Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Monthly archives: December 2006


'Til Tuesday
2006-12-31 08:38
by Alex Belth

Ain't nothing happening until then. But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of rumors flying about. Here is the latest from, The East Valley Tribune, Bergan Record, Times, Post and the News.

It was another great year to be a Yankee fan. Although the Bombers' season ended with a whimper against the Tigers, there were a lot of great moments during the season to keep us warm at night. Cliff and I had a great time writing about it all and sharing the season with you. Looking forward to more good stuff in the year to come. Here's wishing you and yours the best for a safe and happy New Year.

All Good
2006-12-29 05:54
by Alex Belth

Apparently, Bobby Murcer's surgery was a success. Meanwhile, Bill Madden and Anthony McCarron report that the Yankees are closing in on a deal for The Big Unit. They also note that the Bombers are interested in Minky as a first baseman, and Mark Loretta as a utility infielder.

Bye Bye Barry
2006-12-28 10:20
by Alex Belth

Barry Zito signed with the Giants for many years and much money. No No New York.

Murcer in the Hospital
2006-12-28 05:38
by Alex Belth

Bobby Murcer is having surgery today. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this week. Our best wishes go out to Murcer and his family.

Big Doings?
2006-12-27 07:04
by Alex Belth

More on The Big Unit. Joel Sherman doesn't think trading Johnson will have any impact on the Yankees' interest in Barry Zito. Jon Heyman has a different take:

After ignoring Zito for weeks, the Yankees suddenly are thinking about the advantages of youth and durability, two of Zito's strengths. Perhaps another new glance at Andy Pettitte's MRI scared them straight.

...One person close to Zito's father said he believes that, just as was true in the case of another former Oakland star Jason Giambi, the father Joe Zito would like his son to play for the Yankees. Joe Zito and George Steinbrenner have several acquaintances in common. Beyond that, Zito told the San Francisco Chronicle he most wants to go to a place that aims to win multiple titles. That sounds like the Yankees, too.

The person who knows Zito's father and family speculated, "If the Yankees want him, they can have him.''

There seems to be some urgency to the Johnson talks, a quick timetable that fits into this headline-grabbing two-step scenario, as well. The Yankees would like to complete a Johnson deal by New Year's Day, presumably to give them ample opportunity to find a replacement. Zito, who's expected to start seriously sorting through his offers after Jan. 1, is the only logical replacement, a left-hander with a Cy Young award on his resume.

Both Steven Goldman and Dayn Perry think trading Johnson is the right move. Here's Goldman:

As for what the Yankees might get out of the Diamondbacks or another trading partner, it almost doesn't matter...Moving Johnson is an all-win scenario for the Yankees. As Branch Rickey said, it's better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late. By definition, 43 years old is a year too late. If the Yankees can use the deal to fill outstanding needs like reserve catcher or utility infielder, so much the better. The possibilities created by his absence are almost limitless.

Ring a ding, ding.

Left Over?
2006-12-26 05:46
by Alex Belth

For the past two months a good friend of mine keeps asking me why the Yankees won't go after Barry Zito. I've long stopped trying to give him an answer, but if the Bombers do end up moving Randy Johnson, Zito might become a very real possibility.

Silent Night
2006-12-25 15:54
by Alex Belth

"Many people just believe that I can't get sick, or they refuse to accept the fact that my body gets tired like everyone else. Well, I do sometimes, but there are so many people who depend on me for inspiration and support that if I wanted to get sick or slow down...I just can't. I just can't afford to slow down."
James Brown

James Brown's body finally gave in and he died today of pneumonia at the age of 73. It is safe to say that there will never be another one like him. Brown was a legendary performer and one of the most influencial musicians of the past fifty years.

Unlike nearly everyone else in the greater soul community for whom the success of any soul artist was another rung up the ladder...James Brown was a Solo Man who forged ahead on his own, who, far from negotiating any kind of compromise solution to reach a broader audience, demanded that that very audience sit up and listen to what he had to say. There is no question he was ill mannered in his insistence, and that he was resented for it. Solomon Burke dismissed him as not a proper soul singer at all, and his own all-black band referred to him privately as "that greasy nigger," but he was not to be denied. Long after Ray Charles had left the parochial world of sould and Sam Cooke was on the verge of Las Vegas bookings and Hollywood success, James Brown alone, a contemporary of both Charles and Cooke, was still out there toiling in the vineyards, singing self-created music that increasingly left both the idea of accommodation and the old tired formulations of r&b behind. Perhaps this is why he was called 'our number one black poet' by LeRoi Jones and hailed in 1969 as possibly 'the most important black man in America' by Look magazine (as well as gaining attention from SNCC leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown). His music reached out with revolutionary fervor to a New Breed audience of blacks and whites. It was a militant culturally as any Black Panter political manifesto, without ever abandoning the past or its original audience. For James Brown remained firmly rooted in a sense of self and a sense of tradition that Black America had not always known that it had.

Peter Guralnick from, "Sweet Soul Music"

The Godfather of Soul is gone. Rest in Peace. Then get up off that thing, and shake your ass. It's what the old man would want.

Return Policy
2006-12-25 15:43
by Alex Belth

Ed Price reports that the Yankees and Diamondbacks are talking turkey about sending Randy Johnson back to Arizona. ESPN the Magazine confirms the rumor. Ho Ho Ho.

Happy, Merry, Everythang
2006-12-24 17:24
by Alex Belth

Hey guys. Just dropping in on Christmas Eve to wish you and yours the happiest of holidays. My old man's family is Jewish, while my Ma is Catholic, so I've always celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, the 'ol double-dip if you will. Anyhow, no matter what you celebrate, I hope you enjoy the holiday madness. Let me know what you get. I asked for GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip. Actually, Em and I already exchanged presents, and I got some cool kitchen stuff as well a dvd set of "Freaks and Geeks." Whoopee.

Couple Things
2006-12-23 05:46
by Alex Belth

The Yankees have officially signed Juan Miranda. Plus, here's Murray Chass on the team's finances.

Andy's Home in Time for Christmas
2006-12-22 05:46
by Alex Belth

Okay, so like Flav once said, I ain't got nuthin for ya, man. So here's something cheap. Andy's back, does that mean that Roger is not far behind? It'll either be the Bronx or Boston for Clemens, wouldn't you think? He's already had a farewell tour as a Yankee and as an Astro, it makes sense that he'd return to the Sox, provided they need him.

Stocking Stuffers
2006-12-21 09:32
by Alex Belth

While the Yanks put the final touches on Kei Igawa's contract, and continue to hunt around for a first baseman, here are a couple of few things for ya:

Murray Chass on the Yankees and gambling; Pat Jordan on Lenny Dyktra's third career; Tim Marchman on the Yankees' off-seaspon thus far, and Steven Goldman on Richie Sexton. Lastly, Bart Clareman conducted a Q&A with me about the nature of the Met-Yankee rivalry. Pop over and check it out if you have a minute. Otherwise, happy holidaze to you are yours.

Melk the Halls
2006-12-17 17:35
by Alex Belth

The big rumor swirling around the Yanks this weekend involves sending Melky Cabrera away and getting a good left-handed reliever in return. I don't figure that Melky is long for New York. I really enjoyed watching him last year; his enthusiasm is infectious. I hope he becomes a good big league ball player. That said, I'm not sold on him becoming a great player, and if the Yankees can improve their team by trading him, I'd be all for it, in spite of the fact that I like the kid. What do y'all think about this proposed deal? Mike Gonzalez worth moving the Melk Man for?

Meanwhile, when was the last time that Alex Rodriguez said something provocative and was completely ignored?

Going, Going...
2006-12-15 05:22
by Alex Belth

I remember when Tower Records first opened in New York. Must have been the early-to-mid eighties. Their first store was on Broadway near NYU. Eventually, they opened a second store just north of Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. I remember buying 45s there when I was in middle school. (Woody Allen bumps into Diane Wiest in uptown store near the end of "Hannah and Her Sisters.") Well, Tower went bankrupt a few months ago and all merchandise was 60% when I passed by store last Friday. There wasn't much left--a clerk told me they've been clearing house for two months already--but that didn't stop me from digging around anyhow.

One of the things I found and figured I'd take a chance on is a documentary about minor league baseball called "A Player To Be Named Later." I had never heard of it. The movie follows the 2001 Indianapolis Indians, the Brewers' triple A team. Marco Scutaro is the most famous player featured in this crisp, well-made, and unsentimental look at life in the minor leagues. It's kind of like the baseball version of "Hoop Dreams." It may not actually reveal anything that you might not already know about how difficult it is to make the majors, but it presents the information in a compelling, understated manner. There are some terrific interviews, particularly with the ballplayers' wives. The scene where manager Wendell Kim tells Scutaro that he is not getting called up to the big leagues is wrenching. The moment is so awkward and Kim is so inarticulate, yet it is not unusual.

If you run across it, it's certainly worth taking a look at. I was pleasantly surprised. I'm always moaning about how few good baseball movies there are; even though this is a documentary, this would make my list of baseball movies that won't make you nauteous.

Big Doings in Beantown
2006-12-14 05:25
by Alex Belth

While the Sox finally landed their man from Japan (a baby-faced killer if there ever was one), the Yanks are considering a minor deal for pitcher Joel Pineiro. And what about Bernie?

I Never Got To Make A Good Guiel Pun
2006-12-12 18:04
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees declined to tender Aaron Guiel a contract yesterday, making the outfielder-cum-first baseman a free agent. Guiel was the only player the Yankees had to make a decision on at yesterday's non-tender deadline.

Assuming Jason Giambi will get most of his at-bats as a DH, dropping Guiel from the roster leaves the Yankees without a lefty first baseman to platoon with the winner of the Phelps-Phillips battle set to take place in spring training. Not that Phelps and Phillips are exceptionally disadvantaged against their fellow righties. Phillips has actually done most of his damage in the majors against righties. Twenty-three of Andy's 27 extra base hits and more than two-thirds of his walks have come against rightes despite his having less than twice as many plate appearances against righties as against lefties. Phelps, meanwhile, has a career .257/.325/.460 line against righties, which, by trading some OBP for slugging, is almost exactly league average. That's not great, but it's permissible, especially when he hits .293/.357/.500 against lefties and earns the league minimum.

As for what else is out there, here are the career splits vs. righties of Phelps and the remaining free agent lefty-hitting first basemen:

Ryan Klesko35.292/.385/.548 (.310)4032
Carlos Peña28.250/.346/.467 (.272)1184
Darin Erstad32.293/.349/.422 (.263)3643
Doug Mientkiewicz32.271/.359/.400 (.262)2110
Josh Phelps28.257/.325/.460 (.261)803
Aaron Guiel34.257/.331/.436 (.258)725
John Mabry36.264/.324/.414 (.249)2801

The only players there that would represent a meaningful improvement over Phelps are Peña, to a very small degree, and Klesko. We've already seen that Phelps and Peña are alarmingly similar hitters. So if Phelps is good enough from the right side, it would make a certain amount of sense to give Peña a second chance to make the team in the spring.

Klesko, meanwhile, is a curious case. Despite the way he dominates the chart above, he missed nearly all of 2006 following shoulder surgery after suffering an alarming power outage in 2005. One line of thought attributes the power outage to the shoulder problems that have theoretically been fixed by the surgery, which could suggest a surprising up-tick in production for 2007. Another is that after that weak showing in '05 and what amounts to a year off at age 35, the Ryan Kelsko who put up that .310 career GPA against righties may be gone forever.

Another interesting angle on Klesko is that he has actually spent the majority of his career playing left field. That's a good thing in terms of the position flexibilty the Yankees might require in order to carry what amounts to a third first baseman, but is also a concern as Klesko was actually the Padres starting left fielder in 2004 and 2005, meaning he hasn't been a regular first baseman since 2003. In addition to that, he's never been considered a good fielder at either position, where as the reports on Peña have at the very least been conflicted, meaning someone out there thinks he's a strong gloveman.

Still, as the two combined for 37 major league at-bats in 2006 (33 of which were Peña's), both players should come cheap enough that it would be worth a gamble to bring them to camp. As it stands now, their roster spot would likely otherwise go to Bernie Williams. Consider:

12 pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers)
9 starters (including, for our purposes here, the righty half of the 1B platoon)
3 bench spots used on Melky, utility infielder and back-up catcher

That's 24 men. There's one spot left for another bench bat, and a left first baseman, preferably with some outfield experience, seems like the best way to use it. I can't see Bernie learning first base and he's essentially a righty bat at this point. There haven't even been whispers about moving Hideki Matsui to first base (which actually would open up a job for Bernie as he could be a righty bench bat/outfielder behind lefties Damon and Abreu and switch-hitter Cabrera). Best I can tell, Juan Miranda won't see the big leagues this year prior to expanded rosters, if at all. It would seem that, baring a trade, Klesko and Peña are the only remaining options. Though to be completely honest, I wouldn't complain if the Yankees brought Guiel back. Having a lefty bench bat with some pop, some patience and the ability to play first and all three outfield positions isn't a bad consolation prize, even if the pop and patience isn't quite up to the standards of the other two.

Left Over
2006-12-12 05:12
by Alex Belth

According to George King, the Yankees and Red Sox are both interested in Pittsburgh reliever, Mike Gonzalez, a southpaw. Boston has its hands full as they work on signing D. Matsuzaka this week, a deal that despite all of the posturing, I expect will get done.

