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Yankee Panky # 31: Spare the rod, save the other stories
2007-11-10 15:46
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Just for kicks and giggles, I plugged the words “Alex Rodriguez Yankees” into a Google search and in .36 seconds I was alerted that 10,529 stories existed with those keywords. It was a great way to see both the local and national landscape of headlines and angles of the next phase of this story that’s dominating the offseason, and also to see how the third baseman is being painted to the populace.

An interesting bit I found came from a newspaper in a city that has one professional sports team: Sacramento. The staff of the State Hornet compiled a list of possible destinations for A-Rod (nothing outside the obvious: the Cubs, Dodgers, Angels and Giants). Now when I say “interesting” I don’t necessarily mean “good.” There was no reporting involved; each writer presented a take on why A-Rod would “definitely” land with said team. One staffer, Alicia de la Garza, wrote about A-Rod going to the Angels and somehow forgot that he spent three years dwelling in the AL West basement with Texas before going to the Yankees.

“After playing seven years for the New York Yankees, third baseman Alex Rodriguez has opted out of his $252 million, 10-year contract. I need to take a timeout for a second.“

The timeout needed to be taken before that lead sentence was written. (I know I’m not perfect — my gaffe regarding the Girardi press conference last week was a bonehead move — but to make that basic of an error on the lead sentence of a story? It’s indicative of a lack of fact-checking in the industry.)

Anyway, spending the rest of this post to pick apart mistakes in other columns is not the goal here. What I found interesting was that Sacramento cared at all what happened to A-Rod.

Some other notes from the Land of the Obvious:

  • The Yankees need a third baseman.
  • A bidding war needs two teams. (Hundreds of stories had that theme. How does that happen?)
  • MLBPA No. 2 Gene Orza accused NY Times columnist Murray Chass of being an enabler of collusion based on his Wednesday column, which featured close to a third of the league’s GM’s speaking on the record regarding their interest — or lack thereof — in Alex Rodriguez.
  • As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the buzz has Joe Torre leaving open the possibility of Rodriguez becoming “LA-Rod.”

Brian Cashman Quote of the Week:
"I understand why people are asking. I'd ask. For the most part, we're going to try to stay the course and build around our young pitching as we move forward. But talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words, so let's see where I'm standing come February."

This is classic Cash. He maintained the same even keel two years ago regarding Bubba Crosby and the center field position, and then right before the New Year, Johnny Damon was signed. In other words, don't rule out the big splash. The reporters haven't. They just haven't set up the possibility of it like they have in years past.

From what I've read, viewed and heard, we’re no further along in the A-Rod proceedings. To follow up on Bruce Markusen’s Abbott and Costello theme from yesterday’s “Third Base Derby” post, “I Don’t Know” actually is the third baseman. What we do know, though, is that it will be difficult to search for information on the topic that we either didn’t already know or project as far back as six weeks ago, when midges changed the momentum of the Yankees-Indians series.

Here's to a week of attending to real important business with the Yankees, like negotiating with Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Those stories will come out from hiding in the next few days. 

Comments
2007-11-10 19:45:41
1.   Ken Arneson
Well, coincidentally, "I Don't Know" is also penciled in as the third baseman for the Sacramento River Cats.

Last year's third baseman, Lou Merloni, is a free agent. And turning 37 years old.

Jeff Baisley is the leading candidate, but he had a .716 OPS in AA at age 24, which leaves River Cats fans like Yankee fans wondering if their organization's GM can pull off a big splash and fill the hot corner.

ARod is the first domino to fall in a series of moves that will fill third base positions across baseball. So of course, they're interested in what ARod does in Sacramento!

2007-11-10 20:00:59
2.   yankz
1 If Arod signs a minor league deal, it's definitely with the Toledo Mud Hens.
2007-11-10 21:04:32
3.   DadinIowa
I think it is fascinating that Arod may have dramatically increased the value of Cabrera and Lowell. If Cabrera goes to LAA and Lowell resigns with the Sox, will there be two more teams bidding against each other for Arod's services? I guess only time will tell.

Reading all the blogs, I must hold a minority view on the state of the Bombers. I strongly believe that they are best off keeping all three of the Rookies, including IPK, keeping Melky (he has value as Cano's buddy over and above his skills), and finding an internal solution for 3rd base.

The young pitchers can strengthen the bullpen, IPK, Hughes, Jobba can fill at least two spots in the starting rotation; and Wilson/Phillips can man 3rd adequately (no worse than Brosis).

I am so concerned that they will trade Melky and end up with another 30+ year old outfielder in his place, and affect Cano's production.

We don't need to trade for/sign aging "stars". We can develop our own.

2007-11-10 21:22:42
4.   yankz
3 You think his dances with Cano have more value than his throwing arm? Is Melky+Cano+Secret Handshakes> A sad Cano+Miguel Cabrera?

Betemit/Phillips would probably be below average. Brosius was below average. Not a good idea to rely on them, not when nobody in the lineup is expected to improve save Cano (and maybe Melky, though he didn't last year).

People are trying to spin the Pro-Miggy faction as Anti-Prospects/Anti-Pitching. That's just not fair. The Yankees just lost the best player in the game, might lose the best hitting catcher of 2007, and probably just lost its second best (and most reliable in terms of IP) starter. Just making the playoffs will be tough unless something big happens.

2007-11-11 03:45:30
5.   OldYanksFan
What usually wins is a team that is very strong and balanced. Last year, the Yankees had a ++ offense, but an average- pitching.

What we need is + offense and + pitching.
So replacing ARod in kind is NOT as important as keeping/improving our pitching. Better defense can't hurt either.

Question. If we get a league average (on offense) 3rd baseman, and Po comes back, do we still have a + offense? Is so, sould we trade pitching for more offense?

I think because of the last 4 years, we are addicted to offense. The ARod/Giambi/Sheff/Matsui thing was sooooooo nice. We were feared! But our pitching ERA+ was still below average. Is this the model we want to continue to pursue?

2007-11-11 05:05:25
6.   RIYank
5 Maybe, but if you can get a ++ hitter, say, by giving away a merely + pitcher, you still have to do that.
Oh, with a league-avg 3B and Posada, yes, we still definitely have a + offense. It could still be ++ (by which I mean, top three or four in MLB), if the rest of the team performs like they did last year.

I see that nobody besides me is worried by this:

tinyurl.com/2qxdoo

The Tampa Bay XXXXX Rays have new uniforms! Uh oh.

2007-11-11 05:42:13
7.   monkeypants
I'm not convinced this team wil have a "plus" offense if they stand pat and replace A-Rod with league average 3B (see 5 )--assume a + offesne is top 10, a - offesne is middle 10, and an average offense is middle 10.

First, the league average 3B (LA3B) hit .784 OPS this year (a number which A-Rod himself inflated some). So, an "average" 3B last year hit just about the same as Tejada, or a tad better. What LA3B are even available? If the Tejada is the second best option at third (as was posited a couple of threads ago), then it is quite likely that the team will be settling for sub-average production from the position next year.

But indeed, let's assume that the LA3B is brought in. Posada's numbers will decline next year, either because he leaves or because of regression. Matsui will probably decline, and he will also likely gum up a good deal of the DH spot, where he will be a less than average producer. 1B was a sinkhole last year, and it will only improve (it seems) if Giambi comes back to full strength and plays a number of games there (as Cashman claims). Damon will hit below average for a LF. Jeter will hit about the same (his overall numbers were quite consistent with his career numbers--he was just streakier last year). Who knows what Abreu will provide in RF next year.

I expect Cano to hit the same or better (which is very good), and I expect Melky to be about the same (OK for a CF, but not great). I don't expect freaky miracles like Duncan hitting a ton of HRs or Minky-of-the-last-three-weeks to be reborn. Overall, I see a lot of soft spots in this lineup.

