If you’re hungry for action on the Hot Stove, mid-January is a time that will leave you starving. There’s plenty of analysis of the Yankees’ 40-man roster and prospects in the trades. Locally, the stories have revolved around the Yankees’ pursuit or non-pursuit of Manny Ramirez and Ben Sheets, the arbitration roundup, the list of players representing their respective countries in the World Baseball Classic in March, the team’s move to the new Stadium, and the politics of how the Stadium’s construction was financed.
With all this in mind, the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting has become more prevalent.
If Pettitte truly wants to be in a Yankee uniform when the new stadium opens in April, he’ll swallow his pride and assume some accountability for the salary-based standoff. If he reads the reports of who the Yankees have vying for the fifth starter spot, he’ll see that he’s a better option than the unproven – or mediocre, depending on your perspective – law firm of Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves, Coke & Johnson. If the reports are true that the Yankees still prefer him over that quintet, then Pettitte has even more incentive to re-engage in discussions, and compromise with Brian Cashman.
This situation is different than 2003, when the Yankees’ concern about Pettitte’s arm led them to shy away from negotiating with him. Pettitte then signed with the Astros and made the Yankees look good when a forearm injury limited him to just 15 starts in ‘04.
The Pettitte saga has been a recurring topic in this space all winter also, and judging from the comments, I’d estimate it’s about 70-30 against Pettitte returning. From a baseball sense, though, if he and the Yankees agreed to a one-year deal in the $11-$12 million range as opposed to the $10-$10.5MM number, would you be opposed? I wouldn’t, especially if it meant 12-15 wins from the No. 5 spot. The possibility of his ascension to the fourth spot can’t be discounted, either; Joba Chamberlain could go down with an injury or be moved to the bullpen at some point.
For the next three weeks, this is the story to watch.
As for off-field news, per the New York Post and the Daily News, the next eight days leading up to the Feb. 3 release of Tom Verducci’s book “The Yankee Years,” with Joe Torre, are sure to be laced with all the venom, vitriol and public betrayal worthy of an Aaron Spelling drama. The revelation that Alex Rodriguez was fragile, narcissistic, had a “Single White Female”-level obsession with Derek Jeter, and had a clubhouse attendant run errands for him is not news. Torre crying foul on the character of GM Brian Cashman, who was long considered to be Torre’s greatest supporter in the wake of Hurricane Steinbrenner, is a surprise.
In the book, Torre states that Cashman’s public advocacy during the contract negotiations that followed the 2007 season was a façade. As The News’s Bill Madden reported:
According to a source familiar with the book, Torre does not step out of character. He simply recites the facts as he saw them and does not unfairly disparage the Yankees.
On SportsCenter Sunday morning, Buster Olney corroborated Madden’s assessment and confirmed that it is public record that the one-year offer the Yankees made was due to Cashman’s influence. A clip of Torre’s farewell press conference from Oct. 19, 2007, was run to illustrate the point that Torre and Cashman worked together to hammer out a deal. Olney also noted that in Torre’s first book, “Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series,” published in 1998, the ex-manager expressed dismay at the way the Steinbrenners viewed him. Right or wrong, Torre’s sensitivity to Steinbrenner criticism was the backdrop for much of his Yankee tenure.
Torre did have protection, though, and not only in the way of Cashman. I’ve thought that ever since Steve Swindal’s DUI arrest and fall from grace from the Steinbrenner family in February of ‘07, that Torre’s departure was imminent. I was in Tampa five years ago when Torre negotiated a three-year extension. At the ensuing press conference, Torre said that a meeting with Swindal helped get it done. I came away from that presser with the impression that amid the internal battle for power, as long as Swindal and Cashman were there, then Torre was “safe.” When Swindal literally and figuratively drove himself away, an “every man for himself” scenario developed.
I’ve had conversations on this topic with a few Bronx Banter colleagues, and I’m of the opinion that if Cashman did in fact betray Torre, it was to save his own job. Following the ’07 playoff debacle, it was clear that when it came to Torre and Cashman and their places with the organization in 2008, one or both of them would be gone. Cashman pulled a classic SYA move.
Torre pulled a classic move also: blasting his former employer in order to spike book sales. Does he have a right to be bitter? Perhaps. Was Chris Russo correct in his assessment of Torre, that the Yankee money kept him in New York for 12 years? Maybe. We may never know.
To that point, judging from the excerpts I’ve read of the Verducci book, and from the strong comments in Alex Belth’s earlier post in this space, all parties involved have their own version of the truth. I believe the truth lies somewhere between Torre, Cashman, Verducci and select members of the Yankees’ front office. Torre will say his peace on “Late Show with David Letterman” on the book’s release date. Cashman will likely comment this week. For his role as the messenger, Verducci will have to answer for himself at some point, maybe on one of his stints on MLB Network.
We as fans, as usual, will be left to draw conclusions and take sides.
PROGRAM NOTE: Yankee Panky is on baby watch. I’m in the Red Zone, as my wife is due with our first child any day now. My next post will take place when I settle in at home following the birth.