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.