Monday, January 31, 2011

Could Jose Reyes end up on the Phillies?

If Derek Jeter wouldn't switch positions for Alex Rodriguez, he isn't likely to do so for Jose Reyes. But plenty of other teams could be in the market at the end of this year for an under-30, All-Star caliber shortstop. And one of those teams could be the Phillies.

Here's a quote from an NL East GM at the end of last season:

I think we'll probably let things, at this time, play out. There's some concern about his production the last couple of years. He's a much better player than he's played. We just have to make sure he's healthy.

Sounds like Mets GM Sandy Alderson talking about Reyes today. But it was Phillies GM Ruben Amaro talking about Jimmy Rollins, who is now entering the final year of his contract. Rollins just turned 32. Last season, he played in just 88 games, and had an OPS of only .694. In 2009, Rollins' OPS was just .719.

It's hard to imagine the Phillies replacing Rollins with a hated Met, especially Reyes. But a few years ago, it would have been even harder to imagine that the next regular Yankee centerfielder after Bernie Williams would be Red Sox "idiot" Johnny Damon.

Rollins will make $8.5 million this year. Raul Ibanez, whose contract also expires at the end of the season, makes $10.5 million. If the Phillies decide to part ways with Rollins, they will have money to spend at shortstop.

Today, Alderson claimed that the financial situation now facing Mets ownership won't affect whether or not the Mets re-sign Reyes:

I fully expect that decision will be made as it would have been, in the best interest of the team on the field, and the best interest of the overall sort of financial health as well as baseball future of the Mets -- as it would be with any other team.

But Alderson also said today that the Mets may not be plowing all the money that will come off the books after 2011 back into the team:

You may know recent Mets history better than I. I don't know if we've gotten this high in the past. One never wants to rest at one extreme or the other. My sense is that our payroll is a little higher this year than I would have liked to have been, but we are where we are. Whether that means we drop back in future years to some extent, I don't know. But we will continue to expend money at very high levels and I think be among the highest payrolls in baseball."

It's hard to believe that Alderson and his "dream team" are unaware of the Mets' payroll history. And if they don't know recent Mets history as well as they should, they should look back to 2005-8, when Reyes earned MVP votes four straight years and was the offensive catalyst when the team was a playoff contender.

If Reyes can't stay healthy yet again this season, the Mets have a difficult decision to make. But a healthy Reyes belongs on the Mets. Not on another team such as the Red Sox, which might also need a shortstop. And certainly not on the Phillies.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Famous Last Words: Hal Steinbrenner has "no problem" with Brian Cashman

The New York Post's Joel Sherman has an exclusive interview with Hal Steinbrenner today, with Hal saying that he has "no problem" with what Brian Cashman is doing:
 "[Cashman] and I have a great working relationship," Steinbrenner said by phone, "There is no problem, right now. I think we have had a bunch of drummed-up drama."

....When asked if he imagined wanting to keep Cashman beyond 2011, Steinbrenner said: "Yes, absolutely. I think Brian does a great job. We need to sit and talk, but now is not the time for that."
Sherman writes that Steinbrenner "blessed Cashman's behavior at the [Rafael Soriano] press conference":
"I keep reading about dissension and discord. We are a well-functioning company. The bosses have a decision to make. Sometimes people don't agree with those decisions. So I told him, 'You are always honest with the media, be honest now. Tell them what you have to tell them.' I was already onto the next decision. I told him, 'You and I are fine. Answer in any way you want.' We are not always going to be on the same page. It is my job to think what is best for the family, partners and company."
But here's the thing Sherman didn't ask Hal Steinbrenner: If the Yankees were so fine with Cashman speaking out at the Soriano presser, then why didn't they air the press conference live on the YES Network? What, the network the Yankees own couldn't interrupt the gazillionth showing of the Luis Castillo Yankees Classic game in favor of showing their only big free agent signing of the offseason? Come on now.

I have watched a lot of Yankee free agent press conferences on TV over the years, and ever since the YES Network launched, every single one of them have been aired on the network. Except for the Soriano one. Why is that?

Brian Cashman may be the Yankees GM in 2012, or he may not be. But there is no way, even in Yankeeland, that the Steinbrenners are going to publicly express anything but confidence in their GM right now. Do you really think Hal or even Hank is about to say, "What the bleep is going on with Cash? He's having a midlife crisis right before our eyes!" Of course not.

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams seemed to be all BFF with head coach Jeff Fisher, too, even saying just a few weeks ago that he would be back next year, until the two parted ways yesterday. So you never know what can happen.

If the Yankees win the World Series this year, I would guess Cashman would be back. But even then, he could always walk away after winning. You never know what could happen.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do you think Yankees messed up Joba Chamberlain? Brian Cashman sez you're "stupid"

I'm really starting to think Brian Cashman contracted Joe Torre Disease this offseason. The symptoms include believing you're bigger than the Yankees, waging a battle in the media against real or perceived enemies in the front office, and thinking that your you-know-what doesn't stink.

Funny thing is, I have agreed with many of Cashman's moves over the years. Don't forget, he traded for Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu and Nick Swisher, and believed in Robinson Cano before anybody else knew who the second baseman was. Cashman's pickup of David Justice won the Yankees the 2000 World Series, and his stealth swoop of Mark Teixeira helped win the Yankees the 2009 title.

All that being said, the GM seems to have made a lot of inexplicable moves and comments as of late. The latest is Cashman's interview with ESPN NY's Wally Matthews, in which he says that anybody who disagrees with the way the team handled Joba Chamberlain is "stupid":
 "Those people are stupid,'' Cashman said of critics of the Yankees' handling of Chamberlain. "It's just an easy, stupid, idiotic thing to say. There's no screwing anything up. That's how Andy Pettitte came in, that's how guys have been broken in for years. They're starters in the minor leagues, they come up and we use them in the 'pen, and eventually they break into the rotation. So what's the problem? I just think it's na├»ve."

Aside from the fact that it's pretty insulting to suggest that anybody who disagrees with Cashman is "stupid" and "idiotic," Cashman's Pettitte comparison is inaccurate. Do you know how many relief appearances Pettitte made in 1995, before breaking in to the starting rotation? Five. Do you know how many relief appearances Chamberlain made before becoming a starter? 41. Not exactly the same thing. Not to mention that Petttitte was never moved back and forth repeatedly, the way Joba was.

Pettitte, as a rookie with the Yanks, made five relief appearances over seven innings from April 29 to May 13, 2005. The last of the five was 3.1 innings. Pettitte broke into the starting rotation on May 27 of that year and never looked back. Compare and contrast with Chamberlain, who went from reliever to starter to reliever to starter to reliever to competing to be the starter to reliever. It's enough to make your head spin -- and to help mess up a pithcer.

I do think there is more to the story as to why Joba hasn't been the same pitcher he was in 2007. The injury issue -- what Cashman finally acknowledged the other day -- matters, as does him not appearing to have the determination that, say, Cano had to improve his game. The article also mentions rumors about Chamberlain "burning the candle at both ends."

So I'm not saying that all the moving around is the sole reason Joba is no longer Joba. But it is at least part of it. And why Cashman doesn't want to acknowledge any responsibility is infuriating.

Heck, even Joe Girardi, who is also interviewed in the article, says, "I think there can be some confusion for a player when you're bounced around like that." But what does he know? I guess he's just, um, "stupid." Right, Brian?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner speak out on the state of the Yankees

Hank Steinbrenner said Brian Cashman never got to personally meet with Cliff Lee when negotiating with him, and Steinbrenner blames it on the deer. In an extensive interview with Kevin Kernan, Yammering Hank explains:
"The fans pay the bills, we owe it to ourselves and to them to put the best product out there," Hank said. "If we couldn't get Cliff Lee, I'm really happy about getting Soriano. I just wish Lee would have given Brian the chance to meet with him, but [Lee] was on a hunting trip. He's got his own reasons."
A six-week hunting trip? What was Lee hunting -- the woolly mammoth?

And this is the first I've heard that Cashman didn't meet with Lee -- there was a whole to-do at the beginning of the free agent season about how Cash flew out to Arkansas to see him. What's the real story here?

At any rate, it seems that Lee's reported aversion to meeting with Cashman was a big honking clue that he wasn't coming here. So the current spin that the Yanks were stymied/blindsided by the rejection is just that -- spin.

The whole Hank interview is worth a read -- he predicted bounceback years for pretty much everybody in pinstripes, too. He also said the Yankees "just need to [bleeping] win"!

Anyhow, I noted yesterday about how Brian Cashman tried to justify his talking about Derek Jeter moving to center field by blaming the setting. He's continuing with that lame excuse in today's John Harper column:
"This is not a news event," he said. "I was having a baseball chat with fans. It was not a declaration of what we intend to do with Derek. It was hypothetical. It's no different than talking about Randy Johnson, when he was a Yankee, and saying that if he got to the point where he wasn't starting anymore, he could be a great short reliever."
Nonsense. Cashman made this comments at a breakfast in front of 150 fans and Mike Francesa, the biggest radio personality in town. Did he really think he could keep this quiet? What a lame excuse.

Besides, his answer wasn't a hypothetical. The Yankees have Jeter under contract for the next four years, and this is an issue they will have to face.  And does Cashman really think that comparing Jeter, the most beloved Yankee of his generation, to Randy Johnson's future is "no different"? Come on now. And I say that as someone who completely agreed with Cashman's stance on Jeter this offseason.

One other tidbit from Cashman's interview with Harper:
"My job isn't to make friends," he said. "My job is to do what's right for the organization. I'll do what I'm paid to do at all costs."
Forget about the talk of Cashman being a GM elsewhere next season. The whole "I'm not here to make friends" is straight out of every competitive reality show! I'm thinking "Survivor" will have Boston Rob oppose Cashman next year!

What do you think? Squawk back!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shocker: Derek Jeter does not make GQ's '25 Coolest Athletes' list

GQ Magazine has a cover story this month naming the 25 Coolest Athletes of All Time. The article itself is not online yet on GQ's website, although USA Today has a copy of the list, in alphabetical order. And I have a lot of issues with the list.

There are no women on it (wasn't Billie Jean King cool? How about Jennie Finch or Brandi Chastain?), the "All Time" in the name seems to cover only the last 50 years, and there are way too many weird choices (Ted Turner? Gary Player?) But the biggest shocker is that Derek Jeter, arguably the coolest athete of his generation, does not make the cut. Ridiculous.

I'm sorry, but if you don't have Jeter on the Coolest Athletes list, then you've got nothing. Tom Brady, Allen Iverson, and Tim Lincecum made the list, but the Captain didn't. Neither did Mickey Mantle, or Reggie Jackson, or Rickey Henderson or any other Yankee (and only two baseball players are on the list -- Lincecum and Bob Gibson.) Even hockey player Derek Sanderson makes the list, but Derek Sanderson Jeter doesn't? C'mon now.

Jeter ought to be on the "25 Coolest Athletes' list just based on all the celebrities he's dated over the years. As a friend of mine notes, Jeter had Mariah Carey as his girlfriend when that really meant something. Not to mention all the other women, like Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel.

I've heard one definition of cool being the kind of guy that other men want to be, and that women want to date. Jeter's picture ought to be in the dictionary with that definition!

No matter how overhyped Jeter's been as a player, you can not underrate his coolness factor. There's a reason so many advertisers have paid him so much money to pitch their products. And any so-called "Coolest Athlete" list that doesn't have Jeter is simply worthless.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Brian Cashman sez Derek Jeter is the center fielder of the future

Brian Cashman participated in WFAN's "Breakfast With a Champion" series this morning. Mike Francesa interviewed him on a slew of topics, and social media maven -- and espnW blogger -- Amanda Rykoff tweeted the event. Because Cashman was pretty candid, some of his words are already causing a whole to-do, like his idea of one day putting Derek Jeter in center field.

Cash said, "I'd be surprised if he plays SS for all 4 years. I see him moving to OF." He later explained, "I like corner outfielders and corner infielders who have power, so for me, if he's ever gonna move, it's probably gonna be a Robin Yount situation. But we don't have to deal with it at this point. We'll deal with it when we have to."

I can't see Jeter ever being a center fielder. Yount moved off shortstop when he was 29; Jeter is already 36. And if he can't hit for average any more, there really isn't a spot for him in the Yankee lineup. Of course, Cashman can't say that, so he brought up center field, which also happens to be a glamour position in Yankeeland. What else is he going to say? After all, even though the captain did say last month he was in the "middle" of his career, he really isn't.

I really don't have a problem with what Cash said about Jeter at the breakfast. What does irk me a little is the way he tried to backtrack from his comments, as Bryan Hoch of reports:
Cashman said that he answered the fan's question in that fashion because it was not in a formal setting.

"This was not a press conference where we are talking about something that may never happen," Cashman said.
Please. He's speaking in public, at an event where hundreds of fans paid to attend, and where the top radio figure in New York hosted. How could Cashman not think what he said would not get out? And what difference does it make what the setting was? If you're the GM of the biggest team in baseball, you pretty much have to assume that everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Heck, I'm careful with what I say on Facebook and Twitter for that reason, and I'm nobody!

I also thought it was interesting that when Cashman asked who the best Yankee he's ever seen, he said it was Mariano Rivera, and not Jeter. (That's my answer, too, so I don't exactly disagree with that assessment -- I just think it's interesting that he didn't say Jeter.)

There were apparently a few other candid Cashman comments:

* He finally acknowledged that Joba Chamberlain hasn't been the same pitcher since he was injured in Texas in 2008 when he was a starter. (Which begs the question, why was there the whole "competition" between Hughes and Chamberlain last spring training for the starting spot?)

* When asked who was better, right now, Yankees or Red Sox, he said the Red Sox, but that the Yankees had a better bullpen. No thanks to him, though!

* Cashman said this about A.J. Burnett: "He knows he has a problem and he's doing all he can to fix it." That's a very strange way to describe the Burnett situation, unless he's getting at something else!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

On the Jets and whether the Steelers are the Yankees of the NFL

I watched the AFC Championship Game with Squawker Jon on Sunday, and I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach during the first half. So that's what it means to root for the Jets? Yikes!

At least the Jets showed some real fight after getting knocked down, the way the Yankees really didn't in last year's ALCS, so they've got that going for them.

But so much for my great "Jets are gonna win the Super Bowl" prediction. Grrrrrr. It figures that the Rex Ryan tribute t-shirt I ordered didn't arrive until Monday, just in time for me to miss wearing it during the game. Kind of like how the Jets' offense got there a little too late for them to win. Anyhow, Jon noted that at least I only had a day pass for the Jets' bandwagon! Heh.

I cannot claim to be a "long-suffering Jets fan," but I do have experience, though, waiting for a long time for a team I root for to win. It was 18 years between championships for the Yankees. And it was over 35 years between Texas Longhorns football titles, and given that the previous one happened when I was in the playpen, I basically waited my entire life for that championship.

Anyhow, I griped to Squawker Jon Sunday that I couldn't possibly root for Pittsburgh, as I was sick of seeing them over and over in the Super Bowl. He noted that some baseball fans felt the same way about seeing the Yankees in the World Series. To which my brother later noted, the Yanks have only been in one WS since 2003!

So, despite whatever parallels there are between the Steelers and the Yankees, I will be rooting for Green Bay -- what better way to stick it to Brett Favre than to have them win it all without him! 

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jets: Still a good year, but enough with the excuses

At halftime of the Jets game, I rationalized to Squawker Lisa that at least a blowout loss is less painful than a close one. But I'm glad the Jets made it close, even if it's that much more frustrating that this was a game they could have won. However, by barely showing up in the first half, it was not a game the Jets should have won.

When the Jets rallied for last-minute wins against Detroit, Cleveland and Houston in the middle of the season, Lisa compared them to the team-of-destiny 2009 Yankees and all their walkoff wins, while I complained that mediocre teams were giving the Jets way too much trouble. As it turns out, both of us had a point. The 2010 Jets do have a lot of heart, especially their quarterback. But rallying against the Browns, Lions and Texans is not the same as rallying against the Steelers.

The season was still a big success. In the first 39 seasons of the AFC, the Jets reached the championship game twice. Under Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, they've gotten there twice in two years. Unlike last year, when the Colts were clearly the better team, the Jets showed they could play with the Steelers. After losing three AFC title games by at least 13 points, this game was a lot closer. But in the end, the Jets were not good enough to get to the Super Bowl.

