• Praise For Damon Oppenheimer

    Posted by on November 8th, 2009 · Comments (11)

    There’s been some post-world-series features recently highlighting the work of Damon Oppenheimer. First from Tom Krasovic -

    Some of the best scouts in baseball have worked for the Padres. One of them, Damon Oppenheimer, now has more World Series rings than he does fingers on one hand — one for the thumb coming on Wednesday when the Yankees thumped the Phillies.

    Number five was especially cool for Oppenheimer, New York’s vice-president of scouting since 2004, because players he drafted such as Joba Chamberlain , Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner and David Robertson assisted the pinstriped run to World Series title No. 27.

    “Seeing so many of our kids come up and contribute to this team — that would be the most gratifying thing,” Oppenheimer said today.

    Maybe you hate the Yankees because their payroll is more than $200 million. Maybe you’d rather they not win another title in this century. Can’t say that I blame you.

    I refer to the Yankees as the Death Star — cold and ruthless.

    The rival Red Sox are The Matrix, equally ruthless and nearly as laden with resources.

    I told the Smartest Man in Baseball [Theo Epstein] last month that America should thank the Angels for sparing us a Yankees-Red Sox American League Championship Series and all of the East Coast ego and hype that comes with it. He laughed from his CEO’s office at Yawkey Way, then protested the comparison. “The Yankees spend $40 million, $50 million more than we do on ballplayers,” he said, and he’s right, but that’s warm beer to the rest of the baseball world.

    Next, from Bob Elliot -

    Damon Oppenheimer goes to scouting showcase events, college and high school games across North America.

    As scouting director of the New York Yankees, he gets one of two greetings: Either “Hi Damon” or “Ohhh, here come the Yankees with their $200-million payroll.”

    “We get that all the time,” Oppenheimer said yesterday awaiting his return flight to Tampa.

    “You know what, I held that World Series trophy and looked at all the teams listed over the years. Nowhere, not once, does it list team payroll. Same for a World Series ring — I’ve never seen a payroll on a ring.”

    You have heard about the four core homegrown players — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada — who each picked up their fifth World Series ring Wednesday night.

    In all, the Yankees had 10 homegrowns help them win No. 27.

    Besides the Fab Core Four:

    * Scouts Gordon Blakely and Mark Newman signed free agents Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera from Latin America.

    * Former scouting director Lynn Garrett signed right-hander Phil Hughes when Oppenheimer was a scout. Hughes, a first-round high schooler from Fonthill, Calif., was the set-up man for most of this season.

    * Oppenheimer drafted centre fielder Brett Gardner, and relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson.

    Gardner was drafted as a senior from College of Charleston (third round, 2005), and was the first homegrown Yankee to start on Opening Day since Posada broke into the lineup.

    Chamberlain, from the University of Nebraska (a first-rounder in 2006) took on a life of his own becoming a New York icon. Robertson was drafted from the University of Alabama (17th, 2006), but “showed his stomach pitching on Cape Cod.”

    “I work for a guy who wants to win, to go the extra mile and does not line his pockets with all the revenue, he puts it back into the team,” Oppenheimer said. “That’s what Mr. Steinbrenner does.

    “We’ve gotten to the point where we are developing kids, spending money in Latin America, and it’s reaping some rewards.”

    As the Yanks eliminated the Philadelphia Phillies on scouting reports prepared by the likes of Tim Naehring, Steve Boros and Scott Lovekamp, Oppenheimer watched the first five innings from the clubhouse and then headed to general manager Brian Cashman’s suite.

    “After the final out, Cashman popped open a bottle, poured a glass for everyone and toasted the suite, saying: ‘You guys had a big part, you’re all real important.’ He saluted everyone. Rather than running down and jumping into the fray, he took the time to talk to us. That’s kind of what this whole things is about.”

    Speaking of World Series rings, anyone else wondering if Angel Berroa will offer to sell his 2009 Yankees World Championship ring? Maybe Kei Igawa will want to buy it?

