Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Monthly archives: January 2005


Putting the Me in Mean
2005-01-31 08:28
by Alex Belth

Bob Klapisch recently visited Alex Rodriguez in Miami and was invited to join the Yankee third baseman's morning work out routine. Needless to say, Klapisch was left gasping for air, and impressed with Rodriguez's drive. Further, he writes that, like Giambi, Rodriguez has a need to be liked. But, in a meeting with George Steinbrenner last week, Rodriguez was encouraged to worry less about being accepted in the Yankee clubhouse and concentrate on developing an edge, a mean-streak:

Steinbrenner told Rodriguez it was no longer necessary to defer to Jeter. Even though he rarely ventures into the clubhouse anymore, The Boss nevertheless zeroed in on the Jeter-A-Rod dynamic: It's Rodriguez who has sought Jeter's approval, not the other way around.

..."This is still Jeter's team because he's the captain, but my approach is not to be everyone's best friend," Rodriguez said. "My approach is to win championships. The only way to do that is to be myself, and to take care of my world. With my talent people will follow naturally."

Watching the Yankees last year, it was obvious that Rodriguez deferred to Derek Jeter. While Jeter is the captain and a Yankee icon, Rodriguez is the superior player. If he needs to channel the inner-Reggie in him to play his best ball, so be it. It'd be sure to make the newspapers happy, but if winning is really the only important thing in Yankeeland, the end result will most likely make Yankee fans pleased too.

The Elephant in the Yankee Clubhouse
2005-01-31 08:12
by Alex Belth

Tyler Kepner has an extensive profile on Jason Giambi in the New York Times today. According to Kepner, Giambi is a player who sincerely cares what people think about him. This leads Kepner to wonder how Giambi's nice-guy personality with react to the jeering he will hear from fans everywhere in 2005:

When games start, he will face a season-long test of his mental makeup. Fans will be ruthless, and Giambi will care what they think.

"That's both a strength and a weakness for him," said Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. "When you're a major league player, it can be a character flaw. But it's not a character flaw as a human being. He's a good guy, and if it affects him, that's because he does care."

Will he run into trouble in the Yankee clubhouse?

"Jason's a nice guy," said Yankees reliever Mike Stanton, who was Giambi's teammate in 2002. "He's very personable, he's intelligent, he's got a good personality. I would think it would be tough for somebody to hold a long-term grudge on somebody you liked before it started.

"I'm not saying it can't happen, but I think most of his teammates would probably say they just want him to get healthy."

From a distance, former teammate Tony Clark thinks Giambi will pull through:

"The same commitment he had that made him a superstar in our game will be the driving force behind him excelling again," Clark, who now plays for Arizona, said in an e-mail message. "It won't be easy, but anything worth its weight usually isn't. My hope for him is that through all of the adversity, he finds the strength he needs to have to be a contributor on the field and the inner peace to persevere off of it. I know he can do it."

Jason Giambi, this is your life.

Sic Em
2005-01-28 14:20
by Alex Belth

Jay Jaffe, the Peter Finch of baseball bloggers, looks at what the Yankees have done this off-season, and well, it makes him sick. Dayn Perry thinks the Bombers have done a poor job too, and I know that Steven Goldman, Cliff Corcoran and Larry Mahnken aren't wild about what's been going on in the Bronx either. But nobody goes for the jugular quite like Jaffe. Kick em in the grill, Jay.

Giambo Speaks! (Sort of)
2005-01-28 09:18
by Alex Belth

I got a late start this morning and the sun was up by the time I was walking east on 231st street to the subway. The streets looked virtually white in the sunshine. As clusters of people waddled their way down the street, wonderfully long and narrow shadows were cast behind them. The shadows must have been three or four times longer than a persons actual size. When I got on the train, I read a bit in the Times about Jason Giambi. Talk about a guy with a long shadow. According to Tyler Kepner:

Giambi has finally made contact with Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman.

"I've had good conversations with him," Cashman said yesterday. "He's doing well, working hard, and all his medicals are good. We're looking forward to him returning and having a lot to prove."

In other Yankee news--and boy, there hasn't been much to talk about in the past few weeks--utility man Damian Rolls has been offered a minor-league contract, and the team is close to offering a similar deal to Doug Glanville, to serve as a back up outfielder.

Minky Dinky Dog
2005-01-27 08:35
by Alex Belth

Carlos Delgado goes to the Fish unt the Mets get Minky. Happy?

