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News of the Day – 12/19/08

Powered by the numerology of Sabathia getting uniform #52 (is he the “Ace” in the Yankees “deck”, or is it really just a “house of cards”?) and Burnett getting #34 (as in, “that’s how many starts you made last year A.J., and that’s how many we need from you for each of the next five seasons”), I bring you the news:

  • ESPN.com‘s Buster Olney reports on the Sabathia portion of the news conference, and gives some background on the wooing of the pitcher over the past few weeks:

Sabathia was phoned twice during his negotiations by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter — recruiting calls — and Jeter told him about how much fun it was playing in New York. The day after he reached his agreement with the Yankees, he called Jeter, and the friends talked again about what it would be like to play together.

Two days before Sabathia made his decision, Reggie Jackson had been in Las Vegas at the winter meetings as part of the Yankees delegation that met with the left-hander. Sabathia, who grew up in the Bay Area, found himself distracted by the presence of the Hall of Famer: “I was just thinking, ‘Would it be weird to ask [Jackson] for an autograph?'” It wasn’t until subsequent meetings that Sabathia got to dig in and, without Jackson around, ask questions about the Yankees and New York.

  • The News has a basic rundown of the news conference.  The one interesting note in it deals not with the players, but with the new stadium:

The new ballpark may generate an extra $200 million in revenue annually, according to Vince Gennaro, author of the book, “Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball.”

  • Tyler Kepner of the Times reports on the press conference, with a quote from A.J. Burnett and a quite interesting name thrown into the discussion:

“I’m not going to say money wasn’t an issue,” Burnett said. “I’m not going to lie; of course money had something to do with it. But I have a chance to win five years in a row. Whether you admit you love them or hate them, everybody wants to be a Yankee.”

Burnett also got a positive report on New York from an unlikely source: Carl Pavano, his former teammate with the Florida Marlins. During a conversation in September on the field in the Bronx, Pavano raved about the Yankees.

“He recommended I come here,” Burnett said. “He believed that I had to come here to really blossom and really start something special, that I really would belong here.”

  • Jack Curry of the Times has an article on Sabathia and Carl Willis, C.C.’s first minor league pitching coach.  Willis helped Sabathia make an adjustment a few years ago, and that’s when he became a dominant pitcher:

Three years ago, Sabathia spoke to Willis about trying to make the leap from being Cleveland’s best pitcher to one of the elite pitchers in the major leagues. Willis told Sabathia that the transformation would start with relying less on his 98-mile-per-hour fastball.

Willis said that because Sabathia’s motion was so explosive when he unleashed fastballs, it hurt his ability to disguise his changeup and slider. Sabathia used so much effort with his fastball that hitters noticed slight changes in exertion and adjusted.

So Willis counseled Sabathia about delivering the ball, not throwing it. Willis told Sabathia it would be easier to disguise his other pitches if he used a smoother motion to deliver a 95 m.p.h. fastball, and not an overpowering approach to uncork it at 98. Sabathia made the changes and lost five games in a row, but he stayed with the adjustments and they soon worked.

“He was really at a breaking point,” Willis said. “Since he’s done that, he’s been more of a pitcher. That’s what he is now.”

  • ESPN.com reports that the Red Sox have taken themselves out of the bidding for Teixeira (at least that is what John Henry is saying).  But is it just gamesmanship?:

“We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him,” Henry told the Associated Press. “After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor.”

Henry’s reference to the “other offers” leaves open the possibility he is calling the bluff of agent Scott Boras, who has been known to inflate the value of offers and the number of suitors pursuing his client. Boras represented former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, who signed with the New York Yankees in 2005 after the Boston brass apparently refused to believe that the offer from their archrivals was real.

