MLB’s owners are meeting in Arizona this week, and yesterday Yankees’ general partner Hal Steinbrenner took a moment to speak with reporters. Of course, the biggest ownership focused story in Yankeedom is the team’s mandate to get below the luxury tax threshold before next season and, for the first time as far as I can tell, the Yankees’ owner acknowledged that the plan is negotiable, and a secondary goal to fielding a winning team. “All I can continue to tell everyone is our commitment to the fans is never going to change. We will always field a championship-caliber team,” Steinbrenner told The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post yesterday. “Is our goal [a $189 million payroll] next year? Yes. But [we’ll go that low] only if I’m convinced if the team I see, that we’ve put together, is a championship-caliber team.”
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I don’t think it’s quite “best shape of his life” season yet, but via Rob Abruzzese, Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia is getting trim after offseason knee surgery. “I’ve lost 20 pounds,” Sabathia said on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN Radio show. “Coming off the elbow surgery, I just wanted to be healthy and stay healthy all year.” Rob also passes along a first hand observation on Sabathia’s leaner figure after seeing C.C. on ESPN.
Sabathia’s weight issue has been a just-under-the-surface topic ever since the Yankees’ ace
got off the Captain Crunch came into camp lighter back in 2011, only to regain most of the weight during the season. It’s not something that has really hindered Sabathia’s performance in his career thus far, but with the commitment the Yankees have made to the big guy, shedding as many unnecessary pounds as possible and reducing any added stress to his lower body can only be a good thing.
After having enough of his epically bad defensive performances last season, the Yankees demoted Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A and declared that he would no longer play any position other than shortstop. That might have made sense from a developmental perspective, but it made him fairly useless to the big league team since, ya know, they already had a pretty good shortstop.
Since then the Yankees’ stance on Nunez has apparently softened, and Brian Cashman told ESPN New York that Nunez would likely be a utility player once again in 2013. “If he is at the big-league level, he is going to have to,” Cashman said. “We have everyday guys at other positions. If he makes our club, it will be at a utility role.”
I know Nunez is hardly the most popular guy in the Yankees’ organization, but this is obviously the most logical track to take. Presenting Nunez as a shortstop in an attempt to trade him makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s not like other teams don’t know who he is, and you can only leave him sitting in the minor leagues for so long. Besides that, his hitting and baserunning abilities give him plenty of value even if his defense is, um, a little shaky, so there’s a pretty good argument to be made that he’s still the best option the Yankees have to fill the utility infielder role.
As a wrap up of sorts to our Hall of Fame coverage for this year , Stacey and I chatted with Craig Calcaterra about today’s announcement of the voting results, and what they’ll mean for future ballots and future voting patterns amongst the BBWAA voters. Craig spends about as much time writing about the Hall and the voting process as just about anyone, so his thoughts on this are definitely worth a listen. After that we switched gears entirely back to the offseason, with updates on the latest rumors and pressing issues surrounding the Yankees with Mark Feinsand of the Daily News. Enjoy!
If Jack Morris had ever pitched this kind of shutout he would have been elected to the Hall of Fame years ago. Faced with arguably the deepest ballot in the modern era of voting, a ballot that included a player with 3,000 hits, the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, and the most decorated pitcher and position player in the history of the BBWAA awards voting, the voters reached the result most of us had expected them to beginning last week, and elected no one to the hallowed Hall in Cooperstown.
More important than the simple results, however, are the vote tallies each candidate pulled down, and frankly these are really depressing for the future of the Hall. At the low end of the ballot, Kenny Lofton (and Bernie Williams) failed to get votes from 5% of voters, meaning that he is officially off of the writers’ ballots, an absolute travesty. At the other end of the spectrum, Craig Biggio came the closest to being elected with 68% of the vote, suggesting that he fell victim to the silliest of all arbitrary voting standards, voters who won’t vote for certain guys in the first year, and will likely be enshrined in 2014. Mike Piazza got 57.8% of the vote, and Jeff Bagwell got 59.6% of the vote, so assuming the increasingly cluttered ballot doesn’t totally screw up the count, both of those guys should wind up getting elected. The only other candidates to earn over 50% of the vote were Jack Morris at 67.7%, and Tim Raines at 52.2%.
The biggest test cases, of course, were going to be those of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and the Hall can’t be happy about what they saw there. No one expected them to reach the 75% mark needed for election, but neither even reached the 40% plateau. If that’s a true reflection of the depths of steroid hysteria in the voting pool, the next few years of Hall of Fame elections are going to be a total mess unless the Hall itself finally steps up to take some control over the situation.
There are some dreams I will never give up until they are honestly and truly dead and buried, and my hope of one day seeing Jason Giambi don Yankee pinstripes is one of those dreams. Giambi was seriously considered for the vacant managerial position in Colorado this offseason, but he lost out to Walt Weiss, and now Troy Renck reports that Giambi wants to play another season, and is willing to take a Minor League contract to make it happen. The Yankees have an opening for a left-handed DH, and though he didn’t really produce last year, Giambi hit .273/.354/.636. I don’t know if he has anything left in the tank at this point, but no one is going to seriously regret giving him an invite to camp to check him out, and I can spend a little bit more time dreaming of the Giambino attacking the Yankee Stadium bleachers once again.
I know we’ve settled on a Monday/Thursday schedule for our podcasts, but since the Hall of Fame results are being announced today we’re bumping the show up a day in order to properly react in a timely manner. In addition to inevitably hearing me break my resolution not to get angry about the results of the balloting, the great Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk will join Stacey and I to discuss the new class of Hall of Fame inductees, assuming at least someone from this loaded ballot can get themselves elected.
It won’t be all about the Hall however, as the passing of the holiday season has the late-winter rumor mill heating up at last. The Yankees still have a few roster spots to fill out and have been connected to at least a few available players, so we’ll discuss all of that with New York Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand. The show begins at 8:00, and you can listen live here.
I guess I’ve put my contractual obligation to pretend I have a Hall of Fame vote and tell you who would make up my ballot about as long as I can, huh? Honestly, I don’t even have very much energy for arguing this topic anymore, so instead of deep examinations of each candidate, I’m just going to share some quick thoughts about the players who, in my opinion, are worthy of enshrinement. Besides, since none of these guys are going to make it anyway, we’ll have at least another year to scream at each other about their merits.
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Some reports over the last week have had it that Scott Boras recently approached the Yankees about re-signing Rafael Soriano to a one year deal, as their interim closer has found the free agent market rather lacking after declining a qualifying offer from the Bombers. The Yankees supposedly turned him down flat, preferring to earn a compensation pick and additional draft pool money to adding Soriano to an already well stocked bullpen, but Jon Heyman now says none of that ever happened, and that Soriano wants to be a closer this coming season:
not sure where this got started, bit rafael soriano did not offer to return to yanks on 1 yr deal. sori wants to close.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 8, 2013
The usual caveats about Soriano being a Boras client obviously apply here, but there you have it.
Elsewhere, ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand says that the Yankees haven’t actually shut the door on a Soriano return entirely, and that there is (at least theoretically) a point at which Soriano could bring his demands low enough that the Yankees would be willing to welcome him back. That seems like it should be a given, at least in nominal terms, so without any real detail I’m inclined to believe that we aren’t actually going to get anywhere close to that point.