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Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Mets, R.A. now stands for "Rebuilding ahead"

When I had the opportunity to interview R.A. Dickey last month, he told me that people were still suspicious of knuckleballers:
   The problem is, people still have this bias against the pitch. They think it's a gimmick, they think it's a trick pitch, illegitimate, whatever adjective you want to try and put there you can. It takes a little while to get people past that.

The lingering suspicion of knuckleballers, combined with Dickey's age, has given the Mets cover in sending Dickey packing instead of agreeing to his very reasonable contract demands.  A 74-win team has gotten rid of the man who earned 20 of those wins. If more people really believed that Dickey could duplicate his great 2012, there would be a lot more outcry over this trade. Teams don't usually trade the reigning Cy Young winner.

And Dickey had become far more than just a great pitcher, but a local folk hero. As I've written before, Dickey's popularity could have led to his becoming a longterm representative of the franchise a la David Wright. Instead, Dickey is not only gone, but had to face anonymous sniping on the way out, aided and abetted by Post writer Ken Davidoff's attacks on the knuckleballer. It only serves as a reminder that much of whatever class the Mets have has left with Dickey.

I hope Dickey proves all the doubters wrong. With Jose Reyes also joining the Blue Jays, I now have a new team to root for in the AL East.

That said, with the current state of the Mets' franchise, trading Dickey for the haul of prospects the Mets got could be the right move long-term. Citi Field could even become a more interesting place if the team appears to be building for the future instead of treading water and denying they are in rebuilding mode.

You never know what will happen when you start stockpiling young players.  Four years ago, Omar Minaya traded a bunch of players for J.J. Putz and Sean Green, both of whom are long gone from the Mets. One of the players the Mets gave up in that deal, lefthanded pitcher Jason Vargas, was traded today even up for righthanded power hitter Kendrys Morales.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Youk? Yuck. Why the Yankees signing Kevin Youkilis is a terrible idea

Hey, kids. Brian Cashman made history Tuesday! Thanks to his idiotic signing of Kevin Youkilis, the Yankees will be paying more for the third baseman spot in 2013 than any other team has ever paid for any other position in history! That's right, folks. The Yanks will be spending a mind-boggling $40 million year for third base next year, more than the Miami Marlins will be spending for their entire franchise's payroll.

And what are the Yanks getting for their money? As I put it yesterday on Facebook:
Youk is a Yank? Yuck. Yet another dumb move by Brian Cashman in replacing an aging, expensive, injury-riddled third baseman with a bad hip, with another aging, expensive, injury-riddled third baseman with a bad hip. Not to mention that whole Red Sox thing. Good grief.
Only the Yanks would get "younger" (Youk will be 34 in March) with a player who misses 40 to 60 games a year, and who has been on the DL pretty much every year of his career. Only the Yankees would replace an overpaid, frequently-injured third baseman with an even more brittle version. And give him $12 million (!) to do so.

Not to mention that Youkilis is a jerk, and even his fellow Red Sox players long ago grew tired of his hissy fits after every strikeout. (And before you bring up Paul O'Neill, he acted like a baby, too, but he helped the Yankees get four rings. Youk won't be getting his own Yankeeography any time soon.)

Yesterday, I heard over and over from Yankee fans trying to justify the trade about how this was the best Brian Cashman could do. What nonsense. I would have been happy with a rookie or role player who can play decent defense and can stay healthy. But the Yanks are more interested in big names for ratings on the YES Network than with having some nobody (the horror!) field the position. Of course, having somebody who could, you know, actually be a relevant player in 2013, not 2004, never figures into Cashman's equation. (Hey, Manny Ramirez is still out there; maybe Cash can sign him, too!)

And by the way, Cashman has been GM since 1998, and got that vaunted "complete control" of the franchise since 2005. Who has the team's player development system produced since then? Arguably the three best players -- Jesus Montero, Ian Kennedy, and Austin Jackson -- are all playing elsewhere, traded for less than their value. The Killer Bs are nowhere. And there isn't just an MLB-ready backup at third in the Yankees farm system; there doesn't appear to be an MLB-ready anything.

You know who also got complete control as a GM in 2005? Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays, who became their GM that year. And yet, with a payroll less than a third of the Yanks, and their best players leaving for free agency, Friedman is able to field a competitive team each year. (And no, it isn't just having had the good draft picks -- look at Kansas City!) In the old days, George Steinbrenner would have poached Friedman from the Rays a long time ago, instead of having a schlub like Cashman as GM for life.

Anyhow, don't fool yourself that Kevin Youkilis has somehow seen the light and will be a great Yankee hero. This is about the Yankees being foolish enough to pay a has-been like him $12 million for 2013. Nothing else. Meanwhile, Brian (Fredo) Cashman will preen somewhere about what a great GM he is, putting this golden oldies team on the field. Good grief. I haven't had somebody join the team that I had such a visceral reaction to since Javy Vazquez Part Deux. This is worse.

Guess what, folks? You can't count on the Yankees making the playoffs with this ancient crew just because they have in the past. Every single team in the AL East got better in the winter this year, except for the Yankees, who got worse (Rafael Soriano not being on this team will come back to bite them.)  There's a reason my Sox fan friends are laughing over Youkilis being a Yankee -- they know what he is now. And the one-time .300+ hitter is not an All-Star third baseman anymore. He's slightly more relevant than Derek Lowe, but that's about it. Good grief.