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News of the Day – 3/31/09

Today’s news is powered by a great speech by the Captain …

  • Brett Gardner talked to Tyler Kepner about an a batting adjustment that seems to have made a big difference for him:

. . . he (Gardner) explained that his improvement at the plate began last September when Kevin Long suggested he eliminate his stride. Gardner won’t become another Molitor, to be sure, but the approach has worked.

“It did two things: I’m out front less, and I’m able to stay back and see the ball deeper,” Gardner said. “I feel like my head’s moving a lot less, and I’m able to see the ball batter. That helps you judge the strike zone and helps your timing. I feel like I’ve been squaring more balls up since last September than I ever had before. It’s something promising for me.”

  • Could 23-year-old SS Ramiro Pena make the Opening Day roster?:

. . . Then, with Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano playing in the World Baseball Classic and Alex Rodriguez out after hip surgery, Peña found himself with an elevated role in spring training as a big-time infield replacement. And he played way above expectations while filling in.

In fact, he played so well that he is neck and neck with Angel Berroa for the utility infielder’s job — not in Triple-A but on the Yankees.

When Peña first realized he was being considered for a spot on the major-league club last week, his wide eyes gave away his surprise. He had thought he was in major-league camp mainly to fill in for the missing trio. That may have been the original idea, but the Yankees saw how much he had progressed.

“To me, his at-bats have really gotten better and better as the spring has gone on,” manager Joe Girardi said.

[My take: Do I hear "late inning Jeter defensive replacement" in the distance?  Girardi could pass it off as just giving the aging Jeter an inning or two more rest during the season, though if Girardi does it in 1-run games, it might raise more eyebrows.]

  • Speaking of Jeter, he seems to have made an impact on A.J. Burnett, at least based on this quote:

After spending $423.5 million this winter to bring in Burnett, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees are reloaded and ready to make a run at another championship.

Burnett says anything less than that would be a bust, following the lead of Yankees captain Derek Jeter. For years, Jeter has preached that the season is a failure if you’re not the last team standing.

“I agree with him 100%; that’s why we’re here and why we play this game,” Burnett said.

But is a World Series-or-bust edict more pressure than players need over a 162-game season? Burnett doesn’t think so.

“I think it’s a good mind-set to take to the field with you every day,” he said. “I’ll start thinking that in my preparation now, because I think it’s true. There are 25 guys in here, but we’re not just playing for ourselves. We’re playing for the fans, we’re playing for the city and we’re playing for the world of pinstripes.”

  • Continuing with the Jeter news, Baseball Prospectus.com compares his salary to their valuation of him for the upcoming season:

Set aside in sort of a special category all his own is the Captain—Derek Jeter is being paid $20 million in 2009 because of who he was when he signed his ten-year, $189 million deal in 2001. Now that we’re in the back end of his deal and projecting his 2009 performance to be worth just $5.55 million. It takes an awful lot of faith in what he’s worth in terms of advertising and pinstriped brand management to say that he’s really earning the extra $14 million or so, but that isn’t very fair to Cashman or the Yankees—they got great value from Jeter at the front end of the deal, they accepted the risk here at the back end, and it’s not as if the money spent kept them from spending big this past winter.

[My take: Every contract that covers "past-prime" years should be front-loaded.  I know its counter-intuitive from a "future value of money" vs. "present value of money" sense, but from a "bang for the buck" standpoint, it makes sense.]

  • Andy Pettitte channels his inner Yogi Berra in this quote (emphasis mine):

“I stuck around and was able to watch C.C. the other night, and he was unbelievable,” Pettitte said. “We should have a great staff, that’s really all you can say. But you have to do it, and that’s a lot of doing to do. Hopefully, we can all be healthy, and it will be fun to see what we can do.”

  • Happy 29th birthday to Chien-Ming Wang.  The Banter wishes Wang improved health (no quirky injuries) in 2009.  Fun Fact: In the expansion era, only the immortal Sandy Koufax has a better career winning percentage (.733) than Wang’s .730 (he’s 54-20), based on a minimum 74 decisions.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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29 comments

1 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:13 am

RE: backloading contracts...It isn't a matter of intuition, but cold hard facts. From an economic standpoint, it is never better to frontload contracts, (except perhaps if you are trying to avoid the luxury tax and anticipate that the player will be so good early on that you'll spend less elsewhere and so weak later on that you'll have to spend a lot more to compensate). While it might seem like a good idea from a pyschological standpoint (like having more money withheld from your taxes so you can get a refund), it is a fiscal loser.

2 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:20 am

I also find it hard to believe that Jeter's offensive contributions will plummet so low to justify BP's projections. I am actually pretty optimistic that he will rebound nicely with the bat. I do, however, think it would be an excellent idea to rest him in the later innings of all games that aren't close. Jeter's body has taken a beating and he'd benefit from more rest.

