"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 12/25/08

How on Earth did they fit CC, A.J. and Tex all under the same tree?  Anyhow … here’s the news:

  • The Times‘ Ben Shpigel introduces us to Mark Teixeira, the man:

That is who the 28-year-old Teixeira is: polite, humble, private. It would be unlike him to open up and discuss influential moments in his life that have produced his strong work ethic, his quest for order and routine, and an ability to focus and compartmentalize that is admired by peers.

When he was 15, a freshman at Mount St. Joseph’s High School outside Baltimore, he learned that his mother, Margy, had breast cancer. Weak from chemotherapy, Margy, now cancer-free, still found a way to attend her son’s baseball games.

Before his senior year, he lost one of his closest friends, Nick Liberatore, when a truck driver fell asleep and slammed into a parked car that Liberatore was sitting in along a shoulder of Interstate 95. For the next year, every Wednesday night Teixeira and his friends would eat dinner with the Liberatore family, and he has since endowed a scholarship in his friend’s name. And in 2002, Teixeira’s father, a former Navy pilot, had a benign brain tumor that caused him to lose his hearing in his left ear.

“Whatever I’ve gone through, I think it’s all allowed me to enjoy the game, but to understand the role of the game in life, too,” Teixeira told The Dallas Morning News in 2005. “If you enjoy playing the game, it’s going to be easier to focus on the game and put things in their proper place. When you are between the lines, it is a game that should be enjoyed. When you are in the clubhouse or getting ready, it’s work. And when you go home, it should stay in the clubhouse.”

[My take: I think I'm gonna like this guy ... even if I dislike his agent.]

  • BP.com’s Will Carroll chimes in on the spending ways of the Yanks:

Yes, the Yankees spent a lot of money, but they didn’t suddenly spend money they didn’t have. They used money coming off the books and backloaded to work with money that’s coming off the books next year as well. I’m not defending them against charges that they’re “buying championships” but I would like to see some acknowledgement that the Yankees aren’t in some new era of spending. They’re just still spending, like they always have.

Add in some interesting ways of looking at the Marginal Revenue per Win calculations might make this make even more financial sense as the economy continues to turn down.

  • Still at BP.com, Joe Sheehan echoes Will’s sentiment, and adds some more:

… They’re leveraging not only the greater marginal revenue that can be generated by each win in New York City, but also their massive cash flow in an industry in which many, even most, teams are hoarding cash in an unsure economy. Other fans and other owners may complain, but the money is coming in; it can go into the team’s pockets, or it can be used to improve the baseball team. If the scale doesn’t work, change the scale—fix the revenue-sharing formulas to factor in market size and potential revenues, as Keith Woolner suggested forever ago—but don’t blame a team for trying to win. Ever. For all of the focus on the $420-odd million the Yankees have committed to three players, their 2009 payroll won’t be much more than the 2008 one … .

  • FOX Sports’ Dayn Perry takes a look at the new baseball landscape carved by the signings:

Sure, they’ve committed themselves to more than $400 million in guaranteed monies, but it’s been done in the service of winning the World Series. In strict on-the-field terms, the Teixeira signing was a necessary step. The consequences, though, will reach far beyond the diamond.  …

After the arbitration raises kick in and they make another addition or two (Pettitte? Mike Cameron?), their 2009 payroll still might not exceed their 2008 tab. That’s a point worth keeping in mind, even as righteous indignation is on the rise. Want something to be outraged about? There’s this: If the Yankees can fork over almost half-a-billion in player salaries in the span of a month, then it seems they should be able to pay for their own place of business without bilking taxpayers.

In other words, while the Yankees are benefitting from a system that badly needs additional revenue sharing, nothing much has changed from last off-season. If you’re among the legions of Yankee haters out there, you should draw hope from the fact that the Yankees are setting themselves up for a failure of unimaginable proportions. They’re probably going to return to the postseason in 2009. However, as recent history has taught us, that vaunted Yankee revenue stream can’t guarantee success in the postseason. It’s simply too random.

  • Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon admires the Yanks’ moves, but doesn’t seem alarmed (ESPN.com):

“I know we’re supposed to be devastated by this, but we’re not; for us to lament it does no good,” Maddon told The Los Angeles Times in Wednesday’s editions. “Of course, Teixeira is a wonderful player — the Yankees always go after the biggest and the best, and they’ve done themselves well this winter.

“But we’re going to do it our way. It comes down to if you pitch well, you’re going to stop good hitters. A lot of what we did last year was based on pitching and good defense. If we continue to do those things well, we’ll be right there.”

  • Over at Dodger Thoughts, our friend Jon Weisman offers his assessment of whether competitive balance has been shot to hell:

Level-playing field? Equality of opportunity? To quote from the jaunty 7-Up ads of my youth, baseball never had it, never will. The Yankees’ CC Sabathia-A.J. Burnett-Mark Texeira super-splurge shouldn’t bother anyone. That’s what they do, and you could almost say that’s what they’re for. Like Jessica Rabbit, they’re drawn that way. Would you have Othello without Iago?

Did the Yankees buy a 2009 title? More than a century of baseball history, exclamation-pointed by last season’s shining Rays, says not. In a single given year, some teams have no chance of winning. But over a period of years, every team has some chance and no one to blame but themselves if they can’t ever reach the postseason. And the postseason, always and forever, will belong to Fickle and Fate.

  • ESPN’s Peter Gammons feels for Red Sox Nation over losing out on Teixeira, but doesn’t fault the Yankees for the way they operate, to a degree

… the Yankees are not only rich and abetted by the mayor of their city, but also the Steinbrenners have turned the operation over to a very smart man in Cashman, who, with Hal Steinbrenner’s empowerment, seems to be able to run the business without being affected by the irrationality of Hank Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine.

The aghast bad-for-the game thing doesn’t work. This is the system the Yankees have and the NBA’s Lakers and the NFL’s Giants do not. It may cause a lot of owners to sit tight and make the middle-class of free agents squirm for the next two months, while the lower-class crawls. This is the baseball world; the union cares only for what Sabathia and Teixeira make, …

Didn’t Hal Steinbrenner invest $423.5 million to buy back the we’re-the-Yankees-and-you’re-not swagger? Look at it this way: The Yankees will still be helping some small-market owners pay down their interest.

Will the notion that it is wealth, not meritocracy, that earns championships and Illinois senate seats damage baseball? Given the economy the next couple of years, perhaps when viewed in relation to the NFL’s parity it will.

For now, it’s the American way. Wal-Mart eats up small-family businesses. The Yankees eat up the Brewers and the Indians, and there may not be an owner in any sport who, given the opportunity afforded to Hal Steinbrenner, wouldn’t have done the same thing.

[My take: Yeah, part of me is worried about competitive balance and even playing fields, but they Yanks HAVE made expensive mistakes in the past.  I guess the point is, the bigger market teams can AFFORD to make a mistake once in a while ... a Pavano or a Jaret Wright becomes an after-thought much more quickly when you have the resources to sign a Sabathia or Teixeira.  The smaller-market teams have to allocate their resources MUCH more carefully (I'm looking at you, Kansas City and Pittsburgh).  So, is there an even playing field when the margins of error are inherently different?  Should it matter if the field is indeed tilted?]

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney summarizes the winners and losers from the Tex signing, and has some interesting quotes:

regarding the impact on small-market teams:

And they do have defenders even among the small-market teams. “They just got a luxury-tax bill of $26.9 million, didn’t they?” another AL official asked rhetorically. “They always pay, don’t they? The other teams cash their checks, don’t they?”

“The Yankees are great for baseball, just like the Red Sox and the Cubs are great for baseball, because they generate interest and they generate money for all of us. Today, somebody is going to pick up a paper overseas and there will be something in there on the Yankees’ signing of Teixeira. Do you think that would happen if there was some trade between small-market teams? People pay attention to the Yankees, and that’s good for our sport.”

regarding the impact on compensation draft picks (from Brewers GM Doug Melvin):

“The Angels had a better record than us and the Blue Jays, and the Brewers and the Blue Jays got shoved down the food chain. The Elias rankings have never been changed, and there are so many smart statistical gurus — Bill James, etc. — that could create a fair model for both players and teams, who should be compensated fairly according to the value of each player to that team.

Last year, Geoff Jenkins, who had a nice career with us and was arguably one of our better players, was not even ranked last year, and Tony Graffanino, a part-time player, was ranked. We have dropped 46 slots in the 2009 draft, and we will be dropping even more because there are so many compensation picks. The second round will be almost the third round, in the way that it will develop.”

“The Yankees will lose some draft picks, but they can draft unsignable players in fourth and fifth rounds, and pay over-slot, as they did with Andrew Brackman (the Yankees’ No. 1 pick in 2007). “The Draft Elias rankings and compensation needs to be changed. I do not want to sound like I’m whining, but teams who have to build with draft picks get frustrated. I had interest in Juan Cruz, and because I thought we had extra first-round picks for CC and for Ben Sheets, I had considered a Type A signing. Now I have to reconsider.” “We will keep having fun with scouting and player development, and finding our role players. Brian [Cashman] has to do what his owners and market asks him to do.”

