• It Happens Every February?

    Posted by on March 26th, 2008 · Comments (12)

    I just came across this oldie but goodie from Buster Olney – from back in February of 2000. The feature discusses some young Yankees pitchers heading into that Spring Training. Some highlights:

    With the Yankees’ pitchers and catchers beginning workouts in four days in Tampa, Fla., the pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and General Manager Brian Cashman reviewed their list of spring training goals yesterday for each of the pitchers in camp. They had a long list of young pitchers to discuss.

    Cashman and other Yankees officials are trying to stock the organization with new and talented pitchers, to fill needs and for trades.

    Cashman dealt for Ed Yarnall last spring, and this year, Yarnall will open camp as the front-runner to be the No. 5 starter.

    Compared with most organizations, the Yankees have a wealth of up-and-coming pitching talent.

    As training camp begins, virtually all of the spots on the Yankees’ major league pitching staff will be accounted for. But if an injury or two occurs, then the right-hander Ben Ford, 24, may be the first called up. Ford is 6 feet 7 inches and throws hard, and he had a decent season last year, going 6-3 with a 4.73 earned run average, permitting 69 hits and walking 39 in 701/3 innings. ”He could develop quickly,” Cashman said.

    This season will be important for the Yankee prospect Ryan Bradley. A high draft pick in 1997, Bradley, 24, blew through the minors in 1998, advancing from Class A Tampa all the way to the majors, and it seemed as if he might progress to the big leagues for good last year.

    But Bradley’s control suffered in spring training and never really improved during the regular season, and his confidence suffered; he went 5-12 with a 6.21 e.r.a. for Class AAA Columbus, surrendering 163 hits, 73 walks and 23 wild pitches in 145 innings.

    The Yankees shifted Bradley, who has an aggressive mound demeanor, from the starting rotation to the bullpen, a role for which club officials feel he is better suited. Assigned to the Arizona Fall League, the right-hander had some success, but finished poorly. ”He moved very, very quickly through the minors, so he’s probably a league ahead of himself,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ president of baseball operations. ”Last year challenged him, and challenged his confidence.”

    Jake Westbrook, a former first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, was acquired in the deal for Hideki Irabu with Montreal. Executives from other teams raved about the right-hander and his sinking fastball; the Yankees think that he has developed a slider good enough to complement that fastball, and that he just needs some refining before he is ready for the big leagues. At 22, he has received high marks from scouts for his durability and mental toughness. He went 41-25 in his first four years in the minors and will open in Class AAA, but he could advance to Yankee Stadium by year’s end.

    ”He’s had at least 170 innings in each of his full seasons in the minors,” Cashman said. ”You don’t see that very often in the minor leagues.”

    Luis De Los Santos, 22, possessed enough stuff to compel the Yankees to hold him out of the Chuck Knoblauch deal with Minnesota two years ago. Since then, however, he has sustained major elbow and knee injuries and may spend much of this year rehabilitating. Similarly, Darrell Einertson — a right-hander once viewed as a prospect — is still recovering from shoulder surgery.

    Craig Dingman, a right-hander who turns 26 next month, is coming off a year in which he had a 1.57 e.r.a. for Class AA Norwich, and he was added to the 40-man roster in the off-season.

    …Cashman and other Yankees officials are trying to stock the organization with new and talented pitchers, to fill needs and for trades…

    …Compared with most organizations, the Yankees have a wealth of up-and-coming pitching talent…

    Anyone else hearing “I Got You Babe” on their alarm clock radio at this moment?

    Comments on It Happens Every February?

    1. MJ
      March 26th, 2008 | 5:28 pm

      Again ripping on Cashman? Now it’s Cashman’s fault that certain young arms didn’t pan out (Ryan Bradley) or were traded in order to prolong the dynasty (Jake Westbrook for David Justice)?

      I seriously don’t get it. You say Cashman inherited the winners from Stick/Watson and is keeping the seat warm for the real genius, Damon Oppenheimer. In the meantime, as you love to remind everyone w/r/t Phil Hughes, young arms don’t always work out.

      So, if you’re right about Hughes and young arms don’t always pan out, it’s not Cashman’s fault that the 2000 version of “I Got You Babe” happened as it did.

      You absolutely, positively need to find another whipping boy this year. A-Rod (2006), Hughes and Cashman (2007-present) are worn out.

    2. dan
      March 26th, 2008 | 7:20 pm

      MJ-

      Stop worrying about it, Steve could find a way to bash Joe DiMaggio.

    3. claybeez
      March 26th, 2008 | 7:28 pm

      I used to enjoy this site. It was one of the first I read daily. It’ll be heading to the bottom of my Yankee bookmarks shortly. Don’t you get it? You’ve made your points. We’ve got the kids. They’re Yankees. Support them and move on, even if you disagree with the strategy that brought them to NY.

    4. Rich
      March 26th, 2008 | 8:04 pm

      MJ said it well.

    5. Chuck M.
      March 26th, 2008 | 8:08 pm

      Sorry, guys, but I completely disagree with you. I understand what Steve’s trying to say here – he’s not, in any way, faulting Cashman or attacking his judgement. The fact is, for every pitcher that achieves success at the major league level, there are fifteen minor league guys that fizzle out once they reach The Show.

      I remember Ryan Bradley when he first came up – he had an incredible year, came up to the bigs and got smacked around. It happens ALL THE TIME. Remember the Mets’ “Big Three,” the guys who were going to break the Braves’ streak and bring the National League pennant to New York? Paul Wilson, Bill Pulcifer & Jason Isringhausen were the toast of the town and the Next Big Thing. Wilson struggled with injury and never got going, Pulcifer struggled with injury and did even less. Isringhausen was the only one to be moderately successful, and that as a closer. The Mets got nothing from those guys, and they lost a couple of seasons because they invested in them.

      Remember the last trio of young pitchers the Yanks brought up at the same time? Wade Taylor, Jason Johnson & Scott Kameniecki were heralded as the “Young Guns,” and the guys who were going to bring respectability back to the Yankees in the early 90′s. They had good to great minor league numbers and the raving of the scouts. What happened? Johnson turned out to be a AAAA lefty, Taylor – after spouting off that he was “the best pitcher in Yankees camp” – was cut after posting a 32.00 spring ERA, and Kameniecki had some success as a middle reliever.

      Young pitchers fizzle all the time. Remember Bruce Chen? Ed Yarnell, as mentioned? Sam Milletello? Pascual Perez? Lee Guetermann? Domingo Jean? Richard Dotson? Robert Person?

      In the current day, look at Detroit – see that guys like Zumaya, Rodney, Verlander & Bonderman are injured this spring. It happens. Young pitching is not predictable – that’s why so few teams have won with 50% of their starts coming from rookie or second-year pitchers.

      It’s not negativism – it’s facts. I wear rosy sunglasses as much as the next guy, but I’m nervous as all heck considering that, of our top six starters, three of them total have less than one year’s experience and track record in the major leagues.

    6. Andrea (formerly snowball003)
      March 26th, 2008 | 8:48 pm

      I don’t know much about the 2000 prospects, but i have to give you props on your Groundhog Day reference.

      Well done.

    7. SteveLombardi
      March 26th, 2008 | 8:50 pm

      Thanks Chuck.

      Guys, for the record, this is what I did here.

      I show an article from 2000 that says Cashman and the Yankees’ plan back then was to stockpile young pitchers. And, I point out that’s also the plan that the Yankees and Cashman have now.

      I said nothing else. How was I negative? Please, someone, explain to me how I am bashing Cashman here.

      I think this is a case where some want to see me saying something negative about Cashman – so they can get on my case about it. And, since I really didn’t say something, they’re just pretending like it’s there so that can get on my case anyway.

