Category Archives: Business of Baseball

The Slippery Slope of MLB’s Deal with DraftKings

There are so many fun things going on this season that I should glory in a seven game division lead and sing the Yankees’ praises. And maybe I will do that next week. However, there has been something sticking in my craw for weeks now and I need to talk about it. The “It” is Major League Baseball’s marriage to DraftKings. The deal is, of course, worth millions to the league and its owners and you could even say that it draws more interest to the game from casual fans. But that doesn’t make this a good thing for the game.

First, some background, both personal and about how we got here. Let’s start with the latter. In 2006, the federal government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in response to a growing plague of online gambling sites. As a part of that law, it is spelled out that fantasy sports are not gambling because it is a game of skill and not of chance. The difference spelled out made it possible for sites like Draftkings and Fanduel to state emphatically that what they do is not gambling, but a game of skill.

That distinction makes all the difference because everything those sites do is legal according to the definition. Draftkings states that fact right on its site and Major League Baseball, which has made its bed with Drafkings, can and does hide behind the same distinction. For more detail on the law side of this equation, a good resource can be found here.

On the personal side of this equation is my long life and experience with addiction. I have addictive personalities on all sides of my family since I was a kid right up to the present. They include a mother-in-law, a stepfather, a stepdaughter and small spurts of it with immediate family members.

I have an addictive personality myself. I had to quit drinking the first time I went to college because I was out of control. The few times I’ve been to Las Vegas, I felt the draw and the pull. I’ve had to give up playing the lottery and am still battling food addiction. So far, nothing has ruined my life, but it hasn’t made it easy either.

As someone who has had the agony of changing the locks because a child was robbing us blind, I see these sites for what they are. The old saying that if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, etc. It is a duck.

Let’s get to that skill versus luck distinction. Skill says you should start Gerrit Cole the next time he starts. But if, God forbid, he gets hit in the kneecap with a line drive in the second inning, kiss your skill’s behind and welcome to the luck side of the equation.

Doesn’t poker have a certain element of skill to it? There are better players than others. But it is still considered gambling. Many gambling games have a skill element. A lot don’t. But calling a one day fantasy game involving money as a total skill equation is just too slippery for me. Someone might have purchased Mark Teixeira on Monday night and he mashed the ball his first three times up. All three ended up in the glove of a player on the other team. Sorry skillful guy.

In my opinion, if you can lose vast amounts of money doing something and can develop an addiction doing so, then that goes beyond a skill game and dives headlong into gambling.

These daily pay games go by the same psychology as used by Las Vegas and the lottery agencies. They let you win a little bit to make it fun and exciting. But except for a very few, you are playing with house money and the house is going to win (while you could lose your own house).

You may think I am being overly dramatic here. And I can concede the point since I am personally and emotionally involved. But that doesn’t mean that these games are not creating addicts. For a comedic take (that is sad at the same time), just read this story. For a more clinical and frightening story, read this one.

You may think that the lottery is not a bad thing because only a few people ruin their lives not “playing responsibly.” But the truth is, we are turning a blind eye to the few because the majority is able to control itself.

Major League Baseball has a long history of trying to protect itself from the “soil” of gambling. It is why Shoeless Joe Jackson will never be forgiven despite winning his court case! It is why Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were banished from the game for a while for being doormen at a casino. It is why the all-time hit king will never be in the Hall of Fame and probably not in the game at any point.

How can a business that has worked so hard to protect itself from nefarious gambling issues make its bed with, definition or not, what is probably a gambling site. I can really see season long fantasy games being more skill driven because it spreads out the decision making throughout an entire season. But one game fantasy games are literally a crap shoot. Crap shoots are gambling. Major League Baseball has attached itself to what I feel is a gambling institution–albeit, a legal one.

It is not just that MLB has an advertising relationship with Draftkings. You cannot go to or to the MLB Network and not be confronted by that relationship. But MLB is also a part owner of Draftkings!  They are all in, folks.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post said it well by stating: “So Manfred is right that the game is legal. But he chose not to grapple with the broader ethical dilemma.” And it opens the door, according to Kilgore, to further adventures in sports betting. If that is where we are heading, maybe a remake of Field of Dreams would have something different for Joe Jackson to say.

The Myth About “Bad” Big Contracts

Courtesy: NY Newsday

The prevailing wisdom around the Yankees is that big contracts like the ones Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have are what is killing the team. In reality, those contracts have been fine and fans in general worry way too much about them.

I never get fans who would rather see the money go into the pockets of the owner than into the players’. The difference in the Yankees over the last two plus seasons is that they’ve been spending less and the performance on the field has suffered. Sure, Hal Steinbrenner fooled most people with his shopping spree in the 2013-14 offseason. People didn’t realize how much money came off the books and that the payroll was only about $120 million to begin that offseason, so the Yankees didn’t really go above and beyond at all.

The business model the Yankees used from 2001 through 2012 absolutely worked. The lack of championships are lamented, but the reality is that the Yankees put themselves in the best position to bring home rings every season winning 95 plus games. Short sample sizes in the playoffs happen, but those were some dominant baseball teams that were awesome to watch. You have to build for the long haul of the 162-game season before you can worry about what happens in the postseason.

What we’re seeing now with the Yankees is frugality that has hurt the product on the field. Sure, Steinbrenner will sell you that his payroll is almost $220 million and that the team is doing everything in its power to win a championship. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. He will also sell you that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win a championship, which is also nonsense. Sure, in theory it’s true, but why not use all the resources and advantages that you clearly have? It makes zero sense.

The Yankees have been blown away by the Dodgers by over $50 million in total payroll. According to William Juliano of The Captains Blog, the Yankees are only 11th in payroll and luxury tax as a percentage of team revenue at a little over 45 percent, which is right about the MLB average. From 2003-2005 the Yankees were over 80 percent and from 2006-2008 over 65 percent.

How much different would the Yankees look with Max Scherzer this season? I think they would be the clear cut favorites in this horrid division and going into a playoff series with Scherzer, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda would give them as good a shot as anybody at winning a championship. Most people scoffed at the idea of signing Scherzer because of the length and the money of the contract, but I don’t think Nationals fans are scoffing at his 1.67 ERA and his 72 strikeouts to only nine walks. The reality is that the Yankees could have easily afforded Scherzer, and the likelihood is that he will be so good over the first four to five years of the deal that it will be worth it. Heck, the Yankees didn’t even seem to consider guys like Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez who were great values.

The 10-year, $275 million contract Rodriguez signed is portrayed as the worst thing ever when really the Yankees have gotten more than their money’s worth from it when you factor in what he brings in ticket sales and merchandise. According to Fangraphs’ WAR-to-salary dollar conversion rate, Rodriguez has earned $132 million of the $179 million he has been paid from 2008-2013. This is with two big injuries in 2012 and 2013. When you factor in the championship the Yankees won on his back in ’09 and off-the-field earnings, Rodriguez has probably covered the $47 million missing. So far this season, FanGraphs has Rodriguez earning almost half of his $21 million salary already.

Teixeira is viewed as another albatross contract that hasn’t worked out when Fangraphs has him actually outperforming his contract. Teixeira has been worth $111.7 million since 2009 while he has been paid $107.5 million. This is even with the wrist injury and the fact that he was basically worth nothing in 2013 and 2014. His performance in the first four years (worth $32.7 million in 2009, $20.4 million in 2010, $32.4 million in 2011 and $18.3 million in 2012) covered for his two injured years. Also, Teixeira is off to a fabulous start this year even in the second to last year of his contract.

Also, everybody knows that CC Sabathia’s first big contract was well worth it as well with the extension being a different story.

It’s no coincidence that the Yankees have been mediocre since they started to put lackluster effort into spending and winning. The only way it will change is if the Yankees completely bottom out — which is unlikely in this division– or if fans stop buying the company line. The Yankees are still printing money, folks. Don’t worry about their bottom line and start worrying about the lackluster product on the field.

