"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 2/23/09

Let’s get right to it …

  • PeteAbe has a longer-length column on Joe Girardi “more personal approach” this season:

Girardi approached the Yankees last season like one of the industrial engineering assignments he undertook as a student at Northwestern. If he applied enough of his own hard work and logic to whatever issue came up, he would find the solution. But those pesky variables, other people, kept getting in the way. …

Eight days into his second spring training with the Yankees is not enough time to determine whether Girardi truly has changed the methods that led to the reconfiguration of his coaching staff, tension in the clubhouse, and a fractured relationship with the reporters who cover the team. But his reaction to the Rodriguez scandal reveals a man willing to change.

Relentlessly positive a year ago, Girardi has been measured in his support of Rodriguez – a position that reflects the mood of the team – while at the same time using the situation as a way to better connect to his players. The bridges that he vowed to build last fall are falling into place, plank by plank.

  • Steve Serby has a fluffy but fun Q&A with CC Sabathia, including this instant classic exchange:

Q: Why do you wear your hat cocked?

A: It feels straight to me when I have it on.

  • John Harper details the financial risks Andy Pettitte took in the off-season:

When all the haggling was finally done this winter, Andy Pettitte turned down $10 million and wound up signing for $5.5 million with incentives, which is the kind of deal you think would get an agent fired in most cases.

Pettitte says no, he has no problem with Randy Hendricks and no problem with his deal. He was determined to get the $12 million he thought he was worth, and in the end maybe he paid a price for playing his hand too boldly, but he insists it was worth it for the chance to prove the ugly finish to last season doesn’t mean he’s one step from being washed up.

“Hey, around July last year I thought I was going to win 20 games,” Pettitte was saying Saturday. “I felt that good. So don’t tell me that based on my last 11 or 12 starts I’m done. I had a shoulder problem.”

As it turns out, he’s essentially betting $4.5 million that he can stay healthy and reach the incentives that could get him to $12 million, and for a 36-year-old pitcher with a history of elbow injuries to go with last year’s shoulder problem, that’s a risky bet.

Wedged in among the dramatics of A-Rod, the stoic professionalism of Jeter and the quiet dignity of Mariano Rivera, Swisher sticks out like a lunatic in a library.

“Swish is very energetic, I’ll tell you that,” said a bemused Posada, who sits four lockers away, still close enough to feel the bass vibrations in his sternum. “He looks like he’s really enjoying being here.”

Think Jack Black with a first baseman’s mitt or Ozzy Osbourne with the ability to draw a walk, and you’ve got Swisher pegged.

And his high-energy pre-workout routine – a little air guitar, a little wrestling with the kids running around the clubhouse, some mosh pit writhing – was just a warm-up for his post-workout session. That’s when he spent an hour in the batting cage with hitting coach Kevin Long, honing his swing from both sides of the plate while shouting “Nobody else is working like this!” between hacks.

A.J. Burnett has no problem with fans who question his $82.5-million contract.

He has no issues with people who wonder if he can stay healthy, either. He knows he has a lengthy injury history.

“I’ve been on the disabled list [10 times],” said Burnett, 32. “I would think the same thing. The bottom line is, it’s true. I’ve been hurt a lot. Those are the facts. What am I supposed to say, that I wasn’t hurt? I was.”

So Burnett understands the doubts. He has none himself, but he sees why others might. Plenty of Yankees fans are afraid of winding up with a harder-throwing version of the always-injured Carl Pavano on their team. But Burnett insists that won’t be the case, that he is psyched about competing in the pressure-cooker American League East from a new vantage point.

  • Ken Davidoff introduces us to new Yankees’ infield coach Mick Kelleher:

“My approach to baseball, and life, is to work hard, study and enjoy myself along the journey,” Kelleher, who also is the Yankees’ first-base coach, said yesterday at Steinbrenner Field. “That’s the way I played. That’s the way I’ve lived my life. That’s the way I teach. I try to pass that on to our players, my friends. It’s just an attitude.”

“His personality is unbelievable,” Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell told Newsday yesterday in a telephone interview. “Mick is always upbeat. You really never see him have a bad day.”

