• December 2006 Survey Question

    Posted by on December 31st, 2006 · Comments (18)

    I’m going to try and do at least one survey question a month here, starting with this one. Please mention this survey to all your Yankees fans friends. I’m interested in seeing what Yankees fans think on this one. And, of course, feel free to leave comments in the comment section of this entry. This survey deals with playoff losses in the “Torre Era” (hence, Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS is not included).

    Update, 1/4/07: This poll is now closed. Game 7 of the 2001 World Series gets the nod. To see the results, click on the thumbnail below:

    Darrell Rasner – The New Ramiro Mendoza?

    Posted by on December 31st, 2006 · Comments (13)

    Once the Randy Johnson trade is done, the Yankees 2007 starting rotation, for the moment, will appear as follows:

    Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Igawa and “X” -

    where “X” will be Pavano, Rasner, Karstens or someone else (Clemens)?

    Some seasons, the 5th starter does not really come into play until the month of May. However, in 2007, the Yankees will need a 5th starter at least 3 times in the month of April.

    Of the four candidates above, I feel, at this moment, that it will be “someone else” for the 5th slot – with the answer coming some time in the next seven weeks.

    And, the more and more that I look at the options that are out there, the more I feel that it will be Roger Clemens – which pushes Igawa to the 5th slot of the rotation.

    Considering the age and injury history between Mussina and Clemens, and to an extent Pettitte as well, having someone like Darrell Rasner in the bullpen, where he can spot start, probably should be part of the Yankees plan next year.

    Happy New Year!

    Posted by on December 31st, 2006 · Comments (5)

    I would like to wish all the readers of WasWatching.com a very happy and healthy new year. And, may all your resolutions for 2007 come true!

    Forget The Bopper, See The Big Whiff

    Posted by on December 31st, 2006 · Comments (4)

    With yesterday’s thoughts still in my head, I decided to look at the “Torre Yankees” to see who were the big whiffers on each squad. To see the results, click on the thumbnail below.

    Seeing these results, I now wonder – come October, does it make sense to have Giambi and A-Rod at least 4 batters apart (in the line-up) to help ensure against them whiffing the Yankees out of a chance to score a run?

    For a second, I wondered if that was what Torre was trying to do in Game 4 of the ALDS this year. Then I remembered that Giambi didn’t even play in that game (when A-Rod batted 8th).

    I guess if I was a beat reporter, Torre would yell at me too. (Remember, Joe was upset because the writers were more interested in Alex batting 8th that day than the fact that Giambi was not playing at all.)

    October Contact: Old Ghosts and New Hopes

    Posted by on December 30th, 2006 · Comments (17)

    Nate Silver and Dayn Perry conducted a study, entitled “Why Doesn’t Billy Beane’s S*** Work in the Playoffs?,” which can be found in the book “Baseball Between The Numbers” (released earlier this year by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts) that finds three “fundamental and direct relationship” variables for a baseball team’s post-season success.

    The three variables for post-season success stated in the study are:

    • Closer’s performance
    • Pitcher strikeout rate
    • Defense

    The analysis for this study was concluded prior to the 2006 World Series. Nonetheless, hindsight now affords us an opportunity to determine if this year’s eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals squad had these three variables.

    Did the Cardinals have a standout closer? Check.

    Whereas the Cards’ regular season closer, Jason Isringhausen, was about a league-average performer last season (in terms of his relative pitching performance), Adam Wainwright was a better overall hurler than Isringhausen and Adam’s “stuff” was electric in this post-season. Thanks to Wainwright replacing Isringhausen as the Redbirds’ closer this October, St. Louis gets a passing grade here for having a standout pitcher to close their contests.

    Did the Cardinals staff strikeout batters at a high rate? Ah, well, no and, yet, actually yes. So, this is a check, albeit requiring some qualification, as well.

    Thanks to pitchers like Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, Mark Mulder, and Sidney Ponson getting work for the Cards this year, St. Louis’ overall team strikeout per 9 innings pitched rate (as compared to the league average) was poor. However, if you examine a large slice of the cadre of pitchers that the Cardinals featured in the post-season – specifically Tyler Johnson, the aforementioned Wainwright, Josh Kinney, Anthony Reyes, and Chris Carpenter – you will see that (outside of Suppan and Weaver) St. Louis often relied on above-average strikeout pitchers to do some of the heavy lifting for them in this post-season.

    OK, maybe this is not a hard “yes” for a “check.” But, at the worst, it’s a “push” that allows for a passing grade in this category.

    Lastly, did the Cardinals have a good defense in 2006? Check, check, and more checks.

    Yes, the team St. Louis featured defensively in the field was leather-savvy last year. According to the plus/minus system developed by Baseball Information Systems (and as featured in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007) the Cardinals had the second best overall team defense in the National League last season – and, in all of baseball, only the Padres, Blue Jays, and Mariners were better than St. Louis’ overall team defense.

    Therefore, in summary, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals were another feather in the cap for the Silver/Perry theory regarding these three variables for post-season success.

    This confirmation leads me to wonder how one can combat this three-headed watchdog of closer/whiffs/and defense that guards the entrance to the land of World Series rings.

    If a team you are facing has a dominant closer, you can do one of four things.

    First, you could ensure that you have a large lead late in every game – making the other team’s stud closer obsolete. But, that is certainly easier said than done. Or, if you are the Jeff Gillooly-type then you could contract someone to deliver said closer a box of canolis that are laced with Exlax before each game. However, an astute team trainer armed with Imodium would be able to counter-attack that plan. Another alternative would be to pray to a higher power to deliver a form of divine intervention at a key moment against a tough closer – say, like, throwing away a Damian Miller bunt at the wrong time. Still, the baseball gods can be fickle at times and they only seem to answer the prayers of the winning teams. Lastly, there is the fourth option – which is to just resign yourself to the fact that there’s not much you can do when the other team in the post-season has a great closer. This is the “Two tears in a bucket, mother [bleep] it” approach. And, it probably is the most practical stance one can assume against this variable.

    Moving along, if a post-season opponent has great defensive ability, what can you do to negate this strength?

    Outside of hitting every pitch over the wall for a homerun or stationing snipers in the scoreboard and/or landmines on the field of play, there is little a team can do to prevent great plays from being turned against them in the post-season. Just as it was the case with coping with a great closer, here, you have to play the game and allow the ball to bounce – and if you are lucky then you might get the bear before it gets you.

    Finally, what can a team do in the post-season to combat pitchers with above-average ability to produce strikeouts?

    Conventional wisdom suggests that having as many high-contact batters in your line-up as possible would be a prophylactic method to neutralize strikeout pitchers that you may face in the playoffs. Then again, is this scheme well-founded and applicable? To be candid, I was not sure. For that reason, I decided to look for help.

    First, I turned to Google. Unfortunately, after several hours of searching I was unable to find any studies published on-line which addressed this question. Next, I reached out to David Pinto of BaseballMusings.com – hoping that the records in his Day By Day Database (which contains batter versus pitcher match-ups that date back to 2000) may be able to assist with the question of “If hitters, for the most part, control the ride on batted ball types over pitchers and their tendencies, how does it work for contact hitters and strikeout pitchers? Who wins that battle – in the non-batted ball contest?” And, garnering much appreciation from me, David was able to share the following discovery.

    Using his Day By Day Database, Pinto selected 20 low-strikeout hitters and 20 high-strikeout pitchers. From this population, Pinto calculated strikeout percentages (100*K/PA) for various combinations:

    KChart.jpg

    From these findings, David Pinto concluded that “The best” contact hitters versus “the best” strikeout-pitchers “comparison resulted in 403 K in 3438 plate appearances.” And, that “It certainly appears that the contact hitters ‘win’ the battle against the strikeout pitchers.”

    This knowledge in hand, it appears there is something that teams can do in the post-season to offset one of the key variables for post-season success (as identified by Silver Perry). Having a line-up constructed with batters who offer good contact skills seems to be a plus come October.

    Right about now, those who are familiar with the study of Run Expectancy are probably throwing up their arms (or at least making a face) at the suggestion that having contact hitters matter in the post-season since Run Expectancy tables tells us that “going down on strikes” is merely another vanilla form of being retired – and that the “K” was no better or worse, for the most part, than any other way of being retired as a batter.

    To that faction, I would offer the reminder that strikeout-pitchers are much less reliant upon their defense to convert batted balls into outs. This is their success edge. And, in part, this is how strikeout-pitchers somewhat mitigate the “luck” factor that comes into play during short-series outcomes. Further, I would ask the question: If pitchers with better than average strikeout frequencies are beneficial towards post-season success then why not would batters who can defuse that pitching skill be as advantageous or greater?

    In the spirit of full-disclosure, I would be remiss if I did not share that this concept of the benefits of having a contact-oriented offensive in the post-season has been an item on my mind since the 2004 season. And, my sundry approaches (shared on-line) to prove this theory during this time were not met with open arms – either because my presentations were lacking and/or it was just something that people did not want to consider.

    As a Yankees fan, perhaps the 2003 World Series was the reason why the contact issue began to vex me? (And this led to me starting to try to connect the dots?) Specifically, I want to point to Game 4 of that Series – which was a key game and turning point in that Fall Classic.

    In that Game 4, in the top of the 2nd inning, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada each singled for the Yankees to load the bases with no outs. The next three hitters to follow were Karim Garcia, Aaron Boone and Roger Clemens. Karim Garcia struck out swinging. Boone later had a sacrifice fly and Clemens grounded out to end the inning. Clearly, the critical malfunction for the Yankees here was Karim Garcia’s lack of production via his out in the inning. With the pitcher due up third, in this spot, it is essential for Garcia to make contact to try and drive in a run, even if it comes via an out.

    Further, in the top of the 11th inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out (when the game score was tied at three). Aaron Boone was at the plate with seldom used back-up catcher John Flaherty on deck. In a spot similar to the one Karim Garcia had in the 2nd, where contact was a must, Boone struck out swinging. Flaherty later popped up to end the inning and the Yankees did not score. Once again, this was an unproductive out for the Yankees in a significant moment.

    But, that was then and this is now. Given what Nate Silver and Dayn Perry have since found to be true in regard to strikeout-pitchers helping towards success in October – along with the recent statistics graciously provided by David Pinto that suggest contact-hitters can remedy strikeout-pitchers – perhaps the time has come to consider the importance of avoiding strikeouts, on offense, with respect to post-season success?

    At the least, it’s less messy than the Exlax, snipers and landmines route.

    Wasting Number Ones

    Posted by on December 30th, 2006 · Comments (7)

    From the Toronto Sun -

    Tim Wilken, former Jays scouting director, named scout of the year at the winter meetings had plenty of bouquets and barbs in his speech.

    He gave commissioner Bud Selig a shot for his comment about scouts giving large signing bonuses to players “who don’t work out” saying “Buck O’Neill should have been elected to Cooperstown while he was alive.”

    He jabbed former Major League Baseball CEO Sandy Alderson for instituting a slot money policy for draft picks.

    And after thanking everyone with the Jays from Paul Beeston and Bobby Mattick, to Pat Gillick and Howard Starkman to Charlie Wilson he summed up his Jays days.

    “We won two World Series, five AL East titles, were organization of the year twice. Seven of 12 years we produced the most major-leaguers and had 15 straight first-rounders make it,” Wilken told the crowded ball room. “With respect to the Yankees, we handled them better from 1983-94 than anyone.

    “We also had six scouts of the year, a batting champ, an MVP, six Gold Glove winners, three Cy Young Award winners. I still don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to live in a beautiful city like Toronto full time.”

    The final line is directed to Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

    After 25 years with the Blue Jays, Wilken spent two years with the Devil Rays and has been with the Cubs since 2005. Besides the shots that he takes at the Jays here, which are interesting, the thing that caught my eye was the fact that Toronto had 15 straight first-rounders make it to the show.

    What’s the Yankees record for most in a row, ever? It’s probably something like seven straight – with the picks from 1966 through 1972 making it.

    Maybe the Yankees should have hired Wilken when the Jays cut him loose?

    Champions of the Heart VHS

    Posted by on December 29th, 2006 · Comments (6)

    I was jonesing for some good Yankees fan-candy tonight. So, I broke out the MSG Network produced VHS tape that documented the Yankees 1999 season. It’s entitled Champions of the Heart. Watching it, and reliving the 1999 season, three things dawned on me:

    1. MSG did a nice job in producing these year-end summaries. It was just about this time last year that I had the itch to watch The Season Of Their Lives – also by MSG for VHS. (I guess that I have some sort of Yankees Fan Pon’far thing that hits me each season right around New Years?) It’s a shame that the YES Network cannot come out with something at year end that chronicles the season, month by month, moment by moment, etc. It would sell – of this I have no doubt.

    2. There were many more blocks of empty blue seats to been seen in Yankees Stadium highlights from 1999 than there are from today. Ah, the good ol’ days of averaging 35,000-40,000 fans per game (as opposed to averaging 50,000+ per home game).

    3. Watching the big clips from 1999, I noticed the emotional displays – during both good and bad times – in the faces and body movements of Yankees players like Paul O’Neill, Roger Clemens, Chad Curtis, El Duque Hernandez, Joe Girardi, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, David Cone, and Jim Leyritz. You don’t see much of that on the Yankees now, or in the last three years or so. As a fan, I miss seeing that fire.

    After watching this tape tonight, I’m ready for some Yankees baseball now. Is it really just less than 7 weeks until Pitchers and Catchers report?

    One Thing To Remember About The Johnson Trade

    Posted by on December 29th, 2006 · Comments (36)

    The Daily News is reporting that the Yankees should be able to deal Randy Johnson away before next week. And, when this happens, many Yankees fans will credit Brian Cashman for being smart with this move.

    However, Yankees fans should remember that it was Cashman who, in the end, gave up Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, Randy Choate, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and $41 million to get Randy Johnson here in the first place.

    Therefore, with a trade of Randy Johnson now, Brian Cashman is not saving the day for the Yankees – more so, he’s just trying to correct a huge mistake that he made in the first place.

    Unlucky Unit?

    Posted by on December 28th, 2006 · Comments (16)

    David Gassko answers my question from four weeks ago.

    Doesn’t matter to me. I still think Johnson is a risk for 2007 and would be addition by subtraction for the clubhouse.

    Murcer To Have Brain Surgery

    Posted by on December 28th, 2006 · Comments (8)

    From the AP -

    Former New York Yankees star Bobby Murcer was set to have surgery Thursday to remove a brain tumor, the Daily News reported.

    The 60-year-old Murcer, now a Yankees broadcaster, was scheduled to undergo surgery in Houston. He had been having headaches and feeling a loss of energy lately, and the tumor was discovered following an MRI on Christmas Eve, the newspaper reported Thursday.

    “I’m feeling OK and we’re just going to have to see what this surgery will bring,” Murcer told the Daily News by phone Wednesday night. “I’m hopeful that everything will turn out OK and I’m thankful to have so many friends who are rooting for me.”

    Murcer was to be treated at the MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, one of the top cancer facilities in the nation, the newspaper said.

    This is the type of news that I hate finding when I wake-up in the morning. In some ways, Bobby Murcer, in his retirement from active play, has become, to Yankees-baseball, what Tommy Lasorda is to the Dodgers and Ron Santo is to the Cubs. He’s a guy who loves the organization, is proud to be a part of its history, is not shy to promote that love and pride.

    I featured Bobby Murcer, the player, in my book – The Baseball Same Game – and here is part of what I wrote:

    Murcer was an icon in the New York sports scene in the 1970’s. During this time he was also one of the best batters in the game. For the decade of the ‘70’s, Bobby Murcer is among the top ten (of all major leaguers) in Games Played, At Bats, Hits, Runs Scored, Total Bases, Walks and Runs Batted In. During his career, Bobby was selected to the All-Star team five times.

    Despite all this, when I think of Bobby Murcer I think of “the trade.” On October 22, 1974, the Yankees traded Murcer to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Bobby Bonds. It was reported as the first time that two players who made $100,000 a year were traded one-for-one for each other. In New York, Yankee fans were very upset that their favorite had been sent away. One of my best friends, who was 12-years-old at the time of the trade, has told me repeatedly of how he cried like a baby the day that he heard the news.

    Furthermore, a few years ago, I heard another story that topped my friend’s reaction.

    In 2002, a colleague at work came into my office for the first time and noticed some Yankee paraphernalia on my desk. He said to me “I hate the Yankees.” Not knowing what to say to such an out of the blue harsh comment, I asked “What team do you like?” He told me that he liked the New York Mets. To be polite, I asked why he liked the Mets. His answer was “When I was a kid, I loved the Yankees. But, when they traded away Bobby Murcer, they broke my heart. From that day, I decided that I would become a Mets fan and I’ve always hated the Yankees ever since.”

    The Murcer-Bonds trade had that sort of impact on many Yankees fans. And, it probably was part of the reason why New York re-acquired Murcer less than five years after “the trade.”

    Whether they remember Murcer as a great baseball player from the 1970′s or as a current positive spokesperson for the Yankees organization, there are probably countless Bobby Murcer fans in Yankeeland today. I am one of them – and I can add that I’ve heard from people who have met Murcer that he’s one of the nicest people that you can ever encounter.

    Together, we need to marshal up our thoughts and hopes for positive results and sent them towards Bobby’s way today, and in the days that follow.

    Godspeed Lemon.

    Chasing Barry Zito

    Posted by on December 27th, 2006 · Comments (16)

    Since there seems to be much out there these days on whether or not the Yankees should chase after Barry Zito, I thought I would share some thoughts on this free agent pitcher.

    First, I’ve heard reports of how Zito’s record is “something great” when the A’s score some-number-of-runs or more over a certain time period, etc. Forget that. It tells us nothing about how Zito pitches – in terms of his relative pitching performance results.

    It’s better off to look at Zito’s career to date and realize that you need to give it a haircut of sorts to find the true level of what you can expect from him. There are two fluke seasons in there that you have to remove – 2002 and 2004. Zito will probably never again be as good as he was in 2002. And, considering his consistency in other seasons, it’s safe to say that 2004 was just an off season for him.

    What does that leave? It says that Barry Zito is a guy who will give you 34 starts a season, throw around 220 IP, and end up with 15-ish RSAA by year-end. And, he’s probably good for this pace over the next three years. Where Zito goes after that is anyone’s guess – he could be the next Whitey Ford or the next Denny Neagle, in my opinion.

    If I’m the Yankees, I would offer Zito a three-year deal for $48 million with a club-option for a fourth year. The option year can even be triggered with meeting certain performance levels, if needed. But, I do not guarantee a fourth-year with the offer now. And, there’s no way that I offer him a five-year deal (or greater) at this point.

    Barry Zito can help the Yankees in 2007. And, he can probably help the Yankees in 2008 and 2009 as well. But, if someone else wants to offer him a deal for four years guaranteed at $64 million, or five years at $75 million, then New York should just tip their cap and wish Zito good luck with his new team.

    I do like to think that Zito could be a David Wells type pitcher for the Yankees in New York. For what it’s worth, he’s even been pretty good in the post-season, to date, with an ERA 3.25 of seven games started.

    It’s just that the Yankees should be very careful to realize that he’s not an ace who is going to give you 20+ RSAA in a season and he’s someone who could fade from his current levels of performance just as easy as he could maintain them – because he’s not that type of 20+ RSAA per season ace who typically remains good in his later years.

    Therefore, there’s no reason to break the bank in the chase for Barry Zito. But, if you luck into a Johnny Damon type situation – where the years and the money make sense to your situation, then it’s something the Yankees should pull the trigger on – and New York should be monitoring his situation now with respect to contract offers coming his way.

    Who Is Yanks Whiff Kings Worst Enemy?

    Posted by on December 27th, 2006 · Comments (27)

    WasWatching.com reader “DonnieDosTresBaseball” made an interesting comment on this blog recently. Their statement included:

    “…SO [strike out] pitchers do not fare well with the Yankees, because of umpire calls and better at-bats put forth by the opposition.”

    This notion got me wondering, so I turned to the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia for some help.

    First, I decided to use the “Mariano Rivera Era” (1995-2006) for my study group – because I thought it was important to take a recent snapshot to test this claim, but, I also wanted to get Mo’s full career in there as well. Then, I asked to see the Top 25 (for the Yanks) in SO/9 IP vs. the League Average for the Mo Era – along with their relative pitching performance results. To see the data, click on the thumbnail below:

    Let’s use Rivera as the “Mendoza Line” here. This tells us that the Yankees, since 1995, have had 13 legit “strike out” pitchers: Farnsworth, Wetteland, Nelson, Gordon, Cone, Osuna, Clemens, Contreras, Stanton, Boehringer, Watson, Johnson and Rivera. And, only 7 of those 13 (roughly half) have been effective (meaning better than league average in their pitching results) while pitching for the Yankees.

    Now, at first blush, I want to say that “command” in terms of SO/BB ratio might be the difference here – meaning that those in the Top 13 who did well in this study had better command than those who did not. Is that true? Click on the following thumbnail for more on that:

    This is interesting. Jose Contreras has the same command, thereabouts, as Jeff Nelson. Yet, Nelson did better in New York. Randy Johnson has roughly the same command as Mariano Rivera. Yet, Mo pitched better for the Yanks than the Big Unit. See Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Stanton. And, see Antonio Osuna and David Cone.

    What’s going on with here with Jose Contreras, Randy Johnson, Kyle Farnsworth, Antonio Osuna and the other “strike out” pitchers who have not faired all that well in New York?

    Well, getting away from the objective and more towards the subjective, aren’t those names – the Contreras, Johnson, Farnsworth guys – the ones that you hear as not having the personality to “make it” in the New York media zoo?

    So, when a “strike out” pitcher fails to do well for the Yankees, maybe it’s more in his head than in the heads of the umpires? I’m not saying this is a “for sure” finding – but, based on what’s been presented here, in this quick study, it’s not a totally empty suggestion.

    Roger Clemens – Behind The Numbers

    Posted by on December 26th, 2006 · Comments (7)

    I was just looking at some of Roger Clemens’ numbers from last year in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 – being curious since The Rocket may be on the Yankees Free Agent radar now – with the confirmation that they are shopping Randy Johnson.

    In his 113.3 IP last year, Clemens faced 451 batters and had an ERA of 2.30 – which is a nifty figure, at face value.

