"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Same Old, Same Old

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.

* * * * * *

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.”


* 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.


* 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 … 

Categories:  Will Weiss  Yankee Panky

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1 zack   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:38 am

So if the Sox do end up signing Tex for 8 years 180M, then will that be a PR mess too? You know, since its a ton of money too?

2 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:46 am

[1] Nope, that will obviously be a gritty, clutch signing.

Will, did you know that the NY Daily Rues (News) used the same exact headline for their front page, too?

3 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2008 11:52 am

I'm 65-70 percent sure I'd never throw a battery

4 zack   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:00 pm

I also don't have a problem with the Sox signing Tex. I mean, it would hurt, of course, but if they want to break their "no 5+ year contracts" and all that, power to them. Of course, nobody would dare point out their hypocrisy, or how they are blocking the development of their farm system or anything. Bah humbug.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:03 pm

Here is that Onion article, Will. What's most amazing about it is that Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez weren't Yankees yet at the time it was published. Pedro wasn't in the photo, but he was in the article.

As for the press conference, I was surprised at how personable Burnett seemed. Randy Johnson was stiff, awkward, and visibly trying not to be surly at his presser, but Burnett seemed relaxed and actually kind of warm and genuinely happy.

Finally, I don't think Posada's a sure bet either.

6 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:13 pm

[1] and [2] It wouldn't be a gritty, clutch signing, but it would address a lineup hole and provide additional protection to David Ortiz. Youkilis can play 3B, and their rotation is already secure. My belief, and I know it's shared by many, is that the Yankees wildly overpaid for Burnett and certainly shouldn't have committed to five years and mortgaged everything into the rotation when they have such a glaring void at 1B. Nick Swisher is a serviceable player, to be sure, but he's not Mark Teixeira. ... [5] Thanks Cliff. I should have clarified that Kepner, on YHS, was touting Posada as a sure thing in terms of production and I was reiterating that point. I agree with you.

7 zack   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:26 pm

[6] But 8 years at 200 M wouldn't be wildly overpaying? That's a good one.

The Yankees most decidedly addressed a rotation hole with CC and Burnett. They needed pitching. Whether you agree that they needed BURNETT specifically or not, it is very hard to argue that they didn't need to sign at least two pitchers.

IN FACT, the Yankees had more of a lineup hole in their rotation than the Sox do for Tex, who they would be forced to actually MAKE SPACE for.

I don't buy your argument there Will. I don't see how you can argue that the Yankees wildly overpaid for CC and Burnett and are therefore deserving of economic scorn and yet the Sox wouldn't be doing the same.

8 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:34 pm

Mark Teixeira just doesn't feel like a 200 million dollar player to me. I'd have a very, very hard time swallowing that contract as well.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:36 pm

So many things I disagree with here, so:

1) How exactly does the Yankees spending money cause anger and resentment among the fan base? Are you suggesting that an out of work Yankee fan would prefer that the Yankees pocket the $80mn coming off the books and field a .500 team?

2) C.C. Sabathia and AJ Burnett were all over the local and national media yesterday. That is exactly the point of a press conference. That doesn’t make it an “ostentatious display of arrogance”. If anything, the press conferences seemed relatively modest in presentation. You may have been rolling your eyes at them, but enough media shows up to justify their being held.

3) I also don’t get where you are coming from when you state “no one wants to hear what they have to say”. Well, speak for yourself. Judging by the interviews they did up and down the dial, it sure seems like someone was interested. If you are a journalist at the event and you’re not interested in their comments, you don’t take your job seriously.

4) Your picture of the Yankee offense is exaggerated. I think we can definitely reasonable expect big bounces from Cano (his body of work holds more weight to me than his very bad first half last season) as well as CF (you can’t get worse). What’s more Swisher is not really a Brosius case. In the two seasons before, one that many advanced metrics suggest was hampered by bad luck, Swisher had an OPS+ of 125 and 127. He is also 27. Brosius, on the other hand, came to the Yankees at 31. Also, Brosius’ performance was tied to his BA, while Swisher has proven that patience is the core of his game. Finally, while not a lock, Posada has great potential to vastly improve the catcher’s position, while a healthy Matsui along with a better season by Jeter could also provide a boost. The Yankees have a lot of upside potential. If you simply are going to discount all of them, then yes, they desperately need a bat.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:42 pm

[6] Judging by what's being rumored for the likes of Oliver Peres, I am not sure they "wildly" overpaid for him, especialyl when you consider the Braves were in lock step.

Also, as [7] suggests, the numbers being tossed around for Tex strike me as wildly overpaying. I am sorry, but Mark Teixeira is no closer to being a $25mn player than you suggest Burnett is to being a $16mn pitcher.

I also don't get how the Yankees have mortgaged their rotation either. That has become a theme, but the Yankees currently have two slots: presumably one for Joba and Pettitte, but even then, on a one-year deal, Andy becomes a caretaker for Hughes. I don't see who or what is being mortgaged.

Finally, if Swisher returns to his 120 OPS+ form, he is far from a glaring hole at 1B.

11 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 12:46 pm

[7] Excellent point. Does anyone but me remember seeing Ponson and Rasner every 5th day throughout the summer? I have no idea how one can argue that the Yankees didn't need pitching going into this offseason, especially when you consider that their best pitcher retired. I know Wang is coming back, but the plans still call for relying on young pitchers with innings limits as well as Pettitte, who did have some red flags in the second half.

