• Cashman: Like Any Season, (2008) Can Go Either Way

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via Ken Davidoff:

    There’s an anecdote from “Feeding the Monster,” the best-selling book on the Red Sox by Seth Mnookin, focusing on an October 2005 organizational meeting. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein asked a group of his co-workers: “What if we win 85 games [in 2006]? We’re bringing up some young players that are going to be better in ’07 than they will be next year. And they’ll probably be even better than that in ’08.”

    Epstein proved prophetic, as the ’06 Bosox won 86 games, missing the playoffs, before winning it all last year.

    Cashman nodded when asked if he read the book and recalled that tidbit, and whether he sees similarities between that moment with the Red Sox and this moment with the Yankees.

    “I think we have a lot of talent in that clubhouse,” he said. “A lot of good things can happen. But just like any season, they could go both ways.

    Wow. The last time the Yankees won less than 87 games in a full season was 1992. That season was the last time the Yankees did not finish in first or second – and it was the last bad Yankees team.

    If the Yankees only win 85 games this season, Kat O’Brien is going to need a cell phone dedicated for just calls from Hank Steinbrenner.

    Kepner On Hughes Weblog

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (8)

    Tyler Kepner takes a look at Phil Hughes Weblog for the Times:

    As a homegrown Yankee with talent, Hughes was bound to be popular. But his blog has forged an uncommon connection. A young medium has further endeared a young player to the fans.

    “I think his blog is a success because it makes Hughes more than a number or a grouping of statistics, it makes him not only human, but approachable,” Alex Belth, who has run the blog Bronx Banter since 2002, wrote in an e-mail message. “It makes him seem not so very different from his readers, no small deal in an era when fans feel the distance between themselves and the players more than ever.”

    General Manager Brian Cashman said he had concerns about players maintaining Web sites that could embarrass the team. Cashman added that he would rather not have players breaking news; Curt Schilling of the Red Sox has done that on his blog, 38pitches.com.

    “Fans get enough baseball information from you guys; that’s your job,” Hughes said, referring to the news media. “I don’t try to do any of that. I want them to feel they have a connection with me. That’s kind of the main idea.

    “To me, baseball players always seemed so larger than life. I guess one of the points I’m trying to make is that it’s not really that way. You can idolize players, but you realize they’re just guys. That’s kind of what I want to get across. I’m not any better than anybody else. I just happen to have this ability that not many other people have.”

    I’m not any better than anybody else. I just happen to have this ability that not many other people have.

    I think we’ve found our new Yogi.

    About six weeks ago, I voiced my displeasure over Hughes having a blog – at this stage of his career. Seeing this report, I decided to reconsider my position – with the hope that perhaps I might be able to find a way to change my mind.

    To that end, I went back to the last entry that I offered regarding the vibe that I get from Hughes – the one that will not allow me to jump on the “Phil Franchise” bandwagon just yet. To find it, I did a search (of this blog) using “Keanu” – and, in doing that, I found something else that (I think) helps me understand what it is about Hughes that makes me feel uneasy.

    Two weeks ago, I explained the “Keanu Hughes” factor (for me). But, in doing the aforementioned search, I found that I also once hung the “Keanu” label on someone else: Our ol’ pal, and deep-thinker, Bernie Williams. As I wrote back in January of 2006:

    …I decided to throw out some nominations now for nicknames to use this season, with the hope that some of them stick….

    Bernie “Keanu” Williams

    If Telemundo ever does a TV-version of Bill & Ted, Bernie’s gotta get the part as Ted Logan.

    The minute I saw Bernie’s name, I thought about what Brian Cashman said (on Bernie) last month:

    On Bernie Williams’ final years in pinstripes, Cashman’s assessment was the former center fielder, “Got into music, and I thought it took a lot away from his play.”

    Bingo. That’s the beef for me with Hughes’ blog – that it’s a potential distraction – for someone who has yet to prove himself at the big league level.


    Hank: Cash Part Of Yankees Cosa Nostra And Will Stay

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (3)

    Just like Peter Parker getting all the good photos of Spiderman and Clark Kent getting all the scoops about Superman, once again, Kat O’Brien gets the goods from Hank Stein:

    “We’ll talk about [Cashman’s contract] during the season,” Steinbrenner said. ” … It will just happen when it happens naturally. I think you guys are trying to create controversy here where it doesn’t exist.”

    …Steinbrenner said Monday: “I think the big thing with Brian is the organization he put in place. It’s not based on just one decision as far as, do a trade or don’t do a trade, or sign a free agent or don’t sign. He put Damon Oppenheimer in as the chief of scouting, which has obviously paid off huge. The way he works with Mark Newman, the way he works with (Joe) Girardi, the organization he’s put in place. All those things are factors.”

    …Steinbrenner said it “will just happen,” noting, “I’ve known Cash for a long time. Even back in the 80s when he first started out. He’s been with our family for a long, long time.”

    No matter what Hank says, if I’m Brian, I still get that contract down and done before Johan Santana goes on a roll for the Mets.

    And, if Hank is smart, he locks down Damon Oppenheimer at the same time he does Cashman. Because, if Oppenheimer walks, there goes a huge part of Cashman’s magic.

    ESPN, Not YES, To Show Last Game At Yankee Stadium

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (3)

    I heard this on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio (1050 AM in NYC) during the drive home tonight.

    Since the “last game” at Yankee Stadium this season is a Sunday, ESPN owns the rights to show the game – not the YES Network. What a bummer.

    Two concerns: One, they better not turn this game into a Sunday-night game – that would be a crime. The last game at the Stadium deserves to be played in the sun. Secondly, ESPN better air the ceremonies planned for that day as well – or allow YES to pick them up. Imagine if none of that great stuff is captured for all-time sake?

    Getting To Know Billy Traber

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    From Ken Davidoff

    [Traber has] missed two full major-league seasons, 2004 and 2005, while recovering from Tommy John surgery and spent parts of the last two years with the Nationals as a spot starter-reliever.

    Here with the Yankees, Traber is a non-roster invitee, hoping to make the team as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. The chalk bet calls for Sean Henn to win that role out of spring training, because he is out of minor-league options, and for Traber, who is not out of options, to be placed on the Yankees’ 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

    “Just stay healthy and stay on the field. That’s all that matters,” he said. “… If you’re going to be hurt, you’re just going to be miserable. I’m 28 and got gray hair. Ask anyone who’s ever hurt. They’ll tell you they’ll trade all of that time just to get back on the field healthy. Period.”

    In addition to the elbow problems, Traber has an atrophied muscle in his left shoulder, and his violent delivery – a fall-off-the-mound approach, reminiscent of Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams – won’t ever be found in a baseball textbook. But despite lacking a fastball that hits so much as 90 miles per hour, he held lefty hitters to a .567 OPS last year, striking out 15 in 56 plate appearances. “We said, ‘This is a guy we should take a look at,”‘ Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

    [Cleveland general manager Mark] Shapiro said, “He’s up there as far as the favorite guys we’ve had here,” and Yankees manager Joe Girardi recalled a Traber start against Girardi’s Marlins in 2006, when he tried to pick up a teammate who made an error.

    …Ask anyone who’s ever hurt. They’ll tell you they’ll trade all of that time just to get back on the field healthy. Period…

    Traber’s the anti-Pavano. I like him already.

    General Joe – Always Thinking!

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via Ed Price

    Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees will ask all the NL teams they visit this spring if they can use the DH in their games. The Florida Marlins have already agreed to use the DH for the games March 28-29 in Miami.

    Smart move.

    Looking Deeper At Chris Britton

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (23)

    You don’t hear Chris Britton’s name all that much – in terms of being in the mix for the Yankees bullpen this season. While this blog was once optimistic about Chris Britton, the thought here (now) is that it’s a good thing the Yanks may have cooled on Britton.

    Yes, it’s true that Britton had an ERA of 2.51 and a WHIP of 1.13 in Triple-A last season. However, just because a guy pitches well at Triple-A doesn’t mean he can carry that success to the majors – see Sean Henn and Jim Brower last season as an example. While pitching for the same team as Britton (in Triple-A), Henn had a WHIP of 1.14 and Brower had an ERA of 2.27 last year.

    Basically, to know about Britton, you just have to look at his big league numbers from 2006. His first half ERA was 2.20 and his second half ERA was 5.14. Brass tacks, he snuck up on some people, early, that season, and, once the league got the book on him, then it became clobbering time. Lefties especially killed Britton in 2006 – they posted an OPS of .762 against him with a BABIP of .379 (in 82 PA).

    There’s a reason why the O’s gave up on Britton so quickly – and the reason is that he’s just not that good.

    Donnie’s Dog Days

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Jonathan Lemire has the skinny on Don Mattingly’s troubles. Click here to read it. Here’s hoping that it works out soon, for all, and for the best.

    Bowa and Borzello Missed By A-Rod

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via George King

    Alex Rodriguez is going to hang on to more of that $275 million this year than he did last season.

    Whenever Rodriguez said something to the media that Larry Bowa and Mike Borzello deemed stupid, they fined Rodriguez $500.

