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Signs of Spring
2006-02-08 05:13
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Ahhh, the comfort of pre-spring training puff pieces sure are a sight for sore eyes. The Daily News has a few of 'em today, including a bit featuring the latest from Joe Torre, and another detailing Octavio Dotel's rapid recovery from Tommy John surgery. According to Anthony McCarron:

"I don't want to say I'm 100% now, but I'm feeling really good," Dotel said.

He hopes he can be ready by April, but he says he won't rush, either. "The Yankees are the people who decide," he said. "As far as I feel, I could be there in April, but I'll let them decide when I'll be in New York with the team."

Following up on Bob Klapisch's piece for ESPN last week, Christian Red has an article on Jason Giambi, who says that he expects to play first more than DH this year. I liked this bit:

"I was always the guy, in the beginning, that took over for Tino," Giambi said. "Even though I had great years (in Oakland), we hadn't won that World Series.

"I think every New Yorker, they love to see somebody face adversity and still stand tall. And not fall by the wayside. They like to see you man up, take your beating. You just keep going and clicking and keep working hard.

"They love those stories. It's a tough town out here. It really is. I don't know how many people I get that pull me aside and just, 'We appreciate the way you handled it and the way you went about it.'"

Meanwhile, over at SI.com, Tom Verducci believes that Chien-Ming Wang could have a breakout season in '06:

The cool right-hander is a strike- and groundball-throwing machine, getting through his average inning as an AL rookie with only 13.7 pitches. Pitching for a team loaded with offense, Wang is a near lock to win 15 games -- but only if he stays healthy, which is still a concern among the New York executives.

No earth-shattering news, but hey, it's a start. Dig in.

Comments
2006-02-08 06:28:05
1.   Rob Gee
More interesting comment I read this morning (from Replacement Level Yankees Weblog):

"Damon's a big upgrade in CF over what the Yankees had last year, probably over 5 wins. He projects to have the 7th lowest OBP of any of the starting lineup, but will bat leadoff."

How long should we wait before Damon becomes a 8/9 hitter in our eyes? 2 months? 1 year? the 3rd year of the 4 year deal? Oh, and notice that Coco Crisp is projected to have a better year.

2006-02-08 06:49:59
2.   bp1
Re: Damon. OBP isn't everything. Nobody would bat Giambi leadoff, and he has the highest OBP in the league. There are other factors at play.

It's impossible for me to be objective about anything re: Johnny Damon. It just is. I don't even know what to say whenever he is mentioned. All I know is that it's gonna be weird for awhile.

Re: Off season puff pieces. You're right, Alex. A sight for sore eyes, for sure. It's been a long and quiet off season in Yankeeland, for the most part (the Damon thing excepted, of course). I'm anxiously awaiting an update on Yankee pitchers - to see how they fared this winter.

BP

2006-02-08 06:59:03
3.   Levy2020
They tried it hitting A-Rod second at the end of last year. . . Weird stuff.

And I think it would be interesting to bat Giambi leadoff. He draws a walk, Sheffield doubles, and A-Rod drives them in. Seems more likely than Jeter-Damon then A-Rod.

About Wang: Even I, who has a hard time following pitch counts, etc. noticed that Wang was absolutely dead in every 6th inning he pitched in at the end of the season. I think that might be his big problem.

2006-02-08 07:00:18
4.   possumbait
The Giambi comment is very interesting. My recollection is that both O'Neil and Martinez got their heat from the fans in their first years in NY, but undoubtedly 'manned up' as Giambi said.

Too bad Giambi is a lot older than those guys were -- he may never truly get that window of appreciation.

2006-02-08 07:04:27
5.   Dimelo
WasWatching had good info on the # of starts Wang has made the last 3 years (minors and major) and he never reached 30 starts ever. A very big concern if you ask me. He should get on ARod's workout program and do more before 8 am than most people do in an entire week.
2006-02-08 07:25:32
6.   Shaun P
I don't know if Wang is over his shoulder issues or not. BUT having made so few starts the last 3 years (hopefully) means there's less wear and tear on his arm. That might be invaluable as he ages. His low number of pitches also helps. Wang's IP (majors and minors) have gone 122, 149.1, and 157 the last 3 years. If he works up to say 185 IP this year, so another 5 or 6 starts, I'll be very pleased.
2006-02-08 07:54:10
7.   rbj
The problem with Jason leading off is he just clogs the bases. And yeah, you only lead off one time in the game, but with 4 ABs a game, that is 25% of the time. Runs & outs are precious, get some speed at the top. Or else clone Rickey.
2006-02-08 08:22:18
8.   Mike A
The leadoff guy isn't all about OBP. He should be able to at least threaten to steal a base to get the pitcher to pump fastballs to the 2-3-4 hitters.

Wang's had a history of shoulder problems, but this year maybe they should split his starts with Shawn Chacon or Aaron Small or whoever just so he doesn't overexert himself.

2006-02-08 08:40:22
9.   Zack
If Wang is on his game, he is really the perfect pitcher against the Sox. They will put the ball in play, he will make them put it in play. He will make them hit it on the ground, and teh Sox are about as slow as they come. OBP doesn't mean very much if you are facing David Wells or Wang, who just throw strikes...Of course, whether or not our defense can get to the ball is another story...

And Rob, the issue is not whether or not Coco will have a better year than Damon, he may very well, the issue is a) need, b) value, and c) cost to obtain. The Sox traded away their (newest and) best and a top propsect to get Crisp, we didn't have that luxery. We got the best we could get, and the cost for us is rather meaningless in the long run. And, Crisp is not a leadoff hitter, worse so than Damon. He got removed from that spot in Cleveland, and he is also not a cf, a point that Cleveland, who knew him the best, knew....

Does Yankees.com have up their spring training countdown this year, I love that thing, give me the exact minutes until spring training starts!

2006-02-08 09:04:35
10.   joejoejoe
Why is it that batting order is hot topic and rest is a hot topic for Giambi and Sheffield yet the two are never linked? It has to be of some benefit to bat the everyday players (Damon, Jeter, A-Rod) 1-2-3 and the ease the workload of the old horses. It's not optimal but neither is spelling Sheffield with Bubba Crosby EVER.

I think batting your 150+ game players more than your 130+ game players (if they are comparable) is just another kind of rest.

2006-02-08 09:12:41
11.   Levy2020
Sheffield spent a lot of time batting sixth. I would rather have him have more PAs than Damon however that happens.
2006-02-08 09:34:02
12.   The Mick 536
Jaon better be taking a lot of grounders during Spring Training and practicing his throws to second and home. I bite my lip every time a ball is hit to him and hold my breath if there is a runner on base.

He should be taking dancing lessons.

I root for the boy, really. He deserves a lot of credit for his show of courage last year.

As for Cheung Ming Wang, who knows. I am more afraid of the fact he didn't have the operation he should have undergone. The trainers must have had him on some fitness regimen. Need strong legs to be a pitcher, eh Roger. But the arm?

And this Dotel thing. Remembering Andy Messersmith. Sorry. He tripped over first base didn't he? How about Don Gullet?

2006-02-08 09:38:18
13.   Rob Gee
Zack -

The issue is indeed a) need, b) value, c) cost to obtain (which I would lump into value - costs/benefits). But if the majority of fans share your opinion that Damon was the best to be had, we're in for a long run before we burn and pillage to run CASH-man out of town.

Facts:
1) We all knew Bernie was on his last legs (literally) since at least 2003.
2) Yanks bring in Lofton for 2004.
3) Torre doesn't trust Lofton in 2004
4) Yanks trade Lofton for F'ed-Rod after 2004; with regular PT has solid campaign in Philly
5) Back to Bernie with no back-up plan in CF for 2005
6) For 2005, in order of appearance, we see Bernie, then Woemack, then Cabrera, then Reese, then Bubba, then back to Bernie, then back to Bubba in CF just before the playoffs begin (did I miss anybody?)
7) For 2006, the best CASH-man could come up with is 32 y.o Johnny Damon?!? At 52mil for four years? With three years to plan an alternative?
8) Any idiot can stand the longest at the auction house.