12 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:04 pm


i agree with your assessment that we don't want to see rasner types and certainly not a 3rd tour of snacks next summer and that by upgrading one rotation slot and replacing moose was important.
however, my issues and i think this either covers or touches on others issues is:
1) one of those pitchers did not have to be burnett - you are satisified with his numbers - others of us are not as enamored and are primarily skeptical of his health. if he stays healthy i do think he is a pretty good addition to the staff for a year or two - but not beyond that.
2) which leads to, if burnett was "necessary" why 5 years - most reports of atlanta's offers were 4 years - at least go for 4 and they should have really pressed for 3 with a higher aav - in burnett's case the nyc location was a competitive advantage (perhaps in contrast to cc with the whole cali thing)
3) it is still unclear whether this offseason was either a second picther or offense decision - but offense should not be neglected. you are assuming the best with the offense - posada ctaching for 140 games, cano and swisher bounce back, matsui healthy, damon and jeter in line with their projections, arod not straining a quad again, etc.
the pecota 95 wins last year were based on the pitching all falling into place. that was probably not going to happen, which is why many of us went into the last season knowing this was probably not a 95 win time.
now this offseason, all the people who think the offense will be fine are assuming everything will go right - there is no offensive margin of error in these plans.

13 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:07 pm

leet me just add that if the yanks sign tex, manny, or dunn i will back off my statements in 12 - if the only offensive oriented moves are swisher and something like the cameron deal, then what i said stands as my opinion.

14 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:24 pm

The Yankees unhealthy obsession with Sidney Ponson leaves me unconvinced that we have seen the last of him regardless.

15 zack   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:37 pm

[13] Please, its the holiday season! Let's leave such disturbing and horrific thoughts until at least after the New Year!

16 da_truth   ~  Dec 19, 2008 1:48 pm

I usually really like your writing Will, but I think you're way off base here. Your post sounds like a bad Lupica impersonation.

17 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:01 pm

[15] Are there good Lupica impersonations?

18 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:17 pm

[16] "Gollum! Gollum!"

19 Yankee in Chicago   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:23 pm

Will, your gratuitous slap at President Bush, via a bizarre simile, is unprofessional. Stick to baseball.

20 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:26 pm

Great comments, all ... From the Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/2008/12/18/2008-12-18_red_sox_are_out_of_mark_teixeira_sweepst.html .... [7] The Red Sox would be wildly overpaying for Teixeira. As would the Yankees. No one, not even A-Rod, is worth that money. [9] William, I'll take your questions one at a time. 1) Spending is fine. Overspending is not. I think we as a fan-base have a good idea of players' value. I'm saying that people who have been priced out of going to games will have a tough time rooting for a team that has spent so heavily in a time where we should all be conserving a bit. 2) The Yankees like to pat themselves on the back. I am a fan, but I can identify with people who are sick of that. Each press conference of this level is a "here we go again" type of situation. 3) The interviews were done because the media were there. Are you tired of having these players say what they think we want to hear? I am. That's what I roll my eyes at. You can take the job seriously even if you're not genuinely interested in the comments. The quotes are not the story anyway. The contract and the other components that went into the signing are the story. Cause and effect. [4] I'm not as optimistic about the Yankees offense. I thought expectations were high last year, and they grossly underdelivered, for myriad reasons. I would rather set my expectations a bit lower and be surprised.

21 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:39 pm

[15] Wow. Impersonating Lupica. ... The mid-'80s awesome version? From an economic standpoint, I thought he was on point with his article following the Sabathia signing.

22 Just Fair   ~  Dec 19, 2008 2:54 pm

Just once I'd like a player to say at a press conference, "I don't really care for New York but like Chappelle says, I'm rich biatch." And in no way is Teixeira worth 200 milion dollars. Crap, Morneau makes 80 million for 6 years. I am no number cruncher but I know that's a mighty big discrepecy for 2 unshabby 1st basemen. And if the Yanks did spend that much for Tex I might learn towards being emarrassed of the riches. Lastly, this is the first time I've ever paid close attetion to Tex's last name. That's a-lotta vowels.

23 da_truth   ~  Dec 19, 2008 3:00 pm

No Will, sorry to say the more recent vintage of Lupica. You know, the current subpar, extra whiny, phony "looking out for the little guy" version.

24 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 19, 2008 3:20 pm

[22] I appreciate the initial compliment and I'm sorry I disappointed you for this particular post. I will do better next time. At the very least, I succeeded in initiating Banter, which is what makes this site and community great, and why I enjoy being a part of it.

25 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 19, 2008 4:35 pm

Yeah but the old colors were still better ;)

26 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 19, 2008 5:19 pm


thanks for the kudos, Will .... just givin' the people what they want ... (and more)

27 thelarmis   ~  Dec 19, 2008 7:46 pm

[0] i like how you noticed CC writes righty. i dig those kindsa things. Joba, writes lefty! i, too, thought there'd be more mention of that. why/where, i'm not sure, but...

i believe it was stated the CC would NOT pitch in the WBC. and AJ, is on record, saying he wasn't approached but if he were, the answer would be "NO".

hal, did indeed look comfy.

i quite like the press conferences and absolutely wanted to hear the pitchers speak, thank you very much. i watched all the video footage YES had up at their site. i was impressed w/ Burnett, i must say. sure, the Yankees go a bit overboard on certain events, but i appreciate that in the organization and, as a fan, it makes me proud.

speaking of the banter here, i gotta give mad props to William - he's been on top of his game as an analyst here lately and i, for one, am appreciative. i've been learning a lot reading his posts.

[25] while i'm doling out the love - dianagramr: i'm totally digging the daily notes posts and look forward to them every day!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver