Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No birthday gift for Mariano Rivera from Yankees

Mariano Rivera's 41st birthday came and went yesterday with no news on a new deal with the New York Yankees. Perhaps it will just be a belated birthday gift.

Mo hasn't been heard from publicly so far this offseason, but it has been reported that he wants a two-year deal, which I think is entirely fair. The Yankees supposedly have concerns about going that long on a new contract, but Mo hasn't given any indication that age has slowed him down at all. In fact, his only rough patch in 2010 was attributed to poor mechanics, which he corrected right in time for the playoffs.

Baseball contract negotiations can be tricky and contentious so I don’t discount the possibility of things getting ugly between the Yankees and Mo as they have with Derek Jeter. But I hope the Yankees don't draw the same line in the sand that they have with their captain. Unlike Jeter, Mo had another typically great year and should be rewarded for maintaining his status as the best closer in the game by having his very reasonable request of two years granted, along with a solid raise. The Yankees can’t afford to let Mo go because they don’t have anyone ready to replace him. Signing Mo for another two years will give them a chance to groom some brave soul to take his job when he retires.

Mo’s new deal will come after his birthday, but better late than never. Happy Birthday, Mariano! And a very happy birthday to my nephew Jonathan!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Better luck in the National League, Javy Vazquez!

After returning from a weekend in Barbados blissfully free of any baseball hot stove talk, I come back to find that Javier Vazquez has left the New York Yankees for the National League. That was not at all a surprise, just like it wouldn't surprise me if he has a very strong year for the Florida Marlins in 2011.

His tenure with the Yankees ended when he was kept off the roster for the playoffs, even though an argument could be made that he was a more effective starter in 2010 than AJ Burnett. But the writing was on the wall, especially with Brian Cashman openly admitting that trading for Vazquez a second time was a mistake.

Vazquez has some talent and I’m not at all surprised he got $7 million from the Marlins despite his rough 2010 campaign. I have no doubt he will do better in the National League, with its shorter lineups and away from the glare of the New York spotlight. Say what you will about Vazquez in NY, but he has had good years in other cities, including in Atlanta where he was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 219 innings pitched in 2009.

I would expect a performance closer to his 2009 self than the guy often mercilessly booed at Yankee Stadium this year. I wish him well and I hope other Yankee fans will too because there were other Yankee employees far more responsible for the disappointing end to the 2010 season of the Bronx Bombers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No reason to give thanks to Yankees for Jeter, Mo

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have plenty of things to give thanks for this holiday, but the gratitude of their bosses is not one of them.

Just in time for the holidays, Jeter and Mo are learning that their loyalty to the New York Yankees only goes one way. I honestly thought that when the Thanksgiving holiday came around, the Yankees would be well on their way to securing the signatures of both Jeter and Mo on new contracts to end their careers in pinstripes. But I was banking on the Yankees remaining professional through the process and showing the proper respect for their legendary stars. I guess I gave the Yankees way too much credit.

Instead of engaging in quiet and civil negotiations, the Yankees are demonstrating their gratitude for everything Jeter has done by publicly portraying him as a greedy athlete. They haven’t mentioned Mo as much, but we can safely include him in the comments Hank Steinbrenner made about the Yankees already making their athletes rich enough. How dare they publicly belittle their homegrown free agents when they are banking on their loyalty to the only organization they have every played for to keep them in pinstripes?

I hope Cliff Lee is watching the Derek Jeter saga because if he signs with the Yankees, this is the way he will be treated when his contract is up, no matter how many World Series titles he helps the Yankees win.

Being the deeply religious man that he is, Mo will probably find plenty of reason to be thankful this holiday. Jeter is probably more offended by the behavior of his bosses, as he should be. But I hope wherever they choose to spend the holiday, Derek and Mo can forget all the messiness of the contract negotiations and just focus on being grateful for what they already have (great careers, healthy families and the adoration of millions).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yankees wrong to paint Jeter as greedy

The New York Yankees are in serious spin mode right now, painting Derek Jeter as greedy just because he apparently isn't happy with the offer they made. That's just wrong.

