Sunday Links

Terrific interview of Brian Cashman by Josh Norris of the Trentonian. The Montero quote is getting all the attention, but there’s some real good stuff in there on how the Yanks draft, valuing relievers, and how they handle their top prospects. If you’re someone who likes to follow the prospects, I’d bookmark that link for the upcoming season.

Ex-Yankee Russ Springer retires. It’s amazing how long this guy played. He was drafted by the Yanks in 7th round of the 1989 draft out of LSU, had a cup of coffee with the team in 1992 and was traded (with Jerry Nielsen and J.T. Snow) to the California Angels for Jim Abbott the following year.

-What part of these two quotes doesn’t match?

Brian Cashman from last week’s WFAN breakfast:

“He’s our DH, period.”

Jorge Posada interview yesterday on

“I’ll catch. I’ll catch this year,” Posada said. “You know, I’ll DH and then they’re going to want me to catch one of those days, stuff like that.

Oh boy. This is not going to be fun. Jorge also apparently thinks he’s the GM.

Nice to see Joel Sherman back in business after a long winter break. He ranks the off seasons of all 30 MLB teams, and unsurprisingly the Yanks wind up in the bottom third. Not sure what else Cashman could have done, but a low ranking is fair and appropriate.

-If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out the three new weekend writers over at RAB. TYU readers will already be familiar with Stephen R. (Rhoads) with Brock Cohen and Hannah Erlich excellent additions as well. Three very distinct writings styles, all good reads in their own way.

A look at Yankee minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez

Reader Mikhel asked us about Jorge Vazquez in our Brandon Laird post from the other day, and I have to admit: prior to doing the research I knew even less about Vazquez than I did about Laird.

Per B-Ref, the burly righthanded hitter broke into the Mexican League — which is at the AAA level — in 2000 at age 19, and though he started out slowly during his first few seasons, he broke out in a huge way in 2005 (his age 23 season), posting a fearsome .379/.413/.796 line in 71 games. He followed that campaign up with three more huge years in the Mexican League before signing with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season.

Here’s a graph of Vazquez’s Mexican League and Yankees minor league stats:

Even with the expected adjustment period going from the Mexican League to the American minor leagues, Vazquez really barely experienced a dropoff at Trenton, raking to a .329/.357/.578, .414 wOBA line in the Eastern League in 2009, and following that up with a .270/.313/.526 line in 316 Scranton plate appearances this past season.

While the slugging is nice, the OBP leaves quite a bit to be desired. The Minor League Equivalency calculator converts Vazquez’s 2010 line to .234/.273/.438 — similar to what the MLE had for Laird, only with slightly less OBP and more power. However, THT’s Oliver projection system has Vazquez’s 2011 MLB equivalent line as .279/.323/.511, .354 wOBA and 1.4 WAR over 480 plate appearances. Considering that he’s never come anywhere close to that number of PAs in his career, his WAR is probably more realistically around 0.5, though the triple slash doesn’t seem out of the question. Additionally, Oliver has Laird’s 2011 wOBA as .331, so it could end up being Vazquez who gets the first call if a bench bat is needed from the minors.

As you can see, Vazquez has done nothing but hit for much of his professional career. He’s taken most of his reps at first and third base, but as you know, the Yankees don’t exactly have impending openings at either position. No spring chicken, it would seem that Vazquez could play the Juan Miranda role this year if he starts the season out hot in Scranton, but he’ll need to significantly improve that OBP if he has any intention of getting an extended shot at the Major League level.

“Better than some starting catchers, defensively, in the big leagues right now”

As far as the competition status heading into Spring Training:

It’s an indicator of who’s going to be the starting catcher. It’s going to be Russell Martin, period. Then after that, the back-up situation’s going to be open for discussion between [Francisco]  Cervelli, Montero, [Austin]  Romine, we’ll see. Or all of them. … They all could split time and get a little education in the process.

