"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: New York is a Baseball Town

Before we get into today’s topic, I would like to relay an update to the community on Todd Drew’s progress. His wife, who is keeping up his e-mails for him while he recovers from his surgery, said he’s in stable but serious condition, and has turned a corner. She added that he was “touched” by the response all of his “baseball blog friends” had to the “Baseball and Me” post on December 22. As of this writing, she hadn’t yet given Todd the news of the Mark Teixeira signing.

It may be a couple of weeks before he is online again, and contributing here.

On behalf of all of us here at the Banter, Mrs. Drew, if you’re reading this, Todd’s baseball blog friends hope the corner he’s turned allows him to coast into home without a play at the plate.

* * * * *

It’s winter in New York. The Giants are in prime position for their third Super Bowl trip to Tampa in 18 years, the Jets are the Jets, the Rangers and Devils are in another dogfight for metro area bragging rights and playoff position, and the Knicks, although they still have a long way to go, are at least more entertaining than they’ve been in years past. But even with all the other sports jockeying for backpage headlines, the main attraction is baseball. If there was ever a doubt about this, look no further than last week, with the acquisition of first baseman Mark Teixeira.

Leave it to the Yankees to lie in the weeds, swoop in and land another big free-agent fish. Since the inception of free agency, no team has played the game better, with more fervor, or worked the system to its favor, than the Yankees. This mindset, the relentless commitment to spend whatever it takes to get the necessary pieces to win, has defined the Yankees organization, even before Free Agency (remember the old joke that the Kansas City A’s were the Yankees’ Major League farm team)?

As a result, the Yankees make sports editors’ jobs very easy.

Tex’s migration to pinstripes brought unleashed the haters from all walks of the media landscape. (Again, credit goes to Diane Firstman for her link work here at the Banter, keeping us apprised of all the Yankeecentric goings-on in cyberspace. Diane, I hope your back doesn’t hurt from all the heavy lifting. Tip: Use the legs and hip flexors.) That was to be expected; the Yankees are arguably the most galvanizing organization in professional sports. The analysis through all walks of the Internet coverage, both for and against the signing, and the stories that relayed the ancillary effects of the signing, was excellent. Best of all, it was entertaining.

That’s not always the case. Events like the Teixeira signing tend to bring out a mixture of the best and worst in terms of reporting, fact-checking, story construction, and follow-up. Few stories fall into the mediocre gray area. In my opinion, the resultant coverage of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett signings and press conferences elicited throwaway pieces (my own blog in this space included). There was little beyond the obvious.

With Teixeira, though, something clicked. The local beat crew and columnists, as well as the national group — FoxSports.com’s Dayn Perry in particular — brought their A games. The blogosphere has been especially prescient. Cliff Corcoran’s work on this site, particularly on the economics of the 2009 Yankee roster compared to 2008, has been spot-on. Baseball Prospectus stalwarts Joe Sheehan, followed Cliff’s lead. Steve Goldman has done his typical yeoman’s work at YESNetwork.com. Replacement Level’s straight-up numerical analysis on the recent signings and the effect Andy Pettitte would have on the ’09 rotation has been educational and necessary. Pete Abe got sabermetric in his disgust at the Yankees’ treatment of Chien-Ming Wang.

If all the scribes maintain this level, we are in for a tremendous year on the baseball writing.

What’s going on now is true information sharing. No longer is there an “eyes and ears of the fan” for the press. More often than not, the fans, or as I like to call us, the “outsiders,” are as educated, if not more so, than the people employed by the major media outlets holding BBWAA cards.

The only thing they have on us is access.


During my one-season tenure as public address announcer for the UCLA Baseball team (1999), I was fortunate to see a number of elite Major League ballplayers in the early stages of their professional development. Some of the more notable names include current World Series winner Chase Utley (UCLA’s starting second baseman), All-Star Garrett Atkins (UCLA’s starting first baseman), Barry Zito at USC, and Xavier Nady and Mark Teixeira, who were third basemen at Cal and Georgia Tech, respectively. Nady led the Pac-10 in home runs that season. Tex was a freshman stud. Both made position changes to accelerate their ascent to the Major Leagues.

Nady, even then, was a free swinger with tremendous power. I wasn’t sure he’d even reach the Show. (I thought the same thing about Utley and Atkins. This is why I’m not a scout.) Teixeira, however, was a sure thing. The Yellow Jackets baseball media relations director told me the story of Teixeira’s rejection of the Boston Red Sox’s $1.5 million offer, and how he was projected to be better than Nomar Garciaparra. (Somehow in the years since — until I read the story again this week, I thought the Braves drafted him out of high school and the dollar figure was double that. I’m glad I was wrong, but I digress.) I was impressed with Teixeira’s completeness as a player, and also his demeanor. I’ve tracked him ever since he got to the major leagues, the fan in me simultaneously hoping that if he became available that the Yankees would agressively pursue him, particularly after he won his first Gold Glove in ’05. As my boss says, “Hope is not a strategy.” They got him, and the wonderments of how he’d fit with the team will end soon enough.

The features and profiles that have been published in the past week have me thinking that the Yankees, in Teixeira and also Sabathia, not only have two bona fide studs on the field, but good guys in the clubhouse. That’s important, given the merry-go-round of questionable personalities from Raul Mondesi to Jeff Weaver to Kevin Brown to Randy Johnson to A-Rod to Carl Pavano. Gary Sheffield could be classified in that category, but most of the players said he was a first-rate teammate. The same can be said for Roger Clemens.

The signings of Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira are, in my view, the Story of the Year in New York baseball. Will they be the story of next year also? I think they will be, regardless of where the Yankees finish in the standings. I’d love to get your take.

Until next week … Happy New Year.

Categories:  Will Weiss  Yankee Panky

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:46 am

Will, I got an update from Mrs. Drew yesterday and she said she told Todd about the Teix deal and his eyes lit up. He's slowly coming off a respirator. It's a pogressive recovery, still serious, but stable.

He's a fighter and so is she. Wishing them all our best of course.

2 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:17 pm

[1] Great stuff, Alex. You must have gotten your update in the afternoon. Let's all continue to pull for Todd, Mrs. Drew and his family.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:22 pm

[1] Good news indeed. I hope to meet him on the 2 train one day and it somehow be obvious who we were to each other, but for now I wish him the speediest of recoveries!

I kinda think many in the media got caught flat-footed by the Yanks signing Tex; there were so many reports that the Angels and Boston were jockeying for position, then the Red Sox taking the lead that the throwaway comments of "the Yankees are always lurking" were taken for granted, which obviously worked well in Cashman's favor. That coupled with the recent signings of both CC and Burnett and one would think the Yanks were about done with high-profile signings in light of the serious downturns economically around the nation and the world (with NYC in particular a veritable epicenter of doom), but woosh! they sign him and blow everyone's hats off in the process.

I generally believe that the loudest trumpets for the "Tex-to-the-Red Sox" orchestra were especially taken aback as they may have perceived a credibility hit and either course-corrected like crazy or attacked the deal based on what is perceived as a direct affront to common sense. I obviously could be wrong about that, but more interesting to me was not the signing itself but the media and industry reaction to it, which was hypertensive. I wonder how this would have played out if we didn't have the backdrop of a melting national economy; would the ramifications for other players (Manny) be so severe?

4 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:35 pm

[3] Good post, as always, Will. ... I think you're right in that the media got caught flat-footed, but I don't think they took the "Yankees are still a factor" statements for granted. They asked the questions and their sources played it close to the vest. The reporting reflected that. The same is going on now with the Mets and their pursuit of Derek Lowe. If no one is willing to talk, it's tough to report, and credibility becomes a HUGE issue when most or all of the sources are either "close to the situation" or "spoke on the condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to speak to the media."

The media and industry would not have reacted as severely if Sabathia and Burnett hadn't happened beforehand. To your point on the melting economy and the possible backlash if the financial situation of the country was different, I remember in 1999, when the Dodgers gave Kevin Brown the 7-year, $105 million contract, the vitriolic commentary that ensued. It was even worse in 2001 when A-Rod fled to Texas. The economy was more bullish in both of those years. I think this has as much to do with the rich getting richer and writers trying to equate that with the separation of wealth in the society at large. It's not a fair comparison. I should have noted this in my piece last week, but my point was more focused on the press conferences and the presentation of the players more than the cultural significance of their coming to NY.

5 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:41 pm

[1] Thanks for the good news update, Alex.

[3] I think Manny would be screwed, good economy or no. Yes, he's a great hitter and all, as shown by his production every day in LA - but how can a team guarantee it will get that kind of production once it gives Manny what he wants (4 years and lots of cash)? I think that's a fear regardless of the economy. I'm also not sure if that's a fair characterization, but that's where we are.

6 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:00 pm

[3] "...would the ramifications for other players (Manny) be so severe?"

Might we refer to these as Man-Ramifications?

7 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:02 pm

[5] Manny is screwed by being 37 y.o. next year. Great hitter or not, a four year contract is a big risk, and especially if he wants 20+ million per year.

8 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:03 pm


Thanks for the tip Will ... my chiropractor thanks you too. :-)


Good news about Todd .... though I blanched when I read the word "respirator".

9 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:08 pm

[6] Ram-Manny-fications. ... [7] That's the piece that's gone so severely under-reported. He will be 37 years old next year. You and a few others pointed this out yesterday: his durability aside, Derek Lowe asking for a 4-year deal at Age 35, just one year younger than Pettitte, who is basically being given one-offs, is just as absurd.

10 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:10 pm

Really good to hear Todd's reaction to the Tex signing. For Todd's health, we better not get Manny.

I guess I am a Cashman ass-kisser, but I think he has done an awesome job this winter. While I could have done without AJ, it's basically only money, and a typical high risk (dollars only) high reward kinda deal.

A lot of folk think it's as easy as having money. Money makes it possible and maybe puts the odds in your favor, but it doesn't close the deal. Cashman's initial offer of 6/$140 just took the wind out of every GM. But CC had other options, and I give Man-of-Cash credit for closing this deal.

The Tex deal was a work of art... almost ARod like. These blogs were filled with 'geez... I will we could get Tex... (sign)'. This one took us all by surprise and left our good friends in Beantown with serious egg on their faces (but they didn't want Tex anyway, right?).

And I love the Swisher deal. Considering defense, he might even equal or outproduce Abreu.

There's no doubt there's risks in what we did, but thats the name of the game. Dice-K and Nancy Drew were risky too. 3 - 28 year olds and a 31 year old... how unYankee like.

Ultimately, AJax, Montero, Joba, Phil, AA and other kids will need to step up to really make us good for the long run, but we are looking pretty decent now.

I'm curious how my fellow Banterers (Banterees, Banterites?) feel we stack up again TB, Boston and the rest of MLB in terms of pitching (SP + RP) and overall team quality.

11 SteveAmerica   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:13 pm

OYF wrt to 10: ReplacementLevel has a good early projection post that shows how the Yank's stack up. Favored to win the division, but not by a ton.

12 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:14 pm

[9] Let's first see who gives him 4 years. The last I heard (and it keeps going down) is around 3/$36m.

Also, Lowe has averaged an ERA+ of 124 over the last 3 years, and also over the last 2. Andy has an ERA+ of 104 over the last 2 years. Not saying Derek is better then Andy... just sayin.

13 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:18 pm

[12] I agree about Manny's contract. He'll hold out for now, but since the big bidder 9Yankees) is out, he will eventually start fielding 2 or 3 year contracts. I can see him getting three years, especially for an AL team. Manny and Baltimore, perfect together?

Or maybe Washington swoops in--they seem to want to spend money.

