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Yankee Panky #33: Home and Away
2007-11-27 09:20
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Thanksgiving holiday — figure it lasts from the Wednesday before the holiday through the Monday after the actual feast — marks a boom time for shoppers and retailers. The same can be said for the Hot Stove season. Sometimes, major deals are made on or near the holiday, like Curt Schilling and the Red Sox four years ago. Other teams use the day as point to measure where they are, what they’ve done to relieve themselves of the season past and assess what needs to be done to shape the coming season’s roster.

The Yankees are in great shape for 2008. And by most accounts, the coverage has leaned toward that conclusion. A-Rod is returning, and the two major free-agent questions have been answered, with Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera signed through 2011 and 2010, respectively.

Viewing the proceedings from afar in Charlotte, N.C., for the past week, I was struck by the complete lack of interest in baseball outside the bounds of the New York metro area. It’s 24/7 football and basketball, college and pro, and 6-12 page sections on local high school playoffs as their fall seasons come to an end. Major League Baseball is covered, but it’s a compilation of AP stories piled into maybe 500 words, with a lead with bare-bones information. No nuts, no bolts, no meat, no potatoes. Not even gravy. 

I understand that as an editor, local stories always national. You have to cater to your audience. In the South, football is a year-round sport much like baseball is for us here in New York. Chris Russo got it right when he said New York is a baseball town. It’s nothing for a baseball story to knock football, hoops or hockey off the back pages, even in the offseason. I can’t describe the relief I felt when perusing the New York papers to see story headers like "JOBA NOT A LOCK TO START."

In other words, we should be thankful that one way or another, it’s always baseball season. Next stop for the Yankees: Christmas shopping at the Winter Meetings.

TALKING TURKEY
Wrapping up 2007 and looking ahead to ’08, who were the biggest turkeys and why? Below are my picks. Agree or challenge in your comments.

1) Scott Boras: That pre-World Series-ending opt-out didn’t work out so well for the self-proclaimed "superagent." After Kenny Rogers, let’s see how many more dominoes fall.

2) Alex Rodriguez: For going along with the Dossier Master and then pulling the old boomerang move. I’m still undecided whether the situation kills the Yankees’ credibility, makes A-Rod look like a buffoon or both. The bottom line is that from a revenue perspective, they both need each other.

3) Steve Swindal: Not a good year for The Artist Formerly Known As Joe Torre’s Bigest Backer Within The Organization. DUI, divorce, and banishment from the franchise has left the two Hs to carry on.

4) Hank Steinbrenner and Randy Levine (tie): For the public relations mess that ensued from the Joe Torre "negotiation," and spurning Don Mattingly. This will be the first year since 2002 that Don Mattingly is not around for Old Timer’s Day. Not that that’s important, but clearly, there will be a void.

Next week … A different take on the Winter Meetings

Comments
2007-11-27 10:10:08
1.   OldYanksFan
Quite honestly, I hate the current way FAs are handled, and the money first attitude that is so prevalent in MLB. That said:

1) Scott Boras: In a world where a few guys can knock down 3 pointers with regularity, Boras is shooting for 4 pointers! Again, I hate his impact on baseball, but if you look at his job and consider his only alligence is to his client, I gotta give the guy credit. He has huge balls. He aims very high, so he's gonna miss some. I don't like him, but I respect him. My guess is that what ultimately happened was covered in one of his many contigency plans.

2) Alex Rodriguez: I believe his personal dynamic (needing a father figure), his desire to 'make the most' and his long standing relationship with Boras, ultimately had him being lead around by his nose. ARod is in a VERY unique position. It's hard to judge him by normal baseball standards. He's a bit of a schmuck sometimes, but I like the guy and have a lot of respect for him. His positives far outweigh his negatives.

3) Steve Swindal: If by Turkey you mean Loser, he is king of the heap. I hope I don't meet him serving me my next burger at McDonalds.

4) Hank Steinbrenner and Randy Levine (tie):
I am/was a big Torre fan, but I'm glad to have 'Little Joe' at the reigns. In terms of Mo, Po, Andy and ARod, I didn't think it was worth taking any chances, and would have kept Joe this year just to avoid a potential disaster. As it turned out, I think it just cost of a few mil$.