We could debate the value question with all of the other CF'ers that changed teams this year (MIL-ton, Rowand, Crisp, Pierre) and Damon is far from the top of that list. Fact is, the Red Sox had a need too and they filled it cheaper and better. The A's too. Yup, the Phillies too. The best CASH could do is overpay? Then he's a pretty piss-poor GM. His record doesn't just say so - it screams so. The rest of the wind you hear from Yankeedom is pure spin.

And I'm sorry, but that 52mil comes from somewhere that directly affects you and me - our pockets! For increased ticket, parking, food, etc costs. BTW: how do the Yanks justify cutting payroll but increasing ticket prices?

The worst of all this? The same damn thing is happening again, only this time at the C spot. Posada will hit a wall this year - the writing is there and oh so clear. Our back-up plan - Kelly Stinnett. Who are we going to sign there next year - Jason Kendall?

2006-02-08 10:34:43
14.   Nick from Washington Heights
Rob Gee, last off-season Cash argued for Beltran. He was over-ruled and we ended up with a big hole in center. He identified the need and was ignored by other elements (I will not say Tampa) in the front office.

I think Zack is correct. In order to get Rowand, for instance, we were going to have to send prospects out of a close to bone dry system. The same with Milton and Pierre and Crisp. Years of poor drafting (admittedly during Cash's tenure and but not admittedly under his direction) and trading prospects away have led to this situation. What is encouraging now is that Cashmna has made it point to rebuild this part of the organization. In order to do that and stay competitive this year, he had to sign Damon and overpay.

2006-02-08 10:48:53
15.   debris
I think you guys are right to bash Cashman. The barren farm system is his responsibility. When Theo arrived in Beantown, the Sox farm system was in the same shape as the Yankees remains. He rebuilt it in a hurry by doing several things: putting a ton of effort into finding the best available talent in the draft and determining who could be signed and for what. This includes Craig Hansen who they got 23rd overall after most other clubs had deemed him unsignable. And playing the arbitration game splendidly in order to wind up with a ton of draft picks. Theo had like 6 of the first 50 picks last year and will do almost as well this year.

And don't forget George's role in this. While Theo and his gang were frantically preparing for the draft last year, Cashman was off to Tampa to explain the Yanks lousy start to George.

2006-02-08 10:59:21
16.   Nick from Washington Heights
debris, it's a complex thing for a Yanks fan trying to figure out who is to blame for 10 straight 1st place finishes.
2006-02-08 11:45:37
17.   debris
Nick,

A good GM shouldn't have to spend 50% more than the nearest competition year after year to stay competitive. All teams get old eventually and you can't strictly replenish from the free agent market.

Remember the championship teams from the end of the last millennium had at their core a strong base of pre-Cashman home developed talent (Pettitte, Mendoza, Rivera, Posada, Williams, Jeter) that has aged, eroded, or departed, leaving only Jeter and Rivera still at the top of their game.

2006-02-08 12:44:57
18.   Knuckles
2004- Red Sox win the World Series with a $127M payroll. Their nearest competition for the Wild Card? Oakland, with a payroll of $59M.
2005, Sox as WC over LAA.
2003, Sox as WC over Seattle.
(2000-2002- Oops, three year streak of not being "competitive" despite having the 5th, 2nd, and 2nd highest payrolls in the game)
1999, Sox as WC over Oakland.
1998, Sox as WC over LAA.
Debris, unless you changed allegiances to Minnesota over night, please fcking spare us.
2006-02-08 13:00:55
19.   Rob Gee
Nick, you're inhaling the CASH-man spin. Fact is, Jorgie has no back-up and that falls squarely on Cash. Same pattern, different player. After two years of getting housed by the ChiSox in the ALCS we'll begin to realize that Cash was behind the curtain all along. The problem is he still thinks it's 1999 and you can just tweak and plug. Unfortuntely debris is right. You can't keep doing this for seven years.

