"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 8/18/09

Today’s news is powered by a tour of the current home of the Oakland A’s:

The Yankees have signed first-round pick Slade Heathcott for $2.2 million. He was drafted 27th overall, and the MLB recommendation for his slot was $1,107,000.

The Yankees have also agreed to terms with their second-round pick, catcher J.R. Murphy, and a fifth-round pick, right-hander Caleb Cotham.

A catcher with power and good arm strength from the Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla., Murphy’s signing bonus was for $1.25 million, Baseball America reported. A Vanderbilt sophomore, Cotham signed for $675,000.

  • The fight to save Gate 2 rages on:

Despite the opposition of baseball romantics and some Bronx residents, the city plans to dismantle the classic Gate 2 from the old Yankee Stadium.

“I think saving it is a good idea,” Sandra Mullen, 33, of the Bronx, said of the majestic entrance opposite the new Yankee Stadium.

“I like the old stadium from when I was a child. The new one is beautiful, but the old one was a classic.”

Boosters of the effort to save Gate 2 want it incorporated as the front door to the new Heritage Park, a 10-acre park slated to fill the footprint of the House That Ruth Built.

I’ve always contended Jeter’ defense has not hurt the team as much as some people think. Now, has he been better in the field this season? Sure, but look at the reasons, none of which have anything to do with Jeter himself.

He has a new infield coach, Mick Kelleher, whom he trusts and has known for many years. He has a better first baseman in Teixeira. And he plays behind pitchers more capable of hitting their spots than their predecessors, meaning, in theory, that hitters more often hit the ball where the fielders expect it to go.

Jeter is also playing on a new home field and might have made a change in his workout habits, though he never talks about that. I don’t know how those factors might have impacted him.

“I think it’s pretty cool, just getting that opportunity,” (Nick) Swisher said. “I’ve been bouncing around from team to team the last couple of years, but knock on wood, hopefully I’ve found a home. I really feel honored to be part of this tradition.”

. . . Though Swisher is hitting just .242 in 111 games this year for New York, the numbers go beyond batting average. He has driven in 64 runs and is tied for the American League lead with 75 walks entering play on Monday.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Swisher has given him about what was expected. While Swisher clashed with former skipper Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, Girardi said that Guillen did have positive things to say after the Yankees acquired Swisher in a November swap.

“I knew that he was an on-base guy that took a lot of walks and had power,” Girardi said. “I talked to Ozzie at the Winter Meetings, and he said that he was a better defender than he got credit for, wherever you put him.

“I expected production. I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to use all the people that we had, but I knew that I was going to get him at-bats and he would provide depth at a lot of places.”

  • Damon wants to stay too:

Before the season, there was a sense that the Yankees would allow (Johnny) Damon to move on and turn over his left-field spot to a prospect like Austin Jackson or a younger free agent like Matt Holliday. But Yankees officials seem to understand Damon’s value on the field and in the clubhouse, and now they would like him to return. When the Yankees want to keep a player and the player wants to stay, that is usually what happens.

“I don’t know where else I would want to go to,” Damon said. “Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about ready to approach free agency, but I’m very happy with playing in New York, and my family’s happy I play for New York. There’s no bigger place to go. If you play well here, you’re going to get paid. New York has the resources.

“But we also have the chance to win every year. I don’t want to attempt to go make more money elsewhere, for more years, with a chance to be out of the race by the first of June.”

[My take: Johnny Johnny Johnny . . . when have the Yanks EVER been out-bid for a player they REALLY wanted.]

He has not had many good times on the Oakland mound. In his last five starts here, (CC) Sabathia is 0-4 with an 8.54 earned run average. In eight career starts, he is 1-4, 7.12. He will try to improve on that Tuesday, when he faces the Athletics on a field with football lines across it.

“I must have done something bad here as a kid, because I’ve got some bad karma going on,” Sabathia said. “Hopefully I can change that tomorrow. I pitch good in San Francisco, and that’s just as close and just as many people come out. It’s just one of those things.”