14 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:19 pm

[10] I love what Cash did this winter also, OldYank. And you're right in that it's not as easy as just having money. The Yankees pursued the right players, not just any players. Cash combined youth, skill, risk, etc., and put together the pieces to lay a foundation for the next 3-4 years. I thought Swisher would put them out of the Teixeira running, and for sure that breaking the bank on Sabathia and Burnett did it. ... Cashman, in the past four years, managed to hang on to Cano and Wang, orchestrate trades to help fortify their farm system (part of his plan), and also draft wisely (IPK and Joba, most notably). ... I still think, though, that until we see how the ultimate intangible -- chemistry -- develops, we won't know how they stack up. I still think the Red Sox (gulp), are the team to beat in the Division. The Rays are no fluke, and no joke. And I'm still not convinced Joba Chamberlain's place is in the rotation. I'd feel more comfortable with Pettitte and/or IPK, Hughes, Aceves, etc. Lots of variables there.

15 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:19 pm

[11] Have you seen their recent (2 minutes ago) comparison of Andy to NO Andy? Doesn't look right. ERA+ of 94 for Pettitte? I think these projections give too much weight to age. I wonder what RJ projects to.

16 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:19 pm

[10] Hoe the SP stacks up depends a lot on the health of Burnett. I'm wearing my optimist glasses and predicting that he has solid, full season. If that works out, then surely one of Hughes/Kennedy/Aceves/Giese/etc. fills in adequately as the #5.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:20 pm


Given that he might be headed back to L.A., I suggest Man-Ramifications Californications.

(yeah, I went there .... so sue me) :-)

18 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:21 pm

[16] "How", not "hoe."

Typing at work, when no one is looking...

19 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:21 pm

[13] My comment in [12] was about 4 years for LOWE. NO WAY Manny gets 4 years. I doubt he gets 3. For 2 years, he may get 2/$45.

20 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:21 pm

[17] This is fun!

21 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:22 pm

[12] Good points, both. Putting on my GM hat, I don't believe in giving more than 2 years and a third-year option, under any circumstances, to a pitcher above Age 33.

22 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:22 pm

[19] He'll get two years + an incentive or option third year, that's my prediction.

23 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:22 pm

[21] Damn you.

24 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:22 pm

[14] HEY!!!!!!! WHO YOU CALLING OLD???
I'm an old 'Yanks Fan'. Dig my syntax!

25 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:26 pm

[6] ! Starting to rub off on you, eh? >;)

26 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:28 pm

[14] To borrow monkeypants's optimist glasses and apply them to the bullpen, just wait until you see Mark Melancon, Will. And what Joba does as a starter. Then let us know what you think about where Joba belongs. =)

In any case, your overall point is spot on: its going to be awfully interesting in the AL East this year.

27 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:30 pm

[22] Great minds think alike, right? Sorry I beat you to the punch. ... [24] and apologies for coming off as agist. I dig the syntax, but not the excessive exclamation points or question marks (slight pet peeve). We're good. I dig the syntax, and your comments. Always solid.

28 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:33 pm

[26] Thanks. I hope you're right about Melancon and a full year of Joba in the rotation. At least now they're making the commitment to him being there for a full season. I'll ask our friend at BP, Will Carroll, about this, but I believe the mid-season shift in priority was responsible for his shoulder problems.

29 Mrs Todd Drew   ~  Dec 31, 2008 12:31 am

Thank you all for pulling for Todd. Today was tough - he was taken off the respirator to be put back on 10 hours later. But it was for the best, he just was not quite ready. However, while he was awake we discussed the line-up through nods and shakes since his throat was too sore to speak clearly. Damon, Jeter, Nady, Alex, Matsui...I reminded him about Teixeria and he was very pleased again. I check in here every couple of days to stay on top of the baseball news. -Marsha

30 thelarmis   ~  Dec 31, 2008 3:54 am

[29] thank you sooo much for including me on the emails! i'm thinking of todd and you daily. when he is ready to hear, please tell him hello! : )

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