[My take: I think the Yankees are operating totally lawfully within the construct of the free agent system, but I do agree that the draft compensation system needs some work, quickly.  ESPN’s Keith Law examines the current system and finds it seriously lacking in fairness.]

  • Michael Schmidt at the Times offers some quotes from Randy Levine, defending the way the Yanks do business:

He said that the Yankees, by spending substantially on players, were making sure they remained a top asset in the sport.

“We are usually in the top of road attendance and we get some of the highest television ratings, both when we play national games and when we visit other teams,” he said. He said if the Yankees’ new stadium, which will be ready for the 2009 season, allows the team’s revenue to increase, then “so will the revenues of the rest of the game.”

Levine added: “We are sensitive to the economic times and our fans. We believe it is good for the franchise and good for the fans to put the best product possible on the field, and that is what we strive to do.”

Levine singled out the criticism that he said some ESPN’s commentators had directed at Yankee spending and said he wondered why they were not criticizing their own network for reinvesting in its product by outbidding Fox by millions of dollars to acquire the rights to the Bowl Championship Series.

[My take: I agree with Levine  …. to a point.  Is any ticket to any one Yankee game worth $2,500?  Are the accommodations for that fan 100 times better than those provided to someone sitting in the $25 seat?   That is hard to quantify … the $2,500 patron is paying for the nebulous “ambiance”, but they are seeing exactly the same product on the field as the guy in the $25 seat.  If the Yanks lose 12-1 and A-Rod goes 0-4 and Jeter makes two errors, are both fans equally disappointed in their “purchase”?  I don’t have an answer for those quasi-philosophical questions.  The Yankees acknowledge that they are seeking to increase their revenue through the new stadium, and that they plow much of that new revenue back into the operations of the franchise, but I think the Yankees are failing to acknowledge the elephant in the room when they don’t come right out and say that they run a business, and they are in business to make money for themselves.  The big question down the road … if/when the Yanks are sold, will there be anyone able to buy them?]

  • At Newsday, Kat O’Brien has some interesting details on how the wheeling and dealing for Teixeira went down during the last few days.
  • Joel Sherman of the Post gives ten reasons why the Yanks signed Teixeira.
  • Yanks sign Cash, but not charged with defacing government currency: The Bombers signed BoSox back-up catcher Kevin Cash to a minor league contract.

[My take: Here is a guy who literally cannot his weight, with a .184 lifetime BA for his 190 pounds.  In fact, in the expansion era, he has posted the 4th-lowest career batting average for a non-pitcher given his plate appearances.  Jose Molina thumbs his nose at Cash’s slash stats.]

  • Over at LoHud, Pete Abe posits that the Teixeira signing may shut the door on the return of Andy Pettitte.
  • Wow …. I actually get to put a “NSFW” warning on this one.  The Village Voice chimes in on the Yankee spending spree, in their typical “style”:

Rodriguez will make $32 million this year and (for now) gets to f*** Madonna.

You — and ordinary New Yorkers like you — helped make it all possible with hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and free land. Take some pride in that. Even if you can’t afford tickets to the games. Give yourself a pat on the back.

You also made New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon happy; the Mets got public money for their new stadium, making it possible for them to afford their new players.

But Wilpon wasn’t as lucky as Alex Rodriguez. Fred got f***ed, but it was Bernie Madoff who turned the trick and it cost Fred $500 million.

  • Yankee hurler Brian Bruney got selected by MLB.com for a holiday-themed Q&A.  Here’s an excerpt:

MLB.com: Is there any gift you’re hoping some of your teammates will be opening up this holiday season?

Bruney: I just got two Christmas presents in CC (Sabathia) and A.J. (Burnett), and I’m hoping for more. I think Cash (GM Brian Cashman) and the Steinbrenner family have done an excellent job of giving us all great Christmas presents. We’re pretty lucky to have an organization behind us that believes in us and lets us go out and do those things.

Those were on my Christmas list. … I was asking Santa for CC and A.J.; so far, I’ve gotten my presents. I don’t know what else they have in mind, but I’ve talked to so many people on the team and we’re all very excited about it.

[My take: Like I said up top ... I don't know how they got those guys under the tree (and wrapped for that matter) LOL.  Also, I presume this interview was conducted prior to yesterday's Teixeirapalooza ...]