    Comments on Praise For Damon Oppenheimer

    1. 77yankees
      November 8th, 2009 | 11:38 am

      Any word on what the World Series shares were?

      Imagine being a Freddy Guzman or Francisco Cervelli earning baseball minimum wage, and then getting a full WS share doubling your salary.

      I remember Chris Turner was Posada’s backup in 2000, and the minimum salary was probably about $175K……Chris Turner didn’t play at all that postseason, but got to take home a $300K WS share for his troubles.

    2. dpk875
      November 8th, 2009 | 1:22 pm

      I read that the WS shares were going to be record setting around $400K per.

    3. Raf
      November 8th, 2009 | 4:18 pm

      Ah, so THAT’s where Cashman was…

      Glad to see that the minor league operations are getting their due. For all the talk about the payroll, many don’t realize that the Yanks are slowly but surely getting their act together on the player development side. And once they do, they will truly be a dangerous organization.

    4. Scout
      November 8th, 2009 | 7:52 pm

      I wish I were as convinced as Raf that the Yankees “are slowly but surely getting their act together on the player development side,” but mostly I see fringe and role players (Gardner, Melky, Robertson, Cervelli) rather than stars. I certainly hope we get to see big things from Chamberlain and Hughes, but neither has yet shown he’ll be a top-of-rotation starter as Pettitte was when he was just a bit older than they are now. I do not see any other #1-3 starters on their way up within the organization. And there isn’t a sure-fire everyday player other than Montero, who seems a bat without a real position. I don’t blame Oppenheimer for this, since he doesn’t set the budget and no scouting director can foresee injuries or a first-round draft choice (Cole) deciding to forego millions in favor of college. My point is that it takes a long time to build a productive farm system and the Yankees are only in the early-middle stages of that process.

    5. MJ
      November 9th, 2009 | 9:28 am

      Scout wrote:

      I wish I were as convinced as Raf that the Yankees “are slowly but surely getting their act together on the player development side,” but mostly I see fringe and role players (Gardner, Melky, Robertson, Cervelli) rather than stars. I certainly hope we get to see big things from Chamberlain and Hughes, but neither has yet shown he’ll be a top-of-rotation starter as Pettitte was when he was just a bit older than they are now. I do not see any other #1-3 starters on their way up within the organization. And there isn’t a sure-fire everyday player other than Montero, who seems a bat without a real position. I don’t blame Oppenheimer for this, since he doesn’t set the budget and no scouting director can foresee injuries or a first-round draft choice (Cole) deciding to forego millions in favor of college. My point is that it takes a long time to build a productive farm system and the Yankees are only in the early-middle stages of that process.

      I agree with parts of your post and other parts I don’t agree with.

      You’re spot-on in saying that, thus far, the Yanks have only produced fringe/role players from a positional player perspective. Cervelli projects as a BUC, Gardner/Melky are 4th OF’ers, Pena is a utility guy, etc. You’re also correct in saying that the Yanks are only in the early-middle stages of the minor league overhaul.

      I don’t agree, however, that Robertson is a fringe/role player. He’s a bullpen arm, yes, but I consider any pitcher that makes it to the big leagues a success, even if that pitcher ends up pitching in relief. As such, we don’t yet know what Hughes/Chamberlain (or Kennedy) will become. But there’s so much value to be derived from developing useful pitchers that I don’t consider any pitching success story to be qualifiably downgraded as “role” or “fringe.”

      As far as the future of the farm, there are definitely things to be excited about beyond Montero. The Yanks have some young pitchers to watch over the next couple of seasons (Caleb Cotham/Adam Warren from this draft class) as well as their first two blue-chip positional draftees in ages (Slade Heathcott/JR Murphy). While it’s too soon to know what they’ll become, the Yanks have definitely laid the groundwork for a strong minor league system. No, it’s not the best-run system in baseball and, no, I don’t completely agree with how they do things down there (the Red Sox farm system operations blows New York’s out of the water). But I like where we’re headed.

