"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 2/20/09

Powered by it just being Friday, here’s the news:

  • BP.com’s Christina Kahrl runs down the worst free-agent contracts of the off-season, and bestows the “worst” upon A.J. Burnett’s deal:

… why spend $16.5 million per year for the next five on a pitcher with Burnett’s spotty track record? Well, because you can, I suppose, and because somebody else you’re competing with might, but is investing this kind of money in a pitcher coming off of just his second full season in a big-league rotation in ten in The Show really where you want to wind up? Between Burnett’s repeated problems with durability and consistency over the course of his career, the money alone for this kind of length was nuts. Add in that young pitching is the organization’s great strength—Phil Hughes representing just the front end of the wave—and short-term deals like Pettitte’s incentive-driven one-year contract look entirely sensible as an adaptation to the market and the team’s immediate win-now needs; Burnett’s deal, by comparison, does not.

  • BP.com also trots out their first 2009 iteration of their Playoff Odds report, and pegs the Yanks as having a 32.1% chance of winning the East and a 24.5% chance of nabbing the wild card.  Their resulting 56.5% chance of making the post-season ranks a comfortable 2nd behind the BoSox in the AL.
  • If you care ….they’ve tracked down A-Rod’s cousin.

[My take: This song seems appropriate.]

  • Buster Olney reports that the Yanks and Padres are each interested in the services of a 32-year-old Mexican League pitcher named Walter Silva.
  • MLB.com explores the Yankees interest in players from China.
  • It appears that the Yankee lineup will run Tex/A-Rod in the 3/4 slots.
  • ESPN.com reports that Boss George and Bernie Williams each showed up at camp Thursday.  Here’s what was said about Steinbrenner:

Steinbrenner arrived at about 10 a.m., was brought from the parking lot to Steinbrenner Field in a golf cart, then was transferred to a wheelchair near a bank of elevators before going up to his office. The 78-year-old has been increasingly frail in recent years.

[My take: I was almost taken aback when I read about the wheelchair.  I mean … we all know he’s on the decline … but I still think of George as bluster and braggadocio.]

  • No surprise here … Hank Steinbrenner doesn’t think much of John Henry’s call for a salary cap:

“Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package,” Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. …

The Yankees, according to AP, paid about $110 million in revenue sharing and luxury tax last season — the latter a penalty for having a payroll beyond an agreed-upon dollar figure between owners and the players union.

“As long as we’re doing that and giving all this money to other teams in revenue sharing, a staggering amount, we should be able to spend on salaries what we want to,” Steinbrenner said. “Because of revenue sharing and because of the popularity nationwide, the Yankees are critical to baseball.”

  • PeteAbe rightfully calls out the Yankees for their handling of ticket plan renewals, especially when the team sends out a spelling-challenged letter to their fans.
  • Melky Cabrera won’t be going to the WBC, and the timing of the event is part of the reason why:

One of the few criticisms of the World Baseball Classic is its timing. Held in March every third year, the Classic forces regulars to work their way into game shape quicker, tempts rehabbing players to test the limits of their injuries and whisks young players — many of them competing for roster spots — away from their respective Major League camps.

… And now Melky Cabrera has followed his lead. Cabrera told the Yankees this week that he has abandoned plans to play for the Dominican Republic, in an effort to win the starting center-field job over Brett Gardner.

Cabrera, 24, held the starting center-field job for most of last season, though he posted the worst numbers of his career: a .249 average and a .301 on-base percentage in 414 at-bats. The rookie Gardner, meanwhile, earned increasing playing time down the stretch. But aside from 13 stolen bases in 42 games, his offensive numbers were no better.

Cabrera was on the preliminary roster for his native Dominican Republic,  (but) decided that he would be better served remaining in Tampa. …

The Classic begins on March 5 in Japan, and players will begin practicing with their national teams during the first week in March, just after the first few Spring Training games. If a player’s team makes it to the finals from March 21-23, they will be away from big league camp for roughly three weeks.

[My take: Why can’t they hold it in the Fall/Winter?  They have leagues in Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the D.R. then … why can’t they just substitute the WBC for those leagues once every four years?]

  • Here’s your Yankee broadcast schedule for Spring Training and the regular season.  As of right now, FOX doesn’t have them on for their weekly Saturday afternoon broadcast at all after August 9th (though the last two weekends are TBA on the Fox schedule).

Poll time!

[poll id=”15″]

  • Shane Spencer turns 37 today.  Spencer made quite an initial impression with the Yanks in 1998, compiling a line of .373/.411/.910 with 10 homers in 73 PAs.  He also added two more homers in the ALDS win over the Rangers.
  • Phil Lombardi (cups of coffee in ’86 and ’87) turns 46.  Lombardi was involved in one of the rare Yankee/Met trades: in December of ’87 he was dealt along with Steve Frey and Darren Reed for Rafael Santana and Victor Garcia (minors).
  • Happy 50th birthday to Bill Gullickson.  Gullickson was a late-season pick-up in ’87.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 20, 2009 9:19 am

I loves me some Jason Giambi: From ESPN...
'Giambi signed a one-year $5.25 million deal, and the club has an option for 2010. Giambi hopes he's playing far longer than that, saying he won't leave the game, "'til they tear this uni off me."


"What am I going to do -- seriously?" he said. "Maybe be a bouncer at a strip joint. That's all I'm qualified to do."'

2 ms october   ~  Feb 20, 2009 9:48 am

christina could have read the banter after the yanks signed burnett and heard that take from a sizable portion of commenters.
though i think if you put everything into context, the phillies signing of ibanez might be the worse signing.

3 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:02 am

And in other news ... Miguel Cairo's Caireer Continues! Signed with Phillies.

(He's not cut out to be a bouncer, only to hit them.)

4 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:38 am

SOT, did anyone catch this?

5 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:40 am


Been there .... reported that .... :-)

Nice turn of a phrase there, HC!

6 Raf   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:42 am

I would recommend Christina Kahrl check out Fangraphs for Burnett analysis.

why can't they just substitute the WBC for those leagues once every four years?

In the case of the winter leagues, there aren't enough games in the WBC. The winter leagues are actual leagues, what you're proposing is the equivalent of having MLB shut down substituting it for the WBC.

Spring training is the only "dead time" in baseball, occurring not much longer after the Caribbean Series ends.

7 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:43 am


I hear he got the fake ID from A-Rod's D.R. pharmacy (j/k)

In other bizarro news, Jose Guillen removed his own ingrown toenail (OWWWW!)

8 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 20, 2009 11:01 am

[7] Maybe this strategy will work next time out? >;)

9 PJ   ~  Feb 20, 2009 11:05 am

Perhaps Giambi's real world employment qualifications indicate a "young and stupid" quality that has been a recent topic of discussion in the baseball world. Despite his more than advanced age for baseball (38), strip clubs are hardly a suitable environment or activity for someone worth an excess of $150M.

He could retire in Bangkok where the rate of exchange is "more appropriate" for a person of his wealth and limited abilities. He may even be able to afford to BUY a strip club there. At least he's eminently and certainly qualified for the Christopher Walken, Deer Hunter-type sporting events they love so much in that region of the world!

For some reason, I am not currently inclined to worry about Jason Giambi’s scope of employment after baseball. Maybe that’s just me being young and stupid... or not...


10 ny2ca2dc   ~  Feb 20, 2009 11:55 am

With Pettitte in the fold and all the young talent, ya, AJ looks ... questionable - as Cliff has argued quite forcefully. But the Fangraphs and KLaw takes should help us at least get some sleep. I'm surprised Kahrl wasn't at all influenced by them.

And if all the pitchers work out, trade them for a good young shortstop.

Note: This comment not intended to re-flog a dead horse.

11 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:12 pm

Anyone got a link to the fangraphs and/or Keith Law pieces on Burnett. I'd be interested to read their takes.

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:16 pm
13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:21 pm

This piece from FanGraphs doesn't fall too far from my and Christina's analysis given it's emphasis on Burnett's injury history:

Burnett might as well come with an “if healthy” sign plastered to his forehead, as that qualifier has been and will continue to be attached to him. His injury history is too lengthy to list here, but elbow soreness (2006) and shoulder pain (2007) are the latest ailments to sideline the 6-5, 230 pounder.

. . .

While Burnett is an extremely talented hurler, his durability remains the great unknown. Burnett tossed a career-high 221.1 IP in 2008, and he didn’t experience health problems during the course of the season. However, the other two seasons in which Burnett crossed the 200-inning threshold both came with consequences. In 2002 as a Marlin, he tossed 204.1 innings. The following year, he made just four starts before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Burnett again topped 200 innings in 2005 (209 IP). He made just 21 and 25 starts in 2006 and 2007, respectively, dealing with the aforementioned elbow and shoulder maladies.

