Powered by the thought that in seven days, we won’t have to be subjected to any more “we know the economy sucks but you should still buy our products” Christmas commercials, here’s the news:
- Ding-dong the deal is dead: MLB.com is reporting Doug Melvin as stating that the Cabrera/Cameron deal is “dead”:
What a change from a week ago at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, where Melvin and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman were close to swapping center fielders. The Yankees would have received Gold Glover and run-producer Mike Cameron, and the Brewers would have received a left-handed bat in Melky Cabrera, probably left-hander Kei Igawa and a bit of cost savings to pursue free agent pitching.
But Melvin and Cashman have not spoken since the morning of Dec. 11. That signaled a dead deal to Melvin.
(My take: If Cabrera can make any sort of progress–both emotionally and with the bat–in the Winter League, and he appears to be doing well down there … see link later on in this post, then perhaps the Yanks can afford to hold onto him till at least the middle of ’09, then deal him if need be. Otherwise, what CF candidate is out there? I’m a big Rocco Baldelli fan, and now that his “condition” has been discovered to be less serious, perhaps he’d be worth a flyer. And no … I don’t want Jim Edmonds.)
- At the Times, William Rhoden waxes poetic over what Sabathia brings to the Yankees, beyond his athletic prowess:
Sabathia represents a potential breath of fresh air in a stale, cliché-ridden Yankees clubhouse, one with little personality and even less passion, and no recent championship runs to compensate for those deficiencies.
Sabathia is a good-natured star who has strong feelings about issues and isn’t afraid to share them. This is an anomaly in a clubhouse famous for antiseptic professionalism.
In 2007, for example, Sabathia complained about the lack of African-American players in the majors. He even pointed a finger at Major League Baseball for not doing all that it could to increase the numbers.
Sabathia, who was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee last season, bemoaned the lack of black Americans in baseball. “There aren’t very many African-American players, and it’s not just in here, it’s everywhere,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s not just a problem — it’s a crisis.”
- The News‘ John Harper wants the Yanks to sign Manny, even with the warning signs:
I have to start by saying I thought Bud Selig should have suspended Manny Ramirez for the way he so blatantly quit on the Red Sox last summer to force his way out of Boston. Earning instant hero status in Los Angeles doesn’t wash away the stain of what amounted to the height of unprofessionalism.
Indeed, Ramirez has proven that he can never be fully trusted as a teammate because he might just lay down on the job again.
Yet I still think it makes sense for the Yankees to take a chance on Manny. If they’re not going to get the guy they really need, a young, team-first slugger such as Mark Teixeira, then they should sign the best clutch hitter in the game and hope for the best.
… in the pursuit of a championship and nothing less, Ramirez is a gamble the Yankees can afford to take. The money is practically irrelevant to them, but if they can get him for a three-year contract, you have to figure they will get a solid effort from the mercurial masher for at least a couple of years.
(My take: That tactic sounds even riskier than giving Burnett a five-year deal. You’re gonna throw $50-$75 million at someone and “hope for the best”?)
- Buster Olney at ESPN is very skeptical of Manny being motivated once he signs any deal:
Here’s something any executive thinking about signing Manny should consider before giving him a multiyear deal: If he gets a two-, three- or four-year deal, it probably will represent the last big-money contract he will receive — and what exactly will compel him to play hard for the duration of the deal?
Once Manny signs his next big-money deal, the financial carrot that seemed to drive him in August and September will be gone, so an employer who gives him a multiyear deal will be wholly dependent on his competitive integrity. Good luck with that.
(My take: Its the same logic used to argue against signing A.J. Burnett. Burnett had his two best years during his “walk seasons”, then went back to being … whatever.)
- Olney also reports that the Orioles are now trailing in the race to sign Teixeira, as their initial offer has supposedly been surpassed by those of the Red Sox, Nationals and Angels. The Yanks have not made an offer to this point.