Now, debris, you're smoking the Gorilla's pipe. The dysfunction we've seen out of Boston is so much worse than anything we've seen in the Bronx since winning the division every year from 1998 on. You really think the Theo-Larry drama won't resurface? The question isn't if, but when.

That said - your team has so many more questions than the Yanks:

Crisp: He's your lead-off? And how many adventures in Fenway CF before you realize there was a reason the Tribe didn't play him there.

Beckett: Pin your playoff hopes on him? I mean, it was a good trade, but only if you have depth in the rotation. Last I checked, you don't. If you had to choose: does he get "shoulder tightness" getting you into the post-season or once you're there?

SS: You have no idea who your starter is in April let alone October. The only uncertainly we have is at DH, and, well, that position doesn't require defense. Oh, right, you already knew that from your 2nd place MVP. Somehow, we'll get enough offense there. The same can't be said about your SS situation.

Now granted, we'll experience our age-related decline. But you're not in the clear there (see 2B, 3B, RF, C). As for rotations, between 7 starters we'll be able to put someone out there every fifth day. I don't see that on your side. Fact is, I'm not worried about making the playoffs. You should be. After that though, I'm looking at a good spanking from the ChiSox - something we wouldn't be worrying about if we had a better than average GM.

2006-02-08 17:41:10
20.   Simone
Let me get this straight, the Red Sox win ONE championship, get swept the next year, and the Yankees are supposed to be in awe of their farm system which has proved nothing and their dysfunctional front office. Please, spare us.
2006-02-08 17:53:15
21.   DarrenF
Rob Gee,

"BTW: how do the Yanks justify cutting payroll but increasing ticket prices?"

Supply/demand is the pricing model.

The Yankees drew 4 million fans last season, which I believe is a record for MLB. Demand is high, the Stadium is 90% full, and you're wondering how they justify increasing ticket prices?

Also, if you really think salary caps lower ticket prices, try to buy a ticket to an NBA game.

2006-02-08 18:51:34
22.   Levy2020
For a Yankees fan in the Red Sox rivalry, one of the most exciting things is the way that our farm system is untouched (although seemingly all in Single A) while the Red Sox lost several pitching prospects, Stoppach, Marte, and Hanley Ramirez. . .

Basically, they traded half of the 2007 Red Sox for Cocoa Crisp (not a CF) and Josh Beckett (he'll have a good year and then we'll see where he signs.)

2006-02-08 19:11:22
23.   sam2175
22

But that is what the advantage of Red Sox is: they have prospects at the upper level that can help. Papelbon is at worst, serviceable, and Hansen, Lester and Pedroia, by all accounts highly regarded prospects.

Yankees, by comparison, has no impact prospects at the upper level. If they trade away their lower level prospects, it will take them even longer to regenerate.

Both the franchises did what is best for them, and at least for Hanley Ramirez, I have long believed he was a product of Red Sox hype machine. Anibal Sanchez seems to be the only potential impact prospect they lost. Oh, and of course Andy Marte, and despite protestations from Red Sox fans, they got far less than equal value in that deal.

2006-02-08 19:17:48
24.   Rob Gee
DarrenF -

Supply/demand has two aspects:

Supply = amount available
Demand = number of customers

The last I checked a typical NBA arena has 15 - 20,000 seats. Yankee stadium has 50,000 (Supply x 3).

The last I checked an NBA team has 41 home games. The Yankees have 81 contests in the Bronx (Supply x 2).

My math isn't what it used to be but I think 3 x 2 = 6. Six times the supply should not mean the ticket prices are equivalent. If anything baseball tickets should be less, much less than NBA tickets. The problem is they're comparable, esp. for the average fan.

But you're right. The demand is there regardless. And as long as the fans continue to pay the prices, the Yankees will start to look more and more like the Knicks.

But the 4mil the Yanks drew last year was less than the Rockies drew in 1993 at Mile High.

And I'm not really sure what your point was, but I know I would much rather pay $10 less per ticket (and a few bucks less on beer, food, and parking) and have the Yanks payroll in the $120mil range than overpay for Johnny Talk Show, etc.