      Really, what did I say/write here that’s a slap on Cashman? That he had a plan in 2000 and he has the same plan now? Well, that’s fact. So, if I state a fact on Cashman I’m bashing him?

      Yeah, and you guys say I’m unfair. Really.

    8. Andrew
      March 26th, 2008 | 10:48 pm

      Steve, your manipulation and hands-up ‘who, me?’ is getting tired as well. You are well-known for not liking Cashman. Therefore, UNTIL YOU SAY OTHERWISE, everything that is vaguely critical of Cashman, like this post, then it’s, quite fairly, going to be deemed as another ‘bash Cashman’ post. You’ve built yourself a reputation. Now, you have to deal with it. In every post that COULD be critical of Cashman, unfairly, you’ll have to explain that you’re not trying to bash him. Sorry, but those are the consequences of being obsessed with Yankee failure.

      The sticking point in this post is that you mentioned the 2000 Yankee ‘prospects’, and how they utterly failed, and then referenced today’s prospects. Logically, a normal, everyday reader would guess that you are telling everyone that you are predicting the Yankee prospects to fail. And with your reputation of Cashman-hating, it gets extended to a ‘criticize Cashman’ post.

      It’s all very fair. You’ve posted some pretty ugly articles, and made up some pretty piss-poor arguments to support them, all in order to try and make Cashman look bad. The consequences are that this is now your main attitude. If you don’t want that to be your attitude, then fix it, and maybe, MAYBE, post some positive things once and again, instead of making digs at all of us ‘dreamy-eyed naive fans who think success is guaranteed’.

      You’re an entertaining writer, but the content has taken a serious, and noticable downturn. Throwing your hands up and putting all the blame on us, the commenters and readers, for ‘not understanding’ what you are saying is not the solution. If you even care.

    9. Sherard
      March 27th, 2008 | 8:22 am

      So let me get this straight. THIS Cashman bashing is basically “new plan, same as the old plan” – is that it ?

      Neat trick. Too bad this argument relies upon the media and the way THEY report things. I mean 1) the media is clueless, and 2) they have to write about something. Think about when these paragraphs were written – spring 2000. Yankees coming off 3 WS victories in 4 years. You think its remotely possible that people around the Yankees were looking at things through rose colored glasses ? Maybe ? That maybe there was a reputation building in the media like the Yankees could do no wrong and if they say this kid or that kid is AWESOME, they just run with it ?

      OR, Cashman sucks. Wow, tough pick there.

    10. Chuck M.
      March 27th, 2008 | 10:31 am

      Andrew – again, I feel that I must disagree. Your statement: “Steve, your manipulation and hands-up ‘who, me?’ is getting tired as well. You are well-known for not liking Cashman. Therefore, UNTIL YOU SAY OTHERWISE, everything that is vaguely critical of Cashman, like this post, then it’s, quite fairly, going to be deemed as another ‘bash Cashman’ post. You’ve built yourself a reputation. Now, you have to deal with it. In every post that COULD be critical of Cashman, unfairly, you’ll have to explain that you’re not trying to bash him. Sorry, but those are the consequences of being obsessed with Yankee failure.”

      Okay, I’ve got another thought: why not, actually, like, READ the post, then analyze it for what it says, not the subtext that might be there? Show me where, in this particular post, the negativism and Cashman-bashing are. I just don’t see it. I’ve been mistaken before, but – again – it doesn’t seem obvious to me at all.

      Here’s a post where, in 2000, the Yankees are excited about their young pitching – right before a plethora of moves (both Cashman-based and Steinbrenner-based) proceeded to deplete the farm system to barren.

      There’s also the fact that, since Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have had one pitching prospect actually pan out – Chien-Ming Wang. That’s it. No one else, including these youngsters that the Yankees were so high on back in 2000.

      Look at the lists published by Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America every spring of the top pitching prospects. What percentage of them are still pitching after three years’ time? I’ll bet it’s a lot smaller than you think. It’s not negativism, it’s fact.

