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January 4, 2006

Chass: Yankees show an ugly face
by SG

Linked above is a hatchet job by Murray Chass, basically ripping the Yankees for not allowing their players to play for Bud Selig's "World Baseball Classic."

While the idea of a international tournament of the best baseball players in the world is mildly interesting, I don't think it's worth the risk to the players involved, particularly the pitchers.

From the link:

No surprise there. Any time the Yankees are involved in a joint venture, they take a position most advantageous to themselves, often at the expense of others. This is the case with the Classic, the 16-team tournament that will be played in March.

That's certainly unusual for a business entity in a capitalist country.

Steinbrenner was once active in the Olympic movement in the United States, but in his view, the March Classic will not benefit the Yankees. What's in it for them? An increase in international interest in baseball? An increase in international marketing revenue for baseball? The Yankees, Steinbrenner would say if he were willing to speak publicly, do well enough on their own, generating revenue for themselves.

Why should the Yankees risk a significant injury hampering their chances in 2006 for baseball to increase their revenue, since it will not mean lower ticket prices for fans or higher salaries for a sport with a salary tax?

Four Yankees are set to play - Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon for the United States, although Damon was put on the roster before joining the Yankees, Bernie Williams for Puerto Rico and Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. And Rodríguez, who said he couldn't decide whether to play for the United States or the Dominican Republic and didn't want to insult the one he didn't choose, is expected to announce this week that he has changed his mind and will play for the U.S. team.

Apparently sending almost half of your starting lineup isn't good enough.

[Mariano] Rivera was another Yankees player who insulted his country. He said he would not play for Panama because Panama didn't have a chance to win the tournament.

Is he wrong? Would anyone want to waste any pitches from their 36 year old closer in a losing cause?

[Jorge] Posada will not catch for the Puerto Rican team, though that decision could also change. The Puerto Rican baseball federation requested Posada's presence, but the Yankees asked Major League Baseball to excuse him.

The nerve of the Yankees, asking that their 34 year old catcher who is due about $30 million over the next two years not catch a bunch of games that won't help them.

The Yankees also requested medical exemptions for Carl Pavano and Chien-Ming Wang. Insurance costs for Johnson prompted officials to excuse him.

The Pavano request was granted, considering he missed the second half of last season, but the Wang request is being held up. Wang, a Taiwanese pitcher, has agreed to play, pending review of his medical circumstances. Wang started five games in September after recovering from a shoulder ailment.

They can have Pavano for all I care. As far as Wang and his "shoulder ailment", I would think a rotator cuff tear, no matter how minor, is a fairly significant issue.

The bottom line here is that these players are all under contract to the Yankees, and are all compensated well for it. The fact that they are under the contract and getting paid a ton of money restricts their freedoms. The Yankees are just trying to protect their investment, and I can't blame them for that. If one Yankee player missed one inning because of a meaningless tournament, I would be furious.