Why should Jeter jump at the offer? He probably fairly assumed it would be a first offer and a jumping off point to start negotiations. But now Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners are freely granting interviews to spin their side of the story, arguing that they have made a fair and appropriate offer and implying they have no intention of going beyond three years and $45 million for Jeter's services. Hank Steinbrenner was particularly insulting talking about how some ballplayers are wealthier then their bosses (the people in glass houses cliché suddenly springs to mind). Hey Hank, last time I checked, no one went to Yankee Stadium to watch you be an owner. But since 1996, millions have walked through the gates at both the old and new stadiums to watch Jeter play shortstop.

Cashman practically dared Jeter to test his value on the free-agent market. Of course, the Yankees will pay a lot more for Jeter's services than any other team. But that's true for nearly every player the Yankees sign because of their vast resources. Just two years ago, they offered CC Sabathia tens of millions more than any other team. And last year they gave Nick Johnson $5.5 million with his injury history. I doubt any other team was offering anything close to that. The important issue is Jeter's value to the Yankees, not his value to other teams. And if Cashman has any questions about that, the general manager should go to wherever he stores his World Series rings and take a good, long look at them because he would not have any of those rings without Derek Jeter.

Perhaps Cashman is just being a good soldier and doing what Hal Steinbrenner is telling him. But it seems to me the Yankees are too focused on winning the media war and not working hard enough to get a deal done. They sound like Jeter should be grateful for the offer and should just shut up and take it. It doesn’t work that way, not after everything Jeter has done for the organization. At the very least, he deserves to be treated with respect and not portrayed as just another greedy athlete.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robinson Cano will get another shot at MVP

Robinson Cano will have to be content with his Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, at least for now.

In what seemed like a foregone conclusion, Josh Hamilton won the American League Most Valuable Player award by a pretty hefty margin over Cano and the other candidates. Despite missing 28 games at the end of the season, Hamilton put up strong enough numbers to clearly convince the writers of his value to the Texas Rangers. It must feel like a particularly gratifying achievement after all the troubles Hamilton has endured.

But I must admit to being very surprised by the lack of first-place votes for Cano considering the New York Yankees actually made it to the playoffs while the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays both watched from home. Ever since Alex Rodriguez started winning MVP awards during his time with the Rangers, it has become clear that some writers will cast their votes for the players with the gaudiest numbers rather than the players who are actually most valuable to their teams in helping them get into postseason play. I have no problem with Hamilton winning, but the writers who put Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista ahead of Cano really missed the boat. Granted, those guys put up fantastic numbers this year, but Cano kept the Yankees in contention when ARod went down and other big-time players such as Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter struggled.

But Cano’s MVP loss doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. And Cano is young and has become one of the best players in baseball. He will get another shot at an MVP award eventually.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yankees hard-line stance on Jeter wearing thin

It's still fairly early in the negotiations between the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter, but already the team's hard-line stance is starting to rub Captain Jeter the wrong way.

Why else would his agent Casey Close, who unlike the Yankees has kept pretty quiet so far, call the team's stance baffling? Personally, I'm with Close. Acting like Jeter's status as an iconic Yankee and the model citizen of baseball should have no bearing on the negotiations is indeed puzzling. I will believe Jeter’s popularity is a non-issue the next time I go to a Yankee game and can actually count the number of fans wearing Jeter T-shirts without losing track. Heck, it’s nearly impossible to wall down a city street without bumping into someone wearing a Jeter jersey.
Yes, Jeter's 2010 stats should give the Yankees cause for some questions about whether he has started to decline, but those numbers could also have been a symptom of him playing more games than ideal, as Joe Girardi has alluded to, or simply Jeter having an off year. It's shocking because we expect so much more from Jeter, but it happens to the best of players and perhaps Brian Cashman & Co are unfairly focusing on one bad year.

The Yankees like to pretend that the ridiculously long contract jam packed with frills that they gave to Alex Rodriguez has no bearing on the Jeter negotiations because Hank Steinbrenner, who was more like his emotional and media-hungry father George, was running the team at the time rather than the quiet, introspective Hal. But they are kidding themselves.

It's unfair for them to try to bully Jeter, who has been an integral part of five World Series championships as well as a fearless, unsullied leader on and off the field, into accepting a deal on their terms when they so quickly caved to ARod even after he publicly humiliated the team by opting out of his already generous contract. No doubt they would love a do-over on the ARod deal, but that doesn't mean they can act like it didn't happen.

Unfortunately for Jeter, the Yankees hard-line stance means these negotiations will likely take a lot longer than they should. I still think the two sides will come to an agreement, but the Yankees will have to get off their high horse first.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mission impossible for Larry Rothschild?

The mission for Larry Rothschild, which he has chosen to accept, is to make sure AJ Burnett doesn't self destruct again. Is it a mission impossible?

Rothschild doesn't seem to think so. If he did, he probably wouldn't have accepted the job offer from the New York Yankees, knowing that Burnett will be his top and at times his only priority.

Sure, he will work with CC Sabathia to see if they can lessen the big lefty’s mechanical problems early in the season so he can be as effective in April as he is in August and September. And he will work with young Phil Hughes to curb his tendency to give up home runs at Yankee Stadium.
But Burnett is project #1. No one was getting the job as pitching coach for the Yankees unless they could provide a roadmap for getting Burnett back on track.
Will Rothschild's plan work? Brian Cashman seems to think so. Why else would he give the new coach a three-year deal?

I hope Rothschild has some good ideas for fixing Burnett. The guy has so much talent and potential and maybe Rothschild can figure out a way to harness all that and to stop those self-doubting thoughts from creeping into AJ's head. Rothschild is a coach, not a shrink, so there may be a limit to what he can do. But hopefully it isn't an impossible mission.

Thanks to Wjmummert via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hail to the King, Felix beats CC Sabathia

This was a good week for the monarchy. Prince William gets engaged and King Felix wins the American League Cy Young award.

By a decisive margin, Felix Hernandez beat out David Price and CC Sabathia for the honor of being named the best pitcher in the American League in 2010. It’s an impressive feat considering he played for an inferior Seattle Mariners team and his 13 wins were well below CC’s 21 victories and Price’s 19.

It's also a victory for the stat geeks as Hernandez dominated most of the major pitching categories, except wins of course. While I fully appreciate the skill it takes to pitch to a 2.27 ERA in the American League, I can't help but wonder how many fewer runs Sabathia and Price would have given up had they not been pitching regularly for or against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.

I doubt Sabathia is broken up about this loss. He already has a Cy Young award and a championship ring. CC is probably more upset about losing to a Texas Rangers team that went down in five games in the World Series than losing the Cy Young award to a talented youngster.

But personally, I agree with Roy "Doc” Halladay, who upon winning his second Cy Young award a few days ago, remarked that wins matter. His implication, of course, was that the high victory totals for Price and Sabathia should carry more weight than the sparkling stats of Hernandez. I would have no problem if CC had lost to Price, who helped propel the Rays to the AL East division title. But losing to Hernandez is galling because it diminishes the importance of actually winning games compared to compiling nice stats.

But I guess it's a moot point now. Long live the monarchy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yankees play dangerous media game with Jeter

The New York Yankees are playing a dangerous media game with Derek Jeter.

It hasn’t escalated to the point of a media war, but it's starting to feel like it's heading in that direction. Perhaps that's the fault of the media itself, with sportswriters under pressure to write the most sensational news stories from the tiniest of scoops. But the Yankees are contributing to the atmosphere by publicly commenting about the shortstop. They give reporters something to work with every time they open their mouths. Whatever happened to "No, comment," Yankee brass? Just stop talking.

If you even believe the media reports, the Yankees are positioning themselves to use their leverage: that no other team will make a substantial offer for the captain or even bid for his services based on the assumption that he is destined to return to the Yankees. But publicly questioning the iconic shortstop's value is a hell of a risk. No matter how much they praise Jeter's career and his contributions to the franchise, all anyone will hear are the negatives.

Jeter is the most media-savvy athlete in baseball, perhaps in all sports. Except for a brush-back by his agent in response to Hal Steinbrenner's initial comments, Jeter has not been seen or heard from much this offseason. But if he finally gets tired of the Yankees playing games in the media, he's going to hit back in such a subtle way that the Yankees won't know what hit them or how to respond.

Any attempt to disparage Jeter will alienate many Yankee fans, including myself. I'm already getting tired of hearing people like Yankees president Randy Levine talking about how this is a different negotiation that it was 10 years ago on Jeter's last deal and how he's been so great for the Yankees, but they have been just as good for him. That is all obvious and doesn’t need to be said. So why say anything at all, especially when what you're saying can be easily misconstrued or completely blown out of proportion?

The Yankees need to just shut up and focus on getting Jeter's deal done. It's the best outcome for everyone and doesn't leave any messes to be cleaned up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Keep baseball postseason expansion short

Major League Baseball is considering expanding the playoffs, possibly with two wild card teams duking it out for the right to keep playing in October. It’s a good idea, but MLB has to do it in a way that doesn’t drag the season out any longer than necessary.

It's bad enough that the baseball playoffs already last a month, with the World Series played in November and the risk of more cold, disruptive weather that comes with that. The worst thing baseball could do is create a system that draws the postseason well past that one-month mark like the basketball playoffs, which are tedious and dull for all but the most die-hard fans. Seriously, I can’t even tell you when I last watched a full basketball postseason. Patrick Ewing might have still been wearing a Knicks uniform.

The possible changes to the baseball system are definitely intriguing, have numerous potential advantages and merit further consideration. I really like the idea of rewarding division leaders with a first-round bye for playing well during the regular season. Why not? It works for football.

For the record, I didn't think the American League East division race between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays this year was as lackluster or non-existent as most people claim. But such a change would definitely spice up the division races and motivate teams to play well (and put all their best players on the field rather than resting people in September) to avoid an early exit.

If MLB wants to add another round of playoffs, that’s fine. Bud Selig and Co have plenty of time to figure out how to make it work. But it has to be done in a way that keeps the postseason as short as possible. It’s more fun that way and they don’t risk losing our attention.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pay up New York Yankees fans!

Here's a reality check for any fans who want the New York Yankees to get Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford AND Jayson Werth.

The Yankees are increasing ticket prices, ostensibly to help offset the cost of having baseball's highest payroll. Despite the still-sluggish economy, the team will raise the prices of field-level seats (which I don’t care much about since I can’t afford to sit there at current prices) by about $10 or $25 and for bleacher seats without blocked views (which I care deeply about since I often sit there) by $3.

I am often amazed when I travel to other cities how much cheaper game tickets are. My last trip to Toronto, I got three tickets for roughly the same price I paid for one ticket to my last home game. But then the Blue Jays are not paying their way into contention so that's to be expected.

But for the record, I don't have a big problem with the Yankees raising their prices. If we want them to keep putting a competitive team on the field, spending big is the way they are going to do it and we have to live with that. Do I wish the tickets were cheaper? Of course. But I don't relish paying $13 to see a movie either, which is why I usually wait for them to come out on DVD. It's the same reason I watch most Yankee games on television.

I would like to see Brian Cashman & Co make better investments with my money. The Yankees are usually the only team that can afford to eat bad contracts such as the one they gave to Chan Ho Park, who was eventually replaced with the more expensive and much-more effective Kerry Wood. It was an easy call to keep Javier Vazquez off the roster for the playoffs despite his $11.5 million salary, but he wasn't a bet Cashman should have made in the first place. Let's hope he learns from that experience.

Bottom line: You get what you pay for. And Yankees fans will be paying more if they want to personally watch the most coveted free agent on the market pitch in Yankee Stadium next year. Imagine how much ticket prices would have gone up if Yankee officials were targeting all three of the top guys available. Personally, I can live without Crawford or Werth since it probably saves me some dough.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Learning about the next Yankee (hopefully) pitcher

The Daily News did fans of the New York Yankees a great service by going to Cliff Lee's hometown in Benton, Arkansas and speaking to everybody who knows him.

Okay, maybe they didn't speak to everyone, but it sure seems that way from the extensive profile they produced chronicling his life from talented kid to superstar pitcher and premier free agent. We now know a lot more about the guy who would be the next (hopefully) Yankee superstar.

I especially love the opening anecdote about Lee being afraid of speaking to a friendly crowd of 500 people because I can relate to that fear. I recently participated in a panel discussion in front of about 150 people and was terrified. I'm far more comfortable behind a computer instead of in front of a microphone, just like Lee is far more comfortable throwing a baseball, which he does better than everyone, except maybe 5 to 10 pitchers in baseball.

The story doesn't give us insight into whether Lee will ultimately sign with the Yankees or choose to stay closer to home by continuing his career with the Texas Rangers. But it does a great job in helping us understand what makes Lee tick.

Thanks to Red3biggs via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Give us one more year Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte hasn't decided whether to pitch again for the New York Yankees or go back home to Texas for good, but if he does come back it will only be for one more year. We'll take it.

The Yankees really need Pettitte to decide that he still has one season left in him. Even if they sign Cliff Lee, they need Pettitte in the rotation to provide another dependable arm if he can remain healthy. That would ease the pain of being forced to keep AJ Burnett and his unmovable contract in the rotation. It would also give the Yankees one more year to look deep into their farm system and see if they have a young pitcher that looks nearly big-league ready, to scour the trade market for a starter without having the pressure of a must-make deal or to wait until next offseason and hope for a better crop of starters entering free agency.

But if the veteran lefty calls it quits, the Yankees will be stuck handing a starting job to a kid such as Ivan Nova, who showed glimpses of promise, but is untested. They could try to sign someone on the free-agent market, but starting pitching, unlike reliever help, looks pretty thin this year and any starter who signs after Lee might be command a king's ransom from baseball teams looking for starting pitching. Not that the Yankees can't pay a fortune, but we have seen that they sometimes make bad choices on pitchers when they feel they desperately need to go get someone.

Give us one more year, Andy. We'll be grateful for that. So will the Yankees.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mariano Rivera flying under the radar

In the midst of all the speculation about Derek Jeter's next contract, it's easy to forget that Mariano Rivera, another iconic member of the New York Yankees, is also looking for a new deal.

It seems funny to me that the greatest closer in baseball history and a surefire Hall of Famer is flying under the radar, but that probably is a direct result of Mo's low-key, gentlemanly personality. He's not one to seek attention or participate in a war of words with anyone, particularly his employer. Rivera quietly and efficiently goes about his business during the season and then pretty much disappears for the winter, surfacing only for important charity events like former skipper Joe Torre’s annual Safe at Home Foundation dinner.

But we're starting to get some clues about what he's looking for. Initially it was thought that Mo would go year to year, much like Andy Pettitte is doing, because of the possibility of imminent retirement. But signs now point to Rivera wanting a two-year deal from the Yankees. I think that's completely reasonable.

Despite his rough September, Mo had another good year in 2010 and a great postseason. He would have to falter for a lengthy period of time before any of the young studs truly replace him as the guy you most want to hand the ball to with the game on the line.

Moreover, the Yankees have no one to replace him. Kerry Wood will likely seek a closer's gig somewhere else. Joba Chamberlain has not shown he can step up and be the 8th inning guy, let alone the man in the 9th inning. David Robertson has flashes of brilliance, but has been inconsistent in big spots.

For the Yankees, there is really little choice but to give Mo what he wants, which is pretty fair considering that there aren’t many questions about him aside from his age (granted that could be a big question but Mo has not shown any physical signs of slowing down). Since it seems like Mo is not quite ready for retirement, there should be nothing standing in the way of him returning to the Bronx to finish his career in pinstripes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yankees, Jeter playing nice again

By all accounts, the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter had a civil, face-to-face conversation in Tampa yesterday. That bodes well for the chances of quickly reaching an agreement for the Yankee Captain to remain in his pinstripes.

Although I think there is no chance of Jeter playing for another team next year or ever, I was getting concerned that the negotiations were going to degenerate into a free-for-all, with both sides waging battle in the media after last week's exchange instigated by Hal Steinbrenner. But it seems that the two sides had a nice meeting, hopefully agreeing to resolve whatever differences they have in private rather than airing their dirty laundry.

It's important that things remain civil for both the Yankees and Jeter. The captain is the face of the franchise and it does absolutely no good for the Yankees to belittle or demean him in public. For Jeter, maintaining a solid relationship with his employers will help him keep the good will and nice-guy persona that he has spent 15 years of his baseball career developing.

Jeter and the Yankees reportedly didn't talk dollars at the meeting, but they played nice, which in the grand scheme of things bodes well for figuring out a way to move forward together.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Posada forces himself out of catching spot

This is the problem with social media: words get out too quickly and are impossible to take back, like when Laura Posada tweeted that her husband Jorge Posada is now the designated hitter for the New York Yankees.

But Posada apparently has no one to blame for the pre-spring training change than himself. At his charity event this weekend, he spoke of wanting to know before pitchers and catchers report about whether he would still be the primary catcher for the Yankees. His public comments seemed to have forced Brian Cashman to spell out Posada's role on the team in November rather than February.

Posada's catching future was definitely on the agenda when Cashman and other Yankee officials had their organizational meetings in Tampa last week. They likely made the decision then to give their young prospects a legitimate shot at winning the big-league catching job, especially after Posada's injury-plagued season that will force him to go under the knife for a knee operation.

But the Yankees probably would have liked to wait until spring training to see if Austin Romine or Jesus Montero played particularly well, giving them cover to move Posada. By speaking out, Posada essentially forced the team to go public with its plans sooner than they would have liked and left them with little room to change their minds, unless he has a superior spring training from both a defensive and offensive perspective.

Jorge would have been so much better off if he just kept quiet amid all the media speculation and headed to Tampa in February prepared to fight like crazy to keep his job. At least he knows what the deal is and can start to prepare for baseball life as a full-time DH.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Robinson Cano building his trophy collection

Robinson Cano may not win the Most Valuable Player award this year, but the way he's going he will get one in the not too distant future. He can clear a space for it right next to his well-deserved Gold Glove award.

For the first time in his career, Cano took home the prize for being the top defensive second baseman in the American League. Given his sparkling play in the field for the New York Yankees, it was not at all a surprise that AL managers and coaches chose him for the highest honor for a defender.

Cano made some plays this year that defied belief, mostly because he made them look so easy and they never were easy. But he has a smoothness and grace to his defense that looks so effortless. His defense was beautiful to watch this year and critical in preventing countless runs. For that, Cano definitely deserved recognition.

The Yankees second baseman is probably going to lose the MVP award to the Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton (unless the voters penalize Hamilton for missing the last month of the season compared to Iron Man Cano who kept the Yankees afloat when key players kept succumbing to injuries). But it won't be his last chance to add the MVP award to his trophy collection. Robby has gone from a great talent to a terrific baseball player right before our eyes and I think he'll be in the MVP conversation for many years to come.

Steinbrenner, Martin shouldn't make the Hall

George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin could be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame next month, but I don't think either of them should be.

I think Steinbrenner has a better shot due to his recent passing, with the good stories shared by those who worked for, played for and even tussled with him all fresh in peoples' minds. Steinbrenner also will receive a lot of credit (or blame) for the way he forever changed the game, with his spending habits and hands-on ownership leaving a permanent mark. Even Bud Selig, in an uncharacteristic move for the commissioner of baseball, endorsed Steinbrenner's Hall of Fame candidacy, which means a lot when you consider that he's been reluctant to even consider allowing Pete Rose into the Hall (as Selig should be since Rose agreed to the lifetime ban and finally admitted he bet on baseball).

Working against Steinbrenner will be his two suspensions as well as the stomach-turning stories about his bullying treatment of his players and employees and his disdain for baseball's hierarchy. There will also be a lot of resentment toward Steinbrenner for the way he forever changed the business of the sport, forcing other teams to pay top dollar or risk losing their star players to the New York Yankees.

As for Martin, he was a solid player on the Yankees during their championship years in the 1950s. But he is probably most well-known for his tumultuous relationship with Steinbrenner, who hired and fired him five times. He was a good manager in his own right, leading several teams to division titles and capturing a World Series title as a manager in 1977. But his hard-partying ways and propensity for physical brawls with his own players make it impossible to appreciate him.

Even though I wouldn't vote for him, I think Steinbrenner will make it into the Hall, but I don't think his old frenemy Martin will join him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let the courting of Cliff Lee begin!

We may not know how it ends for a while, but the courting of Cliff Lee began with a simple phone call. With baseball’s free-agent market officially opening for business yesterday, it was not even a little surprising that Lee’s agent heard from the New York Yankees on the first day.

During the courtship, the Yankees will invite Lee and his wife for guided tours of their relatively new stadium and the nicer neighborhoods of the New York metropolitan area. They will give advice and information about the best schools for the Lee kids. They will enlist CC Sabathia to tell his good friend Cliff all about how awesome it was to win a championship with the Yankees in New York and how much Cliff would enjoy the ride down the Canyon of Heroes and the immense love and gratitude he will receive from the Yankee faithful if he puts on the pinstripes and puts the Yankees back on top.

The Yankees will apologize profusely for the behavior of the morons who harassed Mrs. Lee and the other Texas Rangers wives last month, probably with some flowers, candy and a note expressing their embarrassment (if they haven't already done so). They will assure the Lees that such behavior is not tolerated at Yankee Stadium and will not happen again.

Will it be enough? I hope so because the Yankees really need Lee. Stay tuned and maybe send some flowers.

Thanks to Red3biggs via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

After Lee, not much for Yankees in free-agent mkt

From the New York Yankees perspective, the free-agent market looks pretty thin after Cliff Lee.
I'm not counting the home-grown Yankees in this analysis. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are free agents in name only. No one expects them to go play anywhere else. For Andy and Mo, they will either go back to the Bronx or go home.

Outside of the three Core Four guys, Lee is the big target for the Yankees. But regardless of where Lee ends up, and I don't think it's automatically in New York, there's not much else for the Yankees on the free-agent market. The next top players are outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth and the Yankees don't need an outfield upgrade enough to spend the kind of money that both those players will command.

The Yankees don't have open spots for guys like Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko, not with Alex Rodriguez clogging third base for the next seven years and a young and more reliable Mark Teixeira at first base. I expect the Yankees to go for defense at the catching spot if they do move Jorge Posada so Victor Martinez isn't an option. There are plenty of big names available for a designated hitter job, but the Yankees need to open that spot so Joe Girardi can rest ARod, Jeter and Posada more often.

If the Yankees make a move on the free-agent market outside of Lee, it would most likely be for a bullpen guy to help Rivera in the 8th and be ready to take over when he calls it quits. There are some really good players available right now. Could they get a Rafael Soriano or Joaquin Benoit? Perhaps for the right price. But anyone who comes in must accept being Mo's apprentice for a year or two and the established guys might not be interested in that or might not want the burden of replacing a legend.

I could easily see the Yankees throwing loads of their cash at Lee and one of the top-notch relievers, but the wallet will probably close if one of the other guys comes knocking on their door.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Posada wise to keep quiet on catcher/DH debate

So far this offseason, Jorge Posada has not been heard from despite all the media speculation about him switching positions. That's a wise move on his part.

In the New York Yankees organization, no player is automatically given a job. Posada isn't going to arrive at spring training in February and be immediately told he is moving into the designated hitter spot full time just so a minor leaguer can catch.

Posada had a rough 2009 baseball season with injuries and long absences and I think the Yankees will have to move him at some point. But Jesus Montero or Austin Romine will have to play extremely well next spring to unseat Posada as the primary catcher for the Yankees. Joe Girardi & Co will have to be convinced that one of those kids can play defense well enough to justify moving Posada and his bat and that's not a given.

The fiery Posada can earn a lot of points with Girardi and his teammates if he keeps his mouth shut in the offseason and heads to Tampa like a rookie trying to win a job rather than an aging veteran trying to keep it. The worst thing he could do is even hint to a reporter that he is upset about all the speculation, although he must be annoyed. If Posada can keep his emotions in check, he has an advantage over any of the kids trying to take his job and that is that the job is his to lose.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Yankees don't need Crawford or Werth

The New York Yankees need pitching, not hitting, despite the disappearance of their offense in the playoffs. That's why I believe the stories about their lack of interest in Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.

Sure, the Yankees could be spinning the story to drive down the price for either or both of these guys. But in making their offseason plans this week, I totally buy that the discussion centered on how much money they can throw at Cliff Lee and a backup plan to trade for a good starting pitcher if Lee spurns them. The Yankees need another arm to go with CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, especially if Andy Pettitte finally decides to go home for good. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi believe AJ Burnett can rebound in 2011 and the next guy they hire to be their pitching coach will have the sole mission of fixing Burnett, but they can’t pin their hopes on being able to straighten him out.

When the Yankees look at their team, I don't think they see their outfield as a liability. Late in the baseball season, Curtis Granderson started to show the promise that led Brian Cashman to go after him and say goodbye to fan favorite Johnny Damon. Brett Gardner scored nearly 100 runs, mostly out of the 9th spot in the lineup, while bringing an element of speed that the team has been missing for a long time. And despite his second consecutive rough postseason, Nick Swisher had an All-Star year in hitting 29 homers and knocking in 89 runs.