I don't buy the notion that the Jets "ran out of time" in the AFC championship game. Just because the Jets outscored Pittsburgh 16-0 in the second half doesn't mean they dominated the Steelers the way the Steelers dominated the Jets in the first half. After the Jets cut the lead to 24-19, they allowed Pittsburgh to run the kickoff back to their 41, complete a pass into Jets territory for a first down, then complete another pass on third down for a first down that sealed the game. Even if the clock did not run out, the Steelers had advanced to the Jets' 26, Ben Roethlisberger was making plays, and the Jets' defense and special teams were not making the big play.

And I don't want to hear any excuses about how hard it is to play all your playoff games on the road and not to have a bye. You want home field? Earn it. You've shown you can beat New England in the playoffs, now let's see you beat them for the division. Also, Green Bay got to the Super Bowl this year as the sixth seed, though they did seem to have an easier path.

Going forward, the Jets look like they have a bright future and are going in the right direction. I haven't felt this confident about any of my teams since the conclusion of the Mets' 2006 season. Which is not quite the slam it sounds like. That Met team was very good for two more seasons. They just didn't have the heart to avoid collapsing in both years. And then the injuries started.

If there's anything to worry about on the Jets' horizon, it's that they've been really fortunate with injuries the last couple of years. I also felt great about the Jets following the 1998 trip to the AFC title game, and that enthusiasm didn't make it out of the first half of the first game the following season when Vinny Testaverde went down.

Overall, still a good year, but another missed opportunity to get to the Super Bowl. Can't wait - till next year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can't Wait: Jets will be headed to the Super Bowl today

To all the nonbelievers! I made three predictions this October: that the Yankees would win the ALCS, that Cliff Lee would not sign with the Yankees, and that the Jets would win the Super Bowl. I was right on one of the predictions (although I never would have guessed that Lee would go back to Philadelphia), and wrong on the Yankees' playoff chances. But tonight, I think the Jets will be on their way to the Super Bowl, partially fulfilling my third prediction.

As Squawker Jon -- the real Jet fan in this blog -- noted, I have had so much faith in the Jets because I'm a Yankee fan who always expects to win, while he's still getting used to the idea. Speaking of which, I want us to reenact the Bart Scott interview. You can't stop a nosebleed, Squawker Jon!

It's interesting watching the Jets' innocent climb, as Pat Riley would call it. And you know you've really arrived as a team when the bandwagon fans (ahem!) have joined up! I told Jon today it's a little like politics -- you have X amount of Democrats, X number of Republicans, and X number of independents. And what swings races are whoever the independents decide to line up for. And right now, the Jets are the most popular thing in town.

I'm rooting for Gang Green, but I'm not going to claim to be a real Jets fan or anything. Jon is the lifelong Jets fan, not me. As is my high school classmate, Steve, who will be at the game today (and should be sending us first-person reports from the sidelines!) And Squawker reader Nutball Gazette. And Twitter friend GreenLanternJet. And fellow baseball bloggers Metstradamus and Coop. And Facebook friend Alan. I really want to see the Jets win it for these long-suffering Jets fans (and anybody else I forgot to mention!), who have been waiting their whole lives to see their team in the Super Bowl again. Can't wait!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scott Boras gets new jobs -- but less money -- for Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Andruw Jones

A day after the news broke that the Yankees were signing Scott Boras client Andruw Jones, Sports Illustrated columnist Jon Heyman revealed that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, two of Boras' other clients are headed to Tampa together. And the next time Derek Jeter reportedly gripes about having to take a pay cut, somebody ought to tell him to take a look at what these one-time stars will be making next season (stats from

* Manny Ramirez: The enigmatic superstar has made over $205 million in his career, and just finished up a two-year, $45 million deal. Now, he'll be making just $2 million in 2011, with no reported incentive clauses. Yikes!

* Johnny Damon: Rays will pay him $5.25 million with an additional $750K in "attendance bonuses," Big League Stew reports, saying "Don't laugh. There are a lot of Red Sox fans in Florida." Damon has made $105 million in his career, with his top salary being the $13 million a year the Yankees paid him. He made $8 million with the Tigers last season.

* Andruw Jones: The outfielder is getting $2 million from the Yanks in 2011, plus a potential $1.2 million in incentives. He's made $103 million in his career, with a top salary of $14.725 million in 2008. Then Jones made just $500K for the following two seasons. (Come to think of it, I guess his new contract with the Yankees is a raise of sorts for him!) It's interesting to me that Jones could actually make more money than Manny. How the mighty have fallen!

Derek Jeter's $15 million 2011 salary looks awfully good in comparison, even if it was a $4 million drop from the average annual value of the $190 million, 10-year contract he just finished up with the Yankees. Not to mention that Jeter has two more years at that salary, plus an option year, so he won't be in the position of these big names in having to take such a drastic pay cut.

BTW, have you seen the pictures of Jeter's 30,000 square foot new house, aka St. Jetersburg? I wonder if astronauts can see it from space!

Anyhow, I was wondering on Facebook last night whether the Rays would reunite even more of the 2004 Red Sox. Could Pedro Martinez be pitching for the team? What about hauling Kevin Millar out of retirement?  Or Keith Foulke?

There are a ton of Red Sox fans in Florida (and a few of them are regular Squawkers readers!), so in theory, this could get some of them out to Rays games. However, isn't it also possible that Boston fans might hold grudges against Manny and Damon because of their respective exits from Boston?

Damon and Ramirez facing the Yankees -- and the Red Sox -- 19 times a year should add a little more drama to the games. Damon was one of my very favorite Yankees ever, so I'm looking forward to seeing him again. And Manny is one of the top five most entertaining hitters I've seen play, even though way too many of those hits were against the Yankees! At the very least, he'll add some entertainment value to the games -- as long as he stays healthy, that is.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What the media is missing in the Rafael Soriano story

Squawker Jon told me this morning that he can't ever remember the GM of the Yankees -- or for that matter, any other team -- introducing a new acquisition by talking about how he "didn't recommend the deal" and didn't want the player on the team. But that's pretty much what happened at yesterday's introductory press conference for Rafael Soriano. Way to roll out the welcome mat, Bri!

And while the media is giving Cashman credit for sticking to his guns, I don't think there was anything the least bit admirable in what he did. In fact, most organizations would call his public comments about how he didn't think Soriano was worth the money insubordination.

Sure, the Yanks are overpaying for Soriano, but given their current bullpen options, they really had no choice. (Although commenter at the Yankeeist site notes that Cash could have picked up the $10 million option on the Kerry Wood deal instead, back in November.)  But Cashman insisted that he was correct yesterday, saying that the contract was too much money for a closer, and that the team had enough current options in the bullpen. Please.

Remember, folks, he was willing to give up $10 million -- and a first-round draft pick -- for a one-year deal with Carl Pavano, the worst free-agent signing in franchise history. And he balks at the cost of Soriano? C'mon now.

And I'm not buying all the recent spin that Soriano is a bad person. There were a lot of positive stories last season about how manager Joe Maddon would pour Soriano, a fellow wine buff, a glass of wine after the game to honor each save. But after Bill Madden wrote this week how that the two didn't get along, suddenly Soriano is being portrayed as a chronic miscreant. Besides, Cashman was willing to bring back Pavano, who was universally despised, into the clubhouse. But Soriano is too much?

Anyhow, there's been a lot of speculation about what this all means for Cashman's contract status. Frankly, I'm glad that the organization has finally appeared to have had enough of the way their GM sleepwalked through the offseason. As my Twitter friend -- and bigtime author -- Jerome Preisler put it in a recent column:
In early December, Cashman rappelled down the 22-floor Landmark Building in Stamford, Connecticut as “celebrity guest elf”, accompanying a costumed Santa Claus for the city’s holiday season Heights and Lights event. At the time, neither Derek Jeter nor Mariano Rivera had been re-signed as Yankees, Cliff Lee was off somewhere in his protracted deliberations, and Yankees fans were locked in a state of angst about all of the above. Although Cashman’s extracurricular stunt most likely wasn’t a distraction from the business of putting together a team, it was hardly a sensitive acknowledgement of the Yankee fan base’s profound unease. In the political realm, nobody likes seeing their elected official vacationing in Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard during times of national crisis. In Yankeeland, it’s probably less than advisable to engage in a precarious lark wearing a green-and-red elf suit when your paying customers are looking at Sergio Mitre as their team’s fourth or fifth starter.

And friend Sully of Sully Baseball is a Red Sox fan, but he makes some very fair points about the situation (he also gave me a shoutout in this blog entry. Thanks!):

Imagine me saying this to a Yankee fan right after their team lost the 2010 ALCS:

You aren't going to get Cliff Lee...
nor Carl Crawford...
nor Zack Grienke...
you will bring back Derek Jeter but he will feel alienated...
you will bring back Mariano Rivera but only after HE called the Red Sox...
Andy Pettitte isn't signed...
the one big pick up is Rafael Soriano who has had 2 elbow surgeries in the last 5 seasons and is a fly ball pitcher in a home run park...
BUT the good news is they might bring back Carl Pavano.

You might start making a noose.
I wouldn't go as far as the noose analogy, but I do think it's time to take away the keys from Cashman. One other point -- not only did all this happen, but it happened at the very same time the Red Sox were reloading their team with Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and a better bullpen. What a nightmare!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Why did Brian Cashman pursue Carl Pavano -- and insult Andy Pettitte?

I've been saying all winter that for some strange reason, Brian Cashman seems to have shown very little interest in wanting Andy Pettitte back. His comments have been very tepid in talking about one of the greatest pitchers the Yankees have ever had. And the fact that Cash recently compared Pettitte to Brett Favre, the day before praising Carl Pavano (!) seems to be a real passive-aggressive message to the Texas hurler.

Compare and contrast:

Cashman on Pavano: "I had several discussions (with his agent). I still believe Pav can pitch here. He has proven he can pitch in some difficult situations. The thing is, he's healthy. I don't think he was afraid to come back here, either."

Cashman on Pettitte: "I told him don’t ‘Brett Favre’ us. You got to be all in and fully dedicated to play. Do I need him? I need him, but I don’t want him to play if his heart’s not in it.”

Yes, because nothing shows how much you need Andy Pettitte than comparing him to Brett Favre. How insulting, especially given that Pettitte is known for living his life as a Christian family man, while Favre is known for allegedly sending pictures of his genitals to girls half his age. Way to go, Brian!

Besides, the comparison is not even accurate -- Favre actually retired and unretired a gazillion times. Pettitte has never done that. And as much as I despise Favre, nobody can accuse him of not being "all in" when he did play. Suggesting such a scenario with Pettitte is also insulting.

Squawker Jon notes Cashman even using a friendly nickname - "Pav" - for Pavano. As far as I'm concerned, Pavano already has two perfectly good nicknames -- American Idle and the Crash Test Dummy!

Anyhow, I thought Derek Jeter was wrong to think that the Yankees mistreated him this offseason -- they clearly made him their priority. Pettitte, on the other hand, has a right to feel slighted. And it's not the first time this has happened -- remember the halfhearted offer they made to him after the 2003 season? Or the way they halved his salary a few years ago? I'm sure Pettitte remembers that, too.

My old boss posted here the other day that he thought Pettitte might play for the Astros again. Given the inept way Cashman has pursued him, I wouldn't be surprised.

As for Pavano, Cashman wants us all to forget that it was he who made Carl get a second, a third, and a fourth opinion on whether he needed Tommy John surgery. And this was *after* Pavano had gone to see Dr. James Andrews. Now he acts like Pavano was just misunderstood or something. Puh-lease.

And remember, Pettitte played hurt in the playoffs this year to help his team. Not that his Cashman cares about that. Maybe if Andy had been laid up for months with bruised buttocks or something, his GM would have more respect for him.

At any rate, it's sad that Randy Levine, of all people, showed more passion in just one statement on Pettitte than Cashman has all winter. The Yankee president said this a few weeks back:
"Andy's a great Yankee and a great person and I know he'll give it thought and follow his heart and we'll respect his decision. But we're out there, all of us, hoping every day that he comes back," Levine added. "I think he knows we need him. I think he knows how much we respect him and what a great leader he is."
Is it too much to expect the Yankee GM to say something similar about one of the most beloved players on the team? Apparently so.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rob Neyer calls Carl Pavano and Brian Cashman "heroes"

If I didn't know better, I would think ESPN's Rob Neyer's article entitled "Yankees and Pavano just too many heroes" was a parody. But unfortunately, it appears to be for real. In the piece, Neyer calls Brian Cashman a hero for trying to re-sign Carl Pavano, and Pavano a hero for still playng baseball. Yes, really.

Neyer writes:
If I were 8 years old and my heroes were baseball executives rather than baseball players, I would have a Brian Cashman Fathead on my bedroom wall. Cashman was heroic in defending Pavano during his time with the Yankees, and he's heroic for considering bringing Pavano aboard once again. Many general managers, and perhaps most of them, would not have done either thing.
Oh, please. Neyer still sounds like he's still eight years old here, given how naive he sounds. Put down your pom-poms, Rob.

There's absolutely nothing "heroic" about a GM who so apparently so wants to prove that Pavano wasn't the worst free agent the Yankees ever signed that he's willing to sign him again. That's not heroism; that's literally the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We saw this last year, when Cashman tried to convince us that bringing back Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson would be good moves. And how did those work out, exactly? Not so well. Don't see anything the least bit heroic in Cashman not learning from his mistakes.

Neyer continues in this ridiculous vein:
There's something heroic about Pavano, too, isn't there? Pavano was a Yankee for four years, and pitched the grand total of 146 innings. You might have excused him for getting discouraged, even giving up. Maybe he did give up once or twice, and maybe he wasn't as tough as he might have been. Those fans and writers and radio hosts and even teammates probably thought so.

But he didn't give up, ultimately. He finally did get healthy, and just finished pitching 420 innings in two years. In a playoff game against the Yankees in 2009, he pitched seven fine innings and struck out nine Yankees. Can't handle the pressure? Really?
Maybe it's just me, but I define heroes as people who risk their physical well-being for the sake of others. Like firemen who run into burning buildings. Or like my late father, who jumped out of airplanes during World War II (but as my father, fellow World War II veteran Bob Feller, and others of their ilk would say when called a hero, their own definition of heroes were the soldiers who didn't come back, not themselves.) Or the civil rights activists who literally risked their lives so that African-Americans could be treated equally in this country. You can also argue that those who sacrifice monetarily, or in some other way, for others, are heroes.

You can also make the case that a ballplayer who risks his own future health for his team is a hero. Like Derek Jeter bloodying his face flying into the stands. Or Curt Schilling playing on a torn-up ankle with tendons held together by sutures. The key word here is "sacrifice."

See where I'm going here? None of these people really have much in common with Carl Pavano. Cashman -- and for that matter, Neyer -- seem to forget that Pavano so abused his time on the disabled list, with the bruised buttocks, and every other ailment known to man, that he literally spent more time on the DL without surgery than any other player before or since. American Idle was like the little boy who cried wolf; when his doctor said he needed Tommy John surgery, Cashman demanded that Carl get a second, a third, and then a fourth opinion on whether the surgery was necessary before letting him go under the knife.

Unless you think essentially stealing nearly $40 million for the Yankees is the very definition of heroism (and if you're a Yankee-hater, maybe you do!), Carl Pavano is not a hero.

Yeah, Pavano pitched well against the Yankees in the 2009 playoffs (not so well in 2010, something Neyer neglects to mention.) And he's been an Iron Man for the last two years with Cleveland and Minnesota. That's all well and good, and shows that he can still pitch. But it doesn't make him a hero, either.

Neyer concludes his piece by opining:

Two years ago, Carl Pavano was supposedly a shining example of one thing. Today, he's a shining example of another. I was actually sort of hoping that he'd pitch for the Yankees again, just because it would have been a fantastic story. With two heroes.
And Neyer is a "shining example" of a writer with a very warped perception of what truly makes a "hero."

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Pursuing Carl Pavano: Has Brian Cashman lost his freaking mind?

What is wrong with Brian Cashman these days? He seems to have completely gone off the rails this offseason. I asked after the Cliff Lee fiasco what Cashman's Plan B was. Apparently it appears to be consist of trying to re-sign Carl Pavano, aka American Idle!