  • Happy 50th birthday to the incomparable Rickey Henderson.  In Rickey’s 4+ seasons with the Bombers, he compiled a line of .288/.395/.455 with 78 homers and 326 SBs in 383 attempts.
  • Happy Birthday to baseball blogger Jay Jaffe.  Jay’s excellent work can also be read at BP.com.
  • On this date in 1989, Billy Martin died in a car accident, at the age of 61.  He will be buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, NY, in a plot near Babe Ruth.   Supposedly, George Steinbrenner, who fired Martin four times (he resigned the fifth time), purchases the plot. Amidst the famous turmoil that surrounded him, Billy still rang up some gaudy accomplishments …
    • AL All-Star (1956)
    • Won five World Series as player with the New York Yankees (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 & 1956; he did not play in the 1950 World Series)
    • Manager of the Year Award (1981)
    • Division Titles: 6 (1969, 1972, 1976, 1977 & 1981)
    • AL Pennants: 2 (1976 & 1977)
    • Managed one World Series Champion (Yankees in 1977)

I’m off tomorrow (as you can probably tell, the post you read today is from stuff I accumulate the prior day, so ….).  See you all back here Saturday.  Be safe … be happy!

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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25 comments

1 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 1:52 pm

it's funny - the Beatles "Baby You're A Rich Man" just came on my stereo as i was reading about the Yanks' spending spree!!! i know they're not directing the song toward ME!!! that's for damn true...

thanks for the great reading, dianagramr.

hope todd drew is feeling healthy, happy & strong today!!!

2 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 2:05 pm

Rickey says, "Happy Birthday to ME!" see y'all in Cooperstown in 5 years!!!

3 Rich   ~  Dec 25, 2008 2:06 pm

Last year, the Yankees were criticized for not trading multiple top prospects for Santana and giving him a record setting contract. Now they are being criticized for giving out record setting contracts. It's just noise.

4 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 2:12 pm

and apparently the Nats actually offered Tex about $5 mil MORE than the Yanks and would've gone even higher. perhaps it wasn't ALL about the money, after all...

5 RIYank   ~  Dec 25, 2008 3:15 pm

The Kat O'Brien column really makes Cashman look good. I wonder how realistic it is. If it's accurate, then Cash just faced down Boras big time.

6 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 25, 2008 6:07 pm

[5] Link please.

7 RIYank   ~  Dec 25, 2008 6:28 pm

[6] It's the one Diane refers and links to in the entry, the one in Newsday.

8 Raf   ~  Dec 25, 2008 6:29 pm

Has anyone caught the MLB Network preview? If what I'm seeing so far is any indication, it will be all kinds of awesome.

9 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 8:02 pm

Super breakfast reading Diane, a big "Arigatou" to you.

Rickey turns 50?! he's still going to run faster than Molina...

10 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 8:06 pm

[9] rickey turns 50 and in about 51 days, "Pitchers and Molina's" will report!!! : )

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 8:54 pm

Man, can't WAIT till Spring Training! Rickey..easily in my top 10 favorite players. We used to all try and imitate his batting stance in school, except for one real tall kid who did Dave Winfield..there's nothing better than being is 11-yr old baseball fan!

12 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 9:04 pm

yeah man, rickey is DEFINITELY in my top 5 fave players of all-time! probably in my top 5 if i really sat down to think about it. but, most certainly top 10. i really wish he made it back to get those last 3 homers to join the 300-300 club. : /

13 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 9:18 pm

Hey man, you got any holiday gigs lined up? Or just relaxing at home? I had more Donny Hathaway on the iPod this morning, then Herbie "Speak Like a Child" again..can't get enough of that one!

You going to watch the WBC? I am going to try and get some tix for the Asian-branch, games will be at the Tokyo Dome. The Koreans and Japanese take this VERY seriously

14 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 9:50 pm

not many gigs. played tuesday nite and the jazz trio will play again Sat nite. i'm just relaxin' at home! i'm not religious, so i don't celebrate any holidays and stuff. i've been pretty productive the last coupla days, so i just cracked my first beer in a week. wahoo!

man, i had Speak Like A Child in my hand yesterday! i didn't spin it though. i will tomorrow, in your honor! yeah, that album is fantastic. i'm actually about to watch a live Van Halen dvd from the mid-80's!!! hahaha : ) they were FUN!!!

neh, i'm not a fan of the WBC. truth be told, MLB is really the only baseball and only sport i care about or follow. i bet the WBC is HUGE by you...