  • Marcus Lawton (brother of Matt) turns 44 today.  Lawton had a cup of coffee with the Bombers in ’89.
  • Happy 65th birthday to Mike Ferraro.  Ferraro washed out as a 3B in the late 60s for the Yanks, but managed three different Yankee minor league teams to 1st place finishes during the 70s.
  • Not a Yankee, but the great Roberto Clemente would have turned 75 today.
  • On this date in 1940, Jimmy Powers, sport editor of the Sunday New York Daily News, causes a flap when he suggests the Yankees’ poor play that season can be attributed to “a mass polio epidemic” contracted from Lou Gehrig. The former Yankee first baseman and his roommate, Bill Dickey, file suit and the newspaper retracts the story on September 26 and apologizes.
  • On this date in 1983, in the continuation of the “Pine Tar Game”, Hal McRae strikes out for the last KC out and Dan Quisenberry retires the Yankees in order in the bottom of the 9th to preserve the Royals’ 5 – 4 victory. The conclusion takes just 12 minutes (and 16 pitches) and, as the only game scheduled at Yankee Stadium, is witnessed by a crowd of 1,245. An odd feature of the game is lefty Don Mattingly playing 2B and pitcher Ron Guidry in CF, as the Yanks try to cover all the options.
  • On this date in 1989, Dallas Green is fired as manager of the Yankees and replaced by former SS Bucky Dent. It is the 17th time the Yankees have changed managers since George Steinbrenner took over the club in 1973.
  • On this date in 1995, Phil Rizzuto retires as team broadcaster after 39 years at the mike, reportedly because WPIX-TV refused to allow him to miss a game to attend teammate Mickey Mantle’s funeral. Rizzuto eventually will return for the 1996 season.
  • On this date in 2000, the Angels defeat the Yankees, 9 – 8 in 11 innings. Anaheim scores five runs in the 9th to tie the game before Darin Erstad’s home run wins it in the 11th. It is the 1st time in 12 years that the New Yorkers blow a 5-run lead in the 9th inning.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 18, 2009 10:22 am

The names Slade Heathcott and Caleb Cotham sound like they could be characters on some teen drama I don't watch like 90210, or Gossip Girls.

They're solid baseball names too I suppose, so they could pan out.

2 ms october   ~  Aug 18, 2009 10:29 am

[1] heathcott makes me think of heathcliff (the cat, not wuthering heights)

3 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 18, 2009 10:34 am

Slade Heathcott: DETACH TEST HALO

4 Rich   ~  Aug 18, 2009 10:51 am

While he Yankees' farm system has gotten better under Oppenheimer, it is not exactly pouring out high ceiling drafted prospects. To make matters worse, their pitching have been sustaining injuries that require TJ surgery as if it were an infectious disease. It's hard not to think that the drafting and developing process cannot be improved and that maybe it should be headed up by different people.

Jeter's defense definitely hurt the Yankees from 2005-2007, so much so that he should have been moved to another position. That is just a terribly reasoned blog entry by Kepner.

I would not give Damon more than one year. Posada and Montero, not to mention Jeter and A-Rod, will likely need to spend extended time DHing in 2011. It would be extremely imprudent to add Damon to that mix.

5 knuckles   ~  Aug 18, 2009 11:00 am

Slade Heathcott Heathcliff Slocumb

6 ms october   ~  Aug 18, 2009 11:09 am

[4] i still don't follow the minors enough to have solid opinions on this. but the lack of position players is of course a bit troubling.
also, haven't the yankees been drafting quite a few pitchers who they knew needed tj surgery?
on some other site i saw someone comment that the yanks tend to go after smaller framed pitchers (which again i don't know if this is true, and haven't gone through a list to see what reported heights/weights are, which are often bs anyway) but if true, i wonder if that is a factor with the injuries.

7 Rich   ~  Aug 18, 2009 11:35 am

[6] Their strategy has been to draft pitchers and sign position players via the international free agent process. The problem with that strategy is that most international free agents are signed at such a young age that it takes a long time until they reach the MLs, if ever. (Montero is a notable exception, at least in terms of how fast he is developing). The Yankees have a number of aging position players. They could use an influx of young position players in the next year or so. Right now, only Jackson appears ready for next season, although his readiness is still an open question.

Brackman and Melancon appeared to need TJ surgery before they were drafted (and they subsequently had it). They traded for Humberto Sanchez with the same realization. Only Melancon has had a successful recovery to this point (and he is inexplicably being kept off the ML roster). It's too early to fully assess Brackman's ability to recover (his velo is down significantly right now), and it appears that Sanchez will never recover.

Garcia, Kontos, Marshall, and Betances sustained elbow injuries after they were drafted. Garcia seems to have made a decent comeback from the surgery, but has sustained other injuries. The other three had the surgery this year.