Cashman admitted to the press today that he has had "several discussions" with Pavano's agent about the possibility of the Crash Test Dummy bringing his bruised buttocks back to the Bronx! Peter Botte reports:
"I had several discussions (with his agent). I still believe Pav can pitch here. He has proven he can pitch in some difficult situations. The thing is, he's healthy. I don't think he was afraid to come back here, either.”
The only discussion Cashman ought to be having with Pavano's agent is to get the pitcher to return the $39.95 million he fleeced from the Yankees. Good grief.

And I don't care how deep the discussions went -- the fact that Cashman would be having them all is nothing short of outrageous. Yet some of the "In Cash We Trust" people are still trying to justify this move. When will it end?

I never blamed Cashman for signing Pavano -- he was the top free agent that year, and the Yanks actually offered him less money than Boston did -- but if he were to re-sign American Idle, I think Yankee ownership would be in their rights to fire him on the spot. Come to think of it, is Cash pulling a George Costanza here, trying to get fired? His offseason this year has been debacle after debacle, with his only "bright spot," if you will, being when he dressed as an elf to rappel down a building (something The Boss would never have allowed.) Is this all some master plan to get forced out?

So what the heck is Cashman thinking? Did he learn nothing from the Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson debacles?  He really seems to love his own unpopular decisions so much, he wants to keep on making them. What's up with that? Even considering taking a risk again on the worst free agent signing in team history is absolutely outrageous. Fans hate Pavano. His own teammates despise him. We saw from Vazquez Part Deux that bringing back somebody with such negative connotations does not work. And we saw from Johnson Part Deux that spending money on a proven injury risk is foolish.

You know what the "best" part of these misguided negotiations is? That Pavano is a Type A free agent -- you know, the very thing that Cash had vowed not to pursue after Cliff Lee signed with Philly. So, if the Yankees were to actually sign Pavano -- Jon Heyman reports that the Yanks offered him one year and $7 million -- not only would the Yanks be stuck with Pavano Part Deux, but they would also lose a first-round draft pick.

So, let me get this straight. In Cashman's world, Rafael Soriano, who led the league in saves last year, is not worth losing that draft pick for. But Carl Pavano is? I'm outraged!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jets, Mets and teams that expect to win

Why did Squawker Lisa predict a Jet win over New England, while the Squawker who is actually a lifelong Jet fan was just hoping for a competitive game? Is it because she's a Yankee fan who always expects to win, while I'm still trying to get used to the idea?

A day after one of the most glorious wins in Jets history, I'm still in a state of shock. But it's not just because Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez outcoached and outplayed Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. It's because I've entered unusual territory for those of us that root for the Jets and the Mets. I now expect my team to win.

Sure, I didn't think the Jets would win yesterday until the Jets responded to the Patriots cutting the lead to 14-11 with Jerricho Cotchery's 58-yard catch and run early in the fourth quarter. And next Sunday against the Steelers, I'll be all too aware of the Jets' blowing double-digit leads in last year's AFC title game and the one in January 1999.

The last time the Jets faced the Steelers in the playoffs, Jets kicker Doug Brien blew the game. Yesterday, current kicker Nick Folk missed a 30-yard field goal.

But now I expect the Jets to win. Now, when I think of Folk, I think of the game-winner in the wild-card round against the Colts.

When I think of those blown double-digit leads, I'll remember how the Jets gave back some of yesterday's double-digit lead, but still won the game.

Now I'm looking forward to the Favre Super Bowl - Jets vs. Packers - seeing two teams rise to great heights after cutting ties with Brett.

Or the Cutler Super Bowl - Jay Cutler and the Bears against the team that some thought should have drafted Cutler in 2006. (Of course, the same old Jets would have drafted Matt Leinart. Instead, they waited three years, then drafted a USC quarterback who just tied the record for most career road playoff wins.)

The Mets brought Sandy Alderson in to change the culture, and so far I am optimistic that will happen. But Alderson has a way to go to achieve what Rex Ryan has done in under two years. I can only hope that "same old Mets" disappears as fast as "same old Jets" has under Ryan.

Yeah, baby! Jets destroy the hated Patriots

I'm exhausted from doing the Snoopy Dance last night to celebrate the Jets stomping the Patriots (I'm not agile enough to do the Braylon Edwards backflips, though!) And yes, I did totally call the win.

I haven't as been as excited about a sporting event since the Yankees won the World Series. Granted, I'm not really a Jets fan, but I am a Rex Ryan fan -- and a longtime Bill Belichick and Tom Brady despiser. Not to mention that I dig seeing Red Sox Nation unhappy. So yes, this was great fun to watch. 

And I love, love, love all the trash talk between the two teams. Phil Simms said something after the game about how all the talk this week took away from the game. Are you kidding me? All the trash talk is what made this game such a marquee event! It's entertainment, guys!

The same with Shonn Greene's nap in the end zone, and Rex Ryan roaring down the field over the last touchdown, yelling "Yeah, baby" like he was Austin Powers. But Jim Nantz didn't care for it:
"I've never understood the absurdity of all the self-aggrandizing and now you're going to cost your team 15 yards on the kick and you're going to give Brady and his unit a chance to do something."
Oh, please. That stadium was like a ghost town at that point. Nantz was about the only person who thought the Patriots could "do something" to win the game, being 14 points behind with less than two minutes to go.

And I want more of Bart Scott, please. His postgame interview was epic.

One of my Facebook friends mused last night as to whether Bill Belichick is becoming the new Joe Torre -- great in the regular season; not so great in the playoffs anymore. He has a point. After winning three championships in four years, it's now been six years since the Patriots won a Super Bowl. And they haven't won anything since Spygate, either. Coincidence? I think not.

And Tom Brady, Mr. Postseason, hasn't exactly been bringing it. Bart Scott mocked him in another postgame interview. And the Boston Herald (!) pulled up the stats to show that Bart also had a point:
“This was the quarterback that couldn’t get touched,” Scott said. “(The media) talk all about how great he’s playing, but what Rex (Ryan) pulled out for us was his last three playoff games – what his record was and what his rating was then. He had a 66 quarterback rating in his last four or five playoff games and you guys didn’t believe that. You guys didn’t look deep enough into the notes.” 
Taking Scott’s advice, here is a closer look at Brady’s stats in his last three playoff games:
1/16/11 — 28-21 loss to Jets: 29-45, 299 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 89.0 rating
1/10/10 — 33-14 loss to Ravens: 23-42, 154 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 49.1 rating
2/3/08 — 17-14 loss to Giants: 29-48, 266 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 82.5 rating
Looks like Tom Terrific isn't so terrific as of late. But hey, at least he still has that Uggs endorsement. And the supermodel wife -- unless she dumps him for Mark Sanchez, the new postseason QB hero!

Well, at least Mr. Bundchen has time to go to some more Broadway shows. Maybe instead of watching "Lombardi" during the Jets-Colts game, he should have caught "Jersey Boys" instead?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In defense of the Steinbrenner brothers

There are all sorts of stories coming out over the weekend saying that Brian Cashman didn't want to sign Rafael Soriano, but the team's ownership overruled him. And you know what? If this is the case, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner had every right to "meddle."

What the heck was Cash thinking in making such a big deal about keeping the 31st pick in the draft, instead of bolstering the bullpen? Trading for another bullpen arm, like Joakim Soria, would have cost the Yankees a lot more. Also, as reader Johnmouk noted to me, this prevents Jonathan Papelbon from donning pinstripes next year.

And as much as I love Mariano, the apparent thinking of the Steinbrenner family in being concerned about what would happen if Mo couldn't pitch anymore makes sense to me. The New York Post reports:
According to the source, ownership was worried about the bullpen's depth should Mariano Rivera suffer an injury. Cashman felt Joba Chamberlain or David Robertson could fill the closer's role if needed. But the Steinbrenners, along with team president Randy Levine, wanted Soriano. 