    11. Rich
      March 27th, 2008 | 1:01 pm

      As some of us pointed out on another thread, Cashman wasn’t responsible for the draft prior to getting more power to 2005, but because the people that were failed to produce any pitching prospects that could get make the transition to MLB, the Yankees had to patch and fill in order to field a rotation as Cone, Wells, Clemens, and El Duque got old or appeared to be getting old (although an argument can be made that the Yankees should have stuck with all but Cone much longer).

      Consequently, some bad moves were made, some by Cashman, some imposed on him. So you can justifiably blame him for the failed trades for Weaver, Vazquez, and Brown, or signing Pavano (although not trading for Johnson or signing Wright), but if the last few years prove anything, it’s that when Cash has been in charge of the draft the minor league system has been transformed. As a result, it’s reasonable to think that he had that power ten years ago, many of his bad moves to acquire veteran pitchers wouldn’t have been necessary.

      Lastly, to provide context it should also be noted that most baseball experts lauded the Weaver and Vazquez trades, as well as the Pavano signing, at the time they were made.

    12. Evan3457
      March 31st, 2008 | 3:22 am

      Baseball America…hmmm…that reminds me of something…

      Here’s another “oldie but goodie” from 2000; the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for the 2000 season:

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/at100.html

      (scroll down to it)

      You know what’s funny? I see 5 Yankees in that top 100, and, oh! Look! No Ben Ford, No Ryan Bradley, no Jake Westbrook. No Craig Dingman, no Luis De Los Santos. Ed Yarnall is there at #55. (It shows him being on the Reds, because he was traded to the Reds in the Denny Neagle deal before the year was over.)

      Ryan Bradley had been #25 in 1999, and Ed Yarnall had been #60 in 1998, but that’s it. None of the other guys made that list before or after.

      So what’s my point? As I see it, there are three to be made:

      1) Steve is resurrecting a daily newspaper article written by a beat writer looking hard for a story, any story, to fill up space in February before there are even exhibition games to write about. There must be a pitching puff piece like this from half the major league camps every exhibition season. And why? To knock Cashman’s judgement of pitching. Again. Virtually worthless as evidence.

      2. I did notice the other Yankees’ names on that list: Nick Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Wily Mo Pena, and D’Angelo Jimenez on that list. If Cashman gets “blame” for the performance of those pitchers not on the list, should he not also get “credit” for the performance of the four hitters? After all, he “developed” them as much as the 6 pitchers in the article,didn’t he? Believe it or not, the hitters are still active in the majors; all four of them. (Well, D’Angleo’s sad story continues; he got assigned to the AAA yesterday).

      3. Joba at #3 (and #75 in 2006), Kennedy at #45, and Hughes (#4 in 2007, and #39 in 2006)…yes, I can see where a wise man would hold that equal that would be the same as #24 once, #55 once, and #60 once. I can see where the expectations could reasonably be the same. I can see where 24 brilliant innings in the regular season (Joba), playoff success (Hughes), and a few nice regular season starts (Kennedy), can be held to be equal with the likes of Luis de Los Santos and Craig Dingman, A 26-YEAR-OLD IN AA FOR SPIT’S SAKE.

      It was fairly common knowledge there was nothing special about the Yanks pitching prospects in 2000. If this year’s crop fails, it fails. Sometimes, good prospects, even great pitching prospects, fail for no discernible reason (see Scott Ruffcorn, Dewon Brazelton, etc.) But anyone who sees no difference between Joba, Phil and Kennedy, and Ed, Ben, Ryan, Luis, and Craig news a new pair of glasses.

      Oh, BTW, Jake seems to have learned to strike out more hitters in the last half season or so. (from 4.8/9 in his career up to last July to 6.1 in August/Sept.) If he can maintain that, and keep his groundball rate up, he may go from league average reliable innings muncher to something much more valuable this season.

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