January 2009

As Fonz would say, I was “wr…wro…wr…”…

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS, CONTINUED…

Upon second thought, I will acquiesce to the opinion that confidentiality agreements would not be a good thing.  First and foremost, it would have to be cleared through a collective bargaining agreement between management and the player’s association, and that would never happen.  If the Yankees were able to incorporate the language into their contracts for players, coaches and management without league consent, there would be potential negative implications in terms of trying to attract future free agents to New York.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when it was difficult for the Yankees to attract top free agent talent without severely overpaying.  The Yankees successfully changed the perception in recent years, and the Bronx became a very attractive place to play.  But the presence of a confidentiality agreement or clause in a Yankees contract could cause player to accept less from other teams without the same verbiage (knowing that they potentially would have greater revenue opportunities after baseball). 

In the end, I think the person most hurt by Joe Torre’s book, The Yankee Years, is Joe Torre.  Regardless of whether the negative backlash was deserved or not, Torre will have to work hard to make amends. 

I would not want to lose the opportunity to read future books that provide actual insight into the details of specific seasons and teams.  So, I agree that a disparagement clause in Yankee contracts would be inappropriate.

NO MORE FREE AGENTS

As I read MLB.com’s report that the Yankees cannot sign more than three Type A or B Free Agents (excluding their own) under the terms of the collectively bargained rules established by management and the player’s association, I can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t brought to light sooner.  I personally do not think that the rule plays any part in the Yankees desire to add no further free agents.  I think economics played a greater part (the state of the US economy and the Steinbrenner family’s desire to stay under last year’s payroll).  But it’s funny that this rule wasn’t mentioned by anyone sooner.  Apparently, the Yankees could have requested an increase in the quota since the total number of Type A and B Free Agents exceeded 62, but they did not (which supports the argument that they’ve simply reached their appetite for player salaries).

So much for my gluttonous dream of Manny in pinstripes!

UPDATE:  It is now being reported that this was revised to no more than 8 Type A or B free agent signings due to the expanded pool of free agent players.  I thought it was weird that nothing was said about the limit before.  Nevertheless, I think the Yankees are done.  With the settlement of the arbitration case with Brian Bruney, the Yankees’ total salary is just under $200M with a few more contract issues to be resolved (however, no more arbitration cases remain).  Unless salaries are going out, I just don’t see any further free agent signings… 

OTHER THOUGHTS…

It’s almost humorous to hear David Wells’ comments about Joe Torre given how much time and energy Wells put into being a distraction himself.  But, based on quotes over the years and the recent events, I find much truth in the following Wells’ quote:

“I’ve always said if you weren’t Joe’s boy, he could care less about you. … Don’t get me wrong, he is not a bad manager.  I just thought he was a bad individual, because of the fact he didn’t treat everybody the same.”

And of course, to hear comments from Carl Pavano is even more humorous.  For all the negative things that have been said about Pavano (and deservedly so), I also think he has displayed the right attitude in his response.  I particularly liked the quote that ended with “…it does explain why I haven’t received any Christmas cards from Joe the last few years.”

In addition to reading the book, I will be anxious to hear what Torre has to say on David Letterman next week (Wednesday, February 3rd).  Hopefully, Dave won’t pitch softballs to Torre…

Torre’s first interview is scheduled for tonight on “Larry King Live”. 

Today is deadline day for Jason Varitek.  On the surface, it doesn’t look like this is going to end well.  Hopefully, Jason can set aside his pride, and accept the Red Sox offer.  It’s not like it would be a struggle to get by on only $5 million (at least not from my perspective).  I do feel that the Red Sox have handled the negotiations fairly, and to a degree, you could say they’ve been generous to a player who has meant so much to them.  Hopefully, the two sides can come together later today.  The Yankees-Red Sox battles just wouldn’t be the same without Varitek in the Boston dugout.  Hopefully, there will be another scene like this later today…

General Manager Theo Epstein of the Red Sox, left, introducing catcher Jason Varitek as the team's captain. 

(Courtesy Associated Press and the New York Times)

UPDATE:  Varitek agreed to the contract later in the day.  One year at $5 million, plus a second year club option for $5 million or player option for $3 million.   

 

A Future of “Pleasantville” Yankees Books…

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS

The word is that the Yankees want to incorporate confidentiality agreements into their player and management contracts to include a “non-disparagement clause” and prevent future books like The Yankee Years, or those written by Jim Bouton, Graig Nettles, David Wells, et al. From my perspective, they should.  If you pay CC Sabathia $181 million, you should not have to be subject to a potentially harmful book at the end of the contract if there is player dissatisfaction.  Joe Torre was paid very well during his years as Yankees manager.  By the end of his tenure, I believe (although I have not confirmed it) that he was in the upper echelon of the pay scale for MLB managers.  Maybe he hasn’t said anything in the book that he hasn’t said before or there are quotes that are improperly attributed to him, but the fact remains that he wrote a book that has caused controversy and does not help team chemistry or morale. 

The Yankees have the right to protect the confidentiality and the sanctity of the clubhouse.  No one is going to write a ‘behind closed doors’ book about the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, but because the Yankees are the big market, high-profile team that is committed to winning, they will always draw more scrutiny than other teams, including Boston.  Well, unless you live in Boston, of course.  As such, the Yankees deserve the added measure to ensure “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

RECOMMENDED BOOK 

Speaking of The Yankee Years, I have ordered my copy through Amazon.  In the way of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” with the Torre book representing the bad cop, I also purchased Confessions of a She-Fan by Jane Heller.  Yankees fans should be familiar with the great works of Jane Heller through her outstanding blogs, and judging by the reviews I’ve read, we will be even greater fans after reading her latest book.

 

If you pull up the book through Amazon, there is an excellent editorial review and description of the book.  I am looking forward to reading the book, and I get more jazzed about it with each review I read.  Personally, I think this book is a must-read for any baseball fan…

DID YOU SEE THOSE PHOTOS?

The photos on the WCBS Newsradio 880 website showing the different colors of Yankee Stadium are tremendous.  The blue lights as shown below are fascinating, but the website also has photos of the stadium in red, pink, and green.

Photo:  Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880

April can’t get here fast enough!

JUST WONDERING…

With free agent prices continuing to drop, would the Yankees try to make a counter move should the Red Sox sign Adam Dunn to bring his 40 home runs to Fenway?  I know, I can’t let go of the fascination with having Manny Ramirez in the lineup.  I know the baggage that comes with the player,  but I lived in Los Angeles last year and the city was electrified by what Manny brought to the team.  I have admired Manny since his days in Cleveland and he was always a favorite even when he played in Boston.  He’s a great clutch hitter (obviously) and he has that extra “something-something” that Reggie Jackson possessed.  Plus, as a side benefit, you’d take the player away from, as Derek Jeter would say, Mr. T.  Okay, $75 million for retribution is a high price to pay.  But even a Yankees fan can dream, right?

Another free agent that I think still makes great sense is pitcher Juan Cruz.  Working out of the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen in 2008, he was 4-0 in 57 games with 2.61 ERA and 71 strikeouts.  He is a 30 year old right-hander.  Granted, Damaso Marte could close if necessary, but having Cruz late in the game would give Joe Girardi another very valuable weapon.  Mariano Rivera has been great, arguably the greatest closer the Yankees have ever had.  But time takes its toll and he is more vulnerable to injury at this point in his career than ever before.  Like with Jorge Posada and the catching position, I feel very strongly that the Yankees need a strong contingency plan in place behind Mo.