Joe G. was the right managerial choice. Losing Donnie is horrible, but it was his choice to go. We couldn't let him manage just to keep him from leaving. Maybe the Steinettes could have dangled a carrot that would have kept him in pinstripes, but I think he was just a casuality of the situation.

I think there were a bunch of screwups all around this group, but somehow we came out of it smelling pretty good.

2007-11-27 10:13:43
2.   mehmattski
I'm inclined to hand a turkey to Mr. Mariano Rivera, for his unreasonable contract demands.

Also, how soon we forget the perennial turkey winner, Carl Pavano.

Finally:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3129805

For as much as I dumped on the guy yesterday, if Prior is truly available and likely to pitch in 2008, I wouldn't mind shipping Brett Gardner (the Cubs like those speedy no power types) or Alann Horne over for him. Talk about a buy-low scenario.

2007-11-27 10:23:11
3.   markp
Horne is a lot better prospect than Gardner is. I'd put him in the same untouchable class as the big three (Kennedy, Hughes, and Joba). I'd add Betances to that list as well.
2007-11-27 10:26:52
4.   Shaun P
Other Turkeys:

Scott Proctor's right arm - though, in fairness, its not his fault

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - I can't wait to see them compete with that Hunter/Matthews OF in 2010. (BTW, isn't Juan Rivera now a likely non-tender? I'd love to see the Yanks scoop him back up; he's a RHB power bat.)

Special non-baseball division: Eli Manning, and I don't think I need to explain why.

2 Why not wait and see what happens? If the Cubs don't want to go to arbitration with Prior, they'll non-tender him, and then he's available for just $$$. If they do go to arbitration, they might be willing to deal him for next to nothing, else they're stuck paying him.

2007-11-27 10:33:25
5.   Shaun P
Oh, and a special early turkey to the BBWAA for (almost certainly) not inducting Rock Raines on the first ballot, and for (likely) failing to induct Bert Blyleven again.
2007-11-27 10:34:03
6.   bp1
I'd give Joe Torre a little turkey and gravy as well, due to his "woe is me" act upon leaving, talking about insults and what not. We learned later that incentives were built into his contracts all along, so why now the insult? I just think he liked George but didn't like the kids or Randy Levine. I think he got his nose bent out of shape when he didn't get his way. I have a lot of respect for Joe Torre, as everyone does of course, but the bad taste of his departure is not all due to the Yankee Brass. Joe added some spice of his own.
2007-11-27 10:41:17
7.   mehmattski
3 I do agree that Horne will probably end up being better than Ian Kennedy some day. I was just using Horne as an example, as someone lower on the prospect totem pole.

Just a few years ago, someone like Horne would be the guy that everybody demanded from the Yankees. Now, he's the fourth best pitching prospect. Hopefully, the cornucopia extends to position players soon, with AJax, Tabata, and Hilligoss. If the Yankees continue to use their resources to pump money into amateur draft signing bonuses and Latin American scouting, the rest of the league should be very, very afraid.

(The Players Union should also be concerned, because if the Yankees stop signing free agents, how will contracts continue to be insane?)

2007-11-27 11:13:32
8.   RichB
6 I agree Torre deserves some Turkey for that reaction. But, if I were him, I still wouldn't have taken that contract, even if I was okay with the incentives. A one year contract would have been hell to deal with - every interview would start with a question about whether he felt his job was in jeopardy this week, the veterans who don't always see eye to eye with him would be more apt to cause trouble for him... it would be the Bronx Zoo all over again.
2007-11-27 11:14:55
9.   markp
mehmattski
I agree that we're heading in the right direction as far as player acquisition. That we're willing to put so much of our resources into this is great news for us and bad news for the teams unwilling to do so (a shrinking list, BTW-the Tigers are a very good example of a supposed small market team using big bucks in the draft, etc.)
I have a feeling Horne's going to be in the bigs by August and be a factor down the stretch.

So far, everything has been almost perfect from my viewpoint: no more Torre, Arod et al back, and Girardi and Eiland in the two key coaching positions. All that's left is getting Pettitte back and not trading for Santana or Bedard or anybody else.
(As far as the BP goes, if Girardi can't build a solid BP out of all the young arms and returning vets, a lot of us were dead wrong about him.)