The Real Problem With Not Signing Yoan Moncada

It’s been over 24 hours since the news of the Red Sox signing prized Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada broke, and as I mentioned earlier I’m still struggling to make sense of it from a Yankee perspective.  This felt like it should have been a slam dunk.  This was going to be the big cherry on top of the international spending sundae, the big signing that got the Yankees back in the game of landing top-tier Cuban talent.  That’s a game the team has been hesitant to play since signing Jose Contreras, and the call for them to re-engage has grown incredibly loud as we’ve watched good player after good player sign with other teams over the past few years.

Once again the player in question did not sign with the Yankees, and this instance more than any other has generated a ton of negative reaction from the Yankee fanbase.  How could they lose out to the Red Sox?  How could they fail to make the biggest offer?  Why would they spend so much time scouting Moncada only to get outbid?  Why are they willing to spend on guys like Capuano and Chris Young for marginal money and then not willing to spend a similar amount to land Moncada?  What does this say about the Steinbrenners’ plans for the team?  Why don’t they just sell to someone who is willing to spend?

There are varying levels of legitimacy to all those points, the least of which I think is the idea that not signing Moncada is a “failure.”  For all the hype surrounding him and all the talk about what kind of player he could be down the road, Moncada is still just a 19-year-old prospect who’s probably years away from making an impact at the Major League level.  He was a lottery ticket just like any other international free agent.  The Yankees did their homework on him and were prepared to spend $50 million to sign him.  That’s more than a lot of other team were willing to spend, it just so happened that another team was willing to spend more.  That that happened does not make what the Yankees did in their pursuit of Moncada a “failure.”

The bigger problem that this outcome speaks to, more important than how much money the Steinbrenners are willing and able to spend, is the continued disconnect between the baseball and financial sides of the front office, and the lack of clear, consistent plan in building and running this organization as a successful baseball team.  After scouting Moncada heavily, holding 3 private workouts for him, and bringing Hank out for his own personal look, when the story broke that the Yanks didn’t get him yesterday, the excuse engine fired up almost immediately.  Cash said the team loved him but it came down to dollars and cents.  Hal said something similar but alluded to other “higher ups” in the organization who didn’t want to make the financial commitment.

What other higher ups are there who can pull rank on the owner?  And what thought process are they using to determine that $50-60 mil for Moncada is not wise but $45 mil for Carlos Beltran is?  That’s the scary part of this.  Once again the Yankees are seemingly caught in the middle of trying to be financially responsible and competitive, and once again they don’t seem to be on the same page at the highest levels of organizational decision making when it comes to developing and executing a plan.

Two offseasons ago they were all about trying to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax, but they still spent significant money on older players that didn’t help their W-L record or their bottom line.  Last offseason they went back to spending big but didn’t focus on building a strong complete team and spent some money unwisely.  This offseason was all about getting younger and more flexible, which they’ve done, but then they were unwilling to commit to spending big on Moncada after already spending a ton on the rest of the international free agent market.

So the question becomes what is the real plan here?  Is there even a plan?  Are the Yankees trying to contend or are they trying to rebuild?  Are they willing to spend or aren’t they?  Do they want to cut payroll or don’t they?  The focus seems to change daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally, and that constant change and starting and stopping on one path or another perfectly explains why they’ve wallowed in this no man’s land of mediocrity for the last 2 seasons.

I hypothesized on Twitter last night that maybe this whole Moncada thing was a false flag operation, the FO playing along with the idea that they were all in on Moncada in an attempt to drive his price up.  But that wouldn’t make any sense either.  What do the Yankees stand to gain by not spending more money on Moncada and letting another team pay for him?  It’s not like that resets their spending limits.

