The Yanks don't hold the key

While the Yanks have certainly made the most noise with their proclamations that they want to sign every possible free agent, I don’t think they are the most important team this off-season. The Yanks don’t hold the singularly most important key; though they certainly hold the most cash. So who’s the keymaster?

The Angels, unwilling to meet Mark Teixeira’s desire for a 10-year contract, are in discussions with CC Sabathia and could offer him a contract that approaches the $140-million bid extended to him by the New York Yankees.

If the Angels shift their focus and decide that their resources are better poured into Sabathia, who prefers the West Coast as strongly as Teix prefers the East Coast, they will absolutely shift the dynamics of this off-season.

If Sabathia lands in Anaheim (talk about a great rotation!), you can bet that the Yanks would not only shift their focus on Teix, but also go harder after Burnett, Lowe and Sheets. I can hear it now:

  • to Burnett: “You want a fifth year? If you agree right now, we’ll go to 5 years, $75 million
  • to Lowe: “You’re 36 but if you agree right now, we’ll go to 4 years, $55 million
  • to Sheets: “You’re coming off an arm injury, but if you agree right now, we’ll go to 3 years, $40 million
  • to Teix: “How’s 7 years, $150 million grab you? Look at that short porch in right. Batting in front of ARod. Manning first base, where your idol, Donnie Baseball, earned his pinstripes.

I honestly don’t think the Yanks are going to go 4 years on Lowe, or at least I would hope they don’t get that desperate. I would like to see Sheets, though. I would also be shocked to see any team go to 10 years on Teix. Seven or eight, maybe.

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…"in the best shape of his life"

For some reason, I am skeptical hearing that about players during the off-season. Over the past decade and a half, it often had some PED-binge undertones. Sometimes it spoke to a player’s previous lack of dedication to his craft (i.e.: his body). As for Robinson Cano, I think it’s more the latter than the former.

He’s got a personal trainer, and he’s probably down to 10 or 11 percent body fat,” [Kevin Long, the hitting coach] said. “This kid is focused, he’s determined. I’ve never seen him like this. His arms are cut, his stomach is cut. He’s doing hitting, throwing, agility work – and these workouts at night, I watched them, and they’re grueling. I told him I was so proud of him.”

We want our favorite players to be 110% dedicated to themselves, the team, their teammates. We expect them to get and stay in a decathalete’s condition. We consider it an affront when they show up like Carlos “Buffalo” Silva. The conditioning has never been an issue for ARod, who maintains his body better than anyone. As for the mental side, Long said:

I can’t even imagine going through a divorce in the middle of a season and trying to compete at the highest level. He was able to do a good job, but there were days last year when you could just tell he had a lot on his mind. he’d be looking through you, and not completely focused like I’d seen him. You try to push that to the side for a couple of hours and do the best you can, but it’s easier said than done.”

At least we know it’s an odd year, and we all know how ARod does in odd years, don’t we? In case you forgot, he’s won the MVP the last three odd years (2003, 2005, 2007)

So where can Long see Cano batting this year:

The way Long figures, Cano could bat directly ahead of Rodriguez, who hits cleanup, or directly behind him. Either way, Long expects both to improve.

Continue reading …"in the best shape of his life"

Delta signs on as Official Airline of the Yanks

Well, thank goodness.

As the exclusive sponsor of the Delta Sky360 Suite, the airline will offer suiteholders an opportunity to sample the Delta brand and customer experience. The Suite encompasses the nine sections of the Main Level directly behind home plate, and its elevated position allows for some of the best views of the field in Yankee Stadium, which is set to open in April 2009 with a capacity of 52,325.

Sample the brand and “customer experience”? Since when has that ever been a GOOD thing for an airline? So the games will start late after 45 minutes of waiting with no heads-up on when it will get started, you will only get half a soda at a time, there will be only two tiny bathrooms for the entire suite, chances are your souveniers and other food purchases will be lost in transit to you and there will be some schlub with his seatback resting cozily in your lap. Best views? Out of plastic one foot oval windows.

/end snark

* Thanks to Pete Toms for the heads up Continue reading Delta signs on as Official Airline of the Yanks

Whither Moneyball?

Remember when Moneyball came out and the (oft-mistaken) premise was how Billy Beane and the A’s were succeeding by valuing things that other teams undervalued or misunderstood? Part of that was due to necessity (smaller market, less financial resources) and the other part was being smart and opportunistic.

Well, first they trade FOR a highly-paid outfielder (Holliday) and now they are reportedly offering Rafael Furcal a four-year deal deal worth $48 million plus $2 million in additional incentives.

Furcal revealed that he has been offered a four-year, $48-million contract by the A’s that includes incentives that could push its value to more than $50 million.
Due to concerns about the condition of Furcal’s surgically repaired back, the Dodgers have been hesitant to extend him an offer of four years.

I like Furcal a bunch, but the bad back that sidelined him most of last year would be a huge red flag for me (he’ll be 31 at Opening Day). If I had the reigns of a small/mid-market team, I might not be as aggressive. But kudos to Beane for “going for it”, I guess. Color me skeptical.


