Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
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
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 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.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
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.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
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.
Thanks to Jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.
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.
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.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
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.
Friday, December 18, 2009
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 MLB.com'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 MLB.com 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.
"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
Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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.
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.
Monday, December 14, 2009
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.
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
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.
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
Friday, December 11, 2009
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.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Talk about getting things done.
Thanks to Jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
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.
Monday, December 7, 2009
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.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
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.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
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.
Friday, December 4, 2009
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
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.
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.