- ESPN’s Rob Neyer admits that even if the Yanks don’t sign Manny, they’ll have an “old” team in 2009. But he seems OK with the notion:
It’s an old lineup, no question. But Posada’s a catcher, and would need a reliable backup anyway. A-Rod and Captain Jetes are future Hall of Famers and historically quite durable. Cameron’s played 150 games just once in the last six seasons. … As I wrote yesterday, the Yankees will score plenty of runs, even if they don’t get Cameron and Manny. Sure, Joe Girardi’s going to spend a lot of intellectual energy figuring out how to keep everybody fresh. But old talent is still talent. … The Yankees will never be a young team. They just don’t have the patience for it. But they might never again be quite as old as they will be in 2009. Enjoy the old geezers while you can.
(My take: No Mr. Neyer, its not a given that the Yanks will score plenty of runs, even if you said it yesterday too. And if you are pointing out how durable A-Rod and Jeter are, why state the implied fragility of Cameron? Jeter never wanting a day off was likely a drag on his performance last year (remember his troubles with the bat after getting hit in the hand?), and the Yankee bench has been less than stellar the last few years.)
- The Times’ Tyler Kepner isn’t buying what Neyer is trying to sell regarding the Yanks offense at this point, and he wants suggestions as to how to construct the lineup:
… But pitching was not the only reason the Yankees tumbled out of the playoffs last year. After scoring 968 runs in 2007 (the most for the franchise since 1937), the Yankees managed only 789 runs in 2008 –- just seven more than the last-place Baltimore Orioles. And now the contracts of Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi have expired.
- MLB.com has good news regarding the Winter League performances of most of the 2008 ML roster Yankees:
(Melky) Cabrera is batting .304 (21-for-69) with 14 runs scored and seven RBIs in 18 games.
(Robinson) Cano is batting .310 (18-for-58) with 14 runs, seven doubles and 12 RBIs in 14 games. Cano has struck out just three times …
(Ian) Kennedy is 2-2 with a 1.56 ERA in six starts. He ranks first in the PWL in ERA and is tied for fourth with 31 strikeouts.
(Johnathan) Albaladejo has not allowed a run in 14 innings … and is tied for first in the PWL with nine saves in 10 chances. He has given up nine hits and a walk, with nine strikeouts.
- Posada makes 75 throws at 60 feet (that’s 4,500 feet of throws if you’re scoring at home): The Star-Ledger reports that Jorge Posada made three sets of 25 throws from 60 feet down in Tampa, the first time doing that from that distance since his shoulder surgery.
- Police blotter update: Joba Chamberlain had his DUI arraignment postponed till January 26, reports ESPN.com. Joba had gotten pulled over October 18 in Nebraska, and found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.134, over the state limit of 0.08. The Times‘ Ben Shpigel has a couple of quotes from Chamberlain:
Joba Chamberlain called this off-season the “best” and “most gratifying” of his life … Chamberlain, arrested in Nebraska two months ago on charges of driving under the influence, said he planned to make amends by speaking with young people about the dangers of driving drunk.
“It’s all part of the growing experience,” Chamberlain said … “As a 23-year-old man, I’m still trying to grow up. We all make mistakes, and that’s part of being human. Part of being human is admitting mistakes and not trying to hide from it, not trying to run from it.”
- Happy 50th birthday to Scott Nielsen, who in his first season with the Yanks (1986) only walked 1.93 per nine innings, but also gave 1.93 homers per nine innings, while only striking out 20 in 56 innings. He did however get himself traded for Randy Velarde, so that was a net win for the Bombers.
- A happy 78th birthday to Moose Skowron, who was a five-time All Star during his nine seasons in pinstripes (’54-’62).
- On this date in 1950, the great Tommy Henrich calls it a career as a player. He accepts a coaching position with the Yankees.
- On this date in 1956, former SS Phil Rizzuto signs a contract to be a Yankee radio-TV announcer.
- On this date in 1973, the Bombers announce the signing of Dick Williams as manager (Williams had resigned from the A’s after the ’73 season, but was still under contract to the A’s), precipitating a legal showdown with Charlie Finley. Two days later, American League president Joe Cronin rules that the Yankees cannot sign Williams.
- On this date in 1993, top pitching prospect Brien Taylor injures his shoulder in a fight near his home in North Carolina. The injury will require surgery and cause Taylor to miss the entire 1994 season. Taylor, who signed for a $1.55 million bonus in 1991, never makes it to the majors.
(My take: Of all the baseball “what might have beens” over the past 25 years, Taylor’s story has to be up there in the top ten. Here’s a recent article detailing the track his life has taken. )