"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Brian Cashman
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Who's the Boss?

It was surprising when the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano… mostly because Brian Cashman had been saying, pretty clearly, that he did not intend to. He explained that he didn’t want to give up a first-round draft pick for anybody besides Cliff Lee (and especially not a pick that would then go to the Rays), and that made good sense, especially since decent relievers can generally be uncovered from within the organization. Today, at the press conference officially announcing Soriano’s signing, Cashman admitted – or perhaps “confirmed” is the better word - that as many suspected (and several, including Buster Olney, previously reported) it was not ultimately his call. Per Joe LeMaire, on Twitter:

Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledges he did not recommend signing of Soriano. Says final call was Hal Steinbrenner’s.

Cashman: “I just didn’t think it was an efficient way to allocate our remaining resources.”

Huh.

That’s not surprising, as the Soriano contract is very much not Cashman’s style – not, as he says, an efficient allocation of resources. But I was under the impression that Cashman had successfully wrested control of the Yankees’ baseball decision, except perhaps in the case of a blockbuster like Alex Rodriguez’s most recent signing. And while of course Hal Steinbrenner owns the team and has a right to have input on how his money is spent, I find it puzzling that he would choose to interfere here, in the case of a middle reliever. Signing Soriano is not likely to have a huge impact on the team either way – they’re overpaying for him, but not by a crippling amount, and it’s unlikely to prevent the Yankees from making whatever other moves they feel they need to. Still, it seems like a weird thing for Hal to overrule his GM on. It’s a George kind of move.

Meanwhile, in further disturbing news: we also learned that Cashman not only considered Carl Pavano as a plug for the Yanks’ starting pitcher gap, but (per LoHud) had several discussions with The American Idle’s agent. Yipes! I choose to see this as just a sad, transparent attempt to make Andy Pettitte come rushing back into the Yankees’ arms…

UPDATE: Oh gosh – per WFAN (via Hardball Talk) the Yanks actually made an offer! One year, $10 million, supposedly.  “Carl, how would you like to hear 50,000 people screaming contemptuous insults at you every fifth day…”

A Yankee Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol has remained popular and continually adapted for several reasons. The first is that it is a timeless, joyful story with themes that still resonate today; the second is that it’s in the public domain. Dickens’ classic has been reimagined (and sometimes mangled) so many times over by now that I don’t feel too bad about jumping in, with assistance from fellow Banterers/muppets Alex, Diane, Will, Jon, and Matt, with yet another version and a new cast.

Our protagonist this time is no cheapskate Scrooge, but Brian Cashman, an elf/businessman in the middle of a difficult offseason. This Christmas Eve, he’ll undergo a life-altering experience…

STAVE 1: MARLEY’S GHOST

There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.

Marley: George Steinbrenner, of course.

Bob Cratchit: Joe Girardi, who will have to break it to his family that thanks to his bosss, they won’t be able to have  a Cliff Lee or even a Carl Crawford for dinner this year.

Tiny Tim: head Bleacher Creature Bald Vinny.

‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

Scrooge’s nephew Fred: Nick Swisher.

STAVE 2: THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm….

…’Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.

‘I am.’

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

‘No. Your past.’

The Ghost of Christmas Past: This ghost changes its shape as it moves through Ebenezer’s past; at one moment, it looks like Carl Pavano; at another, Mike Mussina; at times, it takes on the ghostly form of Sir Sidney Ponson.

Old Fezziwig (under whom Scrooge apprenticed): Gene Michael.

Belle, Scrooge’s former fiancee, who released him from their contract when he became too concerned with “gain,” and her joyful current family: Cliff Lee and the Phillies.

STAVE 3: THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man.’

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’

The Ghost of Christmas Present: C.C. Sabathia.

Mankind’s children, Ignorance and Want: Kyle Farnsworth and Kei Igawa.

STAVE 4: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

The Ghost of Christmas Future: Sergio Mitre.

STAVE 5: THE END OF IT

‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he claped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.    He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!