Soul Train
2005-01-26 13:36
by Alex Belth

On the way home yesterday evening, I was listening to my walkman and reading print-outs from Baseball Prospectus on the 1 train, when, at 86th street, I heard a commotion. It was coming from my left so I pulled the left earphone away from my ear and I heard a man talking loudly, and sternly. Like many New Yorkers, I’ve grown numb to the pleas of panhandlers (and there are far fewer homeless people on the trains than there was ten, fifteen years ago). Sometimes I listen to their stories and give them some change, sometimes I don’t. I’m more inclined to dig into my pockets to the musicians who make their way through the cars.
A middle-aged, dark skinned man stood in the middle of the train. He had a beard, and was missing several teeth. He wore a wool cap and a large sweater, and had a fanny back strapped to his waist. A clear, plastic bag dangled from his right hand. I only caught the tail end of what he was saying, “…in the hospital and I’m trying to feed my kids.” With him were three children, the youngest of which, couldn’t have been older than five or six. The young boy was light-skinned, and looked as if he had been riding the trains all day. He was dressed for the cold and had a knapsack hanging off of his shoulders. In his right hand was a clear plastic bag. The father—or was he some kind of Fagan?--was standing in the middle of the subway car and instructed the youngest to come toward my end of the train.

I felt a rush of emotion. I felt angry that this man had his kids out on the train hustling for money. There was another boy, also light-skinned, with round-glasses and a delicate face standing a few feet away from the man. He must have been about twelve. And there was a girl too. She was darker, and big, probably thirteen or fourteen. I wondered what the kids were feeling, if they felt humiliated and shamed. Or if it was just me projecting those feelings onto them.

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Coming to Town?
2005-01-25 08:30
by Alex Belth

So, will Carlos Delgado be a Met, or what?

2005-01-25 08:24
by Alex Belth

Larry Mahnken, who hosts the Replacement Level Yankee Blog, is in a tight spot. His apartment building burned down two nights ago, leaving Larry homeless. He didn't have insurance, but fortunately, he got out in one piece and has his health. But he's lost everything. One way we can help is by leaving a donation on his paypal account which is posted on his site. We're thinking of you Larry and are thankful that you are still with us.

How to Stay Warm
2005-01-24 10:26
by Alex Belth

The hot air that fuels the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is plenty warm here in the dead of winter. Even with most of New Englander focused squarely on the Super Bowl. Hey, here's some breaking news for all you trash-talking Northeastern yentas out there: Alex Rodriguez doesn't like the Red Sox, is hated by Red Sox fans and probably many members of the Red Sox organization too. Curt Schilling is not going to win a popularity contest in the Bronx anytime soon either. As if you didn't know, the two superstars have exchanged barbs this off-season, with Mr. Rodriguez the latest to fire-away. Look for Rodriguez to be in the middle of another on-the-field brawl next season (though my hunch says that David Wells, and not Schilling will be on the other end of the exchange). I think it's reasonable to expect a lot more barking back-and-forth from certain parties, as well.

Some people think Rodriguez is a manicured phony. But he is smart enough to be accountable:

"I played well at times, I played terrible at times," Rodriguez said. "And at the end of the day, I feel like my job was a failure because I was basically taken there to be the final part of a world championship team. So if you have to blame someone or point a finger at someone, you have to look in my direction, and I take 100 percent of the blame."

Jason Giambi could learn a thing or three from the way Rodriguez handles himself as a New York star.

Snow Bound
2005-01-24 08:54
by Alex Belth

On Friday afternoon a friend of mine called from the subway platform on the 7 line in Queens. He was above ground and freezing his tucchas off. He said that when New York is this cold, the streets white from the salt, he is reminded of the scene in "The French Connection" when Gene Hackman is shadowing the Fernando Rey character. Popeye Doyle is standing outside in the cold, shivering, on the stake-out, for what seems like hours, hopping in place, trying to stay warm, while Charnier is comfortably eating dinner in a toasty, upscale bistro. That's what New York is like when it gets this cold, he told me. Gray and unforgiving. Ain't it the truth.

Our weekend travel plans shelved, Em and I got up bright and early on Saturday morning and headed down to the big Fairway store, off 125th street and the West Side Highway, where we do our weekly shopping. We knew there would be a rush what with a snow storm on the way, but dag, by a quarter-to-nine in the morning, the place was ridiculous. "Dogs and cats, sleeping together..." It was retarded. Leave it to New Yorkers to get nuts over a foot of snow. We weaved and dodged our way through the panic and managed to get home a few hours before the snow actually hit. Ahhh, so what to do during a snow storm? Why make a home-made chicken soup, of course.

Which is how I spent my Saturday. In the evening, when cabin fever began to set in, Emily dragged my ass outside for a walk. She loves the snow, and we had a good time doing the snow-angel thing, trooping around the neighborhood, taking-in the silence, admiring big patches of virgin snow. We returned home for some hot chocolate and watched "Cutter's Way," a slept-on 1981 Jeff Bridges thriller, that featured John Heard's breakthrough, if hammy, performance. Emily got distracted and was up puttering around about half-way through the movie. I hadn't seen it years and think it holds up pretty well. But then again, I'm a sucker for Jeff Bridges, who is almost always good.

Not much happened in New York baseball over the weekend. The Mets are still in the hunt for Carlos Delgado...or are they? Meanwhile, the Yanks picked up Rey Sanchez to be their futility infielder. Sanchez played with the team briefly in 1997 and got along famously with Derek Jeter. I know the guy can't hit, and I don't know how much he's lost in the field--he used to be reliable--but I've always liked him, scrub or not.

