• A Tale Of Two Schillings

    Posted by on December 20th, 2007 · Comments (29)

    From the AP, via USA Today, back on November 4, 2001:

    Convinced that a promising pitcher was throwing away his talent, the veteran dressed him down, calling him every name he could. It worked. The young guy listened, began making better choices and blossomed into one of baseball’s top aces. A decade after that discussion in the weight room at the Astrodome, the two were to face each other on the mound for the first time: Roger Clemens vs. Curt Schilling in Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night. ”I could not have come up with this,” Schilling said Saturday night after his Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees 15-2. ”What Roger did for me and has done for me throughout my career, I could not have dreamt this. I’m not that big of a dreamer.”

    Clemens was already on his way to a glorious career in the winter of 1991 when he went to work out at the Astrodome, near his home in Katy, Texas.

    While there, the Boston star noticed Schilling in an adjacent weight room. Clemens, then 28, said he wanted to talk to the 24-year-old Houston pitcher.

    Schilling, a former Red Sox minor leaguer who looked up to Clemens, figured it would be fun.

    “What I thought was going to be kind of a sit-down talk about pitching experience turned out to be an hour-and-half half butt-chewing,” Schilling said.

    “He felt at the time that I was someone who was not taking advantage of the gifts God had given me, that I didn’t respect the game the way I should, that I didn’t respect my teammates the way I should. He hit every nail on the head as far as I’m concerned.”

    Said Clemens: “I was hoping that I was not going to waste my time. It got pretty heated. We hashed it out a little bit.”

    At this year’s All-Star Game, with both players sharing the podium, Clemens smiled as he recalled the talk.

    “It was a pretty good conversation,” he said.

    That’s not exactly how Schilling remembered it.

    “There wasn’t much of a conversation,” he said. “It was one of those conversations your father has with you when you are going down a stage in life and you need to make a right turn.”

    Schilling said Clemens’ words made an immediate impact.

    “I walked away saying to myself, ‘You know, No. 1, why would he care as much as he did? And, No. 2, if he did care, there must be something there,’ ” he said. “I began to turn a corner at that point in my career, both on and off the field.”

    From MLB.com, today:

    Curt Schilling put his fingers to the keyboard on Wednesday, pounding out a 3,676-word blog entry in which he essentially challenged Roger Clemens to fight for his innocence with regards to the findings of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

    If Clemens doesn’t put up a convincing case — legal or otherwise — to dispute the allegations in the report, Schilling thinks the Rocket should be stripped of four of the record-setting seven Cy Young Awards he’s won in his career.

    Schilling’s mammoth post appeared on www.38pitches.com, which is the Boston right-hander’s personal sounding board for thoughts on all matters.

    The Mitchell report fingered Clemens for using PEDs. Clemens has strongly denied that it’s true. Personally, I suspect that the Mitchell report is true. But, regardless of what you believe – and even regardless of what is true (about Clemens) – the 2001 report from the Associated Press and Schilling’s entry from yesterday, tell you all you need to know about Curt Schilling.

    If Schilling is, indeed, grateful for what Clemens did for him in 1991, then why not (if you’re Schilling) just keep your mouth shut about Roger now – despite how you feel about the use of PEDs – and not bring any more attention to his situation today? Would have that been so hard?

    Don’t mistake this as me supporting Clemens in some fashion. I’m not saying that Clemens is clean here – and, if he is not, I’m not saying that I agree with his actions.

    This is all about a guy, Schilling, who owes Clemens (big time) for helping him (Curt) get his career (and, to an extent, his life) on a positive track. Curt openly admits to this as truth. And, then, when he (Schilling) gets a chance to grab the spotlight at the expense of the man who did him this huge favor, he grabs it without hesitation – and ignores the high-road of just not saying anything on the matter (regardless of his beliefs).

    Stay classy Red Light.

    League Execs Predict Hank To Go For Santana – Part 2

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (18)

    Jayson Stark says the following today:

    Elsewhere on the Santana front, a tug-of-war could be looming between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Principal Son Hank Steinbrenner over Santana.

    It’s clear that since talks broke down, many of the Yankees’ baseball people have had second thoughts about including Phil Hughes in any package for Santana — which effectively would obliterate any chance of that deal happening.

    But according to one baseball man who has spoken to the Yankees’ brass, Steinbrenner is “moving towards it.” And if he moves any further toward doing that deal, he could find himself in a fascinating debate with Cashman and others over whether to pull this very large trigger. If that happens, why do we think it might not be the last debate Cashman has with Hank Steinbrenner?

    And as the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox jockey for prime Santana position, the rest of the sport watches from afar, trying to handicap where this will lead. One AL executive still thinks it will eventually lead Santana to the Bronx.

    “The Twins are doing the right thing, waiting for the right deal,” he said. “But the Red Sox don’t need to panic. They don’t need him. There’s no reason for them to get anxious. But the Yankees actually do need him. They’re just trying to convince themselves they don’t.”

    Falls in line with what Jon Heyman is reporting.

    Twenty-six months ago, it was reported that Cashman was “fed up” with the Yanks’ front-office setup that promoted infighting and limited his power as G.M.

    I wonder how he feels about the set-up now?

    League Execs Predict Hank To Go For Santana

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (7)

    From Jon Heyman today -

    The Johan Santana Sweepstakes are likely to come down to whether new Yankees boss Hank Steinbrenner is willing to overrule GM Brian Cashman again. Steinbrenner wants to go for Santana, Cashman doesn’t (at least not at the cost of Phil Hughes).

    Word is that Steinbrenner the Younger would like to back the beloved Cashman, especially after disregarding the GM on whether to hold firm at three years for Jorge Posada and no years for Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod opted out. However, some executives around the league are predicting that Steinbrenner will make the ultimate call again and that Steinbrenner will ignore Cashman’s advice to keep Hughes and save the $23 million a year or so, and that the Yankees will eventually land the great Santana.

    The package would be expected to include center fielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeff Marquez and another prospect in addition to Hughes. The Red Sox and Mets remain in the bidding and can’t be counted out. But the Twins appear to be waiting for someone to bend, and the short history suggests that Junior Steinbrenner is the most likely to do so.

    But, then again, if the Yankees get Johan Santana, and he goes on to win 115 games for the Yankees over the next seven years, Hank will look like a genius, no?

    I’m not saying that Santana will do this – but, it’s always possible.

    Buffett Looking To Run The Table?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From The [Philadelphia] Bulletin -

    Question: What ever happened to that furniture company that advertised it would refund the purchase price of your furniture if the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, which they did?

    Answer: The company lost up to about $20 million or more. No one knows for sure. But here’s what we do know: Jordan’s Furniture, Inc., which has stores in the Boston area, advertised that if anyone bought furniture between March 7 and April 26, and Boston won the World Series, the purchase price of their furniture would be refunded. Well, Boston did win the World Series. Now here’s the closest I can give you to the inside story. Joseph Belth reports this in his respected and reliable insurance newsletter, The Insurance Forum (January 2008). To cover its possible loss, Mr. Belth says it took out a $20 million insurance policy with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., which owns a fleet of insurance companies and also owns Jordan’s. Mr. Belth could not get answers from Jordan’s or Berkshire, but he managed to piece together the above information. Mr. Belth notes that Mr. Buffett may have hedged his bet by betting against the New York Yankees. Jordan’s is sending out checks and also sending out IRS Form 1099s, as the refund is taxable, as a lottery winning would be.

