Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, but I don't want to see Manny Ramirez under the Yankee tree

Squawker Jon and I would like wish all our Subway Squawkers readers a very merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you're celebrating this year.

This is our fifth season of writing this blog, and we're happy that we've had this opportunity to squawk about our teams -- and about each other. We also really appreciate that we've gotten to know our readers a little better, via Facebook, Twitter, and real-life meetings. Thanks for reading us!

Anyhow, I went to church for Christmas Eve, and they had a Las Posadas ceremony as part of the service. But there was no mention of Jorge!
Now, I did get the Bruce Springsteen box set The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story under my Christmas tree. But I don't want to see Manny Ramirez under the Yankee tree!

There have been rumors flying about that the Yankees are targeting him and Johnny Damon. I wanted Manny as a Yankee after the phenomenal end to his 2008 season, and I of course wanted Damon back last season. This year, not so much.

Sure, Ramirez might be the all-time Yankee killer with the bat, and Damon is one of my favorite Yankee players, but neither of them really fit on this team right now, in no small part due to Jorge Posada being paid $13 million for 2011 to be the DH.

I can't see Damon being happy to be a part-time player. And Manny hasn't been the same hitter ever since The Man took away his right to take fertility drugs! Besides, I think the Yanks have enough superstars on the decline right now. They don't need another one.
Anyhow, I told Jon that Posada ought to send a big Christmas card to Omar Minaya -- their meal at the Four Seasons when the catcher was a free agent got Posada a fourth year!

Anyhow, thanks again for reading us. If you got any cool Yankees- or Mets-related loot under the tree, let us know!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brian Cashman sez the Yankees have until July (!) to improve their rotation

At the beginning of this offseason, Brian Cashman said his priority was "pitching, pitching and pitching." Two months later, after not getting Cliff Lee -- or any other arm -- for the Yankee rotation (and no, I'm not counting Mark Prior!), and after the potential loss of Andy Pettitte, Cash now appears to be in no hurry to fix the rotation, telling ESPN's Wally Matthews:
Cashman acknowledged his team could use a major league ready starter as well as another arm in the bullpen but seemed pessimistic about the chances of getting one before Opening Day.

"Could I go out and get a starter? Yes, I could. But there's just not much out there," Cashman said. "I have March, April, May, June and July, really, to come up with someone."..."

In the past, we might have gone out and traded away prospects just to get someone in here," Cashman said. "But realistically, I have until July to get this solved."
Oh, no you don't, Brian. If the reloaded Red Sox go off on a tear, you could lose the division very early on. And there's no telling when some other team in the league might be the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. To assume you have four months to fix the team is one of the more arrogant thiings I've heard anybody say in a while.

First off, I don't understand why it's apparently so hard for Cashman to pick up the phone and woo Andy Pettitte. The GM told Matthews, "If we get Pettitte back, so much the better. But I'm not waiting for him. He told me not to." Would it kill Cashman to show Pettitte some love -- and some money? And why is it that the Yankees have always seemed to take Pettitte for granted?

As for using two rookies to fill up the Yankee rotation, I tend to share some of the skepticism my friend Steve Lombardi of Was Watching has about the plan. Going with the young guns in the starting rotation didn't exactly pay off in spades in 2008. And please, I don't want to see Darrell Rasner or Sidney Ponson back again, either!

Besides, while the Red Sox can afford to do a "bridge year," the Yankees really can't. I am pretty sure Derek Jeter will have a great year this season to shut up the naysayers. But it will probably be his last one. Mariano Rivera won't be pitching into his 50s, and A-Rod isn't getting any younger, either. I'm all for playing the kids in some spots, which is why it seemed to make more sense to me to bring up Jesus Montero and have Jorge Posada work with him, as opposed to signing Russell Martin. But the idea of not one but two untested rookies in the rotation scares me more than a little.

I hope this "I have until July to fix the rotation" talk is this year's 'Bubba Crosby is our centerfielder," as opposed to, say, thinking that reacquiring Javy Vazquez and Nick Johnson would be good moves!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Looking back at Brian Cashman's offseason moves

It's December 18. Exactly two years ago today, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett spoke at a press conference introducing them as Yankees. A few days later, word leaked out that Brian Cashman had swooped in and snatched Mark Teixeira from under the Red Sox's Christmas tree. That offseason, combined with the Yanks trading for Nick Swisher, turned out to be Brian Cashman's finest hour. He spent around $425 million that winter, but that spending was well worth it. It helped get the Yankees their 27th title.

At the time, I was excited about CC and Tex, but I thought Cashman spending $82+ million on A.J. Burnett was outrageous. However, I was wrong about Burnett, at least for 2009 -- he was a critical part of the World Series Championship team. 2010, not so much, though!

Last season was mostly a disaster for Cashman. The Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson moves were baffling at the time (I griped loudly against both of the moves.) They made even less sense as the year went on. Vazquez made $11.5 million, and had a negative WAR value in 2010 (-0.2 according to Fangraphs, 0.0 according to Baseball-Reference.) Not exactly good bang for your buck. About the only positive thing that can be said about that trade was that Boone Logan, who was part of the Vazquez deal, turned out to be fairly decent as a reliever.

And remember how Cash said that if Nick Johnson were healthy, he'd be a $15 million a year player? Well, Johnson had all of 98 plate appearances last year, and made $5.5 million. That works out to around $56,122 a plate appearance.

To put those numbers in perspective, Alex Rodriguez made $33,000,000 last year, and had 595 plate appearances. That works out to $55,462 a plate appearance. So, yes, Nick Johnson actually made more per plate appearance than any of the team's regulars, including the guy with the biggest contract in baseball history! For A-Rod's salary, he still hit 30 home runs and came in second in the league in RBIs, even though he missed 25 games. Johnson, as DH, had all of 12 hits, 8 RBI, and 24 walks.

Curtis Granderson turned out to be a very good player in the last two months of the year, and was one of the few players to hit in the playoffs, but Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, as usual, got way too much out of Cashman for him.

As for this year, I can't say I'm very impressed with Cashman's moves so far this winter, other than that I think he was completely in the right on the Derek Jeter issue, and that it was time for Jorge Posada to be a full-time DH. But the Yanks need to do more than to re-sign their veterans (and, for that matter, Andy Pettitte is still not back in the fold) in order to win the division.

The Red Sox won 89 games last season, during a bridge year, with a slew of critical injuries. Now they've reloaded the team with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and even added another bullpen arm with Bobby Jenks. Given that, the Yanks can't afford to stand pat and say, "Hey, we won 95 games last year."

The minor moves Cashman has made so far --  Russell Martin, Mark Prior, and Pedro Feliciano  -- don't exactly compete with that. Prior is a project. The fact that Martin, who had hip issues, just needed to get his meniscus repaired, is a little disconcerting. And Feliciano was very good with the Mets, but Jerry Manuel overworked Perpetual Pedro a lot over the years.

Cashman's Plan A -- signing Cliff Lee -- didn't work out. Maybe he has some great Plan B in the works that's going to knock everybody's socks off. I hope that's the case. But so far, Cashman's offseason this year is not exactly going swimmingly, the way it was two years ago at this time.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Did Squawker Jon and I see Bob Feller throw his last pitch?

Rest in piece, Bob Feller. Squawker Jon and I were both big fans of him, even though he didn't play for either of our teams. So when we saw that he would be pitching in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame Classic last summer during a time we'd be upstate, we decided to check it out. It may have been the last time he threw a pitch in a game.

Here is Jon's report on the event, and my own. Here is Jon's description of seeing Feller:

The 90-year-old Feller started the game and, as Lisa noted, even threw inside to Bobby Grich.

When Feller was removed from the game before the end of the first inning, I suspected he had been called up by the Mets. We know how much Omar Minaya loves those veteran pitchers!

After Feller was taken out of the game, we saw him walking around and talking to fans. I didn't get the chance to meet him, but I was excited just to see him.

Anyhow, we're not sure if this were the last game Feller participated in, but we are glad we got to see him up close.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Is losing Cliff Lee a "PR nightmare" for the Yankees?

Ouch! Cliff Lee said yesterday that he signed with Philadelphia Phillies in part because they give him "the best chance" to win!

Here's what he claimed in Wednesday's presser: 
"At this point it's about trying to win championships," Lee said, preparing to join a rotation that already includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. "I think this team gives me the best chance to do that."
Harsh! But given that rotation, and the rest of the team, he's not inaccurate. The New York Post made a big deal because the Lees said the Yankee fan issue in the ALCS was "way overblown." But the real story here is that while Lee dissed the Yankees in a number of ways. It's clear he had no intentions of coming to the Bronx; he just used the Yanks to drive up his price. To top it all off, he said that the Philllies gave him a better chance to win than the Yankees. When was the last time the Yankees got so owned by a free agent who signed with somebody else?

