"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2006

           Newer posts


The Yanks lost out on the Matsuzaka bidding as the Red Sox hope that they’ve landed another Pedro Martinez. However, the Bombers are this close to signing Mike Mussina to a two-year deal: reports from the Post and the News.

I would have loved to see Matsuzaka in pinstripes. Even though he’ll be pitching for Boston I still hope he does well in the majors. The Yankees did hold their own against Pedro, after all. When the Sox ink Matsuzaka he sure will make them a tougher team. That’ll give the Yankee-Sox rivalry more juice, which isn’t all bad.

Hey, Big Spender

According to all reports, the Red Sox have indeed posted the winning bid on one D. Matsusaka. How much they’ve spent is not official yet. I’ve read it could be anywhere between $38-$50 million.

According to Bill Madden, who loves to chide the Red Sox:

Once the number is confirmed with the official acceptance announcement tonight by Lions, it will be very interesting to hear commissioner Bud Selig’s response to his friend John Henry’s fiscal behavior in this matter. Imagine if this were the Yankees blowing open the market like this? (Sources say George Steinbrenner’s bid for Matsuzaka was around $30 million and somehow even The Boss won’t mind having lost this one considering what it would have cost him.)

In any case, Selig’s salary police are in for a rough winter. Regardless of how Boras’ negotiations with the Red Sox over Matsuzaka turn out, the first shot over the bow has been fired and starting with his other high-profile pitcher, Barry Zito, we can expect the dearth of quality starting pitching in baseball to create another wild spending spree. How quickly everyone will forget two years ago, when Carl Pavano, Matt Clement, Eric Milton and Russ Ortiz all cashed in on the coattails on the $7 million per year contract the Mets gave Kris Benson – and all proceeded to crap out.

Christina Kahrl believes that Matsusaka will be worth every penny.

Murray Chass thinks that this whole business says a lot about George Steinbrenner’s diminishing role as The Boss in the Bronx:

In the past, Steinbrenner would not have passed up an opportunity to comment caustically on what the Red Sox bid, especially with the evil empire label still in his mind. Those who have heard many of his comments can only shake our heads in sorrow and accept that an era has passed.

In Steinbrenner’s place, can we throw Lucchino’s comment back at him? Is there anything evil about what the Red Sox have done? Mind boggling perhaps, but not evil. Stunning perhaps, but not evil. Incredulous maybe, but not evil. Obscene, as an executive of another club said, but not evil.

What the Red Sox have done is forfeit their right to complain ever again about economic moves the Yankees make.

Meanwhile, Joel Sherman likes the moves the Yankees have made early on:

But the tough part comes now. It begins in earnest tonight with the official announcement that the Red Sox have the winning bid to negotiate exclusively with Daisuke Matsuzaka. In addition, the Yanks strongly believe Boston is pushing hard to sign J.D. Drew to bat behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

Thus, the Yanks could be witnessing their most bitter rival exerting its financial might with a quick 1-2, $100 million-plus statement. The Yanks’ bid on Matsuzaka was considerably lower and, privately, they feel Boston’s total outlay for the righty will be too high and could keep it from addressing other shortcomings. And – like many in the industry – the Yanks wonder if Drew, whose passion is often questioned, has the makeup for The Rivalry. Yankee GM Brian Cashman would only say, “My job is to try to attack our areas of need, period, and not worry about what is going on around us.”

Finally, on a minor note, Joe Girardi will return to the YES Broadcast booth next year.

Wright Away

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Yankees have traded Jaret Wright and cash to the O’s for relief pitcher Chris Britton:

Britton, a 23-year-old right-hander who was the Orioles’ eighth-round selection in the 2001 draft, was possibly the team’s second-best reliever as a rookie this past season behind closer Chris Ray . Britton was 0-2 with a 3.35 ERA and one save in 52 games.

However, team officials were concerned about Britton’s lack of command of a second pitch behind his fastball, and they also were worried about ongoing conditioning problems.

The Yanks have traded two veterans this week for young arms. This is what everyone has been asking for, right?

Exploring Their Options

The Yankees have to decide today if they will pick up Jaret Wright’s option for 2007. Given the state of the Yankees’ rotation at the moment (the old and injured, the young and unproven, and Chien-Ming Wang), it seems well worth the extra $3 million to keep Wright around as insurance (the buyout on his $7 million option is $4 million). But the latest rumor is that the Yankees will do with Wright what they did with Gary Sheffield, pick up his option then flip him for prospects.