    “He agreed with us,” said Bowa, who for two years was part of Rodriguez’s daily routine that also included Borzello, the bullpen catcher who joined Bowa on Joe Torre’s Dodgers staff as a catching instructor. “He knew he said stupid stuff.’

    While Rodriguez works with new third base coach Bobby Meachem and bench coach Rob Thomson and is in his second year with hitting coach Kevin Long, he admits to missing Bowa and Borzello.

    “That’s because they were always ragging on me,” Rodriguez said. “I love those guys.”

    Two months ago, I got on George King for making “the Borzello story” into an “A-Rod story.” Now, already, A-Rod admits to missing Borzello. Looks like I was wrong. Sorry George.

    The Draft Of 2006

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Via Joel Sherman

    For there are many events over the past few years that accentuate the Yanks’ attempted shift toward a more youthful hue, beginning with the early-season 2005 promotions of Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. But the 2006 draft just might be the most symbolic episode because of its marriage of amended philosophy to successful execution.

    That was the first draft in which GM Brian Cashman participated fully and the first in which VP of Pro Scouting Damon Oppenheimer was empowered to take whomever he wanted, regardless of cost.

    If the Yanks were to get nothing else from that process besides Kennedy and Chamberlain, it would be considered an excellent draft. But the Yanks think they will get more. Oppenheimer said the Yanks “felt blessed” how the draft fell, allowing them to grab six players ranked in the top 70 on their board: Kennedy, Chamberlain, Melancon, Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances and Colin Curtis. The Yanks also believe pitchers from that draft such as George Kontos and Daniel McCutchen, particularly, but perhaps David Robertson and Tim Norton, too, have a chance as major league relievers.

    One NL talent evaluator called it a “high-end draft.” An AL executive, however, while terming the picks “very good” said “do not attribute it to genius” because the Yanks simply overpaid to get a high-ceiling player such as Betances to forego Vanderbilt and sign.

    It could take up to five years (after the fact) to see how a draft really works out for a team. Come 2011, we’ll see just how the class of 2006 panned out for the Yankees.

    That, meaning 2011, could be a very fun season in the Bronx. At the least, it should be good as Kei Igawa will finally come off the payroll.

    Meet Damon Oppenheimer

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Via John Harper

    Damon Oppenheimer, the man most responsible for Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy becoming Yankees, was sitting behind his desk recently, recalling the circumstances that allowed him to draft the two pitchers, when suddenly he felt compelled to issue a warning of sorts.

    “I hope people realize this isn’t the norm,” he said, speaking of how quickly Chamberlain and Kennedy rose through the minor league system. “This isn’t the way it’s going to be every year. I hope everybody’s not getting spoiled by this.”

    …the Yankees’ farm system has made huge strides the last few years, rising in the annual rankings by Baseball America from 24th among the 30 organizations in 2004 to fifth going into 2008.

    The turnaround coincided at least partly with GM Brian Cashman’s decision to name Oppenheimer as the new scouting director in 2005. Oppenheimer, a former catcher at USC and then in the Brewers’ minor-league system, had filled a handful of baseball operations positions since joining the Yankees as a scout in 1993, but amateur scouting is his passion, and he was delighted to be named scouting director.

    It remains to be seen whether this gamble pays off, but there is no debating the improved state of the Yankee farm system. Oppenheimer’s role as scouting director in this improvement has earned him praise from both Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner, to the point where he is viewed as a potential successor to Cashman should the current GM leave on his own or be replaced in the coming years.

    Oppenheimer deflected such talk when the subject was raised.

    “If that’s something somebody else sees and wants to talk about, and that’s the right thing to happen, it’ll happen,” he said. “But I’m definitely not out there seeking that job. I love doing what I’m doing now. What we’ve done with Cash, everybody feels like we’re building something special here.”

    I was once not that high on Oppenheimer. But, that was a mistake. I hope he’s the next Yankees G.M. – should something happen with Cashman (such as a promotion or an exit). He deserves the shot and has a leg up in that he knows the Yankees organization and what it takes to survive there.

    It’s interesting that Cashman is now painted as a champion of Oppenheimer. That was not always the case. Note from an October 2005 report:

    One thing under discussion is more frequent and inclusive meetings, in which Cashman, manager Joe Torre and possibly scout Gene Michael, whom Cashman regards very highly, will have Steinbrenner’s ear nearly as often as the Boss’ Tampa-based advisers. Billy Connors, Bill Emslie, Mark Newman and Damon Oppenheimer, all of whom work at the Tampa minor league complex, are among the chefs stirring the broth, a source of irritation to Cashman and Torre in New York.

    Good job by Cashman in realizing the value of Oppenheimer and for putting him on point for the draft, as he has done now.

