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.