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News of the Day – 12/18/08

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. )

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 18, 2008 8:06 am

Thank God! no Cameron. Nothing against him, but trading a young Melky for one year of Cameron seems short-sided.

This could probably be said about many teams any year, but due to age, injury and a poor 2008, it's hard to know what we get from Matsui, JD, Jeter, Posada, Cano and our tag team CF of Melky and Brett. I guess you can throw Swish into that mix too. So aside from expecting about career average years from ARod and Nady, it's all guesswork. Certainly, talent and history wise, this is still a talented lineup. No big boppers sans ARod, but everyone short of CF could easily post .825 - .850 OPS's.

I keep thinking about 2 years of Bobby, but the truth is his defense all but nullifies his bat.

Wanna go high-risk, high-reward? How about Bonds? Barry Bonds.

2 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 18, 2008 8:54 am

The more I've thought about Cameron, the less enamored I was with the deal. While he would be a significant upgrade over last year, I think the Yankees can do better. Cashman needs to get creative here.

I am not sure where Rhoden is coming in his article. He makes it seem like Sabathia's stance on African Americans was controversial or cutting edge. It has pretty much become a baseball party line. Also, with Arod, Giambi, Joba, Damon, etc., the Yankees had some interesting personalities. Also, I'd like to see Rhoden explain to Jeter, Posada and Mo that they don't have passion.

Back to Manny, I just don't see the risk. After reading all the horror stories about Manny last year, you would think that he was hitting .200 with the Red Sox. In reality, he was one of their best hitters at the time of the trade. If Manny's quitting mode is a 140 OPS+, that's not a warning sign, but an extra incentive.

As for the Yankees offense, I think everyone is making it out to be pathetic, when in fact it was a tad above average last season. I realize that Abreu (120 OPS+) and Giambi (128 OPS+) are being lost, but it is reasonable to expect a big jump from Cano and the catcher position, while Jeter and CF are also good bets to see a nice bump. Furthermore, Swisher has the potential to approximate or better what you are losing from Abreu, while a healthy Matsui could more than make up for Giambi. Does this offense, as constituted, have the potential to be a machine as they were in 2007? Not really, but that doesn't mean it won't be one of the league's best. Now, if they add a guy like Manny or Dunn, that could really take things to another level, but I don't see that as an absolute necessity.

By the way, the Yankees only scored 15 more runs than the first place Rays, which at least seems as relevant as scoring only 7 more runs than the last place Orioles. Kepner is usually very good, so it's a shame that he would resort to making a point like that one.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 18, 2008 9:04 am

One more thing...it seemed like odd timing to have John Henry, whose hedge funds have taken a beating in the current climate, talk about how the Red Sox and all of baseball would be negatively impacted by the economy. That doesn't seem like a statement you make before signing an 8-yr/$180mn deal, which leads me to believe maybe the Red Sox are backing away from Tex. Perhaps, Henry's comments are laying the way for a hasty retreat?

In my perfect world, the Angels re-sign Tex, leaving only LAD as competition for Manny. Of course, if the Nat's sign Tex, they'd probably wind up trading him to the Yankees in a few years and also pikcing up some of his salary.

4 knuckles   ~  Dec 18, 2008 9:12 am

I’m glad the deal is dead, mainly because I don’t have a lot of faith in Cameron to be all that productive over the next couple years. I do like Melky and enjoy watching him, but he still has got to show some kind of turnaround, and soon.

Re: Rhoden…funny how when the Yanks were winning all those World Series, the clubhouse atmosphere was “professional”, “workmanlike”, etc. And now that they’re in the 8th year of a championship drought (and the Times is linked closely to the Sox), the Yanks suddenly have a “stale, cliché-ridden” clubhouse, known for being “antiseptic”?

5 The Hawk   ~  Dec 18, 2008 9:46 am

[4] I think Rhoden's right. Yeah they got credit back then for being "professional", but that was also in part in contrast to the most recent championships at that time, the late 70s. Maybe moreso, it was the lack of superstars on those 90s teams ... The tags of "professional" and "workmanlike" were compliments, not just because they were winning (which is a fair measuring rod as to whether those attributes are a boon or not, methinks) but because they were doing it in humble fashion, with relatively humble talent.

I recently read an archived article on SI.com that tangentially touched on this, where Verducci is saying after the Clemens signing, it's okay to hate the Yankees again ... He references them as a "lunchpail" team ... It's hard to imagine now but there was an actual phenomenon where the personality of those teams temporarily mitigated some built-in, universal hatred of the Yankees.

6 rbj   ~  Dec 18, 2008 9:51 am

Given that the Times spiked a couple of sports columns because they didn't fit Howell Raines' viewpoint on opening Augusta to women, I cannot trust anything in that paper anymore.

I hope that just the rumor of a deal is enough of a kick in the pants to Melky. Dude, you're playing where Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Bernie Williams played.

Just say no to Manny. Yankees need to get younger, not bring in yet another older star whom they'll wind up giving a bit too much money and a year or two too long.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 18, 2008 10:46 am

Thanks for the reminder about Brien Taylor, Diane. I think you're right about the "what if" aspect; he has such talent. My favorite "what if" scenario always involved Kenny Rogers. "What if" Taylor never got hurt, progressed enough that he made the same big-league cameo as Jeter did in '95, and was ready for the bigs in '96? Would the Yanks have signed Rogers? Would they have made the Brosius deal? Would they have ever dealt Lowell? And so on.

OK, no Cameron = get another (non-Manny) bat, please!

8 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:00 am

I think Manny plays out, as many other dudes will, only after Teixeira's done. Anaheim will very possibly chase him for 3 years if Boston lands Tex. Though it will be amusing to watch a hardcase like Scioscia have to deal with ManRam. If Anaheim signs Tex, Boston's in a trickier spot (Dunn? Bradley?) as someone here pointed out (was it OYF? William?) since they can't and won't touch Manny.

