CORRECTION: Before I get into this week’s topic, I’d like to correct the item from my last post. I mentioned Scott Boras as C.C. Sabathia’s agent, when it’s Greg Genske. Thanks to the readers who brought that to my attention. I should have caught that.
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The Yankees have officially committed $243.5 million over the next seven years to C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Much has been written and said over the last 10 days, and in truth, I expected the coverage to be more rancorous, particularly given the economic climate. (Kudos to Diane Firstman for being on top of every link and bringing it here.)
Once the Burnett signing became official, I couldn’t help but think of the article in The Onion from a few years ago with the headline “Yankees Buy Every Major League Player: Ensure World Series Title,” and photos of Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza and just about every other All-Star in the game. The signings, on one hand, were necessary. The Yankees had to do something, but was this the correct route? The consensus seems to be yay on Sabathia and a vociferous nay on Burnett. That nay could turn into battery-throwing fits if the Red Sox sign Mark Teixeira before Christmas, which they seem poised to do, according to reports by Peter Gammons and Buster Olney.
I make a concerted effort to take off my fan hat when I read, watch and assess the coverage and conjecture at this time of year, as well as during the season. This time more than ever, I looked for reasons to have the Yankees be likeable. My takeaway: the signings of Sabathia and Burnett fill a hole, to be sure, even if the money thrown at the duo is ghastly. But the money, considering how many people are hurting – people in the Yankees’ fan base, season ticket holders who they’ve priced out – creates a PR mess that incites anger and resentment.
The television broadcasts don’t help. The back-and-forth on Yankees Hot Stove on YES Thursday night, coupled with the dual press conference itself, brought me back to every major press conference I covered or assisted in covering between 2002 and 2008. My eyes are still rolling. The only material differences are the players, obviously, and Yankees PR man Jason Zillo emceeing the event (although Zillo’s vocal inflection is eerily similar to that of his predecessor, Rick Cerrone). Every major Yankees official except for COO Lonn Trost speaks. Randy Levine does everything but put his thumbs in his ears, stick his tongue out and give a playground jibe to the effect of, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah! We got them and you didn’t!” If you did a shot every time the word “win” or “winning” was mentioned, you’d be wasted in 10 minutes.
The pomp and circumstance, the ostentatious display of arrogance and greed that follow the same staid superiority-complex script of every other press conference is why people hate the Yankees. It’s a presentation of corporate excess. Like our lame-duck president told Fox News, “I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.” The Yankees didn’t, either.
The pitchers themselves make matters worse, largely because no one wants to hear what they have to say. Those of us who are – or were — in and around the team on a regular basis, do, because relationships need to be built, but you in this space and the blogosphere have spoken: performance counts above all. Everything else, shut up.
Of course Sabathia and Burnett said, “Having the opportunity to win every year was the reason I came here,” and “I’m just going to be me.” For as much as we rail on the New York Post here, they nailed it with Friday’s headline: “WE LOVE NEW YORK (And for $161 million, you would, too!).”
The new Yankees pitching tandem presented themselves as stand-up guys who can handle the intense media scrutiny. So did Jason Giambi (he even cried), Jeff Weaver, Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson. Johnson even tried to pass this off after he shoved a CBS cameraman a couple of days before his introductory presser. Sabathia appears more equipped to handle it, just based on his easy-going demeanor. He’s not as goofy as Johnny Damon, but the way he carries himself and presents himself to the media at large is. Burnett, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. I left YES before Burnett went to Toronto, but my initial impression is that he’s a hybrid of Weaver, Big Unit, Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield. In other words, bring Kevlar and don’t even think about asking a stupid question.
From a baseball perspective, the Yankees need a bat, and that bat should have been Teixeira. Tyler Kepner pointed out on YHS that Jorge Posada’s return will provide a boost. If Teixeira does sign with the Sox, Jack Curry pointed out that the Yankees would consider moving Posada to first base for the last few years of his contract. If a catcher from within the system can assume the 130-game workload he’s undertaken for 10 years, go for it. But the Yankees have had poor defense at first base for most of seven years. Teixeira would have been the solution.
Back to the lineup: aside from Posada’s AVG/OBP/SLG ratios, there are no sure offensive bets among those coming off injury-riddled or down seasons. A comeback year from Nick Swisher would be Brosius-like. Maybe the magic can happen. Robinson Cano needs to hit well over .300 in April and May to have a chance of being a Yankee much longer. Xavier Nady is still in his prime years. Can he stay healthy? With Damon and Hideki Matsui both aging and below average defensively, one of them should be considered for a mid-season trade. The support of the Yankees going after Manny Ramirez is rampant on YES and within some media circles.
As the horse in Ren and Stimpy said, “No sir, I don’t like it.”
OTHER THINGS I THOUGHT WERE INTERESTING…
* During YHS, the packages that showed Sabathia touring the New Yankee Stadium and signing autographs, I saw that he writes right-handed. I thought this would be a talking point among the writers on YHS, but alas, nothing. Maybe I just thought this interesting because I’m also a righty but play baseball lefty. I know a lot of lefties who play baseball right-handed, but not the other way around.
* Why have the media made a big deal about Sabathia handling the cold? He spent the first 7 ½ years of his career in Cleveland. He can handle pitching in inclement weather.
* Hal Steinbrenner sat at the dais and looked very much at ease and in charge.
FINAL THOUGHTS BEFORE WE OPEN PRESENTS…
* I wonder if either Sabathia or Burnett will be suiting up for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Let me rephrase: I wonder if the Yankees will let either of their two new multimillion dollar arms pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
* Pitchers and catchers report to Tampa in 56 days. Should be a fun couple of months.
Until next week …