Our Yankee-hating reader with the controversial name of urinalfresh23 has flushed back onto the scene since Lee rejected the Yankees. He writes:

Losing out on Cliff Lee is a PR nightmare for the Yankers, which is just about as devastating to them as what happens on the field. Without positive PR, you don't sell tickets. Get the hint? Why do you think everyone in the front office is doing damage control?
While I don't think it's quite a PR nightmare, there is simply no good way to spin this issue. The Yankees' swagger of having the ability to swoop in and get whatever player they wanted is gone, thanks to Cliff Lee. No longer can they make the assumption that more money will get them whatever player they want to put under the ol' Christmas tree. Every December, Yankee fans run out and buy t-shirts of whoever the latest free agent du jour is. Don't see anybody lining up for Russell Martin t-shirts!

But here's the thing, even if you think Lee was a jerk who used the Yanks to get more money from the team he really wanted to play on, Mark Teixeira did the exact same thing. So the Bombers have no moral high ground here. Sorry.

I don't think there is anything the Yanks could have done to get Lee -- they got played, plain and simple.  But here's the thing -- if I could have figured out in October that Lee wasn't likely to be a Yankee, why couldn't they?

And why did Cashman waste time on nonsense like rappelling off a building instead of formulating a coherent Plan B? (Oh, and by the way, signing Martin as catcher wasn't exactly a big coup, given that he already needs surgery.)

I'm afraid Cash's Plan B will consist of trading Jesus Montero for Carlos Zambrano, or something equally as dopey. Cashman has exactly one sharp tool in his skill set -- the ability to spend a lot of money. Creative deals aren't really his strong suit.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Note to Yankeeland: Stop the spin already

Maybe it's just me, but I still don't understand why Brian Cashman and many others in Yankeeland are still trying to act like the Cliff Lee rejection is no big deal. It's also amazing how the No. 1 player in the free agent market has become a bum, according to some of the fanbase, now that he's not going to be a Yankee.

It's one thing to have been concerned over the number of years he wanted, or the money he was going to cost. I get that. But when I hear some fans, like Squawker reader Uncle Mike, say stuff like "I fail to see how not getting Cliff Lee is a minus for the Yankees" and "Cliff Lee going to the Phillies is a plus for the Yankees: They don't waste a lot of money on a guy who would be their 3rd-best starter," I just have to laugh over these shameless attempts at revisionist history. Cliff Lee would be the Yankees' 3rd-best starter? C'mon now. Put your Yankee pom-poms down already.

Cashman said yesterday that "I don’t think we have a lot of holes." Really? The current Yankee starting rotation is CC Sabathia (great, but coming off surgery), A.J. Burnett (terrible 2010; needs to turn it around), Phil Hughes (wore down during the stretch last year), Sergio Mitre (horrible pitcher), and Ivan Nova (untested rookie.) Andy Pettitte may retire. Is that a great rotation? Other than CC, absolutely not. And I'm not going to put on Yankee blinders and say it is.

Other than Mariano Rivera, the Yankee bullpen is a mess, too, with Joba Chamberlain flailing, David Robertson being inconsistent, and Kerry Wood likely going elsewhere.

Granted, the Yankees still have a very good team, but to pretend like they don't have issues is simply denying reality.

Anyhow, the Daily News' Bill Madden features more spin from the Yankee camp:
[A]s one Yankee operative, no doubt in reference to Lee signing with the Phillies and the Red Sox bagging Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, noted Tuesday with a trace of sobering resignation: "The team that wins the winter doesn't usually win the next season. In recent years, we've come to know that better than anyone."
In 2008, the Yankees paid $423.5 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeiria. And guess what? In 2009, all three had great years and helped the Yankees win their first ring since 2000. To act so blase about what free agent signings can do pretty much flies in the face of what really happened in recent years. Looks like Derek Jeter isn't the only one who needs a nice healthy dose of reality potion.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yankees on Cliff Lee rejection: There must be a pony in here somewhere!

There is no way to spin Cliff Lee rejecting the Yankees to sign with the Phillies for less money as anything short of a debacle. But some sources in the Yankees' front office are trying to find a pony in here somewhere.

In an attempt to spinning this rejection as no big deal, here's what two anonymous sources in Yankeeland told ESPN's Wally Matthews:

But it was clear in talking to Yankees insiders that the organization was neither surprised nor particularly disturbed by Lee's choice. In fact, there was a sense of relief that Lee was out of the American League and, with the Yankees and Phillies not scheduled to play during the regular season, could not torment them again until the World Series.

"Maybe this is all for the better," one of the sources said. "Do you really want to give a seven-year deal to a guy who doesn't want to be here?".... 

Whoop-de-do. Is that all you got? Puh-lease.

First of all, if I could figure out in October that the Yankees' chances of signing Lee were slim, then why couldn't the brainiacs in their front office?  Contrary to them claiming now they weren't surprised by this, the fact remains that they put all their eggs in the Cliff Lee basket, now the eggs look like a steamroller ran the basket over, and they're acting like it just gives them more material for omelets? Leggo my eggo!

Second, what is the Plan B here? It could have been signing Carl Crawford and trading a current outfielder for a pitcher, but that ship has sailed. Who's going to be starting for the Yankees -- Sergio Mitre? Carl Pavano?
And both used the same word -- "celebrate" -- to describe the rarity of an athlete opting for less money in favor of playing for a particular team.

"Obviously he wasn't all about the money, which is refreshing," said one of the sources. "He left a lot of it on the table."

"I think we should celebrate the fact that a guy took less money to go to a place he loves," the other said. "I honestly don't think he or his wife were afraid of New York, just that they enjoyed their experience in Philadelphia to such an extent that they would rather go there for a lot less money."

There must be a pony in here somewhere! Hey, let's "celebrate" Cliff Lee taking less money to go to the Phillies. Break out the champagne! Wheeeeeee!!

Are you kidding me? This attempt at damage control is pathetic.

And nobody said that Cliff and Kristen Lee "were afraid of New York;" instead, they were reportedly ticked off at the unruly fans. Big difference.

Besides, what is "refreshing" from the Yankee perspective about Lee taking less money to play elsewhere? That he hates the Yankees so much, not even the lure of filthy lucre couldn't convince him to come to the Bronx? And they're acting like this is a good thing?

Squawker Jon says that Yankees "refreshing" comment is one of the most hypocritical things he has ever heard. I can't disagree.

The reality is that unless Brian Cashman has some secret rabbit he's going to pull out of  his elf hat, the Yankees have completely wasted the offseason so far on the Lee pursuit. And no matter how much the Yanks try to spin, spin, spin, there is no pony in here anywhere!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

The worst thing about Cliff Lee going to the Phillies

It's bad enough that the Mets will have to face a powerhouse Phillies team the next few years. But what's even worse is that the Phillies have become the kind of team star players take less money to join.

Last year, Roy Halladay signed a three-year contract extension with Philadelphia for $60 million. Halladay could have been a free agent after the 2010 season. Imagine what his market would have been. But Halladay was willing to give up future tens of millions of dollars to go to the Phillies. Now Cliff Lee has also left tens of millions of dollars on the table for a chance to play with Shane Victorino.

Most free agents end up where the most money is. But one would hope that, the money being equal, some players would prefer the Mets over other clubs. Instead, the Mets have often had to overcome a star's reluctance to join them. Flushing was reportedly "Beirut" to Jason Bay. Carlos Beltran reportedly was willing to take less money to go the Yankees. Carlos Delgado turned down a chance to play for the Mets in 2005 before the Mets traded for him the following year.

Under the new regime, I have confidence that the Mets will soon become a place where stars want to play and that Sandy Alderson and company will spend money, but do so wisely. However, I still expect that the Mets, like just about every other team, will ultimately have to outbid other clubs to get the players they want.

But it's hard to imagine players taking less money to join the Mets.

Alderson may eventually close the talent gap with the Phillies, but now he must close the likeability gap as well. As with the Phillies, the Mets need to become the kind of club that players want to join for reasons besides money.

W.C. Fields must be turning over in his grave. Who would have thought that, on the whole, star pitchers would rather be in Philadelphia?

Cliff Lee takes his talents to South Street, rejects Yankees and Rangers

It was a good day yesterday. Brett Favre's streak was over, which put joy in my heart. And I was sound asleep last night, dreaming peacefully, when Squawker Jon called me and woke me out of my slumber to deliver the big news -- that Cliff Lee had signed with the Phillies. I went all, "Whaaaattttt!!!!"