"He stated his case," the source said of Cashman. "But he understood. It's not like he threw a body block to stop it."
Why does Cash have so much faith in Joba or Roberston, especially given that he's the guy who traded for Kerry Wood last summer? Is this something worth going to the mattresses for?
And I don't get why Cashman is being so stingy about the draft picks all of a sudden. Since he became GM in 1998, there has been exactly one first-round draft choice, Phil Hughes, who has been a big-league contributor for the Yankees. And Gerrit Cole turned down signing with the Yankees. It's a crap shoot, and I will never understand who Cashman would put this pick ahead of improving the team now.
The New York Times' Tyler Kepner wonders when Cashman is going to publicly speak about the Soriano deal., writing:
Maybe Cashman simply changed his mind; he did not return phone calls Friday. But Cashman takes seriously his reputation for honesty, and at some point he must explain his reversal. The organization has run smoothly since Cashman demanded a restructuring of baseball operations in October 2005, and he must blunt the appearance that this might have changed.
I wonder, too. He was like a Chatty Cathy doll this offseason, and now he has nothing to say? Very strange.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Why Reggie Jackson was wrong to compare Tom Brady to Mariano Rivera

Here's something I wanted to weigh in before the Jets-Patriots game is over. Lots of people have noticed how, um, hypocritical it was for career big talker Reggie Jackson to essentially tell the Jets to drink a nice, steaming cup of shut the bleep up. But what bugged me about his ESPN Radio lecture was the fact that he compared Tom Brady to Mariano Rivera:
Jackson also said Jets coach Rex Ryan made a mistake when he questioned Brady's decision to attend the Broadway play "Lombardi" last Saturday instead of watching the Jets' 17-16 wild-card win over the Colts.

"This guy is an automatic Hall of Famer, making fun of him is like making fun of Mariano Rivera," Jackson said. "What are you doing? What are you doing?"
Excuse me? This is insulting to Rivera, someone who has never trash-talked or pointed or shown anything but respect to his opponents.Not to mention that Mo never left his pregnant significant other for a supermodel. He's also not running around with Justin Bieber hair meant for somebody 20 years younger.

No matter how many rings Brady has, he is still a serial tweaker. This is a guy who likes to stick it to his own Boston fan base by wearing a Yankee hat. And he couldn't have been more public in dismissing the opposition than by spending last Saturday night on Broadway going to see "Lombardi" instead of watching the Jets-Colts game. Do you think Tom just happened to go that night because he just wanted to catch a good play? Puh-lease. Don't see why Rex Ryan shouldn't be allowed to note that.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Call Him Mayor Jinx! Mike Bloomberg sez Jets are going to the Super Bowl

Oh, great. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the person who jinxed the Yankees' ALCS chances by yakking on his radio show about planning the World Series parade, has done it again. Today, on his weekly WOR radio show, Bloomy said that the Jets are Super Bowl-bound:

"The Jets are going to the Super Bowl. You heard it from me. The Bloomberg prediction,"the mayor said during his radio show.
In an article about Bloomy's comments, the New York Post compares him to Joe Namath guaranteeing that the Jets would win Super Bowl III. Oh, please. As if.

And by the way, even Broadway Joe in his "I want to kiss you, Suzy" phase could have had enough sense not to talk up going to a Broadway show, when most of the city's streets were rendered impassible thanks to the city's ineptness during last month's blizzard.

It wasn't enough that Bloomberg jinxed the Yankees with his parade-planning talk (and besides, what the heck was he talking about regarding planning a parade route. It's called the Canyon of Heroes for a reason -- the ticker tape parades do the same route every time!) Now he's done it with the Jets.

Yeah, yeah, I know I also predicted that the Jets would be going to the Super Bowl -- and even went as far to say they would win -- but I at least was right when I went out on a limb to say that the Giants would beat the Patriots in a Super Bowl. When has Bloomy ever been right on his sports predictions?

I'll let Jet fan Squawker Jon have the last word. He sez that the fact that both myself and Bloomberg think the Jets are Super Bowl-bound shows that we aren't really Jets fans. And given the worrisome comments I've seen from Gang Green fans on the blog over the past week, he might have a point!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

What Brian Cashman and the new horoscope changes have in common

I heard two earth-shattering pieces of information yesterday. First was that thanks to some wacky new horoscope configuration, Squawker Jon and I now apparently have new astrological signs. He was a Cancer and is now supposedly a Gemini, while I went from being a Pisces to Aquarius. What will these changes do for our Squawker compatibility? The mind boggles!

Then Jon called to tell me the news that Brian Cashman signed closer Rafael Soriano for three years. Wait a minute here. It was only a week ago that Cash made this big pronouncement to the Journal-News' Chad Jennings, announcing that the Yanks would not sign Soriano -- or any other Type A free agent not named Cliff Lee:
Essentially taking himself out of the running for Rafael Soriano, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this afternoon that he absolutely will not make a move that costs the Yankees their top draft pick.

“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman said. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.”
Talk about famous last words! Not that I'm objecting to Cash changing his tune here. This is a win-now team. I think getting Soriano is a great move, between Mariano being no spring chicken, Joba no longer being Joba, Kerry Wood being in Chicago, and Dave Robertson being a disaster in the playoffs. (Although I'm not that crazy about some of the terms in the contract itself -- more on that in a sec.)

Sure, the Yankees still need a starter -- make that starters -- but picking up Soriano, Tampa Bay's former closer who led the league in saves last year, makes a lot of sense. Worrying about saving the 31st pick in the draft, when even a successful pick won't be able to help this team for at least five years, made zero sense.

It boggles my mind, though, why Cash would make such a ridiculous pronouncement in the first place, then go back on it a week later. What could possibly have been the negotiating strategy behind it?

Not to mention the contract itself that he gave Soriano. Scott Boras definitely has his groove back. Last week, he told ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand that his client would be open to being the setup man for the Yankees. It was looking for a sec like Boras was desperate to get his client any job, given that it's already January, and other teams didn't want to give up the draft pick for Soriano. Then Cash made his pronouncement, essentially agreeing that Soriano wasn't worth the draft pick.

Now, not only has Cashman completely changed his tune, but he has made Soriano the highest-paid setup man in baseball, and the third-highest-paid reliever in the game, according to Buster Olney (Mariano is No. 1.) Boras wins again!

And that's not all. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk writes:

As was reported all over the place, the contract calls for Soriano to make $10 million this season, $11 million in 2012 and $14 million in 2013. But the final two years are player options, which means that Soriano can opt-out after this season. Or after 2012. This is savvy because there’s a non-trivial chance that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will do away with free agent compensation picks heading into 2012, and Soriano’s status as a Type-A was probably the biggest thing hindering his marketability this year. No one wants to give up a first round pick if they don’t have to.
Boras is something else, isn't he? I am all for the signing itself, but I don't get the opt-out clauses. Given that they are not mutual, how do they possibly benefit the Yankees?

And please, I don't want to hear about how smart and clever Cash is as GM. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. He has exactly one instrument in the ol' toolbox -- the ability to spend a lot of money. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for signing Soriano. But those dopey opt-out clauses don't help anybody but Soriano and Boras.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Roger Clemens is not the reason Andy Pettitte may retire

I saw there was some whole to-do over Brian Cashman saying that it looked like "right now," Andy Pettitte is "still saying, 'Don't count on me'" for next season.  Oh, great.

The Yankees GM also said, that "Andy's been very communicative [with me] on this issue. Right now, he's not playing. If he decides to play, it will be for us. He's a Yankee, from start to finish." (Well, other than that whole "going to Houston for three seasons" thing, but I digress!)

Cashman told reporters, "I don't think he's determined whether he's officially finished, but is choosing at this stage to not start 2011" and that "I'm certainly not going to hound him or bother him." Hmmmm. Did the Yankees "hound" or "bother" CC Sabathia when they opened up the Brinks' truck for him? How about when -- shudder -- Cashman got Roger Clemens back in George Steinbrenner's box to pitch for the team in 2007? Goodness gracious!

At any rate, there's been some speculation in the media as to why Pettitte hasn't re-signed with the Yankees. Bob Klapisch and Wally Matthews are hooked on the idea that Clemens himself -- or, more to the point, the Clemens federal trial set for next summer -- has something to do with it. Matthews wrote:
" know Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, is going after Pettitte in the only areas he can in order to discredit his testimony. He is going to do his level best to crush Pettitte's reputation for honesty and sincerity and religious convictions. Simply put, he is likely to try to paint Pettitte as a lying hypocrite whose word cannot and should not be trusted.

The cross-examination could get embarrassing and highly personal.

And in a situation like that, pitching for the New York Yankees every five days and facing a ravenous media horde on a daily basis is not exactly where anyone in his or her right mind would want to be."
Klapisch had similar sentiments (an aside: what do these reporters know -- or think they know -- that makes them say Clemens will expose Pettitte in some personal way?):
"Therein lies his defense strategy: for Clemens to prevail, he’ll have to destroy Pettitte’s credibility. One person who’s known the left-hander for many years said: 'You think that’s not weighing on Andy’s mind? Who knows what Clemens is going to dig up?'

Indeed, the dual burden of facing Clemens in court and then taking the mound in the Bronx might be too much for Pettitte. After 16 years, he might be thinking there’s no reason to fight two wars, not this late in his career, not at this point in his life."
A few points:

* The idea that Clemens will actually go on trial in July is laughable. Barry Bonds was indicted on federal perjury charges in 2007 and hasn't yet faced a trial (one is scheduled for this March, but there's all sorts of legal wrangling going on right now about the evidence.). I found this story online talking about the "eve" of the upcoming Bonds trial -- written in March 2009!

The wheels of justice move very slowly, especially in federal court, where years can go by between indictment and trial date. Clemens was only indicted last August 30. Bonds' lawyers have been very aggressive -- and sometimes very successful -- in challenging the evidence against him. Why wouldn't Clemens' legal team do the same thing, and drag this ordeal out for as long as possible?

* I think both these sportswriters have been watching too many reruns of the Frankie Pentangeli Congressional committee scene in 'Godfather II" or something. Because Roger Clemens isn't going to be able to haul in Andy Pettitte's brother (or an equivalent) to get Pettitte to shut up. And it's not very realistic to think that Clemens is going to somehow drag Andy down to his level and discredit him. You don't get to throw out rumors and innuendo willy-nilly in a federal court situation. Besides, Pettitte is pretty much Teflon, as his still great reputation besides admitting to PED use shows. Unless Clemens has evidence that Andy was running a dogfighting ring, I don't see anything the Rocket's lawyers saying as hurting Pettitte's rep.

* As for the "ravenous media horde' Matthews thinks will harangue Pettitte, I have to laugh over that, given that I'm still waiting for one of the tough media guys to 1) explain how A.J. Burnett got that black eye, and 2) tell us exactly why Dave Eiland lost his job with the Yankees, and what his leave of absence from the team was all about. All Pettitte would have to say is that he's not allowed to talk about the trial, and most media types will leave it at that.  If anything, still being part of the Yankees would give Pettitte more protection, not less, from the media inquiries.

At any rate, retirement isn't some silver bullet that will somehow prevent Pettitte from having to testify. And I really don't see that this trial -- if it happens at all this year -- is what's keeping Pettitte from returning to the Yankee fold. I would put Andy's lack of interest in returning on two things: he really does want to spend more time with his family, and Cashman hasn't made him a good-enough offer to convince him to come back. No need for wacky Clemens conspiracy theories here.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Squawker Lisa sez J-E-T-S are headed to the Super Bowl

I've been saying to Jet fan Squawker Jon for months now that I thought the Jets were going to win the Super Bowl this year. And now the Jets are one step closer to doing so, in getting revenge against the Colts for last year's playoff defeat. Bring on the Patriots, and Tom Brady's dopey Justin Bieber hairdo!

Anyhow, I forget which game this was after, but it was one of those come-from-behind, last-minute victories that the Jets had a lot of this year. I told Jon, to his cringing, that his team reminded me of the 2009 Yankees, with all their walkoff wins. I also said that much like the Yanks triumphed over the Angels in the postseason, that the Jets would get revenge against the Colts.

There's a certain magic you can sense with some teams. Jon and I were in the house for the very first Yankee pie-throwing, and you could feel that the 2009 Yanks were something special. I've had the same feeling for a while now with the Jets, although there have been a few pitfalls along the way, like that humiliation at the hands of the Patriots. For what it's worth, I also predicted the Giants would beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, so I have that going for me.

So now the Jets have done part of what I had predicted, with their last-minute victory last night against Indianapolis. Now it's time for the Jets to stand up for New York and shut up Red Sox Nation by beating the Patriots. Besides, Bill Belicheat needs to be put in his place.

Longtime Squawker readers know I don't really have a set football team to root for, especially now that the manipulative Jeff Fisher has gotten his way and forced my man Vince Young off the Titans. But I do want the Jets to win this year. And not only that, I can visualize it happening.

Jon doesn't like me talking so brash about the Jets' chances. I don't know if it's that he thinks I'm a jinx, or that 40+ years of playoff futility has shut his mouth about his team. But I do think this is the Jets' year, where they make opponents feel the agony of defeat -- or is that "the feet"?

On another note, check out Jimmy Fallon's "tribute" to this year's NFL season: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Pro Bowl Shuffle (1/7/11) - Video -

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why the Yankees' offseason is in the Schlitter

Well, the Yankees didn't get Cliff Lee, or even get Andy Pettitte back, so far this offseason. But hey, they did re-sign Sergio Mitre, give Mark Prior a contract, and now they've claimed Brian Schlitter off waivers from the Cubs. Whoo-hoo!

I know I sound like a twelve-year-old boy here, but the fact that the Yanks have picked up a pitcher named Schlitter makes me laugh and laugh. Sorry for mocking your name, Mr. Schlitter, but it pretty much sums up the Yankees offseason.

Speaking of which, Bryan Hoch of interviewed Brian Cashman earlier this week, and he had this to say:

"We've got a lot of time left on the clock. Who knows?" Cashman said. "The bottom line is, there's a reason we haven't done anything up to this point."
Um, no. There are six weeks to pitchers and catchers, and Sergio Flipping Mitre is in the starting rotation for the New York Yankees. That's a big problem. And don't tell me I'm impatient or "saber-rattling" -- an insult Cashman throws out later in the interview -- for saying so. There's a guy named Andy Pettitte out there. Why the Yankees don't make him an offer he can't refuse (no, not that he's sleeping with the fishes, but that he gets a big payday for 2011) is beyond me.

Besides, even if the Yanks can't get Pettitte back, don't tell me there isn't a single pitcher in baseball available out there who would be better than Mitre. That's just silly.

Cash also had this to say about Pettitte:
"I could just tell you that he has been very good about it," Cashman said. "He informed us about, 'Don't wait on me, I'm leaning toward retirement. As of right now I'm not playing, and if I change my mind I'll let you know.'"
You know, I've gotten a lot of grief from readers over harping on this, but why is it that Cashman can't say anything remotely passionate about wanting Pettitte back? Why can't he make him a big offer? Every time he speaks on this, he shows all the spirit of a wet noodle.
Compare and contrast with what Yankees President Randy Levine (yes!) had to say about Pettitte last week:
"Andy's a great Yankee and a great person and I know he'll give it thought and follow his heart and we'll respect his decision. But we're out there, all of us, hoping every day that he comes back," Levine added. "I think he knows we need him. I think he knows how much we respect him and what a great leader he is."

I'm not a big Levine fan -- all too often, he has said the wrong thing -- but he hit a home run with this statement. Is it too much to expect the same from the Yankees' GM?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joe McIlvaine and the first big Roberto Alomar trade

In December 1990, Toronto GM Pat Gillick and San Diego GM Joe McIlvaine made one of the all-time blockbuster trades. The Blue Jays acquired Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, while giving up Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. By 1993, Gillick's Blue Jays had won two World Series, and Gillick would eventually make the Hall of Fame in the same year as Alomar. Also in 1993, McIlvaine became GM of the Mets.

A Sporting News story on the trade makes McIlvaine look even worse. The trade was originally Carter for McGriff, which would not have been a bad trade. But Gillick asked about Alomar, and as one of Gillick's assistants remembered, McIlvaine's response was "I like to do big deals. Let's sleep on it."

Bear in mind that Alomar was only 22. And he was not a prospect - he had just made his first All-Star team. Yet McIlvaine was willing to include him in the deal, with the Blue Jays adding Tony Fernandez.

Alomar went on to make the All-Star team the next eleven years in a row. He also won ten Gold Gloves and received MVP votes in seven seasons. Fernandez, a 28-year-old three-time All-Star at the time of the trade, made one more All-Star team.

Alomar's string of All-Star appearances ended, of course, when he was traded to the Mets from the Indians before the 2002 season. At least that trade, while it didn't do the Mets any good, also didn't help Cleveland.