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 10:26 pm

oh yeah, I watched the WBC final 3 years ago in a sports bar here. was about 10:30 in the morning, place was packed with screaming fans, all in the Japan team jersey. Only one Cuban couple in the corner, quietly crying when their boys lost..was a lot of fun! Since the Americans don't seem to give a crap I'll probably root for the local boys again..or maybe join my Venezuelan buddy and pull for his team. They really blew out early in the first tournament!

16 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 10:36 pm

i haven't even a clue when the WBC starts or ends. wait, that's not true - it interrupts ST, i know that! i basically just keep track of injuries for MLB players, kinda like i do for spring training. otherwise, i really only pay attention to the "real thing" = MLB!!!

sports bar at 10:30am - now that takes some constitution!!! ; ) it's 10:30PM over here right now, i'll hit the bar about the witching hour...

you see many "Big" John Patton cd's over by you???

17 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 10:45 pm

Man, you should check out the WBC this year, watching the Latin & Asian teams is really interesting. Guranteed to see some guys who will end up in the majors soon.

Big John Patton, sure! Lots of funky soul-jazz to found in the shops here. Let me know for sure if you ever make it over, but bring $5000 in cash for record-shopping! :)

18 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 10:59 pm

looks like '09 might be a monumentally busy year for me, so i don't think i'll be able to tack on watching the WBC. that said, i did indeed watch a bit the first go round and enjoyed checking out the teams from Cuba and Asia.

i might need you to check on a coupla Big John cd's for me, at some point. they're hard to come by round these parts. i have 3 of his BN cd's. he did 11 dates for them. i'm not sure how many were issued on disc, but i know there are a few out there i don't have in the "collection."

i've already spent a TON of coin on BN stuff the last coupla months. i'm a-gonna have to put the brakes on pretty soon...

michael anthony & john kruk are TWINS!!! holy crap! : o

19 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 11:02 pm

btw, Mrs. Todd Drew was kind enough to check in this afternoon at the Shadow Games: Baseball and Me post. Todd will be in ICU for a few more days. he'll be up & runnin' soon enough. can't keep a good man down!!!

20 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 11:23 pm

[18] anytime, nothing more fun than record hunting.
[19] good news!

3 hours to go till 14 days off..can see that Guinness on the counter waiting for me..enjoy the bar man, catch you on the Banter soon. and drop me an email when you can.

21 thelarmis   ~  Dec 25, 2008 11:35 pm

excellent on all accounts! wow, 14 days off - that rocks! are you traveling or staying in the land of the rising sun? and yeah, record hunting is the bomb, innit?! : )

guinness, huh? i'm a sierra guy. i do like the sierra porter in the winter, but it hasn't gotten cold enough yet here in hotlanta. will you be around the banter at all the next 2 weeks or are you incommunicado?

either way, enjoy your vacation and a happy, peaceful, restful & musical holiday season to you and yours!!! : )

22 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 25, 2008 11:40 pm

[21] Thanks, man! Japan is funny..so many people refuse to take their paid vacation from their company jobs, so the govt here implemented many national holidays (think i mentioned before, "Sea Day", "Nature Day", "Sports Day", etc). New Years is the main holiday in Japan (think Chinese New Year style, everyone goes to their hometown, huge dinners, etc). So the country basically shuts for about 6 days. I'm taking a little extra on top, going back to the motherland that is Brooklyn, USA...and not ready for the cold from the looks of it!

Will be checking the Banter for sure in between pizza and bagels. Good luck with the cupcoming gigs! Next time we chat maybe Manny, Sheets and Rickey will have all signed up for 2009...

23 thelarmis   ~  Dec 26, 2008 12:04 am

[22] rock on and travel safely! outta the 3, i'll take Rickey for three more dingers, thank you please! i'll be in Queens next weekend myself and will be indulging in the pizza and bagels myself! : )

shit, we should both try and meet up in da bronx and visit todd drew! it's a great thought, but i know how difficult it is to set those types of things up on family vacations. as it is, i only have 2 non travel days in NY, and i have to spend time w/ my dying grandpa, brothers' kids and already have a possible important business meeting setup. you'll have that...

i'm off to the watering hole! : )

24 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 26, 2008 12:12 am

[23] drop me a mail anyways, and best of times for you and your family in Queens. (booooh-booooooo Queens! it's Brooklyn or bust man!)

25 thelarmis   ~  Dec 26, 2008 4:37 pm

[24] well, my mom's originally from brooklyn and my brother works there. does that count?! oh, and i once went on an audition there. i got the gig and my dad offered to drive me to all the shows, but they said i was too young and didn't accept me. btw, i'm listening to Speak Like A Child now. it's AMAZING!!!

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