The offense will be average, but I'm not sure it will be plus. This is not solely because of the loss of A-Rod--the loss of one player does nto have that much of impact. But last year's offense was floated in large part by two remarkable performances, neither of which will be repeated next season.

2007-11-11 05:54:34
8.   JL25and3
7 I agree. It's not at all clear to me that the Yankees have a + offense next year - and certainly not for the year after. I think they have a better chance of having a + rotation, even after trading Kennedy, and especially if they resign Pettitte: Hughes, Chamberlain, Wang, Pettitte and Mussina would make the rotation the strongest part of their team.

But right now there are holes at 1b and 3b; Giambi, Damon, and Matsui have all shown some signs of decline, and are a year older now; Posada won't ever repeat last year, and may well turn old in a hurry; Abreu and Giambi are gone after next year. I don't see a + offense as anything like a sure thing, and within the next couple of years they're going to have a lot of players to replace. Frankly, a young offensive anchor - even if he's 1b/dh within a couple of years - seems more important to me right now than a fourth starter.

2007-11-11 08:11:53
9.   RIYank
To have one of the top ten offenses this past year, a team had to score 800 runs.
Do you guys 7 8 really think the Yankees will score under 800 runs in 2008? That would be very surprising.
2007-11-11 09:13:16
10.   yankz
9 There are 14 teams in the AL. The Yankees should settle for top 10?

Falling from 1st to 10th would probably coincide with falling from 2nd in the division to 3rd.

2007-11-11 09:16:11
11.   yankz
7 Also, I fully agree with monkeypants. The only truly elite hitters were Arod and Posada, and both might be gone. Everyone else will probably fall into the 95-125 OPS+ range, and who knows how their replacements would do. Definitely a significant dropoff. Like I said the other day, IMO people are overrating this offense.
2007-11-11 09:26:42
12.   RIYank
10 Not the AL. MLB. I was taking the "top ten" specification of the rather vague "+ offense" from monkeypants 7 .

So, I couldn't tell from what you said, whether you do believe that the Yankees' offensive production will fall below 800 runs this year.

2007-11-11 09:35:29
13.   yankz
Well, I don't think they'll fall that much, but according to Pythagoras, in order for an 800 run team to win 95 games, they can only give up 672. Which means the Yankees' RA/G would have to fall 0.65. Do you think the pitching and defense will be so improved that they'll give up 0.65 RA/G less? I don't, so they better not let the total runs fall anywhere near 800.
2007-11-11 09:35:43
14.   rilkefan
11 Sure, assuming Posada's gone and we have a replacement-level third baseman and Abreu doesn't regress up and a couple of other bad things happen, the offense won't be great.
2007-11-11 09:43:58
15.   JL25and3
14 I expect Abreu to improve over last year, but I can't really see anyone else I expect that from.

1 Lou Merloni is available???? What are we witing for?!!

2007-11-11 09:44:17
16.   yankz
14 So in other words, the Yankees can't afford to have a replacement level 3B. Which means, as multiple people have said, they probably have to make a trade.

Why would Abreu improve? He hasn't for four years now.

Are the old and oft-injured Damon, Matsui, and Giambi supposed to improve? Or Jeter, who showed his age for the first time towards the end of last year? Or Posada (if re-signed), who played way above his career averages (thanks to a BABIP 50 points higher than usual) and is an old catcher?

Someone has to make up for Arod's production. Cano, Wang, and 3 rookies can only do so much.

2007-11-11 09:44:40
17.   RIYank
No, I do not expect the pitching and defense to improve to 672 runs-against.

I am not in favor of changing the emphasis to pitching at the cost of hitting. But I was responding to the question of whether the Yankees have a "+ offense" without A-Rod. I said they do. But not a "++ offense".