Part of the impetus for the 1990 trade was that Toronto was open to trading McGriff to make room for young first baseman John Olerud. And when the Blue Jays acquired Carter as well, it was part of a series of outfield moves that resulted in Blue Jays centerfielder Mookie Wilson losing his job.

After McIlvaine returned to the Mets (he was assistant GM there before going to San Diego), he traded away yet another future superstar second baseman, sending Jeff Kent to Cleveland for Carlos Baerga in the middle of the 1996 season. Cleveland also gave up on Kent, sending him to the Giants at the end of 1996. Kent made the All-Star team or received MVP votes in eight of the next nine seasons, winning NL MVP in 2000.

In fairness to McIlvaine, he also acquired Olerud for the Mets from the Blue Jays, giving up Robert Person. And McIlvaine's tenure as Mets' GM came after the series of disastrous acquisitions of the likes of Vince Coleman that would lead to "The Worst Team Money Could Buy."

But too often over the last 20 years, the Mets have had GMs who often seemed to like to do big deals whether or not they made any sense. The current offseason may be frustrating because it's so quiet, but as we've seen way too often, a bad big move is worse than no move at all.

And with the Mets' ill-fated acquisitions of Alomar, Baerga, Kaz Matsui and Luis Castillo over the last 15 years, while giving away Kent, the last thing Sandy Alderson should do is make a dramatic move to acquire a second baseman.


According to the player Alomar is most similar to statistically is Derek Jeter. The Yankees' primary starting shortstop in 1995, the year before Jeter took over the job, was that other part of the 1990 Alomar deal - Tony Fernandez.

My Hall of Fame picks -- and why I voted for Mark McGwire but not Rafael Palmeiro

Squawker Jon and I, as part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, made our own Hall of Fame votes last week for the organization. And the BBA membership as as a whole picked Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, the same results as the Baseball Writers of America's official vote.

Anyhow, here are my picks, in alphabetical order:

Roberto Alomar
Jeff Bagwell
Bert Blyleven
Barry Larkin
Edgar Martinez
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Alan Trammell

There was a whole to-do in the news recently about whether the BBWAA will elect players connected to, or suspected of, using steroids. I had no problem voting for admitted steroid user Mark McGwire or suspected juicer Jeff Bagwell, but I drew the line at Rafael Palmeiro. Telling Congress you never used steroids, complete with all that finger-wagging, and then testing positive will do that for you. Plus, this is an inexact science, but while McGwire and Bagwell were considered among the greatest players of their era, Palmeiro never really was.

My own opinion is that I won't rule somebody out just for using steroids, unless it's the only reason for their success. I can't see the point of a future Hall of Fame without an A-Rod, or a Barry Bonds, or a Manny Ramirez -- they were all superstar players before they ever touched anything. Unlike, say, a future catcher drafted in the 62nd round as a favor to his godfather (sorry, Squawker Jon!) At the same time, I can understand why some BBWAA writers feel differently.

But here's the thing. There was such a media firestorm recently over the idea of BBWAA voters not voting for Jeff Bagwell because they suspected him of being chemically enhanced. I think an even bigger issue is going to be when it is revealed that voters picked at least one person for the Hall who did steroids. According to Jose Canseco, who has never been wrong on this, it already has happened. And it could happen again in the future. Then what happens?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nick Swisher to appear on "Better With You," his wife Joanna Garcia's show

Was in the midst of writing about the Baseball Hall of Fame votes when I saw something really important -- Nick Swisher is going to have a two-episode arc on "Better With You," the hit ABC show starring Swish's wife, Joanna Garcia!

I read the news on the new site TVLine. Michael Ausiello of the site reports:

Sources confirm to me exclusively New York Yankee Nick Swisher will play himself in two episodes of Garcia’s underrated freshman ABC sitcom Better with You.

The arc kicks off during February sweeps when Ben (played by Josh Cooke) is involved in a mishap with Swisher during a home game. From that moment on, their paths continue to cross.
 Have no idea what the mishap will be, and I've never watched the show, but I'll have to check it out. Have any of our readers watched "Better With You"? What's it about?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

John Mara sez the Giants aren't the Yankees

Between the holidays, the snow, and the lack of much of happening in Yankeeland this days, I haven't had much to squawk about as of late. Until now, that is. (Actually, I did have plenty to squawk about in general, like how Mayor Bloomberg treats the outer boroughs like something stuck at the bottom of his shoe, and how most Staten Island streets were completely impassable at the same time he's telling people to go see Broadway shows. But I digress. It's not really sports-related!)

Anyhow, Squawker Jon's Jets are in the playoffs (although Rex Ryan's wife foot fetish video creeped me out), but the Giants aren't. Despite that, Big Blue co-owner John Mara inexplicably decided to keep coach Tom Coughlin after yet another late-season collapse. And in doing so, Mara kind of dissed the New York Yankees. He told the media this, after the Giants didn't make the playoffs:

"In this society everybody wants to fire the coach all the time," Mara said. "The Yankees get knocked off in the playoffs, everybody wants to fire the manager. We don't do that here. He's going to be our coach."
Puh-lease. The managerial revolving door in Yankeeland ended a long time ago. The Yankees have had all of three managers in 20 years, one of whom wasn't quite the right fit for getting the team the ring, one who got them that ring (and three more) but stayed on three years too long, and another got them a ring, but who should lose his job next year if the Yankees have another disappointing playoff round.

At any rate, in the case of Joe Torre, the Yanks made the mistake of keeping him on too long for precisely the same reason Coughlin gets to keep his job -- because he got the team a championship (four, in Torre's case, as opposed to Coughlin's one.) That's not a good thing.

Wally Matthews had an interesting take on this for ESPN New York, saying that the Giants should be like the Yankees in demanding excellence: 
The Giants are not the Yankees? Well, why not? And since when was being like the Yankees such a bad thing, anyway?

The Giants should be more like the Yankees. So should the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. Winning should be the focus for all of them, and the pressure to perform should be on everyone on all their payrolls, all the time.

But Tom Coughlin is coming back. As a lifelong Giants fan, I am outraged. And I think you should be, too.
I agree with that in general, although I don't think the Yanks kept to that in Torre's case, until three years of first-round playoff exits forced their hand.

Anyhow, Matthews continued the argument, saying:
But if you took the entire Giants 2010 season from beginning to end, from its shaky 1-2 start to its high point, the 41-7 win over the Seahawks on Nov. 7 that had a lot of people believing the Giants were among the best teams in football, to their shameful collapse over the final month of the season, and changed the name "Giants" to "Yankees," and the name "Coughlin" to "Girardi," how do you think the story would have ended?

That part is true. But I would argue that if you change Girardi's name to Torre's there, the media would still say he deserved to keep his job. That Giants loss to the Eagles a few weeks ago, was as big a regular-season collapse (letting Philadelphia score 28 unanswered points in the final eight minutes of the game) as the 2004 ALCS defeat was in the playoffs. And it wasn't the first time the Giants choked, or looked sloppy, or lost a game they should have won. It begs the question, how long does the coach get a pass because of the ring?

Joe Torre was never able to win a single playoff series after the 2004 collapse. All keeping him on did was prolong the inevitable. As I think keeping Coughlin will. And now there's talk of a contract extension? Good grief. What, Jeff Fisher (another overrated coach) wasn't available?

I mostly agree with Matthews' general take on Coughlin, although I give the coach more credit for the Super Bowl victory than Matthews does. The columnist slammed him the hardest for the way Coughlin screamed at rookie punter Matt Dodge after the Eagles debacle:
Aside from being utterly unprofessional, it was the ultimate CYA move, a gesture designed solely to let everyone in the place know that it wasn't Tom Coughlin's fault, it was the kid punter's.

Can you imagine Joe Girardi doing that on the field to a player who missed a sign or made an error that cost the Yankees a game?
No, but I can imagine a certain untouchable Yankee manager scapegoating his superstar by batting him eighth!

At any rate, the lesson Mara ought to learn is that sometimes -- like in doing what's best for your team -- it's good to be like the Yankees. But make that the Yankees after the 1995 and 2007 seasons, not the Yankees after the 2004 season! Sometimes, stability for the sake of stability will continue to bring you futility.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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