I'm not shocked in the least that Cliff Lee is not a Yanks. I've been skeptical all along that he would sign with the Bombers, thanks in no small part due to his wife. And while pretty much everybody in the media assumed for most of the winter that the Yankees would win the race due to money, I didn't buy that, either. Squawker Jon and I spent a lot of time arguing about this, as I wrote this weekend:
As I have written before, I have been very skeptical that the Yankees would sign Cliff Lee. Squawker Jon and I have been arguing about this offline for the last two months. He figures the Yankees always get what they want. I contend that if anybody might turn down the Yankees' money, it's Lee.
What does shock me is that Lee is taking his talents to South Street, instead of staying in Texas. But hey, look on the bright side, Yankee fans: As one of my brothers reminded me this morning, at least we'll have Derek Jeter at the top of the lineup and at shortstop again for the next four years!

I heard the talk yesterday of the Phillies being the mystery team, but I decided not to put much stock into those rumors after somebody on Twitter named IncarceratedBob said wrongly on Saturday that Lee signed with the Rangers (I was going to wait for what Red from Shawshank had to say!)

The biggest loser here has to be Brian Cashman. Squawker Jon says all Cash is capable of doing as a GM is writing a check, but he wasn't even able to do that effectively this time around, given that Lee is taking less money and years from the Phillies.

Aside from the fact that the Yanks had to spend a month kissing Derek Jeter's tuchis instead of negotiated with Lee, I found nothing cute or charming about Cashman spending the weekend before the winter meetings dressed like an elf, and rappelling down a building.

George Steinbrenner's name gets used a lot these days -- What Would George Do? seems to be a big mantra in the fan base. And I'm not going to claim that if The Boss were alive that Lee would be a Yankee; after all, John Smoltz turned down Steinbrenner and the Yankees after the 1996 World Series. That being said, as I wrote earlier in the month, Steinbrenner would never have allowed Cashman to have spent critical hot stove time dressed as an elf.

It showed exactly how much esteem Lee had for the Yankees when he personally called Jon Daniels, the Rangers GM, to say he was signing with Philly, while Cashman only got a call from Lee's agent.

I hope Cashman came up with a Plan B when he was hanging off the side of that building, but I'm doubtful. And I certainly hope that his offseason plans don't again involve giving failed Yankees a second chance, like the No. 2 free agent pitcher out there, Carl Pavano!

There has been a lot of talk since last night about how Cashman failed in not including either Eduardo Nunez and Ivan Nova in that possible trade for Lee. Could the Yankees have gotten to the World Series with Lee? Yes, but given that it turns out that CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were both injured, I don't know if they would have been able to beat the Giants. At any rate, Lee might very well have stiffed the Yankees again this winter, leaving them without Jesus Montero as well as the other prospects in the deal.

One other thing -- I've admired the Philadelphia Phillies for being the NL's version of the Yankees, but now they've gone too far. Break up the Phillies!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Twist ending for Met fans: Cliff Lee spurns Yankees, but picks Phillies

Cliff Lee turning down the Yankees should have been the highlight of my postseason. For once, Steinbrenner millions can't buy everything. Now Brian Cashman will have to think for a change instead of just taking out the checkbook. And then I found out where Lee was going.

I didn't believe it when I first heard that the Phillies might be in on Lee. After all, they had gotten Roy Halladay to agree to a three-year deal for $20 million a year, with an option for a fourth year. How could they give Lee a much bigger deal after the year Halladay had?

The story is still unfolding, but whatever Lee ends up getting, I have to think that Halladay, who was the unanimous choice for Cy Young, pitched a perfect game and added only the second no-hitter in postseason history, will get a contract extension real soon.

It appears that Lee took a lot less money than he would have gotten from the Yankees, and less than he would have gotten from Texas as well. Good for Lee for following his heart and not just making a decision based on money, especially when the Players' Association always wants players to take the biggest deal.

But why did Lee's heart have to be in Philadelphia?

I called Squawker Lisa and woke her up to tell her the news, and she was suitably outraged, though it should be pointed out that Lisa has been one of the few to write consistently that the Yankees were not going to get Lee. Once Lisa calmed down, she was able to mutter that Lee was taking his talents to South Street.

Don't worry, Lisa, now the Yankees can trade for Joe Blanton, since the Phillies will probably be looking to move him to cut salary to make room for Lee. And maybe Cashman, who gave Javier Vazquez a second chance, can hope the second time's a charm with the second-best free agent pitcher available this year, a fellow named Pavano.

Or Cashman can mortgage the farm system for Zack Greinke, a great pitcher who isn't likely to be great in New York.

How can I hate Lee when he personally called the Rangers to tell them they were out, while he had his agent call the Yankees?

As for the Mets, well, it's not as if they were going to beat the Phillies next year anyway, but now 2012 and 2013 don't look so great, either.

Not that I expect - or want - Sandy Alderson to suddenly start channeling Omar Minaya, but this latest Phillies blockbuster is going to put more pressure on the Mets to go after big-money players once they have payroll flexibility a year from now.

Almost everyone in the mainstream media predicted that the Yankees would get Lee. One of the reasons why some thought it might not happen was that Lee's wife had complained about some unruly Yankee fans. So the Lees end up turning down the Bronx - for Philadelphia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Say it ain't so, Mo! Did Mariano Rivera's agent pursue the Red Sox?

I saw that Rob Bradford of Boston radio station WEEI is reporting that "Mariano Rivera's representatives were the ones to initiate contact with the Red Sox in an attempt to get the team interested in the closer." Yikes! (Hat tip to Sliding Into Home)

The article also claims that contrary to other reports, the Red Sox really weren't going to non-tender Jonathan Papelbon:
While there was some thought that because of the offer to Rivera the Red Sox were prepared to non-tender closer Jonathan Papelbon, separate sources suggest the Sox were never inclined to let Papelbon become a free agent this offseason. In the short-term, the team valued the reliever's presence in the back-end of its bullpen, while long-term it coveted any draft picks that might come the Sox' way if Papelbon were to sign elsewhere in free agency next year. The Sox' closer is arbitration-eligible for a third time, and is heading into the final season of being controlled by the Sox.
I dunno what to think about this article. Could this be damage control from the Red Sox camp, given that Boston still has one more year of Papelbon, and that they could be headed into another arbitration hearing with him? Remember, Papelbon is the closer who thought he, not Mo, should get to close the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Are Boston sources trying to spin this to make Rivera look bad?

So what do you think, readers?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shocker: Filip Bondy responds to my screed about his column

I wrote Saturday about New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy's inexplicable and, yes, clueless, omission of Zack Greinke's battles with Social Anxiety Disorder in his article exhorting the Yankees to trade for the Kansas City pitcher. I couldn't understand why he would leave that issue out, so I wondered, "Guess Filip was too busy watching soccer or figure skating to pay attention to baseball."

Whenever I write a column criticizing anybody, I always figure in the back of my mind that there's always the chance that the person I criticized might actually write back. It hasn't happened often (although I was hoping in the back of my mind that Derek Jeter would go off on me in his presser last week and make me famous!). But it did in the columnist's case! Bondy wrote me a response in the comments section of Subway Squawkers:
Here's the comment:

filipbondy said...

Well, here's the thing, Lisa. I wish I could cover more figure skating, but the fact is I'm lucky if I get to write more than two columns on the subject per year.

Who do you like at the U.S. championships, BTW? Rachael Flatt didn't do so hot in Beijing, as you know.

As for Greinke... You get the side out in order at the All-Star Game, strike out two, I think that's handling pressure.

Cheers, filip

I have to tip my cap to Bondy for writing pretty much a letter-perfect response. It's got humor, self-deprecation, and even a point behind it. While I still stand by my own points -- that Bondy should have mentioned Greinke's battles with depression when talking about trading for him, and that Greinke's personal issues are a concern when it comes to trading for him -- I do appreciate that he took the time to respond to me. I was speechless (a rare thing, I know!) when I read his response.

I can't say I'm paying much attention to figure skating, though. This is Subway Squawkers, not Subway Skaters!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Five reasons why Cliff Lee will not be a Yankee

As I have written before, I have been very skeptical that the Yankees would sign Cliff Lee. Squawker Jon and I have been arguing about this offline for the last two months. He figures the Yankees always get what they want. I contend that if anybody might turn down the Yankees' money, it's Lee.

Here's why I think Lee will stay with the Texas Rangers:

* Just as good a chance to win there as with the Yankees: Heresy, I know. I've heard a lot of Yankee fans say that Lee would have a better chance of winning with the Yanks as opposed to the Rangers. Never mind that those Rangers beat the Yankees like a rented mule in the ALCS. Sure, Texas faltered in the World Series, but that won't be their last time at the rodeo.