    Mr. Buffett may have hedged his bet by betting against the New York Yankees…

    So, Buffett tells A-Rod to sign with the Yankees, but, Buffett bet against the Yankees last year. I’m guessing that Buffett wants to bet against New York again next year…and figures having A-Rod there will help.

    Szen Pleades Guilty

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    From George King:

    Former Yankee traveling secretary David Szen yesterday pleaded guilty in federal court to filing a false tax return, admitted he failed to report more than $50,000 in tips from players and coaches and was fired by the club.

    Szen took a paid leave of absence in late July while the investigation was under way.

    “I was wrong, and for that I’m humbly sorry, your honor,” Szen told U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz in New Haven, Conn.

    Outside court, he asked for forgiveness and apologized to his family, employer and friends.

    Szen, 56, was released on his own recognizance and will be sentenced March 7. Federal guidelines call for up to six months in prison for the felony conviction. He also faces a fine of up to $100,000 and will be required to pay $10,285 in back taxes plus interest and penalties.

    Authorities said the tax loss was $10,285 based on under-reporting of $53,350 over five years. Szen, whose reported 2005 income was $63,631, received tips ranging from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 for services provided to unidentified coaches and players during the baseball season.

    The position of Yankees traveling secretary paid an annual salary of $63,631 in 2005? In terms of net income, over the course of a calendar year, what is that, about $900 a week?

    No wonder why he didn’t report his tips. If I was clearing less than $200 a day and working as hard as he probably had to work, I’d be looking to make-up some ground where I could too.

    SOTD: Saving The Pen

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (9)

    O.K., show of hands, how many people are not shocked by seeing the Yankees so far down at the bottom of this list?

    Here’s the count for the Yankees pitchers who did “it” last year:

    Chien-Ming Wang: 27 times
    Andy Pettitte: 25 times
    Mike Mussina: 14 times
    Roger Clemens: 12 times
    Philip Hughes: 7 times
    Ian Kennedy: 2 times
    Matt DeSalvo: 2 times
    Kei Igawa: 2 times
    Carl Pavano: 1 time
    Tyler Clippard: 1 time

    Torre Off The Hook?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (11)

    An interesting study by Mitchel Lichtman (today) at The Hardball Times has the following conclusion:

    [Jim Fregosi] is correct that relief pitchers who are worked hard during a season tend to see their ERA’s increase markedly (in our case, almost half a run), such an increase is fully expected due to two things – regression towards the mean and a “drop-out” or selective sampling effect, such that any pitcher who is allowed to pitch a subsequent year will have had a tendency to have gotten a little lucky in the current year, the same problematic phenomenon we see in aging studies. Finally, if there is a small “use-effect” such that relievers who are worked hard tend to suffer in subsequent seasons as compared to relievers who don’t throw as many innings, it is not evident from the data in this study.

    This is an interesting update to a study that Cliff Corcoran did a few years ago at Bronx Banter where Cliff concluded:

    [Steve Karsay] points to an ugly side of [Joe] Torre’s tenure as Yankee manager, one in which he attributes the failures of his overworked relievers to the pitcher themselves, rather than the unreasonable workloads with which he saddles them, and shuns them because of their resulting poor performance.

    It has always been interesting to me that guys like Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera survived Joe Torre’s handling whereas guys like Scott Proctor, Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Quantrill, etc. got cooked – or, at least we assume they were fried by Joe. Perhaps it all was maybe just a regression towards the mean – and Torre is not to blame for them?

    ‘Tis The Season?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    Yesterday, I got this holiday e-mail from a friend, Dave, who I used to work with (a year ago). Dave is a huge Mets fan – lives and dies with them.

    It’s open season on Yankees, thanks to BALCO, McNamee, & Company. Makes it hard to even play the “7 in 17” card these days with my Mets’ buddies.

    A-Rod Looks To Push His Image & Brand

    Posted by on December 18th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    Reggie Jackson once said “I guess I underestimated the magnitude of me.” Looks like Alex Rodriguez doesn’t want that to happen to him.

    A hat tip to WasWatching.com reader baileywalk and BaseballThinkFactory.org for this news item from Variety:

    Guy Oseary, the former record company executive whose personal management stable includes Madonna, has signed his first athlete, Alex Rodriguez.

    The New York Yankees third baseman, considered by many to be the game’s top player, has signed with Oseary, who personally manages Lenny Kravitz and magician David Blaine in addition to Madonna. He is also a partner in Untitled Entertainment, whose clients include Hilary Swank, Penelope Cruz, Naomi Watts and Ashton Kutcher.

    “He’s focusing on baseball and needs someone whose interests are aligned,” Oseary told Daily Variety, explaining the rare move of an athlete signing with a manager whose expertise is music and film. “This is to help him have more control of his image and brand.”

    “As I embark on this new chapter in my career, I know that I have found in Guy Oseary someone who is aligned with my interests and who has earned a lot of respect in the entertainment industry,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

    While a miniscule number of NFL and NBA players have made inroads into entertainment and other non-playing opportunities, Major League Baseball players have not been as fortunate. Very few have had national endorsement deals over the last couple of decades, and the sport has been clouded in recent years by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    Rodriguez, however, is in a rare league of athletes who are household names, play at the peak of their powers for years and have never experienced serious off-the-field troubles.

    “Obviously, there are a tremendous amount of opportunities for Alex,” Oseary said. “It’s about him having someone who he respects who can look at endless possibilities. I don’t look at any one area — and these are areas he has not explored.”

    Gee, last time I checked, there’s no “image” or “brand” in “TEAM.”

    Juliano: Flexibility Makes Cashman Right Man For Yanks

    Posted by on December 18th, 2007 · Comments (11)

    William Juliano has decided to pitch in on the Cashman Appreciation Project. What follows below is William’s own words. Thanks to William for sharing this content with WasWatching.com!

    Every GM has to judged within the context of the team for which he works. In Brian Cashman’s case, we need to evaluate the role that he played in maintaining the Yankees run of success, as well as the steps he has taken to sustain it into the future. To do this, I have broken the Cashman era into three segments: the dynasty years (1998-2001), which focused on supplementing a core; the post-championship years (2001-2005), which focused on using free agents to supplement an aging core; and the youthful retooling (2006-?), which has focused on using an up and coming young core to revitalize the organization and sustain its success.

    Dynasty Years

    Brian Cashman inherited an immensely talented team in 1998. Still, there was one move that was very crucial to this team achieving regular season history and winning the World Series…the signing of Cuban defector Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. With so much water under on the bridge, it’s easy to think of El Duque as a natural Yankee and assume that George’s money and brand more than Cashman’s negotiating skill was responsible for the coup. A careful check of the reports in March 1998, however, suggest otherwise. In the early days of the negotiations, Joe Cubas, El Duque’s agent, expressed significant frustration with the Yankees negotiating tactics, singling out George Steinbrenner and Mark Newman for pointed barbs. Once Brian Cashman assumed the role of point man, however, a deal was quickly consummated. In a New York Times article on March 7, 1998, Cubas stated, “I was about to cut a deal with Cleveland. We were at opposite ends of the spectrum yesterday. The thing that helped was that Cashman got directly involved, which he hadn’t been from the very beginning.”