Second that Emotion
2005-01-21 13:44
by Alex Belth

I think that many of the Yankee fans who read Bronx Banter would truly love to see Robinson Cano get an opportunity to play in New York this year. Many of us are already prepared to hoot and holler when Tony Womack inevitably starts the year in the lead-off position. Hopefully, that won't last for more than a few months. Why? Ahh, I've got to go back to my man, Goldman, who addressed the Womack question sharply a few days ago. A Pinstriped Bible reader asked:

Why are you so down on Tony Womack? Cairo did have a good year, but he is an average player. What Womack has that Cairo does not, apart from speed, is that uncanny ability to make things happen. Flash. There is a dynamic quality to his game that isn't always registered in the scorecard. Some players just have that, and Womack, albeit his shortcomings, seems to make the "highlights" more so than other players of his ilk. The Yankees, with their powerful lineup, can afford to lose a tad of steadiness in the hopes that Womack produces when it really counts.

Goldman: Womack can’t hit. Period. He does not make things happen. He makes them unhappen. To make things happen a player has to reach base. Womack can’t do that. The quality of his game is registered in the scorecard every day. The reason the “dynamic quality” escapes the scorecard is because it isn’t there.

Didn’t anyone watch the World Series? The 2004 baseball season? There is a reason that the team with Mark Bellhorn beat the team with Miguel Cairo. There is a reason that the team with Mark Bellhorn beat the team with Tony Womack. I’m down on Womack because he’s among the ten most useless players in the game.

Not much gray area there.

Sleeper, anyone?
2005-01-21 13:33
by Alex Belth

Okay. Sticking with the bullpen, who will be the surprise contributor in 2005: Scott Proctor, Brett Prinz, or Colter Bean? Bean, was recently named co-Columbus Clipper of the Year:

Colter Bean came out of the Clippers bullpen 53 times, posting a 9-3 record with a 2.29 ERA, striking out 109 in just 82.2 innings. The sidearming right-hander originally signed as a free agent with the Yankees out of Auburn University in 2000. He was selected by Boston in the Rule V draft in December 2003, but was returned to the Yankees before the 2004 season started. In two seasons with Columbus, Bean has a 13-5 record with 5 saves and a 2.55 ERA. Colter had an outstanding 4.7 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Steven Goldman has been raving about Bean for the longest.

No Justice, No Peace
2005-01-21 08:42
by Alex Belth

According to the New York Post, the YES Network is considering David Justice as a possible replacement for Joe Girardi. Say it ain't so, dude. The article goes on to say that Sweeny Murti is the leading candidate to replace Suzyn Waldman. I sure hope he gets it. He's paid his dues and deserves a shot.

The Best and the Brightest
2005-01-21 08:37
by Alex Belth

Chris Snow profiles four of Theo Epstein's, bright, young employees today in the Boston Globe. The future is now.

Setting Up
2005-01-21 08:26
by Alex Belth

What can we expect from the Yankees' right-handed bullpen trio of Steve Karsay, Felix Rodriguez and Paul Quantrill this year?

Beginning of the End?
2005-01-20 08:38
by Alex Belth

Omar Minaya is set to meet with free agent Carlos Delgado today. Delgado will get together with the Marlins and Rangers later this week, but according to Dayn Perry, it behooves the Mets to ink the Puerto Rican slugger. Perry delineates a recipe for Met success in a recent column for Fox. Ever the Yankee fan, here's the bit that struck me:

Minaya's work this off-season in tandem with the Yankees' largely clueless additions have positioned the Mets to be the New York team for seasons to come.

The signings of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Tony Womack and even Ruben Sierra have been heavily criticized this winter. Some have argued that the Yankees would have been better off with Carlos Beltran and Javier Vazquez than Randy Johnson and Pavano (and Bernie Williams).

Just how close are the Yankees to falling off their perch as Kings of New York? There has been talk every year for the past four or five seasons that this will finally the year that the Bombers dip. They are too old, their farm system is barren. Personally, I expect that they'll eventually fall off. It just seems like the natural order of things, despite of the team's imposing payroll. Whether it is this year, 2007 or beyond, I can't say. They are still team stacked with talent. I don't know if their off-season has been a bust, but it's discouraging that other teams seem to be smarter than the Yankees these days. What do you think? Are the Yankees one serious-injury-to-Jorge Posada-away from missing the playoffs? Would Carlos Delgado make the Mets serious contenders? Which one of these?

Something Old, Something New
2005-01-19 08:43
by Alex Belth

With the sale of the Brewers now complete, George Steinbrenner is officially the senior-ranking owner in baseball. Murray Chass has an appreciation, of sorts, today in the Times:

I thought longevity might prompt Steinbrenner to do an interview for this historic development, as he did seven years ago on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his purchase. But a request through his publicist, the ubiquitous Howard Rubenstein, elicited no telephone conversation, only remarks delivered through Rubenstein.