Because of this, Squawker Jon points out that Lee can't even use the standard line most free agents give when coming to the Yankees -- that they've got a better chance to win in the Bronx. It's not really true in Lee's case. Not only did he help get the Rangers to the World Series, but he helped the Phillies get to the World Series as well the year before. He does bring his own star, like Reggie Jackson once did.

* The Rangers don't have to pay as much as the Yankees:  No, Texas doesn't have to go higher than the Yankees' reported seven-year, gazillion dollar offer. They just have to be in the ballpark (no pun intended.) Remember, there is no state income tax in Texas, and no city tax, either. The cost of living, especially housing, is a lot lower there, too. Former Ranger Kenny Rogers offer made the mistake of signing with the Yankees for more money, without figuring that the offer the Rangers gave him was actually better when you factored in taxes and cost of living. The Rangers could offer Lee 20-25% less more money, and still be able to be competitive.

* Lee's a deer hunter: Hear me out on this: Myjah, a Minnesota Twins fan reader, told me last year that Joe Mauer would never be a Yankee because he liked to hunt deer. Myjah's point was that a guy who spent his fall in a deer stand would prefer to stay out of the big city. Myjah wrote, "The Twins will offer him the biggest contract in Twins history. With their new stadium, they can afford Joe. He'll stay in Minnesota by his grandparents (who come to every Twins game) and his deer stand. That's just the type of guy he is."

I pooh-poohed this comment, but Myjah turned out to be correct, when Mauer signed a 10-year extension with the Twins instead of taking his rightful place as the new Yankee catcher!

So what's Lee been doing in his offseason? Deer hunting! Bad omen.

* Kristen Lee: Remember the whole controversy over her saying how terrible the Yankee fans were to her at the ALCS? I don't know what happened during the playoffs, but I do know this -- she will be under a spotlight most new Yankee wives have never had to face if she comes to New York. There will be reporters and paparazzi following her around everywhere to see how she reacts. Is she really going to want to go through that?

Besides, in that same USA Today article where she complained about spitting and spilled beer, she also said that it was great to only be a 40-minute flight away from their Arkansas home. By all accounts, Mrs. Lee is an important factor in Cliff's decision. I would be surprised if she opts for the big city.

* His teammates: Lee has been on four teams in two years. Does he really want to make it five, when he seems to be well-liked in Texas? His teammates, like Ian Kinsler, have been encouraging him to stay. And fellow pitcher C.J. Wilson directed this comment in the Dallas Morning News to Lee: "I'll be your sidekick." If he had only said "I'm your huckleberry," I'll bet Lee would have signed with the Rangers already!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Filip Bondy cluelessly touts Zack Greinke over Cliff Lee for the Yankees

Daily News columnist Filip Bondy has finally done it. He's written something even more out there than his column claiming that the Yankees would beat the Texas Rangers in the ALCS simply by "throwing their pinstriped uniforms onto the field and reading from a few pages of The Baseball Encyclopedia." (Still waiting for Bondy's mea culpa on that ridiculous article, by the way!)

Today's column shows Bondy's general cluelessness about baseball when it comes to doing anything more strenuous than writing his usual snarky whines. His great idea for the Yankees is that they should forget about Cliff Lee and go after Kansas City hurler Zack Greinke. But Bondy apparently doesn't know -- or chose not to mention -- the fact that the Kansas City pitcher has battled social anxiety disorder.

Bondy writes:
When you look at this thing calmly, without the Sox dangling above, it may turn out that the best thing for the Yanks would be Lee returning to Texas and its friendly tax code. Then the Zack Greinke stakes can begin in earnest, and Cashman can finally try to complete a big deal.

Cashman hasn't really done a lot of trading, just patchwork bartering. He didn't trade for Johan Santana, patiently and constructively waiting instead to sign CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. That worked out fine. Eventually, though, Cashman did dump prospects Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in the deal for Curtis Granderson. That trade doesn't look all that great right now, but you know what, that's how it works. Once in a while, a GM must take the sort of chance that can backfire, or make him look like a genius.

Cashman would need to throw some real talent out there in order to get Greinke from the Royals. If he succeeds, however, he would be getting a top pitcher in his prime. Greinke is 27, and has two years left on a reasonable contract at $13.5 million per season. The Yanks would be able to renegotiate and extend it easily enough.....
Two things wrong with this idea:

* It just astonishes me that Bondy would completely leave out Greinke's issues with social anxiety disorder, and whether a pitcher with a history of anxiety and depression could handle the Bronx.

True, there was a recent Yahoo sports report saying that a source close to Greinke claimed the pitcher might waive his limited no-trade clause -- which includes the Yankees -- to play for a winner. And Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said he's heard that Greinke is ready "to go anywhere." But Bondy doesn't mention any of those things.

Look, I think Greinke winning a Cy Young Award after dealing with social anxiety disorder is really admirable. (Read this Sports Illustrated article to see how far he once fell.) I'm rooting hard for him to succeed in his career and in his life.

But I also know what the media is like in this town, and what some Yankee fans are like (and Bondy should know, too, given how much he's written about the Bleacher Creatures.) Being able to handle New York pressure is kind of important -- look what happened with Ed Whitson and Chuck Knoblauch, just to name two examples.

I remember how Javier Vazquez got booed by Yankee fans this year in the early innings of the very first home game he pitched this year. I know that a certain segment of the fan base considers it a badge of honor to scapegoat their own players, and boo them like it's nobody's business. Would Greinke be able to handle that? I dunno, but it's a serious thing worth discussing before the Yankees try to trade for him. Yet Bondy apparently isn't even aware that it's an issue!

* As we've seen over and over, Cashman is rarely able to make good trades (Nick Swisher for Wilson Betemit was the best one in recent years. but it was also a White Sox salary dump/player dump.) Invariably, the other team's GM holds up Cash for more than the player is worth, just because they're the Yankees. Remember how much Minnesota wanted from the Yankees for Johan Santana, and how little the Mets got him for? Remember how Cashman thought he had a deal for Cliff Lee this summer, only to have the Seattle Mariners turn around and demand more at the last minute? That's why the Yankees end up doing so much on the free agent market; because other teams' asking price is always higher for the Bombers than for anybody else.

Anyhow, I don't think the Yankees will get Cliff Lee (something I will elaborate on further in a column later this morning) but I also don't think getting Zack Greinke is the slam-dunk solution, either, the way Bondy does. Guess Filip was too busy watching soccer or figure skating to pay attention to baseball.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Sox show Mets that big contracts can work

I'm on board with Sandy Alderson's strategy for rebuilding the Mets and I understand the need to get out from under the bad contracts of the previous regime. But when the Red Sox leave the Winter Meetings with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez while the Mets take home Ronny Paulino and D.J. Carrasco, it feels like Charlie Brown on Halloween getting only a rock. Tightening the belts in for 2011 will be worth it - as long as they can be loosened again in 2012.

It's not a problem for a well-run big-market team to have some bad contracts. Look at what the Red Sox paid the following players in 2010:

John Lackey: $18 million
J.D. Drew: $14M
Mike Lowell: $12M
Daisuke Matsuzaka: $8M

That adds up to $54 million for players worth a lot less than that. And only one of these players (Lowell) came off the payroll after 2010 - Drew is signed through 2011, Matsuzaka through 2012 and Lackey through 2014.

But the Red Sox also have plenty of top players who are comparatively underpaid. Here are some other 2010 Red Sox salaries:

Jon Lester: $3.75M
Dustin Pedroia: $3.5M
Clay Buchholz: $443,000

And the overpaid Red Sox players at least provided some production. Lackey won 14 games while Dice-K won nine. Drew hit 22 homers. Lowell filled in at first after Kevin Youkilis got hurt and ended up starting 38 games there.

Compare that to the Mets' bad contracts for 2011. Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo do not belong on a major-league roster. Johan Santana will be lucky to make it back by the All-Star break, and even then is unlikely to be in ace form. Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay are big question marks. Francisco Rodriguez has significant off-the-field issues and is coming off an season-ending injury to his pitching hand.

These six players are owed an astonishing $86.5 million for 2011:

Johan Santana: $22.5M
Carlos Beltran: $18.5M
Francisco Rodriguez: $11.5M
Jason Bay: $16M
Oliver Perez: $12M
Luis Castillo: $6M

Even the Red Sox would find these numbers hard to write off.

I continue to defend the Beltran, Santana and Rodriguez moves. All three have performed at a high level when healthy. None was considered an injury risk when signed, and nobody foresaw K-Rod's off-the-field issues. Signing any starting pitcher to a longterm deal is a risk, as whomever signs Cliff Lee will find out.