The rumored destination for Wright has been Baltimore, where he’d be reunited with Leo Mazzone much like Sheffield was reunited with Jim Leyland in Detroit. I wasn’t aware that Baltimore had any prospects (other than Nick Markakis, and the Yanks ain’t gettin’ him), but this is Jaret Wright we’re talking about after all. Credit Brian Cashman for a fantastic strategy here. With Sheffield he turned a player they were likely going to let walk away for nothing into three impressive young arms. If they do deal Wright, they’ll either have taken his $4 million buyout off the books and gotten live bodies in return for the favor, or, if they wind up sending cash with Wright, will likely wind up turning an oft-injured 30-year-old pitcher with a bad contract who averaged just a hair more than five innings per start in the third best season of his career last year into some young talent for no more than the $4 million that as of the moment is essentially a sunk cost.

In other news, the deadline for eligible players to file for free agency was yesterday, which means those players who have filed are free to negotiate with all thirty teams starting today. The Yankees who have filed are Miguel Cairo, Octavio Dotel, Tanyon Sturtze, Ron Villone, Bernie Williams, and Craig Wilson, as well as Wright and Mike Mussina, who’s $17 million option the Yankees will likely buyout for $1.5 million by Wednesday’s deadline. In addition to that group, Nick Green and Sal Fasano both elected to become free agents after being outrighted to triple-A last month. The Yankees also have a long list of six-year minor league free agents. You can find that list on the side-bar under “players.” Among the players listed are Aaron Small, Terrence Long, Ramiro Mendoza, Kris Wilson, Jorge DePaula, Ben Davis, Russ Johnson, Felix Escalona, Jesus Colome and Frank Menechino. Bubba Crosby, who was also on that list, signed a one-year major league deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Several other sites have included Wil Nieves on that list as well, but as far as I can tell he’s still on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, and is thus ineligible for six-year minor league free agency.

Meanwhile, despite the rumors that circulated on Thursday that either the Rangers or Red Sox had come in with the top bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka, the actual results remain unannounced, as the Seibu Lions have until Tuesday to make their decision. (I feel like I should post that sentence on the sidebar until the decision is final.)

The Latest

According to Jon Heyman, Sheff is headed to the Motor City.

* * *

Cliff here with some quick takes on the three pitching prospects the Yankees have obtained from the Tigers (from my comments to the previous post):

Humberto Sanchez is a big Dominican righty who went to high school in the Bronx. He’ll be 24 in May and cracked AAA for the first time late in 2006. He pitched well there in nine starts, but was shut down in late July with tenderness in his pitching elbow (a reoccuring problem as he’s made no more than 23 starts in any single season). His track record doesn’t wow you, but he has high strikeout rates and seems to have brought the wildness he suffered in the low minors under control. Last year he allowed just four homers in 123 innings over 20 starts thanks to a Chien-Ming Wang-like mid-90s sinker. Bottom line: he’s young, gets his Ks, is reducing his walks, keeps the ball in the park and on the ground, and is almost ready for the show. Assuming he passes his physical, he should be inserted right into the fifth starter equasion with Darrell Rasner and Jeffrey Karstens.

Kevin Whelan, apart from being hilarious as Mr. Subliminal back in the day, is a high-strikeout, high-walk righty reliever who was drafted by the Tigers out of Texas A&M last year. He’ll be 23 in January and flat out smoked the Florida State League (high A) this year to the point that his high walk rate almost didn’t matter. Anthony Claggett is a very similar sort, but with fewer walks, but also fewer Ks and six months younger. He didn’t allow a home run in 59 1/3 innings in the Midwest League (A-ball) in 2006. Basically these two are both like some sort of mix between Kyle Farnsworth and J. Brent Cox, with Whelan being more of the former and Claggett more of the latter. I expect both to advance quickly as long as they’re able to make some small improvements on their control.

. . . And That’s The Word

Steve Swindal, Randy Levine, and Brian Cashman made a promotional appearance in Staten Island yesterday to announce the fact that the Yankees have bought their New York Penn League affiliate. As part of the deal, the Staten Island Yankees will host a Yankees Old Timers Game next summer and SI Yankees season ticket holders will have special access to both regular and postseason tickets in the Bronx. I’d be all over that if it weren’t for the fact that I just can’t get hyped over players in short season A-ball, no matter what their prospect status.

At any rate, the event gave reporters a chance to pepper the Yankee GM with questions, which is why you’ll read the same quotes from him in all of the papers this morning, or you could just cut to the chase and check out Peter Abraham’s handy summary.

Cashman didn’t say anything groundbreaking, though he did say that he considers Jason Giambi the team’s designated hitter and is in the market for a right-handed-hitting first baseman (the unspoken part of that being that Andy Phillips had his chance and blew it).