      The only thing we need to worry about now is that the draft process doesn’t change in the next round of labor negotiations. If the way the draft works is altered significantly, it’ll really hurt the Yanks a lot.

    6. clintfsu813
      November 9th, 2009 | 9:30 am

      As such, we don’t yet know what Hughes/Chamberlain (or Kennedy) will become.

      Holy Sh-t. Did you just use his last name????

    7. MJ
      November 9th, 2009 | 10:08 am

      clintfsu813 wrote:

      As such, we don’t yet know what Hughes/Chamberlain (or Kennedy) will become.
      Holy Sh-t. Did you just use his last name????

      LOL, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and forgive him.

    8. butchie22
      November 9th, 2009 | 10:16 am

      In all the ensuing hoopla regarding the Yankees winning (intimated by the author of this article that they bought one) a 27th World Series , I wondered about Kei Igawa. The Yankees biggest error at the tune of 50 mill doesn’t get a ring,eh? Cash Man’s Folly doesn’t get to share in the spoils of victory , very interesting fact.

      And the kids. I had mentioned in the summer that the kids weren’t the reason they were doing so well, it was because they went out and bought CC,AJ and MT. Can you imagine the Yankee season without Teix and CC? I don’t think that they would have won it all without those two. I will give Cash Man some credit in that he’s attempting to build a better farm system WHICH if it was up to Yankee’s Inc (Trost and Levine) they would lose every one of their draft picks to sign free agents!

      @ Raf, they already are a dangerous organization because they can outspend anyone on international signings, free agents and anything else they need. and they can cover errors like the supposedly ringless, Kei “Japanese Idle” Igawa.

      @ Scout, Good post and I agree with you completely…….Nuff Said!

    9. Raf
      November 9th, 2009 | 11:09 am

      butchie22 wrote:

      I had mentioned in the summer that the kids weren’t the reason they were doing so well, it was because they went out and bought CC,AJ and MT.

      Mentioning it doesn’t make it correct. Just as big is Jeter bouncing back and having Posada for an entire season. Also, it helped that Cano and Cabrera didn’t suck as much as they did in ’08.

      2008
      RS: 4.9
      RA: 4.5

      2009
      RS: 5.6
      RA: 4.6

    10. Scout
      November 10th, 2009 | 8:37 am

      MJ wrote:

      I consider any pitcher that makes it to the big leagues a success, even if that pitcher ends up pitching in relief.

      Fair enough, MJ, but we have different standards. I am very impressed with what Robertson did this year, but to my way of looking at it a 7th inning set-up guy is a role player.

      This year’s draft class, though promising, is a good 4-5 years from providing significant help at the major league level. And it is something of a sad commentary on the organization that we have to look at the 2009 draftees as the best hope for the future. After all, not one of these guys has yet to play a full minor league season.

      To be fair, we don’t yet know what a number of the prospects will deliver, either for the Yankees or via trades. Besides Montero, Romine has the potential to be a capable big league catcher, and Austin Jackson could become Melky/Brett Part Trois or even be a bit better than that.

    11. MJ
      November 10th, 2009 | 9:07 am

      Scout wrote:

      This year’s draft class, though promising, is a good 4-5 years from providing significant help at the major league level.

      Not true. Adam Warren and Caleb Cotham will both be pitching in the majors by early 2011, if not sooner. They’re both polished college pitchers, just like Kennedy and Chamberlain were, which means they’ll rise fast if they’re successful (and I expect Warren to be very successful).

      Scout wrote:

      And it is something of a sad commentary on the organization that we have to look at the 2009 draftees as the best hope for the future.

      Not sure why you feel that way. Draftees Hughes (’04), Chamberlain (’06) and free agent signings Cabrera and Cano played big parts in winning 114 games and the championship this year. The minor leagues are already producing for the Yanks, and will continue to do so.

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