I guess this is Super Bowl week, so here’s my prediction…Steelers 31, Cardinals 17.  My kids live in Arizona and are Cardinals fans, but I just can’t bring myself to pick them to win.  They surprised me by making it this far, but I think the bubble bursts on Sunday.  As a long-suffering Vikings fan, I hate seeing ex-Vikings always winning Super Bowls, but Mewelde Moore and coach Mike Tomlin should add their names to the list…

 

 

The Day After the Texan’s Return…

THE DAY AFTER THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM TEXAS

 

The Yankees designed pitcher Chase Wright, 26, for assignment today to make room on the 40-man roster for Andy Pettitte.  Wright is best known for giving up consecutive home runs to Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek on April 22, 2007.  If that’s not enough to get DFA’d, nothing is!  Seriously, I was surprised that the Yanks cut Chase Wright over Dan Giese.  Granted, Giese did carve a nice niche out of the pen last year, but I think Wright has better long term potential as age is certainly a factor.  I can see it now…the Yanks cut Wright after 10 days; he is quickly picked up by Boston, and returns to Yankee Stadium to throw a no-hitter for the Red Sox. 

 

Hopefully, the Yankees will be able to get something in return for Wright, which I think they most likely will.  Perhaps he will be part of a trade that involves Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher. 

 

As we get closer to spring training, I am becoming more and more reluctant to part with either Nady or Swisher.  I’d rather see them compete for the right field, and let the best Nick, errr I mean, man win. 

 

Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner , when asked about Manny Ramirez, responded “We’re out of it”.  Of course, you always have to take what Hank says with a grain of salt.  I’d find the statement to be more credible if it were coming from Hal Steinbrenner.  But, to Hank’s defense, he was the one in the organization who wanted Ramirez.  Nevertheless, you never know if the comments are continued posturing or a statement of fact.  Given the payroll and economical concerns, I do think the Yankees won’t pursue Ramirez.  But then again, they are the Yankees and they play in a completely different universe. 

 

MORE ON JOE TORRE

 

It is interesting to see the retractions and backpedaling by Tom Verducci and Joe Torre regarding their book, The Yankee Years.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that the book needs to be read in its full context before decisions and judgments are made.  But, Torre read and re-read the book, and was comfortable with its contents.  Based on David Wells book alone, you know that little snippets get leaked in advance of the book’s release so Torre had to know that anything potentially controversial would hit the streets prematurely.  Verducci said that Torre was a third person author who is being treated as the first person author by the New York media.  Torre allowed his name to be put on the book so he has to take full responsibility for its contents, regardless of who said what. 

 

I think this will die down after the book’s release, but Joe has created the very media circus that he always tried to avoid.  This will be a distraction in the Yankees camp, and I suspect that Joe will be asked more Yankee-related questions than Dodger ones when he reports to camp.  Good timing, Joe.  Hopefully, Brian Cashman is right about this incident pulling the team together, standing united with A-Rod. 

 

Joe Girardi has probably written a note to self, “Remember to trash only the Florida Marlins and Jeffrey Loria”.  Of course, the Marlins are not necessarily a guaranteed hook when writing a book so if you’re going for the dollars, aim high.

 

JASON VARITEK BELONGS IN BOSTON

 

I think Jason Varitek should accept Boston’s two year offer which includes $5 million for the first year with a second year player option of $3 million, as opposed to the one year $5 million deal.  The fact is that Varitek’s offensive production is not going to improve at this point in his career, and could very well continue to erode.  But, the intangibles that Varitek brings to the team justify his roster spot.  As captain of the team, his leadership has been strongly evident to the players and fans, which includes opponents. 

 

I read an interview with new Yankees catcher Kevin Cash, and his quotes are very telling.

 

“I’m not pro-Red Sox or pro-Jason,” Cash said. “I’m not picking sides. I just know the value of what he does in the clubhouse. That pitching staff is unbelievable. The guys they sign and the guys they develop in that organization are all talented players. I think it works both ways. I think Jason has benefited from playing with the Red Sox and having the opportunity to work with those pitchers.

 

“At the same time, every pitcher on that staff will tell you how vital a role he plays in their career and during each season.”

(Courtesy The Providence Journal)

 

Cash also mentioned how Jason goes out of his way to communicate with his pitchers, particularly when there are language barriers with someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Hideki Okajima.  Boston will need to lean on catchers Josh Bard or George Kottaras, or perhaps still pursue a trade for someone like Miguel Montero, but Varitek needs to be there.  To win, you want to beat the best, and Varitek makes the Red Sox better.