The whole thing just doesn’t add up for me and I don’t think it ever will.  The idea that the baseball portion of the front office can be all in on Moncada and the financial portion not be is disconcerting and symbolic of these last few years of middle ground on-field performance.  The Yankees made a big to-do about “going wild” on the international FA market this year, but when it came time to really put their money where their mouth was they didn’t do it.  They were willing to go wild, just not THAT wild.  They want to get younger, but only at a certain price.  They want to maintain a “championship-caliber” team, but only some of the time.  It’s maddening.  This is a front office that collectively can’t make up its mind on what path it wants to take for its baseball team and that doesn’t inspire confidence going forward.

Why I’m Only Pretty Sure I’m Ticked They Let Moncada Go

Wow, my timing remains great: I write an ode to Frankie Cervelli one day before he’s unexpectedly traded, then a brief supporting a Moncada signing one day before he becomes a Red Sock. Feel free to hit me up for stock or pony tips, because I’m clearly clairvoyant. Anyhow, I’m ticked they didn’t get him, but it’s very possible I’m wrong:

(1) To start with, he seems worth it even if you’re not a cockeyed optimist. Even if he’s not at the level of a #1-2 overall draftee, and instead is only the 8th-15th best draftee, that’s good for an expected 11.5 WAR in his six team-controlled years, and $60m is well-below-market for that. And if he’s really a #1-2, his expected production is then easily double his pricetag, given that (as the same linked article shows) you can expect 24-28 WAR in the first six years of a #1-2 overall draftee.

(2) But the Yankees and all other teams declined to bid $70-80m after seeing him repeatedly, and we non-insiders saw him zero times. If he’s at the level of a lower first-round draftee (#15-30), his expected six-year production is only 6.5 WAR, which might be worth $60m to the Yankees, but it’s a close call. And it wouldn’t take major, major holes in his game to make him a lower rather than higher first-rounder. Reports started saying he’s more 2B than SS, which alone is a big difference. And we don’t know what else they saw: maybe he’s got a mildly slow first step in the infield, or maybe he’s kind of a punk without the makeup to yield confidence he’ll reach his potential. We don’t really know — but that’s the point.

(3) Yet the early word-on-the-street tweet-reporting doesn’t give me tons of confidence it’s explanation #2 (that after a rational evaluation they decided he’s a high but not elite talent) rather than #1 (that they blew it):

Marchand: Yanks feeling was they can buy a proven MLBer for $60M or $70M

Hoch: Cashman said there is no debate about Moncada’s talent and ceiling, but bidding went farther than Yankees were willing to go.

Matthews: To be clear, it’s obvious Cashman wanted Moncada but it seems like he couldn’t get Hal to go any higher

I want to believe it’s not “proven MLBer” (my post yesterday noted that $80-100m does not get you an MLBer better anywhere near as productive as a top draftee), nor an empty “farther than…willing” declaration. Frankly, they sound like the Royals explaining why they couldn’t match $75m for James Shields but could spend $58m on the mediocrity grab-bag of Alex Rios, Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, and Luke Hochevar. So I want to believe, but as with a lot of things in life, what I’m seeing all around me doesn’t make it easy to believe what I want to believe.

One Last Moncada Analysis: Why He’s Worth the First Nine-Figure Prospect Signing

A Yoan Moncada signing may be imminent, with Hank Steinbrenner attending Moncada’s notable third private workout with the Yankees just days ago, so I’ll take this last chance to weigh in on whether he’s worth the small fortune he’ll cost. My first thought was: No way is a 19 year-old amateur worth the $80-$100m we hear he may get. My second thought was: Come to think of it, I have no idea what a top draft pick is really worth to a team. Team owners prevent American amateurs from earning their true value by agreeing to sign them only in a “draft” — i.e., a cartel agreement that each player will get an offer from only one employer, not from multiple employers bidding for his services. I’ll leave for another day my tirade about how badly baseball owners violate free-market economics and morality by being tied with OPEC as the top billionaires-for-cartelization club. But the point is that the several million it takes to sign a top draft pick is his cartel-depressed price, not his value to his team.