A glimpse into the Yankees “process” and rationale:

The bottom line is: Take the best player on the board. Andrew Brackman, in his case, the only reason he got to us is because of the knowledge that he had a ligament issue and was going to need Tommy John surgery. Nowadays, I think it’s an 88 to 92 percent success rate, so when you compare it to losing a year waiting for him, versus the other players, we chose Brackman. I don’t necessarily think patience has anything to do with it, other than you need patience to wait on these guys.

Make sure you click through to read the entire article; there’s plenty more good stuff in there worth reading.

For more of our stuff on Jesus Montero, click here.

What’s Wrong with Derek Jeter’s Swing?

In 2010, by all measures, Derek Jeter had what was probably the worst season of his career.  His .270 batting average, .340 OBP, and .370 slugging percentage all represented career lows.  He also hit ground balls at an incredibly high rate, nearly two thirds of the time, resulting in a BABIP that was almost 50 points below his career rate.  Jeter has been such a consistent and successful player throughout his career that after posting a .390 WOBA in 2009 at age 35, many people believed that like his teammate Mariano Rivera, the aging curve was merely a suggestion.  These expectations were brought back to reality by Jeter’s mediocre 2010 at age 36, prompting questions of whether the Captain’s best days are behind him, and he will finally enter a steady decline phase.

Such a terrible (by his lofty standards) season at age 36 certainly fits into the narrative of Jeter (and the Yankee roster as a whole) aging and becoming ineffective.  To determine if 2010 was a fluke or a sign of likely decline, it would make sense to take a look at Derek’s swing to see what has changed.  Luckily, Fanhouse’s Frankie Piliere has done just that, breaking down the changes in the famous Jeterian swing.

You should read the entire piece to get the full picture, but I will relay some of Frankie’s most important observations.  Piliere notices that Derek is “starting the bat earlier to to compensate for a quickness that just may not be quite what it used to be.”  This is a common phenomenon for older players who try to  counteract their decreased bat speed.  With this earlier start to the swing, Piliere observed that Jeter’s overall swing mechanics have changed, leading his swing to become more “upper-body dominant”, which has decreased his bat speed and made it more difficult for him to get inside the ball.

The question that Piliere’s analysis proposes but does not fully answer is whether Jeter’s changed swing can be directly attributed to aging (and loss of natural bat speed), or if he suffered from a correctable mechanical flaw.  Kevin Long, the Yankee hitting coach, seems to think that the latter is the case.  While speaking with Ben Shpigel of the New York Times, Long described his proposed solution to Jeter’s problems.  Long is trying to get Jeter to remove his natural stride in an attempt to simplify the swing, which could allow him to improve his bat speed and make more hard contact.  He compares Jeter’s situation to that of Paul Molitor, who made similar adjustments to his swing after a subpar .270 batting average at age 38 (the same average as Jeter posted in 2010).  The following season, the 39 year-old Molitor batted a lofty .341.

It would be foolishly optimistic to expect Jeter to have a Molitor-esque bounceback season, but there is hope that 2011 could be better for the Yankee captain.  If Jeter’s struggles in 2010 can be linked to a mechanical flaw, then correcting that flaw could potentially allow him to return to his familiar success.  If his bat speed improves, then his plate discipline (significantly diminished in 2010) could return as well, once again making him a valuable leadoff hitter.  However, if the attempted fix is unsuccessful, then the time may come for Yankee fans to accept the hard truth, and that Jeter’s slowed bat will prevent him from ever reaching his previous level of success.    Here’s hoping that Kevin Long can work his magic on Derek’s swing, and another struggling Yankee batter can be #cured.

Steinbrenner's request

Courtesy of Mike Schriner, here’s a recent blog post from his mother, Mary Jane Schriner, a freelance writer for the New York Times and published author who recently wrote a story for the paper recalling her friendship with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

The post shares that Steinbrenner asked Mary Jane to burn the letters he sent her way back when.

“As soon as we finished exchanging pleasantries George offered to buy me a cup of hot chocolate. The two of us sat at a small table in the back of deli and told amusing stories about our children’s escapades. Each us of us were careful not to mention our, long ago, relationship. We kept the conversation light and friendly until we were getting ready to go. Then, from out of nowhere, I startled George by announcing, ‘I still have all the letters you sent me.’

Once George regained his composure a wonderful smile lit up his face and with a quick wink he said, ‘MJ burn them!’ And that’s what I intended to do when I got home but my day became unbelievably busy and I forgot.”

TYU hits the MSM

Allow me to toot our collective horn here at TYU for a moment. Every so often a mainstream media outlet will pick up on something that’s said here and link to it, as Rob Neyer did earlier this month. But three in one day is pretty exceptional and worth noting. Yesterday Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News and Joe DeLessio of New York Magazine both looked at Mo’s piece alleging  censorship on the part of YES, and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports took a quote from my Cashman breakfast recap on Tuesday. Here they are, in order:

Bob Raissman of the NY Daily News

It appears Yankees suits did not want Cashman’s answers – void of company spin – to air on YES, even though they would be spread widely across various media platforms.

Further highlighting management sensitivity to “in-house” critiques of the Soriano deal was a report in TYU, a Yankee-centric blog, claiming that critical columns in two YES-affilated blogs (Pinstriped Bible and River Avenue Blues) were censored by YES operatives, perhaps under orders from a voice on high.

Joe Delessio of NY Magazine

Did the YES Network Censor Affiliated Blogs Because of Rafael Soriano Criticism?

The Yankee U makes a pretty compelling case that they did, at least to some degree. In one case, the Yankee U says the YES Network toolbar that appears above the River Avenue Blues website disappeared for a period of time after two of the site’s writers expressed displeasure with the Soriano signing. In another case, the response may have been a bit more extreme.

Via the Yankee U, regarding a post titled “What the Heck Are the Yankees Doing?” on the Pinstriped Bible blog:

Pinstriped Bible is directly affiliated with the YES Network, as the site is designed to look like the YES homepage and is frequently featured on the YES front page. A few hours after being posted, Steve Goldman’s post was suddenly pulled, only to reappear a number of hours later with a new title (Soriano Strengthens the Pen, But Do Dominoes Fall?) and a softened stance. A visit to the page shows the altered title and article, but the URL still contains the original title. I have the original article saved (available upon request), and the primary differences are a few sentences added in support of the deal, as well as the moving of a positive paragraph to the beginning of the article. When asked about the incident, Goldman declined to comment.

None of the bloggers involved offered a comment to the Yankee U, actually, and the site points out that, to the best of their knowledge, the network has not previously censored any of its affiliated blogs. Still, if it is indeed some form of censorship on the part of the Yankees or the YES Network, it revisits a discussion that’s been going for years about what happens when a sports team is affiliated in some way with a reporter, broadcaster, or even an outlet that covers it. (Remember Marv Albert’s departure from MSG in 2004, after a season in which he’d reportedly been told to be less critical of the Lenny Wilkens–era Knicks? This is not an entirely different discussion.)

In the meantime, if the Yankees really want to silence any criticism of the Soriano signing, they’ll have to censor their own general manager.

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports:

Context often is lost in the age of Twitter, and when a fan in attendance, Amanda Rykoff, tweeted Cashman’s remarks, the outcry was predictable. Cashman did not say the team planned to move Jeter or was even considering it. But the damage was done.

When Cashman reconstructed the conversation again Thursday, he said, “That was not controversial. It was not Cashman saying, ‘Jeter won’t finish the contract at short. He has to move to center field.’ None of that.”

Those in the audience seemed to understand.

A blogger at who attended the breakfast took exception to the “utter garbage being spread around the MSM (mainstream media) about what (Cashman) did say and didn’t say.”

And Cashman said Rykoff, the original tweeter, approached him Wednesday night while he tended bar at Foley’s New York to help raise money for prostate cancer research.

“She couldn’t believe how they took what I said. She apologized to me,” Cashman said.

