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November 23, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, that was fast. I'm back.

Okay, it wasn't fast, I didn't have cable or the internet for two weeks, and had to rely entirely on the newspaper for baseball news, and in a minor league city in the offseason, that is pretty much half a page, if that.

I don't seem to have missed anything big in the last couple of weeks, the BBWAA picked the right AL ROY (for the wrong reasons), the wrong NL ROY, the right MVPs, and probably the right Cy Young Award winners. Not really much to bitch about. 5-7% of anonymous steroid tests came back positive this year, I don't see this as being at all a problem, I was actually expecting it to be higher. I do notice that the media has blown this waaaaaaaaaay out of proportion, probably because they have a need to be outraged about something. I also agree with Rob Manfred for the first, and likely last time, when he told the Olympics to basically shut the hell up. Baseball cannot and should not be held to the standard that the Olympics are held to, or want to be held to. They are not events of the same nature, and not run with the same motives. Baseball is an industry, the Olympics are a competition. The people who run Baseball have a financial investment in the specific competitors, the people who run the Olympics do not. And, of course, steroids do not threaten the integrity of the event in baseball as they could in the Olympics. The goal in baseball is not to be the fastest or strongest. Steroids affect the record books for individual achievements, but no more, and probably much less, than park effects, equipment changes, training practices, and segregation. It's not worth getting outraged about, especially when the known usage is so small.

As expected, the free agent market is moving slowly. The Yankees want Andy Pettitte back, and I think they'll get him back, but serious interest from Houston and token inquiries by the Red Sox to drive the price up means he certainly won't be a bargain. It seems likely that they'll be bringing in Gary Sheffield, too, which is a move that I'm not particularly excited about. Sheffield is a great hitter, there's no denying that, but he's at a point in his career where a decline is likely in the next few seasons, and possibly a large one.

On the whole, I'd say adding Sheffield is a good move, but not a great move. It adds offense to a position where they got little last season, but it doesn't address the team's real needs: defense and starting pitching. It makes them better, but it leaves them vulnerable.

I'd rather have Guerrero, but if the Yankees seriously aren't interested in bidding on him, Sheffield is probably the best choice, Mike Cameron being the only other outfielder I'd have any real interest in. He addresses one of the Yankees' primary needs, would likely hit much better than he has in the past couple of years once outside of Safeco, but his offense is still far inferior to Sheffield's, and while younger than Sheff, he is still entering his decline period. Looking ahead, if the Yankees have any interest next year in pursuing Carlos Beltran, the pieces would fit together better with Sheffield out there instead of Cameron.

The Yankees also seem likely to cut ties with as many faces from last year's bullpen as possible. I think they would have been fine going into 2004 with the same bullpen as the end of 2003, but most of those pitchers have probably lost Joe Torre's trust, and seeing how difficult it is for a young reliever to earn that trust from Torre (I think Rivera only stuck because he never gave up any runs), the front office would probably be best served bringing in a few "proven" relievers, who might not actually be any better than what the Yankees had or have in the minors, but are more likely to get used.

It seems to me that after this offseason, the Yankees might be a little better, they might be a little worse, or they might be the same, but they're not going to be much better, and they're not going to be much worse, which to a degree, is good. But Boston will probably be better, if not much better, Oakland is probably already better, and Toronto is making moves in that direction. The Yankees are still on top of the heap, but they're not alone. Ten years ago, that would have sounded great--at least they were on top--but after having been all alone for a few years, being able to walk around in your underwear and leave dirty dishes in the living room, it feels kind of cramped with someone else there. It's still pretty good, and the lease is still in your name, but it was a lot better before.

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Oh, and I'd like to thank The Score Bard for sticking me in his Periodic Table of Bloggers. I'm Lawrencium. I think I've got a new nickname now. That's awesome.