Cox also sustained an elbow injury after being drafted, but retired as a result of making an incomplete recovery from TJ surgery.

They drafted Kennedy (who was throwing in the 80s in college) over Bard, who was (and still is) a fireballer. Apart from that mistake, I'm not sure who the smaller framed pitchers they opted for are.

8 ms october   ~  Aug 18, 2009 11:45 am

[7] thanks rich - that was interesting and helpful.

i know draft "gurus" often criticze this strategy, but i wonder if the yanks should have gone for a few lower ceiling/reasonable floor guys that could have been somehwat more immediate solid contributors, considering that they do have a number of aging position players.

9 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 18, 2009 12:31 pm

[7] [8] I'm pretty sure Betances did not have TJ surgery; I think that was an erroneous report.

The Yanks have had, going back to 2003, some TJ surgery rehab process and guru who gets guys back in quicker fashion than anyone else. That is why they have no trouble taking guys who have/had or need TJ surgery. In fact, that's one of the reasons they were able to get Melancon, who fell to the 8th round in 2006 because of injury concerns.

I agree the system needs hitting prospects, and have been saying so for a while, but at the same time, the context of the draft matters too. If there aren't many high-talented hitters available when the Yanks pick, but there are some potentially outstanding pitchers, I agree with going for the better talent. Especially when all the upside college hitters (ie, the guys who would move fastest through a system) tend to go very early in the draft.

10 thelarmis   ~  Aug 18, 2009 1:00 pm

[1] Cotham in Gotham !!!

11 Raf   ~  Aug 18, 2009 1:04 pm

They drafted Kennedy (who was throwing in the 80s in college) over Bard, who was (and still is) a fireballer. Apart from that mistake...

How is drafting Kennedy over Bard a mistake? Does the difference in velocity really matter? I may be wrong, but I believe Kennedy was drafted over Bard because of his ability to pitch. Seeing that he shown enough talent to get the call in his 2nd year as a pro, and show enough talent to be given a starting slot in his 3rd year, I'd say that maybe the Yankees' pick was justified?

Hard throwing RP's are a dime a dozen, 100mph fastballs or no.

12 gary from chevy chase   ~  Aug 18, 2009 2:25 pm

I think Johnny D needs another one year; while we all know that his defense is getting worse, his knowledge of the hitters (and the angles) seems to be good enough to be basically "survivable" in left. His offense remains very good - and it shows up, IMHO, in areas not well suited to stats: he breaks up the DP well (DJ would have even worse numbers without him), he runs really well (esp. 1st to 3rd), and he has some good pop in the bat.

Yes, Jorge will need DH time, as will DJ. OTOH, Alex should not need much time at DH next year. So let Godzilla depart with thanks, and keep Johnny on board for annother year.

13 The Hawk   ~  Aug 18, 2009 2:33 pm

The Last Hat Code

Tha Coldest Heat

Cloth Death Seat

Latte Head Shot

A Coated Stealth

Total Seed Hatch

14 Joel   ~  Aug 18, 2009 3:50 pm

This amateur draft stuff has been totally blown out of proportion. Except for a very special player here and there, the whole thing is a giant crapshoot. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it.

Nothing like a big checkbook to sign the FA's as you need them.

15 The Hawk   ~  Aug 18, 2009 6:13 pm

Cost That Healed

Cheat Held Toast

Chattel Had Toes

O Salted Hatchet

Teach Dolts Hate

16 Rich   ~  Aug 18, 2009 6:42 pm

[11] How is drafting Kennedy over Bard a mistake?

Are you arguing that you would rather have Kennedy now?

I don't believe in drafting pitchers who throw under 90 mph and project to be 3rd or 4th starters in the first round. Velocity enables a pitcher to have a higher ceiling by increasing their margin for error. If they don't make it as a starter, they have the potential high end closers.

I really don't understand how this is even debatable.

[9] Link?

17 Raf   ~  Aug 19, 2009 2:24 am

Are you arguing that you would rather have Kennedy now?

Are you arguing that you would rather have had Bard in 2007, when Kennedy was already in the majors while he was struggling in the minors? Or 2008, when Kennedy was given a starting spot? Or in the minors when Kennedy blew through 3 levels?

After a handful of innings from Bard @ the ML level, I'm supposed to second guess the Yanks selecting Kennedy? Really?

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