2007-11-27 11:16:20
10.   RichB
0 6 8 Actually, the whole Torre fiasco could have been avoided if either party had been willing to step up to the plate and negotiate. Hank & Hal threw down a hard-line offer, Torre flatly refused it, Hank & Hal didn't ask him twice. Either of them could have stopped and chatted for a few minutes and asked if there was any room for discussion on the terms.
2007-11-27 11:18:39
11.   Raf
7 I don't think the Yankees are the reason for insane contracts, especially the recent ones.

I can't pin the blame for the ARod, Bonds, Belle, Brown, Bonilla, etc. contracts on the Yankees.

Granted, they've made some mistakes, but contracts like Pavano, Wright and Womack were right around "market" value.

2007-11-27 11:44:09
12.   monkeypants
0 6 8 10 et al.

Dead horse for Thanksgiving?

; )

2007-11-27 11:57:40
13.   Andre
For all those against trading for Santana (I'm not sure where I fall on this one yet), how would you feel if the Red Sox got him this year? Does that mean the Yanks have no shot for the division (or the WS for that matter)? I love our young guys too but I can't feel confident that Wang, Pettitte (if we're lucky), Hughes, Joba, IPK can really compete with Beckett, Santana, Schrill, Dice K, Julian Tavares (assuming they give up Lester & Buchholz to get Santana).

The whole talk about getting Santana is intoxicating, but those kind of flashy pitcher trades/acquisitions never seem to work for the Yanks, yet they did work for the Sox in the case of Beckett/Lowell, Dice K, Schrill.

2007-11-27 11:58:02
14.   ny2ca2dc
2 I wouldn't send Horne for Prior, no way. Maybe one of the lesser pitchers, or Gardner.

However...

3 Horne really is a rung below the top three. Really though, It's Joba followed by Hughes, then a sizable jump down to Kennedy, and another sizable jump down to Horne. However, per the recent linkages to that gotham baseball podcast with (who was it?) some BA guy, Horne has a much better fastball than common knowledge. More like mid-90's than low. So we may be seeing Horne as a set up type this year. Don't think Joba-level, but maybe Proctor 06 quality (and that's nothing to sneeze at).

2007-11-27 12:18:52
15.   markp
in re Red Sox getting Sanatana:
I can't see Theo trading that many blue chips for a pitcher who's been drifting down the past three years and who's comps in baseball-reference were almost all finished (or very nearly so) by age 33.
We've tried that before-Rick Rhoden and a great many others were gotten for less than what we're talking about giving up now.
Let's keep the kids and build our own stars.
2007-11-27 13:18:30
16.   YankeeInMichigan
13 Beckett/Lowell was a disaster the first year (especially since Ramirez was ROY and Sanchez pitched a no-hitter). The second year, they made Epstein look like a genius. Since they won the WS, it doesn't matter what happens afterwards. Dice-K "worked out" in that he was a good enough #3 to push them over the edge and win the WS. But when they spent $101 million, I don't think they had a #3 in mind. A World Championship forgives all blunders, but if Dice-K regresses over the next five years, this acquisition will look pretty bad. Schilling worked out, but that was a pretty high-percentage move. And the Yankees can boast a number of successful "flashy pitcher trades/acquistions" of their own: Clemens, Cone, Mussina (good for the first few years), El Duque (the first time)
2007-11-27 14:00:28
17.   JL25and3
15 Rick Rhoden was never Johan Santana. In terms of Yankee trades, the closest comp was probably Clemens I, and that didn't work out so badly.

I'm not sure if you're looking at the overall comps at B-R or the comps through age 28. The overall comps aren't appropriate; those are guys whose entire careers match Santana's numbers now.

Of the age-28 comps, the top two are still active, and a number of the others had long and productive careers. I'm still not convinced that they're all good comps, because they didn't have the kind of peak performance that Santana has had over the last few years. For another sort of comp, I'll bet pitchers with 2 or more Cy Youngs do pretty well.

2007-11-27 14:32:48
18.   YankeeInMichigan
17 Pedro Martinez is a pretty good comp (I realize that there are those who claim that righties and lefties age differently), as he won Cy Young awards at ages 25, 27 and 28. After that:
- Age 29: Injured nearly half the season
- Age 30: Cy Young contender
- Age 31: Cy Young contender, missed 4 starts
- Age 32: Strong but not dominant (3.90 ERA)
- Age 33: Strong but not dominant (2.82 ERA in NL)
- Age 34: Missed 10 starts, #3-quality (4.48 ERA)
- Age 35: Missed most of season

A 6-7 year extension for Santana will almost certainly be funding his decline years. Would it still be worthwhile for the first 5 years?

2007-11-27 14:34:01
19.   Andre
16 - maybe I should have said that the Yank's flashy pitcher moves haven't worked out over the past 5-7 yrs. Was Mussina the last one that did work out? And how well did it work out? The Yanks haven't won the series with him. I would think you have to rate any move a success if it helps you win the world series, even if the rest of the life of the contract is a disaster. You don't necessarily have to categorize Mussina as a failure since he didn't help win the Series, but I'm not sure you could classify the Mussina move a success unless you consider he helped the team contend for the length of his contract.
2007-11-27 15:25:29
20.   JL25and3
18 Sure, Pedro could be a good comp. Of course, Greg Maddux could work just as well.
2007-11-27 15:55:24
21.   Simone
I would love the Yankees to take a chance on Prior as they need as much pitching as they can get, but he didn't want to come to NY so maybe he still doesn't want to play for the Yankees.

19 Exactly. DiceK helped the Red Sox win the World Series so that contract has worked out no matter what happens at the back end.

2007-11-27 16:12:07
22.   Mattpat11
21 Mark Prior is the classic "smash your head against the ball" baseball that I think the Yankees should avoid at all costs.
2007-11-27 16:44:40
23.   JL25and3
22 Oh, but Matt, it would give you someone else you could really, really hate. Isn't that worth blowing a prospect or two on?
2007-11-27 16:49:30
24.   Mattpat11
23 In some ways, yes.
2007-11-27 21:02:07
25.   Adrian
Ship them the Professor. (Aside -- I'm going to make that nickname for Farnsworth stick, goddamnit.) If we can get him for a fart in the breeze, do it.

"With my last breath, I curse Zoidberg!"

2007-11-27 23:26:59
26.   markp
Santana's comps through age 28:
1. Tim Hudson (949) active
2. Roy Oswalt (940) active
3. John Candelaria (935) A bit of a hiccup at age 26, but otherwise a brilliant pitcher until age 30 then he was below league average.
4. Juan Pizarro (931) A terrific pitcher through age 27, then not so much
5. Bob Welch (929) A great pitcher through age 30 and had a couple of solid years at 33 and 34 then he was below league average.
6. Mike Mussina (928)I'm a big fan, but his last really good year was at age 32.
7. Kevin Appier (927) Another guy who was brilliant until he hit 30, then he was anything but.
8. Jack McDowell (921) Solid until he got to be 30.
9. Kevin Millwood (915) Two outstanding years and one very good one. Since he's turned 30 he's been less than league average.
10. Sid Fernandez (915) Another guy who was brilliant through age 30 then hung on for a few years before retiring.

I didn't pick who the comps were, baseballreference.com did. I don't completely agree with all of them, but the vast majority of those guys aren't really that much different than Johann, and almost every one was done being anywhere near great before their 31st birthday.

Whoever said Pedro Martinez is a good comp should take a closer look at their respective stats. Santana's highest ERA+ is 182. Pedro had a seven year stretch when he averaged 200. Pedro is light years ahead of Santana (and almost everybody else.)

Santana's numbers have declined a bit every year since 2003, especially his WHIP and his HRs allowed. He isn't nearly worth the king's ransom the Twins are demanding and is just as likely going to be the next John Candelaria or Juan Pizarro (one of my favorite pitchers to watch way back when) as he is to become David Cone II.

2007-11-28 04:47:56
27.   Mattpat11
25 Worthless is a fine nickname.
2007-11-28 09:06:10
28.   Raf
21 Are you referring to the draft? I think the problem there was they couldn't agree on $$?

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