...I was, in a way, disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to speak to George directly. I haven't always enjoyed talking to him; in his talking days, he too often had a forum to make outrageous statements. But now that he infrequently talks to reporters, it would be good to be able to have a chat every now and then - mostly then. But now would have been preferable.

Even baseball people, however, have noticed that Steinbrenner is more invisible than visible these days, more silent than verbose. It's as if the Yankees have constructed a shelter around him. People in baseball talk about it and wonder if he has a health problem that he is hiding.

I've been fixated with what will happen to the Yankees once Steinbrenner passes on--or becomes mentally or physically unable to run the team--for some time now. He's the only Yankee owner I've ever known, and for most of my life I've considered him a bully and a bore. But he's also financed six World Serious winners. Love him or hate him, for better or for worse, we've grown accustomed to his face.

Coming Soon?'s prospect expert, Bryan Smith profiles the best young talent in the country over at Wait Til Next Year. Here is what he has to say about a couple of Yankee hopefuls:

Melky Cabrera- OF- New York Yankees- 20

I have never made it a secret of my obsession with Melky Cabrera, dating back to his days with Battle Creek earlier this past season. To me, he’s been the Yankees second-best prospect for months, with or without Pudgito. His numbers show the general trend of what happens to a player when he moves up the ladder, but in no way would I call his FSL performance a drop-off. His ISO rose to .150, probably park-related, and really a drop in average was the only poor sign. You have to love a player with a K% (K/AB) under 20, and he was at 13.5 in the Midwest League, and 17.7 in Tampa. Both, for such a young player, to fare this well in full-season ball is quite the accomplishment. He’s a few walks away from being a clone of Bernie Williams at the same age, so that should get all you Bombers fans salivating. Given the problem in centerfield and Duncan’s block, I really see no player in this organization that’s more likely to stay with New York other than Cabrera.

Robinson Cano- 2B- New York Yankees- 22

For some reason I’ve always had an internal bias with Cano, though one particular Yanks fan that reads this site has made that notion a hard one to keep. Well, so have his numbers. He really showed his dominance over Navarro as a player this year, looking better than Dioner in both Trenton and Columbus. His performance in AAA was far less than dazzling, but even a .144 ISO has to be respected given his youth and his position. While the Yankees signed Tony Womack to a two-year, $4 million deal this winter, they could have done far worse than have handed Cano the job. I don’t see his ceiling ever being over an .800 OPS, with a line looking like .280/.340/.420 probably about what type of player he can be. Looking at this position across the league, that’s a commodity that many teams would like to buy.

Bryan does a terrific job. Go check it out.

Flipping It

Jon Weisman and I got some great responses to our pieces last week about baseball cards. As luck would have it, Hank Waddles wrote post about the same subject the day before Jon and I posted ours, over at Broken Cowboy. Worth a look. Lastly, following up on yesterday's entry, be sure and read SG's piece on Jason Giambi over at Replacement Level Yankees blog.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know
2005-01-18 08:17
by Alex Belth

There are many questions concerning the 2005 Yankees: Will Randy Johnson stay healthy, how will Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright perform, will Alex Rodriguez have a more productive season? And that's just for starters. But the biggest mystery, the $64,000 question, as it were, is what can we expect from Jason Giambi? On Saturday, Jack Curry reported that the Yankees are prepared for Giambi to play first base and DH this year. In addition:

Arn Tellem, Giambi's agent, said yesterday that Giambi intended to meet with reporters in February before he goes to spring training. Tellem added that Giambi had begun two-a-day workouts and described him as working out intensely in preparation for the 2005 season.

"His spirits are very good, Tellem said in a telephone interview. "He's feeling the best he has in a long time. He's very determined to come back and show everybody he's the quality player he's always been."

I hope that Giambi comes back and plays well. He's going to have some kind of cloud hanging over his head--the media attention and the abuse he'll hear on the road should be relentless--but I don't think it will bother his teammates too much. Both Joe Torre and Brian Cashman have left Giambi messages this winter. He hasn't returned their calls. I can understand why Giambi hasn't spoken with the media, but I don't get why he would't return Joe Torre's call. What's up with that? I don't get it.

New and Improved?
2005-01-14 08:38
by Alex Belth

The players and owners agreed on a new drug policy yesterday. It isn't especially strict, as they still won't test for amphetamines (greenies) or human growth hormone. But for now, the newspaper pundits seem to be appeased. True to form, Marvin Miller, is less than impressed.

A Small, Good Thing
2005-01-13 08:41
by Alex Belth

Every so often on my morning commute through Washington Heights I see a small family consisting of a mother and a father and their two sons get on the train. The boys must be six and seven respectively. They both have round faces that seem even chubbier by their round glasses. They wear navy blue overcoats, and the required Catholic School attire: gray pants, white shirt, and a tie. The mother and father, who look to be in their early forties, are always well dressed and, if not formal, at least neat and proper. The father, who seems like a strict disciplinarian, will lovingly lean down and comb one of his son's hair to the side. When the boys leave the train with their mother at 86th street, the father waves goodbye to them, and continues to smile and look for them after the train has begun to pull out of the station.