If he were draft-eligible, Moncada likely would be the #1 overall pick. While I’m no draft expert, I’m reading that the two top draftees this year are more reliable, but have lower ceilings, than Moncada. My impression is that the team with the #1 pick dreams of fishing for the next Trout, so it more often goes for high ceiling, not high floor – meaning Moncada likely would be a #1 overall draft pick, or maybe a #2.

And a #1-2 draft pick really is worth a lot. A great analysis by Andrew Ball found that, on average, the #1 player in the draft produces 28.5 WAR in his first six MLB years (the team-controlled years), with the #2 player not far behind at 23.9 WAR. The dollar value of those picks is about $90 million and $75 million, respectively – but that’s based on 2013 dollars-per-WAR estimates. Recent free agent signings show the cost of a marginal win has risen, easily by 10% over the past two years – which is to say a #1-2 draft pick is worth about $82-$100 million. Marginal wins also are worth more to big-market teams, so a #1-#2 pick is worth more than that $82-$100m to the Yankees and Dodgers – reportedly the two top Moncada contenders. Which is to say that at least some of the billionaires who own MLB teams know what they’re doing, at least when it comes to whether something or someone is worth a $100 million investment.

Or look at it this way: What does $80-100 million get you on the free agent market, the other place you could spend this money? Sure, Moncada is a high-risk/high-reward investment — but so are the 30somethings who command that much as free agents. Remember that the $80-$100m for Moncada includes the MLB “tax,” and many of the teams considering Moncada also face luxury tax for free agents (e.g., Yankees, Dodgers), so let’s consider what similar sums have gotten the Yankees on the free agent market: (1) it took over $120m ($85m plus luxury tax) to land Brian McCann; (2) $68m, Carlos Beltran ($45m + luxury); (3) $78m, Chase Headley ($52m + luxury). Moving on to other teams’ signings, James Shields just cost the Padres $75m, close to Moncada money, but he would’ve cost a team paying luxury taxes over $112m.

Not one of these $70-120m(ish) free agents will produce the 24-28 WAR a #1-#2 draft pick like Moncada should – and while Moncada is risky, so are these guys. Beltran has a decent shot at a modest comeback, but he was a 0-WAR player last year, so if he doesn’t come back, he’s identical to a minor-leaguer who never makes it. Carl Pavano and Kevin Youkilis show Beltran wouldn’t be the first free agent to provide about 0 WAR for eight-figure pay. If you expand the list to pricey free agents who provided just one good season you get A.J. Burnett as another example of how major-league free agents aren’t necessarily less likely than an elite prospect to come with a risk of either providing zero value or proving a one-year flash-in-the-pan. As many folks noted in our Shields/Scherzer discussions: top free agents almost all are in their early-mid 30s, the age at which even a reliable star easily could be 0, 1, or 2 years from a permanent plunge to the replacement-level value that is all most players can offer by their mid-late 30s.

Now, it’s possible Moncada’s workouts showed enough holes in his game to convince teams he’s not actually at the level of a #1-2 draft pick. If he costs only $40-50m, that’ll be decent evidence the workouts showed the reality didn’t match the “he’d be #1” hype. But if the hype held up, then Moncada does seem worth the money, and for a team with a farm system that’s looking better this year, but is a bit lighter on IF than OF/P talent, Moncada seems a good fit too. So, here’s hoping.

Report: Yoan Moncada Officially Declared A Free Agent By MLB

Via Jeff Passan, top Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada was officially declared a free agent by MLB today.  He is now eligible to sign with any team.

According to Passan’s report, MLB will require all players wishing to come over to sign with teams to provide a sworn affidavit stating that they have established residency in another country, have no intention of going back to Cuba, and are not Cuban government officials.  This will allow them to receive the general unblocking license from the US government that was the apparent holdup previously.  Funny how that first story came out last week about MLB dragging its feet on the licences and now we have a resolution this week.

With MLB’s shenanigans in the rearview, the Yankees move right to the front of the line of favorites to sign Moncada.  They have until June 15th of this year to make him any offer they want plus a 100% penalty tax on the deal.  If it ends up taking $30-40 mil to sign Moncada, as some have estimated, it will be a $60-80 million total investment for the paying team.  The Yanks are best equipped to make that monetary commitment and take the tax hit.

I’d absolute love for a deal to get made quickly here and for the Yanks to announce the deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his agent at least take some time to consider offers from all 3 of the top contenders: the Yanks, the Red Sox, and the Dodgers.  The important thing here is that Moncada has been unblocked and eligible to sign during this signing period, when the Yankees still have a legit chance to land him.

Update On The Moncada Situation: The Wheels Are In Motion, Things Are Happening Even As We Speak

Not sure too many people saw the update to yesterday afternoon’s Yoan Moncada unblocking post, so here’s the full update as of early last night.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the policy requiring native Cubans to apply for and receive a specific unblocking license before they can be let into the United States has been changed by the US Treasury Dept.  Because he had already met the criteria required for the general unblocking license, Moncada has now been declared eligible to enter the US to play baseball, at least as far as the US government is concerned.

The burden now falls on MLB to verify Moncada’s identity and residency paperwork before officially declaring him a free agent.  MLB had been hiding behind the specific license policy as a way to avoid that responsibility and delay Moncada’s entry into the country, for reasons we’ll never be told but I assume I already know.  According to Passan’s report, MLB was working yesterday to set up a meeting with the US OFAC to go over the specifics of the policy change.  He quoted a league official who said that if the meeting happened soon, Moncada “could be free to negotiate with teams within two weeks.”

That would be great news for the Yankees, who would then have about 4 months to sign Moncada before the 2014-2015 signing period ended.  They’ve appeared to be in the driver’s seat on Moncada from the beginning, and they’re one of the few teams who can afford to take the 100% tax penalty hit on what some are estimating could be a $30-40 million deal.  Hopefully this forward motion by both the OFAC and MLB will continue in a timely fashion and get Moncada’s free agency going soon.

Report: MLB Holding Up The Yoan Moncada Proceedings, Not US OFAC (UPDATED)

Here’s an interesting new wrinkle in the Yoan Moncada sweepstakes.  According to this report by Ben Badler, the holdup in getting him unblocked and eligible to sign does not reside with the US Dept. of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as many believed, but rather with MLB itself.

“Any Cuban national who presents documents showing permanent residence in a country outside of Cuba qualifies for OFAC’s ‘general license,’ which is not a written document. As far as OFAC is concerned, that should make him unblocked, and that’s good enough for the government to allow him to sign.

The holdup is that MLB won’t let Moncada—or any Cuban player, for that matter—use the general license any more. That wasn’t always the case. Yasiel Puig, for example, signed using the general license. It’s not clear what exactly changed, but at some point in 2012 after Puig signed in June that year, MLB no longer allowed Cuban players to sign using the general license and instead required them to apply for the specific license, which is a written document from OFAC…

“MLB issued the following statement to Baseball America on Sunday: ‘MLB is confident with the current plan we have in place regarding signing foreign born players and will abide by the guidelines of the OFAC requirements.’

Except, by the OFAC guidelines, Moncada has met the criteria of the general license to be considered unblocked, and he is not alone. Cuban second basemen Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez have both obtained residency in a third country. Yet none of them has signed yet because they are still awaiting response from the government on their application for the specific license that MLB requires.”

Did you get all that?  Basically MLB has arbitrarily decided to change the finer details of the process they’ve had in place for years to make it more difficult and more time-consuming for Moncada and other blocked players to get cleared to sign with a team.

Why would they do that?  My answer is admittedly jaded by my Yankee allegiance, but I think it’s a clear and deliberate attempt by MLB to prevent the Yankees from signing Moncada.  And not just the Yankees, but every big money teams who has already exceed their 2014-2015 international spending limit and would still be eligible and willing to sign Moncada during this signing period.

