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December 31, 2004

Welcome Back...
by Larry Mahnken

The big news yesterday was that Tino Martinez is back in pinstripes.

That's of course, not what the media tried to make the big news yesterday, of course. The big news they tried to push was that the Yankees had completed a trade for Randy Johnson. Of course they haven't yet, and they've tried this one before, so I'm still going to hold off on commenting about it (and boy, do I have comments about it).

But the return of Tino has happened... well, not officially, either, but there's less reason for media hype about it than there is for Johnson.

Anyway, a lot of Yankees fans have an irrational love for Tino. There's nothing wrong with liking Tino, of course, but they freaking love this guy. They cheered him when he came back to New York, which is understandable, but then they cheered him when he hit a homer against the Yankees. And then they cheered him again when he came back last year, every time he came back last year.

This isn't Joe DiMaggio we're talking about here, it's Tino Martinez. They love this guy a little too much, because people have a very selective memory. In his next-to-last game in pinstripes, he hit a two-run homer off of Byung-Hyun Kim to tie Game Four of the World Series, and along with his Grand Slam to win Game One of the 1998 World Series, he's developed a reputation as a "Clutch God".

Never mind that before that Grand Slam in '98, Tino had never done anything for the Yankees in the postseason. Never mind that his homer in Game Four was the only thing he did in the World Series, and they might have won if he'd contributed normally and not hit the homer. Never mind that over the course of his career, he was generally average for a first baseman. Never mind all that, we're dealing with selective memory here. Jason Giambi's never been loved like Tino not because he hasn't done the same things as Tino (ask Pedro), but because the expectations were higher for Giambi, and the Yankees won rings with Tino.

Now Tino's back, and I wonder how many standing ovations he's going to get before the fans get tired of it. I wonder how bad he'll have to play before the fans get tired of him.

Still, I think this is a good move. Tino's a good glove man, and he's not a terrible hitter. He's certainly better than Olerud or Clark, and makes the lineup a little more lefty. On the merits of the move itself, I like it. He'll be overrated and overloved, but he'll be a useful addition to the team. How does this affect the pursuit of Beltran? Not a lick. If they were dropping out of the Beltran sweepstakes, they might have pursued Delgado instead, since they'd need a DH.

Speaking of which, Brian Cashman has said the Yankees aren't necessarily going to go all-out to sign Beltran. Please think again, Cash, they need to go all-out for Beltran. They need to overpay him, if that's what it takes. They need a young, good player at a key position, who plays good defense. They need Carlos Beltran. Give him $18 million if that's what it takes, this is something that the team needs to do to win long-term.

Happy New Year's, everyone. Don't drink and drive, sjohnny lost a close friend to one of those assholes this year.

December 30, 2004 - MLB - Sources: D-Backs, Yanks agree on Big Unit deal
by SG

Although it's not final, and these stories have been jumping the gun all off-season, it looks like the trade has been agreed upon.

The Diamondbacks and Yankees have agreed on a deal that would send Randy Johnson to New York for Javier Vazquez, prospects and cash, major league sources told ESPN.

The paperwork has not yet been submitted to the baseball commissioner's office, but that is the next step for the deal to be finalized.

The Diamondbacks also will get left-handed pitcher Brad Halsey, catching prospect Dioner Navarro and $8 million to $9 million in exchange for the 41-year-old lefty, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports.

According to Peter Gammons' sources, Arizona will not immediately deal Vazquez to another team, but will continue to talk to interested teams, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit and Texas.

I'm not surprised that the deal has happened and it's been hashed over to death so I won't say much more on it. I do think this helps the 2005 Yankees, but I worry about the future of this team more and more. I think Vazquez will be a better pitcher next year than any non-Johnson Yankee starter, and wish him well wherever he winds up. I really think Arizona would be smart to try and convince him to stay there, but I think he will end up traded.

How about getting a CF now Mr. Steinbrenner? And a 2B?

In other news, Tino Martinez passed a physical and is expected to be back with the Yankees soon. The latest on Giambi is that he will end up remaining on the team, so if Tino is signed as a backup and defensive replacement I don't have a problem with it. If Giambi can't play, Tino as a starter would be a bad, bad thing. I think it would have been nice to give Andy Phillips a shot, plus he has the added cachet of being able to play all around the infield, but that's just not the Yankees modus operandi.

And Happy New Year to all of Larry's readers. Even you Red Sox fans.

Randy Johnson To Whine Like A Bitch Until Someone Trades Him To Yankees
by Larry Mahnken

The lastest:
"I know Randy wants to go, but I’m not just going to ship him away for his sake," said Garagiola. "I've got my own team to think about. And what’s this about him whining like a bitch if we don’t trade him? Is he kidding? He’s been bitching and moaning for the past year. It’s nothing new to us. He’s obsessed with the Yankees. Last month I caught him masturbating to a picture of George Steinbrenner. Yes, I know, it’s disgusting. He could’ve at least gone with Derek Jeter."

December 22, 2004

Death of a Three-Way
by Larry Mahnken

Just like last offseason's A-Rod fiasco, the media's done a pretty poor job covering the Randy Johnson trade. They ran too fast with preliminary reports, trying deperately to be first rather than being accurate. After the Dodgers filed some paperwork regarding the trade early yesterday morning, the media reported that the trade had been sent to the Commissioner's Office, that it was done. If this report was accurate, it would be a mere formality for Selig to approve the trade, so this would have been an appropriate time to evaluate the trade.

Of course, the media had been evaluating the trade ever since the first reports came out about it, even while the teams were denying that the reports were accurate. Hey, it was something to write about, and writing early gave the media a chance to write about it a few dozen times. I can appreciate that.

But in the end, it didn't happen, because the Dodgers weren't happy with how the deal left them. They got some prospects, and moving Shawn Green's big contract out of town freed up some cash, and freed up right field for J.D. Drew, and first base for Hee Seop Choi. They were able to lose the Acevedish Kaz Ishii, and got a decent replacement for Yhency Brazoban in Mike Koplove. And despite his youth and quality, Brad Penny's injury situation made Javier Vazquez a better bet. And therein lies the rub, because in the end Javy didn't want to go to Los Angeles, and when he refused to report to Los Angeles promptly for a physical examination, the Dodgers took the opening and pulled out.

So, that's the end of that. The Dodgers might get back in on the deal if a seperate trade can be worked out to send Vazquez somewhere else and bring Los Angeles something acceptable in return, but the Dodgers don't plan to work the phones on a trade they don't feel they need to make.

It's more likely that the Yankees will find another partner for their menage-a-trois, and I think they will. The fact that the Yankees were able to almost make the trade lends credence to the rumor that Johnson will only accept a trade to the Yankees. The fact that it was Moorad who called the Yankees to restart talks, and not the other way around, indicates that the Diamondbacks are looking to move Johnson out this offseason. This trade fell apart not because the Diamondbacks weren't satisfied, but because the other trade partner, the Dodgers, weren't. One thing it did was lay out the parameters for an acceptable trade from the Diamondbacks' point of view. The Yankees are in better position for this trade now than they were before the failed attempt was agreed to. They now know that this deal can happen, and they can get their man. Now all they need is a new third team.