  • Guess the number of pinstripes on C.C.’s jersey … win a prize:  The entertaining (and obsessive) Paul Lukas of ESPN‘s “Uni Watch” tries to estimate how many pinstripes will be on Sabathia’s Yankee threads:

So how many stripes will Sabathia be wearing? Unsurprisingly, neither the Yankees nor Majestic (MLB’s official uniform supplier) wanted to help to answer that question, but Uni Watch has obtained information suggesting that the total may be as high as 62! That figure can be corroborated by examining how CC looked in the Brewers’ pinstriped Friday throwback. Uni Watch counts 13 stripes from the right side seam to the center placket; assuming an identical count on the left side and then that total amount again on the back, we’d have 52 stripes. But the Brewers’ pins are spaced 1.0625 inches apart, while the Yankees’ are only 27/32 of an inch apart. Factor in the difference, divide by the square root of pi, carry the 2, and you end up with about 64. Granted, these are all rough calculations, but they appear to confirm that CC’s pinstripe count will be in the low 60s.

  • Abreu sits and waits: Jerry Crasnick at ESPN.com writes about the market for the consistent, but not spectacular, Bobby Abreu:

Abreu’s name has since surfaced with several teams, but mainly as a Plan B or C.  …  Abreu’s alleged price tag is contributing to the inertia.

“He’s still a dangerous hitter,” said an American League front-office man. “I just think that as a complete player, he’s starting to go backwards.”

Said a National League official: “He’s going to end up somewhere and be fine. But it’s not going to be for anywhere near the money he’s been making or he thinks he should make.”

An American League scout expressed a common sentiment when he referred to Abreu as a “piece of the puzzle” rather than a player who’s going to anchor a lineup.

… the biggest rap against him — an aversion to walls — persists. “I don’t want to say he’s scared of them,” (an) AL scout said. “But his field awareness is a little shaky. He’s always had that problem, and he’s never gotten any better.”

… (Abreu agent Peter) Greenberg, making the best of a potential drawback, is trying to use Abreu’s status as the anti-Aaron Rowand as a selling point. While Abreu is skittish around fences, he also doesn’t spend much time in the trainer’s room.

“Maybe he’s not going to run into the wall, but I think the positive outweighs the negative,” Greenberg said. “Bobby’s a smart player, and he wants to play 162 games a year. Just ask Terry Francona how hard it was to get him out of the lineup in Philadelphia.”

(My take: Well, we’ll give Greenberg points for creative spin, but Abreu wouldn’t even *approach* a wall, much less crash into it … and how many times did we see him *not* even attempt a dive for a sinking liner in the alley.  Nonetheless, Abreu is still an All-Star on offense … the Mets should offer him 2 years at 11 million annually.)

  • If you want to start planning out next year’s FA shopping list, MLB Trade Rumors has done the grunt work for you.

(My take: First base is a wasteland, unless you want to move the oft-injured Hank Blalock off of third and trust that he’ll hit lefties.  Of the center fielders, Rick Ankiel and Coco Crisp look interesting.  I was shocked to read that catcher Victor Martinez is already 31 … he’s played some first base too.)

  • Congrats to Baseball-Reference.com founder Sean Forman and his wife Sylvia on the birth of their daughter Elinore.  They gave the child her own B-R.com page. 🙂
  • Happy 24th birthday to IPK, Ian Kennedy.
  • Andy Cannizaro (cup of coffee with Bombers in ’06) turns 30 today.
  • Clay Parker turns 46.  Parker was traded with Lance McCullers to Detroit for Matt Nokes in 1990.
  • Walt “No Neck” Williams turns 65.
  • On this date in 1991, Steve Howe is arrested in Montana on a charge of possession of cocaine. Howe had already been suspended from baseball five times for drug and alcohol problems.
  • On this date in 2002, Hideki Matsui signs a three-year contract to play in America, with the Yankees.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 9:26 am

Yesterday, I wondered if John Henry's oddly timed comments on the economy was meant to lay the groundwork for dropping out of the bidding. Now, it seems like that might have been the case.

While Tex will be a great asset for the next few years, the numbers involved are mind boggling. It might hurt them in the short run, but this could wind up being a blessing in disguise for Boston.

As for the potential of a mystery team, I have a feeling Seattle might be involved. They are a very profittable franchise with a depleted roster. They may see Tex as a way to get a double boost: hurt the Angels and help themselves. Seattle remains a good baseball town, but a few more pathetic seasons could change that.