    Rounding Out The Yankees Pen

    Posted by on February 24th, 2008 · Comments (11)

    I keep reading that General Joe wants a long reliever and a lefty in two of his three bullpen spots after Mo, Joba, Farnsworth and Hawkins.

    Pete Caldera has an interesting feature today on who’s fighting for what spot. After reading it, I think this is how the Yankees bullpen will shape up this spring:

    Mariano Rivera
    Joba Chamberlain
    Kyle Farnsworth
    LaTroy Hawkins
    Billy Traber
    Scott Strickland
    Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner

    And, Bruney, Ohlendorf, Veras, Ramirez and Albaladejo will start the year at Triple-A. It’s just a hunch, but, I think Joe’s going to want to start the year with the experienced guys coming out of the pen.

    Sherman Rings In On Jeter’s “D” Debate

    Posted by on February 24th, 2008 · Comments (6)

    From Joel Sherman today

    You can attack methodology; you can say no perfect formula has yet been devised to encapsulate all the elements – positioning, speed of the hit ball, field conditions – into a single defensive statistic. However, these metrics keep evolving in sophistication. And Jeter keeps faring poorly in nearly every study year after year. Do you think there is a conspiracy? Do you think statisticians en masse have covertly met and made their quest to soil Jeter’s glovely reputation?

    “This study has been done a zillion times and the same conclusion is reached every time,” an AL official said. “What do you think that means?”

    For Jeter devotees, it means assailing the geeks. But as an AL executive said, “this isn’t geeks vs. jocks. This is myth vs. reality.” In reality, most baseball officials laugh off the three Gold Gloves Jeter won from 2004-06 in the way they do the four Bernie Williams won as having more to do with offense, fame and winning than with actual defense.

    One AL official said, “You particularly notice with groundball guys like [Andy] Pettitte and [Chien-Ming] Wang how many grounders went through that shouldn’t have. Pettitte must have had a culture shock going from Adam Everett in Houston, who was the best [shortstop], to Jeter, who is not in that league.”

    Perhaps the strongest condemnation came from Jeter, who said, “Last year, I didn’t have a good year defensively.”

    It doesn’t sound like much, especially since Jeter limited a serial inadequacy to just 2007. Except Jeter is not one to ever publicly apologize for, or criticize, his own game.

    This is the elephant in the room. Will the Yanks move Jeter off of shortstop when the time comes – assuming that time is not here already – or will they be like the Orioles, who kowtowed well past Cal Ripken’s expiration date at short and hurt the organization? Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi avoided that bubbling cauldron by saying they won’t look beyond this season. Jeter said the same, but then cited San Francisco’s Omar Vizquel, 41 in April, in suggesting he could also play his whole career at short.

    “I am comfortable with the left side of the infield at this moment in time,” Cashman said. “Do I have concerns in future years? Let me get to future years.”

    Also in the Sherman piece, Joel notes: “[Jeter has] rededicated himself in the offseason with exercises designed to improve his lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness. One Yankee official saw this version of Jeter and said, ‘He set the clock back five years.'”

    To me, infield defense has always been about three elements:

    1. Eye-hand coordination.
    2. Lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness.
    3. Confidence.

    Jeter has #1 and #3 covered. Let’s hope that his off-season work now addresses #2. It would be nice to hear “Past-a-diving Jeter” less than 50 times this season.

    Nice Gesture By Yanks Towards Sheppard

    Posted by on February 24th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    I noticed this tucked away at the bottom of a Ken Davidoff feature:

    Bob Sheppard, the Yankees’ venerable public address announcer, recently signed a two-year extension. While he probably won’t be ready for Opening Day — last October’s case of pneumonia took a great deal out of him — Shepherd, believed to be 97, should return about two months into the regular season.

    To me, this is like making Bob Sheppard Yankee Stadium Public Address Announcer Emeritus – which, is the right thing to do.

    Mark Newman On Alberto Gonzalez

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Via the recent print edition of Baseball America:

    “He is a legitimate defender,” minor league head Mark Newman said of the 24-year-old [Alberto] Gonzalez. “He could be a quality utility player, and if he improves with the bat he could go farther.”

    “He started the season at Triple-A, was sent to Double-A and when he went back to Triple-A, he hit a lot better than he did the first time,” Newman said. “His plate discipline improved.”

    The progress Gonzalez showed during the second half continued in the Venezuelan League, where he hit .341/.394/.524 in 126 at-bats. So what happened during his first exposure to Scranton?

    “You don’t really know. It could have been changing organizations (or) his first year starting the season at Triple-A or the cold weather. It’s hard to say,” Newman said.