In the meantime, we can all continue to wear out the refresh buttons on our browsers waiting for news on Daisuke Matsuzaka or word of a Sheffield trade. Speaking of the latter, J.D. Drew just opted out of the remainder of his contract with the Dodgers, leaving L.A. with Andre Ethier as their best under-contract outfielder. Sheff tends to burn his bridges, but the Dodgers had a different manager, GM, and owner when he was last there. I’m not saying Sheffield is likely to head back to L.A., but the Dodgers could enter the discussion, further driving up his price. Which, of course, means we’ll have longer to wait before having any actual news on the Yankees’ most recent right-handed first baseman.

The next bit of news we’re likely to get will be the Yankees’ decision on Jaret Wright’s option, which must come no later than Sunday. Cashman didn’t tip his hand yesterday, but I’m in favor of the Yankees hanging on to Wright, largely because of the size of his buyout. Wright’s option is for $7 million, but the Yankees will have to pay $4 million of that to make him go away. That $4 million is a sunk cost, which means that keeping Wright really only costs the Yankees $3 million, which is a perfectly fair price for the sort of performance he turned in last year (27 starts, a roughly league-average ERA). Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen, Cory Lidle, Jason Johnson, Gil Meche, and Carlos Silva are just a few of the pitchers who earned similar, but larger amounts in 2006, none of whom posted a higher ERA+ than Wright.

If you rank the pitchers the Yankees have under contract for next year by career major league starts, the fourth name on the list–after Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Chien-Ming Wang–is Kyle Farnsworth. Rank them by major league starts in 2006 and the list is Johnson, Wang, then Jeffrey Karstens with six. And Johnson just had back surgery. Yes, Mike Mussina is likely to join that group shortly, and with Karstens, Darrell Rasner, Philip Hughes, Tyler Clippard, and, heck, even Sean Henn in the queue the Yankees have a handful of rookies who could outperform Wright in 2007. But for $3 million it seems silly not to hold on to a live arm that, if nothing else, could hold a spot for Johnson’s rehab or a few warm up starts for Hughes in Scranton during April and May, then bringing a useful bench player or reliever in a trade. Heck, if the Matsuzaka deal pans out, Cashman just might get more for Sheff and Wright than Pat Gillick did for Abreu and Lidle, despite the fact that Gillick was dealing better players with more leverage.

If Sheff Riffs and Nobody Cares Did he Really Riff?

So, you didn’t think Sheff was going to leave with quiet dignity or something silly like that, did you? Hey, he ain’t goin’ out like that.

One of the Greats

Rest in Peace, Johnny Sain.

Fine Young Men

Baseball America lists the Yankees top ten prospects. Thanks to Steve Lombardi for the link.

What’s Happening? Nada Much

It’s a slow news day in Yankeeland as we wait on all things Sheffield, Mussina and Matsuzaka.

In the meantime, I ain’t got nuthin’ for ya man, so here’s something dopey to chew on:
Pepe on Torre.

Oh, my bad, I almost forgot. In case anyone missed it, check out Brian Gunn’s fine recap of the World Serious over at THT.


I turned to Emily late last week and said, “I miss baseball.”

“Me too. Things feel so empty without it.”

I’m fortunate enough to have a woman in my life who not only tolerates my passsion with baseball but who thoroughly enjoys it herself. (Is it any wonder we’re getting hitched?) Em usually catches the first part of the game on the radio during her drive home; if I come home late, nine times out of ten, she’ll be sitting there on the couch with the game on, waiting for me. You know the old Weaver saying: “This ain’t football, we do this every day.” Baseball is a lifestyle.

But now there’s nothing, and we’re adjusting to our winter routine–cooking shows, channel surfing, Netflix. We actually watch a lot of movies in the winter, and find oursevles spending evenings watching no TV at all (perish the thought, I know). I have only a casual interest in hoops at this stage in my life and I find pro football boring (I did catch portions of the Colts, Patriots game last night, however, and around all the penalities and instant replay challenges, thought it was an exciting game). One the one hand, the break is okay. We get to catch up on other things in life. I sleep better at night when there is no game to replay over and over in my head. The other day, I thought, “Wow, there is a lack of neurotic tension in my life during the off-season.” That can’t be all bad, right? Still, that’s part of the emptiness.

How many days ’til pitchers and catchers again?