    Think about that for a minute. If not for Cashman salvaging the negotiation, El Duque not only wouldn’t have been available to save the Yankees season in Game 4 of the ALCS, he very well could have been pitching AGAINST them!! As a result, in the one move, you could make a very strong case for Cashman playing a vital role in the 1998 championship season.

    Another important decision from that season was one Cashman didn’t make…a mega trade for Randy Johnson. According to all accounts, the Yankees could have bagged the Big Unit had they been willing to give up a package of young players, including set-up man Ramiro Mendoza. Considering that the Yankees won the next three championships, that decision to hold off on Johnson has to be viewed as a wise one. Not only did the Yankees retain a valuable set-up man who pitched several key innings over the championship run, but they also maintained the clubhouse chemistry that was the defining feature of those teams. Who knows…Randy Johnson could have been dominant for the Yankees, but then again, he could also have been a disruption (and led to a series of other roster moves that would have made those teams very different). What we do know is the Yankees couldn’t have done any better over the next three seasons.

    As listed by Steve Lombardi, Cashman registered a few very nice moves in 1999. The most significant one among them was adding Roger Clemens. It sure took courage to trade the bets pitcher off of such a historic team, but Cashman made that difficult decision and it benefited the Yankees for years to come (also, Cashman might have been able to pull off an even better deal if Hideki Irabu had not had a no-trade clause to Toronto). In addition to the Rocket, the additions of Jason Grimsely and Darryl Strawberry also proved to net positive results. Sure, Cashman may have swung and missed a few times as well, but with a team like the Yankees, what counts is the contact you make. With a much larger margin for error, a Yankee GM doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, you can argue that he shouldn’t even try to be. After all, failing to take risks means limiting the reward.

    Another trade from 1999 wound up bearing real fruit in 2000. After almost being able to trade Irabu in the Clemens deal, Cashman was able to package him to the Expos for Jake Westbrook and Ted Lilly. As we all know, Cashman then sent Westbrook to Cleveland in a deal that landed David Justice. I don’t think much needs to be said about the role Justice played in winning the championship that year. Once again, while it might only be one move, Cashman made a key decision that helped lead to the Yankees final ring in dynasty era.

    Also from 2000, the Yankees signed Chien-Ming Wang to an amateur contract. That decision would pay dividends much later on.

    In 2001, Cashman supplemented an aging pitching staff by signing Mike Mussina. Even though Cy Youngs and championships did not follow, Moose has gone on to have a very good career with the Yankees. By targeting Moose and bagging his prey, Cashman deserves credit for a wise play of the FA market. That year, Cashman was also busy in the amateur free agent market, adding Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. At this point, it is important to note how the Yankees were able to supplement their feeble farm system with international free agents. As free agents became the fuel needed to sustain the Yankee locomotive, these signings helped make up for the lack of high draft picks.

    Post Championship

    2002 clearly wasn’t one of Cashman’s stronger seasons as a GM. He did a nice job sending David Justice to the Mets for Robin Ventura (who filled a void nicely for the season). Also, at least for 2002 alone, the FA signings of David Wells, Jason Giambi and Steve Karsay all paid off rather handsomely. Unfortunately, the trade of Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver stands out as a sore thumb. Although many touted the deal as a good one at the time, the record now indicates otherwise. Of the three main pitchers in the deal, Lilly and Bonderman proved to me much more valuable than Weaver. If not for this ill-fated trade, 2002 actually would have been another pretty good year on Cashman’s ledger. Still, the 2002 Yankees won a ton of games in spite of their early post season exit.

    For the 2003 season, Cashman added Hideki Matsui to fill a long-time void in left field. He also made a savy signing of Jon Leiber that would pay off a year later. Most importantly, he picked up Aaron Boone from the Reds. While Boone really wasn’t very good for the Yankees, his one swing on a Wakefield knuckleball justifies that entire season for me. Considering that he didn’t really give up much, I think the deal was a very good one. What’s more, with the addition of Boone, Cashman was able to trade a lame duck 3B in Robin Ventura for Scott Proctor. For all the jokes about Proctor, he was hugely successful in 2006. In any event, the Yankees did make the World Series that year. Who knows, if Joe Torre wouldn’t have left Mariano on the bench in favor of Jeff Weaver, there might be another banner flying atop the Stadium.

    With the loss of Pettitte and Clemens in 2004, the Yankees were in transition. His best FA signing was Tom Gordon (Sheffield goes on the Steinbrenner’s ledger, although one could argue that Cash’s preference for Vlad is feather in his cap). Also, Cashman was able to pull of one of the biggest trades in team history when he landed Arod for Soriano. Oh yeah…the Yankees received cash in the deal. Cashman also brought back El Duque, a move that paid huge dividends when he went 8-2 over the second half of the season. Other notable additions included John Olerud. On the draft front, the Yankees picked up a kid named Phil Hughes. In retrospect, Cashman’s 2004 was pretty good…he picked up a great bullpen arm; superstar player; emerging top prospect; and a few useful veterans. For a team that was a perennial winner, that’s pretty much all you can ask. Unfortunately, a few bad breaks and one historic comeback later, 2004 looks like a disaster. In reality, it was a pretty good year for the team and the general manager.

    If one wants to pin a bad year on Cashman, 2005 is that season. Pavano, Wright and Womack were awful signings…both in retrospect and at the time. Having said that, 2005 wasn’t all bad either. The Randy Johnson deal didn’t bear the fruit that was hoped, but the Big Unit was actually pretty good that regular season (ERA+ of 112 and 5 wins against the Red Sox). Also, although minor at the time, the deals for Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small proved vital. When you consider that Cashman didn’t give up much in the Unit deal, and next to nothing in the other two trades, you can’t argue with that trio’s performance (34 – 11). Still, the Chacon and Small performances were necessitated by the awful deals for Pavano and Wright, so you can’t heap too much praise. Perhaps, where you can give Cashman more deserved praise is for his willingness to admit his mistakes and take the dramatic step of promoting Cano over a clearly awful Womack. With Wang and Cano contributing in their rookie campaigns, Cashman’s strategy of signing international free agents was starting to pay off.

    Youthful Retooling

    Heading into 2006, Brian Cashman finally had the autonomy he had long desired. His first major move, signing Kyle Farnsworth, certainly wasn’t a good omen, but his draft fared much better. By adding Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, Cashman continued a strategy of signing over-slot pitchers in an attempt to stockpile young arms (a strategy that has the Yankees as players in every major deal being contemplated). On the major league front, Cashman also signed Johnny Damon. Although the ultimate value of that contract is still to be determined, Damon was a significant asset in 2006. Another feather in his cap was the mid season addition of Bobby Abreu for next to nothing. That deal clearly spurred on the Yankees second half resurgence that culminated in a 5-game massacre of the Red Sox in August. Still, the Yankees fell short of their ultimate goal, and part of the reason was the failing of an older staff. Toward that end, Cashman seems to have realized the need to develop young starters and you can’t argue much with his progress to this point.

    With 2006 signaling the need for a transition back to youth, Cashman traded three veterans (Sheffield, Johnson and Wright) for prospects. Although the jury is still out on the young arms received in return, the deals definitely highlighted the Yankees’ new philosophy. Unfortunately, the Kei Igawa deal got in the way of that plan, but even in spite of the large posting fee, Cashman wasn’t exactly effusive with his praise for the signing. Repeatedly, Cash labeled him a reliever/5th starter, so perhaps that deal came more from the team’s marketing department? In any event, 2007 continued the Yankees strategy of drafting high ceiling/high bonus talent, and saw the Yankees eschew trading highly touted young prospects for stop gap solutions.