    Hey, if Orlando Cabrera can have a major league career, why not Alberto Gonzalez?

    The Odds Against Old Man Giambi Helping Yanks This Year

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (7)

    Jason Giambi will be 37-years old this season. Thinking of this, I wondered today “How many 37-year olds have posted great offensive seasons – even in part-time duty – for the Yankees?” Via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, here’s the list:

    OPS, SECONDARY AVERAGE, and BPA all vs. the league average

    RCAA                          YEAR    RCAA      PA       OWP      OPS      SEC      BPA
    1    Babe Ruth                1932      101      589     .860     .375     .355     .257
    2    George McQuinn           1947       34      609     .692     .112     .041     .072
    3    Johnny Mize              1950       18      305     .659     .163     .145     .156
    4    Wade Boggs               1995       17      541     .598     .063    -.024     .000
    5    Tim Raines               1997       16      318     .660     .087     .035     .043
    6    Felipe Alou              1972        9      351     .611     .049    -.033     .017
    7    Kenny Lofton             2004        1      313     .512    -.032    -.018    -.021
    T8   Elston Howard            1966       -1      451     .481    -.024    -.053    -.040
    T8   Bernie Williams          2006       -1      462     .489    -.010    -.033    -.026
    T10  Willie Keeler            1909       -2      427     .486     .013    -.037    -.011
    T10  Tino Martinez            2005       -2      348     .476     .010     .070     .017
    12   Graig Nettles            1982       -3      461     .464    -.011     .048    -.005
    13   Yogi Berra               1962       -6      263     .408    -.061     .003    -.040
    T14  Paul O'Neill             2000      -16      628     .412    -.034    -.037    -.041
    T14  Rollie Hemsley           1944      -16      299     .290    -.045    -.078    -.081

    In a nutshell, since 1951, the only 37-year old players to have good offensive seasons for the Yanks have been Wade Boggs (1995) and Tim Raines (1997).

    The key for Boggs and Raines may be what they did the “year before.” In 1994, Wade Boggs had (what was probably) his best season since 1991. And, in 1996, Tim Raines had solid numbers – albeit in only 240 PA. Basically, at 37, Boggs and Raines just repeated what they did (just about) at age 36.

    And, what about Giambi at age 36? Well, last year was the second worst offensive season in Giambi’s career – only “topped” by 2004. So, it’s not like the 37-year old Giambi can hope that he just repeats what he did at age 36 – because he was terrible at that age.

    Just another reason why history tells us that we should not expect anything positive from Jason Giambi this season. And, should he actually provide some decent offense, it would be defying the odds – big time.

    Gardner’s Not Lacking Confidence

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (3)

    Via Lisa Kennelly:

    I was talking to some relievers in the corner of the clubhouse when outfielder Brett Gardner barreled into the conversation with a question.

    “You guys think I’m faster than Adrian Peterson?” he demanded.

    Peterson, the former Oklahoma star running back who had a huge rookie season for the Minnesota Vikings this year, can run a 4.4 40. Gardner, a 5-10, 180-lb. outfielder whose calling card is his speed, contended that he could beat Peterson (6-1, 217 lbs.) in a 40-yard dash.

    I know many are suspect on Gardner’s bat. But, speed is a wonderful thing. Otis Nixon could not hit a lick and his speed got him into 1,709 big league games. And, speed got Tom Goodwin into 1,288 major league games despite a bat that was lacking. If Gardner is as fast as he thinks he is, he’s going to make it, somewhere, in the majors – eventually.

    A Winning Question

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (1)

    A great baseball trivia question via Steve Buckley:

    Has there ever been a major leaguer who played on five World Series-winning teams but never played for the Yankees?

    A couple of days ago, the question was put to Timlin. Like all of us, he couldn’t name anyone other than members of the Yankees.

    But thank goodness for computers and for savvy baseball historians. Through the Red Sox, the question was put to the Elias Sports Bureau. And the whiz kids from Elias did not disappoint, concluding that just one player, Gloucester-born Stuffy McInnis, played on five World Series-winning teams without ever having earned a paycheck in the Bronx.

    McInnis was also part of the legendary “$100,000 infield” that played for the Philadelphia A’s from 1911 through 1914 – John “Stuffy” McInnnis at first; Eddie Collins at second; Jack Barry at short; and Frank “Homerun” Baker at third. Because the team did well, A’s owner-manager Connie Mack claimed that he would not part with his star studded infield – even for $100,000. And, the imaginary ‘not high enough’ price tag became a handle for this infield unit going forward. (Ironically, Mack would eventually break up the infield. Even during the early 1900’s a vote of confidence was sometimes also a kiss of death.)

    Jeter Doesn’t See Himself Ever Moving Off Short

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (3)

    Via Mark Feinsand:

    Instead, he plans on playing shortstop through the final three years of his current contract, and on remaining there for however many years he plays beyond 2010.

    “That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”

    Could Jeter, who has been named to eight American League All-Star teams in his 12 big-league seasons – four as the league’s starting shortstop – ever see himself playing another position?

    “Right now?” Jeter said, “No.”

    Many scouts believe Jeter would be able to make an easy transition to the outfield, where his speed, strong arm and terrific instincts would make him a natural. Asked about the possibility, Jeter waves off the question before it’s finished.

    “I ain’t going out there,” Jeter said. “It’s not as easy as it sounds to just pick up a glove and say, ‘I’m going to be an outfielder today.’ It doesn’t work like that.”

    The deadliest of all baseball player sins is that pride which does not allow them to realize that time does not stand still for them.

    Jeter will be 35-years old next season. Sure, guys like Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Smith, Larry Bowa and Luis Aparicio played a lot of short after that age. But, they’re the stellar-glove exceptions to the rule. Just about every shortstop needs to turn in his “full time shortstop” ID card when he hits his mid-to-late 30’s. Derek better get hip to this – and soon.

    Jeter & A-Rod Buddying Up

    Posted by on February 23rd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via George King

    A Yankees official said the [Jeter-Rodriguez] relationship is “getting better, and that is good for the team.”

    Damn that YouTube for not having a clip of Tommy Bond singing “Just Friends, Lovers No More.”

    Hey, Derek and Alex are both going to be in New York for a while, might as well try and be BFF again, if they can.

    The Matsui Matter

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Via Joe (Don’t Call Me Dave) LaPointe:

    “My desire is to play left field,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “That’s what I’ve been preparing for. Obviously, that’s not my decision to make. That will be the manager’s decision.”

    But Matsui, 33, will face competition in left from the 34-year-old Johnny Damon, who lost his job as the center fielder to Melky Cabrera.

    When asked about Matsui, Girardi said: “We’ve got to make sure that he is able to do all the things that he would need to do to play a defensive position. You’ve just got to see how things iron themselves out.”

    Damon suggested earlier in the week that he, too, might play some games at first. But when asked whether Damon or Matsui might also play there, Girardi answered in the negative.

    “We have no plans of putting Hideki at first base in spring training,” he said. Of Damon at first base, Girardi said: “Right now I really don’t have a lot of plans to put him at first base.”

    I’m fan of Matsui. As I have said before, by season end, Matsui will score you 100 runs, drive in another 100, and hit 25 HR with a batting average around .290 – – but, he is a very steaky hitter.

    An interesting item on Godzilla: Since coming to the states, he’s always had a monster month with the bat in July. And, with the exception of last season (when he was hurt), he’s always been a great September hitter too.

    Both Damon and Matsui will be playing this season as 34-year olds coming off a year where they had an injury. It just seems to make sense to have them share LF and DH for the Yankees this season – to keep them both fresh.

    I would start Damon in left (with Matsui as DH) at home as much as possible – because of the room in the Yankees outfield. But, on the road, especially in parks like Fenway, Camden, and Arlington, I don’t think you miss much with the glove when Matsui is out there (in left).

    I hope that the Yankees work this out where it’s best for them and best for Matsui. If they can, I think he’s going to have a fine season for the team.

    Dion James 1993

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (5)

    A case can be made that Dion James’ season with New York in 1993 was one of the Top 25 offensive performances (ever) by a Yankees semi-regular in team history.

    Something magic was going on for Dion in 2003. Whether it was the influence of Rick Down or the benefit of (mostly) batting between Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly, I’m not sure. Maybe it was both of those things? Maybe it was neither?

    I always liked Dion James when he was with the Yankees. Maybe it was his funky batting stance? Maybe it was because he was just about my age? Maybe it was because he was “found” from “nowhere”? I was sort of bummed, at the time, when he decided to go play for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan after 1993. But, the Dragons offered him about $2 million more than the Yankees – so, it’s easy to see why he did it.

    It was fun to see him return to the Yankees in 1995. But, he was not close – at all – to the player he was in 1993. And, he was terrible in the 1995 ALDS.

    August 29th was probably James’ best day in 1993. Down, 7-2, after three, the Yankees came back to win that day, 14-8. Now, that’s one that I would like to see someday on Yankees Classics.

    New Hughes A Pop Sensation

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (22)

    From Bryan Hoch of Yankees.com:

    The Yankees’ catching tandem was ready to hit the streets after another early afternoon at camp when Jose Molina dropped by with a tidbit for Jorge Posada.

    Having just completed receiving Phil Hughes’ latest bullpen session, an impressed Molina told Posada, “You know what? Phil looks like he has more pop.”

    Posada concurred, and the backstops aren’t the only ones who have noticed.

    This offseason, Hughes reported regularly to the Yankees’ training facility on Himes Avenue, even while general manager Brian Cashman was fielding calls from Twins counterpart Bill Smith, dabbling with a potential deal for Johan Santana.

    It helps, of course, that Hughes heeded the call for better fitness. Girardi let it be known that Spring Training ’08 would not be a country club, and Hughes showed up ready to go. Spending weeks over at the Minor League complex under the supervision of pitching coach Dave Eiland have been paying dividends early.

    “He’s in great shape,” Girardi said. “All the reports on him that I saw from when he was working down at Himes said he was different. He’d worked really hard.”

    All the reports on him that I saw from when he was working down at Himes said he was different. He’d worked really hard.

    Just another indicator that there’s some validity towards the claims that Phil Hughes had a questionable work ethic in the past.

    Hopefully, this will now be a case were a leopard can permanently change his spots.

    Projecting The Back End Of The Rotation

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (6)

    MLB.com’s Fantasy 411 is offering some composite projections for 2008. (Hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org.)

    That’s the good news. The bad news? See these three composite wins projections in their data: Phil Hughes, 10 wins. Mike Mussina, 11 wins. Ian Kennedy, 7 wins.

    Boy, would that be a bummer, or what?

    Is Jeter The Straw That Stirs The Drink?

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Here’s some fun with Baseball-Reference.com’s new Batting Order Position Outcomes tool.

    Last season, Derek Jeter batted second for the Yankees, most of the time.

    For 2007, the Yankees second batter (in their line-up order) had the following BA/OBP/SLG splits:

    In Wins: .344/.402/.483
    In Losses: .255/.312/.357

    Last season, Alex Rodriguez batted fourth for the Yankees, most of the time.

    For 2007, the Yankees fourth batter (in their line-up order) had the following BA/OBP/SLG splits:

    In Wins: .333/.453/.737
    In Losses: .294/.389/.510

    This is interesting. When Alex Rodriguez batted well last season, the Yankees either won or lost. And, when Derek Jeter batted well last season, the Yankees won. But, when Derek Jeter didn’t bat well in 2007, the Yankees lost.


    The Young Yankees Chronicles

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Via Ed Price:

    Hard to imagine Thurman Munson or Paul O’Neill with pierced nipples.

    The Yankees’ new-found religion on keeping their young players is well-documented. And along with that comes a different tenor in the clubhouse.

    When Johnny Damon left a Boston Red Sox group he dubbed the “Idiots” to join the Yankees, he was taken aback by the staid, all-business attitude.

    This year’s room, with its loud banter, iPhones, and barely drinking-age players, is more like it.

    “I know baseball, you have to be serious about it,” Damon said yesterday. “But I feel like it should be fun, though, also. And I see it. With a bunch of these young guys here, it’s great.”

    Yesterday, rookie right-hander Andrew Brackman — who, along with Joba Chamberlain, sports pierced nipples — showed up with a shaved head.

    “I just felt like getting a haircut,” he claimed.

    The Yankees have 21 players in camp (out of 69) who will be 24 or younger on Opening Day and the same number in their 30s. In 2001, when the Yankees were coming off their last World Series title, they had 27 thirty-somethings (out of 65) and 11 players younger than 25.

    I have to confess, recently, watching some old games on Yankees Classics, from years like 1996 and 1998, I found myself looking at guys like Jeter, Bernie, Mo, Posada, Tino, etc., and thinking “Man, they were so young back then. Their faces were tighter, their bodies more wiry, and they just seemed more bright-eyed and hungry back in those days…”


    Is Jeter Now Robin To A-Rod’s Batman?

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Via Dave Buscema:

    He is the captain, the owner of four World Series rings, a serial dater of women as stunning as they are famous, and now Derek Jeter is one more thing for the Yankees.

    An afterthought.

    OK, that thought mostly comes after only one man, of course.

    The one who suddenly has more of a guarantee of being here than Jeter, thanks to a 10-year contract and more money than Jeter will ever earn on the field. And it’s also a testament to Jeter’s unflappable personality as much as it is Alex Rodriguez’s talent for wild numbers and wilder headlines.

    Still, it’s intriguing to note that, four years after Alex Rodriguez signed and George Steinbrenner told a reporter Jeter had to adjust to his role as Lou Gehrig to A-Rod’s Babe Ruth, the scenario has come true.

    Suddenly, Jeter isn’t in as much control of his environment as he used to be.

    He still will command everyone’s respect because, well, he deserves it.

    But look around the clubhouse and see the players who aren’t necessarily seeking the captain out above all others.

    At Joba Chamberlain’s locker, the Yankees’ hottest prospect looked crestfallen when his best buddy Jason Giambi left him hanging on a fist pound.

    At the lockers of Robinson Cano or Melky Cabrera, you would find the pair lavishing praise on A-Rod before anyone else.

    Of course, as always has been the case, Jeter adapts rather easily, so he’s as comfortable and unthreatened as ever.

    When asked about A-Rod having a longer contract than him the other day, Jeter grinned.

    “He owes me money because he said he wasn’t gonna play that long,” Jeter said. “He owes me money, so I feel good about that.”

    Personally, I’ve been saying, since Alex signed his new contract, that A-Rod is now the face of the Yankees franchise – albeit a good or bad thing.

    For Jeter, well, I guess that’s what they have sidecars for, right?

    Girardi: Duncan’s Versatility A Plus

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2008 · Comments (0)


    Via Bill Madden:

    While insisting that [Shelley] Duncan “will get every chance to win the first base job,” Girardi noted that versatility may be his best asset.

    “My outfield is predominantly lefthanded,” he said, “and Shelley being righthanded gives me that added flexibility there.”

    Duncan just may turn out to be a modern day Cliff Johnson for this team – a right-handed bat off the bench who can produce well in part-time duty. After seeing guys like Craig Wilson, Andy Phillips, and Josh Phelps trying to fill a niche like this – which the Yankees have been lacking since the days of Chad Curtis, Glenallen Hill, Jim Leyritz and Shane Spencer – it would be nice to see someone be a productive, right-handed, spare part.

    February 2008 Survey Question #3

    Posted by on February 21st, 2008 · Comments (2)

    In your opinion, is there ANY chance that Phil Hughes OR Ian Kennedy does NOT make the Yankees Opening Day roster this season (coming out of Spring Training)?

    Update: This poll is now closed. Click on the thumbnail below to see the results:

    Abreu Makes Up His Mind: He Was Fat Last Year

    Posted by on February 21st, 2008 · Comments (2)

    This story has two parts – nine months apart. First, let’s go back to the end of last May, via Michael Geffner:

    Now, just seven weeks into a new season in which Abreu had the bad timing to be as God-awful as the rest of his team, you hear all the ugly talk again — but with different twists.

    This time, he’s overweight and playing passive and old.

    And this time, the stuff was so far behind his back he didn’t even know about it.

    “Overweight?” a clearly stunned Abreu said when I brought this to his attention before yesterday’s game against the Red Sox. “You mean, in spring training?”

    “No, now,” I said.

    “Wow. Overweight. Wow,” he said softly, as if to himself.

    And with that, he pulled up his navy blue T-shirt and exposed his stomach.

    He doesn’t have a six pack, but the guy is no jelly belly, either.

    He slapped his stomach twice, and then pinched a piece of it between thumb and forefinger.

    He smiled, giggled. “Hey, listen, I don’t know who said that,” he said. “But, look at me, I’m fine. I’m 209. It sounds like someone is looking too hard for reasons why I didn’t get off to a good start.”

    It’s fair and accurate to say that Abreu’s start this season has been a level beyond bad. Mostly, he’s looked downright pathetic — hopelessly out of synch and twitchy.

    Now, let’s see what Kat O’Brien had to share today:

    Bobby Abreu was overweight and not ready for spring training camp last year, he told Newsday Thursday.

    “I knew I was in bad shape last year,” Abreu said.

    Yankees general manager Brian Cashman recently commented about Abreu’s being out of shape at the start of last year’s spring training. He didn’t need Abreu or anyone else to point out the obvious.

    Abreu suffered a rib-cage muscle injury early in camp last year, and he said it could have been related to his not being in shape.

    “I don’t want to make excuses for myself [about why],” said Abreu, 33. “I was in bad shape. I knew for sure that I needed to be in better shape this spring.”

    Abreu, who said he weighs 215 pounds now, estimated he weighed 226 when he reached camp last February. It’s obvious that he has slimmed down just by looking at him.

    Whether because of the injury or his poor offseason conditioning, Abreu’s numbers were particularly low in the first half last year.

    So, last season, in May, Abreu said that he was not out of shape and it “sound[ed] like someone [was] looking too hard for reasons why [he] didn’t get off to a good start.” And, now, nine months later, looking back, Abreu is saying “I knew I was in bad shape last year.”

    Since Abreu’s condition hurt the Yankees last season, it’s nice to see that he’s at least willing, now, to admit the reason and try and do something about it.

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