MLB put those spending restrictions in place to try to level the playing field and give the smaller market teams a better chance to compete on the international FA market.  The Yankees and other teams said “eff that,” overspent anyway as a way to keep leveraging their monetary advantage, and now MLB is going to slowplay the Moncada unblocking as a way to punish them.  He won’t be cleared to sign until after June 15th of this year, which will begin the next signing period, put the Yanks, Red Sox, and others out of contention for him thanks to their overspending penalties, and all the other teams will have a better chance at landing him.

It’s sad that MLB keeps going to these lengths to try to create an “everybody wins” environment when it’s already been proven that spending more doesn’t equate with winning more.  Teams have figured out how to contend on a smaller budget if they really want to, and the business side of the game has progressed to the point where everybody can and more often does re-sign their good younger players to team-friendlier, long-term deals earlier in their careers.  There’s no reason to continue to handcuff big budget teams that have the money to spend and want to spend it, especially when it’s at the expense of the players who want to come over to play in MLB.

I know this is probably coming off as the ramblings of a spoiled Yankee fan, but I really don’t care.  Moncada has done what he has to do to be cleared as a free agent by the United States of America.  There’s no legitimate reason for MLB to hold up the proceedings anymore and the statement they made about it isn’t worth the handful of seconds it probably took for some intern to type it out.  If this drags on past the June 15th deadline and the Yankees don’t even get a chance to sign Moncada, that will be a travesty.

** UPDATE 6:05 PM- Via Jeff Passan, the stalling appears to be over.  MLB has drafted a letter to send over to the OFAC and he could be cleared as a free agent within the next 2 weeks.  Amazing what a story that paints MLB in a negative light will do to get them to act quickly on something. **

P.S.- No need to thank me for my contributions in kick-starting this action by MLB.  I did it for all of you.

Hal Speaks On The Offseason (And Some Other Stuff)

Hal Steinbrenner was on hand for the latest owners’ meeting in Arizona yesterday, and as he usually does when he’s out and about, he held court with the Yankee beat writers on hand to talk about the latest happenings in Yankeeland.  I could bust his balls here for implying that the Yankees don’t have room to spend more money or for pointing out the health risks in the rotation while not addressing the need to address those risks, but I’ll just skip that and let people judge his comments for themselves.  All quotes via Ken Davidoff:

On the team’s offseason goals- “We had numerous goals.  Two of the goals were to get younger and get better defensively. I think we’ve done that. I think our bullpen’s better. I think it’s one of the best in baseball, quite frankly. My opinion.”

On the payroll budget and Cash working within that- “We started out with a payroll that was already high before we did anything. We knew we had a certain amount of dollars to work with, and I think Cash did a great job.”

On the possibility of adding payroll before the season starts- “Look, it’s not over ‘til it’s over. We’ve still got a full month to spring training, and we’re always going to continue to improve. I guess that’s about all I’m going to say about that.”

On the rotation- “I think if there’s one concern, it’s our starting rotation – not because of their ability, but because of their health.  Now, everybody’s going to come healthy. It’s just a question of not having what we had last year, which is not having four guys out by the All-Star break. That’s going to pose a problem to any team.”

On A-Rod, who Hal said he has not spoken to about the upcoming season- “But he’s going to be there [Spring Training].  And if Alex is Alex, he’ll show up in shape. He always does. There certainly are some unknowns for all of us, including him. His age. Two surgeries. We’ll just have to see. He’ll be there.”

On the farm system- “I think it’s going to be a better year.  I think we’re going to have some young players, which is going to be exciting for the fans. And I think we’re going to have a healthy year. I’m going to hope for that. Because it’s important.”

On the possibility of the team honoring Willie Randolph this year- “I’m not going to get into the specific list, but Willie is important to all of us.  We know what he meant to the franchise. He’s always been one of my favorite players growing up. So I think you can look for something in the future, yes, absolutely. He’s earned it.”