2007-11-11 09:46:17
18.   OldYanksFan
MLBRumors.com - Re: Santana
The Yankees will certainly be in on him. Davidoff says a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and a prospect wouldn't cut it, even though those players are very valuable. The Twins are one of few teams that actually feel good about their pitching, so the focus is on acquiring a star position player. With that in mind, they'd demand Robinson Cano from the Yankees.
2007-11-11 09:47:36
19.   yankz
18 Then hell no.
2007-11-11 09:48:46
20.   RIYank
Huh.
Who's going to give up a star position player for Santana? I predict that the Twins will end up keeping him and he'll hit the FA market like a cannonball.
2007-11-11 09:50:52
21.   yankz
18 A little lower it says the Yanks are looking at Shoppach.
2007-11-11 10:32:21
22.   OldYanksFan
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/10/sports/baseball/10rhoden.html?ref=baseball
Can anyone else relate?
I wonder if NoMass has Pettitte chalked up as another Torre loss.
2007-11-11 10:32:51
23.   Mattpat11
Pete Abe thinks Pettitte is done.

This is getting fugly.

2007-11-11 10:33:24
24.   OldYanksFan
19 Glad to hear that. I'd love Santana, but there are limits. I don't mind seeing how good our kids can be.
2007-11-11 10:41:09
25.   monkeypants
23 Well, that was always the risk when they lured him out of near-retirement with a two-year deal with a player option. It'll be very hard to replace those innings; the 110 ERA+ is not SO great of a loss.

If he really is finished, then one hopes the team:

1. Disavows any notion of moving Joba to the pen.
2. Thinks very hard before trading any pitching depth (IPK is now the #4 starter at worst).
3. Thinks long and hard about using next season as a true transition year and plnning more seriously for 2009.

2007-11-11 10:49:15
26.   yankz
24 Cano has a great shot at being the best 2B in the league for a while, on both sides of the ball. Like we've said, he's the only guy in the lineup who should be expected to improve. And he's cheap for a few more years. I think he should be untouchable.
2007-11-11 11:41:34
27.   rilkefan
16 "So in other words, the Yankees can't afford to have a replacement level 3B"

Well, entirely inaccurate words, but whatever.

SG at RLYW says:
"If they retain Posada and replace Rodriguez with Betemit/Ensberg I'd probably put them at 890 runs or so"

As to Abreu, he says:
"Abreu's baseline CAIRO projection on offense expects a bounceback from last season"

So, again, if a lot of bad things happen the Yankees offense will be hurt. Duh.

2007-11-11 11:54:08
28.   yankz
27 Yeah, keep ignoring the rest of the post and 8 .

Picking up Ensberg- hmm, sounds a lot like a trade (unless he isn't offered a contract). Which is exactly what people have been advocating. The in-house solutions aren't going to cut it.

"So, again, if a lot of bad things happen the Yankees offense will be hurt. Duh. "

No. The offense has already been hurt. Duh. (See? I can be 9 years old too!)

A lot of good things-i.e. Posada repeating his unusually high BABIP, Cano improving (though he didn't last year), Melky improving (though he didn't last year), and Jeter/Matsui/Damon/Giambi avoiding the injuries that bugged them last year- for the Yankees to approach last year's offensive production. Shelley Duncan replacing Mink's AB is a start. Getting a 3B who doesn't hit like a RP vs. lefties is probably next on Cash's to-do list.

2007-11-11 13:14:35
29.   rilkefan
28 Your powers of selective (mis)reading are impressive. You say: if x, y, and z then a. Others say, not a if not (x, y, and z). You say others say not a.

Eh, why bother.

2007-11-11 13:30:40
30.   jonm
25
Given what you say in (3.), where do Rivera and Posada fit in? Do they have a role on a strong contending team in 2009? That is a genuinely tough call.
2007-11-11 13:38:22
31.   yankz
29 And you continue to be condescending while completely missing the point. That's far more impressive.