Once upon a time bloggers were dismissed as lonely voices shouting into the ether, but it’s nice to see that more and more we’re becoming part of the larger conversation. Our readers know we consistently deliver content they can’t find in mainstream outlets and local newspapers, dealing with advanced stats and a fan to fan perspective on the team which MSM outlets tend to shy away from. We occupy our niche and the MSM occupies theirs, but in both cases were just  trying to deliver content our readers want. It’s nice to see the two sides peacefully coexisting. Kumbaya, my Lord. Kumbaya.

NFL Players Need to Learn Lesson from MLB Counterparts: They Are at “War”

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog).

They have chosen to start the war. They have fired the gun.” – MLBPA Executive Director Marvin Miller, quoted by AP, February 20, 1981

“We are at war!” – NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, quoted by The New York Times, January 22, 2011

As the NFL and the NFLPA careen toward what seems like an inevitable work stoppage, both the commissioner and players’ representative have engaged in a bout of public relations saber rattling. Meanwhile, major league baseball is expected to quickly come to an agreement on a new CBA when the current one expires in December 2011.

Not surprisingly, the NFLPA’s acquiescence to a salary cap has not mollified the owners’ voracious appetite for a larger piece of the financial pie. As a result, the lords of the NFL now stand poised to lock the players out if they do not once again capitulate to a series of adverse demands. If new NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has anything to say about the process, however, things won’t be as pleasant for Roger Goodell and his band of profit takers this time around. The economics support the players’ position, so all that is needed is steadfast leadership.

Unlike past executive director Gene Upshaw, whose background was as a player, Smith is a bonafide litigator with 10 years experience in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Although he doesn’t have the labor background that Marvin Miller did when he took over control of the baseball union, Smith does seem to be cut out of the same cloth. Despite being criticized for his tough talk, he has not waivered in his public discourse. Ultimately, Smith will have to maintain unity among the rank and file, just as Miller did with his constituency, but if he can achieve that end, the NFLPA could emerge as a partner instead of an underling in the NFL’s financial structure.

The economic issues at hand are much different, and the relative size of the football union adds a greater challenge, but there are still lessons that Smith can learn from Miller. The chief among these, however, is the most basic. If the NFLPA is going to final win what is essentially a financial war, it can not be timid, and most certainly can not be accommodating. Even though the owners possess a massive war chest, their greed still makes them vulnerable. As much as the NFL chieftains would like to take a larger portion of revenues, they certainly do not want to relinquish the large sums of money that would be forfeited in a prolonged work stoppage. If the owners shut the game down for an extended period of time, they’ll be cutting off their nose to spite their face, and as much as greed can be a motivator for stupidity, multi-millionaires don’t get that way by turning off a steady steam of cash flow.

When it comes to this job, [Miller] remains my idol. He walks into a union that did not have a significant amount of information coming to the players, he had a very hostile reception from management, and what he brought to the players was the meat and potatoes of what organized labor unions do.” – NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, quoted by The New York Times, January 22, 2011

As baseball’s labor history has shown, owners’ resolve can wear thin quickly. What’s more, their veiled negotiating tactics are usually looked upon unfavorably by the courts and relevant government agencies. There has already been a crack in the union ranks, and some have criticized Smith’s reference to being at “war”, but the answer to that is to push forward with even greater resolve. Smith can not be afraid of a lockout. Marvin Miller never was. Whether it’s a war of words in the media or a war of ideas at the negotiating table, Smith needs to be on the front line fighting. He can’t worry about the harsh words that are likely to follow. Those same criticisms were levied at Miller, and now most people believe he merits inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

With selfishness being a natural human tendency, and so many players already “getting theirs”, most people, including the sport’s owners, expect that a lockout will be too costly for the players. The greater cost, however, will come from capitulating to a bad CBA. That’s the lesson the NFLPA has to learn, and that’s the challenge facing Smith. What would Marvin Miller do if he was leading the charge? He’d prepare for war…and that’s what Smith should be doing too.