2 knuckles   ~  Dec 19, 2008 9:39 am

No love for Nick Johnson in the 2010 FA pool? If he manages to get thru 2009 without a freak injury and the Yanks don't sign Teix, he'd be a good stopgap for 2-3 years.

3 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 19, 2008 10:39 am

I would love to see the math behind the "the New Stadium may generate $200M annually" statement. Then I'd like to have JC Bradbury and/or Neil deMause investigate it, because that sounds ludicrous to me.

[1] If I had any money, I'd be happy to bet it on the mystery team being a product of Boras's imagination. If it were real, Seattle would be a good guess, except that I can't see them raising their payroll over what it was last year ($117M). Even with Ibanez and Putz (and Green and Reed) (~$10M in '08 salary) off the books, between raises for various players under contract, a couple of small signings, and King Felix's first arbitration hearing, that $10M is already used up. With as a bad a team as they had last year, are they really going to throw $20M Tex's way?

4 The 13th   ~  Dec 19, 2008 10:46 am

I wonder what sort of things Pavano told Burnett? Unless Pavano was just trying to stick it to everyone who hoped AJ would sign with the Braves. If Burnett proves to be a bust, he will be forever known in my mind as Pavano's Revenge.

5 The 13th   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:01 am

[2] I would love to see the Yanks take a flyer on Nick Johnson. I wouldn't count on him as the everyday 1B, but he'd be a good bat off the bench and everything else would be bonus. He'd be an improvement upon guys like Sexson, Mientkiewicz, and Shelley Duncan.

He's also on my short list of former Yanks, who are still active, who'd I'd like to see back in pinstripes. Him and Duque for sentimental reasons, and Dioner Navarro for practical ones.

6 tommyl   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:16 am

Why has Adam Dunn completely dropped off the radar? Dunn for 3-4 years would be a great move I think.

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:49 am

Agreed on Dunn, Tommy.

As for Nick the Stick . . . the guy will never stay healthy. I loved him back in the day, but his career is a washout and he's not getting any younger or any healthier.

8 51cq24   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:51 am

[4] revenge for all the money he got for 26 starts?

9 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:56 am

[3] Why do you doubt that figure? From what I have gathered, the luxury boxes along could net about $60mn in additional revenue. With the ramped up prices in the lower section as well as the additional signage, I could definitely see $200mn being a reasonable number.

Also, you have to keep in mind that the Yankees will now be able to deduct debt servicing from their revenue sharing bill. Crudely put, the Yankees will be keeping more of their revenue, even if they don't make one extra penny from the new place.

[3] This is the same team that came out of nowhere for Sexson and Beltre, so there is precedent. Also, Seattle has a very good cable TV deal and MLB leading profit levels. While it might be nice to sit on that, I think they also realize that too many more awful seasons could hurt them in the long run. If Seattle truly wants to remodel itself as a defensive team, then getting a player like Tex what fit nicely. I actually think he makes some sense for Seattle.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:59 am

[6] Everyone is waiting on Teixeira, which makes sense because the outcome of that decision will start a string dominoes. Adam Dunn is definitely a good hitter, but I am not sure he is much more than a healtheir Giambi, who likely could be retained for less money and a shorter commitment. He wouldn't be a bad signing, but he does have some drawbacks.

11 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:47 pm

[10] Dunn can also play the outfield corners in addition to 1B, and while he's not remotely a good defender at any spot, he's not Giambi/Abreu/Burrell bad. Below average, not cover-the-kids'-eyes bad. To be honest, I don't really see any drawbacks for Dunn, unless the contract gets above, say, 3-4 years 50-60 mil. Even then... 40hr guys with gaudy OBPs don't grow on trees!

I'd love to see the big G back at a low cost if I though he would produce in part time - but I don't think he would (something about those persistent 1B/DH splits makes me think he's got to have consistence to be right).

12 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:56 pm

[11] Dunn can play the outfield corners is a relative statement. Can he jog out to the position? Yes. Will he catch many fly balls not hit to him? Probably not. In that sense, Giambi is more valuable because you wouldn't be tempted to run him out to LF.