  • BP.com’s Kevin Goldstein profiles the Yanks’ Top 11 Prospects.  Here’s the lowdown on his two “5-star” prospects:

1. Jesus Montero, C
2008 Stats: .326/.376/.491, .261 EqA at Low-A (132 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 7

Year in Review: This well-regarded international signee nearly won the Sally League batting title as an 18-year-old in his full-season debut last year.
The Good: Montero’s bat falls into a special category. He has plus-plus raw power that he’s learning to unleash in games, but he’s first and foremost a hitter with a quick bat, tremendous plate coverage, and no weaknesses in terms of any pitch type or location. His plate discipline improved throughout the year and he began to drive the ball more, leading to a .344/.407/.534 batting line after the All-Star break.
The Bad: Montero improved by leaps and bounds on defense in 2008, but as one scout put it, “that means he went from embarrassing to just plain bad behind the plate.” He’s big and sluggish, has problems blocking the ball, his arm is below average, and he has little carry on his throws.

2. Austin Jackson, OF
2008 Stats: .285/.354/.419, .255 EqA at Double-A (131 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 3

Year in Review: He’s an athletic center fielder who last year failed to build on the previous year’s breakout.
The Good: Jackson’s tools rate as average or better across the board. He works the count well, has enough power to hit 15-18 home runs annually, and the speed to play a solid center field while stealing 20-25 bases a year. He earns raves for his makeup, effort, and competitiveness.
The Bad: Jackson is one of those players who is greater than the sum of his parts, and he doesn’t really have any one overwhelming tool. He’s already lost some speed since signing and lacks the bat for a corner, so he can’t afford to lose more.

  • NRI Jason Johnson was diagnosed with a melanoma in the retina of his right eye.  He’s undergone treatment during the past two weeks, and his chances of a full recovery are very good.
  • ESPN is reporting that the Captain is dealing with hamstring soreness, and Edwar Ramirez has some shoulder tendinitis.
  • Mark Melancon impressed PeteAbe with this stuff.
  • Boss George is getting a high school named after him.  But they’re stumped as to a mascot.
  • Rondell White turns 37 today.  White signed as a FA with the Bombers in 2002, and proceeded to put up his career-worst OPS+ (76) on a line of .240/.288/.378.  He was dealt away prior to the start of the 2003 season.
  • Today would have been Elston Howard’s 80 birthday.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 monkeypants   ~  Feb 23, 2009 9:09 am

[0] Rondell White.

A nice signing that turned very unpredictably awful. His OPS+ from 1997 to 2006: 106, 130, 119, 115, 134, 76, 120, 108, 122. Guess which season he played for the Yanks?

There is good reason to be critical of the FO for bad deals, but Cash and Co have made a number of nice moves in the last five or six years--nice moves on paper--that all seem to have gone wrong. Maybe this year's version, Nick Swisher, pans out ok.

2 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2009 9:41 am

And then there's "the next David Ortiz," Wilson Betemit

3 monkeypants   ~  Feb 23, 2009 10:11 am


Be fair. He was never the "next David Ortiz." He was the next "better than Miguel Cairo," a role which he satisfied admirably. But you are right in the sense that what on paper should have worked out better never yielded the expected results (ie, his career 110 OPS+ v. RHP plummeted in 2008).

4 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2009 10:31 am

Cashman's men were running through the halls screaming that they traded for the next David Ortiz.

He turned out to be, I think, unquestionably the worst player on the team over that year and a half. And he kept playing.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:03 am

Cashman’s men were running through the halls screaming that they traded for the next David Ortiz.

Do you have any proof of this? I have no recollection of such a thing.

Betemit was hitting .231/.359/.474 for the Dodgers when the Yankees acquired him, and the Yankees never missed Scott Proctor. It was a good trade that didn't work out, just like monkeypants said. Then again, the Yankees flipped Betemit for Swisher while the Dodgers let Proctor go, so it may yet work out after all . . .

6 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:12 am

Joe Torre's book.

7 Raf   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:18 am

[6] Yeah, I heard about that reference. Also heard about the "motivational" DVD that was played before the 2007 ALDS.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:25 am

Ah. Okay. My bad. I'm only now about to start reading Verducci's book.

9 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:46 am

Its on page 338 for anyone that happens to have the book and just wants to read that paragraph.

For all the hoopla about A-Rod before the release, I still say no one comes off worse in the book than Brian Cashman. There was similar raving about Igawa before started pitching. And Kyle Farnsworth. There were a couple other instances which I've since forgotten. I'll probably read the book again at some point.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 23, 2009 11:48 am

Again, I've not read it (though I will shortly), but from all I've heard, Joe really felt betrayed by Cashman and now it sounds like he took it out on him in the book.

11 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 23, 2009 12:08 pm

[1] While I like Cashman, I understand there are many who don't. But as MP points out, and has been mentioned about Vaquez, Contreres, Weaver and a number of others, we have had MANY good trades, at the time, on paper, that have not worked out. Cashman can only go by a players past and hope he performs similarly for the Yankees. When they don't, I just don't see how you can blame Cashman.