My bet is that if Boston DOES land Teixeira, though, we'll battle Anaheim for Ramirez ... the old AL East arms race. Alas.

9 Dimelo   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:27 am

I find Rhoden to be sloppy with his writing there, and to cite that comment about Sabathia as that being so profound is just silly. I also hate it that people like to blame the establishment as why African American kids aren't into baseball.

The little league games in Inwood and other areas I've seen, have a ton of Spanish kids there, and they are suffering through the same socio-economic condition as Black kids. I guess it's more convenient to blame someone than to say, Black kids aren't interested in baseball because the athletes most of them look up to play different sports - i.e basketball and football.

Not saying I don't see African American kids in these little league games because I do, but the bottom line is that a lot of them end up enjoying more the other sports they play.

One thing though, having someone like Sabathia and players like Jimmy Rollins play for well known urban teams like Philadelphia and New York will help with the exposure. But I don't think it is MLB's fault.

10 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:33 am

Newsday has two reporters essentially saying 'next to no chance' for Yankees-ManRam. He doesn't 'fit' Cashman's style, and the YoungenSteins are allegedly less likely to push him now than they did with A Rod. (A Rod happened during the Torre fallout.)

If so, we're best off with Teixeira to Anaheim for his 200 million, and then Manny stays in L.A. with Torre.

11 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:35 am


I gave up on believing anything The Times had to say when the simply made shit up about a major Presidential candidate during the Presidential primary campaign.

12 51cq24   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:36 am

manny is the best hitter i've ever seen. i don't love him, especially since he supposedly threw boston's costanza to the ground (and while i believe it probably happened, i haven't seen any evidence, and clearly boston was looking for an excuse to get rid of him), but i've always liked that he seems to enjoy himself. furthermore, it's always seemed to me that he wanted more than anything to play for the yankees. it was a mistake not to sign him in 2000. while i'm usually against signing an older player, manny has shown no signs of decline and is only 36. as william points out, even when he had supposedly quit playing for boston last year, he put up a 136 ops+. then a 219 ops+ in la. i understand the resentment towards a player who doesn't seem to always try his hardest, but if he can do .299/.398/.529 at his worst, what is the big deal? would you rather have a shitty player who always tries hard?
manny is better than teixeira. he isn't a good fielder, but would that really make a big difference? hopefully he'd split time between rf and (mostly) dh, and we can trade damon for a minor leaguer or something.
and how can you not like a player who tried to get away with putting a water bottle in his back pocket?

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:42 am

Diane, just because Baldelli's condition turns out to be more treatable doesn't mean he's going to leap back to full health. He still has a cellular disorder, and he still didn't play a single game in center field last year in the majors or minors (also, as an indication of his mobility, he didn't steal a single base after returning to majors). He's still young enough and could be a solid right-handed bench bat right now, but his days as a center fielder may very well be over, even if he responds well to treatment. Oh, and his plate discipline is still terrible.

14 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 18, 2008 11:59 am


I hear ya' .... totally. I was thinking of him as a "low-risk"/"high-reward" potential pickup.

There are few suitable answers for CF out there right now.

15 zack   ~  Dec 18, 2008 12:01 pm

William, I am totally with you on all your points, so i won't bother restating them. We seem to be waving the flag together, alone, but so be it. I guess 2009 will be a year of agreements between us instead of arguments. Who knows!

In any case, if the Yankees DON'T sign a FA bat, I think they should make the Cameron trade. Hoping that Melky will somehow turn it around in the winter league strikes me as very very foolish. Sure, he might. But its a lot more likely that he won't, and as soon as the season starts he'll revert to form. After all, its not like hes facing the cream of the crop down there.

I would really like to see the Yanks sign Manny, and then turn Nady and some of the ml pitching (and even Melky if anyone wants him) into a young impact bat or two. As mentioned in the last thread, the Rangers did that with Hamilton. With the rotation as it is, they can certainly afford to trade some of that depth.

I know, I know, the Yankees simply can't trade young pitching because it wins championships and you need equal value blah blah blah. Suggesting trading prospects has become such sacrilege these days. But honestly, for the umpteenth time, the Yankees have more RH pitching than they can possibly deal with. Fine, you don't want to trade Hughes, trade McAllister and Betencis, or Brackman. Or Bliech. Or Garcia. Or whomever.

16 The 13th   ~  Dec 18, 2008 12:25 pm

I know I'm in the minority here, but I like Manny. I fear him as an opponent and I find his persona endearing. He's certainly one of the most entertaining players around today.

I think if he comes to the Yankees, they won't let him get away with what Boston allowed. As for the motivation allegations, he may not play for another big contract again but he'll certainly have the motivation to stick it to a certain team I'm sure he resents...

17 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 18, 2008 3:31 pm

Cliff I'm with Diane, obviously. See little downside to Baldelli in a contract built around plate appearances and incentives. Beats 10 million for Cameron, for me. Plate discipline? Agreed, he's, he's ... a regular Robbie Cano!

Zack, the snag with your reasoning is that there is too little VALUE to those pitchers right now. No idea what kind of 'quality bat' you think could be obtained for pitchers at their lowest valuation ever, or others who have not yet shown anything. You want, maybe, Matt Holliday? Ian Kennedy comin atcha! Deal?

13th, I actually think there are a lot of ManFans here, from what I'm reading. Not sure how many would go with you as far as 'endearing' though. I used to think of him as just quirky, eccentric, unique ... a kind of Mickey Rivers 'on his own planet' guy. But last two-three years, the which-knee-is-hurt stuff OYF mentioned ... nope.

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