And I think they'll find one. You may wonder why other teams would want to help the Yankees, but the way they're viewing it, they're helping themselves -- the Yankees are going to find some team to work with, and that team will get the benefits of the deal (remember, the Dodgers were the team that made out the best in the previous proposal), and if you sit out, you'll get nothing. So, it's in every team's best interest to try and get their fingers in the pot, and get something out of it for themselves.

Of course the trade might not happen at all, that's always a possibility. But unlike the A-Rod trade last year, which came down the Boston's refusal to pay for A-Rod's contract, this just comes down to players, and they're obviously out there. What's most puzzling of all is that the Diamondbacks were making out the worst of the three teams in the previous trade, and will likely do so again in whatever form the trade ultimately takes. They seem to be convinced that they will contend this year, but at the same time don't want to keep Johnson around. So they made a deal which gives them talent for 2005, but hurts them in the long-term. They'd really be better off trading Johnson for Duncan and Navarro, and spinning Vazquez off for prospects than they would be making the type of deal they eventually will.

But then, the Diamondbacks' front office has never been the most skilled in the game. They've succeeded in the past in large part through luck and the willingness to spend money to add proven players. On-field success doesn't necessarily indicate front office skill, nor does on-field failure necessarily indicate a lack of it.

So, the Yankees are stuck without the Big Unit for now, and will have to go back to work to try and get things patched together.

At the same time, they're working on filling the black hole of defensive ineptitude that has been center field. Carlos Beltran and Scott Boras met with Steinbrenner yesterday, the first major step of the courtship. If the Yanks can snag Beltran, they'll be making a huge addition to their team. Simply getting Bernie Williams' glove off the field can mean four or more extra wins a year for the team.

But there is a disturbing possibility. With J.D. Drew off the market, there are no great options left in center. There are no great options left for starting pitching, either. If they can't get Beltran and they can't get Johnson, they may be left with their pants down, and suddenly not look nearly as strong in 2005 as we were all anticipating.

December 21, 2004

December 19, 2004

Duncan and Navarro, We Hardly Knew Ye
by Fabian

Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan, or as they will often be referred to in the next few days, “two prospects”, figure to be joining the Los Angeles Dodgers organization sometime in the near future as part of the deal that has Randy Johnson landing in the Bronx. So, let’s find out who they are and why you should, or should not, care that they will be gone from the organization.

First things first, from an accolades point of view, Navarro has been a top 10 prospect since his ’02 season in my opinion and the height of his prospect status was following his sensational ’03 where most publications had him as the organization’s number 1 guy. Duncan was the Yankees top pick in the ’03 draft and many publications had him as a top 5 guy last year, and he is the consensus number 1 Yankee prospect following the completed ’04 season. In addition, Navarro won the best defensive C award for the Eastern League (AA) in this year’s best tools issue of Baseball America and Duncan received votes, but did not win, the best defensive 3B award for the Midwest League (A-), but made up for that by being voted the 3rd best prospect in the MWL and the 10th best prospect in the Florida State League (A+).

It is a combination of those awards/mentions, personal fondness, and statistical performance that makes me unhappy to see these two go. While many seem to be saying that it is a pity to lose Duncan, they also seem to be ignoring Navarro who I think may be more valuable down the road. The biggest knocks on Navarro seem to be against his size and how it affects his performance. As I’ve stated on many occasions in the past, sure, Navarro is short (listed height of 5’10’’), but it’s not as though he is a short and frail C. Rather he is short and stocky, which is part of the reason he picked up the nickname Pudgicito, the other part being his throwing arm. So, yeah, I guess it’d be great if he were built along the lines of Jorge or some other C, but as long as he gets the job done I don’t think the size will matter. As for whether or not the job will get done offensively, I seem to be in the minority.

In 2001, Dioner Navarro made his stateside debut playing in the Gulf Coast League, as a 17-year-old, which is young for the league, Navarro hit .280 with a solid .126 IsoP and an excellent 17:23 BB:K ratio. Having already demonstrated the ability to hit for average, power, and control the strike zone, Navarro apparently just needed to stay the course to become a star. While you will just have to trust me here since the information has since been lost, Navarro was well on his way to doing just that through the first half of the ’02 South Atlantic League season and then he simply just fell apart following the All Star break. This was somewhat predictable considering he was an 18-year-old C playing in his first full season, nevertheless, he still had some positive statistical indicators. The .238 average was embarrassing, but the 39:61 BB:K in 328 at bats was not, and neither was the .122 IsoP.

Showing that they understood the positives outweighed the negatives in ’02, the Yankee organization went ahead and placed Navarro as the starting C for the ’03 Tampa Yankees in the FSL, and that’s the point where he took off. While Robinson Cano got much of the prospect attention for that team early on, it was Navarro who was able to sustain and improve on his early season performance. By the All Star break it was clear that Navarro was in need of a promotion as he had hit .299 with a .168 IsoP and 17:27 BB:K ratio in the FSL as a 19-year-old C. For those of you “not in the know” those are some truly outstanding numbers and it was at that point that Navarro began to show up on the mainstream prospect radar. He then went on to certify his status by hitting .341 with a .130 IsoP and 18:26 BB:K ratio in 208 EL at bats.

So, 2+ years after his promising GCL debut, the switch-hitting C had been on the right path, and then it all fell apart in ’04, or so some would have you think. The first misstep in ’04 was coming to spring training out of shape. Some say it is inexcusable for a 20-year-old to be out of shape, but I tend to take a lighter stance with that incident. Either way, his actual statistical performance in ’04 was still poor to many. Those people tend to look at a .723 OPS in AA followed by a .676 in AAA and scoff at the merits of such a “prospect”, my view is different.

Firstly, I think it is worthwhile to note that in the period that Navarro was in Trenton the park played to a .902 PF. This may have little to no predictive value, but I feel it should be taken into consideration when evaluating performance at the level for the first half of the season. Basically, a .723 OPS in and of itself is under whelming, but considering the run-scoring environment for half the games and the player being 20-years-old I would be a little more forgiving. Also, of the components of his OPS, his .098 IsoP was extremely disappointing, but the 33:44 BB:K in 255 at bats was very encouraging, as that aspect of his game continued to mature.

The Yankees then moved Navarro up to AAA for the sake of advancing his trade value and Navarro proceeded to do what any reasonable observer would have expected, he struggled. In 136 at bats, Dioner could only manage a .250 average with a somewhat promising .110 IsoP and 14:17 BB:K ratio.

With all this in mind, I feel pretty safe that at the least, Navarro should be in the majors for sometime as guys who play good defense, and he reportedly does, can always hang around as backup C. As for the high-end of his potential, I think if everything works out, Navarro will be a player of similar value to Jason Kendall.

Moving on to Duncan, seen by many as the key prospect in the deal, his history in the Yankee system is much shorter as he was just drafted in ’03. Similar to Navarro, Duncan is adept at drawing walks with 18 in 180 at bats in the ’03 GCL, 2 in 59 NYPL ’03 at bats, 38 in 288 MWL at bats in ’04, and 31 in 173 FSL at bats in ’04. However, that is about where the offensive similarities between he and Navarro end.

While Navarro is adept at making contact, Duncan has more trouble doing the same. He struck out in 18.3% of GCL at bats, then 18.6% of NYPL at bats, then 29.2% of MWL at bats, and in 27.2% of FSL at bats. This trend has given many people cause for concern, but I wouldn’t really count myself too much as part of that crowd. Yes, Duncan, does strike out a lot, but part of the reason for that strikeout rate is that he consistently works deep counts and just like how patient big league hitters tend to have high strikeout rates, Duncan will also. In addition, though I have not come across any research concerning the minor leagues that says that at “X”% a strikeout rate is cause for great concern, I feel safe in thinking that Duncan has yet to reach that point from a purely subjective perspective. My view is only strengthened when I see that Baseball Prospectus’ prospect projection system sees Duncan’s K rate as a harbinger of great power to come, as opposed to a hitter like, say, Dallas McPherson whom the system seems to think will not be as great as many make him out to be, in part due to strike zone management past the danger zone.

Going back to the topic of Duncan’s power, which is his calling card as a prospect. It may seem ridiculous to some, but I have a hard time not believing that Eric Duncan is one of the top 10, at least, power prospects in the minor leagues. Duncan already has a career IsoP of .200, which is extremely impressive for a 20-year-old and this past year he posted a .219 in the MWL and a .208 in the FSL. Both marks would have had him in the top 5 of the respective leagues had he had time to qualify for either leader board. In addition, his extra base hit percentage of 52.9% would have you believe that his IsoP should be higher and that will come as soon as some of the 47(!) 2Bs and 3Bs he hit this year begin turning into home runs. Coinciding with the statistical power Duncan has shown, BA has in the past described some of his physical tools as reminiscent of Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, or Nick Johnson with more opposite field power.

In the end, the Randy Johnson trade will most certainly make the Yankees a better team in ’05, despite this; I am not sold on the idea. Part of it is that I love to see Yankees come up through the farm system and contribute to the big club, rather than the team just going out and getting the best “mercenary” available. In addition, I think that Navarro had a role with this team starting as the Jorge Posada to Jorge Posada’s Joe Girardi in the year ’06. Eric Duncan, I felt, had an outside chance of contributing sometime within the next two seasons, depending on how bad the Giambi/1B situation gets. Now, the chances of either of those things happening are gone and the organization is without its top C and CIF prospects, but alas, this is the price you have to pay to be a Yankee fan, and hey, it’s not like there’s a guarantee either of these guys will turn out to be anything at all, much less something special or worthwhile.

December 18, 2004

New York Daily News: At last, Randy Bronx bound!
by SG

Some changes from the earlier report include Kaz Ishii coming to the Bronx, and no money changing hands. Shawn Green still has to waive his no-trade clause, but Moorad is his former agent so it's likely that he will do so.

I still don't like giving up both Navarro and Duncan, but there's no question this makes the 2005 Yankees better. I will miss Javier Vazquez, and wish him well wherever he ends up. There are rumors that he will be spun off to the White Sox for Konerko and Garland. If he remains in LA, I would guess he will outperform both Wright and Pavano next year.

December 17, 2004

The Johnson Trade... Maybe?
by Larry Mahnken

I'll make some in-depth comments on the potential Johnson trade as soon as it's official. There seems to be some hang-ups right now, partly that Johnson might not waive his no-trade clause (wouldn't the New York media look foolish then!), and that the deal was actually contingent on the Dodgers resigning Adrian Beltre (which makes sense -- with Beltre, they could play Kent at first, without they need him at third, so they need Green at first). So this may be old news.

If the deal was contingent on Beltre, but Johnson's willing to waive his no-trade, then I have little doubt that the Yankees will get Johnson before spring training -- at the least, this proposed trade sets the framework for an acceptable trade from the Diamondbacks' perspective. But we'll see.

Added Thought: If this trade doesn't fall apart over the weekend, then it's pretty much a done deal, I'd say.

December 16, 2004

Yanks reach a deal for Randy
by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees would receive the 41-year-old Johnson in the deal while sending pitcher Javier Vazquez and two minor-league prospects, catcher Dioner Navarro and third baseman Eric Duncan, to the Dodgers, according to an Arizona source. The Dodgers would send pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban and outfielder/first baseman Shawn Green to Arizona to complete the deal.
I can live with this deal. The Yankees give up a couple of prospects that could be good but probably won't get a shot in pinstripes. It's not a great deal for the Yankees, but it's solid.

Amateur Hour
by Larry Mahnken

The Hardball Times and I were dissed by writer Spencer Fordin a couple of days ago, in particular for my Productive Outs article. Fordin seems to dismiss my article because of where it was published and who wrote it, not for its content. Whatever.

One point that he makes that does ring true was that my comment at the end of the article: "Buster Olney either knows he's wrong, and doesn't have the guts to admit it, or he's a fool." was amateur and unecessary. He's absolutely right.

I shouldn't have written that, and I wince every time I go back and read it. I was looking for a tidy ending to the article, and wrote that. I suppose an editor normally would have caught it and lifted it out, but Aaron and the other editors generally don't edit our content, just typos and formatting, etc.

If Buster is perchance reading this (fat chance), I'd like to apologize. Your theory about Productive Outs was wrong, but I was wrong to insult you.

December 14, 2004 - MLB - D-Backs try to revive Unit talks with Yankees
by Larry Mahnken

Jeff Moorad, the Diamondbacks' incoming chief executive officer, called Yankees president Randy Levine, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity.

Moorad asked if anything was new on Johnson but did not make a new proposal, and the discussion ended there, the official said.
If this is true, then Johnson should be a Yankee relatively soon.

by Larry Mahnken

I think Yankees fans can identify with how Red Sox fans must feel today. We went through something similar a year ago. It wasn't quite the same, of course, but it was quite a shock.

When Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, it stunned most of New York. Obviously, we knew that there was a mutual interest between Pettitte and Houston, but it seemed like Andy's love of the Yankees and the Yankees' love of Pettitte would overcome that, and he'd be back.

But apparently the Yankees' love of Pettitte wasn't as strong as we thought it was, and they made a tepid pursuit of him. We waited for him to be signed every day, until the one day when the news came out that he wasn't coming back, he was going home.

It didn't kill the Yankees' rotation, though it did leave them bereft of lefty starting pitching. I think it would be silly to blame the Yankees' failure in the ALCS on that, but I've digressed quite a bit now...

Yesterday Red Sox nation found out that it's very likely that they're going to lose Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets. I'm no fan of the Mets, but they've done the Yankees a great favor, even though it's going to cost the Bombers some back page headlines. They've taken from the Red Sox one of the best pitchers in baseball, and while the Yankees have historically done quite well against that pitcher, there's no way you can say that this isn't good for the Yankees.

Boston will almost certainly turn to Matt Clement to fill their #2 pitching spot now, but even if they get him, Clement is no Pedro. The Yankees' rotation matches up pretty solidly against Boston's now, and if the Yankees can sign Carlos Beltran I have to call them the favorites to win the AL East again. Even with the mediocre moves they've made in the rotation, they haven't really gotten any worse in that aspect of the game. By losing Pedro, the Red Sox get worse.

Still, Boston's not going away. They'll use that money on Clement, they'll direct some of it towards Edgar Renteria and Jason Varitek. They'll come back strong in 2005, they'll be as tough a team to beat as any other in baseball. But they'll be a little bit worse than they could have been, and for the Yankees that's good news.

December 13, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

From Sons of Sam Horn:

Babelfish translation of this article

Another Latin torpedo boat in Boston? To find a substitute for Trimming Goatherd is one of the great priorities that have the Red Averages at the moment By RED ENRIQUE

Santo Domingo (AP) - Besides to retain to the Pedro thrower Martinez and the receiver Jason Varitek, to find a substitute for the torpedo boat Trimming Goatherd she is one of the great priorities that at the moment have the Red Averages of Boston. The substitute could leave the own rows of the world-wide champions, taking into account a conversation between John Henry, proprietor of the Red Averages, and the Dominican torpedo boat Hanley Ramirez, the best one I prospect of the organization by three years followed.

"Henry asked to me that in where I saw myself playing in the 2005 and said to him that in Pawtucket, our triple branch A", Ramirez said to the AP.

"Pero he said me that it go to the primaverales training prepared with the idea that could be the regular torpedo boat in Fenway Park", Ramirez added. "Me I laughed nervous and moved by those palabras".

The conversation between Henry and Ramirez took place Wednesday, when a mission of the Red Averages visited Dominican Republic to attend the celebration of the first anniversary of the development academy that runs the organization here.

Ramirez, of 20 years, is projected by the Red Averages like the regular torpedo boat of the club for the 2006, but the game of Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Goatherd, plus the great work of the Dominican one in the winter league, could accelerate the process.

After two years of discharges and losses, in the land and outside this one, Ramirez it managed to put together all in the 2004. In the summer, Ramirez divided their time between the leagues of Sarasota (a) and Portland (AA), batting 310 of combined form. He was the Player of the Year of the Red Averages in Sarasota, member of the equipment All Stars of Liga of the East and I prospect number one of Boston. He integrated themselves to the Tigers of the Licey from the first day of the winter season and was selected the Player of the Week in the first seven days of action.

An annoyance in the back removed to the player of action in happened the two weeks of the winter league. "Ya I am recovered and ready to play when the Licey me necesite", Ramirez said, who bats 257 with five home runs and 16 races towed in the winter league.

by Larry Mahnken

You could look at it this way:

- Carl Pavano (3.00 ERA in 2004, 4.21 Career ERA)replaces Jon Lieber (4.33 ERA in 2004, 4.20 Career ERA)
- Jaret Wright (3.28 ERA in 2004, 5.09 Career ERA) replaces Esteban Loaiza (5.71 ERA in 2004, 4.70 Career ERA) and Jose Contreras (5.50 ERA in 2004, 4.85 Career ERA)
- Tony Womack (.735 OPS in 2004, .681 Career OPS) replaces Miguel Cairo (.763 OPS in 2004, .692 Career OPS)

In all three of the moves the Yankees have made, they are getting essentially the same production as they did the year before from the same position, and at both the pitching positions they're getting appreciably younger.

Of course, the Yankees paid about $11 million in total for that production last season, and they'll be paying close to $19 million for it in 2005 -- that's before paying the luxury tax, too. Inflation's a bitch.

That's not to say that the Yankees could have paid $11 million for the old players, either. Jon Lieber would have cost about $8 million to keep, Miguel Cairo would have cost $2 million, and Esteban Loaiza would have cost them four or five wins. But that's not the point, that they're paying more for the same production, but rather that they could have spent this money better. The market appears to be valuing these mediocre pitchers at about the level the Yankees are paying them at, but that doesn't mean they're really worth it.

The only real ace on the market appears to be Pedro Martinez, who had a 3.90 ERA last year -- the highest of his career, and has long been saddled with health concerns. But that ERA was largely the result of four starts where he gave up seven or more earned runs and had an ERA of 12.46. His ERA in his other 29 starts was 2.95, and he pitched 217 innings. He's still Pedro.

He would have cost more than Pavano, but is almost certain to outperform him over the length of his contract, and he'll give the Yankees what they so desperately want -- an ace. But it looks like Martinez is likely to go back to Boston, although the deal isn't finished yet.

If the Yankees sign Carlos Beltran, I think they'll win 100 games again and the AL East. I think they'll do better against the Red Sox in the regular season and playoffs next year than they did this year, I think they'll go back to the World Series. If they don't sign Beltran, they should still make the playoffs, but I think it'll be tighter, and they probably won't beat out Boston.

According to this New York Times article, the Yankees are just beginning their courtship of Carlos Beltran, and they're also not particularly interested in trading Javier Vazquez or Kevin Brown. I don't necessarily believe either of the last two statements, but it could be an indication that they're resigned to the likelihood that they'll be unable to trade for Randy Johnson or dump Brown without paying his entire salary and getting nothing in return. And as much as I'd like to have RJ, I view both of those developments as positives.

December 10, 2004

So, what's next?
by SG

Trying to get the bad taste out of my mouth of the Womack/Wright signings, I figured I'd look at some of the rumors that are floating around about other potential Yankee moves.

From this article in the 12/9 edition of the New York Post (I know, it's the Post, so it's about as reliable as Gammons):

While focusing on upgrading their rotation, the Yankees haven't forgotten about Carlos Beltran.

With Jason Giambi's pinstriped future cloudy at best, the Yankees not offering John Olerud, Tony Clark and Travis Lee arbitration, the best first basemen on the free-agent market are Richie Sexson and Carlos Delgado. However, an industry source told The Post yesterday that those sluggers aren't in the Yankee plans.

"That money is going to be used for Beltran," the source said.

Obviously, this would be a huge signing for the Yankees. With rumors rampant that the Angels will be signing Steve Finley, that drops one potential competitor for Beltran's services out of the mix. Beltran is supposedly seeking a 10 year deal, which would make him 38 at the end of the contract. As a player who grew up idolizing Bernie Williams, I'd just hope that he doesn't age the way Bernie did. He does have better baseball instincts than Bernie, so he may age better, but I'd probably try to sign him for five or six years maximum.