Dunn may not be as bad as those guys you mentioned, but it is a lot closer than you think. Also, with age, I don't figure Dunn will be getting any better in the field.

13 neildemause   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:44 pm

I haven't crunched the numbers, but $200m seems high to me as well. Quick guesstimate: Even if it's $60m for luxury suites, that's gross, not net, so you have to subtract out what they're getting now for suites. Current ticket sales are $171m per year (per Forbes), so how much more are they likely to get - $50m? $70m? Add in concessions and ads... okay, maybe if everything goes well and they win the Series and there's anyone left employed in the tristate area to buy tickets, you're looking at $200m gross. But it'll be more expensive to run, too. And even with all their subsidies, the Yankees are going to be looking at an annual bill of about $50m to pay off stadium construction.

All in all, I'd guess their net revenue boost would be closer to a mere $100m. Times are tough all over.

14 neildemause   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:45 pm

Sorry, that should have been "even with all their subsidies and the break on revenue-sharing."

15 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:59 pm

[13] The concessions might be the key because I believe the Yankees will be assuming control over the operation (they formed a stadium management venture with the Cowboys I seem to recall. Also, there could be things like rents from the year round restuarants that are planned. Assuming the Yankees don't see a decline in tickets sold, I still favor the $200mn figure, but these are all guesses.

16 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:22 pm

[13] Thanks, Neil! I'm not really familar with Vince Gennaro's work, though I believe its well-regarded, so now I'm really curious as to how he arrived at $200M annually.

I also have a hard time believing that when the "wow its a new stadium!" appeal wears off (3 years max?), if the Yanks miss the playoffs a couple more times in there (highly likely given how excellent the AL East is), the new stadium will still bring in $200M annually in revenue. There is nothing that says that the Yanks will just keep drawing 4 million plus fans a year, every year, without fail. To me, that seems to be a prerequisite if its to be $200M in annual new revenue. Attendance at the old new Stadium (version 1.1) didn't really start to skyrocket until 2003/2004 IIRC. (Side note - is it possible that it was the spike in financial sector profits/bonuses/etc that helped drive attendance up? Or maybe the creation of secondary ticket markets?) This all goes back to why I want to see how Vince got to that number.

17 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:32 pm

With Matsui and JD gone next year, Dunn would fit nicely in the DH slot. I'm sure Po might DH some too (assuming he is still our Catcher), but maybe Dunn at 1B and Swish in the OF is a better arrangement (for when Dunn has to play the field),

It would be nice to get a bat and NOT overpay in either $$$ or years.
And why wait on Tex? We know he is getting $20m +/- and 8 years +/-. If he gets $23m, does that really effect the market for anyone else?

18 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 19, 2008 4:39 pm

OYF I think it's his destination that is holding things up as much as anything else. I know that front offices always say they don't operate in a tit for tat manner...but I don't buy that, especially with guys like Hank S in the mix!

19 neildemause   ~  Dec 19, 2008 8:29 pm

[16] I'd like to see Vince's methodology, too.

The stadium "honeymoon" is usually 3-8 years before attendance returns to background levels, depending on a bunch of factors. In the Yankees' favor: Big market, competitive team (even if they finish second to the Rays or Sox the next five years, they should still be in the race every year). Working against them: New stadiums are dime a dozen now, the economy's in the crapper. Also, the new capacity is what, 53,000? So they're going to need to sell out most every game to keep drawing 4 million.

20 Rich   ~  Dec 20, 2008 12:01 am

Unless Nady demonstrates that his 128 OPS+ (144 in Pitt; 105 in NY) was not completely out of context, and/or Matt Holiday reaches free agency, if Damon remains healthy and doesn't have a significant dropoff from his 118 OPS+ (tied career high) season, I wouldn't be shocked if they offered to re-sign him for two years (if the corner OF market drops enough, it could be at a reduced AAV). There may not be that many appealing OF options.

21 Rich   ~  Dec 20, 2008 12:15 am

An alternative means to begin to solve the OF problem after 2009 would be to move Jeter there. The Yankees could induce him to make the move by offering to extend his contract, although I haven't researched possible replacements at SS.

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