If this list consisted of only those three players, it would add up to $52.5M, slightly less than the $54M on the earlier Red Sox list. And the Mets would still have an extra $34M to play with.

The problem, as always, comes down to the zero value of Perez and Castillo. And at this point, the Bay signing doesn't look too good, either. Even if Bay makes a great comeback, he has a long way to go to be worth $16M next year.

Last year, the Mets needed a righthanded power-hitting outfielder. Bay was available and would cost almost half of much as the other top OF available, Matt Holliday. I liked the Bay signing at the time.

But in hindsight, the Mets would have been better off spending more to get Holliday or passing on both of them. Holliday will likely end up justifying his contract much more than Bay will because Holliday actually is a great player, while Bay is, at best, a very good one.

The Mets needed a starting pitcher when Perez was a free agent, and you know the rest.

But just because the Mets ended up with some very expensive rocks doesn't mean they should avoid all big-name free agents. As the Red Sox have shown, it's possible to incorporate big-money acquisitions into an overall strategy that leaves your team with a lot more treats than tricks.

Celebrating the Baseball Bloggers Alliance

December 10 is Baseball Bloggers Alliance day, and Subway Squawkers is pleased to be part of this rapidly growing group. The BBA was started in 2009 by Cardinals blogger Daniel Shoptaw and has since grown to around 240 blogs from all around the country. The Mets have the biggest chapter, with 19 blogs (take that, Squawker Lisa!). There are 12 Yankee blogs. (Subway Squawkers is counted in both lists.)

The BBA gives out its own set of postseason awards, and has secured naming rights from several living legends for some of them. The Willie Mays Award goes to the top rookie in each league. The Stan Musial Award goes to the most valuable player in each league. The Goose Gossage Award goes to the top relievers. Other awards are named after Walter Johnson (starting pitcher) and Connie Mack (manager). Each league's awards are voted on by blogs in that league. Lisa cast Subway Squawkers' AL votes while I took care of the NL votes.

Squawker Lisa and I appeared on the BBA's podcast on December 7, which was hosted by Steve Keane of The Eddie Kranepool Society. We had a great time talking with Steve. We also enjoyed our appearance on the BBA podcast of November 10 with Matt Seybold of The Sporting Hippeaux.

If you want to know more about the BBA, check out this interview with founder Shoptaw.

If you are a baseball blogger interested in joining the BBA, send an email to It's free to join, with the main requirements being that you have an active blog and participate in the awards voting. For more membership details, check out the BBA Constitution.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My thoughts on Carl Crawford's contract, Cliff Lee's demands, and Tom Brady's Uggs ad

I'm peeved. It looks like Carl Crawford is no longer an option for the Yankees, now that Boston is signing him. I'm a little taken aback at how much money the Red Sox are willing to give Crawford; he's a very good player, but is he worth seven years and $142 million? I dunno.

The Sox have reloaded with Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez (BTW, love that "we're going to pretend he hasn't signed a contract extension until Opening Day, so we can save on luxury tax." Only Boston could get away with that scheme!) Now this means the Yanks are going to have to overpay even more for Cliff Lee, and even then, I'm not sure they will get him.

An aside -- I went to the Boston Globe's site this morning to read the Crawford news and saw a big article about how Tom Brady is now doing Uggs ads. Yeah, I'm sure men will be buying those boots in droves!

But I digress. Anyhow, I wrote at the end of the season that I didn't think the Yankees getting Cliff Lee was a sure thing. When all is said and done, could I see Lee staying with the Rangers? Absolutely. Nolan Ryan asked Lee's agent to tell him what it would take for him to stay in Texas. If they match the Yankees' offer, Lee will still end up with more money, thanks to Texas' lower cost of living and lack of state income tax.

Gee, I'm glad that the Yankees front office had to spend the last month wrangling with re-signing Derek Jeter, instead of getting to spend more time to do things to, you know, actually improve the team. Thanks, dude, for being all about the pinstripes!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why so angry? Derek Jeter's real personality comes out in press conference

I'm still wondering what Derek Jeter thought he was accomplishing with yesterday's angry, bitter, score-settling press conference. Geez, I haven't seen the captain as ticked off at a presser since he mumbled and frowned during Alex Rodriguez's 2004 introduction as a Yankee.

Yesterday, the New York press corps had to travel 85 miles from the Orlando Winter Meetings to Tampa, because Derek Diva refused to leave his winter hometown to meet the media. Of course, you won't see anybody in the press complain about this. They don't want to be frozen out by the King of All Grudges.

It astonishes me how some fans still say how classy Jeter is. Unless you take off the first two letters of the word, "class" is not the word that comes to mind with the way he's acted this year. And all the anger and bile he showed to the media yesterday wasn't classy, either. If it's now all really "one big happy family," Derek, then why couldn't you say that phrase without a sarcastic tone and a smirk on your face?

Let's review what the captain said at the presser:
“It all started with my (reported) salary demands, which still cracks me up,” he said. “What position am I in to demand a salary? Give me this, or what? Where am I going?”

How perfectly disingenuous. Does he really expect us to believe that he and his agent never said what they wanted? Puh-lease. And who was it who leaked that salary information to the press? Bill Madden said it came from the Jeter/Close camp.

Besides, if he's in no position to demand a salary, then why didn't he just sign the Yankees' initial offer and be done with it?
"The thing that probably bothered me the most was how public this became," he said. "The negotiations were suppose to be private. It was an uncomfortable position I felt that I was in....That was something I was not happy about and let my feelings be known. I never wanted to be a free agent. It was the situation I was in. I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't angry."

Boo bleeding hoo. How was it that Mariano Rivera was able to handle his negotiations privately, and Jeter couldn't? Maybe it's because Mo was reasonable, and Jeter wanted to be paid A-Rod money for Marco Scutaro stats, while his agent compared him to Babe Ruth? Just a guess.
“I was more angry at the process and how I was being portrayed,” Jeter said of the talks. “I heard greed, I heard all of the sudden I have an ego, arrogance and I don’t think I was portrayed correctly. From my understanding of a negotiation, one side makes an offer, another side makes an offer and you try to come to an agreement.”
Well, I don't think Jeter "all of a sudden" got an ego -- he's had one all along; he's just been very good at hiding it.

Besides, does he not get that when you ask for between $25 million a year for six years, after you've had the worst year of your career, during the most horrible economic times since the Great Depression, that this might not come off as the best idea, no matter how many intangibles you have?
"Yeah, I’m getting older, but so is everyone else in this room," Jeter said.

That's a silly argument. It doesn't matter if Brian Cashman or Dr. Charles Jeter is getting older. What matters is that the 36-year-old shortstop is getting older.
"For me (the negotiation) wasn’t a good experience. How this became so public. ... was uncomfortable and I got angry at times," Jeter said. "When the organization says, ’go shop’ when I said I wasn’t going to, yeah, I wasn’t happy about it."

Love the complete lack of responsibility here. Cashman only said what he did about testing the free agent market after Casey Close whined to Mike Lupica about how mean the Yankees were being to his client. When Newsday's Ken Davidoff pointed out to Jeter that his agent participated in making this public, here was Jeter's response:
"That's Casey, that's Casey," Jeter said. "You guys assume that I control everything that Casey does, so you'd have to ask him. I don't know if he's talking today, but you'd have to ask him certain things.

"Just because Casey, from my understanding, mentioned how the process was going to be a certain way, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's my feelings."

What nonsense. Close works for Jeter. The idea that Close went rogue in speaking his own opinion, and that Jeter had nothing to do with it, is flat-out crazy.  If Close did something Jeter didn't like, the way Scott Boras did with A-Rod, he could have fired him. But the captain wants to have it both ways -- take the moral high ground because he himself never spoke in public, and act as if his agent wasn't really speaking for him. Is anybody really buying this?
"I want to play as long as I'm having fun, and I'm having fun now," Jeter said. "If I'm not enjoying myself, then I won't be playing."

Gee, that's nice. How about Jeter wanting to play as long as he can help the Yankees win? Remember that whole team-first thing he was supposed to be all about?

You know who this reminds me of? It's a name on the tip of my tongue....
"I feel as though I’m in the middle of [my career]," Jeter said.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Brett Favre the Second! Good grief.

* * *

One other note: three years ago, when A-Rod re-signed with the Yankees, the press conference was done very low-key, via a conference call. Nobody remembers what was said, as the presser had the unfortunate timing of taking place the day the Mitchell Report was released.