Bringing back Tino Martinez, who left after the 2001 World Series and was replaced by Giambi, would be a popular move for Yankee fans, but he was 37 Tuesday and there are questions as to how much Martinez has left. He batted .262 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs for the Devil Rays a year ago.

It wouldn't be popular with this Yankee fan. Like the blurb says, Tino is now 37, and as one of Torre's "guys", I could see him playing full time, contributing a .320/.420 line while playing solid defense. I don't know that I'd throw big money at Delgado either, and Sexson is not attractive to me as a right-handed power hitter coming off injury. The team needs to get more left-handed on offense IMO, especially if Giambi is unable to play or is gone. There is very little else available once you get past Sexson and Delgado. I'd still consider having Bernie try and learn 1B, but I don't think that's likely.

Carl Pavano and Eric Milton are looking for a little more than the Yankees want to spend, but the differences aren't wide enough to kill deals. In fact, after believing Pavano was going to remain a Marlin, the Yankees now think they have a chance to sign the right-hander, who according to sources has been offered a $40 million deal for four years.

The left-handed Milton is looking for a three-year pact worth between $24 million and $26 million.

I really hope Milton stays greedy and winds up signing with Anaheim or Detroit or something. As far as Pavano, I'm not really enamored of him, but I think he'd be a better signing than Milton, even at a few million more per year. I still think Matt Clement would be a better signing than either one of them, especially since he'd be cheaper, but Yankees apparently have concerns about his makeup. Must be that facial hair of his. As much as the thought initially repulsed me, signing Pedro Martinez may be the best thing the Yankees can do. He'll be a little more expensive than the rest of these guys, but he'll be a lot better.

Then there is Randy Johnson. The White Sox-Yankee-Diamondback three-way rumor gained fuel yesterday but the Yankees said they haven't heard from Arizona in more than a week.

The three way rumor is the Yankees sending Vazquez to the White Sox, the White Sox sending Paul Konerko, and John Garland to Arizona, and some Yankee prospects also going to Arizona. I still dislike giving up Vazquez, but if Pavano is signed, he could fill that slot. The Yankees are also probably looking to move Kevin Brown to someone, probably for nothing of value and eating a good portion of his contract. Too bad they couldn't make a Brown + prospects + cash trade for Marcus Giles, but they just don't have the chips to do it.

Also, the Yankees added a lefty to their bullpen with the signing of 35-year-old Goo Dae-seong, a Korean pitcher who's been pitching in the Japanese leagues. He's been a mediocre starter, but supposedly has a tricky delivery that will be effective against lefties. The Yankees signed him for 2 years, $3.5 million.

Goo ended his career in the Japanese League with unsatisfactory numbers of 24 wins and 34 losses, five wins and 10 losses this year, and an ERA of 4.39, but the Yankees evaluated Goo to be an effective pitcher against lefty batters since he steps to the mound while covering the ball behind his back. Jo said, “The Yankees hopes Goo will handle lefty batters such as Boston’s David Ortiz.”

This move is annoying to me, best case he's Mike Myers, worst case, he's the Run Fairy™ part deux. He also makes it that much harder for Halsey to break in in the bullpen. Halsey owned lefties in his brief major league stint, I'd rather have him in that spot. This also precludes the signing of Steve Kline most likely, which doesn't necessarily bother me all that much. As it is, the bullpen is getting awfully crowded.

Felix Rodriguez
Goo Dea-seong

This is before they re-sign Smoke & Mirrors™, whom they want to retain, and have to offer a contract by 12/20 to do so. They do need a long reliever, as the rest of the pen are primarilyy short relievers. Also, with Colter Bean finally getting added to the 40 man roster, I am hopeful he gets a chance to show what he can do in the majors at some point this season. Cashman has made noise about a twelve man pitching staff, which doesn't make much sense. A bench of Flaherty, Sierra, Womack or some other backup infielder, and either Tino or some other backup 1B is ridiculously limited and thin.

I fear that Gordon will be traded, due to his disappointing postseason and the acquisition of Felix Rodriguez, who is not in Gordon's league.

There's still a lot of roster shuffling remaining, so let's hope that the first two terrible signings will be forgotten by some smarter signings and/or trades in the coming months.

December 9, 2004

Blast From The Past--A $1000 Giant Mistake
by John Brattain

Would a thousand dollars rewrite baseball history?

Looking at history, one cannot help being amazed at how seemingly inconsequential occurrences can shape the future in ways that nobody would ever expect. The world today may well not have happened had it not been for what happened on October 31, 1517. It was that date when Catholic cleric, Martin Luther, enraged by the Vatican's selling of "indulgences" (a sort of "get out of Purgatory free" card), nailed 95 points of protest on a church door in Wittenberg. From that one act sprang the Protestant Reformation, which lead the way out of the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. From there, humanity ushered in the Industrial Revolution that lead up to the world of today.

The Yankees spent $1000 and possibly changed the course of both American and National League history. A young Eddie Ford had two choices before him. Should he sign with the New York Giants or the New York Yankees? If Ford signed with the National League Giants, he would have been given a bonus of $6000. If Ford inked a contract with the New York Yankees, his bonus would be $7000. The Giants would not budge on their offer so Ford became the property of the New York Yankees. Between the time Ford threw his first pitch of the 1950 season until he threw his final ball of the of the 1967 campaign the Yankees would win 12 pennants, the New York Giants would win three. Over that stretch the Bronx Bombers would cop eight world championships meanwhile the Giants would win one. Yes, the Yankees had Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and other greats dot their roster but championships are won and lost 60'6" from home plate. Over the course of Eddie "Whitey" Ford's career, the New York/San Francisco Giants would win nine World Series' games -- Ford would win 10.

It's amazing what you can buy for $1000 dollars.

Equally amazing was that Whitey Ford reached the big leagues at all. He didn't even look like a pitcher. Pitchers were supposed to be big men with scowling faces and blazing fastballs. Hitters were supposed to quake in fear as the snarling, unshaven Vic Raschi would challenge hitters with high heat. They were to be like Allie Reynolds who terrified batters with white hot fastballs that went from light to shadow in late afternoons at Yankee Stadium. Ford was all of 5'10 170 lb. and looked more choirboy than anything.

Several scouts looked in on a young Whitey Ford and focused on superficial things; he was too small, he lacked an overpowering fastball, he was not a prospect. In doing so they neglected the very things that separates the great pitchers from the merely good. Young Ford was not a thrower, but a pitcher. Ford knew the art behind the athleticism. He knew how to get hitters out. He hated to lose and had the guts of a burglar.

Ford enjoyed a stellar minor league career and he knew it too. As the Yankees were struggling to shake the Boston Red Sox down the stretch in 1949, Ford took it upon himself to call Yankees' manager Casey Stengel to offer his services. Stengel surprised, declined. However Stengel had a fondness for players with confidence in their abilities and so he was invited to Spring Training in 1950.