Lump Lump

“Bottom line is, there was a price to pay for waiting for Cliff Lee. Now, part of that price is definitely going to be a loss of previous opportunities that were existing,” Cashman said Tuesday. The Yankees general manager added that in addition to a dearth of pitching talent now available on the market, lefty Andy Pettitte is “leaning toward retirement,” and “not officially in play.”

“There’s no official announcement that (Pettitte’s) retired. We’re obviously focused on those players in the free-agent market and trade market. Andy currently is not one of those guys,” Cashman said. “If he chooses to be, obviously he knows we’d love to talk to him.”
(Christian Red, N.Y. Daily News)

Not much of a Christmas for Yankee fans. Poor little rich boys!

…If We Don't We're Gonna Blow a 50-Amp Fuse

Steven Goldman’s latest take on Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ off-season:

On one hand, Cashman’s nerves are understandable. He has a reliable ace in CC Sabathia and then four question marks. However, you would think he would be excited about what a great opportunity the team has to get better and save money at the same time. As I’ve said throughout the offseason, the Yankees have so many near-ready pitching prospects that at least one of them should pay off. It’s entirely possible they go 0-for-8 or so in young starters in 2011, but it seems unlikely, especially given how talented some of these kids are. While only one of them seems to have true ace potential at this writing (young Mr. Betances), somewhere on this year’s Scranton or Trenton rosters lurks a pitcher or two who can fill out the back of a rotation better than Dustin Moseley or Sergio Mitre can, and that’s all the Yankees really need if their offense and defense are up to last year’s standards. What should be even better from Cashman’s point of view is not only can these tyro hurlers be good, they won’t be arbitration eligible for two or three years.

If all of Cashman’s fears are justified, then 2011 turns out to be a transition year as the Yankees break in their new rotation. Yes, the results-only crowd, which tends to include Yankees ownership, would consider that a disappointment. The problem is, as the Pavano-Wright epoch demonstrates, you can’t force these things. Even Cliff Lee by himself wouldn’t have made 2011 any more of a sure thing, though he would have reduced the number of gambles the Yankees would have to undertake. Penciling Freddy Garcia and his 4.50-5.00 ERA into the rotation won’t change a thing except to lower the team’s profit margins. If the Yankees want to take an injury-prone, low-strikeout fly-ball pitcher and stick him in Yankee Stadium and have him shell the Bleacher Creatures, that’s their right, but it isn’t smart and it isn’t better than letting a kid do the same thing, because the kid is cheaper and might actually get better.

Jesus Saves

Here’s Joe Sheehan, writing for SI.com:

There’s an assumption that the Yankees will use prospect Jesus Montero to acquire someone to fill the Lee-sized hole they see at the front of the rotation. They traded Montero once, remember, agreeing to a deal with Seattle for Lee himself back in July before the Mariners decided to trade him to the Rangers instead. The idea that the Yankees will use Montero, who compares to Mike Piazza both offensively and defensively, to get Zack Greinke has been in play for some time, but it’s not a particularly good fit. Greinke is a very good pitcher, but he’s signed through just 2012. If the Yankees are determined to trade Montero, who is one of the top five prospects in baseball, they should target less-obvious candidates who can contribute for more than 70 starts — even if it seems like these pitchers will, or should, be untouchable.

…The Yankees were unable to use their money to add a frontline starter, because the situation wasn’t entirely in their control. What they do with Montero is entirely in their control, however, and their disposition of this fantastic young hitter will tell us a lot about the Yankees’ creativity and imagination in solving problems that writing checks can’t fix.

Your move, Cash.

Submit Your Nominations For Our Next Dead Horse

First off all, something interesting: last night many people (including me) were eager to jump on the Cliff-Lee-took-less-money story, embracing the idea that here was the rare athlete motivated by something different, and therefore in some way admirable. Well, beware of easy storylines. It now seems that Lee may not have taken much less money at all. Our old friend William argues, at his blog and The Yankee U, that when you include the Phillies’ vesting option for a sixth year, the difference is negligible; he gets into the details of things like tax rates and interest rates which I am wary of diving into myself, but it does at least seem clear that while Lee may have taken less money, it was not near the $50 million less that was being thrown around last night. (Of course, I would love to get paid in a year what Cliff Lee will make in an inning, so it’s pretty much all magic-fun-numbers anyway at this level).

None of this really changes my reaction, which could be summed up as “probably for the best down the road, and if you need me in 2011, I’ll be on the floor, curled into the fetus position around a bottle of Laphroaig.”

With the drama of days and days of fevered speculation behind us, what’s next? The Yankees are already beginning to move on, making the non-inspiring but likely harmless move of signing Russell Martin to a one-year deal. To me, this doesn’t say they’re necessarily planning to trade one of their catching prospects (though of course that’s a possibility), but rather that they really, really do not think Jorge Posada can catch much anymore. Will the catching situation be the new dead horse upon which we release our impatience and frustration?

I’m taking suggestions, but I would like to preemptively oppose further debate on the Joba-as-starter idea. Yes, it makes sense to me too… but apparently it doesn’t to the Yankees, and there’s no meat left on that bone. He remains, for now, the World’s Most Famous Mediocre Middle Reliever.

Also, anybody who so much as whispers a word rhyming with “Pavano” gets slapped with a fish, Python-style.

55 days ’til spring training…

Main Source

Brian Cashman met with Derek Jeter’s agent yesterday. A source told me that a deal will be worked out soon. A second source then informed me that the first source doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, and a third source informed me that the first two sources were figments of my imagination. Right.

The Winter Meetings are next week. My hunch is that by the time they are finished, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Cliff Lee will sign with the Yanks. That’s a hunch, not coming from a source.

Cashman, the Friendly Elf

Maybe its the stress of the Jeter negotiations.  Maybe its the pressure to add a front-line starter to the rotation.  Maybe its just a side of Brian Cashman we’ve never seen.  Whatever “it” is, the uncertainty and oddness of the off-season has taken another wacky turn, with news today that the Bombers’ GM will rappell down a building in an elf costume.

The Stamford Downtown Special Services District has announced Cashman will join this year’s Heights and Lights event as a celebrity guest elf, accompanying Santa Claus on a 22-floor rappel down the Landmark Building.

“Brian Cashman will be there with smiles and his Yankee jacket, rappelling,” said Sandy Goldstein, director of the DSSD.

This of course means that Cashman will cover more ground vertically than Jeter did horizontally during 2010.  I’m sure Cashman will point that out to Casey Close the next time they speak.

“Santa Claus is rarely unaccompanied in his acrobatic 350-foot descent down the side of the Landmark Building, a Stamford tradition. While the man in red is often escorted by the Grinch and Rudolph, this is the first time a member of the Yankees franchise is to take the plunge.”

Acrobatic?  Brian Cashman?  Its not like we’ve seen him deftly floating across the stage on “Dancing with the (Free Agent) Stars”.  Also, if they wanted the Grinch, I’m sure Cashman could have arranged for Hank Steinbrenner to be there.  As for Rudolph . . . no, you can’t come, Mr. Giuliani.

“Santa and Cashman will kick off the holiday season in Stamford Sunday, when they step off the Landmark building’s ledge at 4:30 p.m. Music performed by local students and a fireworks display will accompany the rappel.”

Please G-d, keep the fireworks display away from the rappelling Cashman.  If we’re going to lose our primary “rosterfarian” (they don’t eat shellfish or pork, but have been known to eat a free agent contract bust or two), let it be through the usual excuses like incompetence, paranoia or inappropriate office behavior.

“This is going to be a surprise for all,” Goldstein said. “Will he be an elf in Yankee clothing or a Yankee in elf clothing? You’ve got to come Sunday night to find out.”

Does it matter?  Its going to be Brian Cashman . . . as an elf . . . rappelling down a 22-story building!

(Image: etsy.com)

After “Stare Out The Window And Wait For Spring”

It’s a long offseason, but it always goes by faster than you expect, which is why it’s so important for the Yankee staff and players to stay organized this winter. Bronx Banter has exclusively obtained* a glimpse at some of their To-Do Lists:

Hank Steinbrenner: Formulate escape plan to break free of the soundproof prison Hal locked him inside two years ago, hitchhike to the nearest media outlet, and frankly express views on free agent negotiations. (Begin by discussing the incredible fatness of Casey Close’s mom.)

Derek Jeter: Renovate and expand his vault, built for swimming through piles of cash (excellent off-season strength training that doesn’t put too much strain on the joints).

Brett Gardner: Hire a publicist.

Jorge Posada: Read a lot of Sartres, Camus, Proust; brood on mortality, the passage of time, the senescence that comes to us all eventually; toughen up hands.

Nick Swisher: The stakes in the Alternately Likable-and-Irritating Goofball Competition having been raised by Brian Wilson’s impeccable performance in the playoffs last year, Swish needs to step up his game, either via wacky tattoo, wacky interviews, or — though this may not be possible — wackier hair, facial and otherwise. Fauxhawks just don’t cut it anymore. Perhaps Starburns.

Everyone who ever had any interaction with Charlie Samuels: Shred everything.

Alex Rodriguez: Get dates with fit blonde celebrities by asking them to help him “exercise his hip flexor”.

(more…)

Strike a Pose

Joel Sherman writes about the Hardball Times between the Yanks and Derek Jeter:

GM Brian Cashman would not discuss the particulars of that meeting, saying, “In fairness to the process, I am not talking about [the negotiations] it in any way.”

But confidants of Cashman said the GM is determined not to have the team get so lost in the past that it destroys the future by giving Jeter a contract that either lasts way beyond his effectiveness and/or overpays him to such a degree that hurts financial flexibility elsewhere.

That is why, the confidants say, Cashman decided to have a face-to-face, turning-the-page meeting with Jorge Posada in Manhattan to tell the longtime catcher that the plan is to go with youngsters behind the plate and that Posada is now viewed as a DH. And it is why, the confidants say, he essentially played bad cop with Posada’s pal, Jeter, at a meeting that also was attended by Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and Jeter’s agent, Casey Close.

Grrrrr.

Georgie’s Boy

Here’s Mike Vaccaro, writing in today’s Post:

He is not a blood relative, so this wasn’t an inherited trait. And Brian Cashman is neither the bully nor the greedy back-page raconteur George Steinbrenner was in the prime of his career, a man willing to say and do just about anything to land that prime acreage of New York journalistic real estate.

But in some very real, and very important ways, Cashman has become the living legacy of the Best of the Boss.

Off with their Heads!

Give it Up

The Yanks have seemingly learned from George Steinbrenner’s mistakes. They invited Joe Torre back to the Stadium before this turned into a George-Yogi stand-off that they would never win. Good for them and for Torre. Nice night for the Boss. Over-the-top, sure. But that’s the Yankee Way.  Still, it was appealing to see Torre and Cashman hug it out. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

[Photo Credit: Barton Silverman, NY Times]

Cashin’ Checks (Snappin’ Necks)

Brian Cashman says he’s not looking for a starting pitcher. Says that’s why the Yanks have ol’ Serge Mitre. Over at River Ave Blues, our pal Joe Pawlikowski looks at some of the options that are out there.

Whadda you think?

Yankee Panky: Paging Howard Beale

The 1970s featured some of the greatest films of all-time. On my list is Network, which starred Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty, among others. I believe it’s one of the greatest of all-time in large part because it’s still relevant. The theme of ratings ruling success, damn the people responsible for creating the programming, hasn’t changed. Corporations who own the networks need a positive return on their investment. Money rules. Always has, always will.

Howard Beale, portrayed by Finch, who won an Oscar for the role, is a network anchor who is fired due to low ratings. Then, he is allowed to stay on the air and responds by announcing he’s going to kill himself on television during his final broadcast. The stunt, plus his famous rant, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” leads to huge ratings over the next two weeks, in which time the network exploits Beale’s insanity rather than take him off the air.

How does Howard Beale pertain the New York Yankees? Consider the case of Joba Chamberlain. The once-upon-a-time can’t-miss phenom has come full circle. He’s back in the bullpen for the 2010, where he’ll have to “earn” his spot as Mariano Rivera’s 8th-inning bridge. Or maybe he’ll pitch the seventh inning or be a swingman. Joe Girardi still doesn’t know.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland has told anyone who will listen that even in the event of an injury to starters ace through four, or mediocrity from Phil Hughes in the fifth spot, Joba will remain the bullpen. GM Brian Cashman called him a “starter who can relieve.” Joba is taking this like Cush from Jerry Maguire: “I just want to play baseball.”

(more…)

Yankee Panky: Can’t Winn For Losing

Last week’s signing of Randy Winn was met with a thud the likes we haven’t heard since the Road Runner was leading Wile E. Coyote off of cliff after cliff. The reaction appeared to have little to do with the clusterf— that proved to be the back-and-forth hearsay between Brian Cashman and Scott Boras regarding Johnny Damon. No, it was more that the Yankees actually committed a seven-figure dollar amount to, well, Randy Winn, and didn’t loosen the waistband for the once Unfrozen Caveman Outfielder.

Some of us are still trying to wrap our brains around the pretzel logic that led to the release of a soon-to-be 36-year-old who, despite his defensive foibles, has a stroke tailor made for the New Yankee Stadium and is a perfect fit for the Yankee lineup, only to sign a soon-to-be 36-year-old who is, um, Randy Winn.

There was a great deal of rancor in the Yankeeland Blogosphere in the days following the Winn deal. Over at the Yankeeist, Larry Koestler, a friend to the Banter (well, this Banterer, anyway) likens the Winn acquisition to that of Tony Womack:

Randy Winn…may have at one time been a reasonable ballplayer, but that was back when Honus Wagner was suiting up for the Buccos. I know he’s coming aboard as the fourth outfielder/platoonmate, but sweet Jesus we’d have been better off flushing the money directly down the toilet. It would’ve taken what — an extra $3-$4 million to get Damon back into the fold? We couldn’t do that, but we could spend a third of the presumed cost of Damon on an absolute and utter complete waste of space like Winn? Better to have let Gardner at least try to hold the position down — I’m not even much of a Gardner fan but I’d still rather Grit in there every day than waste any at-bats on the second coming of Wilson Betemit.

Honestly, Brian Cashman knows better than this. Signing Randy Winn and his sub-.700 OPS in 2009 for any amount is craziness. It doesn’t make any sense nor fit with the Yankees’ work-the-pitcher, high-OBP MO.

Oh, but it gets better. The New Stadium Insider notes that Winn was the last straw in pushing a certain 2009 season ticket holder to the point of canceling his plans to upgrade in 2k10.

Backtracking a bit to Koestler’s item, it’s important to note that earlier in the piece, he shows startling similarities between Winn’s weighted on-base average over the past four seasons, and Womack’s during the last four years of his career. Combining Winn and Brett Gardner, you basically have the same skill set (.325 OBP, .700 OPS, etc.). In other words, two people providing replacement-level numbers. Not good if you’re banking on Curtis Granderson summoning his 2007 self and Nick Swisher repeating his regular-season production of last year.

Maybe left-field should be considered an afterthought. Consider that when the Yankees went on their dynastic tear in the late 1990s and early part of the oughts, left field featured the All-Star cast of Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer, Ryan Thompson, Chuck Knoblauch, Rondell White, and Juan Rivera. The Yankees made six World Series trips in eight years with that motley crew because the other eight members of the lineup were able to make up for whatever deficiencies existed by the 399 sign. This Yankee team is good, but is it good enough to overcome left field, the unknowns of Granderson and Swisher, and despite their productivity, the ever-increasing age of Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter?

Perhaps a more apt comparison to this year’s left field situation is the right field situation of 2002, when a noncommittal Joe Torre rolled out a combination of Spencer and the inimitable John Vander Wal on a platoon basis. Spencer, despite his desire to be an everyday player, never recaptured the bottled lightning of September 1998. At least, he never came close enough to putting up numbers worthy enough to merit his everyday presence in the lineup. Vander Wal eventually regressed into what he always was: a pinch hitter. The two of them gave way to Enrique Wilson playing right field against the Mets. Wilson misplayed a couple of balls so badly that within days, the Yankees traded for the ball player formerly known as Raul Mondesi.

If history repeats itself this year, Ramiro Peña will have to make an emergency start in left and bungle it so badly that in a fit of panic, Cash will trade for Milton Bradley by the Fourth of July.

This is all figuring, of course, that Granderson is playing center field and not left. Certain pundits on certain afternoon drive radio shows have already put Granderson in left, and have said that Winn was not a terrible signing, Nick Johnson was an upgrade and a solid No. 2 hitter, and Gardner is not a terrible player, either.

We’ll find out soon enough, right?

Yankee Panky: Grandy, Pettitte

And so it was that at the Winter Meetings, Brian Cashman satisfied two of his major offseason priorities: settling the left field/center field question by acquiring Curtis Granderson in the three-team, seven-player swap with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. On the surface, it looks like the Tigers win this trade in a landslide, getting two young lefty relievers, a hard-throwing righty starter, and a major-league ready outfielder all while shedding $25.75 million in salary over the next three seasons.

The coverage was fairly bland, as it can tend to be when hammering out details of a trade. There were subtle nuances, though. For example, the Post, in my surfing, was the only outlet to cite that the Diamondbacks entered the fray a few weeks ago when Cashman balked at not including Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes in the deal for Granderson (maybe this gives a hint regarding their 2010 status?). ESPN claimed Buster Olney broke the story. How do we know? Jon Heyman tweeted the components of the deal yesterday, and Alex Belth dutifully posted them here.

A couple of items and intimations that appeared everywhere:

  • Granderson’s 2009 decreased OBP and OPS, his strikeout total (141) and average against left-handed pitchers (.183), plus poor home/road splits somehow signaled a decline when he’s in his prime at age 29. Joe Posnanski took those stats and put them in context with Granderson’s career numbers against lefties, adding that he faced tough lefties in the AL Central (Sabathia and Santana), and playing 81 games a year at an unfriendly ballpark for left-handed hitters. Cliff Corcoran took a more analytical turn on a similar premise in this space.
  • Granderson’s personality is perfect for New York.
  • Now the Yankees can more easily make a decision on Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Thursday morning, the Yankees were reportedly negotiating with Johnny Damon’s representatives, but in the evening, George King of the Post submitted a story, complete with quotes from Cashman, refuting the earlier reports.
  • The questions as to which Granderson the Yankees will get: the 2008 version that emerged into a perennial 20-20-20-20 threat or the 2009 item that frustrated fans with inconsistent offense and defense, despite the “plus” numbers aggregated in various fielding metric data. And then there is this item, which was not mentioned in the first wave of coverage but could appear within the next couple of days: a NY Times column from William C. Rhoden touting the importance of this acquisition from a cultural standpoint, highlighting the fact that Granderson could bring African-American fans to the Bronx and carry that torch/example set by Derek Jeter. The caveat: with CC Sabathia on the team also, and with him being there first, this may be a non-issue.Most of what was printed centered on the Yankees’ piece to the deal, which was Granderson. Looking deeper, though, I noticed more attention paid to what the Yankees were able to maintain — Chamberlain, Hughes, and Jesus Montero — than what they gave up.

(more…)

Yankee Panky: The Wang Stuff

Wednesday afternoon, Yankees GM Brian Cashman held a press conference in which he discussed Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation.

“He’s a starter and he’s got a huge history of nothing but success,” he said. “It’s time to find time to slot him in.”

Now is, and was, that time. Wang made Cashman and manager Joe Girardi look smart for two innings, until he reverted to the pitcher whose ERA resembled the national debt ticker in midtown Manhattan. Was that what the Yankees were waiting for?

Speaking of waiting, the way the Yankees have treated Wang, admittedly rushing him back before accurately gauging his progress, one wonders if he was accelerated and placed in the starting rotation in order to be showcased to potential trade suitors. Cashman would never say that and no local scribes have gotten that provocative yet, but the possibility cannot be ruled out.

Newsday’s former Yankee beat man Jim Baumbach went there, sort of, giving some insight into the tenuous relationship the organization has had with Wang, going back five years.

The Yankees gladly would have traded Chien-Ming Wang in a package for Randy Johnson during the 2004 season if only the Diamondbacks had any interest in him. After the trade deadline passed with no moves, the Yankees even let Wang pitch in the Olympics, something they never would have done if they thought Wang was a legitimate prospect.

Is he right? Think about it. The Yankees could have signed Wang to a long-term deal last year, but opted not to. They instead signed Robinson Cano to a long-term deal and took Wang to salary arbitration, where the pitcher was awarded a $4 million contract. This year, the Yankees and Wang went to arbitration again, with the righty getting a $1 million raise.

Baumbach wasn’t done, though. In a column recapping Thursday’s victory, in which the Yankees got Wang off the hook, Baumbach wrote:

Seemingly every time the Yankees talk about Chien-Ming Wang, they reference how he won 46 games for them in the previous 2 1/2 seasons, as if that should count toward something here in 2009.

But we’re more than a third of the way through this season, and pretty soon the Yankees will have to come to grips with the fact that the pitcher who used to be their ace hasn’t been heard from since he hurt his right foot last June in Houston. And there’s no guarantees that pitcher is going to make it back this season.

It should be noted that the pitcher who won 46 games from 2006-08 only won one playoff game in that time frame. In 2007, his second straight 19-win season, he lost both of his ALDS starts, pitching just 5 2/3 innings over those two appearances and logging a 19.06 ERA. Why is this relevant? The Yankees told Wang what they thought of his ace status by shelling out $242 million in long-term contracts to pitchers they believed had a better upside. That the 2009 version of Wang looks more like the pitcher who faced Cleveland in ’07 as opposed to the one who helped lead that team to a wild-card berth hasn’t helped his case.

As far as Phil Hughes is concerned, he is in the bullpen now, and as Baumbach and others have written, the Yankees view his future in the rotation. The same is true with Wang. He’s viewed as a starter. But what happens if and when Brian Bruney or Damaso Marte return to their respective relief spots? Whose future is in the Yankees’ rotation then? Will the Yankees wait that long to make their move?

We’ll know the answers soon enough.

Yankee Panky: Slow Goings, Until Now

If you’re hungry for action on the Hot Stove, mid-January is a time that will leave you starving. There’s plenty of analysis of the Yankees’ 40-man roster and prospects in the trades. Locally, the stories have revolved around the Yankees’ pursuit or non-pursuit of Manny Ramirez and Ben Sheets, the arbitration roundup, the list of players representing their respective countries in the World Baseball Classic in March, the team’s move to the new Stadium, and the politics of how the Stadium’s construction was financed.

With all this in mind, the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting has become more prevalent.

Speaking of pitchers, are the Yankees going back to the well with Andy Pettitte? That appears to be the case, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and Pete Caldera of the Bergen Record.

If Pettitte truly wants to be in a Yankee uniform when the new stadium opens in April, he’ll swallow his pride and assume some accountability for the salary-based standoff. If he reads the reports of who the Yankees have vying for the fifth starter spot, he’ll see that he’s a better option than the unproven – or mediocre, depending on your perspective – law firm of Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves, Coke & Johnson. If the reports are true that the Yankees still prefer him over that quintet, then Pettitte has even more incentive to re-engage in discussions, and compromise with Brian Cashman.

This situation is different than 2003, when the Yankees’ concern about Pettitte’s arm led them to shy away from negotiating with him. Pettitte then signed with the Astros and made the Yankees look good when a forearm injury limited him to just 15 starts in ‘04.

The Pettitte saga has been a recurring topic in this space all winter also, and judging from the comments, I’d estimate it’s about 70-30 against Pettitte returning. From a baseball sense, though, if he and the Yankees agreed to a one-year deal in the $11-$12 million range as opposed to the $10-$10.5MM number, would you be opposed? I wouldn’t, especially if it meant 12-15 wins from the No. 5 spot. The possibility of his ascension to the fourth spot can’t be discounted, either; Joba Chamberlain could go down with an injury or be moved to the bullpen at some point.

For the next three weeks, this is the story to watch.

As for off-field news, per the New York Post and the Daily News, the next eight days leading up to the Feb. 3 release of Tom Verducci’s book “The Yankee Years,” with Joe Torre, are sure to be laced with all the venom, vitriol and public betrayal worthy of an Aaron Spelling drama. The revelation that Alex Rodriguez was fragile, narcissistic, had a “Single White Female”-level obsession with Derek Jeter, and had a clubhouse attendant run errands for him is not news. Torre crying foul on the character of GM Brian Cashman, who was long considered to be Torre’s greatest supporter in the wake of Hurricane Steinbrenner, is a surprise.

In the book, Torre states that Cashman’s public advocacy during the contract negotiations that followed the 2007 season was a façade. As The News’s Bill Madden reported:

According to a source familiar with the book, Torre does not step out of character. He simply recites the facts as he saw them and does not unfairly disparage the Yankees.

On SportsCenter Sunday morning, Buster Olney corroborated Madden’s assessment and confirmed that it is public record that the one-year offer the Yankees made was due to Cashman’s influence. A clip of Torre’s farewell press conference from Oct. 19, 2007, was run to illustrate the point that Torre and Cashman worked together to hammer out a deal. Olney also noted that in Torre’s first book, “Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series,” published in 1998, the ex-manager expressed dismay at the way the Steinbrenners viewed him. Right or wrong, Torre’s sensitivity to Steinbrenner criticism was the backdrop for much of his Yankee tenure.

Torre did have protection, though, and not only in the way of Cashman. I’ve thought that ever since Steve Swindal’s DUI arrest and fall from grace from the Steinbrenner family in February of ‘07, that Torre’s departure was imminent. I was in Tampa five years ago when Torre negotiated a three-year extension. At the ensuing press conference, Torre said that a meeting with Swindal helped get it done. I came away from that presser with the impression that amid the internal battle for power, as long as Swindal and Cashman were there, then Torre was “safe.” When Swindal literally and figuratively drove himself away, an “every man for himself” scenario developed.

I’ve had conversations on this topic with a few Bronx Banter colleagues, and I’m of the opinion that if Cashman did in fact betray Torre, it was to save his own job. Following the ’07 playoff debacle, it was clear that when it came to Torre and Cashman and their places with the organization in 2008, one or both of them would be gone. Cashman pulled a classic SYA move.

Torre pulled a classic move also: blasting his former employer in order to spike book sales. Does he have a right to be bitter? Perhaps. Was Chris Russo correct in his assessment of Torre, that the Yankee money kept him in New York for 12 years? Maybe. We may never know.

To that point,  judging from the excerpts I’ve read of the Verducci book, and from the strong comments in Alex Belth’s earlier post in this space, all parties involved have their own version of the truth. I believe the truth lies somewhere between Torre, Cashman, Verducci and select members of the Yankees’ front office. Torre will say his peace on “Late Show with David Letterman” on the book’s release date. Cashman will likely comment this week. For his role as the messenger, Verducci will have to answer for himself at some point, maybe on one of his stints on MLB Network.

We as fans, as usual, will be left to draw conclusions and take sides.

_________________________

PROGRAM NOTE: Yankee Panky is on baby watch. I’m in the Red Zone, as my wife is due with our first child any day now. My next post will take place when I settle in at home following the birth.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver