Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shocker! David Ortiz blames a New York conspiracy for the leak of his 2003 PED test results

My fact-checking of  David Ortiz's puff piece for the Players' Tribune has led to me finding out some other things on David Ortiz that the media hasn't really picked up on. It turns out that he blames New York for revealing his 2003 PED test failure. Let me explain how I discovered this, but it will have to involve some shameless self-promotion first.

Anyhow, my article got some big traction yesterday in the Twittersphere. My piece was retweeted and favorited by writers from the New York Times (including the writer who broke the story about Ortiz being on the PED list), New York Daily News, and the Sporting News. Then John O'Connell, Bill Simmons' Yankee fan buddy Jacko, linked to my article this morning and blew up my page views!

So this morning, I went to see what the Boston sportswriters were saying about David Ortiz. I clicked on one of the lead stories on, the Boston Globe's all-access website: "David Ortiz Can Craft a Tale, But He Has Trouble Keeping His Facts Straight," by Eric Wilbur. This article also leads the sports page right now, and is the most-read story on the site. And guess what? It extensively mentions me and my article!

Wilbur, like my Red Sox fan friend Paul Francis Sullivan said in his podcast. thinks Ortiz made a big mistake in writing on this PED issue, and explains why. Wilbur talks about me in several places in his article, saying:
The New York-based blog, “Subway Squawkers” may have provincial reasons to aim for the target on Ortiz’s back, but Lisa Swan does raise some valid points while fact checking Ortiz latest story.
Then Wilbur goes into how I found discrepancies between Ortiz's tale of finding out that he tested positive in 2003, and what really happened. He also talks about how I added up Big Papi's testing numbers, and how they don't add up. He also includes some additional numbers that Ortiz has claimed (emphasis added to show the newest info):
Swan also wonders about Ortiz’s claims about the number of times he’s been tested, which if you believe the player, seems to be at about a rate greater than most Americans cut their fingernails. In his written piece, Ortiz claims that he has been tested "more than 80 times" for PEDs since 2004. He also says he has been tested "ten times a season.” As Swan points out, being tested ten times a season would put him at 110 tests, not 80. Adding a bit more confusion to those figures, Ortiz claimed during a press conference on Aug. 8, 2009 to have passed about 15 drug tests since 2004, when MLB established a comprehensive drug-testing program.
So, he was tested only 15 times over five years, but another 65-95 over the next six?
Ortiz also told WEEI’s Rob Bradford last summer that he’s been tested about 40 times since Major League Baseball approved its testing policy. Based on that claim, he’s been tested at least another 40 times in less than a year if we’re to believe his latest estimation of 80. Where is the disconnect here?
Wilbur also links to an interview that Ortiz recently did with Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe, which ran Friday. This interview was also about the PED issue, and it had Ortiz making some rather inflammatory accusations about why his positive test result was revealed in 2003 (emphasis added):
Ortiz suspects he was the victim of a New York-based scheme aimed at diverting attention from doping scandals involving the Yankees. 
The New York media had focused intensely at the time on those scandals, the coverage exemplified by a Times book review that appeared several days before the paper broke its story about Ortiz and Ramirez. 
Under the headline, “Damn Yankees,’’ the author, TourĂ©, wrote, “Why do Yankee fans still love the Yanks? The team has embarrassed its supporters by leading the league in steroid scandals — thanks, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez.’’ 
Ortiz smelled a rat. 
“The way [the leak] went down, the only thing I can think of is that it was a setup,’’ he said. “I really think they wanted to do damage to my image so it would be a distraction.’’ 
 Was it the Yankees? 
 “I don’t know, but it was something based in New York,’’ he said. “That’s all I can tell you.’’
Aside from the fact that this is a dopey conspiracy theory (the Giambi story broke in 2004, Pettitte Clemens in 2007, and A-Rod half a season before), Ortiz can't even keep his story straight from what he wrote two days ago in the Players' Tribune. Remember, his (incorrect) story then was that ESPN broke the story. Now it is a New York-based conspiracy (Hohler's Globe article acknowledges, as I pointed out, that it was the New York Times who broke the story.) Which one is it, dude?

And finally, Dan Shaughnessy absolutely eviscerated Ortiz in today's Globe. I had noted in my Squawk that Shaughnessy's actual 2013 interview with Ortiz was very different than how the DH disparagingly described it. So did Shaughnessy. His column is a thing of beauty, with a slew of great points showing why he questioned Ortiz and PED usage, and how he asked Ortiz these questions man to man.

My favorite line was this, though, saying why he thought Ortiz doing that Players' Tribune article was a mistake:

Jeter failed you on this one. A good editor would have discouraged this theme.


The Players' Tribune may have a lot of players as editors and bureau chiefs, but apparently none of them as fact checkers. Maybe "Editor at Large" David Ortiz ought to hire a civilian to check himself.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fact-checking David Ortiz's PED-denial column in the Players' Tribune

David Ortiz in his younger, smaller days.
Speak of the devil! I was just talking about David (Sherlock) Ortiz with my friend Staci on Facebook yesterday, We brought up his name because of ESPN New York noting that Alex Rodriguez now faces additional steroid tests. And just after we made the inevitable Ortiz "searching for why he tested positive" joke that many Yankee fans do, Sherlock finally addressed this issue, six years after it was revealed he tested positive for PEDs.

Ortiz is now an "Editor at Large" for Derek Jeter's Players' Tribune, and has "written" an article denying that he ever used PEDs.

An aside: I kind of find Jeter calling these athletes writing for his site "editors" and "bureau chiefs" a little weird. Players' Tribune contributor Mets pitcher Matt Harvey revealed in New York Magazine that he has business cards from the venture that say "NEW YORK BUREAU CHIEF." Really? Is Matt going to be assigning stories in the locker room, too? Marking up Juan Lagares' copy with a red pencil? Puh-lease.

Look, I make it a point of never saying "we" when it comes to the Yankees, because I ain't playing. So for athletes to be given such lofty titles for their contributions here would be like calling me a right fielder because I got stuck at that position in fifth grade gym glass.

Anyhow, I have a long memory when it comes to David Ortiz's PED denials. Plus, I wrote a lot on the issue back in 2009, when it was revealed that he tested positive in 2003. Anyhow, let's review Ortiz's claims in this article and see if they add up:

Ortiz starts his piece with a dramatic story of American drug testers showing up at his home at 7:30 in the morning in the Dominican Republic with "pee cups and big needles." He claims he has been tested "more than 80 times" for PEDs since 2004, and also says he has been tested "ten times a season" this whole time. His math doesn't add up in multiple ways (10x a year since 2004 is 110 times, not 80) and also because in 2009, he claimed he was tested "15 times" by MLB since 2003.

Incidentally, in the article I referenced above, ESPN claimed that in addition to everyone getting tested during the spring, there are only 350 random urine tests and 140 random blood tests done during each season, which, if those numbers are correct, would only cover a fraction of the 1200 players tested under the system. But we are supposed to believe that only Ortiz had been tested this many times? Really? C'mon now.

He also says, "I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will." I say, "Neither did Alex Rodriguez and most of the players named in the Biogenesis scandal." (A-Rod reportedly told the feds he passed because he used midstream urine. If that actually works, then these tests are pretty meaningless!)

Ortiz then sez: "Some people still look at me like I’m a cheater because my name was on a list of players who got flagged for PEDs in 2003." (I want to put on my "Bette Davis in 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" voice to say, "But ya are, Blanche!")

Anyhow, after how talking about how much physical pain ballplayers are in (which I'm sure they are, but PEDs aren't painkillers!) Ortiz uses the "GNC" defense on his positive test, saying that in the early 2000s:
"I’m buying an over-the-f***ing-counter supplement in the United States of America. I’m buying this stuff in line next to doctors and lawyers. Now all of a sudden MLB comes out and says there’s some ingredient in GNC pills that have a form of steroid in them. I don’t know anything about it. If you think I’m full of it, go to your kitchen cabinet right now and read the back of a supplement bottle and honestly tell me you know what all of that stuff is. I’m not driving across the border to Mexico buying some shady pills from a drug dealer. I’m in a strip mall across from the Dunkin’ Donuts, bro."
However, contrary to his emphasis of buying the supplements in the U.S. at the friendly neighborhood GNC, Ortiz admitted in 2009 to buying some of those supplements in the Dominican Republic, where what is available over the counter is more loosey-goosey, to use an A-Rod-ism, than in the U.S. Ortiz also said then, "I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements and vitamins over the counter." Which made no sense -- why would you not pay attention to see what the stuff you took did, if for no other reason than to see if they worked?

He also doesn't mention Angel Presinal, the Dominican-born trainer who worked with both A-Rod and Ortiz, and who was banned from all MLB clubhouses after being linked to PEDs.

One of  my truisms in life is that those who are criticized the least overreact the most about it. And this whole piece seems to be a huge overreaction on Ortiz's part to mild criticism. As my friend Sully sez, the only MLB star who has gotten as much of a pass on the PED label than Andy Pettitte is Ortiz. So I don't know why he would bring this up now.

As those of us who have been paying attention in the last few years have noticed, Ortiz can be incredibly thin-skinned and self-absorbed -- a far cry from his lovable image. He whines a lot in this article, complaining about how people don't realize how hard he worked at hitting, griping about others not liking him pimping home runs -- and justifying it because he grew up poor in the Dominican Republic.

He plays up the racial angle about Dan Shaughnessy (the reporter with the red Jheri curls he refers to in the article) questioning him about PEDs in 2013; the actual conversation that they had was significantly different than the way he disparagingly describes it, with Shaughnessy making more concrete points -- that Ortiz has had injuries typical of those using PEDs and had quicker bat speed when getting older -- than he is described as doing.

Then Ortiz claims this is how he found out that he was on that failed test list:
I’ll never forget coming into the clubhouse before a day game against Oakland in 2009 when a reporter came up to me and said, “Hey, you know your name is about to be on a list of steroid users on ESPN?” I literally said, “Ha!” and walked away. God’s honest truth: I thought he was messing with me. About 30 minutes later, I’m getting dressed when I see my face pop up on the TV. I see “Failed Test. 2003.” No one had ever told me I’d failed any test.
Except The New York Times, not ESPN, broke the story. And Michael S. Schmidt, the reporter  on the case, talked to Ortiz before publishing the article, and Ortiz told him "I'm not talking about that anymore," a curious reaction from somebody who claims to have been blindsided by this news.

Also, Ortiz makes no mention in this article of the fact that the MLB players' union informed all the players who tested positive of this fact in 2004. So he knew about this back then, contrary to this dramatic story above.

At any rate, by doing this article, Ortiz is giving reporters a chance to bring this up all over again. There is already a perception among Yankee fans that A-Rod served his time for breaking the rules, while Ortiz had never been held accountable. This article certainly feeds into that perception. I think Big Papi made a big mistake in writing this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Read my predictions for the Yankees' 2015 season

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the annual Playing Pepper Yankee bloggers round table. I gave my opinions of what I think is in store for the Yankees this year:

* This, unfortunately, will be the year the team finally has a sub-.500 record. I can't see them winning more than 80 games.
* I also think that this is the year the Mets will have a better record than the Yankees, thus making Squawker Jon very happy!
* The team still doesn't have a consistent plan. Are they win now, or rebuilding for the future?
* That all Alex Rodriguez needs to do is be halfway decent to exceed the very low expectations for him.

Anyhow, you can read my comments here. You can read Jon's Mets interview for this feature here. Thanks to Daniel from C70 at the Bat, part of Cards Conclave for hosting these interviews!

Friday, March 20, 2015

When money trumps talent: Why the Yankees won't bring up Jose Pirela

Spring training is supposed to be a time where baseball farmhands have the opportunity to play their way into the big leagues. But when it comes to the Yankees these days, "Know your place, rook" is the rule. And the place these rookies will be is the minor leagues, instead of with the Yankees. How frustrating, as I noted in this recent column.

Yankee prospect Jose Pirela, after impressing in a September callup, is having a phenomenal spring training.  How phenomenal? Wally Matthews of ESPN New York breaks it down:
Among New York Yankees who have had at least 20 spring training at-bats, one player sits atop the pack in batting average (.391), on-base percentage (.462), slugging average (.652) and OPS (1.114): Jose Pirela. He is hitting more than 200 points higher than Brett Gardner, Stephen Drew and Mark Teixeira. He has more extra-base hits than anyone on the team. 
You know what else the 25-year-old native Venezuelan player has? Almost no chance to make the team. That is because the Yankees are paying $2 million this year to Brendan Ryan, and a jaw-dropping $5M (plus incentives!) this year to Stephen Drew. So even though Pirela can hit and play multiple positions: second base, third base, and the outfield, he is left out in the cold. Joe Girardi has said as much (emphasis added):
"I don’t want to have to say there’s no chance of him making our roster, but I think [GM] Brian [Cashman] said it, our roster was fairly set,'' Joe Girardi said. "You don’t ever lock yourself in and say this is exactly what it’s going to be, but we came to spring training pretty sure, excluding the second catcher, who the 13 [position players] were going to be. They were kind of signed to do that.''
And therein lies the problem. The Yankees have so little faith in their farm system that they won't even use homegrown utility infielders! Signing Ryan for two years (with an option for a third year!) never made any sense to me. (And please, spare me the nonsense Cashman always spews when he overpays -- that the team had to make that offer to get him instead of another team. We are talking about a utility infielder on the wrong side of 30, not Mike Trout!)

Bringing back Stephen Drew has never made sense to anybody but the Yankees themselves. We were talking about this on social media yesterday. One theory, which makes about as much sense as anything else, is that Cashman wants to show he didn't get snookered by the Red Sox in the first place in obtaining him. So he brought Drew back, like he did with bringing back Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez, to show that he somehow made the right decision in getting them in the first place. Cashman keeps on talking about Drew's historically horrible season being an "aberration," instead of realizing what everybody else has -- that Drew wasn't very good in the first place, and he is terrible now!

So because the Yankees are paying a combined $7M for these two players, they will stick with Drew and Ryan, even though they are awful, and even though there is Pirela waiting in the wings.

I know I sound like a negative Nellie here. but exactly who do the Yankees think will be their hitting stars next year? Given that they have the light-hitting Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and so many question marks at other positions, they can't really afford to have two more of the 13 position player spots being manned by people who are completely unable to hit.

The New York Post's Ken Davidoff wrote a completely incoherent column today on the Yankees' lineup, although I am not sure if it is incoherent because of Davidoff's writing or Cashman's plan.
“I still believe in the power of the home run,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday, before his team took on the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field. And yes, Cashman acknowledged, there often is a correlation between home runs and strikeouts, and that is a trade he is willing to make.
To that end, to fill the holes at shortstop, second base, and third base, Cashman claims that “you play the best guys you can get.”Except he's not. Pirela, as well as Rob Refsnyder, are not getting the chance to compete in the big leagues. Good grief.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mets bloggers make season predictions

I joined several other Mets bloggers in offering thoughts on the upcoming season for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance series Playing Pepper. I have the Mets going 84-78, and it turns out three of the other five bloggers made that exact prediction. But the other bloggers thought more of the Michael Cuddyer signing than I did.

You can check out our outlook on Matt Harvey, David Wright and other Mets topics at Playing Pepper: New York Mets.

The questions Bill Madden neglected to ask Hal Steinbrenner in his exclusive interview

It's payback time! New York Daily News MLB columnist Bill Madden has snagged what is billed as an "exclusive" interview with Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. But despite that access, the interview is a real snoozer. And there are many unanswered questions here -- both in lack of follow-ups to Hal's points, as well as in questions that are never raised in the first place.

So I decided to help rectify that. Here are the things Madden should have asked in his interview, but didn't:

1. Hal, you don't like being called a cheapskate for not signing Yoan Moncada, and you said the following regarding that issue:
“I found that very interesting,” he said, smiling, “given that we offered $25 million (for Moncada) and spent substantially in the international market (a reported $26.82 million in bonuses and penalties for greatly exceeding their bonus allotment). I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”
Do you understand that spending $7M more on Moncada would have been a better risk than the money spent on international bonuses, which were given to 16-year-old players without Moncada's track record? And given your opinions here, then why did you give out two seven-year contracts just last year: a $153M deal to Jacoby Ellsbury, and a $155M deal to Masahiro Tanaka? Also, are you aware that giving a three-year, $45M contract to an aging, injury-prone Carlos Beltran is essentially paying for the worst three years of a seven-year deal, without getting the good years?

2. You tell Madden you are excited about the NYCFC playing at Yankee Stadium. But what about the concerns from Yankee players about what this was going to do to the field? Mark Teixeira told the Daily News that "it's going to suck" and "tear up the infield," and Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have also expressed concerns with soccer being played on the field. So what is in place to make sure the field will be pristine for baseball?

3. You said this winter that you gave Brian Cashman a contract extension because of the moves he made midseason to help the team. But are you aware that the Yankees had an identical winning percentage -- .514 -- both at the end of July, and at the end of the season, despite Cashman's dealing? Also, did you know that the Yanks and Kansas City Royals both had the same 55-52 winning record at the end of July, yet even with Cashman's pickups, the Royals, not the Yanks, made the postseason?

4. If you are so sold on the current players in the farm system, then why are neither Rob Refsnyder nor Jose Pirela given the chance this spring to compete for the second base job? What does it say to the folks on the farm when Stephen Drew gets $5M plus incentives for the spot, despite hitting below the Mendoza line last season, and the team refused to consider putting a rookie in the role, even though Drew has been hitting under .100 for most of spring training?

5. Why did you give Brian Cashman a contract extension and a raise when you acknowledge how poor player development has been, and how badly the minor league system was managed? In Yankeeland, does the GM hold any responsibility for the people under him? Under Cashman's watch of the farm system, there has been exactly one superstar -- Robinson Cano -- and zero No. 1 starting pitchers. Does that concern you?

6. Are you aware that when all is said and done, your team will have paid Martin Prado $10M for two months of his services in a year when your team didn't even make the playoffs?

7. Your team's front office has anonymously made negative snipes to the media over and over about Alex Rodriguez, including criticizing him for showing up *early* to spring training.  On the other hand, your team's Twitter feeds -- both the @Yankees and @YankeesPR -- have not mentioned him once this spring, completely ignoring his good performance in spring training. Do you think this a professional way to run a ballclub?

8. You told Madden that the team needed to get off to a good start in order for the team's attendance to be good. What if they don't? Aside from all the number retirement ceremonies this year, how are you going to put fannies in the seats, as your father would say, if this team is a snoozer this year?

9. You told Bill Madden, "we have to win," and claimed that there actually would be accountability if the Yankees don't make the playoffs again this season, saying, "We’re all accountable here, starting with me. I’m the one who approved all these contracts." Does that mean you will fire yourself if the Yankees miss the playoffs this year?

10. And finally, since you approved all these contracts, including the performance contract giving A-Rod $6M each time he reaches a certain home run milestone, why are you now trying to wriggle out of paying him? If it is because of him doing steroids, than why are you honoring admitted PED user Andy Pettitte with a retired number and a plaque in Monument Park?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sandy Alderson and the 'revived' Mets

There's a new book called: "Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets." Apparently, Alderson has revolutionized the concept of "reviving" as well. When he took over as general manager after the 2010 season, the Mets had just finished 79-83 with an attendance of 2,559,738, eighth best in the National League. In 2014, the "revived" Mets finished 79-83, with attendance of 2,148,808, 13th best of the 15 NL teams. 

We are told that the Mets are "revived." We are told that they expect to contend this season. We are told that there are no restrictions on payroll. We are told a lot of things.

Another thing we were told is that the Mets have a surplus of starting pitching, but it is very rare for a team to have all five starters stay healthy the entire season. Dillon Gee was not surplus - he was necessary insurance, and with Zack Wheeler needing Tommy John surgery, the Mets are lucky Alderson was not able to trade Gee.

By all accounts, what Alderson has revived is the Mets' farm system (though players such as Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom were drafted by Omar Minaya), But Wheeler's injury emphasizes that there are no guarantees with prospects.

Alderson's trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler in 2011 was supposed to start the Mets' eventual revival. Last year, Beltran played only 109 games, a majority of them at DH, and hit .233.  Now Beltran, who turns 38 next month, is nearing the end of his career. But whatever he manages to contribute to the Yankees, it will still be more than the Mets get from Wheeler this season.

Wheeler's torn UCL is bad enough, but it will be even worse if the Mets use it as an excuse to punt yet another season. With Gee on the roster and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in the wings, starting pitching still figures to be the Mets' strength, even without Wheeler. A lot still has to go right, but Alderson could still achieve his Mets revival this year and justify his book's title.

If not, it's wait till next year - and the paperback.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Which New York team looks the best?

The following is a guest column from Mark Simpson:

Fans in New York City have not had a lot to cheer about in the last couple of seasons, as both the Yankees and Mets have gone through some tough times. With spring brings optimism, and that means both fan bases feel like 2015 could be the year to put it all back together. So which team will actually be better this year?

New York Mets

David Wright might still be the face of the franchise, but this team is going to win games this season with a very strong pitching staff. Although they have a lot of young and talented guys, they are not exactly proven just yet. Their most proven youngster is Matt Harvey, but he is returning from major arm surgery and might not be ready to go until the middle of the year. Fantasy baseball owners are going to be looking forward to what guys such as Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom can do.

Offense is going to be a little bit of a struggle, as they bring back most of the same team from a year ago. Michael Cuddyer has been solid in the last few years, but that was in Colorado plane in Coors Field. It will be a little bit more difficult for him to hit the same way at Citi Field.

Washington stands in their way in the division, but there is no reason why the Mets can’t compete for a wild card in the National League.

New York Yankees

It is going to be weird not seeing #2 playing shortstop for the Yankees, but the Derek Jeter era is finally over. The biggest storylines surrounding the team right now happens to be CC Sabathia’s weight and Alex Rodriguez’s distraction level. These two former superstars pretty much illustrate everything wrong with the franchise right now. They are still one of the oldest teams in the game, and they are not going to be taken seriously in the American League East until they get younger and better.

The American League East might not be as difficult as it has been in the past, but the Boston Red Sox are coming back stronger than ever in 2015. Baltimore should still be solid, and Toronto looks like they have the best team on paper in the last few years. New York will need to stay very healthy with their old roster, and some of their younger guys will need to have career seasons just to make the playoffs. 

 At the end of the day, it looks like the New York Mets actually have a better shot at making the playoffs and having a more successful season in 2015 than the New York Yankees. Anything can happen, but the very least, they look a lot more promising with their younger roster.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A list of the people and things that made the cut for @Yankees instead of A-Rod

In case you didn't know it, Alex Rodriguez has had a pretty impressive spring training so far. His slash line is .455/.538/.818, which is tops among big-league Yankee starters. And he had his first home run of spring training Wednesday -- a moment that got a huge ovation from the crowd.

But you wouldn't know any of this from the Yankees' Twitter account. In an embarrassing episode, the account completely ignored the home run, and never even mentioned it in a Twitter game recap. Yet they did have room to mention Jacoby Ellsbury's and Carlos Beltran's RBIs and even Slade Heathcott's homer in the game.

This omission got a lot of attention on social media -- so much so that the Yanks had to address it. So an unnamed team spokesman told the New York Daily News, the house organ of the team when it comes to Rodriguez: "It was very much an unintended error," and that “Alex is and will be treated like every other Yankees player.” 

Really? Let's take a look at the Yanks' Twitter feed and see when they last mentioned A-Rod. It was this one, talking about the team's meeting with A-Rod before spring training:
Prior to that, here is the last tweet @Yankees made about @Arod, 18 months ago:
Obviously, there were no A-Rod game-related results to mention for 2014, but why not mention his return in 2015?

Somehow, this "unintended error" kept Rodriguez off the Twitter feed, other than his last name in lineup listings, for this entire spring training. Not for his first game, not his first hit, nothing.

To put this in perspective, here are some of the non-A-Rod people and events mentioned in Yankee tweets this spring training (you can see the full list by clicking here:)


Aaron Judge
Nathan Eovaldi
Jared Burton
Greg Bird
Cole Figueroa
Luis Severino
Jose Pirela
Rob Refsnyder
Nick Noonan
Bryan Mitchell
Didi Gregorius
Ramon Flores
Garrett Jones
Tyler Austin
Cito Culver
Luis Torrens
Chris Capuano
Andrew Miller
Jacob Lindgren
Dellin Betances
Masahiro Tanaka
Ron Guidry
Adam Warren
Chase Whitley
CC Sabathia
Mark Teixeira
Hideki Matsui
Reggie Jackson
Chase Headley
Michael Pineda
Brett Gardner
Ivan Nova
Brendan Ryan
Brian McCann
Joe Girardi
Chris Young
Stephen Drew
Justin Wilson
Scott Brosius
Mariano Rivera

Things and Events:

Honoring Little League Challenger players
Jeter Final Season clothing sale
Mormon Tabernacle Choir ticket information
Discount ads for Lyft
Man walking from Tampa to New York for charity
Rob Refsnyder's bat
Michael Pineda's glove
Yankees photo day
Remembering when Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter were on "Seinfeld"
Yankees kids camp
Mark Teixeira's gluten-free diet
Paul O'Neill's birthday
Promotion for the Derek Jeter bobblehead
Remembering Bobby Abreu's debut as a Yankee
CC Sabathia and Victor Cruz at Fashion Week
Promotions for MasterCard ticket sales
Announcement of latest members of Monument park
Acknowledgement of Jason Giambi's retirement
Remembering Yankees' White House visits

In case you still think this omission of A-Rod was just an oversight, consider this: @yankees posted hundreds of photos of players on the Twitter feed this spring, including dozens of photos for Photo Day. There was not a single one of Alex Rodriguez.

Supposedly, MLB Advanced Media, and not the Yankees themselves, run the Twitter feed. But who decided to mention pretty much every player on the 40-man roster except for A-Rod? That seems like an awfully interesting "unintentional error." So much for the quote that "Alex is and will be treated like every other Yankees player.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

With Stephen Drew, Yankees show (again!) that they have no imagination

Remember that talk this winter that there might actually be a competition at spring training for second base, with Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela competing for the role? Remember how Brian Cashman claims pretty much every year that the Yankees need to get younger and more athletic? Heck, even remember the fact that Cashman signed great-defensive/light-hitting infielder Brendan Ryan to a two-year deal, so that he could fill in at the spot?

Well, forget all that stuff. As I noted yesterday, Stephen Drew has won the starting role at second base. Never mind that he currently has a slash line of .091/.231/.091, while Pirela is hitting .462/.533/.692 and Refsnyder has a slash line of .455/.538/.545. (Ryan has been out with a back strain.) So, yes, Drew is actually doing even worse than he did last season with the Yankees, yet the team is locked into him as the starter at second, even though Drew never played the position until last season.

It is bad enough that the Yankees let Robinson Cano walk away and put their franchise in this position in the first place. I would compare it to letting Darrelle Revis and Jose Reyes go. (Incidentally, Squawker Jon has written about that very issue today.)

It adds insult to the proverbial injury that with a team desperate for a hometown hero, that the Yankees wouldn't allow one of their farmhands a spot at the position. But how can a rookie compete with Drew's illustrious pedigree? Drew is a former Red Sox, he gets injured a lot, he is on the wrong side of 30, and his best days are behind him. Those facts are like catnip to Cashman!

Anyhow, the Daily News' John Harper writes about this situation today, and about the fact that no less than Reggie Jackson thinks that Pirela is the best hitter in the Yankees organization. Cashman completely disagreed with that assessment, snapping:
“That’s wrong,” Cashman said. “Greg Bird’s by far the best hitter (among prospects) in the organization.”
Cashman also said: "Once we brought Drew in, the roster was locked in. There’s no competition in the middle infield" and that while “the baby Bombers are hustling, showing their stuff,” that “the veterans are just getting their work in.”

Yeah, heaven forbid anybody earn their spot on this team from good play in spring training. Know your place, rook. You can't compete with the illustrious Stephen Drew, who earned a $5M 2015 deal (plus $1.5M in incentives) after going .150/.219/.271 (!) last year as a Bomber.

As it looks now, the only way the Yankees will dump Drew is if he ends up in a Brian Roberts situation. Remember how Roberts surprised everyone by staying healthy as a Yankee last year, and being in the position to make bonuses? He had these incentives, as Joel Sherman wrote:
Roberts bonuses: $175G for 250pa, 300pa; $250G for 350pa, 400 pa. $300G for 450pa, 500pa; $350G for 550pa $400G for 600pa, 650 pa
And wouldn't you know it? Roberts was benched, and then designated for assignment, when he came within two plate appearances of reaching the $250G bonus for 350PA. What a weird coincidence!

Drew's plate appearance bonuses don't start kicking in until he reaches 450 PA, though. So unfortunately, we may we be stuck with him until then! Oh, joy.

Darrelle Revis and Jose Reyes

Two years ago, the New York Jets let one of their biggest homegrown stars ever get away in the prime of his career over money. Once Darrelle Revis was gone, cornerback went from the Jets' biggest strength to their biggest weakness. As a Jets' fan, I was elated when the news broke about  Revis yesterday. But I couldn't help but think about the Mets' biggest weaknesses - shortstop and leadoff hitter, and how they created those weaknesses by letting one of their biggest homegrown stars ever get away in the prime of his career over money.

Jose Reyes is not the superstar future Hall of Famer that Revis is. He has $66 million owed over the next three years on his backloaded contract (more than A-Rod!),  If Toronto had been willing to trade Reyes during the offseason, many would have argued against the Mets bringing the injury-prone Reyes back at that price.

But while Reyes may not be the Revis of baseball, he has turned out to be just as irreplaceable as far as the Mets are concerned. Maybe more so, considering that he filled two needs - shortstop and leadoff hitter.

According to Baseball Reference, the Mets have $89.6 million in guaranteed salaries for 2015, while the Blue Jays have $120.7M. So if the Mets had Reyes' salary in addition to their current commitments, the total would be 111.6M, still 9M less than the Blue Jays are spending now.

It's bad enough that the Mets don't spend like a big-market team. But if they spent like the Toronto Blue Jays, they could afford a player like Reyes, even at his bloated backloaded salary.

Since leaving the Mets, Reyes has missed 90 games in three years, so he is certainly an injury risk. But David Wright, whom the Mets did sign to a long-term deal, has missed 84 games during that time. And while Reyes has continued to perform at a high level when he is on the field, Wright has many wondering if he is in decline. Wright, by the way, is still owed 107M. (Don't get me wrong - I'm glad the Mets actually gave Wright his contract - that's what big-market teams are supposed to do. It just would have been nice if they had done the same with Reyes.)

If the Mets had kept Reyes, they might now be a favorite for a playoff spot, rather than a team that has a shot because there are two wild cards now.

As the Jets and Mets found out, it's not simply valuing the player, but figuring out how you can replace him. Even the Yankees have had trouble replacing homegrown star Robinson Cano at second base. But Squawker Lisa, I see the Yankees have finally filled that void with the announcement that Stephen Drew has won the job.  Sure, Cano hit .314 last year, while Drew hit .150. But, as Brian Cashman might argue, Cano is getting $24M while Drew is getting $5M, so the Yankees are getting half the production at just 1/5 the cost!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The myth of Brian Cashman's successful moves in the 2014 season -- and beyond

I had to laugh when I saw Brian (Fredo) Cashman pump his chest and brag to the New York Post's Kevin Kernan about he could get the Yankees to win the World Series. Really, Bri? Here is what Cashman said when asked what the expectations were for the Yankees this season:
"Playoffs and then beyond,’’ GM Brian Cashman told The Post. “Be a good enough team to get to the playoffs, allow me to tweak in-season to make it good enough to win a World Series." 
Aside from the fact that Cashman has already been given more than enough resources to have built a WS-worthy team in the first place, his claim is ludicrous. Despite having the highest payroll in MLB virtually every single season, the Yankees have only made it into one World Series since 2003. Here is how they stack up against the rest of MLB in that timeframe:

World Series Appearances Since 2003
St. Louis Cardinals 4
Boston Red Sox 3
San Francisco Giants 3
Detroit Tigers 2
Philadelphia Phillies 2
Texas Rangers 2
Chicago White Sox 1
Colorado Rockies 1
Houston Astros 1
Kansas City Royals 1
Tampa Bay Rays 1
New York Yankees 1

Yes, that's right. The Phillies and Rangers have more World Series appearances since 2003 than the Yankees do! And that is with the Bombers having the Core Four in their prime!

The number of World Series titles since 2003 is even more depressing:

World Series Titles Since 2003
Boston Red Sox 3
San Francisco Giants 3
St. Louis Cardinals 2
Philadelphia Phillies 1
Chicago White Sox 1
New York Yankees 1

Lookee here. The Red Sox have three in the last decade, and the Giants have three in the last five years, starting their own dynasty. Yet the Bombers only have one ring since beating the Mets in the 2000 World Series. Not exactly a record of continued excellence.

As for Cashman's ability to "tweak" a team, that is totally overrated as well. Let's take a look at what the Yankees' record was at the trading deadline last year, and what it was after the moves Cashman made -- picking up Martin Prado, Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew. (Some of the moves happened before the July 31 trade deadline, some at the deadline, and one was in August. To average it out, I picked July 31 as the date to separate the moves.)

Yankees' record through July 31: 55-52, .514 winning percentage, 5 games out of first place.
Yankees' record after July 31: 29-26, 514 winning percentage, 12 games out of first place

You know who also had a record of 55-52 at the end of July, besides the Yankees? The Kansas City Royals. That would be the team that made it to the World Series last year and has as many WS appearances since 2003 as the Yankees do. And the team with a payroll a good $150M or so less than the Yanks do.

Yet the media (and Hal Steinbrenner) have seized onto this myth that Cashman somehow saved the season with those moves. Really? How is having the exact same winning percentage in the last two months of the year as in the first four months of the year saving the season? Or dropping so many games in the AL East, and being beaten out by the Royals for the Wild Card?  Is it too much to expect the media to look at facts instead of Cashman's hype? I guess it is!

Not to mention that the Yankees are still paying the costs of these pickups. They agreed to pick up $6 million of Prado's contract -- plus the nearly $4M they paid for him in 2014, thus paying  $10M for a two-month rental. They signed Headley to a four-year, $52M deal -- Johnny Damon money -- based on those two months, even though his numbers as a Yankee were actually worse than A-Rod's in 2013!

And for some crazy reason, Cashman re-signed Stephen Drew for $5M and is giving him the starting second base position, despite the fact that he hit a buck fifty as a Yankee last year. Supergenius explained it all to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:
“We’re betting on the fact that last year has to be some sort of aberration; why would he all of a sudden fall off a cliff?” general manager Brian Cashman said. “We put $5 million on the table and gambled that way. We hope it pays off.”
I guess I missed when Drew was a world-beater. And the real "aberration" is not his 2014 season, but his 2008 season, the one where he hit 21 homers and had a .836 OPS, a number he hasn't sniffed since. Drew's numbers have been declining for some time; not just last year. Does Cashman ever look at statistics, or does he just look to see if the player was on the Red Sox, then back up the Brinks' truck? Good grief.

"I'm never pain-free," Yankee golden oldie Carlos Beltran sez:

Longtime Squawker readers know that I was against the Carlos Beltran signing. The fact that the St. Louis Cardinals, arguably the smartest franchise in baseball, let him go was a huge warning sign. Another warning sign was Beltran's propensity for injury. That, combined with his age -- he will be 39 at the end of his deal with the Yankees -- made me wonder, and not for the first time, what the heck Brian Cashman was thinking in signing him.

Cashman, you may remember, famously turned down signing Beltran after the 2004 season, even though Carlos was willing to take less money to be a Yankee. So instead of signing Beltran for the prime years of his career, seasons in which he would slug over 30 homers a year and drive in over 100 runs, Cashman decided to spend $15M a year for an aging outfielder who really should be a DH. And to give him a three-year deal to boot. How did that ever make any sense?

ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews interviewed Beltran the other day, and the aging slugger, while saying he was feeling better these days, also had this to say about his health:
"I'm a gamer, what can I say? I love to play," he said. "But I'm never pain-free, let's put it that way. It's been seven or eight years that I'm not pain-free. Some people tolerate pain better than others. I would say I can tolerate a bit of pain." 
Oy. Again, the Yankees missed out on the healthy years, but they have him for the injury-riddled seasons, the ones where he is never pain-free. Oh, joy.

For all the talk about how the Yankees are paying for players on the decline, at least the team got some great years -- and won a World Series -- thanks to the other members of what an ESPN reader called the "Sore Four." (Love that line!) A-Rod won two MVPs, and CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira had some dominating seasons as Yankees. Meanwhile, the Yankees cut to the chase with Beltran and are paying big bucks for the years in decline, without getting any of the good years!

Why the Yankees chose to spend the money on Beltran instead of Robinson Cano made zero sense at the time, and even less sense now. (Beltran's contract, plus the $5M each wasted on Chris Capuano and Stephen Drew, would have paid for Cano.)  Sure, they would have been paying for Cano's declining years, although I still contend they could have gotten him for less than 10 years if they had offered him more per season. But at least they would have had some great years out of him. The Yanks are only getting Beltran's declining seasons!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Matt Harvey returns - no apology needed

Squawker Lisa, you will be pleased to know who is considered the Mets' biggest offseason acquisition, if you go by who was talked up the most at the start of Friday's telecast. Yes, it was new hitting coach Kevin Long. The Mets scored only 629 runs in 2014, and they are hoping Long can bring some of that Bronx Bombers magic over to Queens. (Last season the Yankees scored 633 runs).

Of course, the real reason I tuned in to the game was to see the return of Matt Harvey. Lisa, it turns out that not all big-name players who miss a year are required to go on an apology tour upon their return, particularly when they can dial it up to 99 MPH in their first game back. I know it's only early March, and the Tigers' lineup wasn't exactly Murderers' Row and Cano, but it's hard not to be excited after Harvey's great debut.

Yes, it's only two innings, but so far, so good for the Mets' rehab strategy with Harvey. Meanwhile, the Yankees certainly have some unusual strategies with their starters, keeping Masahiro Tanaka active with a partially torn UCL and signing off on CC Sabathia gaining weight even though he is pitching on a surgically-repaired knee. At least Sabathia could get a TLC show out of it - "My 300-pound Pitching Life."

Brian Cashman wants to honor Derek Jeter by having no captain, and during the offseason Sandy Alderson appeared to be honoring Jeter by having no shortstop, but Wilmer Flores had two hits yesterday, so maybe there's hope there as well.

Speaking of Cashman, remember when he didn't want to give up a pitching prospect for Alfonso Soriano a couple of years ago?  On Thursday, that pitching prospect, Corey Black, broke Hunter Pence's forearm with a HBP.

Friday, March 6, 2015

So why did Brian Cashman declare that Derek Jeter should be the last Yankee captain?

Rest in peace, Derek Jeter.
Yankee manager Brian Cashman apparently doesn't have anything interesting to say about this current Yankee team, except for his declaration that Derek Jeter should be the last Yankee captain. 

Nothing else he said to Mike Lupica in an interview on ESPN Radio yesterday was noteworthy -- and I listened to all 19+ minutes of it, The interview was a snoozefest, especially because Lupey never asked him a tough question. One example: they talked about contracts on the payroll, and getting younger, but Lupica never asked him an obvious question -- why did they spend $10M on has-beens like Stephen Drew and Chris Capuano if they want to get younger?

Anyhow, here are Cashman's exact words regarding Jeter, courtesy of Wally Matthews' article on the brouhaha (note: I had a lot to say in the comments section of that piece!): 
"I think Derek did it as well as anyone can,'' Cashman told "He wore it well, and I'm not a big advocate of giving out the captaincy anyway. I'm not going to recommend anyone being named captain of the New York Yankees right away.''.... 
"And that's not disrespectful of any of the guys I have here that have a lot of leadership,'' Cashman said. "As far as I'm concerned, and I'm not the decision-maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2. I wouldn't give up another captain title to anybody else.''
Cashman also said the following, according to George King of the New York Post:
"He was so good and so perfect for that."
So essentially, Jeter is more important to the franchise than former captains Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, and Don Mattingly, because Cashman thinks the title should be retired now that he is? (And yes, that IS what Cashman is saying here. If you say that "captaincy should be retired with number 2," you are saying that nobody else could ever do the job as well.)

I remember being at Old Timers' Day over a decade ago, hearing the ovation given to Don Mattingly, and thinking about how Mattingly was the most popular living Yankee. But things change, and Jeter has that title now. However, if Cashman really thinks that nobody will ever be capable of being captain, then he ought to retire now, too. It just shows how this franchise is more concerned these days with the constant walks down memory lane than in building for a great future.

One of my brothers has a theory on this. He thinks that Jeter himself wants the captaincy retired, in exchange for him doing stuff to represent the Yankees -- kind of like how Joe DiMaggio insisted that he be introduced as baseball's greatest living ballplayer in order to show up. This way, Jeter, and nobody else, would be called "The Captain."

I don't know if that is what is happening, but what does disturb me is how much Yankeeland is focused on the past. At any rate, Cashman shouldn't have weighed in on this subject in the first place. A GM is not the one who should make a decision that will affect the team for the rest of its history.

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