If things stay the same, or follow the most logical, predictable course (i.e. players past their primes do worse), the Yankee offense has been hurt. No way around that. I hope Cashman doesn't rely on luck and unprecedented improvements as much as you do.

2007-11-11 13:40:02
32.   monkeypants
30 In 2009, probably. Beyond 2009, the chances decrease. However, the more 2008 looks like a write off, the team must chose between two opposite pulls: either (over)spend to plug gaps, or refuse to (over)spend to keep players. In other words, if 2008 is lost, it may not be as worth it to make hard plays for Mo and Jorge.

You're right, a genuinely tough call.

2007-11-11 14:10:08
33.   jonm
32 It's interesting how this will play out over the next few weeks. Right now, the Yankees are handicapped by not knowing what Pettitte is going to do. Replacing Pettitte and A-Rod is probably too much.
Meanwhile Mo and Posada are going to hit the market. I guess, if I were in the Yankees' shoes, I would make high reasonable offers to both of them. If another team beats those offers, don't raise the offers, and let them go, if, at that time, it looks like Pettitte is gone and the cost of replacing A-Rod is still prohibitively high.
2007-11-11 15:27:02
34.   OldYanksFan
Seeing as how much has come off the books, and how much comes off next year, overspending should NOT be a big issue. The issue is getting the type of talent we need.. not if it costs X or 1.2X.

If Po come back, in 2008, our offense =
minus: All of ARod
minus: some of Po
plus:: ARods replacement
plus:: Maybe Melky, Cano, Giambi

Everyone else should be similar. Mats, JD, Jetes, Abreu all have average type years... maybe a little below average. Po is the only one who played way over his head.

So if you figure the MinusPO = PlusNewGuyat3rd, our net loss = ARod.
So how many runs did we score last year?
How many was ARod directly responsible for?
Subtract those and you get 2008 +/-.

Is my logic flawed?
If we beef up the pen, we should have a much better RA, considering how bad the 1st half of 2007 was.

It's not a killer team, but one of the better ones. If we can actually get a + player at 1st and/or 3rd, we should be in good shape.

Personally, I want Bonds. He will put us over the top. His bat at cleanup changes the whole dynamic to how they pitch to the 3 spot, what the 5 spot will see, and the runs Bonds will produce.

2007-11-11 15:41:13
35.   monkeypants
34 You're more optimistic than I am about Melky, Matsui, JD and Abreu.

Giambi is realy the wildcard. Whenever I write him off, he comes back strong. Whenever I argue he should start, he gets hurt or slumps. I guess that I have run out of patience/faith with him.

If he comes back, he must either hit ferociously as the DH (and thus drive Matsui/JD to the bench), or hit well enought o play 1B. The latter is preferrable, but is it realistic? If not, then Giambi comes back as the DH and teh team STILL has a hole a 1B. And, whatever improvement you expect from Matsui/JD will be mitigated because at least one of the three will have to ride the pine.

2007-11-11 17:05:23
36.   OldYanksFan
35 The point is things could go either way. I though Melky, Matsui, JD and Abreu all had idsappointing years. Maybe Melky has hit his peak but certainly Mats, JD and Abreu could be better. I'm not predicting it, but it wouldn't be that big a surprise.

My point is that our O production should be around 2007 minus ARod. And I believe Cash will add a bat of 2. Bonds puts us back to being a (not the) top offensive team (assuming we sign Po).

There is a lot of money. Next year Moose, Giambi, Pavlov come off the books. After 2009, our payroll (not counting any big signings) should be under 100m. We have money to spend. Cashman will not sit on his hands. Hopefully, like the last 2 years, he will not overspend on duds, but wait for 'worthy' FAs.

The key will really be how good our young arms are.

2007-11-11 20:49:43
37.   rilkefan
NYT: "Posada, the Yankees catcher, said he was "really close" to signing a new contract."

Guess 890 RS is our baseline. Too bad Ensberg will cost us Joba.

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