tell what guys are doing or not doing, and we didn’t have that. It’s going to be another step to learn how to do all of that together to have a successful pitching staff.”

Of course, Guidry might be able to help the Yanks’ bullpen in another way, too. He and free agent reliever B.J. Ryan both attended the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Yanks surely will use Guidry in their recruiting of Ryan.

I have no idea whether or not Guidry is well-suited for the job or if he’ll becine an effective coach. But he is a fan favorite in New York and was a terrific Yankee so he’ll be given the benefit of the doubt to start. Just wait until the first losing streak when Gator gets some of what Mel Stottlemyre put up with…but then again, there is no doubt that he’ll be ready for that.

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