This being the Yankees, I wouldn't rule them out of landing Crawford and/or Werth, especially if the market for free agents collapses again. But there won’t be intense pressure to sign either one like there was two winters ago to sign Sabathia. If Cashman hadn't gotten his man that time, his master plan for revamping the Yankees would have blown up in his face. But he got Sabathia and another World Series ring.

If Cashman can focus all his energy on Lee, he could add more jewelry to his collection. He doesn't need another bat for that, even if has the name Crawford or Werth on it.

Thanks to Keith Allison and phillymads63 via Wikipedia for the photos.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hal Steinbrenner muddies Jeter talks

I thought all the talk about the difficulty Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees would have negotiating the shortstop's next contract was pure nonsense until Hal Steinbrenner muddied the waters by opening his mouth.

On the face of it, Steinbrenner's comments about needing to come to an agreement that works for both sides seems reasonable, nothing more than a businessman stating the obvious. But Hal was talking about his iconic shortstop coming off a bad year, with the clear implication that the rough 2010 season diminishes Jeter’s value.

I'm sure Jeter was none too pleased to hear about the public comments from his boss (his agent has already offered a tart response). Jeter hates talking about anything not directly related to baseball and Hal Steinbrenner even indirectly questioning his value falls into that category.

So why did Steinbrenner raise the issue? Perhaps he's trying to lay the groundwork for tough negotiations with a Yankee icon and drum up public support. Bad move, Hal. While there may be some Yankee fans who agree with him, I think most fans would support the Yankee Captain, especially if they feel that the Steinbrenners have slighted him or made him seem too greedy after everything he's done for the Yankees.

I feel kind of bad for Brian Cashman, who is in the middle of what could now become a nasty contract dispute. He's got to deal with a proud franchise player and a management that wants to get control of the organization's free-spending ways. Cashman will do the bidding of his boss, but he could end up taking much of the blame if the negotiations fall apart, which I don't yet think will happen. Jeter and the Yankees are more valuable to each other than any other franchise so that could compel them to work things out.

Resisting the urge to negotiate in the media could have kept the talks from getting ugly, but Steinbrenner may have completely ruined any chance for civility by firing his indirect shot. I hope it's not too late to avoid a messy public squabble.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Misfit Giants rule the world of baseball

The misfits rule the world of baseball.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the 2010 World Series. A team that heading into the playoffs was mostly known for being a collection of eccentric characters will now forever be known as the champions of baseball.

As a baseball fan, I fully appreciate the Giants’ wonderful team performance, characterized by great pitching, timely hitting and shrewd managing by Bruce Bochy. And watching the Giants finish off their improbable victory felt really good because it was fun to see so many guys cast aside by other teams claim the ultimate prize.

“We don’t have any superstars,” Cody Ross said. “We just have a bunch of guys that want to win.”

Guys with a lot of heart. Guys who deserve to be champions.

Thanks to Dennis and UCinternational via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Yankee ex-coach Eiland still the story

Until some major news breaks on the Derek Jeter/Mariano Rivera/Andy Pettitte contract front, ex-coach Dave Eiland is going to remain the story for the New York Yankees.

The Yankees disavowed a report that basically blamed a rift with manager Joe Girardi for Eiland's departure. It’s possible that there is some truth to the story, but I highly doubt it, especially after hearing Girardi’s interviews last Monday. It was clear that Girardi had no idea what was coming and no input into the decision. It was completely Brian Cashman’s move. If there was a rift, it is entirely possible that Cashman unilaterally decided that a change was necessary. But I doubt Cashman would have made the move without consulting Girardi about whether the relationship could be salvaged.

But I also have doubts about the report because it came from one anonymous source. Even though I'm a journalist, maybe because I'm a journalist, I always look at sources wanting to offer off-the-record comments with great suspicion. There are two key questions when a source asks to be quoted anonymously: what is their motivation for saying what they are saying and why can't they go on-the-record with their thoughts? If they don't have a legitimate reason for requesting anonymity, I'm not at all inclined to grant it. And it’s hard to tell from the story why the source felt he or she needed to be anonymous.

I can't blame Eiland for being upset about the story. It makes him look bad and could hurt his job prospects, something I'm sure the reporter didn't take into account.