This time around, Jeter made sure he was the star, with the Yankee front office and the media traveling across Florida to pay their respects. My only surprise about this Derek Diva act that he didn't demand signing bonus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Squawker Media Alert: Radio appearance tonight 12/7 at 10:30

Both Subway Squawkers will be appearing on BBA Baseball Talk, a weekly show from the Baseball Bloggers' Alliance, at 10:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, December 7.

You can listen to the show here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Outrage! George Steinbrenner snubbed in Hall of Fame vote

Math question for you: When is three greater than seven? Answer -- when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, where a team of voters elected MLB executive Pat Gillick and his three rings, over George Steinbrenner and his seven World Series titles.

I didn't think that Yankees Billy Martin, Ron Guidry, or Tommy John, who were also on the ballot, were worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement, but I certainly did think Steinbrenner deserved to be in the Hall. He was only one of the most important owners in baseball histoyerry, who changed the game.  But Dave Concepcion gets more votes than him? Spare me.

Johnny Bench, Concepcion's Reds teammate and one of the committee members, said:
"Some people thought it was too early (for Steinbrenner to be elected),'' Johnny Bench said. "I believe he certainly will be (elected at some point).''
This is sloppy logic. To put it bluntly, Steinbrenner is dead now, and he will be dead three years from now, the next time the committee votes. Why not vote him in now, instead of in 2013?

Then again, what else should we expect from a committee that still won't acknowledge that Marvin Miller deserved induction, too?

I haven't seen a list of who in the committee voted for whom, but my brother pointed that Gillick was an executive for three teams: the Toronto Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Philadelphia Phillies. And there were three ex-Orioles players on the committee, as well as an Orioles exec, a Toronto writer, and a Phillies exec. Here's the list of voters:
The committee is comprised of Hall of Fame members Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired, Los Angeles Times) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).
The New York Yankees may be the most storied franchise in MLB history, but they couldn't get even one person with a Yankees connection on the committee, unless you count (and I don't!) Tom Verducci, Joe Torre's co-author? How does that work?

Anyhow, I'm peeved!

Squawker Jon accused me of insisting that there needs to be a "Yankee seat here,"  to which I say, "How is it that there are multiple Orioles, Reds, and Cardinals as members on the committee? Yet the Yankee won seven rings in the post-1973 timeframe of the era the group was voting on, and don't have a single voter?" It figures.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Squawker News: I'm in New York magazine this week!

Big news: my name is mentioned in this week's print and online editions of New York magazine (the Year in Culture issue). I'm cited in the "Dump Jeter" article. I'm very excited to have something I wrote talked about in a big magazine like that! Here's the scoop:

I wrote an article for The Faster Times last week, in which I wondered what would have happened if Alex Rodriguez hadn't opted out. Remember, his original contract would have been up the same time as Derek Jeter's.

Anyhow, writer Will Leitch saw my piece, and cited it in his article (incidentally, I didn't agree with his provocative idea of giving Jeter a one-year, $5 million deal, but I did agree with a lot of the other points that he makes in the piece.) Here is my name in lights, so to speak:

(Side note: On the website the Faster Times, writer Lisa Swan recently posited a nightmarish scenario the Yankees avoided: What if A-Rod didn’t opt out of his contract three years ago? That would have made A-Rod and Jeter high-profile free agents at the same time. And you thought the Jeter Chronicles were melodramatic.)
 Anyhow, just wanted to share the news. And yes, I will be buying the print edition of the magazine today!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Did Al Pacino convince Derek Jeter to re-sign with the Yankees?

Derek Jeter was reluctant to re-sign with the Yankees for a pay cut until somebody in the Yankee camp compared the Yankee captain's situation to Al Pacino's movie career. This anecdote comes from a Bob Klapisch column from The Record called "Creative contract helps Derek Jeter's ego over the finish line." Here's how the conversation went down:
Jeter wanted $25 million a year. The Yankees wanted him to take a pay cut. The two sides were increasingly hostile toward each other, using the newspapers to draw blood. Finally, one member of the Bombers’ negotiating team pulled Jeter aside and asked him to consider the team’s point of view.

A reduction in pay was not a sign of disrespect, the executive said. “Look at Al Pacino,” was the analogy he used. “He makes less per movie at 70 than he did at 50. But he’s still one of Hollywood’s greatest actors.”

It was creative, smart and entirely on-point. No one knows if the Pacino reference broke the impasse, because the Yankees left Jeter’s home without any firm commitments. But three days later his handlers called and said they were ready to find a middle ground.

Aa a longtime Pacino fan, I laughed out loud reading this. Because as well-meaning the executive was, the analogy doesn't quite work. Pacino's work as an actor is respected as a whole, and he's a big hit on Broadway now in "Merchant of Venice," but he hasn't had a memorable film role since 1999's "Any Given Sunday."

A better example would have been to compare Jeter to Julia Roberts. She was once the most-highly-paid female star in Hollywood, making $25 million a picture. Now in her 40s, Roberts got around $10 million for "Eat, Pray, Love," but that lower salary hasn't dimmed her fame. However, I don't Jeter would have been liked to have been compared to the star of "Pretty Woman" and "Steel Magnolias"!

But I digress. The thing that made me laugh was talking about Pacino at 50. One of my big pet peeves about Hollywood is that they didn't reward him for the great work that Pacino did in his 30s, in terrific films like "The Godfather" and "The Godfather II," and "Dog Day Afternoon," and "Serpico." Heck, Marlon Brando was nominated -- and won -- for Best Actor -- in "The Godfather," while Pacino, who had much more screen time than him, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the film, along with James Caan and Robert Duvall for the same film. (Joel Grey won that year for "Cabaret.")

Anyhow, it seemed like at some point in the late '80s that Pacino figured that the only way he was going to get an Oscar was to do some over-the-top onscreen histrionics that looked like Acting with a capital A. So the actor who barely spoke above a whisper in the first two "Godfather" films screamed his way through "Godfather III." And "Dick Tracy." And "Scent of a Woman," where he finally won that long-overdue Oscar for yelling "hoo-hah" a lot. That film came when Pacino was 52. Anyhow, this is inside baseball -- make that inside Hollywood -- but other than "Glengarry Glen Ross," I wasn't much digging Pacino's early '90s work!

For that matter, I don't want Jeter to get any overacting lessons from this part of Pacino's career so he can get an MVP -- his pretending to be hit by a pitch last year was quite enough acting, thank you.
Back to the Klapisch article. Here are a few more interesting tidbits:

The problem, all along, wasn’t just the numbers or even the money: it was Jeter’s ego that had to be helped over the finish line. That’s why logic and examples of true market value didn’t resonate until almost six weeks into the process.

That’s why the talks turned so bitter, because no one on Jeter’s side was willing to break the cocoon that insulates him from reality. Not his agent, Casey Close, not his family, not his friends. For the first time since 1996, Jeter was finally refused a request. Twenty five million a year? No way, said the Yankees. Not now, not ever.

That's why I scratch my head and wonder why Casey Close didn't talk Jeter down the ledge a while ago. If they had asked for, say, four years and $80 million, they would have be seen as asking for a lot, but they wouldn't be perceived as delusional. $25 million a year -- for six seasons, yet -- is delusional. Yes, Jeter ended up getting more money from the Yankees, but a more reasonable opening bid would have still gotten him that money -- and kept his reputation intact.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Derek Jeter re-signs with Yankees: Who won?

It figures. After writing on pretty much every aspect of the Derek Jeter contract saga, I was busy all day yesterday with my brother visiting from Portland, Oregon, so I didn't get to write about the contract deal finally being done. (One of the things we did yesterday was take the Yankee Stadium tour -- more on that in a future post.)

Anyhow, I think that the Yankees won the negotiations. Yes, they gave Jeter a player option for a fourth season, but they're not paying much more per year, and Jeter didn't even come close to getting the A-Rod type contract he wanted.

I wrote a piece for The Faster Times about my thoughts. Jeter did some real damage to his reputation, although that his cronies in the media will put this down the old memory hole and act like the Yankees, not him, were at fault. Mike Lupica already did as much today.

And Jeter biographer Ian O'Connor suggests that this all showed how "smart" Jeter is. O'Connor even had the nerve to write this: "The Yankees could have offered Jeter minimum wage, free parking and cab fare to and from the ballpark, and he would have found a way to accept it." Oh, please. Looks like O'Connor needs some of that reality potion. It took a month of negotiations for Jeter to accept making less than his $22.6 million 2010 salary. The idea that he would play for minimum wage is just ridiculous. But hey, O'Connor's got that Jeter biography book coming out -- you know, the one that he never discloses in his columns -- and he's got to keep on polishing that ol' Jeter image. Oy vey.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lastings Milledge and Chris Carter

Lastings Milledge was as heavily hyped as any Met prospect during Omar Minaya's tenure. Now, still only 25, Milledge has been non-tendered by the lowly Pirates. That says a lot about the farm system the last few years - both in selecting and developing players.