Catchers always make the best managers, so I see a future successful managerial career for Varitek if he so chooses…

Done deal…

ANDY’S BACK HOME

It was a long and tortureous process for the fans, but finally, the ink is dry on the one year deal between Andy Pettitte and the Yankees.  Of course, there is a small part of me that wondered what it might have been like to have Ben Sheets in the rotation.  But now, we’ll never know except to see what he does on another staff (most likely the Texas Rangers).  But all things considered, Andy needs to be at Yankee Stadium, just as it would be inappropriate for Jason Varitek to be anywhere but Boston. 

Andy took less guaranteed money to return than what had previously been offered, however, if he, as his agent put it, pitches the way he’s always done, he’ll reach the incentives for a total payout of $12 million.  I had figured all along that it would take $12 million to close the deal, and this contract makes sense for both parties since it lessens the team’s exposure if Andy fails to reach certain levels. 

At this stage of his career, I think Andy is very sensitive to his Yankee legacy, and wants to go out the right way unlike former Yankees David Cone or David Wells who chose to make the detour north to Massachusetts.

At any rate, welcome back Andy!  Everyone will be excited to see you…well, except for maybe #65…

 

JOE WHO?

I realize that the early press regarding Joe Torre’s new book, The Yankee Years, has not been good.  But I do think it was a positive that Joe reached out to one of the book’s targets with a phone call to Brian Cashman.  Cashman subsequently has stated that he was glad to get the call, and he’d reserve judgement until he read the book.  I do believe in his approach, and I think the book needs to be viewed in its full context…not through selected excerpts pulled out to extract interest. 

It didn’t take long for the A-Rod camp to fire arrows back at Torre, which leads me to believe that there is some truth in the accusations.  I’ll buy Andy Pettitte’s assertion that he never heard the phrase “A-Fraud” until Torre’s book started to leak out.  But it’s no secret that A-Rod doesn’t exactly do the things to endear himself to his teammates. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I thought Johnny Damon’s immediate support for A-Rod was huge.  Johnny showed that he’s a team-first guy, and he sets the standard that the rest of the team needs to achieve.   

Despite my opinion that the book needs to be read before judgement is passed, I still believe that Joe has tarnished his legacy in New York.  Can it be repaired?  Sure.  But for the short term, he has stirred bitterness in areas where it did not previously exist.  And, of course, it has made me start to wonder if some of those outrageous past allegations by Gary Sheffield were, in fact, true.

Hopefully, Donnie Baseball stays on the sidelines for this one…

NO MORE SIGNIFICANT MOVES

Brian Cashman today indicated that we should not expect any further significant moves.  While I can accept that, I still think there’s a major hole at catcher.  Cashman thinks that Jorge Posada is progressing well, but the fact remains that Posada is an aging, past his prime, veteran who will be more susceptible to injury than prior years.  Jose Molina is a nice back up player, but he’s not the answer for full-time duty.  Going into the season, I’d assume worst case scenario (that Posada has a setback) and ensure that I had a solid third string catcher who could perform in a catching platoon if necessary.  Someone like the Philadelphia Phillies’ Chris Coste.  With Carlos Ruiz the starter, and a potential defensive back up in Ronny Paulino, Coste is probably expendable at this stage of his career and could be picked up fairly cheaply.  Coste is not a solid stand-alone catcher, but I think in tandem with Molina could provide a good short-term answer until help can arrive in a few years from Austin Romine and Jesus Montero.

 

 

Dreams of Manny in the Bronx…

MANNY IN THE BRONX?

 

While the Los Angeles Times continues to report that no one is blinking in the Dodgers negotiations with Manny Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, the rumors (generated by the fans, not the organization) continue to persist about the possibility of Manny playing in the Bronx. 

 

Granted, Hal Steinbrenner may have the opinion that Manny will never know the inside of the home locker room at the new Yankee Stadium, and there would be a united guffaw from the Red Sox nation, but the move to the Bronx would actually make some sense.

 

Don Mattingly has made some very positive public statements about Manny.  Of course, he only saw the “Best of…” version, and didn’t get to see the unhappy Manny version that played in excess during his later years in Boston.  But there are arguments that Manny would actually be able to maintain better privacy in New York than he could in the fishbowl known as Boston.  I think that’s a fair argument.  As Manny’s price continues to drop, there is a point that it would make financial and baseball sense for the Yankees to enter the Manny sweepstakes.  Maybe that’s why they have laid so low, without formally announcing they are not interested. 

 

There will be holes in the Yankees batting order.  The defensive combo of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, combined with uncertainty at the catching position, leave potential weaknesses in the order.  The catching position is uncertain, obviously, because of the continued health concerns with Jorge Posada (and Jose Molina will never be confused with Mike Piazza when it comes to hitting or Bengie Molina for that matter).  While I like both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher, I think both are complimentary players and not people that you’d build your starting outfield with.  Given the uncertainty of center field and the advancing age of Johnny Damon in left, it makes perfect sense to solidify right with Manny.  He’d be very comfortable in front of the hometown Bronx crowd, and how scary is a batting order that starts with Damon-Jeter-Teixeira-Ramirez-ARod.  That would make up for the defensive shortcomings, and would allow you to forego Andy Pettitte or Ben Sheets in the 5th spot of the rotation and go with Phil Hughes.  Of course, it would also mean that both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher would probably be dealt, although I’d like to keep Swisher due to his versatility. 

 

For the fans, Manny’s presence in the lineup would be huge.  For the Yankees, Manny’s appeal for the YES Network and the turnstiles at the new Yankee Stadium would be larger.  It makes too much sense, which is why it will probably never happen…

 

SIGNS OF MATURITY AT SECOND BASE

 

I always enjoy reading Kat O’Brien’s blog on Newsday (On the Yankees Beat), and she has provided an answer to a question that has been nagging me.  Where is Robinson Cano mentally and physically?  At 26 years of age, has he finally realized that baseball is more than just raw talent?  Okay, there were a few questions in there.  According to Kat, Cano is now 208 lbs (down from 213 at the end of last season, a season that he most likely “, at a greater weight).  A career .303 hitter, Cano hit .271 last season after a very slow start (.151 BA in April). 

 

Based on Robby’s comments, he does seem to be focused this year.  “I’ve just been working on my new stance,” Cano said, “just getting ready mentally and physically…I know that I have to start in April, not in May or June”.

 

Great insight by Kat, and great news for the Yankees!

 

18 DAYS TO TAMPA (PITCHERS AND CATCHERS)

 

With 18 days to go until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for spring training, all has been quiet on the Yankees front.  Granted, nothing may happen between now and then, but the Hot Stove League still has a few weeks of life left before it winds down. 

 

Almost certain to be a hot topic at camp is Joe Torre’s new book, “The Yankee Years”.  According to the New York Post, Joe has taken shots at Alex Rodriguez (“A-Fraud”), Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner’s.  I am sure that Joe’s comments are very ‘matter-of-fact’, and don’t have any added venom, but clearly, he was a very unhappy guy at the end of his Yankee tenure and very disappointed at how those final days played out.  Nevertheless, I am fearful for what the book may mean to Torre.  There could be an organizational backlash that could delay Joe’s entry to Monument Park when his managerial career is over.  Joe shouldn’t be punished for calling it like he saw it, and hopefully Hal Steinbrenner and the rest of the organization will take the book in stride.  But I am sure that it will be a hot topic for the next few weeks.

 

With the recent passing of Billy Werber, I have to admit that I did not realize that Tommy Henrich was still alive.  Henrich is the last surviving member of the 1938 World Champion Yankees, although he didn’t experience his greatest individual success until the 1940’s.  He was dubbed “Old Reliable” by Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen, in reference to his knack for getting a key hit when it was needed.  Henrich is 96 years old, and will long be remembered for his World Series exploits.  His notable achievements include:

 

·         5-time AL All-Star (1942, 1947, 1948, 1949 & 1950)

·         AL Runs Scored Leader (1948)

·         2-time AL Triples Leader (1947 & 1948)

·         20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1938, 1941, 1948 & 1949)

·         30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1941)

·         100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1948)

·         100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (1938, 1941, 1947 & 1948)

·         Won six World Series with the New York Yankees (1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1947 & 1949; he did not play in the 1937 and 1939 World Series)

 

While dreaming of a Damon-Cabrera/Gardner-Ramirez outfield, I can’t help but think how great it would have been to see the outfield of Henrich, Charlie Keller, and Joe DiMaggio…

Goodbye to Ruth’s final surviving teammate…

LAST SURVIVING TEAMMATE OF BABE RUTH

Billy Werber, who had the distinction of being the last surviving teammate of Babe Ruth as well as the last player to play against Babe Ruth while he was with the Yankees, has passed away at the age of 100. 

(Courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame)

 

Werber played 4 games with the Yankees in 1930 before being sent to the minors.  He returned to the Yankees in 1933.  With the Yankees infield manned by Tony Lazzeri at second base, Frankie Crosetti at short, and Joe Sewell at third base, Werber was deemed expendable and traded to the Boston Red Sox after playing 3 games for the Yanks.  In 1934, Werber became the starting third baseman for the Red Sox, and hit 11 home runs, 67 RBIs, 129 runs, 40 stolen bases, with a .321 batting average.  He also had 200 hits, 41 doubles and 10 triples.  He was an aggressive baserunner in the 30’s, second only to Ben Chapman and led the AL in SB’s three times. 

Werber also played for the 1940 world champion Cincinnati Reds.  For his career, he played 11 seasons, and hit 78 home runs with 539 RBIs in 1,295 games.  His career batting average was .271, and he had a total of 215 SB’s.  Other notable former teammates included Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove.

In recent years, Werber had quit watching baseball and one of his stated reasons was dismay over Johnny Damon’s “long hair and beard”.  Maybe he reacquired a passion for baseball in his last few years when Johnny adopted the “corporate” look with his relocation to the Bronx! 

ANDY PETTITTE

Meanwhile, on the Andy Pettitte front…

Why do I keep getting the visual image of Chevy Chase looking at the cameras, and saying “Generalimissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!”…

Every time I try to rationalize why the Yankees should just give the 5th spot to Phil Hughes, or go outside of the organization and sign Ben Sheets or even Freddy Garcia at this point, I keep thinking that Andy’s only viable option is New York and they need him and his innings pitched just as badly.  C’mon guys, just split the difference and call it a day!

MOVING DAY

Tomorrow is moving day as the Yankees move their offices across the street into the new stadium (right on schedule).

 

Latest Yankee Happenings…

While I think that the agreement the Yankees reached with Xavier Nady (one year for $6.65 million) was reasonable under the circumstances, Melky Cabrera’s deal is a joke.  When does a .249 season with 8 home runs and 37 RBI’s warrant more than tripling your income.  The one year $1.4 million deal that the team sealed with Cabrera is rewarding a classic underachiever for more of the same.  Melky must feel like a Lotto winner tonight considering he has done nothing to warrant the huge pay increase…

On March 3rd, Team USA will play the Yankees in an exhibition game.  It will be very strange to see Derek Jeter as an opposing player…even worse watching him flip the ball to Dustin Pedroia or throw across the infield to Kevin Youklis. 

A little more than three weeks before CC Sabathia embarks on his journey from Northern California to Tampa…

Ready for the Big Apple-Beantown Wars?…

WARREN SPAHN AWARD WINNER

CC Sabathia was in Oklahoma City last week to accept his second straight Warren Spahn Award as the top left-handed pitcher in baseball.  While there, CC spoke with the Associated Press.  I found one quote in particular to be interesting.  Regarding going to Boston to play the Red Sox, CC said, “I’m sure it’s going to be a little more harsh, but they’re tough anyway.  Being in a Cleveland uniform, they were tough”, Sabathia said.  “I’m looking forward to them being even tougher on me being in a Yankee uniform and hearing some rude things”.  CC is going to realize that there is a huge difference walking into Fenway Park with a Yankees rather than Indian jersey.   Somehow, I don’t think the Tribes rivalries with the Tigers and White Sox or even the Brewers feud with the Cubs have prepared him for what he is going to experience this year.  But, on the bright side, A-Rod and Tex will be there to take the brunt of the Red Sox fans’, um, “criticisms”…

 

 

Other past winners of the ten year old Warren Spahn Award are Randy Johnson (four times), Andy Pettitte, Johan Santana (two times), and Dontrelle Willis.

 

THE O’S ARE MAKING SOME DECENT MOVES

The Baltimore Orioles are taking a chance on former high level prospect OF Felix Pie.  I’ve read a number of criticisms of the trade, but I think it might be worth the risk.  Pie will only be 24 during the upcoming season, and still has the chance to achieve some of his potential.  He was the Cubs top-rated prospect in 2006 and 2007, but has so far failed to hit at the major league level.  He hit .241 in 43 games with the Cubs last year after hitting .287 in 85 games with the Iowa Cubs.  Baltimore should be able to give Pie the opportunity to play in the outfield that would not have happened in Chicago.  Plus, given less pressure at Camden Park than say Yankee or Dodger Stadiums, the environment might be right for Pie to finally experience a breakout season.  If he fails, the O’s has lost two quality pitchers in Garrett Olson and minor leaguer Henry Williamson.  Oh well, tough luck for the O’s and Peter Angelos…nothing I am going to lose sleep over! 

 

 

 

HOW DO THE PEOPLE IN ST. LOUIS FEEL

Now that Kurt Warner has the Arizona Cardinals on the doorstep to an NFL Championship, I have to wonder how the good people of St. Louis feel about their former star being on the verge of delivering the franchise’s first Super Bowl Championship to the Bidwell family.  Personally, I’ll be pulling for Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have no love lost for Bill Bidwell (or Bill Bidwell, Jr. for that matter).  But I do respect team president Michael Bidwell, and he has done a good job building the Cardinals into a championship caliber team. 

 

I haven’t analyzed the Super Bowl rosters closely, but there are obvious connections to my beloved Vikings on both teams.  Coach Mike Tomlin served one year as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator before taking the Steelers job.  Even at the time, I wished that the Vikings would have dumped Brad Childress and promoted Tomlin, much like I felt the team should have dumped Denny Green when Tony Dungy left.  On the Cardinals, all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald once roamed the Vikings sidelines as a ball boy. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have never been a Cowboys fan, and I’ve always thought Jerry Jones, aside from being pompous and controlling, was interested in making the Cowboys the best team that they could be.  If so, why does Wade Phillips still have a job?  Oh yeah, this is the same owner who once hired Barry Switzer…and Chan Gailey…and Dave Campo.  Oops, my bad! 

 

A tough week for the Yankees rumor mill when the only team news was about Randy Levine and the funding of the new Yankee Stadium.  Probably the only other stories I read were that there have been no ongoing discussions between Andy Pettitte and the Yankees, and that the team is still not interested in Manny Ramirez.  With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in 25 days, there is still much to be done with the roster.  I think the team needs a backup plan at catcher in case Jorge Posada has a setback (Jose Molina is not the answer, and nor is Kevin Cash).   I realize that the team just needs Jorge to get them into 2010 before help begins to arrive in the form of Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, but they need a short-term insurance policy.  Also, with the uncertainty in right field, I’d prefer that a third option for center field be brought into the mix to compete with Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera (along the lines of Lastings Milledge, or someone with that type of potential).  Give Andy $12 million and shore up the back end of the rotation, with Phil Hughes as the top spot starter (you have to believe that there will be time lost to the DL with the injury risks associated with A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, and Joba Chamberlain).  It would be a shame to see a $423.5 million investment wasted because you failed to make a few minor moves that could have made the difference…

Latest Andy Pettitte inactivity…

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers are more interested in Jon Garland, Braden Looper and Randy Wolf than they are in Andy Pettitte.  With the Astros already saying that Andy most likely doesn’t fit within their budget, it would appear that all roads lead back to Yankee Stadium…

I am still anxious to see if Scott Boras can save face on his recommendation for Jason Varitek to decline arbitration in December.  This situation has played out badly, and clearly no one has been hurt more than Jason himself…

As promising as catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine are, I sure do wish their ETA to the major leagues was 2009 rather than 2010 or beyond (particularly considering the rumors of Jorge Posada’s desire to play for Puerto Rico in the WBC and questionable health which remains in doubt until he is able to prove he’s healthy).

Given the intensity of the start of the season schedule for the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays (the Yankees play 10 of their first 30 games against the Red Sox and Rays, the Red Sox play 14 of their first 32 games against the Yankees and Rays, and the Rays play 15 of their 33 games against the other two), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees fare out of the blocks given the Yanks recent history of slow starts…not to mention that of Mark Teixeira individually.

I am not surprised that Michael Young relented and has accepted the move to third base for the Rangers (withdrawing his trade request).  Ultimately, it was conversations with team president Nolan Ryan that persuaded Young to reconsider his stance.  But the entire situation could have been avoided had Ryan held those talks with Young before the holidays…not after.

Less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa…sweet!

I saw the quote where Derek Lowe said that he was going to love playing in Atlanta.  Of course, I had to wonder, what else is he going to say?  “Ya know, all things considered, I’d really rather be in Boston.  Why didn’t you guys try harder to sign Smoltz?”  Geez…

I saw the idea in another blog, but I like the suggestion to pry Lastings Milledge from the Nats in a trade involving either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher (Nady being the preference at this point).  Then, put Milledge in competition with Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera in center (assuming one of them aren’t involved in the trade).  I like that line of thinking as the Yanks need to upgrade either the bottom end of the starting rotation or center field with any trade. Milledge hit 14 home runs with 61 RBI’s to go with a .268 batting average and 24 steals in 2008.   His OBP, SLG and OPS were .329/.407/.735.  At only 24 years old, his upside is still tremendous and the leadership on the Yankee roster would help his attitude.  Of course, the cost to acquire him may be too great, but that’s the type of talent that would be great for the new Yankee Stadium center field. 

 

 

 

 

 

Freddy Garcia is not the answer…

The news is becoming more and more pessimistic of the Yankees’ chances to re-sign Andy Pettitte.  Either way, I wish something would happen sooner rather than later.  I saw speculation that the Yanks might have interest in Freddy Garcia.  It’s hard to get excited about that one.  Peter Abraham wrote a good blog today about how the Yankees starting rotation stacks up against Boston.  Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain match up well against Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, and Wakefield.  But there is clearly separation in Boston’s favor when you get to the 5th spot, and the potential starters in the pen. 

I am watching the 1996 World Series between the Yankees and Atlanta Braves.  It is amazing how much different Andrew Jones looked as a 19 year old phenom, with two home runs in his first two WS at-bats.  Physically, you can see how much he has deteriorated over the years.  It really makes you wonder what kind of career he could have had or sustained if he had taken better care of himself.  Jon Heyman is reporting that the Dodgers will release Andruw tomorrow…

Andruw Jones watches his three-run home run in the third inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Yankees in New York, in this Oct. 20, 1996 file photo. At right is Yankees catcher Jim Leyritz. The Atlanta Braves are cutting ties with  Jones, saying they can't afford to keep the perennial Gold Glove center fielder who's spent his entire career with the organization. From AP Photo by MARK LENNIHAN.

 

If the Yankees were willing to offer Ben Sheets a two year deal in December for $12-$13 million per year, why don’t they revisit that possibility given the drop in prices for available free agents?

I read a good blog the other day on River Ave. Blues about the Yankees difficulty in making any additional moves due to the current 40 man roster and the players that would have to be DFA to open any spots (unless the team can free up some space by moving players such as Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher).  I still think that an addition of someone like P Juan Cruz makes so much sense when it would only cost you a fourth round draft pick (the upside potential far offsets the cost). 

Watching the Arizona Cardinals toward the end of the season, I never would have dreamed that they’d be hosting their first NFC Championship Game in January.  Still, I expect the dream to end with the Philadelphia Eagles advancing to the Super Bowl to face Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.  I’d like the Steelers if Big Ben were healthier…

That’s it for now.  Have a good night! 

 

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