    However, in addition to that ERA stat, here are some other numbers on Roger from last year: his DER was .722 and his FIP was 3.07 – which tell part of an interesting story.

    DER is the percent of times that a batted ball is turned into an out – not including homers. FIP is a measure, expressed sort of like ERA, of all things a pitcher is responsible for regardless of how well his fielders did.

    For a compare on the Astros, Roy Oswalt had a DER of .692 and Andy Pettitte had a DER of .664. This tells you that Clemens was pretty lucky with getting batted balls turned into outs. And, this could explain the difference between his ERA and FIP.

    Further, last year, 49% of the batted balls against Clemens last year were grounders. While that’s just a few ticks above major league average, it’s still above average. This suggests that Roger took advantage of having a good fielding infield at Houston last season. (According to the “Team Defense” feature in THT 2007, the Astros had the 5th best overall team defense in the N.L. in 2006. The Yankees, last year, for what it’s worth, had the 27th worst team defense in all of baseball by the same measures.)

    Seeing all this, if anyone is expecting Clemens to join the Yankees, at age 44, next season, and post an ERA under three, well, that would be a mistake.

    In fact, Roger Clemens’ lifetime Yankees ERA is 3.99 – and that was posted during his ages 36-40.

    Given the time that has passed, it’s reasonable to figure that Roger Clemens, if a member of the Yankees in 2007, will fashion an ERA in the fours – rather than one in the threes (or below).

    I hope the Yankees realize this reasonable expectation, and the price-tag for Rocket next year, and proceed as warranted.

    Yanks Shopping After X-mas

    Posted by on December 26th, 2006 · Comments (29)

    It’s now confirmed. The rumors from nine days ago are true. The Yankees are making strong moves in an attempt to trade Randy Johnson.

    When I read this news, all I can think of is the story that Bob Klapisch shared a few months back:

    It was late August when Johnny Damon took a long, hard look around the clubhouse and was appalled at what he saw. “Let’s go (bleep-bleepers), wake up,” Damon shouted. The center fielder had had enough of the Yankees’ listlessness; it was so disturbingly different from the crazy energy he once shared with the Red Sox at Fenway. But instead of rallying the Yankees, Damon was met with silence.

    That, and a cold stare across the room from Randy Johnson. Damon was so unnerved by the apathy, he later asked a team official, “Did I do something wrong?”

    Clearly, Randy Johnson was a nasty dude in the clubhouse. That’s fine when you pitch 200+ innings, with an ERA under three, and then carry your team in the post-season to a ring. But, when you’re old, and your ERA is near five, then you can’t play that game.

    Pettitte in, Johnson out…anyone else feel like these are all just chess moves to get Clemens back in the Bronx?

    Happy Holidays!

    Posted by on December 22nd, 2006 · Comments (12)

    Barring any breaking and hot Yankees-related news, I do not expect to be posting any entries to WasWatching.com over the next four days. Therefore, I wanted to take this time now to wish all the readers of this blog a safe and happy holiday season. It’s been 20 months now that WasWatching.com has been up and running, and, I’ve truly enjoyed all the feedback to this site and its content that you have provided this year and last. Thanks for that wonderful present! I hope you all have as much fun (as I’ve had here so far) during your holiday observance.

    Look for more stuff here starting next week!

    2007 ZiPS Projections

    Posted by on December 21st, 2006 · Comments (16)

    Via BaseballThinkFactory.org, Dan Szymborski shares his 2007 projections for the Yankees.

    Dan likes Melky and the Big Unit in 2007. Personally, I think Darrell Rasner will have a much better year than his projections through ZiPS. Josh Phelps with just 5 less homers than A-Rod? Won’t that be some story – for both those players involved.

    Update: Whooops! Ignore the last comment on the homers. I was looking at the doubles column by mistake. I guess that I should not read stat projections so late at night!

    You Asked For It

    Posted by on December 21st, 2006 · Comments (6)

    Yet more from the Mailbag this week! See:

    From Greg: The chance of a Melky/Gonzo deal put the focus on the bullpen for a change. How do you see roles in the bullpen shaping up this season?

    WasWatching.com: I really think Torre wants Farnsworth out of town – because of his need to be babied. But, can they trade him? More likely, I see Farns becoming a secondary guy in the set-up scheme – with Proctor becoming the 8th inning guy (for Rivera). That leaves three other spots in the pen – and Myers should get one of those. The last two spots are for Bruney, Britton, and Rasner. I would not be shocked if Rasner gets one of them – they need someone out there who can give you three or four innings in a pinch.

    From Vinodh: Should the Yanks consider moving Damon to first base and let Melky take over at center? If the options available right now are Hillenbrand, ice-cold-bat Doug and Andy.. then I would rather that Damon play first and Melky play center. Melky will be lot better than 50% of the CFers. And we can think about trading him next year, based on how Gardner works out!!

    WasWatching.com: This makes perfect sense to me – heck, I was saying this back in October – and I would love to see this move happen. Therefore, it will, sadly, never happen this year.

    From Brent: Just as a random common interest question, what do you think was the worst team that money could buy in MLB history?

    WasWatching.com: I know that some like to say the 1992 New York Mets and others like the 2003 Mets too. To come up with the answer, I think you have to look at the teams who were 1-2-or-3 in terms of total payroll, for each season, and then look at those teams therein who won less than 55 games. From there, you can just about make a case for anyone in that final cut.

    From Mark: Do you have any statistics which show if the Yanks, as a team, produce more or fewer runs offensively when playing behind a starter that allows more runs? In other words, does the team seem to compensate (or just plain play harder) when they have a weaker starter on the mound?

    WasWatching.com: Run Support is the stat you seek. The Yankees really helped Randy Johnson this year. But, I think it just comes down to luck – meaning what opposing pitcher the Yankees pitcher lucks into facing that day.

    From “Yankee1221″: Ok I could understand if the Yanks feel pressure to develop and showcase quality arms from within the organization such as Boston has (Papelbon, Lester, Declarmen, Hansen) but do you think they should take a wait and see approach with their Top Prospect arms? As much as it would be nice to see a Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes one Two Punch I’d much rather have the sure thing and WIN! Wouldn’t the Yankees be better off packaging Hughes to one of the other 31 teams who would surely take him for an ELITE pitcher…ala Santana, Halladay, Zambrano (Carl that is haha), Oswalt, Carpenter….and Ohhhh yea that stud in Florida???

    WasWatching.com: If you had Santana, Halladay, or someone like that, and you were offered a Hughes for him, would you make the deal? Why would you? Therefore, why should someone else make that deal with the Yankees. It will never happen.

    Thanks to all for the questions – all good stuff!

    You Asked For It

    Posted by on December 21st, 2006 · Comments (2)

    More from the Mailbag -

    From George: I had this feeling that whenever Cano and Melky played in the same game that both hit better. Are there splits that shows their averages when they were both playing vs. only one or the other?

    WasWatching.com: That’s an interesting question. I went to the game logs for each this season, and, according to my quick count, when Cano and Melky both played in a game together, this is how they did:

    Cano went 130 for 266 = .355
    Melky went 81 for 317 = .256

    So, Melky hit better when Cano was not playing. And, Cano was about the same, either way. Then again, we’re dealing with small samples here. I don’t think these results prove or disprove anything.

    If anyone else has questions, be sure to send them in!

    Stump Merrill Retires

    Posted by on December 21st, 2006 · Comments (6)

    From the Bangor Daily News -

    The Husson College baseball team will hold its annual Hot Stove Banquet and Sports Memorabilia Auction on Jan. 14 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Dickerman Dining Commons on the Husson campus.

    The event, which is $20 for the general public, includes a spaghetti dinner, hot stove talk, and a sports memorabilia auction. The money raised at the event will benefit the Husson baseball team’s spring training trip to Florida in March.

    Along with Husson head coach Dr. John Winkin, headlining the event will be Carl “Stump” Merrill, who is retiring after a 30-year career with the New York Yankees.

    After graduating from the University of Maine, Merrill played minor league baseball for six years in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. His managing career started in 1978 with the West Haven Yankees, and he went on to manage at every minor league level.

    In 1985, Merrill joined the parent club as a first base coach under manager Yogi Berra. He was named Yankee manager in June 1990 and managed the rest of that season and all of the 1991 season.

    Merrill is currently a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, and he will receive the Husson Sports Leadership Award for his lifetime of dedication to the game of baseball.

    Ah, the 1991 Yankees – the last team in the Bronx to lose 90+ games in a season. That whole Dallas Green-Bucky Dent-Stump Merrill era (or should I say “error”) was a really bad time in Yankeeland.

    From 1989 through 1991 might just be the worst three-year period in Yankees history since the 1910′s. That’s a tough legacy for Stumpy.

    Oddibe Really Young Again

    Posted by on December 21st, 2006 · Comments (2)

    From The Daily News Journal -

    When Alexander Cartwright first put bat to ball — and by doing so invented baseball — over 160 years ago, there’s little chance he knew what type of influence the game would have on the country as a whole.

    Kids grow up idolizing their favorite players, re-enacting their favorite moments in their backyards, and making their own plans for the day when they will one day lace up their cleats for their favorite big-league ballclub.

    One local child got a chance, if only for a day, to get a taste of what that experience is like.

    Christian Fogerty, a 9-year old fourth grader at Bellwood Discovery School, recently made the trip to New York City to meet his favorite player, Derek Jeter. The trip was an opportunity to not only get some face time with the Yankees All-Star shortstop and future Hall of Famer, but to pick up some tips from Jeter at the Steiner Sports Derek Jeter Clinic. The event, held at Riverbank Park Sports Complex, also featured instruction from Yankees’ pitching coach Ron Guidry, Yankees’ pitching prospect Phillip Hughes, and former-Yankee Tino Martinez.

    Christian’s mother, Mary Fogerty, discovered the camp a year ago on the internet and thought it would be the perfect motivational tool for her son to have a good year at school. For Christian, while it was good motivation, the wait was almost too much.

    It’s interesting to see Hughes running with the big boys on this one. Probably good – it will take some of the “awe” out of his eventual call-up to the show.

    You Asked For It

    Posted by on December 20th, 2006 · Comments (1)

    From the Mailbag today -

    From Scott: The MelkMan?? This is a bad trade all the way around. Who would be our 4th outfielder? Bernie? As much as I love Bernie Baseball, his train has left the station. He offers us nothing offensively or defensively, but would be a nice bench player. Melky Cabrera is part of the future in NY and trading him for an average/above average middle reliver would be a mistake we would end up paying for midseason when the inevitable injury big bites. On another note, I was glad to see the Yanks “look with their eyes and not their hands” during the free-agent blitz. Looks like the Cubs have taken over as the Overpaid Mediocrity Franchise.

    WasWatching.com: One of my biggest fears this off-season is the chance that Bernie Williams makes the 2007 Yankees – because you know Torre will play him in CF at least 20 times if he’s on the roster. And, right now, Bernie has as much business manning center for a big league team as Ralph Wiggum. As far as the Cubs and their spending, well, how much will the Yankees be paying Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano in 2007?

    From Mike: We all know Phil Hughes is the cream of the crop, but what do you think of some of the other arms the Yanks have in the minors, ie Humberto Sanchez, Joba Chamberlain and Dellin Betances? I also know you’re a big Brett Gardner fan, but do you think he’ll ever develop enough power to turn himself into a real threat instead of Scott Podsednik II?

    WasWatching.com: Sanchez scares me because of his injury history. Joba scares me because of his weight issues in the past – guys rarely stay thin as they get older and make more money. Betances is young. Still, I like him the best of the three now. It will be interesting to see what he does in his first full season. As far as Gardner, he’s going to need to slug at least four-hundred in Triple-A to have a shot at being somebody. Can he do it? We’ll see this year. He’s been an achiever his whole career – so, I would not be shocked if he pulled it off.

    If anyone else has questions, be sure to send them in!

    Rockwell 80′s Flashback

    Posted by on December 20th, 2006 · Comments (6)

    I just came across this blog item:

    Pink Slip – Listening Up: Red Sox Response on the Virtual Waiting Room

    What I found interesting here, if you look deep enough in this story, is that Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Boston Red Sox Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, has actually created a Google News Alert to capture items that contain the terms ‘Red Sox.’

    I wonder if anyone on the Yankees staff is in charge of checking all on-line sources that reference the Yankees? If so, “Hi there!”

    Pinstripe Marketplace

    Posted by on December 20th, 2006 · Comments (3)

    For those who were not aware, around three months ago, this information was posted on the Yankees site:

    Yankees Pinstripe Marketplace:

    The Yankees are working hard to introduce the Yankees Pinstripe Marketplace – a new and exciting website feature which will create a forum through which Full Season Ticket Licensees will be permitted to resell their Tickets for games they are unable to attend. As a Full Season Ticket Licensee, you will be permitted to resell your Tickets, on an individual game basis, for a price above the established Ticket price. Payment for Tickets that are purchased through the Yankees Pinstripe Marketplace are settled electronically and the Tickets will be delivered to the buyer via e-mail using TicketFast technology. With TicketFast electronic delivery, the buyer will be able to print the Tickets instantly on any standard printer. With the Yankees Pinstripe Marketplace, your Tickets can be resold without violating the Yankees’ Ticket License and none of your Tickets will go to waste.*

    * Ticket(s) may only be resold on the Yankees Pinstripe Marketplace only in accordance with terms and conditions established by the Yankees from time to time including, but not limited to, the following: (i) only Approved Licensees will be permitted to resell their Ticket(s); (ii) Ticket(s) may only be resold through an Authorized Website; and (iii) Ticket(s) may not be resold for an amount in excess of 45% over the face value of the Ticket(s) plus lawful taxes and common carrier delivery charges. As used herein, “Approved Licensees” shall mean such Licensees as the Yankees may, from time to time, in its sole and absolute discretion, give the privilege of reselling Ticket(s), and who are so notified by the Yankees. As used herein, “Authorized Website” shall mean such internet website managed by the Yankees or its authorized agent that the Yankees may, in its sole and absolute discretion, offer and make available to Approved Licensees for purposes of permitted Ticket resale. As used herein, “common carrier charges and fees” shall mean and include reasonable and actual charges or fees charged by a common carrier for delivery of the Ticket.

    And, via google, I’ve found references to the “Pinstripe Marketplace” as “coming soon” that date back to April 2006.

    I called the Yankees Ticket Office today to see if there was an ETA for this service – and I was told that they (the staff) have “only heard about it” and “have no information to share.” It was recommended that I “keep checking Yankees.com for more information.”

    Since the Yankees are selling tickets for 2007 now, and, the money from season ticket holders is due in the next week or so, would it not make sense for the Yankees to have this site up and running at the same time?

    Scott Soshnick had a nice feature (a few months back) on how the Yankees mistreat their “most-loyal fans.” As he put it:

    It would seem the Yankees don’t mind losing their best patrons. After all, when it comes to the Yankees, there’s always another eager party waiting with credit card in hand.

    This whole thing sort of makes me wish the Yankees “only” drew 2,000,000 fans a year. It would give those wanting to have tickets a little more leverage in terms of getting seats at decent prices and being able to control what they want to do with them.

    What Do You Want To Know?

    Posted by on December 20th, 2006 · Comments (3)

    In the next day or two (or three?) I expect to post a “Mailbag Feature” here. It might be fun. Related, if you have a Yankees-related or WasWatching.com-related question where you’re looking for some opinion and/or an answer, please send it to me at:

    staff (at) waswatching (dot) com

    I can’t ensure that I will be able to answer all the questions – but, I’ll do my best to get to as many as possible. Thanks in advance to those who send something.

    Bernie Bags It

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (2)

    And it’s for a good cause. From the Journal News -

    New York Yankees veteran center fielder Bernie Williams has volunteered with Hillside Food Outreach for five years. Though he now helps with fundraising efforts, such as the organization’s big annual event set for Jan. 27, he started out delivering groceries with his wife, Waleska Williams.

    That was after a Hillside Food representative spoke at Williams’ church and impressed the family.

    “It struck a chord with my wife first,” Williams said. “She initially was a volunteer, filling up the grocery bags. She had five families that she would deliver food to on a monthly basis and I would join in once in a while.”

    Along with reaching out to businesses and celebrities for contributions, Williams is a regular at the annual fundraiser and has brought along other Yankees, including manager Joe Torre and relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.

    For more info on the Hillside Food Outreach project, click here.

    Straw: Jeter Must Embrace A-Rod

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (17)

    From the AP:

    Darryl Strawberry thinks the Yankees’ clubhouse is beset by bad chemistry that can be cured only one way: Derek Jeter needs to “embrace” Alex Rodriguez.

    “They’ve got to come together,” Strawberry said Tuesday. “It’s time for them to mend their relationship and get back to, like, OK, let’s have some fun. We’re here in New York together. We’re on the greatest team that we possibly could play on. Let’s try to win instead of going separate ways. Because I remember them when they were young and they went to dinner together and they did everything together.”

    His remarks about the Yankees’ chemistry were sparked by questions regarding the return of Andy Pettitte, who played with Strawberry on three of the Yankees’ World Series championship teams. Pettitte was in New York for a physical Tuesday, and his contract could be finalized Wednesday.

    “Hopefully, it will rub off on the team, guys will get more supportive of each other,” Strawberry said. “I think the Yankees’ problem is that they just don’t support each other enough. I mean, back when I played in those years we were winning, we all supported each other, we all cared for each other. I think they need to get back to that, because the talent is there, but everybody seems like they’re going their separate ways.”

    Strawberry said for Rodriguez to gain acceptance in the Yankees’ clubhouse, Jeter must take the lead.

    “I hope Jeter would embrace him this year, in spring training, and bring him into the full circle as a part of the Yankee family,” Strawberry said. “If Jeter does it, I think everybody else will respond. I hope that works out for him, because once upon a time, they were best of friends and some things happened, which is life. And hopefully they will put those things behind them and hopefully they can come together.”

    Strawberry said the pair must take it upon themselves to right the Yankees, who despite nine straight AL East titles have not won the World Series since 2000.

    “Both of them are leaders and they need to come together as leaders and bring that Yankee team back up to par, because the last few years they’ve been nowhere in sight,” Strawberry said. “It’s not about just getting in the first round. When you have talent like that, it’s about winning.”

    I was just about to say “Where was Strawberry when A-Rod won the MVP, in New York, during 2005 – without Jeter’s embrace?” Then, I remembered, on September 17, 2005, Strawberry had reported that his SUV was stolen from a Florida gas station. However, the station’s surveillance video nailed Strawberry leaving as a passenger in another vehicle.

    The cops later were informed that Strawberry had earlier left his SUV behind a sports bar and gave the keys to a some woman.

    For that, Straw was charged with filing a false police report.

    I’m guessing that Darryl was so busy dealing with that whole thing that he must have missed it when A-Rod was busy, without the embrace of Jeter, putting the finishing touches on his MVP season for the Yankees.

    Ian Kennedy *And* Melky Cabrera?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (24)

    From MLBTradeRumors.com -

    A baseball source indicated to MLBTradeRumors.com that the Yankees and Pirates are working on a trade that could be Mike Gonzalez and Nate McLouth for Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera.

    Nate McLouth? At 25-years old, McLouth is just a younger version of Bubba Crosby.

    So, if true, the Yankees would be trading their youngest, major-league-proven, position player and one of the, say, seventh best pitching prospects in their system, for a closer of limited experience who had a seriously sore arm last season (when he closed for the first time) and a Four-A back-up outfielder.

    Aw, shucks, why doesn’t New York throw-in a half-dozen Lamborghini’s and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence too – just to further sweeten the pot for the Pirates?

    Mark Loretta

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (20)

    From RotoWorld.com -

    ESPN’s Buster Olney says the Yankees have been in contact with Mark Loretta about their opening at first base.

    The Yankees should note Loretta’s home/road OPS split last year.

    His OPS was .787 at Fenway and .622 on the road. Yes, an OPS of .622.

    If you’re going to play Loretta at first, you might as well use Andy Phillips instead.

    Bronx Basher Meets Bronx Banter’er

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (1)

    The “Yankees 2000: Promote the Curse” Blog has interviewed Alex Belth (of Bronx Banter). Click here to read the interview.

    If there’s a guy out there nicer than Alex, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never met him. This interview is clearly “Alex being Alex.” I recommend reading it.

    I’ll Stick To Building…..Slots?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2006 · Comments (1)

    From the New York Times -

    [Steve] Swindal [one of two managing general partners of the Yankees] is a partner in Excelsior Racing Associates, which last month won the recommendation of a committee to take over New York state’s thoroughbred racing franchise. The franchise covers the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks. The New York Racing Association has owned the franchise for 50 years, but its license expires at the end of next year. The State Legislature will designate the next franchise holder from among Excelsior, NYRA and Empire Racing.

    Baseball owners have long owned racehorses, at least since John Galbreath in the 1940s. No owner is believed to have owned a racetrack. Certainly no owner has owned a track with slot machines on the premises. But that’s what Excelsior plans to do. Swindal said Aqueduct had 4,500 slot machines ready to become operative.

    Swindal, who is George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law, said he had spoken to Commissioner Bud Selig about his participation in Excelsior.

    “I have kept the commissioner informed about Excelsior and the bid process; I got his permission before I went into it,” Swindal said in a telephone interview Friday. “I haven’t encountered any problems. Before I went into it, I wanted to make sure. I said: ‘I want to bid on this franchise. It involves parimutuel racing.’ He said, ‘O.K. but keep me informed.’ ”

    Swindal said he told Selig about the slot machines, too.

    “He was informed of that,” Swindal said. “I did let him know that Aqueduct had 4,500 machines that were part of the bid. Most parimutuel facilities have slots now. It’s not an uncommon thing. They’re trying to get people back to the track.”

    In addition, Swindal said, he told Selig that one of his Excelsior partners was Richard Fields, a casino developer.

    Steinbrenner is not involved in Excelsior, Swindal said.

    Selig, saying he didn’t want to comment on the matter, did not confirm Swindal’s characterization of what was said or blessed.

    Man, the life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams…

    I guess running a baseball team and building a new Stadium aren’t enough for Swindal’s plate. Either that, or, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman are really running the entire show in the Bronx in the post-Stein days.

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