3 Mattpat11   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:24 am

I'm all for anything that prevents Angel Berroa from joining the team

4 Rich   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:28 am

[0] One way to handle the aforementioned "late inning Jeter defensive replacement" (I'm beyond skeptical that it will happen) would be to move Jeter to LF (or RF as long as Nady starts) if/when Pena slides in at SS. At the very least, Jeter should be asked to take OF practice to both gauge his aptitude there as well as to prepare him for the (inevitable) position shift.

I have no problem with Jeter's current contract. I will, however, have a major problem if he receives a new contract that has a similar AAV. More importantly, any new contract shouldn't extend for more than two years after the expiration of the current contract. They made a stupid mistake by giving A-Rod 10 years; there is no rationale basis to repeat it. Lastly, a position change should be a condition precedent to any new contract.

5 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:33 am

"Derek Jeter is being paid $20 million in 2009 because of who he was..."

I'm going from memory here, so I may be wrong... but I believe that quote above is 100% wrong.

When Jeter signed, there was talk of who was the best of the big 3 shortstops... Jeter, Nomar or ARod. Those in the know knew ARod was a class or 3 above the other 2, but Jeter had a career year in 1999, and ARod did not have enough history to make this obvious.

In negotiating with Jeter, the Yankees offered him something like $11.7m/yr. Jeter didn't accept and it was rumored that he wanted $13m. But mid negotiations, some idiot offered and signed ARod for $25m/yr. Based on that, getting Jeter for 75% of ARod money, or $18.9m/yr seemed reasonable.

My guess is Jetes may have gotten something like 8/$100m. However, when Hicks signed ARod, it raised the bar for 'great shortstops'.

My guess is Jeter is AT LEAST $60m richer because of ARod, and probably closer to $90m richer, as I don't think he would have gotten 10 years if the ARod contract hadn't happened.

In 2003, when Nomar has a slightly better year then Jeter, Nomar signed the highest contract of his career..... $10.5m/yr.

6 Bum Rush   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:34 am

I want to know where the great value on the front non-arb years was. Fangraphs has him at -20 Million since 2002. Now, between this year and next year we're looking at another -30 MIllion. I don't see how his shining mug makes that up for the team over and above the players they already had.

I would absolutely love to see them putting in a defensive replacement during close games. I don't see it happening, but I would be pleasantly surprised.

RAB had a great summary of Jeter's defense. It was so great in fact I couldn't find anything wrong with it:

http://riveraveblues.com/2009/03/fielding-bible-jeters-defense-revisited-9558/

Solid when the balls hit at him? Check. check.
Small range because he plays too far in? Check. check.
Weak throwing arm that the jump throw helps to compensate for? Check, check, check.

Great post.

7 Rich   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:47 am

[5] George was unwilling to sign off on an agreement that had been reached with Jeter's agent for about $118 million over 7 years until Juan Gone signed a $140 million deal with the Tigers because George didn't want to set a new salary bar. Juan never signed so George demurred. Then Hicks big against himself in signing A-Rod and Jeter reaped the benefit in the contract that he ultimately signed.

8 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:52 am

[6] That's $20mn over 7 years, or about a $2.5mn premium. As far as long-term contracts go, I think that's pretty good value. Also, Jeter was only -$5mn last season, so if you are going to use Fan Graph stats, I have no idea how you see him as -$30mn over the next two seasons. In fact, if he maintains his defensive uptick and rebound with the bat, Jeter could actually exceed his 2009 salary in terms of value.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:57 am

[7] On the other hand, you could look at it this way: had the Yankees signed Jeter to that 7 year deal one year earlier, he would have been free agent after the 2006 season. At age 32, he would have been coming off an legitimate MVP season (and his second best of his career) in a market flush with cash. Considering the tact the Yankees took with Arod, it isn't absurd to think they would have re-upped Jeter for another long-term, mega deal.

So, in that sense, Steinbrenner's reluctance could have saved the team a lot of money in the very long run.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:00 am

[6] [8] Also, fan graphs doesn't include 2001 data. Jeter "only" made $11mn that season and had an OPS+ of 123, so I think it's save to say he would have been a net gain that season. That has to be added into the mix when you evaluate the contract.

11 Mattpat11   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:06 am

Yankees reassign Tomko. Thank God.

12 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:07 am

The Tigers released Garry Sheffield.

13 rbj   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:20 am

Another thing to consider is the amount of #2 jerseys, etc., sold.

Depending on how long the recession lasts, it'll be interesting to see what new contracts look like, especially for the Yankees with the new ballpark to pay off and the ridiculously expensive tickets.

14 Bum Rush   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:25 am

That would be karma, bitch - Sheffield stuck forever on 499.

15 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:37 am

Here's a head-scratcher ... the Braves, an organization/ownership in economic turmoil, just gave Chipper Jones a 3-year extension worth $40 million, with an option for 2013.

http://tinyurl.com/d4vpqr

As much as we lambaste the A-Rod contract, he's STILL been healthier than Chipper.

16 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:38 am

[14]

Then again, in the "Steroid Era", isn't 600 the new 500? :-)

17 PJ   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:40 am

[15] Arguably, Chipper Jones has been about as healthy as Carl Pavano...

;)

18 PJ   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:43 am

[14] Never fear! I'm sure Joe Torre can find a place for Sheffield out in L.A. 3B maybe? Hahahaha!

19 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 31, 2009 10:50 am

[18]

Sheffield actually started out as a SS .... he'll be Jeter's late-inning defensive replacement!

20 PJ   ~  Mar 31, 2009 11:05 am

I put one of my infamous comedic lyric updates on yesterday's game summary... Please check it out for a few laughs! I hope you all like it!

Sometimes, it's difficult for me to keep up when new articles get posted.

;)

21 monkeypants   ~  Mar 31, 2009 11:25 am

[5] [8] et al.

Pointing to Jeter's $20 million per in the last years of his contract takes that figure entirely out of context. As william points out, you have to look at the contract as a whole. The Yankees have and will always overpay in length and $$$ to guarantee getting the best talent available at the time (by and large). The 20 million should not be seen in isolation, but rather it should be spread over the whole length of the contract (as William put it at [8]). Jeter signed for 10 years, 18.9 million, or about 19 million per year, more or less regardless of how the money is structured (because the Yankees have essentially an unlimited budget, so paying Jeter "too much" by 10 million one or two years does not significantly constrain them from signing other players).

Now, is 19 million/year "too much" for one of the top few shortstops in the game EVERY year of the contract so far (including last season, for despite the nay-sayers, Jeter was still easily in the top third of SS league wide including both offense and defense).

Finally, as OYF points out [5], when Jeter was signed his contract was commensurate with the superstar deals at the time, and he was clearly one of the "Holy Trinity" of HOF destined SS. Now let's see, what has happened to the other two? Nomar is a broken down (steroids?) mess playing part time around the diamond, and A-Rod no longer plays at SS. It does not matter that his move to 3B allowed Jeter to remain at SS--the fact remains that of the three big name SS of the 1990s, only one is still standing at his position. In many ways, Jeter has more than lived up to his back-loaded contract.

Now the time comes for the team to pay the piper. That's the deal with such contracts.

One last point. Instead of talking about total dollar figures, it might be more instructive to consider Jeter's contract as a percentage of the Yankees payroll. In 2001 the team payroll was well below 150 million; now it's right around 200 million. In other words, in terms of average salary (19/year), Jeter's is costing the team LESS per year relative to their budget. In annual terms, his contract continues to hover around 10% of the teams salary, give or take. In other words, again, his back loaded contracted does not mean that he is costing the team MORE (in functional terms) in the later years.

22 Mattpat11   ~  Mar 31, 2009 11:33 am

And Pena may get the job over Berroa.

OH HAPPY DAY

23 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 31, 2009 11:36 am

[20],[22] Tell me about it... >;)

24 Rob Abruzzese   ~  Mar 31, 2009 12:11 pm

How great would that be if Sheffield got stuck on 499? Serves him right, he wouldn't even be that close if it weren't for steroids.

25 SteveAmerica   ~  Mar 31, 2009 12:54 pm

So, basically, we got ten or so great years from a great player. He was "overpaid" which I don't understand why we worry about that because it's not like I'm overpaying him. That's OPM not mine.

Now we are dealing with having a declining great player. And so we whine about it. Cake and eat it to or something.

26 The Hawk   ~  Mar 31, 2009 2:13 pm

I understand why some people think Jeter is overrated or overpaid, I just don't happen to agree. Or maybe I just don't care. As Steve says it's not my money, and he's well worth having on the team. I want him on the team; if they pay too much I guess that's something you could frown upon in principle but I just can't get bent out of shape about it at all.

27 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 31, 2009 2:55 pm

I REALLLLLY hope Jeter doesn't do a Baerga/Alomar-esque plummet this year.

(although for that to happen, Jeter would have be to traded to the Mets!)

28 PJ   ~  Mar 31, 2009 5:10 pm

[27] "Jeter would have be to traded to the Mets!"

Speaking of unlikely things to happen, I'd sure take 30 five-inning starts from Joba (150 innings) with an ERA of 3.60 and no losses (4-0 in ST)...

;)

29 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 31, 2009 9:13 pm

It's only two tickets over the course of a season, but my Mom and sister went to the Stadium in the past ONLY to see Jeter in person..am thinking there must be a lot of other women out there that have done the same? Those tickets + jerseys, nachos, beer, etc..wonder how much it adds up to over 81 games??

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