2006 Post Mortem: Outfielders

Now that Joe Torre has (in an absurd bit of media-fueled theater) been officially not fired, the Tigers and Kenny Rogers have done to the A’s (and in the latter case the Cardinals) what they did to the Yankees in the Division Series, and Yankee senior vice president of media relations Rick Cerrone has been fired as a low-impact mia culpa to Alex Rodriguez over Tom Verducci’s now infamous Sports Illustrated article, the Queens of Hearts and Chicken Littles have finally quieted to the point that we can look back at the 2006 New York Yankees without having to shout above the din. As I did last year, I’ll take a player-by-player look at the 2006 Yankees over the course of my next several posts, but before I do, let’s kick things off with a quick look at how the team performed as a whole:

The 2006 New York Yankees finished the season with the American League’s best record (97-65, a game better than the surging Twins) and tied with the eventual pennant-winning Tigers for the league’s best Pythagorean record (95-67, two games better than the Twins). The primary reason for this success was that the Yankees boasted the major league’s best offense. The Bronx Bombers led majors in runs scored (930 total, 5.74 per game) thanks to a balanced attack that saw them finish second in the American League in both home runs (to the defending champion White Sox), and stolen bases (to the Angels, whose 72 percent success rate paled next to the Bombers’ 80 percent), while drawing just one less walk than the second-best A’s (Boston lead the league). In a season in which the average American Leaguer hit just .275/.339/.437, the Yankees as a team posted a .285/.363/.461 line, their team on-base percentage of .363 outdistancing the Red Sox’s second-best mark by twelve points.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees finished second in the league (to the Tigers) in defensive efficiency, a huge turn around from last year’s tenth-place performance and one that surely had a great deal to do with their completely revamped (unintended though it might have been) outfield. Such an efficient defense also helps put into context the league average performance of their pitching staff (4.73 runs allowed per game and a 4.41 team ERA, which works out to a team ERA+ of 99). In front of an average defense (or worse yet, the iron-gloved 2005 Yankees), that lukewarm pitching performance just might have turned the blood cold. But with the everyday players contributing at an elite level on both sides of the ball, the Yankee pitching didn’t need to be better than average during the regular season. When the bats were cooled by the majors’ best pitching staff in October, however, the team’s shortcomings on the mound were thrown into sharp relief, resulting in a quick first-round exit at the hands of the eventual pennant-winning Tigers.

Still, the 2006 Yankees were a good team that avoided prolonged slumps (their longest losing streak was four games and their worst month was a .538 June) and only got better as the season progressed (first half-winning percentage: .581, August: .600, September .621). Of course, they were also the oldest and most expensive team in the major leagues, but bubbling up below the surface are a couple of young hurlers who could improve the team in their three trouble areas: age, price, and pitching. I’ll take a look at what the future could (and perhaps should) hold for the home nine in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s look back at the 2006 club. I’ll start today with the outfielders, as major injuries to the team’s starting corner outfielders and middle-of-the-order sluggers were central to the progression of the Yankees’ 2006 season.


Sunday Cookin

The Yankees picked up Gary Sheffield’s $13 million option today, according to MLB.com. It looks as if they’ll agree to a two-year deal with Mike Mussina sometime this week.

Oh, and here, check out the Top Ten Yankee Prospects over at Top Prospect Alert.com. The top five? Some kid names Hughes, followed by Jose Tabata (OF), Tyler Clippard (P), Joba Chamberlain (P) and Ian Kennedy (P).

Movin’ Right Along

Here’s the latest on Mike Mussina and Gary Sheffield. According to Joel Sherman in today’s Post:

The Yankees intend to sign Mike Mussina to a two-year contract and trade Gary Sheffield, sooner rather than later on both moves, to initiate an offseason plan in which they will emphasize upgrading their rotation, bullpen, catching and – if possible – farm system.

Bill Madden and Anthony McCarron add in the News:

The Yankees apparently won’t wait until tomorrow’s deadline to pick up the contract option on Sheffield. According to club sources, the Yanks were planning to trigger the option last night and begin entertaining trade offers from six teams, including the team that knocked them out of the playoffs – the American League champion Detroit Tigers.

In addition to the Tigers, the Astros, Indians, Rangers, Padres and Orioles all have inquired about the slugger, who played in only 39 games last season because of a wrist injury. The Cubs may have interest, too, according to a source.

Meanwhile, Ed Price reports that there may be some shady business in the D. Matsuzaka business.

Wrong is Wright

Tyler Kepner writes about Mike Mussina and Jaret Wright today in the Times:

Mussina, who turns 38 next month, has known that the Yankees will not pick up his $17 million option. But he wants to stay and the team wants him back. Arn Tellem, Mussina’s agent, said in an e-mail message that he has had positive talks with the Yankees, but he added that the sides had just started the process.

The Yankees would like to re-sign Mussina for two years, and they seem to understand it would take more than $10 million a year to sign him.

Wright would cost the Yanks $7 million next year but they can buy him out for $4 million.

Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera has some words of encouragement for Alex Rodriguez:

“They didn’t give the guy a break. New York, the town,” Rivera said of Alex Rodriguez. “He’s done a good job. If you ask me who has hit in the playoffs, I am going to say two or three guys. Alex is one guy, he is not the team. You can’t win with that on one guy. A team is 25 guys.”

…”It’s not up to me whether he is here or not or whether the Yankees want him here or not,” Rivera said. “He wanted to be a part of the team, part of a winning team. He’s done everything. He works so hard, it’s amazing.

“It’s not easy being himself sometimes,” Rivera said. “It’s tough on him.”
(Kristie Ackert, Daily News)

Hey, bro. It’s not easy being green. Such is life.

Don’t Hate the Playa (Hate the Award)

Derek Jeter haters have another reason to roll their eyes. The Yankee captain has won the Gold Glove award again. Congrats, DJ.

Post it

Let the Daisuke Matsuzaka Sweepstakes begin. According to Adam Rubin in The Daily News:

Before a crowd of 200 reporters in a ballroom at the Takanawa Prince Hotel, Seibu Lions president Hidekazu Ota confirmed the team’s intention to make Matsuzaka available via the posting system.

Once Matsuzaka is posted, major-league clubs will have four days to submit sealed bids. The Lions then have four days to accept the highest bid, which could reach $20 million – $7 million more than the Orix Blue Wave got in 2000 for posting Ichiro Suzuki. (Seibu is supposed to know only the amount, not the winning bidder.) Once the offer is accepted, the Lions will pocket that eight-figure payment, provided Matsuzaka and the major-league team come to terms on a contract within 30 days.

You’d have to think the Yankees will be involved.

Meanwhile, it’s official: Don Mattingly will replace Lee Maz as Joe Torre’s bench coach (triple A hitting coach Kevin Long will take over for Mattingly). This doesn’t necessarily mean that Mattingly will one day take over for Torre.

“You can’t just assume something will be given to you,” Mattingly said. “I need to earn everything I can get. And I don’t have to be in a hurry. I don’t need to put any kind of timetable on it, to put that kind of pressure on the situation. I need to learn.”

General manager Brian Cashman said he even made a point of telling Mattingly last week that this promotion doesn’t “guarantee” him the manager job – although obviously it’s a very encouraging sign.

“Brian made it pretty clear to me … he wasn’t guaranteeing anything for me,” he said. “He felt like I had the mind to be able to do more, to be able to manage someday, but obviously the New York Yankees is a huge job and there’s a lot that goes with it.

“Obviously,” he added, “this puts me in a better position because I get to do a lot more in the game and be involved in a lot of different areas that I couldn’t be before.”
(Jim Baumbach, Newsday)

Mattingly doesn’t strike me as the managerial type, but what do I know? I’ve said all along, ideally, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces Torre, you want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces Torre. But Mattingly is a Yankee legend so you never know.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

While Gary Sheffield appears to be the first order of Hot Stove business for the Yankees, Bernie Williams filed for free agency yesterday. You wonder if there is a place on the 2007 Yankees for the best center fielder in team history not named DiMaggio or Mantle. (Meanwhile, Jets running back Curtis Martin, another “soft superstar,” will likely never play another game.)

The bidding for D. Matsuzaka will begin shortly.

Steve Lombardi has a link to a Phillip Hughes website.

Finally, The Times has more on the latest health scare for George Steinbrenner.

What’s a Matter? You Ascared?

I’m not much for Halloween but I know some people who absolutely love it. An ex-girlfriend couldn’t wait for it to come around each year and she’d spend weeks preparing what she’d wear. To me, it’s like New Year’s Eve in that it is Amateur Night in NYC. But hey, I’m a snob, and to be truthful, Halloween has a lot of redeeming values that New Year’s Eve doesn’t, like all the great costumes.

I remember being terrified on Halloween as a teenager. If you didn’t go out, you were a wus. So I’d go out with a band of friends. We dreaded running into older kids, but we always did. At which point they’d pelt us with eggs, and shaving cream, and pound us with socks filled with flower (we heard rumors that some kids has socks filled with quarters but never actually saw them). Lots of nervous anticipation and lots of running. And for what?

Last night was unseasonably warm in New York. I saw clusters of little kids in their outfits–a fat kid wearing a Darth Vader costume, and his fat father wearing the helmet next to him. As I approached my apartment building I saw three skinny teenage boys walking quickly. They looked nervous. One was talking into his cell phone. “Nah, you better stay about from 231st street–they’re throwing eggs down there.” Man, I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for all the tea in China.

           Newer posts
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver