Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mets get Bay, but does he really want them?

The New York Mets finally got their man with outfielder Jason Bay agreeing to a four-year, $66 million contract with a vesting option for a fifth year. But did Bay get the team he wanted? That remains an open question.

The Mets made their first offer nearly three weeks ago and there was no real movement between the parties since then. Speculation surfaced that Bay didn't really want to play for the Mets and that he was looking for another team to match or surpass the offer. If Bay's reported hesitance was merely a negotiating ploy to get a fifth year, that is nothing to worry about. Baseball, after all, is a business. But if Bay really has concerns about playing for a sluggish Mets team in a cavernous stadium, then the Mets have a potential problem on their hands. Next week's press conference to introduce Bay should be revealing.

Brian Cashman recently revealed that CC Sabathia had genuine reservations about playing for the New York Yankees because he heard the players didn't like each other. All worked out well for the Yankees because new players such as CC and Nick Swisher changed the team dynamic, making the new team's chemistry a key strength. But if Bay has real concerns about a Mets team beset by injuries that won only 70 games this season, those need to be addressed head on.

Thanks to Gonzo fan2007 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Football Giants best NY team of decade

My first sports love has always been baseball. I really only get into the football season after the baseball playoffs are over. But as big a baseball and Yankees fan as I am, I have to admit that the New York Post called it right with the 2007 Giants named as the best New York team of the decade. What started as an inconceivable march to the Super Bowl that included 10 straight road victories ended with an awe-inspiring throw and catch between Eli Manning and David Tyree on the winning drive that shattered the previously perfect New England Patriots flirtation with history. No one would have called the Giants a team of destiny before the playoffs started, but it was certainly clear afterward that the team had magic and luck on its side.

The New York Yankees had four teams make the list: the 2000 team that beat the Metsies in the Subway Series, the 2001 team that lost a heartbreaker to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few weeks after the city's heart was broken by the 9/11 attacks, the 2003 team that beat the Boston Red Sox in a thrilling Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and the 2009 team that bookended the decade with another World Series victory.

I probably would have ranked the 2000 team (#5) higher than the 2009 version (#2) because they won the battle for New York, with even the 2000 Mets earning a spot on the list (#10). But I would admit the 2009 Yankees team was much more dominant during a regular season highlighted with more than a dozen thrilling come-from-behind victories.

Thanks to David Kerwin via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yankees budget stretched to the max

Mark DeRosa's decision to sign with the San Francisco Giants instead of the World Champion New York Yankees should come as no surprise to anyone. While the Yankees represent a much better chance for playoff glory, the Giants offered the bigger paycheck. Brian Cashman, determined to stick to his reported budget, obviously felt comfortable walking away from DeRosa's contract demands (reportedly at $6 million a year) after signing Nick Johnson and trading for Curtis Granderson.

The Yankees have never disclosed the actual budget number, most often reported at either $185 million or just below the $201 million payroll the team started the 2009 season with.
Barring a trade, the Yankees already have about $201 million committed to players currently on the roster.

What does that mean for the team? If they really are sticking to the budget, they will have to live with Brett Gardner in left field. If DeRosa was too expensive for the Yanks, there is no way they will restart negotiations with Johnny Damon or pursue Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. But with the offense the Bombers already have, they should do just fine even without a brand-name left fielder.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Jeter, Mo tops in the New York sports world

The Daily News is at it again with their list of the top ten best and worst Big Apple athletes of the decade. To no one's surprise, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera stand at #1 and 2. Those two could have traded places, but the News gets it right that they have had the most impact on New York sports over the last 10 years. They started the decade with a five-game World Series victory over the hapless Metsies and finished with a six-game win over the Phillies. In between those victories, Jeter assumed the hallowed position of Captain of the New York Yankees and broke Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankees hits record while Mo soared past the 500-save mark.
Alex Rodriguez makes the best list at #4, which I think is too high. Yes, he won two Most Valuable Player trophies in the decade, but he struggled in the postseason until this year. I would have put both Michael Strahan and Eli Manning higher than ARod because of their exhilarating defeat of the then 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. And I think Jason Kidd had more impact because the New Jersey Nets were nothing before him and have once again faded into obscurity.
The News got it right putting both Carl Pavano (#2) and Kevin Brown (#3) on their worst New York athletes list although I think they probably were both worse than Stephon Marbury (#1). A lot of Knicks fans would disagree with that, but the team wasn't blameless in their handling of Marbury. Can't argue with them putting Kei Igawa (#7) on the worst list as they rightly note that he's being paid $20 million to win a ton of games in the minor leagues.
No Mets players made the best athlete group except for Mike Piazza (#8), but they are all over the worst athlete list. Armando Benitez (#5) blew dozens of important save opportunities, most notably Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the Yankees, while Roberto Alomar's (#6) Hall of Fame chances are being threatened by his Mets tenure. Mo Vaughn (#8) was overweight and later outed as a steroids user while Kaz Matsui (#10) was a complete bust after the Mets bent over backwards for him, even moving their stud Jose Reyes to second base. Any of these Mets could have finished higher on the list if the team was more relevant.
Thanks to Keith Allison for the photo.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jeter truly the King of New York

The Daily News today states the obvious: 2009 was Derek Jeter's year. But Jeter has ruled New York since that Opening Day in 1996 when he gave Yankee fans a glimpse of the greatness he had in store for them. Jeter slugged a home run that day and make the first of many memorable over-the-shoulder catches. His former teammate David Cone, who started that game, referred to it as Jeter's "coming-out party." Boy was it ever!
Flash forward 14 years and Jeter is once again on top of the baseball world. Jeter's historic pursuit of and his eclipsing of the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig's all-time hits record for the New York Yankees was rightly recognized as the Moment of the Year. He also broke Luis Aparicio's record for the most hits by a shortstop in major league history.
Those two achievements will be appropriately recognized on Jeter's Hall of Fame plaque. But for Jeter, there was another event that gave him more joy than these individual accomplishments. It was the Yankees' winning their 27th World Series title (Jeter's 5th title). Even here, Jeter played a big role, hitting .355 in the postseason with a couple of Jeter-esque moments. The Yankees were down two runs early in Game 1 of the division series against a scrappy Minnesota Twins team that had just beat Detroit in a thrilling one-game playoff the night before. Just in case the Twins thought momentum was on their side, there was Captain Jeter to quickly put an end to such notions with a homer that evened the score. It wasn't the first time Jeter has crushed a team with a well-timed blast and knowing Jeter it won't be the last.
But Jeter isn't adored by Yankee fans just for his amazing exploits on the field. It's what Jeter quietly represents: a return to the greatness of legendary Yankee eras of the past, the last hope for purity in a tainted sport, the notion that one man can play his entire career devoted to one team and one city and be the better for it. That is why he is truly the King of New York.

Thanks to Chris.ptacek via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sad reminder of baseball's great shame

Just in time for the holidays comes a sad reminder of baseball's great shame: the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. An Associated Press poll showed that newspaper editors chose the ongoing steroids scandal in baseball as the top sports story of 2009.

Not even the disgusting exploits of Tiger Woods could knock steroids off the top of the list. And that's right because Woods is really hurting himself and his poor family. The damage that baseball's steroid users caused to the game, their teammates who played without cheating and fans knows no bounds.

The New York Yankees are right in the thick of this scandal. Pitcher Sergio Mitre, who just got another contract offer from the Yanks, was suspended for 50 games this season for his use of a banned substance. But the biggest name in baseball to be outed as a steroids user this year was Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

ARod, alongside starter Andy Pettitte, played a key role in the team's latest world title. As happy as I was to see the Yankees clinch their 27th World Series title, I'm also full of ambivalence when I see Pettitte pitch or ARod hit a home run, feeling that they have somehow managed to get away with something that the rest of us would be punished for. The ultimate punishment may be denial of the Hall of Fame, which I fully support.

Thanks to Randy Oostdyk via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vazquez soft for using Torre excuse

Of course, it was Joe Torre's fault that Javier Vazquez struggled in his first stint with the New York Yankees. Why didn't I think of that?

At least that's the explanation featured in a New York Post story by Mike Puma*. As a journalist, it bothers me when a reporter allows himself to be used as a vehicle for spinning someone's version of the truth.

Never mind the fact that Vazquez had the best year of his career in the weaker National League. Never mind the fact that he's been traded five times. Never mind that his own manager questioned his abilities as a big-game pitcher. Yes, it was Ozzie Guillen who is known to be a talker, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.

In Torre's book the Yankee Years, which he co-wrote with Tom Verducci, he had interesting things to say about Vazquez. On page 306, Torre talks about choosing Vazquez for the All-Star team after he went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA in the first half in 2004 and his initial reluctance to trade Vazquez for Randy Johnson when Brian Cashman first mentioned the possibility. Torre was mystified why he fell apart in the second half, going 4-5 with a 6.92 ERA, and he eventually did lose his manager's confidence. But that doesn't make it Torre's fault that he struggled.

Torre, by his own admission, favored players such as Derek Jeter. But his manager liking other players more doesn't mean that Vazquez couldn't succeed. And the fact that this is even mentioned now that Vazquez is coming back to the Bronx lends more credence to the argument that Vazquez is soft.

* The original version of this post referred incorrectly to Joel Sherman as the writer of the Post story. Sherman wrote a separate column about Vazquez.

Thanks to Kevin Ward via Wikipedia for the photo.

Joba or Phil: Who starts for the Yanks?

Now that Javier Vazquez has been inserted into that fourth slot in the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte, the key question for the New York Yankees is who gets the fifth spot: Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain. That answer likely won't come until spring training.

"We have great competition for that fifth spot with our youth," Brian Cashman said.

Joe Girardi will have an interesting decision to make. Chamberlain had some success in the rotation in June and July, but things started to fall apart when the Yankees tried to limit his innings by skipping him or limiting him to three innings per start. He ended the season with a 9-6 record and a 4.75 ERA.

The benefit of using Joba in the rotation is that he pitched 157 innings so the Yankees won't feel the need to limit him as much as they did this year. Hughes, on the other hand, only pitched 86 innings so he will be under strict restrictions as the Yanks try to avoid a career-threatening injury to the young pitcher.

Hughes was fantastic in the bullpen, going 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 2009. But he struggled so much in the playoffs, posting an 8.53 ERA in nine appearances, that it seems unlikely the Yanks will groom him to be Mariano Rivera's permanent set-up guy and eventual successor. Most likely, they will slide Joba in that spot, knowing that he has the stuff, the make-up for late-inning pressure situations and previous success in that role.
Like Cashman said, it will be a great competition.

Thanks to Giants27 for the photos.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cashman slams door on Damon return

Any hopes that the trade of Melky Cabrera to the Atlanta Braves would reopen the door to Johnny Damon's return to the Bronx were firmly dashed by Brian Cashman today.
In an interview on the MLB Network, Cashman said the loss of Cabrera would not encourage the New York Yankees to restart negotiations with Damon. "Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the case," he said.

It seems certain that Cashman will go with a much-cheaper option to fill the void left by Cabrera's departure. The Yankees general manager wouldn't speculate on who that would be, but it seemed like a decision would be made relatively quickly.
Those who like the Javier Vazquez trade are emphasizing his successful 2009 campaign, in which he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young award voting. He went 15-10 last year with a terrific 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 32 starts. Never mind the fact that this happened in the National League.
He could be a solid number #4 starter for the Yanks in the regular season, even winning 12-13 games with the Yankees juggernaut offense behind him. But he has not fared well in his postseason starts so that remains a major concern for me.

Thanks to Jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yanks budget concerns justified

After seeing the latest luxury tax bill for the New York Yankees, I can understand why Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are so determined to stick to their budget, reportedly set at about $185 million. The Yankees will send Major League Baseball a check for $25.69 million for the 2009 season, bringing their total luxury tax bill to $190 million since 2003. By comparison, the Boston Red Sox have paid nearly $14 million in that timeframe as the runner-up in luxury tax payments.

Going forward, the Yankees' threshold for paying a luxury tax rises to 40% of payroll over $170 million in 2010 and over $178 million in 2011, the last year of the current collective bargaining agreement. If the Yanks successfully keep to that $185 million figure next year, their luxury tax payment would be only $6 million, more than 75% lower than this year's payment. Even if the 2010 payroll goes up to $200 million, that still represents only a $12 million payment, reducing it by more than half.

The team has made several moves this offseason that have reduced payroll dramatically, including not re-signing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, who made a combined $26 million in 2009. Even smaller moves such as promoting Francisco Cervelli to be the back-up catcher saves cash as he made only $400,000 compared to Jose Molina's $2.1 million. Of course, the Yanks have also added about $23.5 million to next year's payroll by trading for Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson and signing Nick Johnson.

During the Granderson press conference, Hal Steinbrenner said if the Yankees have the money to spend they will, but also said he is a "believer in budgets." Cashman seems determined to stay below the limit Steinbrenner gave him. Let's see how close they actually come to sticking to their budget. I say they miss it by at least $10 million. After all, it is the Yankees.

Javier Vasquez, really?

Forgive me if I seem underwhelmed by news that the New York Yankees have re-acquired righty starter Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves. My enduring memory of Vazquez was him giving up the Grand Slam homer to then-Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, putting
the World Series out of reach for the Yankees and allowing their hated rivals to go on to win their first world title since 1918.

Even prior to that game, Vazquez always seemed pretty soft to me, never putting up the kind of numbers that validated the team's belief in him. He went 14-10 with an ERA near 5.00 in 2004 on a team with a lot of offense. Plus, he's owed $11.5 million for the last year of his current contract so he's not cheap. On the plus side, Vazquez has managed to stay pretty healthy for a starting pitcher so perhaps that makes him a better option than injury-prone free-agents such as Ben Sheets. But is Vazquez really the best Brian Cashman could do?

I'm sorry to see Melky Cabrera go in the deal although I understand that Cashman had to give up something aside from his remaining top prospect Jesus Montero in exchange for another starter. Melky put up solid numbers for the Yanks this year, including game-winning hits that earned pies in the face from AJ Burnett. His hitting the cycle in August was one of the top highlights for the Yankees this year, for which he was honored alongside teammates Derek Jeter for eclipsing Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankee hits record and Mariano Rivera saving his 500th game. We'll miss him.
Thanks to Chrisjnelson via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Red Sox revamp hits a big wall

The Red Sox have made a number of moves to revamp their ballclub this offseason, something that has not gone unnoticed by the reigning World Series champs. They signed top free-agent pitcher John Lackey to an $82.5 million contract to add to a rotation that already features Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as well as Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz.

As CC Sabathia rightly noted, the three pitchers at the top of the New York Yankees rotation are no chumps, pitching their team to its 27th World Series title. But it's the back-end of the rotation (currently Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes) that is a cause for a concern and Brian Cashman's top priority right now.

The Red Sox also signed outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, saying good-bye to Jason Bay in their quest to become more of a pitching and fielding type of baseball team (unusual in hitter-friendly Fenway Park). But their makeover hit a major snag this week with news that the proposed trade of third baseman Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers was voided because Lowell will need surgery on his injured right thumb. Now instead of freeing up money to go after Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox will have to hold the position for Lowell until he can prove he is healthy enough to trade or eat his $12 million salary.

Red Sox management's callous treatment of players who played key roles on their 2004 and 2007 championship teams is well-known, but this could represent a new low, particularly if Lowell openly expresses hostility toward club officials. During their title drought, the Red Sox could be counted on for infighting that directly contributed to their downfall. Could a new era of dysfunction be heading the Red Sox way? Yankee fans certainly hope so.

Thanks to Googie Man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mets could get Bay by default

Desperately needing to make a major move to excite their base, the New York Mets have made a solid offer to free-agent outfielder Jason Bay. The offer from GM Omar Minaya is reportedly for four years and about $65 million while Bay's agent apparently is holding out for a five-year deal. But the Mets should stand firm as Bay's options appear limited. Bay can't even fall back on the Seattle Mariners now that they have traded for Milton Bradley. If I were Bay, I would take the Mets offer and run, given the way the offseason is developing.

The pitchers have done quite well this offseason, led by John Lackey's $82.5 million pact with the Boston Red Sox and Roy Halladay's three-year, $60 million extension with the Philadelphia Phillies (he probably could have done even better, but opted for a quick resolution and a one-way ticket out of Toronto).
But their fielders are finding themselves mostly squeezed by economic conditions. It has become clear that most position players will not get the contracts they or their agents think they deserve. Johnny Damon, with the help of agent Scott Boras, priced himself out of the Bronx. Boras came into the offseason talking about how Matt Holliday deserves Mark Teixeira money (8 years, about $180 million). But without the New York Yankees, Red Sox or even the Mets as active bidders for Holliday, those dollars are out of reach. A favorite guessing game right now is which free agent, Holliday or Bay, will blink first and accept what are pretty reasonable contract offers.

Of course, getting Bay in this way may turn out to be a negative for the Mets. Players unhappy with their contracts have a way of moping that can drag down an entire team (Gary Sheffield during his many big-league stops). But Bay seems to be a good guy and we know he's not intimidated playing in a big market so overall I think the deal would work out well for the Mets. All they have to do is get him to sign on the dotted line. Of course, their base will say "Ok, what's next?" Minaya and company probably don't even know the answer to that.
Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

The ugly side of the Rivalry

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. In my first job out of college, I worked closely alongside several Red Sox fans and remember all the fun we had with our daily tweaking and taunting. Of course, this was in the days when the Saux hadn't won the World Series since 1918. Things have evened out in the last decade with both teams possessing two championship titles.

But every so often we are confronted head-on with the ugly side of the Rivalry, whether it is fighting in the stands or tossing condiments at each other. Yes, I was once accidently hit by packets of ketchup that stained my new Michael Kors jeans during a Yankee-Red Sox game at the old stadium last year. The tosser was a fellow Yankees fan who was aiming at the Red Sox fans who dared to show up and were sitting right next to me.

But all that pales in comparison to a story in Nashua, New Hampshire of a woman on trial for second-degree murder. The woman, a fan with a Yankees decal on her car, claimed she did not intentionally try to run over the victim, a Red Sox fan, and merely feared for her life after a group of Boston fans started banging on her car.

We may never know what actually happened that day, but we know one thing for sure: that a man lost his life for something that started as a baseball dispute. And this is the sad truth and the ugliest part of the Rivalry. What can't we stick to baseball-related insults? Why does it have to disintegrate into violence and hatred? Why can't we enjoy the natural teasing and taunting and then part with a handshake, regardless of the winner?
The intensity of the Rivalry has been partly driven in recent years by ownership. Not the players, who not only do not hate each other, but actually have become friendly, much to the annoyance of Yankee fans (i.e. Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia in the World Baseball Classic). From Red Sox President Larry Lucchino's "Evil Empire" nickname in 2002 to Hank Steinbrenner mocking the very existence of Red Sox Nation, the head honchos themselves have upped the hostility.
We have allowed this Rivalry to get out of control and the time has come to rein it in. Let's resist whatever urge compels people to throw punches or objects at each other just because they root for a team we consider our mortal enemy. I would implore all Yankee fans who feel the need to remind Red Sox fans of the latest World Series victory to follow that with a friendly pat on the back or shoulder, understanding that our devotion to our Yankees is just as strong as their devotion to their team.

Thanks to the Silent Wind of Doom via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Damon, Yankees marriage ends badly

Now here comes the spin. With both sides acknowledging that Johnny Damon's tenure with the New York Yankees is over, it's time for the sportswriters to dissect how the breakup of such a good relationship came to be.

Damon has been in almost daily contact with the New York Post to give his side of the story. The latest report has Damon talking about how these things just happen and that he significantly lowered his demands from a three or four-year deal at roughly the same $13 million he made this year to a two-year deal worth about $10 million per year. His account portrays the Yankees as completely inflexible, unwilling to move off their two-year offer that would have cut his pay almost in half.

The team's version of the story, meanwhile, has agent Scott Boras asking for two years at $13 million as recently as Wednesday when the Yanks were already closing in on hiring Nick Johnson to replace Hideki Matsui as the designated hitter for a lot less money than Damon supposedly wanted.

It's hard to know who to believe in this drama. I have no problem accepting that the Yanks were completely rigid in their contract demands (remember they put Andy Pettitte through the same situation last year). But Boras does have a well-known propensity to exaggerate details to create illusions that benefit his clients. Like most disputes, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

But who's right or wrong doesn't even matter now. The Yankees are losing a player who they acknowledge was a perfect fit for the number #2 spot in their lineup and a popular guy both in and outside the clubhouse. That's the biggest shame.
Thanks to Ken N via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Honors keep piling up for Mo, Jeter

Not even a nagging rib-cage injury could derail Mariano Rivera's quest to continue his postseason dominance. He extended his record 39 postseason saves by going 5 for 5 to finish the Yankees 27th championship title. This was after saving 44 games in the regular season, including his historic 500th save against the Metsies. For this, Mo was the landslide choice for Closer of the Year in's This Year in Baseball Awards, handily beating Jonathan Papelbon with 47% of the vote compared to Papelbum's 9%.

His good pal Derek Jeter was also recognized by for breaking Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankees hits record with the Moment of the Year award. It's just the latest in a series of offseason honors for Jeter. This vote was much closer, but once again the Yankees came out on top with Jeter (24.6%) edging Jacoby Ellsbury (22.7%) of the Red Sox.

Soon to be ex-Yankee Johnny Damon scored the Postseason Moment of the Year award. Despite struggling in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Damon sparked the Yankees to a pivotal victory in Game 4 of the World Series with his feisty at-bat against Brad Lidge and his heads-up double steal. Of course, his departure is not official, but a return does not look promising, with Hal Steinbrenner openly talking about a disagreement over his worth.

Thanks to Anc516 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Yankees not done yet

Although Brian Cashman seems determined to stick within the budget given to him by Hal Steinbrenner (running the team on his father's behalf), it is clear that the Yankees are not finished adding to their team.

"I don't think we're done yet," Steinbrenner said in an interview after the Curtis Granderson press conference. "We're still going to talk to people about trades. (But) I'm a believer in budgets."

A deal to bring Nick Johnson back to the Yankee family to serve as designated hitter appears imminent. Johnson is a few years younger than former DH Hideki Matsui although his injury history is worse. I think he will be a good replacement if he can stay healthy, but I wonder why the Yanks think he is a better option than Matsui. He's likely to sign for less guaranteed money, which helps the budget, but the dollars may be fairly similar if he reaches the incentives the Yanks will put into the contract. Remember, Andy Pettitte nearly doubled his salary this year by reaching all the incentive targets.

"Hideki was a great Yankee as we all know, but change is inevitable," Steinbrenner said.

After he finishes the Johnson deal, Cashman will turn his full attention on finding one more starter. Several names have been thrown around, but considering the Johnson deal came out of nowhere, perhaps Cashman has one more surprise in store for Yankee fans.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another top honor for Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera's banner year continues. Mo closed the Yankees' 27th World Series title last month, gathering another five saves to raise his postseason number to 39, the most by any reliever.
His dominance in the playoffs capped another fantastic regular season in which he saved 44 games with a 1.76 ERA, becoming only the second closer in baseball history to pass the 500-save mark. And it is the reason Rivera is Sporting News' Pro Athlete of the Year.
Aside from his tremendous success, the interview he did with Sporting News highlights why Yankee fans love him. Mo made it clear that he doesn't care about chasing the all-time saves record (although we badly want him to get it) or receiving credit for what he does on the field. All he cares about is doing his job, doing it well, and taking care of his teammates.
Mo didn't commit to pitching five more years as he said in the euphoria of winning his latest title. He pledged to hang up his spikes the day he doesn't have it anymore. Yankee fans hope that day won't come for a long time.

Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Good news, bad news for ARod

Alex Rodriguez gave many Yankee fans an early Christmas present today when he told YES Network reporter Kim Jones that his troublesome hip will not require another surgery. ARod, at Yankee Stadium to welcome Curtis Granderson to his new baseball family, said the latest imaging test looked solid and that his doctor determined he didn't need a scheduled surgery. "That is the best news," Rodriguez said.

Of course, this good news came a few days after he reportedly broke up with actress girlfriend Kate Hudson so I guess it's a mixed week for ARod. Hudson earned the gratitude of Yankee fans, who gave her a lot of the credit for helping ARod turn around what looked like a lost year.

But if ARod seemed sad about anything today, it was the loss of teammate and World Series Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui. "I know the Angels got a great player, a great hitter and a true professional. I congratulate them because they got a fantastic player and we're going to miss him dearly." Seems like ARod, unlike the Yankee brass, truly understands what a loss Matsui is for the team.
ARod is already starting to prepare for next season. He and Mark Teixeira are planning a mini-workout with hitting coach Kevin Long and ARod said he would invite his new teammate Granderson to join in the prep work in Miami on January 3.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Curtis Granderson a happy camper

Curtis Granderson is a happy camper. The Yankees officially welcomed him to New York with a press conference this morning and Granderson was a star. He was incredibly charming and engaging. He was genuinely excited about playing for the Yankees and got several laughs from his new bosses and teammates (CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez were there to welcome him) and the assembled media. A few highlights:

On the number of text messages he received when rumors of his trade to the Yanks caught fire: "I'm glad I got an unlimited plan."

On superstitions: "I've got to play with sugar-free bubble gum."
On possibly getting hit with a pie in the face after a walk-off win: "I'm afraid it's going to burn because I've got sensitive eyes."
On facing left-handed pitching: "I don't have to face (CC) anymore, which is a good thing."
When he was asked about his troubles against lefties this year, he seemed pretty confident about regaining his previous success. He was also excited about the prospect of playing center field and following in the footsteps of Yankee greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams. "It's going to be pressure, but it's good pressure," he said.

He will be a great representative for a team with an international fan base. Granderson is an avid traveler (like me!) and he talked about how no matter where he went (China, Europe, Africa, Latin America), when he talked about baseball, the New York Yankees always came up first, even in places not known for a love of baseball. "They know the Yankees," Granderson said.
Brian Cashman, Girardi and Hal Steinbrenner all talked about what a great clubhouse and community guy he is. That's critical. Team chemistry was a major plus for the Yanks this year and Granderson seems like he will contribute to that positive vibe.
Welcome to the Bronx, Curtis.

Thanks to TheKuLeR via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Baseball problems need a good fix

Welcome news from Major League Baseball: Commissioner Bud Selig has formed a committee to develop solutions for some of the most aggravating problems in the game today. The task force is a who's who list of baseball greats, including Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and managers Joe Torre, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and Tony LaRussa. The wise men have a tough task ahead of them.

"The committee will have the opportunity to review and make recommendations on all aspects of the game on the field, from scheduling, to playoff formats, to umpiring, to pace of game, to instant replay and to whatever other issues the committee deems appropriate," Selig said. "There will be no sacred cows."
Fixing the playoff schedule will be high on the list. Although it benefited the Yanks during the postseason, Scioscia was openly annoyed by the number of off days built into the schedule. With him on the committee, I expect a quick recommendation to limit the number of off days. With such a change, baseball won't be able to get away with kowtowing to the wishes of its TV partners at the expense of its players and the fans.

Even more important than the creation of the committee is Selig's pledge to implement its recommendations, which may go against his personal beliefs. This is critical. Selig has resisted taking steps such as ordering a broader use of instant replay. But with the sheer volume of bad calls made in the playoffs this year sparking so much controversy, that decision may finally be out of his hands.
Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Nick Johnson back in the Bronx?

Could Nick Johnson soon be returning to the Bronx? Brian Cashman is reportedly talking with Johnson about assuming the vacant designated hitter role now that Hideki Matsui has officially left for the Angels. It's a good move.

Yes, Johnson has battled numerous injuries during his career so I'm sure Cashman will offer him a relatively low base salary with a lot of incentives. If he stays healthy, then the Yanks have a hitter known for his patience at the plate (walking 17.8% of the time in 2009, the highest in baseball) and a good on-base percentage (.402 lifetime). If he doesn't stay healthy, the Yanks can go with their initial plan of rotating other players into the DH spot.

Although Johnson is known to be a quiet, shy guy, constantly teased by his teammates, he fit in well during his first tour with the Yanks. He would slot in nicely behind Derek Jeter in the two-hole if Johnny Damon doesn't return. Because of his patience, he's a better fit for that spot than Curtis Granderson.

It's a low-risk baseball move for the Yanks. They should do it.

Thanks to Miss Chatter via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Erin Andrews bravery is remarkable

I applaud ESPN reporter Erin Andrews' incredible bravery in facing her stalker in court. Andrews didn't have any obligation to attend the proceedings, where he admitted to secretly video taping her in her hotel rooms. She could have had her lawyer read a letter to the court. But she chose to stand in the same courtroom and ask the judge to sentence him to the maximum penalty. It was an amazing and inspiring show of courage.

While the criminal court case soon will be over, her hurt and shame is something she may have to deal with for the rest of her life. Andrews admitted yesterday that she is still fearful, both in public and in her home, and humiliated by the experience. She also said that some insensitive sports fans have been tormenting her when she's on the sidelines. Those people know who they are and will have to answer for their abuse in due time. But Andrews continues focusing on what she can control: doing her job.
Andrews seems determined to make something positive come out of her experience by protecting other women who may be vulnerable to such abuse. Her lawyer has urged the hotel industry to take greater steps to protect their guests, which they failed to do with Andrews when one hotel gave her stalker a room next to her without alerting Andrews. As much as her public profile made this a more painful experience for her, she may also be able to use it to her advantage by publicly shaming these businesses to take action and encouraging state and federal lawmakers to pass and strengthen video voyeur laws to impose harsher punishment.
I hope Andrews is successful in this quest, which could help ease her pain.

Thanks to Aaron via Wikipedia for the photo.

Damon sounds ready to move on from Yanks

Johnny Damon sure sounds like a player who's ready to move on from the Yankees. As much as he would probably like to remain in pinstripes, Damon made it clear yesterday that he is unwilling to give the hometown team a shorter deal, let alone a discount.

It's one thing to hear an agent like Scott Boras go on and on about how his client has earned a long-term deal and shouldn't take a pay cut. But when the player starts saying it, that really tells you something. Damon said there are other baseball teams out there interested in his services. He specifically mentioned his fellow free-agent outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, noting that once they sign, the teams they spurn would have room for him.

Damon seems frustrated by the non-negotiations. After having such a solid season and playing a pivotal role in Game 4 of the World Series, he probably can't fathom why the Yanks aren't showing more interest. But the Yankees let Hideki Matsui go and he was more of a factor in the playoffs and a longer-tenured Yankee than Damon. For his part, Brian Cashman seems very willing to wait for Damon to come down off his asking price, which seems unlikely. Maybe the Yanks are serious about sticking to that budget.

We may be heading for a bitter parting.
Thanks to OneTwo1 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sad Good-bye to Godzilla

Although it was expected, I am still sad over the news that Hideki Matsui is about to sign a one-year $6.5 million contract to be the designated hitter of the Angels. But I'm happy to see him land a nice deal with another team as it was becoming increasingly clear that he was not a priority for the Yankees.

No matter what Yankee officials say about Matsui's skills, he was an undeniably clutch player. He earned well-deserved honors as the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 World Series, a feat made all the more impressive because he only started three games with the other three games played in the National League ballpark sans DH. But he still swung a mighty bat, hitting .615 with 3 home runs and 8 ribbies.

Matsui was a good Yankee for a long time, not an easy feat in the city that never sleeps. Despite battling injuries, he hit .292 with 141 home runs and 597 ribbies in seven seasons in the Bronx. He was never subject to any controversy, even with the hordes of Japanese media following his every move. Plus, he was popular with his teammates, most notably Yankee Captain Derek Jeter, who often said Matsui was one of his favorite teammates.

Despite what Yankee officials may say, the team will sorely miss him.

Godspeed Godzilla!

Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Pitching dominoes don't hurt Yanks

In an amazing array of moves, three of the top starting pitchers in baseball are on their way to new homes. The Red Sox and Angels ace John Lackey have reportedly agreed on a five-year, $85 million contract. The Phillies traded Cliff Lee to Seattle to get Roy "Doc" Halladay in a three-way trade with the Blue Jays.

Although I am really disappointed by the Yankees' failure to pry Doc away from Toronto, the dominoes couldn't have fallen any better for Brian Cashman and the Yanks. Their hated rivals do get a good starter in Lackey, but they paid a ton and were probably not thrilled at having to offer that fifth year. More importantly, they don't get Halladay or Lee, who are both better than Lackey, and Halladay goes to the National League while Lee goes West. The Yanks may see Lee or Halladay one or two times a year compared to constantly having to face Doc in a division-heavy playing schedule.

The decision by the Phillies to trade Lee really surprised me. Lee was impressive during the playoffs and his domination of the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series nearly propelled the Phillies to a second consecutive title. I thought they were pursuing Halladay to form an unbeatable one-two punch in the National League. But apparently they had concerns about whether they could sign him. Not that Halladay will be that much easier as he no doubt will demand CC Sabathia money ($23 million per year).

So what does Cashman do next? I imagine he continues to scour the free-agent starting pitching market in the hopes of getting a reasonable deal. Good luck with that. Now that Halladay and Lackey are both off the market, the competition for injured or mediocre starters will be even worse as desperate teams (i.e. the Mets) look for pitching.
Thanks to Nick Ball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Damon squashes contract rumors

Johnny Damon squashed rumors that he and the New York Yankees have made any progress in negotiating a new deal. Despite rumors of ongoing talks and offers and counteroffers, Damon said neither he nor the team has even told the other side what it will take to get a deal done.

The speculation has to be incredibly frustrating for both sides, but it surprises me that there hasn't yet been even an opening offer. I would have imagined that the Yankees at least would be eager to get Damon's deal done so they can move on to other things.

Damon, after a solid regular season and a good World Series, is looking for a multi-year deal so he and agent Scott Boras have an incentive to try to get the Yankees into a bidding war with at least one other team. But I don't imagine the Yankees will bite. Although I think Brian Cashman would break the bank for the right player, I don't think Damon qualifies in his mind, especially now that he swung a trade for Curtis Granderson.

The Yanks should make the first move. Make an offer and see what happens. If Damon rejects it, then move on. But don't let this drag out. There are more important things to worry about, including filling out the starting rotation.

Thanks to Onetwo1 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Yanks have limited starter options

How ridiculous is the free-agent starting pitching market if the Yankees two best options are pitchers who did not pitch in 2009 due to injuries? Brian Cashman is reportedly eyeing Justin Duchscherer or Ben Sheets for the 4th or 5th starting slots in next year's rotation.

Sheets just had elbow surgery and has suffered numerous other injuries. His numbers aren't overly impressive with a 86-83 record and a 3.72 ERA in the National League. Sheets is reportedly looking to make $11-12 million per year, which the Yanks don't seem inclined to give him. I don't blame them.

Duchscherer made the All-Star team last year, but spent most of the last few seasons on the disabled list with various injuries. He has a 31-24 record with 14 saves and a 3.14 ERA. He would be an even riskier proposition.

The market for starting pitching has gone insane this offseason. I know there are limited free-agent options this offseason, but so many injury-plagued pitchers have gotten nice, guaranteed deals this offseason. Case in point: Rich Harden getting $7.5 milllion from the Rangers. It makes no sense.

Thanks to Olympian X via Wikipedia for the Sheets photo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mitchell Report still haunts baseball

Has it really been two years? It seems like yesterday when former senator George Mitchell released his report on steroid use in baseball. The report outed several players as steroid or human growth hormone users, including Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. While Pettitte quickly confirmed the accuracy of the report, Clemens to this day denies using steroids and is reportedly being investigated for allegedly committing perjury when testifying before Congress.

Perhaps it doesn't feel like that long ago because the steroid revelations keep coming. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez admitted to steroid use in February after being outed by Sports Illustrated magazine. Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez was suspended from baseball for 50 games this year for taking a banned substance. Also, keeping steroids in the news is Mark McGwire's decision to return to the game as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mitchell's report emphatically stated that steroid use in baseball was widespread. It's hard to know how much has changed since then. Four major leaguers were suspended in 2009 when tests showed the use of banned substances, including Yankees pitcher Sergio Mitre, who was just tended another contract by the team. They all dealt with 50-game bans under the tougher penalties adopted by Major League Baseball and the player's union, a good sign of progress.

But as Mitchell noted in his report, there is no way to test for HGH. That is still true. Have many players simply shifted from steroids to HGH? Mitchell believes they did and it's unlikely much has changed in the two years since he issued his report.

Commissioner Bud Selig said MLB is spending millions to try to develop a reliable HGH test. Hopefully, those efforts will soon be successful and we can truly know if the sport has really cleaned up or if players have just found another way to hide their cheating.

Thanks to the US Department of State via Wikipedia for the photo.

Bye, Bye Chien-Ming Wang

As expected, the Yankees decided not to tender a contract to pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, unwilling to pay him the minimum $4 million he would be due coming off another injury-shortened season. It's a disheartening fall from grace for a pitcher who was the team's number #1 starter for two years.

Wang won 19 games during the regular season twice and was the runner-up to Johan Santana in the American League Cy Young race in 2006. But he struggled in the postseason, particularly in the 2007 division series against Cleveland, giving up 12 runs and losing two of the three games that forced the Yanks' early exit.

Wang was never the same after injuring his foot running the bases in a 2008 interleague series against the Astros in Houston (that's why baseball needs the DH in the NL parks during interleague play). After trying to come back from that, he suffered other injuries and eventually needed shoulder surgery.

The Yanks offered Wang a minor-league contract that would become a major-league deal when he proved he could pitch. But again with the Yanks, there seems to be too many bad feelings lingering from previous contract negotiations, as Wang was reportedly still unhappy with the team after losing his salary dispute in arbitration.

I agree with the Yankees decision on Wang from a baseball perspective as they don't know if he will ever return to being the solid pitcher he was before the foot injury. But I hope they have learned their lesson about pinching pennies on the backs of their players. It caused bad feelings with Andy Pettitte, one of the nicest guys in baseball. And it seems like it cost them even a chance to get Wang to agree to an incentive-laden contract that would have kept him in pinstripes.

A real shame for both Wang and the Yankees.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mets' Minaya making his move

Omar Minaya is no Brian Cashman, much to the dismay of Mets fans. But he made his first major move this week with a 4-year, $65 million offer to free agent outfielder Jason Bay. It's a smart move.

Bay is one of baseball's top three free agents this year and getting him would be a real coup for Minaya. Although Bay does not have the engaging personality of a big star, he is a strong player who would fill an important need for the Mets. He had a career high with 36 homers and 119 ribbies in 2009. Bay has power and speed. Plus, he's great in pressure-cooker situations, hitting key home runs in the Rivalry against the Yankees.

Will it be enough to get Bay? We'll see. He'll likely be looking for more money and could get a counteroffer from the Red Sox soon. Bay also lives in Seattle during the offseason and with the Mariners making a move for domination in the American League West, he could end up in the Emerald City. But the Mets may have the resources to outbid the Mariners and the Red Sox have been slow the lock Bay up. The Metsies may get lucky and get the player they want and really need to have.

Thanks to Wknight94 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Swisher a coup for How I Met Your Mother

Just when I thought my favorite comedy "How I Met Your Mother" couldn't get any better, here comes news that Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher will guest as himself on the show. Swisher will reportedly stop in MacLaren's bar, the second home of the fun-loving gang, drawing too much female attention for legendary lothario Barney Stinson's comfort. I wonder if Barney will tell Swisher to suit up!

Swisher is such a goofy, fun-loving guy that I have no doubt he will be great on the show. And his appearance will come just a few months after his girlfriend actress Joanna Garcia (who also guested on another favorite show of mine: Gossip Girl) appeared on HIMYM. I was kind of hoping she was the titular mom, but not meant to be.
Swish will be following in a grand tradition of Yankee cameos in movies and on TV, including several memorable Seinfeld episodes. I wasn't a big fan of that show, but I did love the 1996 episode when Jason Alexander's George Costanza, who was the Yankees traveling secretary, takes Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams out for some batting practice. When Jeter protests that the Yanks just won the World Series, Costanza snickers: "Yeah, in six games."
Good luck, Swish! Just don't let Barney outshine you.
Thanks to wheels897 via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Yanks getting ready for life without Damon

Although they are still intersted at the right price, the Yankees are getting ready for life without Johnny Damon. There is open speculation about the Yankees Plan B if Damon rejects what will likely be a take-it or leave-it offer from the team. The back-up plan appears to be to bring Hideki Matsui back on a one-year deal, with Brian Cashman also saying that minor leaguer Juan Miranda could see some time in the big leagues next year.

Of course, it could be posturing on the Yankees part to get Damon to accept their offer. But Cashman seems determined to stick within his budget, which means he would be willing to move on if Damon balks at re-signing at the dollars the Yanks are willing to pay.

If Damon does return, he will likely be a part-time outfielder and a part-time designated hitter. Joe Girardi has supported the idea of having an open DH spot to rotate his other players into when they need a break from playing the field.

I just hope this doesn't drag on. And Damon may not want to wait or he could find himself in the same position as Andy Pettitte last offseason, having to accept a below-market contract because the Yanks spent their cash on other players first. The bad feelings from that negotiation lingered although to Pettitte's credit it didn't affect him on the field. Damon seems like a good, team guy so I doubt he would bring any contract disappointment into the clubhouse. But do the Yanks really want to take that risk just to stick to their budget? We should find out soon.

Thanks to Ken N and Mattingly23 via Wikipedia for the photo.

What are the Red Sox up to?

After watching Brian Cashman pull off multiple moves to improve a World Series-winning ballclub this week, Theo Epstein must be thinking hard about how to counter his team's hated rivals. Despite what they say publicly, Red Sox officials know they have to do something to respond. What exactly they plan to do is unclear.

For right now, their primary focus seems to be trading Mike Lowell to clear third base for Adrian Beltre, who I doubt will fire up Red Sox nation. And if you believe the reports, Boston is falling behind in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, which is great for Yankee fans.
I really don't understand their slow movement on Jason Bay. The outfielder was placed in a difficult position being traded for Manny Ramirez, but surpassed all expectations with his clutch performance, especially in the Rivalry. Perhaps the Red Sox are merely waiting for his asking price to come down, but they shouldn't wait too long to make an offer Bay can't refuse or they are going to lose him, perhaps to the Mets, who desperately need a big bat.
I'm sure Epstein has a plan. It's just hard to figure out what it is.
Thanks to hardnfast via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brian Cashman having a great week

If baseball gave an award for best general manager at the winter meetings, Brian Cashman would win hands down. He had a great week. And it's not over. Cashman probably has another surprise in store for Yankee fans.

He accomplished goal #1 when he re-signed starter Andy Pettitte. Not signing Pettitte would have forced him to pursue John Lackey or give up a ton for Roy "Doc" Halladay. But now he can examine a Halladay trade from a position of strength, knowing he doesn't absolutely need him. I'm also very glad he didn't try to stick within his reported budget by pinching pennies with Pettitte.
He wrangled Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers without having to give up too much. Granderson fits into Cashman's youth movement and eases any pressure to re-sign Johnny Damon for more money than he wants to part with. Plus, Granderson's reasonable contract also fits within the Yankees budget (supposedly at $185 million though I have serious doubts).

Cashman also traded Brian Bruney for the #1 pick in the Rule 5 draft, which the Yanks will likely use although it's not clear who they will pursue. I'm sure Cashman has a player in mind, otherwise he probably would have traded the pick, which reportedly generated interest from other teams.

Talk about getting things done.

Thanks to Jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Welcome back Andy Pettitte!

What a relief! After deciding that he wanted to pitch one more season, Andy Pettitte and the Yankees reached agreement on a $11.75 million contract for 2010. The deal is all guaranteed money, which was critical considering Andy's bitterness over last year's contract negotiations, and represents a well-deserved raise from his 2009 salary.

For all the talk of trades and free agents, this was the deal the Yankees absolutely needed to get done. It became so clear this season that despite shelling out millions for CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett last winter, the Yankees desperately needed Pettitte to return, if for no other reason than to give their young starters Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes another year to mature. But Pettitte was a key cog of the Yankees successful playoff march and if the Yanks wanted another shot at a World Series title, they needed Pettitte back.
Brian Cashman came to this conclusion very quickly, targeting Pettitte as priority #1. He acknowledged yesterday that his options were limited, saying that the pitching market has become more expensive and the starting pitching market a headache. I guess that makes Pettitte the aspirin Cashman needed.

Welcome back, Andy!
Thanks to Alex Kim via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Granderson done. Halladay next for Yanks?

With the trade for Curtis Granderson likely to be officially announced today, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman will turn his attention to other matters. Reportedly in deep negotiations with Andy Pettitte's agents, Cashman will have to multi-task as the Roy "Doc" Halladay talks heat up.
Does the Granderson trade make the Yanks less likely to deal for Halladay? Having given up touted prospect Austin Jackson, starter Ian Kennedy and lefty reliever Phil Coke for Granderson, Cashman may be reluctant to trade away more young players. But he still has the pieces to get Halladay if he wants, with Toronto likely to demand either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes as part of the package.
Plus, the Yankees have the resources to meet Halladay's contract extension demands, likely in the range of CC Sabathia's $23 million per year. The Red Sox have money too, but have never really shown a willingness to outspend the Yanks and are as reluctant as the Yanks, if not more so, to part with their young players.
But the Rivalry puts so much pressure on both teams it's hard to predict their next moves. The Yanks and Red Sox bidding against each other could raise the price so high that the losing team at least has the consolation of knowing that the winner of the Halladay sweepstakes is paying dearly. But whichever team gets Halladay instantly is the favorite to win so the stakes are sky high.
Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Matsui time in pinstripes may be over

With the Yankees finalizing the logistics of the 3-team trade that will bring Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, Hideki Matsui may soon find himself the odd man out. It was unlikely that the Yankees would keep Matsui even without the trade. But now that they have taken on Granderson, it's hard to expect them to sign both Johnny Damon and Matsui, with the Yankees preferring Damon because they can use him in the outfield.

Coming off his MVP performance in the World Series, Matsui reportedly has several suitors. He will likely have to take a significant pay cut, but could see regular playing time as the designated hitter for another team.

Matsui could still come back to the Yankees, especially if Damon chooses to accept a multi-year offer from another team. Although he's limited to DH, he proved there's still a lot of life left in his bat. And he has an important cheerleader in Derek Jeter, who gives Brian Cashman advice on player moves. If he's willing to accept a lot less money, the Yanks could welcome him back.

Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Granderson could end Damon's Yankee career

The Yankees are reportedly in talks with Detroit and Arizona about a 3-team trade that would bring Curtis Granderson to New York. If the Yankees get Granderson, that would likely end Johnny Damon's career in pinstripes.
Granderson would certainly help the Yankees in their quest to get younger (only 28 years old). He is also a Linkcheaper option than Damon with a contract that pays him $5.5 million in 2010 and $8.25 million in 2011. But I'm not that impressed with Granderson as a player. His lifetime batting average is a relatively low .272 with a .344 on-base percentage and he strikes out a lot (141 times in 2009).
Perhaps talk of a deal could pressure Damon to sign quickly (Scott Boras reportedly likes to drag contract negotiations out to get the best deal) and for fewer years and dollars than he would like. But Granderson fits Brian Cashman's plan to get younger, which the Yanks can only do one position at a time with so many players locked in with long-term deals.
If it does mean Damon's time in pinstripes will come to an end, many Yankee fans will be disappointed as they grew fond of Damon despite coming from the hated Red Sox.
Thanks to Kevin.Ward via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bye, bye, Brian Bruney

Brian Cashman swung into action immediately at the start of the winter meetings today, dealing right-handed reliever Brian Bruney to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later.

It was clear the Yankees had soured on Bruney despite his blazing fastball. He was placed on the disabled list twice due to shoulder problems and was left off the postseason roster during the first two rounds. He pitched in Game 1 of the World Series and quickly turned a manageable 2-run deficit into an insurmountable hole against Phillies lefty Cliff Lee.

The Bruney trade could perhaps signal that reports of the Yanks' interest in Rafael Soriano may be accurate. The move clears a roster spot and some room on the payroll for Soriano (who will cost $6-$8 million) although Cashman is said to be reluctant to pursue a free-agent reliever who would force him to give up a draft pick. We'll see how the Yankee GM plays it.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Pettitte contract talks won't be easy

If the Yankees thought re-signing Andy Pettitte was going to be easy, they obviously were mistaken. A report said the Yankee starter turned down the team's first contract offer of about $10 million.

Good for Pettitte. He shouldn't make it easy on the Yanks considering they didn't make it easy on him last year, forcing him to accept a $5.5 million base salary and then bragging about the contract later. His final 2009 paycheck came to about $10.5 million because of incentives. But Pettitte never forgot the Yankees' cold tone in their contract negotiations with him and is unwilling to give them a discount.

Despite his reported lack of desire to sign elsewhere, Pettitte is in a pretty good negotiating position. The Yankees need him due to the lack of dependability from their young starters. It wasn't Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain pitching the closing games of each playoff series this year, it was Pettitte. It wasn't Hughes or Chamberlain that Girardi trusted to be part of his successful three-man rotation. Pettitte doesn't need the Yankees as much as they need him. He can just retire and go home, going out on top as a key part of the Yanks' latest title-winning team, the way all great players should go out.

If the Yanks don't give in to his contract demands, they would be forced to pursue a much-more expensive option in the free-agent or trade markets. Though the Yanks reportedly don't have tremendous interest in John Lackey, they may have to go that route if they lose Pettitte. Here's hoping it doesn't come to that.
Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mets need to make a big splash

With the baseball winter meetings starting this week, expectations are that free-agent signings and major trades won't be far off. We know who the Yankees are gunning for. But what will the Mets do?

The New York papers can't seem to get a good sense of the Mets plans for this offseason. The Daily News reports the Mets have no interest in spending money on a major player such as Matt Holliday, Jason Bay or John Lackey. For the sake of my friends and family members who root for the other New York team, I hope they are wrong. The New York Post reports that Holliday is the top priority for Mets General Manager Omar Minaya.

A lack of ambition for the Mets would be sad considering the year they had. Yes, injuries played a major part in their downfall, but the Mets don't seem willing to do anything splashy to excite their fan base. And trust me, they are a dejected bunch, especially after having to watch their two arch rivals play in the World Series.

Having a solid Mets team is good for Yankee fans too. It's just not as much fun rooting against a team that is scuffling. The New York rivalry works better when both teams are contenders.

But the Mets need to do something to excite their fan base. I'm thinking something like their Pedro Martinez signing a few years ago. Martinez had a mixed career in Queens, but he gave the Mets a lot of moxie. Mind you, I'm not advocating a Martinez return to New York. I just think they need to think that big to make their fans happy. Hopefully, they will spend some of the considerable resources generated by their beautiful new ballpark to get an impact player.

Thanks to shgmom56 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Journalist lack of Jeter disclosure disturbing

Fox & Friends scored a nice one-on-one interview with Derek Jeter after he won the SI Sportsman of the Year award. The interview was noteworthy in the media for Jeter's admission that he's not perfect. Among other fascinating insights: Jeter does not make his bed in the morning.

Host Gretchen Carlson conducted the interview, giggling and tossing softball questions at the Yankee Captain. A journalist fawning over Jeter isn't really news. What was disturbing about the interview was Carlson's failure to disclose a critical potential conflict of interest: that she is married to sports agent Casey Close, Jeter's long-time agent.

As a journalist, I have to take serious issue with Carlson's failure to disclose the relationship. It raises serious questions. Did Carlson's prior acquaintance with Jeter help her score the interview? Did she agree not to ask Jeter certain questions ahead of time?

She did ask the famously-private Jeter about his relationship with actress Minka Kelly, but in a way that allowed Jeter to easily deflect the question. Her focus was getting Jeter to talk about the way he felt about the loss of his privacy, particularly the recent New York Post cover story about his vacation with Kelly.

But she didn't ask him tough questions about becoming a free agent next year, with her husband set to play a key role in Jeter's contract negotiations. For example, she didn't ask Jeter whether he would be willing to move to another team if the Yankees failed to give him the amount of money or contract years he will ask for, something Close will help shape Jeter's opinion on.

Disclosing such conflicts of interest is Journalism 101. Carlson has been around for too long. She should know better.

Thanks to the Air Force Space Command via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yanks have their priorities straight

Unlike in previous years when the Yankee brass would go gaga over other clubs' players while ignoring their own, Brian Cashman & Co. intend to pursue their free agents first. Number 1 on the list is Andy Pettitte, which makes sense considering that strong starting pitching was the cornerstone behind the Yankees successful playoff run. Let's hope Pettitte soon decides to pitch one more year so the Yanks can quickly sign him and move on to other issues.

Settling on a left fielder is priority #2, with the Yankees starting to feel out Johnny Damon's expectations for a new contract. The Yankees are reportedly looking to cut their payroll by $15 million (I'll believe it when I see it) so I imagine they will be completely inflexible if Damon's agent Scott Boras asks for more than two years or more than $10 million per year. Cashman also talked to Hideki Matsui's agent, perhaps Matsui's pinstripe career isn't over if he is willing to sign for a much-lower salary.

While they will actively monitor the free-agent market, it doesn't sound like the Yankees have any inclination to pursue free-agent outfielders Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, which makes sense. Unless the bottom completely falls out, either player will be expensive and I don't think the Yanks need to spend that much on an outfielder. But if they do, I would prefer Bay, who proved he can perform at the highest level in baseball's most heated rivalry.

The Yankees also discussed players that could be acquired via trade, with Roy Halladay being the biggest fish out there. Honestly, he is the only one I would actively pursue. Curtis Granderson is a name that keeps popping up, but I don't have much interest in him and would be unwilling to give up a player like Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, or even a top-level prospect, for him. We'll see how the Yankees play it.

Thanks to kidsire via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Welcome back Boss!

Apparently the Yankees winning their 27th World Series title wasn't enough for George Steinbrenner. He was actively involved in yesterday's meetings, talking strategy and payroll with Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yankee brass. Say what you will about Steinbrenner, but he wants to win more than any other owner in baseball (and any other sport for that matter) and will do whatever it takes to get there.

I think his involvement in the meetings is a good sign. It shows that despite his poor health, he feels strong enough to participate in the discussions. And as long as the Boss is still around, the Yankees will never get too conservative. Given his fiery desire to win, he will sign off on whatever move he thinks will put the Yankees on top again next year. He's not going to let a Roy "Doc" Halladay slip away just because the team's payroll is the highest in baseball.

Unlike other owners, Steinbrenner puts a lot of the money he makes back into his team. It's one of the reasons I don't often complain about the high costs of Yankee tickets and everything at the new stadium. Sure, Steinbrenner is a businessman, but the Yankees are his passion and he will spend whatever he has to spend to put them back on top.

Welcome back, Boss!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News flash: Jeter not perfect

Derek Jeter says he's not perfect. In New York, when it comes to Jeter, that qualifies as a headline-worthy admission.

Without elaborating, the Yankee Captain said he in an interview that he has made mistakes in the past. Making mistakes is kind of the theme of the week with the Tiger Woods fiasco.
"Jeter is now the bulletproof guy," said WFAN Yankee beat reporter Sweeney Murti.
Jeter also talked about the struggle to maintain privacy when a person reaches the level of fame he has. Of course, it's the tradeoff. You can't have all the success, glory and money Jeter has without giving up something in return.

The positive portrayal of Jeter in the media has reached an all-time high this year. Of course, there will always be the Jeter haters, but they are increasingly becoming the minority. For every Joel Sherman ridiculing the notion of Jeter as Sportsman of the Year, there are 10 Mike Baumans laying out the reasons Jeter is deserving.

Being a big Jeter fan myself, I don't mind the plaudits he gets. And given his play on the field and his work with his Turn 2 Foundation off of it, I think he's definitely deserving of every one. But as Jeter said, he's not perfect. Let's take him at his word.

Thanks to OneTwo1 via Wikipedia for the photo.