There was one thing though, that Ford had to learn before he enjoyed big league success.

This lesson was taught to Ford during the first Spring Training of the 1950's. His attitude in camp caused other players to nickname him "The Fresh Young Busher." Since Ford's approach to pitching was successful in the minor leagues, he felt it would in the majors too.

Not so.

Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner had asked crafty southpaw Eddie Lopat to tutor the brash youngster. Both Lopat and Ford were the same size and neither threw blazing heat. However Ford was a minor league success, whereas Lopat, who was 82-70 at that point of his career (51-49 over four years in Chicago on teams that did not finish above .500 once during his tenure there), was a major league success. Lopat knew how to get major league hitters out. Ford thought he knew and was not open to coaching.

A quick trip to Kansas City focused his mind on the idea that there were still things to be learned.

When called up later that season, Ford went 9-1.

Stengel handled young Ford carefully spotting him against weaker teams. Impressed with his savvy, Stengel decided to throw Ford into the heat of battle. In mid September, the Yankees were in first place..barely. The Detroit Tigers were a half game behind the Bronx Bombers, and were slated for a crucial mid-September showdown in Detroit. Stengel had now developed confidence in Ford. So despite being on the road, playing in a bandbox ballpark, the Yankee manager gave the rookie the ball to start game three of that series.

Ford did not disappoint.

In a tightly pitched ballgame, Ford held the Tigers offense in check, the score 1-1 heading into the top of the ninth. The Yankees' offense then exploded for seven runs. Detroit would hang tough, but the Yankees would go on to clinch the American League flag by three games over Detroit.

Two things now loomed in Ford's future, the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies and military service. The Yankees raced ahead 3-0 in the Fall Classic. Stengel, mindful of Ford's upcoming hitch in the military, coupled with his superlative rookie season, gave him the start for Game Four. Ford threw eight and two-thirds innings of shutout ball. With two on and two out Ford got the final out on a pop fly to outfielder Gene Woodling.

Woodling dropped it.

That error and a hit lead to a couple of unearned runs, so Stengel brought out his favorite secret weapon: Allie Reynolds. Throwing into the stadium shadows Reynolds went called strike one, two, and three.

Suffice it to say, Stengel could hardly wait until Ford returned from the military.

From "The Fresh Young Busher" to "Chairman of the Board"

Whitey Ford's return to the Yankees in 1953 could not have come at a more opportune time. Staff ace Vic Raschi's arthritic knees had limited his turns in the rotation. Ford stepped right in and won 18 games as the Yankees again won the pennant. Stengel decided to pitch Ford in the fourth game of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He did not last long and was replaced in the second inning after giving up three runs in the first. Stengel again handed him the ball for Game Six and pitched extremely well and then relieved by Allie Reynolds late in the game to nail down the World Championship for the Yankees.

Ford pitched well in 1954 winning 16 games. However the Cleveland Indians won 111 games and the Yankees would not represent the American League in the World Series. Vic Raschi was dealt to the Cardinals that year and the mantle of staff ace now fell to Ford. In 1955, Ford started the season on fire winning six of his first seven starts, including three shutouts. Ford won 18 games that season as manager Stengel would hold out Ford to pitch against teams they were trying to outrace for the American League flag. The Yankees clinched the pennant in the season's final week. Just as in 1953, they would face the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Ford was shaky in the first game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, but got the win, pitching eight innings. The Yankees won the second game and headed to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodgers won all three games. The series shifted back to the Bronx in a must-win game for the Bronx Bombers. Ford was given the start and went the distance winning 5-1. It went for naught as Dodgers' southpaw Johnny Podres twirled a shutout sending Brooklyn into a frenzy. During the offseason the Yankees toured Japan. In a game against the Tokyo Giants--after a night of revelry--produced a play that would have been a classic baseball blooper. The Giants had a man on second and Ford wanted to try a pickoff play. Unfortunately Gil McDougald who was playing shortstop and Billy Martin who was at second base--still recovering from the previous evening's festivities--didn't see the signal. Ford whirled around and fired a strike to second base that bounced off the forehead of a large Japanese umpire (since no one was covering second). The umpire barely blinked. McDougald went to check on the umpire to see if he had been hurt. The umpire regarded McDougald impassively, never changing expression. Apprised of this, McDougald went to the mound to inform Ford, telling him: "Whitey, that's the [expletive]ing tip-off on you. When you can hit a guy dead center from sixty feet and you don't even leave a mark on him. Pal, can you imagine what it's like to play in the infield behind you?"

1956 brought 19 wins and another pennant for the Yankees. On September 16, in Chicago's Comiskey Park, the White Sox Billy Pierce faced off against Ford. After ten innings the game was knotted at 1-1. In the top of the eleventh Mickey Mantle stroked a solo home run and Ford came out to finish what he started. The final out of that game brought along with it the American League pennant. A young 22 year old Baltimore Orioles rookie foiled Ford's attempt at his first 20 win season, shutting out the Yankees 1-0 in Ford's final start of the regular season.

Along with the flag came yet another Fall Classic against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ford got the start in Game One but tiny Ebbets Field was a graveyard for lefties of every stripe. After three innings, Ford had to call it a day. The series shifted back to the Bronx with the Yankees down 2-0. Yankee Stadium, unlike Ebbets Field, was a boon to southpaws and Ford was given the start in Game Three as Stengel hoped to stop the bleeding. In the first two games the Yankee bullpen had to pitch 14 innings. The Yankees needed Ford to go deep into the game or the pitching staff could be in serious jeopardy.

Ford went the distance giving the Yankees their first win, and the bullpen a much needed rest.

The Yankees' Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Game Five of the series. In Game Seven, Yankee sophomore righthander Johnny Kucks tossed a shutout at Ebbets Field, giving Ford his third World Series ring.

The spring of 1957 was bitter for Ford. In an April game against the Washington Senators he injured his arm after warming up too quickly after a long sixth inning by the Yankee offense. His next start against the Red Sox caused the pain to reappear and an early May start against the White Sox did him in. The doctor prescribed rest. Ford would win just 11 games that season. The Yankees won the pennant and faced the Milwaukee Braves. Ford defeated Warren Spahn in Game one, and shut out in Game Five by Lew Burdette. The Yankees fell in seven games.

The clouds hovering over Ford cleared to partly sunny skies. The Yankees were eager to avenge themselves on the Braves, but had to reach the World Series first (and hoping the Braves would do likewise). Ford had a magical run in July throwing a trifecta of shutouts. On August 8, Ford threw his seventh shutout of the year against the Red Sox. A couple of days later, Stengel called him in to relieve and Ford reinjured his arm. His shutout against the Red Sox would be his fourteenth and final win of 1958. The Yankees again won the American League pennant and, again, faced the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series. The Yankees had their revenge in seven games but it was not Ford's finest hour. He did not win in three starts and posted a series ERA of 4.11.

Nothing went right for the Yankees in 1959. An epidemic of injuries swept the Yankees early in the season and the Bronx Bombers could not get on track. Ford managed to win 16 games, but that seemed irrelevant unless it was 16 wins in a pennant winning season. The following season Ford's injury bug returned for a time. However Ford's shoulder got better just in time to climax an awesome pennant drive as the Yankees won their final 15 games. Ford for his part won his final three starts and seemed primed for an awesome World Series. Casey Stengel had a decision to make. Ford was hot, but his injury woes over the last few seasons were a concern. In what might have been the pivotal decision in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stengel decided to start, not Whitey Ford in Game One, but Art Ditmar. Ford was unbeatable at Yankee Stadium and they wanted to keep Ford in reserve until Game Three. That would mean Ford could only pitch two, not three games in the Fall Classic. Ford threw shutouts in Games Three and Six but the Yankees lost Game Seven on a ninth inning home run by Bill Mazeroski.

The March To Cooperstown

Changes swept the Yankee organization after the 1960 season. Gone was general manager George Weiss and field boss Casey Stengel was replaced by Ralph Houk. This would mark a change for Ford. Instead of being held out to face the toughest teams, Ford would now pitch every fourth day. That, combined with his best health in years produced an awesome season. Ford would go 25-4 easily winning the Cy Young Award. However it was the home run hitting exploits of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle that garnered all the headlines.

The Yankees again won the pennant.

The regular season may have belonged to Maris and Mantle, but the Fall Classic belonged to Whitey Ford. Ford won two games and, as he did in 1960, and again did not surrender a single run. It was the second of Babe Ruth's records to fall in 1961. Maris beat the home run record, but Ford topped Ruth's record of consecutive shutout innings in the World Series. Ford later quipped that it was not a good year for Babe Ruth and commissioner Ford Frick had already used up his only asterisk on Roger Maris.

Injuries resurfaced in 1962 for Ford. After pitching seven no-hit innings against the Los Angeles Angels, Ford strained his arm and was out for a month. Still Ford finished 17-8. Ford would get three starts in the series against the San Francisco Giants winning one, losing one and getting a no decision. However Ralph Terry pitched a shutout in Game Seven and Whitey Ford would win his last World Championship. 1963 didn't start well as Ford went through Spring Training with a sore arm. Ford was now 34 and some might have wondered whether athletic age was catching up with him. These thoughts were not dispelled when he opened the campaign 0-2. Ford quickly rebounded winning ten of eleven, after his one loss in that run he rattled off twelve straight and then five of his last six, finishing the season 24-7. Along with that triumph came another pennant and an old-new foe in the Fall Classic, the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Dodgers. However he faced up against Sandy Koufax twice, losing twice as the Dodgers swept the series.

1964 was a roller coaster ride for the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers were holding their own until an August injury to Ford threw the pitching staff into disarray. However Ford came back firing on all cylinders and the Yankees rebounded to capture the pennant.

It would be Whitey Ford's last one.

Despite the strong finish, there was something very wrong with Whitey Ford. He pitched Game One of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and was hit hard.

He would never pitch in another World Series game.

Without Ford, the Yankees would lose the series in seven games.

Ford wasn't getting blood circulation to his left shoulder and often lost feeling in his fingers. He once had to use a small spray bottle full of warm water on his left hand so he could feel the ball. He was later disallowed from using it as an opposing manager complained he was doctoring the ball. Ford snapped that if he needed to cheat to beat the complaining manager's team, he'd retire. Ford would win 16 games in 1965 and just two in both 1966 and 1967 and would indeed do just that, retired.

The Giants could always take solace in the fact they saved $1000.

Driving a Ford

  • Whitey Ford would lead the American League in wins three times (1955, 1961 and 1963).
  • Whitey Ford was named to eight All Star Teams.
  • Whitey Ford won a pair of ERA crowns in 1956 and 1958.
  • Whitey Ford's records for World Series wins (10) and most consecutive shutout innings in World Series play still stand.
  • Ford's 236 wins as a Yankee are still the team record.
  • Ford's .690 career winning percentage is second highest in the 20th century behind another Yankee (Spud Chandler --.717)
  • Ford's .690 career winning percentage is tied for second all time in baseball history. Bob Caruthers also had a .690 winning percentage (218-99) in the 19th century.
  • Spud Chandler and Bob Caruthers however are not in the Hall of Fame.
  • Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle were inducted together into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
  • Ford also owns team records in both shutouts (45) and strike outs (1956).

December 8, 2004

Out With the Old, In With the Crap
by Larry Mahnken

When George Steinbrenner got suspended in the early 90's for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield (a noble endeavor, if ever there was one!), Gene Michael was given free rein over the organization. He built the team up as he saw fit, and by 1993, only three seasons after having the worst record in the American League, the Yankees were challenging the Blue Jays for first place all year.

Michael had put together his team based not on reputations and tools, but performance. The Yankees lineups in the 90's were built around the sabermetric principle of getting on base -- that's not to say that they were a sabermetric organization, but rather that they grasped one of the key principles of the theory, that the most important thing for an offensive player to do is not make an out.

As the century rolled over, and the A's became an openly sabermetric team, many looked at the Yankees and pointed out that they had been doing many of the same things already. To Michael Kay, that meant that they A's were copying the Yankees, because to Michael Kay, that's the way the world works. To some statheads, that meant the Yankees were a sabermetric organization. Well, they weren't quite, but they were not that far removed. To the Yankees, performance mattered, which absurdly enough, doesn't seem to be the case for a lot of teams.

If that's still the case for the Yankees, they've developed a severe case of myopia. To kick off the free agent season, they've made two ludicrous signings, Jaret Wright and Tony Womack. And they paid good money for this, too.

Of course these signings are going to be lauded in the media. And not just the New York media, but around the country, where analysts are often just as myopic as, oh, let's say the Mets. And here's why:

Jaret Wright: 15-8, 3.28 ERA
Tony Womack: .307, 91 Runs Scored, and he's a smallish middle infielder, so he must be a good defensive player!

And here's why they aren't good signings:

Jaret Wright: 2-5, 7.35 ERA, 5.12 DIPS
Tony Womack: .226, .558 OPS -- .415 OPS with THE ROCKIES!!!

Jaret Wright: 2-3, 15.71 ERA, 6.50 DIPS
Tony Womack: .271, .678 OPS

Jaret Wright: 2-2, 6.52 ERA, 5.05 DIPS
Tony Womack: .266, .652 OPS

Both of these players had the best years of their career last season, and it wasn't even close. Wright's best ERA before last season was 4.38 in 90.1 innings in his rookie season. He hasn't cracked 4.70 otherwise. Womack's career year last year still only mustered a .734 OPS, he's only reached .700 two other times -- .700 with Pittsburgh in 1997 and .702 with the Dbacks in 1999. That's it. Wright has a career 5.09 ERA, Womack has a career .681 OPS, and no, Womack's not a good second baseman.

Even if Womack, at 35, somehow repeated his 2004 next year, he wouldn't be adding anything to the Yankees, and while at 29 it's possible that Jaret Wright has found himself, it's more likely that Leo Mazzone got to him. Now Mel Stottlemyre gets to him.

The one non-negative that I can see from the Womack signing is that when he inevitably doesn't hit, Torre will almost be forced to give Robinson Cano a chance to play, and that may well pay huge dividends for them in the long haul.

If these signings are going to be the cornerstones of the Yankees' 2004-05 offseason, then it's going to be a long season in the Bronx. They'll be depending on a lot of things that went wrong last year going right next year. If they can pull off a Randy Johnson trade and sign Carlos Beltran, they should be stronger going into the season, but with Wright and likely Milton forming the creamy filling of their rotation, they're going to need the new deep bullpen they're assembling, and they'll probably be winning and losing a lot of slugfests.

The money they've thrown at Womack and Wright and that they're likely to throw at Milton, would have been better spent on someone like Matt Clement, or if they wanted to spend a little more, Pedro. Coming into 2004 they looked to have a rotation that could dominate the game, but it didn't work out. The 2005 rotation's upside looks to be that the middle of the rotation might not get the crap beaten out of it by everyone.

This is not how you spend $200 million wisely. This is not how Gene Michael would have done things. I suspect that it's not how Brian Cashman wanted to do things, either.

Yanks sign Womack, Wright
by SG

I am stupified. Two horrible signings IMO. Tony Womack has a career .319 OBP and was rated as -13 RAA defensively last year at 2B. I'm sure Torre will make him the everyday starter and leadoff man though. Two years? $4 million dollars? Miguel Cairo was not offered arbitration either.

Jaret Wright has a career 5.09 ERA. He did have a good year last year, but that was under the tutelage of Leo Mazzone, and in the National League. I don't see a repeat of that, certainly not under Mel "Career Killer" Stottlemyre. The rumor is that Wright will be getting Kris Benson money. This signing makes the Benson signing look like sheer brilliance.

This offseason has been a nightmare so far. This Yankee run had to end at some point, but the Yankees are doing everything they can to speed it along. In addition, they are loading up with people who not only could stink, but will be difficult to root for. Tony Womack, the guy who helped Arizona beat Mo? Jaret Wright, the punk from Cleveland who was always throwing at the Yankees?

This is very disappointing news. I just need to hear about the Milton signing now, and I can go jump off a bridge.

December 7, 2004

December 2, 2004

The Giambino’s Faustian Bargain
by Sean McNally

In the coming weeks, days and months, the general sports media is going to savage Jason Giambi until he is dead.

Then they're going to do it again. And again. And again.

Outside the Lines. The Sports Reporters. Mike and the Mad Dog. SportsCenter. PTI. Around the Horn. Sports Illustrated. The New York Post . . . the list goes on and on and on. And all of them are going to line up to take their shots at the Yankee first baseman.

There's a scene in an old episode of The West Wing, where C.J. Cregg, the fictional press secretary compares the White House staff to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid staring over the edge of a cliff worrying that they shouldn’t jump in the rapids below because they might drown.

"The fall's gonna kill you."

Well, I don't know if the fall's going to kill Jason Giambi, but the fall is likely going to be hard, fast and painful - and there’s no pill or shot to make it better.

Giambi told a grand jury, under promise of legal immunity and threat of perjury, that he knowingly ingested steroids early throughout his baseball career and used human growth hormone in 2003, providing the Rick Reillys, Jay Marriottis and Skip Baylesses of the world with their smoking gun.

HA! We caught the cheater! And now for the rest of his career, Giambi (and the others who will be named) will be crucified on crosses of syringes, vials and cream.

It's the price of admission.

At some point in his career, a young third baseman named Jason saw the big dollars and the fast cars and the hot lifestyle and made a deal with the devil, and now the devil's getting his due. Is it conclusive that the steroids made Giambi the slugging first sacker so coveted in the 2002 off season? No, but we can say that they probably didn't hurt. A lifetime of public derision and scorn was not a clause included in his seven-year, $120 million contract, but its part of that other deal he made.

In his story, Faust sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and power…. Now Giambi may have gotten power out of his deal, but it came with the knowledge that one day he could be found out.

I can't say with certainty if Giambi's miserable 2004 was the result of steroid use, and you know what? Neither can anyone else. We can paint a picture, we can connect vague and perhaps coincidental dots, but we cannot yet say that correlation equals causation.

It's entirely possible that Giambi comes out and hits like a house of fire next season. 35 homers. 130 RBIs. An over-.400 OBP… I hope he does. But it's equally possible that he stumbles again, and the boo birds and the hecklers and the writers will circle over him and pick at him all season.

The devil is coming to collect on Jason Giambi, and regardless of what the production is on the field, this albatross will hang 'round his neck forever - it will be included in feature stories, columns and his obituary, much the way that its attached to Ken Caminitti.

"Jason Giambi, admitted steroid user and 2000 MVP winner. . . "

It’s a price that I’m sure Giambi never figured he’d have to pay.

December 1, 2004

Randy Johnson to New York
by Larry Mahnken

ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting that a deal sending Randy Johnson to the Yankees for Javier Vazquez could be completed next week.

Boston Dirt Dogs is reporting that the Diamondbacks will receive Vazquez, Eric Duncan, another player (possibly Tom Gordon) and about $4 million for each of the next three seasons to cover Vazquez's contract. The Diamondbacks may then look to move Vazquez to another team since they believe he would demand a trade next winter.
What an unbelievably stupid trade for the Yankees, if it goes down like this. I wouldn't trade Vazquez for Johnson straight-up, because I think that Vazquez is very very likely to turn it around, and Johnson has knee problems and is 41. R.J. is of course more likely to have a dominant season than Vazquez next year, but Vazquez will likely have more value over the next three seasons than Johnson.

Throw in Duncan, a great young prospect who I think could fetch someone useful by himself at the trade deadline if he has a strong first half at AA this year, and it becomes a very difficult trade to accept. If Gordon's part of the deal, it's quite probably the most idiotic trade they've made since Steinbrenner returned.

The curse of the ALCS is that it's overshadowed everything that happened in the regular season. Their rotation struggled all year, and everyone expected it to cost them in October. But the rotation stepped it up in the playoffs, and the only game the starting pitching cost them was Game Seven of the ALCS. What really cost them was their overworked pen, and their lack of clutch hitting in the last four games of the series. Does the rotation need improvement? Yes, but not at the expense of the bullpen, and the improvement from Johnson isn't as huge as his name recognition would lead you to believe.

The Yankees should just sign Pedro if they're so intent on getting an ace. His 2004 numbers were average, but he really will be outstanding if used right, and he'll only cost money.