In recent years, the most heavily hyped Met prospect has been Fernando Martinez. It's too early to write him off - he only just turned 22 - but it's no longer out of the question to imagine him being cut by the Pirates in a few years.

I still remember sweating out the July 31, 2006 trading deadline, the Scott Kazmir trade just two years before, wondering if Omar would use his top chip to add to that powerhouse team. Rumors had Billy Beane seeking Milledge in return for Barry Zito and Omar offering Milledge to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

Omar kept Milledge then, but his trade of Xavier Nady for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez ultimately hurt the franchise more than any Milledge move, creating a hole in right field and establishing a connection to Ollie that would eventually help cause Omar lose his job.

If Omar had been able to trade Milledge to rent two months of Zito, it might have helped the Mets get to the World Series that year. Zito would have made the two starts Ollie made in the NLCS.

Oddly enough, Zito and Ollie had very similar stats in the 2006 postseason, finishing with identical 4.63 ERAs. Both had one good start and one bad start, allowing six earned runs and three homers in 11 2/3 innings. Ollie, believe it or not, had better control, striking out seven and walking three while Zito struck out one and walked six. And Ollie did pitch well in Game 7 of the NLCS.

The worst-case scenario with Zito would have been for the Mets to still fail to reach the World Series, but for Zito to pitch well enough that Omar ended up being the one to sign him to that monstrous seven-year deal that offseason, a deal that still has three years to go. At least Ollie's deal has only one year left.

If Omar were still GM, I doubt he would have non-tendered Chris Carter, who is all the Mets have to show for the misguided Billy Wagner deal, when they should have offered him arbitration instead to get draft choices. I had nothing against Carter, but all that "Animal" hype for what is basically a quadruple-A player was reminiscent of earlier eras when the Mets tried to drum up excitement for mediocre players and teams.

As for Milledge, somehow I doubt the new regime will want to revisit this part of the Mets' past. Even if, in another statistical oddity, according to Baseball Reference, the player most similar to Milledge through age 25 is Cleon Jones.

Hooray! Mariano Rivera about to sign two-year, $30 million deal with Yankees

It sounds like Mariano Rivera and the Yankees have agreed on a new deal. Yay! Unless you were looking forward to seeing Joba Chamberlain or David Robertson close next season, this is great news.

The Daily News is reporting that Mo will sign a two-year, $30 million contract. His salary will remain the same -- $15 million a year -- as in his previous contract. Here are the details (emphasis added):

Rivera's agent Fernando Cuza - who was one of the many guests at Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's celebrity golf tournament kickoff dinner - had said the Yankees and Rivera's camp were "a little far apart" on getting a new deal done for Rivera, and that "hopefully we'll be able to work it out." But within hours, a deal came together, perhaps expedited because Rivera had recently received a three-year deal and more money (believed to be in the neighborhood of $17 million per year) from another team, according to the source. The source added that Rivera wanted to maintain his ties to the only team he has ever played for, and went with less money and fewer years to continue wearing pinstripes.

"He wanted to stay loyal to the Yankees," the source said.
Cuza would only say that he had received calls from other teams interested in Rivera's services.

I wonder who the other team is?  Could it be...the Red Sox? Yikes!

Anyhow, this report seems to go along with my theory that if both parties really want to get a deal done, it's done. Quickly.

This also goes to show that, as expected, Mo has leverage, due to him being in demand. I'm kind of surprised that he didn't ask for more money, given that he was offered at least $17 million a year on the open market. And the report that somebody out there would offer a 41-year-old three years is a testament to the esteem he's held in.

Anyhow, I'm glad Mo is back. Whew!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are Derek Jeter and the Yankees just not that into each other?

"He's just not that into you" was one of the most famous lines in the hit HBO show "Sex and the City." It was so well-known -- and had such resonance in explaining male behavior -- that it spawned a best-selling book and a hit movie. For our non-SATC readers, the idea behind the expression is that women make all sorts of excuses when guys aren't as interested as they'd like them to be, when it often really comes down to this little phrase, "He's just not that into you."

Anyhow, Squawker Jon and I were wondering yesterday what the heck Jeter and the Yankees could have been talking about for five straight hours Tuesday. Jon and I have known each other for a decade now, and we know each other's stories all too well. Heck, we've heard each other's jokes so many times that we've talked about assigning numbers to each joke, so we can save the time and trouble of retelling them, and just shout out, "47!" "23!"

So what the heck did the Yankee brass and Jeter talk about for five hours? Surely they know each other's points by now, after all this time. Does Jeter just shout out "5!" for his number of rings, and the Yankees respond with "205" for the number of millions they've already paid him?

Jeanne from New York, one of our longtime readers, was pondering the very same thing. She sent me an email with her thoughts about the situation:

As an adult female of a certain age, I have heard many times that “men don’t talk much”. The other day I read a factoid that said “On average, women say 7,000 words per day. Men say just over 2,000”. Don’t know if that has been proven scientifically, but for a moment let’s say that’s it’s true.

What on earth then could the “baffled” Jeter camp and Yankee management talk about for five hours? Were Jeter and his agent doing all the talking (think of Fidel Castro and his famous speeches via radio that reportedly went on for hours)?

The man has been with this organization for literally half his life, what is it about him they don’t know? That he's afraid of clowns? He doesn’t like to eat green peas? He has dreams of being a concert pianist? He’s got some serious issues with the Yankee third baseman (ah, we’re getting to something now, aren’t we, Dr. Phil….).

Seriously, if after five hours (there had to be a lunch AND a nap in there somewhere) Derek is still banging his sneaker on the table (ala Nikita Khrushchev at the UN in the 60’s)  saying this contract offer is a travesty, about how he wants respect because he’s a Yankee icon, face of the franchise, HOF’er etc. etc., it’s a wrap.

The Steinbrenner boys need to walk away call Eduardo Nunez and tell him to be ready to be the shortstop next spring.

At this point as an employer why would they want him back? Who wants a disgruntled player on their team? It is clear that he’s not happy with what they are offering to pay him for his services. Add to that having to play every day next to Alex renders that stuff about “this is a dream come true” and the Yankees being the “only team I ever wanted to play for” meaningless.

If those feelings were true and sincere, a deal would have been signed or announced after this five-hour meeting.

Instead we get the news report stating that there is at least  a $40M “gap”.

Lisa, that’s not a gap, that’s a chasm.

As Yogi, says it's “getting late early”. Sometimes a change of scenery is good for all parties involved.

I’m predicting there will be a divorce announced sometime before Christmas if not sooner (Hank's comments not withstanding).

From the comments I’ve heard from Yankee fans I know (shoot, I heard some guys saying three years is “too much” and they would have done two years only (LOL!), we’ll be fine, the media (especially in NY) will not be. Oh well……

Good points, Jeanne. I have to say I cracked up at the idea of Jeter banging his sneaker (Nike, I'm sure!) on the tabletop!

We're hearing rumors today that the Yanks slightly upped their offer, and Jeter slightly lowered their offer. I have to say that the longer this goes on, the less chances I think it has of happening. Like I noted earlier today, when the Yankees re-signed A-Rod, it took a very short time to get the deal done. Heck, all re-signing David Wells took was one Christmas Eve lunch at Shorty's. What's the holdup here with Jeter and the Yankees?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Why is the Derek Jeter deal taking so long, when the A-Rod deal was so quick?

Of all the gazillion articles written in the past month about how the potential Derek Jeter contract compares to the 2007 budget-busting deal with Alex Rodriguez, I haven't seen anybody write about the very short time frame -- just 19 days -- between A-Rod opting out, and Rodriguez getting another record-setting contract.

I was looking up some numbers today on it. And in my research, I discovered that although Hank Steinbrenner gets the blame from nearly everyone on the deal, Randy Levine was the Yankee front office person who did most of the actual negotiating with A-Rod, although Hank did pay the bill. And most of it was done over the phone, and away from the prying eyes of the media. Here's how it all breaks down:

* October 28, 2007: Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman breaks the news during Game 4 of the World Series that A-Rod is opting out. Word on the street is that Boras wants $350 million over 10 years. (An aside -- A-Rod ended up with $275 million, around 22% less than Boras asked for. And if A-Rod ends up achieving all the incentive goals, he'll end up with 15% than the original request. Big difference between that, and what Casey Close did in first asking for triple what the Yankees wanted to pay!)

