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Yankee Panky: Slow Goings, Until Now

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.

Speaking of pitchers, are the Yankees going back to the well with Andy Pettitte? That appears to be the case, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and Pete Caldera of the Bergen Record.

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.


1 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 26, 2009 9:17 am

Will - congrats to you and your wife! That is truly wonderful and welcome news.

2 Dimelo   ~  Jan 26, 2009 9:46 am

Unlike the Giants, I hope you use Jacobs to pound the ball in the Red Zone. ha! Congrats to you and your family on the new addition.

3 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 26, 2009 10:08 am

[1] [2] Thanks guys. We'll see how good of a fastball this baby has in a few years.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 26, 2009 10:52 am

Congratulations, Will! ("and may your foist child be a masculine child!" >;)

And further regarding The Book, I agree with Torre in that you should wait and see before making a fuss about the book; all the speculation serves the publishers fully and the subjects very little. Me, I couldn't care less; I'm a Torre fan, but also a Yankee fan first, and my allegiances to both will not be torn asunder by media and marketing speculation. My problem is I'm too cynical about marketing and though I get caught up in the nonsense, I quickly realize how foolish I am for doing so and try to shut up until the facts are indeed in.

That doesn't work for everyone and I don't suppose it should, but the way I see it, if Torre calls Cashman up and tells him to wait for the book first and assures him they are still friends, and Cash accedes to that logic, well then what am I getting mad about? Let's wait and see first. Or actually, you wait and see, because I'm really not that interested >;)

5 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 26, 2009 10:54 am

[4] (unless the baby's a girl, in which case I hope she's real purtee! >;)

6 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 26, 2009 11:30 am

[4] [5] Thanks Will. Due date's next Wednesday, so I may be reading the Torre book until I get called into the Delivery Room.

7 edoubletrouble   ~  Jan 26, 2009 11:48 am

Good luck with the birth. If you're planning to be at your lady's side during birth make sure her nails are cut or else you may get hurt. Do you have a plan for when her labor begins? Where are you giving birth? Is she going natural? Healthy baby, healthy baby! Hoorah!

8 PJ   ~  Jan 26, 2009 11:50 am

Good luck with the new Yankees fan, Will! Of course you already have the gear, right? If given the choice, I would certainly get more use from purchasing a large box of diapers than buying a copy of "The Book"! And I don't have any children!

9 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 26, 2009 1:41 pm

[7] Thanks for the kind words. We know about the Howard Hughes talons. The plan is for me to make her laugh and break the tension. Giving birth at a hospital near us on Long Island. ... [8] We've got the gear in place. Absolutely.

10 Bruce Markusen   ~  Jan 26, 2009 2:36 pm

Will, congratulations on the upcoming arrival. Very exciting. It will change your life, almost completely in good ways!

11 Diane Firstman   ~  Jan 26, 2009 4:22 pm

Derek Jeter Weiss
Alex Rodriguez Weiss
Celerino Sanchez Weiss

(nah ... just name the kids something that doesn't get him/her poked fun at at school)

Here's to have safe and happy birth!

12 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 26, 2009 4:35 pm

[11] Cecilio Guante Weiss. ... Donald Arthur Mattingly Weiss. ... Henry Louis Gehrig Weiss. ... Marianne Rivera Weiss. Fun times.

13 Bruce Markusen   ~  Jan 26, 2009 4:41 pm

Cecilio Guante translates into "Cecilio Glove," for whatever that is worth.

14 ny2ca2dc   ~  Jan 26, 2009 6:36 pm

Congrats Will, and one tip: if it's a boy, teach him to pitch with his left arm.

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 26, 2009 7:46 pm

[7] very wise advice! Good luck and congratulations, the little one of course must ben amed Reginald Martinez Weiss if it's a boy!

16 3rd gen yankee fan   ~  Jan 26, 2009 11:35 pm

"...law firm of Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves, Coke & Johnson." (snicker)

Best of luck with the new little one... friends of mine just popped one out too. 4.5 hours of labor for a first child, nice. They barely knew she was coming. Didn't have time to get the pool inflated even. I wish the same for your missus.

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