I will say the opposite seems true for the Sox. They get a lot of journeymen players, who seem to be rejuvenated by either the Sox or Fenwat Park. What's-his-name and what's-his-face on 2nd and 3rd base come to mind. And of course, nobody thought Papi would be this dominant.

Even when the Yanks get guys who are not old or in decline, they seem to underperform for the Yankees.

Is this something here to be analyzed? Is there truly a 'type' of guy who thrives in NY? Aside from Paulie, I can think of very few who did better as Yankees. Maybe Scotty too. And Moose has been great. Justice was great for a i/2 year then feel off a cliff. But the list of underperformers seems to far outnumber the list who were as good, or better, with the Yanks.

Is it NY? George? Are they intimidated by the Stadium? Or the fans? I don't know what it is, but it may be worthy of discussion.

Why do so many players have problems when they come here?

12 Rich   ~  Feb 23, 2009 12:12 pm

Torre's book contains nothing about his shortcomings as a manager. So it's not like he has much cred to pretend to be honest about others.

13 monkeypants   ~  Feb 23, 2009 12:23 pm

[11] I guess one could argue that it is not luck that Cashman continues to be fooled by past performance, while the Sox FO finds hidden gems. By this logic, Theo and the Boston Boys have figured out the magic metric while Cashman is still trying to catch up.

I don't buy it, and figure it's luck. Really, if Tony Clark's double doesn't bounce over the two foot wall in Fenway, then Cashman's moves probably look a whole lot better. Anyway, that's water under the bridge.

14 Dimelo   ~  Feb 23, 2009 12:26 pm

[12] I guess he is just going by the fact that he took the Yanks to the playoffs each and every year he was here. Then again, the opposite viewpoint is often made: anyone could have done that. Then again, we can't change history so all we have are the facts that Torre was successful here, so for me that's more than enough cred.

15 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 23, 2009 12:34 pm

The Red Sox have someone we don't... Bill James. Although, I don't think he was part of Red Sox Nation when they signed Ortiz.

16 Raf   ~  Feb 23, 2009 2:53 pm

Why do so many players have problems when they come here?

It's not as many as you think. If a player has game, they can play in NY. Of course, injuries can usually scotch a players' season. It's unfortunate that White & Vazquez, to name but two players only spent a season in NY. I still think Vazquez was hurt, I know White suffered a couple of injuries.

But in the case of many players that "couldn't hack NY" a number of them weren't all that good to begin with.

17 Raf   ~  Feb 23, 2009 2:59 pm

And of course, nobody thought Papi would be this dominant.

Maybe not, but the Twins knew he was a good hitter. At the time that the Twins cut him loose, he was an injury prone LH bat that may or may not ever live up to his potential. The Twins didn't want to make a commitment at that cost when they had other guys waiting to take his spot.

18 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 23, 2009 3:03 pm


Justin Morneau .... line 1.

19 Rich   ~  Feb 23, 2009 3:04 pm

[14] Let's grant your point arguendo that Torre deserves some credit for the rings (he obviously does).

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that even his staunchest defenders would deny that he could not have had success without being given significant talent. Consequently, it doesn't seem unreasonable to conclude that he owed the Yankee organization some gratitude for that opportunity.

The book , however, presents the picture of a man who has very little. As such, his cred is significantly diminished.

20 Rich   ~  Feb 23, 2009 3:10 pm

[16] Vazquez's performance here was a paradox.

His pre-AS ERA was 3.57; his post-AS ERA was 6.92. Many players face a period of adjustment in NY as they adapt to the pressure, but Vazquez's April ERA was 2.55.

So I agree that he may have been hurt, which probably shouldn't be a surprise because he was at or near the top of the list in Abuse Points after the preceding season.

21 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2009 5:34 pm

Cashman wouldn't be at the top of my list for people who factor in past performance before making a decision. He's been known to completely disregard it if it goes against a player he wants.

22 Rich   ~  Feb 23, 2009 8:01 pm

Every GM in MLB history has probably given a second chance to talented players who have underachieved for their prior team, especially when the cost of doing so is low.

With regard to Cashman, Chacon, Bruney, Proctor, Molina and even Sturtze have paid at least short-term dividends despite having inauspicious stats for their previous team.

23 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 23, 2009 8:23 pm

[13] was having a fine morning till you brought up Tony Clark's ground-rule double..sob sob sob.. :(

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