* October 29, 2007:  Brian Cashman says the Yankees will not negotiate with A-Rod. Hank Steinbrenner agrees, saying there is "no chance" A-Rod will be a Yankee again. "It's goodbye," he says.

* October 31, 2007:  Boras says the Yankees are free to negotiate with his client, but the Yanks aren't budging -- yet.

* End of October/Early November 2007: Buster Olney's paperback version of his book "The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty" reveals that A-Rod talked to people in the Yankees clubhouse, blaming Boras for the opt-out mess, and saying that he wanted to be a Yankee. Word reaches higher-ups, but they think it's just a bargaining tool.

* Early November, 2007:  A-Rod reaches out to Warren Buffett to ask him for advice. I wasn't able to find an exact date, but it appears to have happened around November 5. The Oracle of Omaha advises him to ditch Boras.  A-Rod contacts Joe Mallory of Goldman Sachs (the firm does business with the team) for advice on how to approach the Yankees. Mallory suggests Alex talk to Gerald Cardinale of their company.

* November 7,  2007:  Cardinale calls Randy Levine. Cardinale assures Levine that A-Rod wants to be a Yankee. But according to Olney's book, Levine is skeptical, since he knows Boras has been talking to teams at the winter meetings. However, according to Olney, the Yanks have no good options to replace A-Rod's bat in the lineup, or at third base. They tell Levine to call Cardinale back the next day.

* November 8, 2007: Levine, Malloy, Cardinale, and Rodriguez talk on a conference call. A-Rod apologizes. According to Olney, Levine says that any negotiations will proceed quickly, or not happen at all. A-Rod proposes over $300 million. Levine says the Yanks were prepared to offer Rodriguez $296 million, but would subtract $21 million because of A-Rod opting out early and costing them the Rangers' subsidy.

* November 9--10, 2007:  After around a dozen calls, the two sides agree on a basic framework for the new contract -- 10 years, $275 million, with future talk on incentives. But nothing will happen until A-Rod meets with the Steinbrenner family later that week to  apologize.

* November 14, 2007: A-Rod and then-wife Cynthia Rodriguez visit Hal Steinbrenner's house. Rodriguez apologizes to Hal and Hank. The apology is accepted.

* November 15, 2007: Word leaks out in the media about the new deal. The basic framework of the deal is done, but there is some time spent over the next week on the incentive clauses.

* November 26, 2007: The home run incentive clauses are finalized, and publicized in the press.

* December 13, 2007:  As best as I can tell, the deal has been completed for weeks, but A-Rod doesn't have a press conference with the New York media -- done via conference call -- until this date. Ironically, it's the day the Mitchell Report is released, and that garners most of the share of the media attention.

Anyhow, from what I can tell, the basic contract deal appears to have taken only took a dozen or so phone conversations to get done, in a very short time frame. As best as I can guesstimate, it took only between a week to 10 days between A-Rod reaching out to Warren Buffett, and the framework to the contract being completed. And of that time frame, it only took several days of phone conversations between Levine and A-Rod to get the deal done. I thought that was very interesting, given that the Yankees first met with Jeter and his people last month, then met again for five hours on Tuesday, and not much has happened since.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tom Verducci plays around with facts and figures in Derek Jeter article

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci wrote a full-throated defense of Derek Jeter for the Yankees to show Derek Jeter the money. Verducci's piece is similar to his Joe Torre defense: He's an icon! He's got a lot of rings! How dare the Yankees demand he take a pay cut! The Yankees made him look bad by saying how much he thinks he's worth!

Which isn't surprising. After all, Jeter was one of Torre's and Verducci's key sources in "The Yankee Years." And don't forget, that book is where we heard about A-Rod being called "Single White Female," and how we heard all sorts of sordid details about that supposedly one-sided jealousy/obsession he had with Jeter.

But in this latest piece, Verducci doesn't just bash the Yankee front office and lionize Jeter as an icon. He doesn't just write this article like it's a press release from Casey Close. Verducci also twists around a lot of facts in the case, and I'm not letting him get away with it.

Verducci says:
The Yankees, who reportedly offered Jeter a three-year, $45 million deal, want to cut Jeter's pay by 21 percent, to pay him less money than they committed for Kei Igawa, to pay him less money annually than they do A.J. Burnett, and, including this deal, to pay him less money over his entire Yankee career than they will give Alex Rodriguez just for the nine seasons between when he turns 34 and 43. Of course, no one is allowed to mention Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract in the negotiating room.
1. To pay him "less money than they committed for Kei Igawa" sounds like an outrage. But what he wrote distorts what really happened. The Yankees actually are paying Igawa a total of $20 million in salary. Igawa has a five-year contract. So he's making $4 million a year, not $15M. The extra figure involves the $26 million posting fee the Yanks had to pay Igawa's Japanese team for the right to negotiate with him. That adds up to $46 million. Granted, it was a huge mistake. But it's a distortion to insinuate that the Yanks are paying the hapless Kei Igawa more than Jeter.

2. Here we go again on the A.J. Burnett comparison. Let's review: Burnett was coming off a great season; he won 18 games and led the AL in strikeouts. The Yankees desperately needed arms. A.J. was the second-best free agent pitcher on the market that year, after CC Sabathia, and the Braves also wanted to sign Burnett. That's called leverage, something Jeter doesn't have these days. Sure, Burnett had an abysmal 2010, but it is completely forgotten that his great performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series completely changed the series around. If the Yanks had lost Game 1 and Game 2, they may very well have lost the series. Considering that so much of the Jeter hype is about the rings, why isn't the fact that Burnett was a key component ot the 2009 team ever taken into account?

3. As for A-Rod, it sticks in Verducci's craw -- and Jeter's craw, too -- that Rodriguez makes more money than Jeter. Tough. Newsflash -- Jeter was never as good a player as A-Rod. Rodriguez signed his contract at age 32, after the greatest season he had and the best season a Yankee hitter had had since Mantle and Maris. In Jeter's case, he wants A-Rod money when he's 36, and on the downside of his career. As for Verducci's outrage that "one is allowed to mention Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract in the negotiating room," Verducci also fails to mention that Jeter is the second-highest paid player of all time, making $205 million so far. Boo bleeding hoo. If Jeter wants that kind of deal, the Yanks should offer it -- when he gets close to hitting 660 homers, that is!

Then there's the way Verducci tries to put a happy face on Jeter's awful 2010 season:

In his final 28 games, including the postseason, after some physical and mechanical adjustments, Jeter's batting average (.311) and OBP (.390) were in line with his career averages (.314 and .385).

A few down months by Jeter 16 years into his career have handed the Yankees leverage, and they are wielding it like a ballpeen hammer in public.
Those stats look very impressive, but they distort what really happened. From June 10 to September 10, Jeter hit just .232, with a .311 OBP, and an anemic .631 OPS. That isn't just a slump -- that's falling off the cliff for half the season. At age 30, those numbers are a little troubling. At age 36, they're a huge blinking warning sign.

As for the positive figures Verducci highlighted, I ran a look at Jeter's stats over the last 19 games of the season. Jeter did go .342 over those games, with a .436 OBP. But it should be noted that, by the time Jeter finally got into a groove, the Yankees were already assured of a postseason spot. Then he went in to the playoffs, the time he was supposed to shine, and hit just .250, with a .286 OBP, and 10 strikeouts. That's a very different picture than what Verducci paints.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

ESPN: Mets are 'playoff-contending team'

After two down years and the prospect of minimal spending this offseason, expectations for the Mets in 2011 are low. So I did a double take when ESPN's Buster Olney, while discussing free agent Adrian Beltre's prospects, wrote this:

But here are the playoff-contending teams which don't need a third baseman: the Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Phillies, Braves, Rays, Twins, etc., etc.

Which of these is not like the others? The other six teams besides the Mets are not just contenders, they actually make the playoffs in 2010 while the Mets won 79 games. In 2011, I just don't see how the Mets can be a serious contender without a healthy Johan Santana.

But if Olney is looking longer-term, say, over the life of a four-year deal for Beltre, I'm glad to see him upgrade the Mets to contending class. Maybe it won't be until 2012, when the payroll situation drastically changes, but the Mets do have a core of top players, a good crop of 2010 rookies and a significantly upgraded front office.

The Mets have earned a lot of criticism the last few years, but that's only because they are a big-market team that should be contending, not because they are the most hapless organization in baseball, as so many in the media seem to enjoy writing. At least someone is giving the Mets some respect. Now let's hope they can earn it on the field.

One of the things that gives me hope about the Mets is that, even if they had the money this year, the new regime would probably not go after Beltre, who hit 48 homers in his contract year of 2004, was a free agent bust with Seattle, and now has had another great season in another contract year. Buyer beware.

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