2006-02-08 21:13:12
25.   mattyobmick7
As some say on Mike and the Mad Dog, "long time, first time." Let me first start by saying thank you to Alex and Cliff for making this site possible, and to whoever else helps out behind the scenes. I was a silent reader for a long time, in awe of the knowledge of the readers/writers of this site, but the recent influx of sox fan comments provided me an impetus to finally post some comments. Firstly, debris, you sound like a knowledgeable baseball fan, but you are a ridiculous homer. I feel the same about you as I do about the ridiculously blind Yankee fans who overpopulate our fan base, spouting nonsense about how the Yanks are the end all be all of the universe (not that I don't live and breath the NY Yankees) and how they can do no wrong. You cannot truly believe half the stuff you say, and if you do, you're delusional at best. Marte is the real deal, I can't wait until he blows up in the NL. Abe, with his tilted hat, should be the next Oliver Perez. Papelbon is serviceable, he should be good if not great. The rest, we'll see. You cannot argue that they are studs, especially Youkillis. He's a joke. Period. Don't make it out as if the Sox farm system is thriving, because you just sold the farm to get "better" this offseason after your boy exited in a monkey suit. As for Cashman, he's done a hell of a job since he's been with the Yanks, and to say otherwise is a travesty. If you're a Yanks fan and you believe this, I don't even know what to say. Any stupid move (Mondesi, CF from 2004-on, Wright, Pavano,etc.) you want to blame on him, chances are his hands were tied. When he and Stick ran things, we prospered. Check the history. In closing, I'd like to say thank G*d for pitchers/catchers because it's been a long winter, Selig should be shot for this travesty of a worldwide competition, and may the Yanks win their 27th this year. Cheers.
2006-02-08 21:48:29
26.   wsporter
Rob, Two things: First, if it wasn't 12:45 a.m. I'd go off on a riff concerning marginality and the Diamond-water paradox concerning Yankee ticket pricing but I think such a post would prove only that I'm Naughty by Nature so I won't do it and Second, in your opinion, if the Yankees win the World Series this year will that render B. Cashman an above average GM?
2006-02-08 23:24:28
27.   das411
7 - Yknow the real Rickey is probably still available...

You guys may like Mike's new post, the "Falling in Hate" one is indeed about the BoSox!

2006-02-09 03:13:13
28.   Rob Gee
I really don't understand where all this love for CASH-man comes from. Sure, he kept the house clean and all 1998 to 2000 but he inherited a ton of nice furniture. And his GM philoosphy is still rooted in those years.

The rest really is spin. I don't doubt that his hands were tied into major moves - Wells, Giambi, Unit. But I have a really hard time believing that the boys of Tampa forced him to trade:

1) Wily Mo Pena for Drew Henson ("Get Henson back!" is different from trading the best OF prospect to do it

2) Include Dioner Navarro in the Unit trade ("Get Unit!" is different from including a 20 y.o. switching hitting Pudgito that now starts for the Dodgers when our catcher is nearing the end of the line)

More:
1998- Drafted, but didn't sign, M.Prior and N.Logan - DID sign Drew Henson to a monster contract

1999 - Traded M.Lowell for stiffs

2003 - Traded Dreamweaver, Brozoban for Brown

And of course sprinkled in there are all the millions flushed, some of which are still in the toilet.

The Unit trade was plain awful (Vazquez, Halsey, and Navarro + 9 mil in cash + 32 mil in a n extension). But we all bought into because he was supposed to bring the Serious title. He didn't. And he won't.

But fine, let's take this off-season as the start of the "Cash-man years of control".

1) The Damon signing was an average solution to a three year problem.

2) The bullpen choices allow no room, even with 12 pitchers, for the youngsters we know are our future.

3) The back-up for 34 y.o. Posada is 36 y.o Stinnett

These are the choices of a GM in control!? They look an awful lot like 1998 to 2005.

Now, Wsport -

If the Yanks win the Serious once in the next three years, I'll eat my words and my shorts. But I don't see it happening. Sad but true. I wish it wasn't and I'll continue to cheer my hardest and buy tickets.

See, I want to win every year, and this GM isn't smart enough to realize that doing so means not giving everything to win this year.

But things could be oh so much worse -Isaiah Thomas could be our GM.

2006-02-09 03:35:11
29.   singledd
Off topic:
Damon took out a full-page newspaper advertisement in The Boston Globe....

"Many thanks to the great fans of New England and the city of Boston. It was a privilege and an honor," the ad said.

The message, written as a letter with Damon's signature at the end, is superimposed over a photo of him in action.

('In action'.... ha)

Man, this guy is really sorry he is not still on the Sox. Another guy who wanted respect (ie: millions of dollars) and jumped ship. I hope he can perform for us, between all his crying and emotional breakdowns. I, for one, would leave him in NY under a professional's care, when the Yanks go to play in Fenway.

2006-02-09 04:09:35
30.   singledd
Between 1965 and 1997 (32) years, how many times were the Yankees in the PS? What was our national 'status'? How many fans went to gaames? What was the team worth?

Between 1998 and 2005 (8) years: 8 PS appearances, 4 WS. The most known/talked about team in all of sports: 4 million fans last year: a BILLION dollars?

This seems like a pretty good run. 'Having to win every year' (not 1st place, not division champs, not AL champs... but WS victors) is a terrible burden, and does not allow for a 'long term view' of developing the team. Our GM (with George's manipulations behind the scenes) has a mandate to 'Win today, Worry tomorrow'.

With all our worries (overpaid players, aging players, a declining catcher, poor bench, other question marks) we still have managed to put a pretty exciting team on the field, with a better then equal shot at the PS.

It is easy to criticize individual moves.... but overall Cashman, et al. are getting it done. Having a 'too high' payroll helps but is never a guarantee (see Mets, many other teams). Taking the long view, I think we have had a pretty good run, and it wouldn't surprise me if (somehow) it is continued for a while longer.

High ticket prices? Sure. I just saw Billy Joel in Boston. Dinner, parking and the show cost me $230 for 2 (for a little over an hour and a half). There are just way too many people with a lot more money then me (we won't even talk about Corporate interests) who make everything decent, too expensive.

Unfortunately (in most sports), with nothing but millionaires on the field, we may soon have nothing but millionaires in the seats. Thank God Hi-Def TV prices are coming down!

2006-02-09 04:37:01
31.   DarrenF
Rob Gee,

MLB tickets are significantly less than NBA tickets. I don't know why you'd say they're comparable for the average fan.

I brought up the NBA because the NBA demonstrates that there is no direct link between payroll and ticket prices. Maybe an indirect link (high payroll = good team = high demand = high ticket prices). But your original comment seemed to suggest that you expected ticket prices to react to changes in payroll. I promise, if MLB enacted a salary cap -- or if the Yankees played Crosby in CF instead of Damon -- the savings would not be passed along to the fans.

2006-02-09 07:07:51
32.   wsporter
Rob, Don't eat your shorts, very unsavory.

Wouldn't post this if this thread weren't dead. The Bricks are a disgrace. I'm a committed fan and can't help myself but Jesus I just wish someone would walk into the Garden and tell them to stop the madness. They can't fix it on the fly in the NBA given the state of their roster and the cap position. Stop importing, it's time to take the hit. Let the dead wood rot off, bring in players slowly and SELECTIVELY. Jesus Mary and Joseph now they want K-Mart and are talking about using Frye to get him if the Nugs will throw in Nene. Great, two guys with bad knees, one a confirmed head case and locker room killer and the other his apparent apprentice. What, no amputee ax murderers available? Uncle Milty busy? (felt I had to do that)

Brian Cashman is George Weis next to the "GENIOUS" who runs the Knicks. Mentioning his name in the same sentence is an insult so I won't do it. What the hell did J. Dolan ever do to Isaiah Thomas anyway?

I have no jump shoot and I have no handle, I refuse to play D, I am completely uncoachable and am not in game shape nor do I intend to ever get there again. I am however, willing to be a team leader. I would like several million dollars. Where do I sign up?

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