3:58pm: ESPN’s Enrique Rojas says Furcal traveled to the West Coast today, where he could sign with the Giants or A’s. However, a third team remains involved.

1:36pm: Yahoo’s Tim Brown talked to Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Kinzer called the El Caribe report “bogus.” Apparently there has been no four-year, $48MM offer from Oakland nor are the Mets interested. And Furcal doesn’t want to move to second base anyway.

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The Tazawa Conundrum

Junichi Tazawa is a 22 year old from Japan who seemingly has a very bright future. He asked the Japanese teams NOT to draft him so he could be a free agent, likely to make the leap right to MLB. Except there seems to be some “gentlemen’s agreement” that have kept the MLB teams away from the Japanese amateurs. We already know about the Posting method (Dice-K was the biggest posting ever) for players who have grown up thru the Japanese major leagues.

Yanks GM Brian Cashman fully honors that agreement, and that might cost the Yanks a chance to get a relatively cheap, high potential pitcher.

“I’m old school – there has been an understanding,” said Cashman, whose team has a formal cooperative relationship with the Yomiuri Giants, a team particularly upset with the Tazawa affair. “There’s been a reason that Japanese amateurs haven’t been signed in the past, so we consider him hands off.”

Except the Red Sox clearly don’t see that as a barrier and appear to have the inside track on signing Tazawa.

Clearly, the Japanese have grown exceptionally comfortable with the Sox following Dice-K’s success (and maybe the lack of “comparable” success that Matsui has –or hasn’t– had). While I don’t have a problem with this, per se, what I don’t like is that appearance of rule or agreement that only some clubs honor. Yes, it’s not dissimilar to the MLB’s draft slotting rules, which are equally ridiculous. But that’s merely a suggestion. Is this agreement with Japan any different?

UPDATE: I finally found the scouting article I was looking for on Tazawa.

Tazawa, who stands 5 feet, 10 inches — “5-11 if you really like him,” Wilson said — will get a major league deal this winter but is unlikely to make it to the majors during that first season.

He has good command of his fastball and slurve, but he lacks velocity, stamina and the ability to keep the ball down.

At 22, Tazawa is unlikely to throw much harder than he does now; his fastball barely tops 90 mph when he is rested, and he struggled to hit 88 mph at the end of last season.

In Class A or Double-A, Tazawa likely will get hit harder and harder as the season wears on.

Continue reading The Tazawa Conundrum

How defense hurt Moose

We can all agree about this: The Yanks’ defense over the last decade has never been particularly good. So how much has it cost Moose during his tenure on the Yanks?

Fortunately for Mussina, another necessary adjustment goes in his favor: correcting for defensive support. Although E.R.A. is supposed to insulate pitchers from the impact of their fielders by ignoring runs that result from errors, it does so poorly, because it ignores the effects of defenders’ range. Those who pitch in front of sure-handed but immobile fielders will be charged with many hits and earned runs, while those whose defenders botch some routine plays but make up for it by taking away hits from their opponents will fare much better by E.R.A.

This issue is particularly pressing in Mussina’s case, since by signing with the Yankees before the 2001 season, he chose to pitch in front of what was perhaps the worst fielding team of the last 20 years. With liabilities like the late-model Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter at shortstop – every respectable quantitative measure finds Jeter’s range atrocious – virtually any ball hit into play against the Yankees was a potential disaster. In the worst year, 2003, the defense cost the club’s staff nearly 50 points of E.R.A.

I enjoy seeing a new angle on an argument. Continue reading How defense hurt Moose

IIATMS Interview with Eric Hacker, NY Yankees

For many (if not most) of you, this will be an introduction to one of the newest members of the Yankees: Eric Hacker. I had the good fortune of getting to spend some time on the phone with Eric recently to discuss his recent promotion to the Yanks 40 man roster, his ascension from the minors, his numerous comebacks from two serious injuries and what it must be like for a 25 year-old to get “the call” to play for the Yanks. His easy-going Texas drawl belies his dogged determination to make it to the Bigs no matter the obstacles. From what I could tell, the Yanks have a guy who won’t be afraid of anything, any challenge and has the character to succeed.

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Papi on the block?

Shocking, surprising…. just idle speculation, but what if…?

Consider: Should the Red Sox win the Mark Teixeira lottery – and we’re absolutely convinced that a lucrative-bordering-on-obscene offer will be forthcoming from Yawkey Way – manager Terry Francona will be obligated to try to cram four high-quality everyday players (Ortiz, Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell) into three positions (third base, first base, designated hitter).

Rather than dealing with that conundrum (not to mention the egos), it’s more likely that the Sox would deal one of the quartet – most likely Lowell, assuming he returns in good form after hip surgery. But it’s no longer blasphemous to suggest that Epstein should at least gauge interest in the 33-year-old Ortiz as well.

Continue reading Papi on the block?