Will Burnett remain healthy and productive in the Bronx? It’s worth gambling to find out. Just don’t place too high of a wager on his dominant but oft-damaged right arm.

My argument is that the Yankees did place too high a wager on the health of Burnett's arm.

14 rbj   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:29 pm

Oh this is just great:

"1050 ESPN New York has learned, it is possible that Alex Rodriguez could be suspended by the Commissioner's Office depending on what MLB investigators were to find out about A-Rod's relationship with shady trainer Angel Presinal."


If the Yankees have to break camp without their thirdbaseman, I will be pissed. And this time it would all be A-Rod's fault, hurting the team in the here and now.

15 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:32 pm

Thanks, Diane. I now realize I've read the Law piece before. I can't quite understand how he's able to spend the majority of his piece describing how Burnett "doesn't always pitch up to his stuff" and "has, with some reason, earned a reputation as a pitcher who will only pitch if his arm feels 100 percent, even though most pitchers pitch from time to time with some soreness or mild discomfort," yet bookend that with a positive take on the signing despite not mentioning the dollars or years involved. Heck, the first line includes this: "if you feel optimistic and are willing to gift them with 30 starts apiece from A.J. Burnett."

I chalk Law up as another analyst who can't see past Burnett's boffo stuff to his underwhelming performance record and lousy health record.

As for the "Life of the Deal" piece on FanGraphs, Seidman seems to be doing his projection based off Burnett's 2008 season, which everyone, even those in favor of Burnett, such as Law, seems to recognize as a walk-year fluke. I'd say that invalidates his argument, though he still includes this: "Whether Cashman realized it or not, he signed Burnett to his fair market value in 2009, for five seasons." That seems pretty damning to me given that Burnett's already 32 years old.

16 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 12:42 pm


Well, that would be a much more legitimate reason to suspend him than having a positive test result from a supposedly-anonymous test administered before the institution of penalties.

17 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:26 pm

[14] Otherwise known as "How can we punish A-Rod for doing PEDs without actually punishing A-Rod for doing PEDs?" I imagine the MLBPA would have a lot of fun with that.

Hasn't that fellow been connected with some other players as well? Will they all be suspended? How about anyone else who's ever been connected with a shady trainer or other character? I believe that there's some document lying around the Internet called "The Mitchell Report" that details quite a few players having dealings with some shady fellows named Brian McNamee, Kurt Radomski, Greg Anderson, and Victor Conte. (In fact, two of those guys are convicted felons!) I imagine all the active players who had any connections with any of those guys will be suspended too, in light of the rules applying equally to everyone. Oh wait, I forgot, the people revealed in the Mitchell Report have already been granted amnesty! There's that Bud again, deciding who is subject to the rules and who isn't.

/sarcasm off

18 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:29 pm


Isn't Boss George a convicted felon too? :-P

19 rbj   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:30 pm

[16] Yes. And there is precedent with Leo Durocher getting a one year suspension for "associating with gamblers", not for having gambled.

I think this may be Bud's way of pressuring A-Rod to open up to the MLB investigators to tell everything he knows and to name names. Given that A-Rod isn't beloved in the clubhouse and there are many other players mad at the steroid users, I wonder just how much backing the union would give him.

Further, if it's a long, say 1 year, suspension + the steroid use, would the Yankees be able to void at least the HR $ clause in the contract, if not the whole thing. That clause was based upon the assumption that there was going to be a "clean" player assaulting the record. Now that that is tainted, there's at least an arguable fraud claim on the part of the Yankees.

My advice to Alex would be to cooperate fully. You've shown that you do not want to rat out other guys, which is fine. But now you have an obligation to help your team win the WS, you can't do that by being suspended.

20 Dimelo   ~  Feb 20, 2009 2:06 pm

[16] Selig is useless, if he goes the route of trying to suspend ARod then I really don't see what purpose it does. Hanging out with "suspect" people, who are not gamblers, is an offense that can have someone suspended? I had no idea. What a freaggin joke.

21 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:11 pm

Witchhunt #1 - Barry Bonds
Witchhunt #2 - Alex Rodriguez
Witchhunt #3 - ?????

Does anyone else here think that the primary evil doers here are Selig and Fehr?

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