I've made eye contact with the father on several occasions, nodding to him and smiling as he dotes on his boys. On one occasion I told him how nice it was to see a father being so affectionate with his children. Anyhow, I saw the family this morning, while I was reading the rags. I didn't make any contact with them, I observed them from 181rst street down to 86th. At 110th street, the younger son pulled out a small stack of playing cards that were held together by an old rubber band. He removed the band and looked at the top card. Then he open the stack to the middle and proceeded to flip through them using his left hand to slide the cards from left to right. The gesture really brought me back. I wonder who teaches kids to sort through cards that way, I thought. Duh. His older brother, of course.

I started to remember how important baseball cards were to me when I was seven, eight years old. Never mind that this boy was looking at Pokemon cards. I'm sure that baseball cards don't dominate the card market for kids any longer. But that doesn't matter so much in the long run. The cards are still held together by an old rubber band, and carried in close to the vest. The fact that the cards are graphic and contain crucial information makes them vital to a young boy.

I wonder how kids trade Pokemon cards. Do they flip them or what? I used to collect baseball cards--Topps cards--but never cared for them particularly well. (I've saved them, and have the good ones in a plastic sleeve, but the cards are all bent and busted around the edges.) I flipped them all sorts of ways--I used to love flicking them against a wall--and enjoyed buying packs and getting doubles and triples of lousy players in the search for a Reggie Jackson or Pete Rose All-Star card. (Loved that awful gum too and the smell it gave to the entire pack.) Some kids would buy an entire set, which they would keep in mint condition, but that never appealed to me. I liked to play with my cards. I treasured the statistics on the back of the cards and the dopey facts they'd revealed about a player.

What about you? Were baseball cards an important part of your childhood? Do you still see kids flipping and trading them? I started collecting cards in earnest during the 1979 season, but have a bunch from 1977 and 1978 too. I was actively involved with them through the 1984-85 seasons, when comic books took over. Anyone got a favorite year? I especially loved the 1978 cards and there were a couple of years in the early-mid seventies that were great-looking too.
Continue reading...

2005-01-12 08:38
by Alex Belth

Carlos Beltran was introduced at Shea Stadium yesterday morning. A few hours later, Randy Johnson made his debut in the Bronx. Johnson made the back cover of the Post and the News. Beltran and the Unit split the back page of Newsday, as well as the front page of the Times.

I'm Really Glad to Be Here...
2005-01-11 10:55
by Alex Belth

When was the last time the Mets and Yankees held boffo press conferences on the same day? What I want to know is: Who will get the back pages of the News, Post and Newsday come tomorrow? Will they split? What? Any predictions? (I'm guessing that both will have a blurb on the front page of the Times.) Cliff Corcoran, recently back from bacation, offers his take on the Johnson deal:

Yes, Johnson is 41 years old, but he's shown no sign of slowing down. Remember that Nolan Ryan, an inferior pitcher (just one 30+ RSAA season in his career) with a similar career path, posted a 138 ERA+ while striking out 203 men at age 44, and that Roger Clemens, who is more than a year older than Johnson, posted a 145 ERA+ while striking out 218 men this past season. And, yes, Johnson's right knee conjures up memories of Andre Dawson as he's had all the cartilage removed and has to receive lubricant injections before every start. But, frankly, that doesn't really bother me. Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the NL last year pitching on that knee, which is on his plant leg, not his push leg. What's more, Johnson doesn't rely on his legs the way fellow aging fireballers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling do. Rather, he uses his height and long arms to sling-shot the ball to the plate using an upright delivery. Both Vazquez's and Johnson's contracts last through 2007 and I believe that, despite Johnson's age and knee problems, it is not only possible, but actually likely that he will out-perform Javy Vazquez over those three seasons.

...The Yankees have sent the future packing in an attempt to guarantee themselves a championship in 2005 (in a broader sense, the Yankees traded Halsey, Navarro, Juan Rivera, Randy Choate and Nick Johnson and cash for Randy Johnson). And that's how this trade must ultimately be judged. The addition of Johnson puts the Yankees closer to that elusive 27th World's Championship than any other player in baseball would have (after all, Barry Bonds can't pitch). Should Johnson deliver a championship to the Bronx by 2007, the trade must be seen as a success. Otherwise, barring the complete collapse of all three of the players they sent to Arizona, it must be seen as a costly failure, something that just might come to describe the Yankees as a whole before too long.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan isn't thrilled about the moves the Yankees have made this off-season:

Vazquez makes $36 million over the next three years. The Yankees have spent an additional $7 million a year, plus a decent catching prospect, plus staff filler in Halsey, for what may or may not be an upgrade. Vazquez had a lousy second half, and bore too much blame for the Yankees' inability to reach the World Series. A year ago, there's no way anyone would have dealt him straight up for Randy Johnson. Is it possible that the two players have diverged in value that much in the course of one year?

No, it's not. The Yankees have once again thrown a large amount of money at a situation without actually solving it. Signing Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright didn't improve the rotation as much as it added payroll, and the additions the Yankees have made on the hitting side--Tony Womack and Tino Martinez--are an embarrassment. The Yankees have more than $100 million in new contracts this winter, pushed their 2005 payroll well over $200 million, and they still have Bernie Williams patrolling center field.

That last point is the salient one. The Yankees have been in need of a center fielder for at least three years. Williams, great in his day, has seen his defense decline past inadequacy. Worse still, he's coming off his second straight season of an EqA in the .270s, not only driving his overall value down but making it less likely that he can be an asset as a DH.

Though they aren't in exactly the same situation, I'm reminded of what Bill James wrote about the Bombers in the 1988 Baseball Abstract:

The New York Yankees are trapped on a treadmill. Although they have not won anything since 1981, the Yankees have the best winning percentage of any team during the decade, or should I turn that around: although they have the best winning percentage of any team during the eighties, the Yankees have not won anything since 1981. The are acutely aware of this, and so the winter of 1987-1988 was spent in frantic preparations to make the 1988 team season the season in which the great nucleus of this team is surrounded by a cast good enough to lift the Yankees...onto the championship rung. there is an irony in this, for it is exactly this philosophy that creates the treadmill from which the Yankees are so anxious to escape.

...The problem with the Yankees is that they never want to pay the real price of success. The real price of success in baseball is not the dollars that you come up with for a Jack Clark or a Dave Winfield or an Ed Whitson or a Goose Gossage. It is the patience to work with young players and help them develop. So long as the Yankees are unwilling to pay that price, don't bet on them to win anything.

I don't know that what James wrote is exactly true now, but in general, his point is right on. Eventually, this treadmill effect will burn the Yanks like it did in the eighties. That's why some writers are understandably upset that the team didn't sign Beltran. He would be keeping them young. It's hard to believe that the Yankees will replace Bernie Williams with someone nearly as good or as young.

2005-01-10 08:58
by Alex Belth

Carlos Beltran wanted to be a Yankee. According to multiple reports, his agent, Scott Boras approached the Bombers on Saturday evening and said Beltran would wear the pinstripes if they gave him a six-year, $100 million deal. The Yanks passed. The Astros offered Beltran more money, but they wouldn't give him a full, no-trade clause. So he moved on to his third cherce, the New York Mets, who were the highest bidder, offering him a seven-year, $119 million contract. Nice work if you can get it.

The Yankees, who are often criticized for their spending habits, are sure to be knocked in some circles for letting Beltran get away. He would have made them younger and better at a key position. If they had not over-paid for Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, perhaps they would have been able to ink Beltran. (Come on, which deals do you like better: Pavano and Wright, or Matt Clement and Wade Miller?) Irregardless, it speaks to the reality that the team is likely stuck with Jason Giambi's contract...and Kevin Brown's too. Even if they are intent on dumping Brown, they will still have to eat most, if not all, of the money owed him.

So, Beltran now plays for the Metropolitans. I think they paid too much for him, but he makes them a better team. Now, if they have the chutzpah to go and get Carlos Delgado, they sure will have a promising team in 2005. However, Tim Marchman thinks the deal could come back to haunt the Mets:

It's far too early to tell whether Beltran's contract was a mistake, but there are some real reasons to think that it is.

Foremost among these is that Beltran has never been a truly great player. His hitting statistics are not those of a superstar, and put in the proper context, they're less impressive than they seem. For most of his career Beltran played his home games in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium at a time when it inflated offense more than any other park in the American League. (In 2002, for instance, it increased run scoring by 17% as compared to an average park.) Despite that, Beltran's career on-base average is .353, and has never risen above .389. His career slugging average is .490, though he has slugged above .500 the last four years.

Adjusting for league and park effects, and weighting his last three seasons so that each is worth twice as much as the last, Beltran looks to be worth about 30 runs a season more than a league-average hitter. That's a very good number, but it's not superstar-level. The same method shows Bobby Abreu, whom few think of as a great hitter, as being worth 49 runs above average per season.

The Mets also signed Miguel Cairo as well as the Korean left-hander, Koo Dae-sung, who had been rumored to be going to the Bronx. The Yanks? They'll have to settle for Randy Johnson, who is due to take a physical today. Cue the strings. The team also signed Ruben Ruben Sierra to a one-year deal to do the cha-cha, hit a couple of dingers and strike out a whole bunch.

You Talkin' to Me?
2005-01-07 08:31
by Alex Belth

Have you ever read something that you feel describes you to a tee? Yesterday, I read a couple of articles that resonated so strongly with me that I just had to share them with you. They are from the PBS website, from a show called, "Do You Speak American?" and are about how New Yorkers talk and relate to the world. Deborah Tannen, a socilolinguist, explains:

New Yorkers seem to think the best thing two people can do is talk. Silence is okay when you’re watching a movie (though it might be better punctuated by clever asides), or when you’re asleep (collecting dreams to tell when you awake), but when two or more people find themselves together, it’s better to talk. That’s how we show we’re being friendly. And that’s why we like to talk to strangers—especially if we won’t be with them long, such as in an elevator or on a bank line. This often makes non-New Yorkers think we’re trying to start something more than a conversation.

...A New York listener does a lot of talking. And if you like a story, or if you think someone has made a good point, you don’t appreciate it in silence. You show your reaction fast and loud. This creates trouble when New Yorkers talk to non-New Yorkers. In conversations I taped, again and again the Californians and Midwesterners stopped dead in their vocal tracks when a New Yorker tried to encourage them by exclaiming, “What!,” “Wow!,” or “Oh, God!” What was intended as a show of interest and appreciation sounded to the speaker like rude disbelief, or scared him into speechlessness.

Few forms of entertainment are as well loved by New Yorkers as telling stories. New Yorkers will often use dramatic gestures and facial expressions, change the pitch of their voices, or imitate the people they are quoting. A Midwesterner who worked for a few years in New York had a native friend who liked to tell him stories while they were walking down the street. When the New Yorker got to the climax of the story, he’d stop walking, nudge his friend to stop too, and deliver the punch line face to face. The Midwesterner found this a public embarrassment. But a New Yorker can’t walk and tell a good story at the same time. He needs to gesture and to watch his audience watching him.

My girlfriend Emily has a distinct New York accent but she was raised in the suburbs and has more in common with the Midwestern sensibility described above than she does with the New York style. When we first started dating, we had all sorts of trouble because she felt I was constantly interrupting her when she was trying to tell me a story or how her day went. I wasn't trying to change the subject or take over the conversation, I just wanted to be involved in an exchange, not just be an audience for a monologue. I was trying being natural, trying to be friendly. But when I interjected a question or a thought, she'd shut down, and say, "I'm not finished yet." According to Tannen, our problem was not unique:

Unbeknownst to well-intentioned New Yorkers, high-involvement strategies seem intrusive to those who have what I call “high-considerateness” styles. They’re showing they are good people not by demonstrating eager involvement, but by not imposing. With volume held in check, they leave nice long pauses to make sure other speakers are finished before they start to talk. They are circumspect in dealing out talk, often waiting to be asked to speak, to make sure that others want to hear what they have to say. They state the points of their stories rather than acting them out, and the points are less likely to be personal. This leaves New Yorkers wondering whether the story has a point at all. Non-New Yorkers also make a lot less noise when they listen, causing New Yorkers to wonder if they’ve fallen asleep. They make sure a topic is exhausted before introducing a new one—a strategy that can exhaust a New Yorker who thinks the topic has been talked to death—and they would rather risk offense by saying too little than too much.

These differences wreak havoc in close relationships when only one partner is from New York. The New York-bred partner ends up doing all the talking and accuses the other of not holding up his or her end of the conversation. The non-New York partner ends up seething: “You only want to hear yourself talk; you’re not interested in me.” Both attribute their dissatisfaction not to differences in conversational style, but to the other’s personality flaws and bad intentions.

Well, I've learned when to sit and listen and keep my mouth shut, and of course, it's made a world of difference. What I do when Em wants to share is get an idea of what she wants from me. Does she just want me to listen or is she looking for feedback? Once I've got those ground rules straight, it's easier for us to communicate. I'll be honest, it's not natural for me to listen to someone talk for ten, fifteen minutes straight without reacting at all. I couldn't make it through twenty minutes without participating at all, because it's just too much information to take in. I start to get over-loaded and lose my concentration. I know this is classic male-female relationship stuff--what? men have a hard time listening to women without trying to "fix" the situation? get out--but it's exaggerated in our cases because I'm a motor-mouthed New Yorker and Em's a demure chick from the sticks. Before we met, Emily told her mom that she wanted to date, "A Borough Jew." Well, I'm only half Jewish, but I'm 100% New Yorker. (Careful what you wish for, cause she got exactly what she wanted.)

Oh, and the beauty part about these articles is that I printed them out and was reading them on my subway ride home last night. I didn't notice that they were part of a PBS program until the woman sitting next to me said, "Did you see that show? It was on last night and I missed it." I told her I didn't even know it was a show and then explained who sent me the articles and why. We chatted for three or four stops, mostly about Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point," and his new book, "Blink" (which I highly recommend), speaking very quickly. Then she was off and I went back to reading. You know, she just happened to be a native New Yorker, right?

2005-01-06 08:35
by Alex Belth

The Yanks, not making money? Say it ain't so. Richard Sandomir takes a look at the financial state of the Bronx Bombers today in the New York Times:

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has written about baseball finances and who consulted for the players' union a decade ago, said the numbers might not add up for the Yankees.

"If you do a profit and loss, I don't think there's a plus at the bottom," he said. "But that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense for Steinbrenner."