    How well the Yankees revitalized farm is at producing players will likely go a long way toward defining Cashman’s future legacy. Up to this point, however, I don’t think you can complain too much. Could he have compiled a stronger bench and bullpen in some years? Yes. Did he whiff on Pavano, Wright and Igawa? Sure. On balance, however, Cashman has seemed to make the right moves. From El Duque to Wang to Cano, he has tapped the international market with much success. With names like Proctor, Leiber, Small and Chacon, he has also had success scouring the scrap heap. By acquiring Arod and Randy Johnson, no one can doubt his ability to pull off a block buster. At midseason, the acquisitions of Justice and Abreu prove his ability to identify a void and fill it with the perfect solution. Finally, with his recent drafts, he has shown that he has been instrumental in changing the Yankees free agent first philosophy. As the Yankee team has changed, so too has Cashman. This flexibility, ultimately, is what makes Cashman the right man to serve as General Manager of the Yankees.

    Yanks Future: Artificial Players & Artificial Fans?

    Posted by on December 18th, 2007 · Comments (11)

    In an exchange of e-mails between a friend and I this morning, regarding the Yankees ticket price increase for next season, I found myself writing:

    The days of going to 9 games [at Yankee Stadium], or more, a year, are out for me. Sad. I can’t afford it. At this rate, I’ll be lucky to be there for 3 or 4 games a year.

    Thinking about it some more, I’m starting to wonder if Yankee Stadium will become like the Titanic when it set out to sea – with all the rich people staying on top, living the high-life, and all the poor people jammed into the bowels of the ship, crammed in there, huddled, and wondering what it’s like for the affluent folks in the nice parts of the vessel.

    Seriously, since the Yankees are “reversing the bowls” in their new Stadium – meaning there will be more seats on the bottom level as opposed to the upper deck, which is the opposite of the current Stadium where there are more seats in the upper deck than at field level – will the new Stadium have all the rich people on the first level and the poor people jammed into what few seats will be there in the upper deck?

    Worse, when you factor in the current demand for Yankees tickets, and the lure of the new Stadium, will the average to less-than-average income person even be able to buy Yankees tickets come 2009?

    You know, not too long ago, Jacobs Field in Cleveland had 455 straight sellouts from June 12, 1995 through April 4, 2001. Further, the Indians actually sold all 81 home games before opening day during three separate seasons. Needless to say, there was a time when getting a ticket to a baseball game in Cleveland was a hard thing to do.

    I was actually in Cleveland, during the season in 1999, on a business trip with a friend – and our meetings were scheduled not far from “The Jake.” On the taxi ride from the airport to our meeting, I asked the cabbie if it was, indeed, impossible to get a ticket to the game (that night). He asked me if the first inning was important to me. When I asked him why, he said “If you want to scalp tickets, you’re going to need a loan from the bank. But, if you’re willing to miss the first inning, by that time, the scalpers are willing to then sell the tickets at face value or less – rather than risk not selling the tickets at all.”

    Thinking about this today – is this what it’s going to come down to in the Bronx after 2008? Is the only way that you’ll be able to afford decent seats to a Yankees game will be if you’re willing to scalp after the first inning is already played?

    Worse, I don’t think that the Yankees care that they’re forcing the “everyday diehard fan” out of being able to go to a game. There will be enough well-to-do people, celebrities, corporations, etc., willing to buy tickets for games at the new Stadium – so, at the end of the day, the Yankees will still get their revenue. But, I will suggest this: There will be a change in the atmosphere at the new Stadium. With the “died in the wool” fans relegated to the few seats affordable and available in the upper deck and/or bleachers, and the majority of the seats filled with “Milli Vanilli type” poser-fans, going to a Yankees game, after 2008, will have an artificial feel to it.

    It’s funny: Many people like to say that the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez is vain, sensitive, insecure…and, overcoached and artificial.

    Is this the Yankees future? Artificial players and artificial fans?

    To quote the Chez Quis Maitre D’ in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “I weep for the future.”

    Yanks Raise Ticket Prices, Again

    Posted by on December 18th, 2007 · Comments (20)

    I got my season tickets in 2001 – Loge Box MVP seats, right by 1B.

    In 2001, they were $37 per seat.
    That price stayed the same in 2002.

    In 2003, it was raised to $40.
    In 2004, it was raised to $45.
    In 2005, it was raised to $50.
    In 2006, it was raised to $55.
    And, last year, 2007, it was raised to $63 per seat.

    Now, I just got the bill for 2008 – and the price for next season is $75 per seat.

    Is it just me, or, is an increase of 102.7% over a seven year period just seem like a bit much?

    You know, before the Cardinals opened their new park in 2006, ticket prices in the ten prior new homes for baseball teams, since 2000, saw a 50 percent average increase.

    So, what, now my tickets will be $113 per seat in 2009? Man, that’s just crazy.

    Cashman Appreciation Project – Follow Up Request

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (42)

    Five days ago, I pitched WasWatching.com’s Cashman Appreciation Project – asking readers to submit an essay that details all the positive things that Brian Cashman has brought to the Yankees in his ten years as G.M. – with the following conditions:

    It can’t just be “one” thing – I want to see at least four positive things that Cashman has brought to the picture in the last decade. (Four things over the course of 120 months should not be so tough, right?) And, you can’t make statements/claims without showing the whole picture and providing details and facts. For example:

    I don’t want to see a statement like: “Brian Cashman helped the Yankees organization by staffing the team with great young arms [period]”

    If you’re going to make a claim like that, I want to also see: What brought cause for the need of the arms? Who was responsible for that? Who are the young arms? What have they done to date and at what level? What have they proven in terms of being able to succeed at the major league level? What proof do we have that Cashman, and not Damon Oppenheimer and/or Mark Newman, was the driving force behind their joining the organization?

    To date, only one person has accepted the challenge: Matt Johnson.

    And, with his submission, Johnson decided to focus on Cashman’s actions since 2005, ignoring the seven years before that time, and highlighting Cashman’s recent trend of keeping draft picks, signing international players, and not trading pitching prospects. However, to this, I would counter that very few (if any) of these Post-2005 actions noted by Johnson have brought genuine, substantial and sustained positive impact to the Yankees major league team, to date. They may, indeed, become fruitful in the near or somewhat-near future. But, any claim that they will result in the Yankees favor, soon or fairly soon, for fact, is just soothsayer speculation at this junction.

    Therefore, I’m still at square one in terms of seeing, from others, the detectable and positive things that Brian Cashman has brought to the Yankees in his ten years as G.M. – and, once again, I’m asking for “you” to provide an assist on this one.

    If you’re interested in submitting a “Cashman Appreciation” essay, under the above guidleines, please send it to me via e-mail. While I can’t promise to publish all of them, I will make every attempt to publish the best of the bunch.

    Brian Cashman 1999

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (14)

    Brian Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998.

    It’s rare for someone to be a G.M. for tens years with one team these days. Ten years does provide for some “body of work” analysis. Therefore, I thought it would be fun, this off-season, to take a look back at Cashman’s “moves” during the past decade – one year at a time. (I’ll try and post one year, per week, over the next ten weeks.)

    Here, we’ll look at Cashman’s moves in 1999 and how they helped or hurt the team:

    No Impact:

    March 30, 1999 – Traded Darren Holmes and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Ben Ford and Izzy Molina.

    June 2, 1999 – Drafted Alex Graman in the 3rd round of the 1999 amateur draft. Player signed June 5, 1999. Drafted Andy Phillips in the 7th round of the 1999 amateur draft. Player signed June 25, 1999. Drafted Kevin Thompson in the 31st round of the 1999 amateur draft. Player signed June 7, 2000.

    December 13, 1999 – Traded Chad Curtis to the Texas Rangers. Received Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek.

    December 14, 1999 – Traded Dan Naulty to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Nicholas Leach.

    December 17, 1999 – Signed Chris Turner as a free agent.

    Good Impact:

    January 26, 1999 – Signed Jason Grimsley as a free agent.

    February 18, 1999 – Traded Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Roger Clemens.

    April 5, 1999 – Signed Darryl Strawberry as a free agent.

    July 31, 1999 – Traded Geraldo Padua to the San Diego Padres. Received Jim Leyritz.

    November 29, 1999 – Signed Mike Stanton as a free agent.

    December 15, 1999 – Signed Ryan Thompson as a free agent.

    Great Impact:

    December 22, 1999 – Traded Hideki Irabu to the Montreal Expos. Received players to be named later and Jake Westbrook. The Montreal Expos sent Ted Lilly (March 17, 2000) and Christian Parker (March 22, 2000) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

    Bad Impact:

    February 1, 1999 – Traded Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins. Received Mark J. Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel.

    April 5, 1999 – Signed Wily Mo Pena as a free agent.

    December 6, 1999 – Signed David Cone as a free agent.

    December 7, 1999 – Signed Allen Watson as a free agent.

    Was Probably Not A Cashman Move & More Likely Something Done In Tampa:

    None.
    ______________________________________________________________

    This is an interesting year. The terrible decisions to bring back Watson and Cone, at the end of the season, somewhat offset the good moves on Grimsley, Stanton and Thompson. The Irabu trade was a steal – too bad that they didn’t keep Lilly and Westbrook (as they would helped, for sure, this season). The Wells-Clemens deal? From 1999 to 2003, Clemens had 62 RSAA in 1004 IP and Wells had 46 RSAA in 981.3 IP. That’s close. But, Wells was back in New York for 2002 and 2003. From 1999 to 2001, Clemens had 52 RSAA in 612.3 IP and Wells had 27 RSAA in 562 IP. So, yes, that trade was a good one for Cashman, then, too. The Lowell trade depends on your position. Some will say that he was blocked and it made sense. That’s fine. But, the return, in the end, turned out to be a bust – albeit that the pitching prospects sounded good at the time. Ah, pitching prospects…

    Derek Speaks…On Stein High

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From the St. Petersburg Times -

    Most Hillsborough County schools are named after people, but they’re usually educators – poor-pocketed regular folks – and not billionaire businessmen.

    Not people like New York Yankees owner and philanthropist George Steinbrenner, whose name was chosen last week for the long-awaited high school in Lutz.

    Don’t worry, it’s not Wisconsin or Indiana, where school naming rights are for sale; or Marion County, where they’re considering the practice.

    No, school officials here said they simply wanted to honor Steinbrenner: “the Boss,” brassy with a heart of gold.

    Steinbrenner, 77, made the following statement via his spokesman Howard J. Rubenstein: “I am thankful and gratified with this enormous honor, and I’ll continue to help the youth of our community as best I can, because they’re the future for us and for the nation.”

    “With all he’s done for this area, if you’re going to name a school after anybody in Tampa, it should be him,” said Yankee captain Derek Jeter.

    Maybe Derek just chimed in on this one because he wants to use it in his case to establish his Tampa residency?

    Revisiting The Recent Question: Are Yanks Being Smart?

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (27)

    The other day, I took a beating from some WasWatching.com readers when I suggested that the proper model for building a baseball franchise would be to draft, sign, and develop position players and trade for, or sign free agent, pitchers.

    Today, I found this excellent study entitled “How Much is a Top Prospect Worth?” by Victor Wang in “By the Numbers, Volume 17, No. 3” that backs up what I was suggesting the other day. I recommend reading the study (via the link provided herein). In summary, this is what Wang shared:

    With salaries for major league free agents skyrocketing, teams are more reluctant than ever to trade their top prospects. These prospects are so valuable because if they reach their upside, a major league team has a star caliber player under their control for six full seasons while paying that player much less than what he would earn on the open market. Teams are even reluctant to trade these types of prospects for established major league stars, who may provide more certainty but cost more and may soon be free agents. I was curious to see whether teams were making the right choice by holding on to these prospects. In essence, I wanted to determine what type of value a team could get back from a top prospect during the first six years the team had that prospect under its control.

    On average, the hitting prospects have given about 24 WARP, or the results of an everyday player. When that player can be controlled for a very cheap price, it gives great value to the controlling team given the current open market. However, when we take a closer look, the chances of a team getting an everyday player is one out of three. They also have a higher chance of having their prospect become a bust than getting a star player in return. A bust happens for one out of every five prospects while a team gets a star player in return for one out of every six hitting prospects. For every Vladimir Guerrero, there are even more Eric Anthonys. The large standard deviations also reflect the large risk prospects carry. While hitting prospects provide a pretty decent return, top pitching prospects have given a terrible one. Out of the 26 different pitchers to rate as a top ten prospect, only one (Pedro Martinez) gave a star return in his first six years. A team only gets a solid starting pitcher for about one out of every ten pitching prospects. Maybe even worse, over half of the pitching prospects became busts. Given the high rate of failed pitching prospects, it could definitely be worth giving a top pitching prospect for an established player, even considering the high price that pitchers fetch in the free-agent market.

    It appears that teams are doing the right thing in hanging on to top hitting prospects. Trading a top hitting prospect demands a lot in return in order to ensure fair value in a trade. It also appears that teams are usually doing the right thing by not trading away top pitching prospects for a short term acquisition. There could be value to be made if a team can acquire a more certain asset it can control for over one year for a top pitching prospect, especially given the fact that even top pitching prospects are a bust over half the time.

    Like I said the other day, the Yankees have focused their “draft” strategy around drafting, signing, and trying to develop pitching prospects. As Wang notes “top pitching prospects are a bust over half the time.” Note we’re not talking about “prospects” here but “top prospects.” And, note we’re not talking about them being “less than great” here but about them being “busts.” So, again, I have to ask the question: Is Brian Cashman making the smart move by going with older and expensive position players, with no one to force them out of the picture for less money, and going very heavy with pitching prospects where it’s risky to project performance and health at the big league level?

    John Sickels Top 20 Yanks Prospects

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    John Sickels has published his list of the Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2008:

    1. Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Grade A
    2. Jose Tabata, OF, Grade B+
    3. Ian Kennedy, RHP, Grade B+
    4. Alan Horne, RHP, Grade B
    5. Austin Jackson, OF, Grade B-
    6. Bradley Suttle, 3B, Grade B-
    7. Dellin Betances, RHP, Grade B-
    8. Austin Romine, C, Grade B- (hate grading guys who haven’t played yet, could be C+)
    9. Jesus Montero, C, Grade C+ (borderline B-)
    10. Dan McCutchen, RHP, Grade C+
    11. Brett Gardner, OF, Grade C+
    12. Damon Sublett, 2B, Grade C+ (love this guy)
    13. Andrew Brackman, RHP, Grade C+ (could slot anywhere from 9 to 20 depending on what you want to emphasize)
    14. Jeffrey Marquez, RHP, Grade C+
    15. George Kontos, RHP, Grade C+
    16. Kevin Whelan, RHP, Grade C+ (check those K/IP and H/IP, but command?)
    17. Frank Cervelli, C, Grade C+ (great glove, bat?)
    18. David Robertson, RHP, Grade C+ (stunning numbers)
    19. Jairo Heredia, RHP, Grade C+
    20. Zach McAllister, RHP, Grade C+

    No Humberto Sanchez? No J. Brent Cox? No Mark Melancon? That’s fine…but, then, how can you have Brackman at # 13? Note that Ross Ohlendorf and Edwar Ramirez did not make the top twenty either.

    Comparing the list to Kevin Goldstein’s latest on the Yankees system, tells us that Kevin and John agree that Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, and Alan Horne are the Yankees top five prospects.

    It will be interesting to see if the Yankees rotation in 2009 will be Wang, Chamberlain, Kennedy, Hughes, and Horne – or, if the Yankees will move one of the kids for someone like Santana, and/or, try and bring back Pettitte for 2009.

    Ho, Ho, Ho…Need General Joe?

    Posted by on December 17th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Just a reminder…

    if you’re interested in getting or giving a “General Joe’s Army Shirt” for Christmas, you probably want to order it today – and opt for two-day or one-day express shipping. If you wait beyond today, it may not get to you in time for the holiday.

    And, as far as I know, the discount coupon still can be applied.

    Anyone Heard From The Captain Lately?

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (10)

    Back on November 9th, speaking at Joe Torre’s annual Safe At Home Foundation gala, Derek Jeter said, about Alex Rodriguez:

    “There’s not many people in the game that do the things that he does. We’re trying to win, but it takes more than one person. We’ve had teams that have won and we haven’t had numbers like that put up, so you don’t necessarily have to have those type of numbers in order to win.”

    After that, I heard Jeter on WFAN – as he was named WFAN’s Top New York Sports Celebrity. And, then, Derek said he was going to leave the country for a bit. But, he’s back now, and, to date, I don’t think Jeter has said a word about Alex Rodriguez’ return to the Yankees and A-Rod’s new contract.

    It’s been a month since A-Rod’s return went down. Doesn’t it seem odd – even with him being out of the country – that Jeter’s had no comment on this? Or, has he said something and I missed it? Maybe it’s just Jeter boycotting the media since they showed up at his mother’s house? That was about the same time as when Alex’s news broke. Or, could it be that Derek is being quiet because he has some issue with the money being given Alex and the potential of Rodriguez becoming the new face of the franchise?

    A-Rod On 60 Minutes

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    If you missed it, click here to read the interview.

    Alex really doesn’t say much – his answers to all the questions are what you would expect him to say…meaning they’re very short and/or P.C. in nature. Such as:

    Asked why he thinks he gets so much grief over his salary, Rodriguez told Couric, “‘Cause I make a lot of money.”

    “Your new contract is worth $300 million-plus. Are you worth it? Is any player worth that kind of salary?” Couric asked.

    “I’m not sure,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, that’s not my job to evaluate or appraise players. I love to play baseball.”

    and…

    “Why haven’t you done better in the post-season?” Couric asked.

    “I’ve stunk,” Rodriguez admitted. “You know? I’ve done very poorly. And that’s not acceptable.”

    After seeing the interview, I am left asking myself the question “What was the purpose of that? Why did Rodriguez consent to the interview if he was going to give it the robo-response routine?”

    Perhaps Alex just thought it was important to answer the PED question, in the flesh, and do some damage control on the handling of his opt-out announcement? That’s the only thing I can guess here.

    Yanks To Twins (?): If We Can Move Godzilla, We’re In On Johan

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From Joe Christensen -

    Yesterday, Hank Steinbrenner the Newark Star Ledger what many people have long suspected: The Yankees aren’t out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes. “We’re still considering it,” Steinbrenner said. “I haven’t closed the door completely on Santana.” The story adds:

    A person who has spoken to Minnesota management and asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak for the team said the Yankees told the Twins they would get back into the Santana talks if they can shed the contract of left fielder Hideki Matsui.

    I heard the same thing from the Twins this week.

    Poor Matsui – he has to get bounced from the Bronx because of the money wasted on Kei Igawa, Kyle Farnsworth, and Carl Pavano.

    Meet The New Boss, Not The Same As The Old Boss?

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    The St. Petersburg Times has a great feature up on Hank Steinbrenner today. Some hightlights:

    “Maybe at times I’ll shoot from the hip too much,” says Hank with a deep, deliberate voice that contrasts to his father’s faster, clipped delivery. “And that’s an influence from my dad. But the biggest thing I learned from him is winning.”

    For years, he distanced himself from baseball, where there would have been precious little room to establish his own identity while following in his father’s footsteps. Other than a brief stint with the team in 1985 and 1986, learning the ropes of the organization, Hank remained immersed in the thoroughbred business some 100 miles north at Kinsman Farm in Ocala, where he would produce a steady string of graded stakes champs and 2005 Kentucky Derby favorite Bellamy Road.

    He shunned opportunities to become the DH – designated heir – turning down his dad’s offer to run the team temporarily when the senior Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball in 1990. He watched with no regrets as one, then another brother-in-law moved into the line of succession until they became former brothers-in-law – ultimately opening the door for Hank to be groomed for a new role.

    “I preferred to stay with horse racing, at that time I was even living at the farm,” he said. “At no time did I wonder, ‘Well, am I going to end up taking it over?’ It was a situation where it was a necessity within the last year.”

    For all the tempestuousness that would characterize his father as Yankees owner, Hank saw a different man at home. “As a father, he was great,” he says. “As a boss, he was very difficult.”

    But Papa Steinbrenner coaxed his son into joining the baseball business in the mid-1980s. Hank was assigned to then-GM Clyde King in ’85, followed by King’s successor, Woody Woodward. He saw the inner workings of the operation, with Billy Martin managing the first year, Lou Piniella the second.

    “In the years I was with the Yankees, he wasn’t too involved,” Piniella says. “But I’ve gotten to know him well since then. Hank’s a smart guy. Very intelligent and hospitable. Quiet and more reserved than his father. He doesn’t have the bluster his dad was known for. I don’t think he probably likes the limelight as much as his dad did. He’s very serious – all business.”

    He’s a pack-a-day smoker, but wants to quit to be a better role model for children. As a youngster, he dreamed about becoming a U.S. senator, a goal that delighted his parents. He plays a Fender Stratocaster guitar to relax, likes U2 and he says his favorite meal is pizza.

    “Hank’s just a regular guy you could have a beer with,” longtime friend and Kinsman Farm manager Jim Scott says.

    Scott has a favorite story about Hank. It takes place in the ’80s, when George Steinbrenner was still highly involved at Kinsman.

    “Hank was here in our office and we were on a conference call, and Mr. Steinbrenner was chewing me and a couple of other guys out about something,” Scott remembers. “Hank was kind of sitting back, not saying anything. But he had one of those little laugh boxes, and when you pushed the button, it would go, ‘Ya-ha-ha-ha.’

    “So as Mr. Steinbrenner is yelling into the phone, Hank comes up from behind, puts the box right next to the receiver and all of a sudden he hits that button. That thing starts making laughing sounds. And Mr. Steinbrenner comes apart, wanting to know who was laughing during the a—chewing. I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but I did later.”

    Not long after, following some gentle prodding by Piniella over lunch, Hank emerged and, with Hal, joined their aging father. He needed them, not just wanted them. The time had come to return to his side. The daughters have done the same, with Jessica expanding her Kinsman duties and Jennifer supervising the New York Yankees Foundation, taking a more visible role in overseeing philanthropic endeavors in the Tampa Bay area and New York.

    “I’m happy that we’ve all stepped up,” says Jessica, married to Yankees senior vice president Felix Lopez Jr.

    “I think Hank will bring a very calm perspective,” says Joe Molloy, who, before his divorce from Jessica in 1997, was a Yankees general partner and a candidate to succeed the Boss. Molloy now works as a middle school teacher in Tampa. “He’s very levelheaded and thinks things through thoroughly. His interest is to win and that will carry over.”

    But not, Hank says, as the result of an explosive management style.

    “I tend to be somewhat reactive – I take things as they come, every situation is different,” he says. “But as a boss, I’m definitely easy.”

    Time will tell with Hank. But, I see some potential here. Having him get control of the team might be one of the best things to happen to the Yankees since Big Stein got bounced for Howie Spira. I just hope that Hank gets the advice of good “baseball” people and avoids listening too much to “the suits.”

    RSN To Now Suffer From “The Boss Curse”?

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    One can only hope so…from the Hattiesburg American:

    Moments after Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon struck out Colorado Rockie Seth Smith for the final out of the 2007 World Series, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek gave Papelbon the baseball.

    Papelbon’s agent later said that his client didn’t have the ball.

    It puzzled some in Boston, as the team had trouble getting the final baseball of the 2004 World Series, too, which the Red Sox also won.

    Well, the 2007 mystery is now solved. The World Series baseball is in Hattiesburg.

    At least what is left of it is.

    “My dog ate it,” said Papelbon, who has a home in the Canebrake subdivision.

    “He plays with baseballs like they are his toys. His name is Boss. He jumped up one day on the counter and snatched it. He likes rawhide. He tore that thing to pieces. Nobody knows that. I’ll keep what’s left of it.”

    Gooood doggie.

    The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008

    Posted by on December 16th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    Being a big fan of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007, I was truly looking forward to reviewing the The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008. And, once done, I was not disappointed.

    Following the format of the two annuals that preceded it, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 provides an extensive review of the past season, essays related to baseball history, features deep-rooted in statistical analysis, and, pages and pages of stats, stats, and more stats.

    If The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 was a baseball bat, clearly, the content therein centering on statistical analysis would be the fat part of the bat.

    Don’t take this to mean that the features on the 2007 season and baseball history were not enjoyable. On the whole, I found them to be interesting and worth reading.

    In particular, Dave Studenmund’s “The Story Stat,” where Dave uses the 2007 season to explain “Win Probability Added” (WPA) and “Leverage Index” (LI) – at a level where the old woman down the street would understand it – was excellent and recommended reading for anyone who does not understand WPA and LI.

    And, Will Leitch’s “The Deadspin Spin on 2007″ was very entertaining – as was “The Months of 2007 in History” by Richard Barbieri.

    Further, Chis Jaffe’s “Manager Grinders and Boppers” (where Chis, via the stats, shows us who are baseball’s true ‘small ball’ and ‘moneyball’ managers) is a must read. (Spoiler Alert: Buck Showalter would rather lose a finger than risk giving up an out.)

    More so, it’s a matter of the (deep) “statistical analysis” features being so off-the-charts in terms of value that they bring cause for you wanting more of them and less of the other (non-stats based) content in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008.

    Mitchel Lictman’s “Signals and Noise” (where he shows us which teams under- and over-performed in 2007), Tom Tango’s “With or Without You” (where he uses the stats to determine the best fielding catchers in baseball history), David Gassko’s “Do Managers Matter?” (where he details which skippers actually help or hurt their teams), and John Walsh’s “The Origin of the Platoon Advantage” (where he shows us that it’s actually the fastball and the slider that lead to large platoon splits – and not the not the curveball or the change), were so outstanding that they alone make The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 a worthy purchase.

    To be fair, not every feature in the analysis section was as attention-grabbing as those noted above. Personally, I found Tom Tango’s “With or Without…Derek Jeter” (where he uses a new look to show Jeter’s lack of fielding skill) and Vince Gennaro’s “The Dollar Value of Player Development” (where he makes a case for player development being “the lifeblood of an MLB franchise”) to be somewhat like beating old drums, albeit using a new stick, and playing a song that we’ve all heard before…many times.

    However, again, the “great to good” to “O.K. to boring” ratio for the statistical features in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is very heavy on the “great to good” side. By far, these features put a great swing on the ball and make solid contact many, many, more times than not.

    Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the “stats” in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 – as more than half of the book is pages full of statistics.

    In a nutshell, the “Statistics” section of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is, well, it’s the data that you pray the G.M. of your favorite baseball team has at their fingertips, understands, and uses when making decisions. The statistics provided are both ground-breaking and illuminating.

    For example, as noted in the book, Jose Contreras had an ERA of 5.57 in 189 innings pitched last season. Ask 99 out of 100 baseball fans and they will tell you that Contreras was a terrible pitcher in 2007.

    However, as the statistics in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 show us, Jose’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) – meaning strikeouts, walks and homers allowed – was not very out of line for him. Also, his Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) – meaning the percentage of times a batted ball was turned into an out by his fielders – was third worst in the league. Further, 68% of Contreras’ ground balls allowed went for outs – compared to the league average of 74% – and Jose gave up more runs per grounder compared to the average big league pitcher. Via the stats in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 you can see that Jose Contreras was not a very lucky pitcher in 2007.

    You just can’t get stats like these in very many places – which makes The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 incredibly unique and useful.

    When you factor in the retail price of $19.95, there’s really no excuse for a zealous baseball fan not to pick up The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008. (And, if you know a baseball fan, and are looking to buy them a gift this holiday season, you will do no wrong by getting them this book.)

    In 2005, I wrote:

    I highly recommend The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I’ve read many books like this over the last 25 years and this one is right up there among the best of the group.

    And, in 2006, I wrote:

    The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 is batting 1.000 – in terms of providing great and ground-breaking baseball analysis. It’s a worthy pick-up.

    Having now read The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008, in summary, I have to “borrow” from what I wrote about its predecessors and say:

    I’ve read many books like this over the last quarter-century and this one is right up there among the best of the group. In terms of providing great and ground-breaking baseball analysis, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 is an excellent learning tool and valuable resource. I highly recommend it.

    Andy Pettitte’s Admission Of Using HGH

    Posted by on December 15th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    Andy Pettitte’s statement tonight, via the AP:

    Text of Andy Pettitte’s statement Saturday issued through agent Randy Hendricks:

    First, I would like to say that contrary to media reports, I have never used steroids. I have no idea why the media would say that I have used steroids, but they have done so repeatedly. This is hurtful to me and my family.

    In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow. I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped. This is it – two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list.

    If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize. I accept responsibility for those two days. Everything else written or said about me knowingly using illegal drugs is nonsense, wrong and hurtful. I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn’t looking for an edge; I was looking to heal.

    If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication. I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true.

    The Yankees on this, via their site:

    “Late this afternoon Andy Pettitte advised us that he would be making a public statement. We support his coming forward.”

    O.K., Pettitte admits to surreptitiously using a performance enhancing drug (and, yes, attempting to rehab quicker is attempting to enhance performance) in 2002. And, for sure, if not for the Mitchell Report, Andy would have never fessed up to this – at least not now.

    Also, for what it’s worth, after coming off the D.L. in 2002, Pettitte went 12-4 in 19 starts with an ERA of 3.29. So, you have to accept the cries from some that want to suggest his 2002 season was aided by the use of HGH – albeit, as Andy claims, just a few injections. Note that I said “accept the cries” and not “accept the fact” – meaning I just saying that you have to give people the right to wonder about his 2002 numbers…given Pettitte’s admission…and I’m not saying, for fact, that the HGH helped him.

    Granted, Pettitte should have used better judgment at that time. Even without baseball having a policy on HGH in 2002, the fact that Andy was doing this behind closed doors and not through the team, and, given that the HGH was obtained illegally, Pettitte was not looking at the entire big picture when he elected to use the HGH.

    Still, you have to give Pettitte some respect for confessing tonight – as he easily could have played the “Not true!” or “I didn’t know what it was then!” card that just about everyone else likes to play when pressed into this spot.

    Hey, at the end of the day, this is what it’s going to come down to:

    If you’re a fan of Andy Pettitte, you’re going to look at this whole thing now and say “I forgive him.” And, if you’re not a Pettitte fan, or, if you’re someone who doesn’t like the Yankees, you’re going to look at this all now and say (something like) “He’s a liar and a cheat.”

    And, in reality, all the facts, explanations, etc., related to this case don’t really matter – because you were probably dead-ready to either forgive Pettitte or stone him…way before all this came to the surface.

    Me? I like the guy. So, sure, I’m going to forgive him. Is that fair? Is that being rational? Nope – I must confess that it is not fair or rational. But, last time I checked, when it comes to rooting for a baseball player or team, there’s no requirement that you have to apply fairness or rationality to the process.

    Francisco Arcia

    Posted by on December 15th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    The Yankees signed (then) 16-year old Francisco Arcia out of Venezuela in 2006. Reportedly, they signed him for $65,000.

    He’s a switch-hitter and a supposed good catch and throw guy behind the plate. He caught 47 games in the Dominican Summer League last year – and posted an OPS that was 192 points above the league average.

    Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a million miles away from a point where we can say, for sure, that he’s a big league prospect. But, still, he’s someone worth keeping on the radar in Yankeeland, now.

    Nice find here by Lin Garrett (the Yankees international scouting director).

    Alan Horne Update

    Posted by on December 15th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    From The Gainesville Sun -

    This season, in his second year in the minor leagues, Horne finished with an 11-4 record and a 3.20 ERA to lead the Trenton Thunder – the New York Yankees’ Double-A affiliate – to their first Eastern League Championship and along the way, earned the EL Pitcher of the Year award.

    “We were really pleased with Alan’s progression,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman told trentonthunder.com shortly after the season. “He certainly has our attention.” That attention was evident during this year’s winter meetings.

    After dangling the 6-foot-4, 195-pound righty at the Cincinnati Reds for slugger Adam Dunn this summer, the Yankees deemed him untradable in an attempt to acquire Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana in November.

    “It’s definitely a big honor,” Horne said. “Even to be thrown around with caliber players like Adam Dunn and Johan Santana is nice. Then to find out it’s not going to happen makes you feel really good.

    “But anything can happen. There’s always that magic deal that can pop up.”

    Now, Horne makes a living in New Jersey, where he hopes to be another successful product of the Yankees’ farm system – like former teammates Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.

    “It’s very encouraging to see your teammates have that success because it makes you think you can succeed, too,” Horne said. “I’m going to go into spring training with the mentality of being a starting pitcher for the Yankees and opening up some eyes. If I have to come out of the bullpen, that’s fine.

    “I just want to make the big leagues.”

    If I had to guess, Horne will start the year in Triple-A next season. But, if he does well there, he could be in the Bronx some time during the year too.

    One Cool Kaat

    Posted by on December 15th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune has a nice feature up today – getting us up-to-date with Jim Kaat.

    The Yankees rewarded Kaat for his excellence with generous pay, but they were unable to talk him out of retirement after the 2006 season. He went home to Stuart, Fla., and started making plans with his wife, Mary Ann, to see the country in their Itasca-Meridian model Winnebago.

    “We left Florida at the end of May and didn’t get back until the middle of November,” Kaat said. “We traveled 10,400 miles through 27 states, with stops at 60 different golf courses and twice as many art galleries.

    “Mary Ann doesn’t golf, so she brushes the cats while I’m playing golf, and then I pay her back by visiting art galleries.

    “We hit every state where we have relatives. We saw every brother, sister, son, daughter, grandchild, niece and nephew we could find.”

    “I know it’s fashionable for retired people to get on a plane, fly to Europe, then come home and talk about how great Rome is,” Kaat said. “To each his own, but I’d say to those people, ‘You don’t know what you’re missing — the scenery, the beautiful little towns, the great people — by not hitting the highways and seeing this country.”

    The Miami Boys On The Mitchell Report

    Posted by on December 15th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From ESPN -

    Jose Canseco said he couldn’t believe that Alex Rodriguez wasn’t named in the Mitchell report. But A-Rod says in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” he’s never even been tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs.

    In the interview, scheduled to air Sunday, when asked by Katie Couric if he had used steroids, human growth hormone or another performance-enhancing drug, Rodriguez said, “No.”

    “I think baseball’s done a fine job of implementing some very strict rules,” Rodriguez said in the interview. “I mean, I got tested eight or nine times. I know some of my teammates got tested, you know, seven, eight … times and, you know, if you think about where the game is today versus where it was six years ago, I think Major League Baseball has made some nice strides.”

    Canseco’s name appears 105 times in the Mitchell report, more than that of Barry Bonds (103) or Roger Clemens (82). In all, the 409-page report identified 86 names to differing degrees, but Clemens clearly was the symbol.

    “I saw the list of players, and there are definitely a lot of players missing,” he told Fox Business Network. “I don’t know what they accomplished or what they are trying to prove.”

    Prodded further about players not included, Canseco said this of A-Rod: “All I can say is the Mitchell report is incomplete. I could not believe that his name was not in the report.”

    When asked if he was going to start a blog, and mention his opinion on A-Rod there, Canseco said that he didn’t see the point – because many baseball fans only want to read things that are in 100% agreement with their opinion (and not something that dares to differ from what they believe to be true).

    Marty “Death To Healthy Hamstrings” Miller Weighs In On Clemens

    Posted by on December 14th, 2007 · Comments (20)

    From the Daily News:

    When Marty Miller heard Thursday that Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte had been implicated as steroid users by their personal trainer, he hardly blinked an eye.

    Miller, who served briefly as the Yankees’ “director of performance enhancement” last season, saw the effects first-hand of self-appointed fitness gurus such as Brian McNamee.

    “All I know is if a player is on a roster he can be tested,” Miller says. “If you’re not on a roster, you’re not a player. There’s players who just suddenly retire, and then come back. Some of the answers are sitting right in front of you.”

    Oh, that Marty, he’s such a smarty. No wonder why Cashman loved him. (Yeah, I know, it wasn’t a bad hire. Just bad luck, sunspots, or something that was totally not Brian’s fault. No way could it be a bad hire.)

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