Zimbalist and other sports business experts said that beyond Steinbrenner's craving for more World Series titles, his goal is to build the value of the team and the YES Network, in which the Yankees and the former owners of the Nets are majority owners. That goal prevails, even if it means operating at a short-term loss. Last May, the Goldman Sachs Group arranged lending worth $225 million to the Yankees to help finance losses, provide working capital and consolidate debt.

The experts saw the acquisitions of Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and other marquee names as a strategy to keep nearly four million fans jamming Yankee Stadium annually, to keep the team winning and to keep YES ratings high.

It may not be a coincidence that the addition of huge stars with enormous salaries has come since YES went on the air in 2002.

Meanwhile, the team is close to agreeing to a contract extension with Randy Johnson. Steven Goldman weighs in on the boffo deal in this week's Pinstriped Bible:

Under most circumstances, it would be fair to say that the Yankees were acting rashly in dealing Javier Vazquez, a 28-year-old of proven quality of whom the worst can be said is that he had a few bad months. At the same time, whatever the cause of his four-month slump, physical, psychological or mechanical, the Yankees proved unequal to correcting it, and they obviously lack confidence in the pitcher's ability to fix it himself. It makes sense, then, to acknowledge that someone else might have better luck diagnosing his problem and move him on.

...But there's one exception to the rule, although trying to characterize it seems silly: you make an exception for gods. The official definition of pitching gods is like the judge's definition of obscenity: you know it when you see it.

And speaking of boffo, the hottest topic in baseball right now is where Carlos Beltran will land. His agent says that five teams are in the hunt. Various reports say that the Cubs and Yanks are invovled--and there is a rumor that the Mets have already agreed to a deal with him. Yentas, start your kvetchin'. I've thought all along that Beltran will return to Houston, but who the hell knows. Think the Yanks will swoop down and nab him at the last moment, or what? And should they? What do you say?

2005-01-05 10:35
by Alex Belth

Congrats to Boggsie and Ryno. Mets to make an offer to Carlito. And a fond farewell to Will Eisner, a true New Yorker as well as one of the great comic book artists of em all.

Randy Aprobados
2005-01-04 08:34
by Alex Belth

So says the headline on the back cover of El Diario this morning. And it's true, Bud Selig signed off on the Randy Johnson-Javier Vazquez deal yesterday. Players still need to take physicals and the Yanks now have until the end of the week to work out a contract extension with the Big Unit. From what I've been able to tell reading the papers, nobody expects anything to trip things up at this point.

Interestingly, it looks as if the Yankees are not aggresively pursuing Carlos Beltran. According to Murray Chass:

The Yankees will not sign Carlos Beltran, the most attractive, and expensive, position player on the free-agent market. But it's not just that the Yankees will not be signing Beltran. The story would be that the Yankees will not even try to sign him.

That was the surprising signal from a baseball official over the weekend. The official, who is in a position to hear such things, heard last week that the Yankees did not plan to pursue Beltran.

"Someone told me the other day, if they get Johnson they wouldn't go after Beltran," the official, who refused to be named, said. "Even the Yankees have to have a limit."

Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon, on the other hand, courted Beltran in Puerto Rico yesterday. Lee Jenkins reports:

Beltran has met with the Mets and the Yankees, but there are critical differences. George Steinbrenner played host to Beltran in Tampa, Fla., but Wilpon went to Puerto Rico and, along with Minaya, visited him on his home turf. Such a minor move could foreshadow a major one.

The Yanks not interested? Chass thinks it could be the story of the off-season. The Mets out-bidding The Boss? Say it ain't so. My feeling is that Beltran will return to Houston, but never underestimate General Von Steingrabber...right? While I can understand the Yankees' reluctance to sign a player to a six or seven year contract, the truth is, Beltran would make them younger, and better, at a key position. Dayn Perry writes:

Any number of teams can use a potent offensive center fielder, but the Yankees especially need him. Bernie Williams hasn't been able to pass muster defensively for about three years now, and the Yanks badly need to shift him to DH. Beltran would be a mammoth defensive upgrade and add another quality bat to the lineup.

Larry Mahnken agrees:

Brian Cashman has said the Yankees aren't necessarily going to go all-out to sign Beltran. Please think again, Cash, they need to go all-out for Beltran. They need to overpay him, if that's what it takes. They need a young, good player at a key position, who plays good defense. They need Carlos Beltran. Give him $18 million if that's what it takes, this is something that the team needs to do to win long-term.

Hey, at least this week won't be boring. The newest member(s) of the Hall of Fame will be announced this afternoon. Other than Boggs, does anyone else get in? (I think that Ryno has a shot and hope that the Goose makes it but I ain't holding my breath.)

Can I, Can I Start This?
2005-01-03 08:39
by Alex Belth

Today, the proposed Randy Johnson trade will reach Bud Selig's desk; tomorrow, the Hall of Fame class of 2005 will be announced. Up next for the Yanks: Carlos Beltran? (Meanwhile, out west, here's a couple of items of interest.) You may click when ready.