Miranda Rights
2006-12-10 21:22
by Cliff Corcoran

ESPN deportes is reporting that the Yankees have signed 23-year-old Cuban defectee Juan Miranda to a four year contract worth $4 million. Miranda is a lefty-hitting outfielder/first baseman with some pop. Miranda, who was on the 2001 Cuban national team (he would have been 18 at the time if his given age is correct), defected to the Dominican Republic in early 2004 and has since become a Dominican citizen. This is pretty much everything I can find on this guy, who will likely spend 2007 in the minors even though his contract requires that he be placed on the 40-man roster.

Yankees by the Numbers
2006-12-10 16:58
by Cliff Corcoran

Updated Sept. 27, 2007

This is a rainy day post I've wanted to do for years. Thanks to the tremendous, and in the spirit of Jon Weisman's recent All-Time Dodger Alphabet Team, I'm pleased to present the Yankees by the Numbers. It's pretty self-explanatory.

A quick bit of history before I begin: though often credited as such, the Yankees were not the first major league team to wear numbers. The Indians wore numbers on their left sleeves for several weeks in 1916, but abandoned the practice after another brief period of use in 1917. The 1923 Cardinals were the next to try, the numbers again appearing on the players' left sleeves, but quickly removed them because the players were "embarrassed." Both the Indians and the Yankees were set to begin the 1929 season with numbers on their backs, but a rainout in the Bronx gave the Indians the precedent. Still, the 1929 Yankees were, along with the Indians, the first team to wear numbers for a full season. Here's where the legend synchs back up with reality. Those 1929 Yankees wore numbers that corresponded with what was likely their opening day line-up, thus the original single digits were:

1 – Earl Combs (CF)
2 – Mark Koenig (3B)
3 – Babe Ruth (RF)
4 – Lou Gehrig (1B)
5 – Bob Meusel (LF)
6 – Tony Lazzeri (2B)
7 – Leo Durocher (SS)
8 – Johnny Grabowski (C)

Catchers Benny Bengough and rookie Bill Dickey wore numbers 9 and 10 (Dickey won the starting job that year and took Grabowski's #8 in 1930). Top pitchers Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt and George Pipgras wore numbers 11, 12 and 14 (the Yankees skipped #13 for the usual reasons).

Enjoy . . .

Continue reading...

An Early Holiday Treat
2006-12-10 07:53
by Alex Belth

Have you ever started reading a book or watching a movie and been convinced after ten pages or ten minutes that you are going to absolutely love the book or movie in question for a long time? I remember when I first watched "The Long Goodbye" on video, I literally stopped the tape after about ten minutes and rewound it to the begining. I had to pinch myself. Is this really as good as it seems to be? I got that feeling again the other night as I finally got down to reading Arnold Hano's classic "A Day in the Bleachers." After six or seven pages, I just knew this was a book that I was going to adore. Hano was thirty-two years old when he attended Game One of the 1954 World Serious. He went to the Polo Grounds and sat in the bleachers. He didn't intend to write a book about it--oh, perhaps a magazine piece-but not a book. For the most part, baseball books weren't written for adults back in 1954, they were almost exclusively written for kids. But several weeks after the Serious, Hano had a brisk, tidy account of the game made famous by a catch (and throw) by Willie Mays.

The book is a stunt but Hano manages to pull it off with a simple, unpretenteous writing style. He is clever and funny too, but what I most respond to is the directness of his language and the sharpness of his reporting. Anyhow, I'm not nearly done with it--who knows, maybe it doesn't hold up the whole time---but so far I'm enjoying it thoroughly. (I just love it when you've heard good things about a book for years and when you finally get down to reading it, it does not disappoint.)

Here is an excerpt I thought you guys might enjoy:

...A Yankee fan is a complacent ignorant fat cat. He knows nothing about baseball except that the Yankees will win the pennant and the World Series more often than they won't and that a home run is the only gesture of any worth in the entire game. They have been fed on victory and on great dull stars such as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, and even these men they do not appreciate. They know that DiMaggio could hit the ball often and for great distances and that he could make marvelous plays in the outfield, but they never knew that he was one of the very best baserunners in the American League.

I remember seeing DiMaggio hit a ground ball past the shortstop in an unimportant game on afternoon several years back. As the ball rolled into left-centerfield, the two outfielders converged on it. DiMaggio rounded first and as I glanced at him, something caught in my throat. He looked more like a great deer than a human, running lightly on his toes, head and neck stretched out, nostrils seemingly quivering, eyes searching for whatever it was he had to know. And then when the center fielder decided it was to be his play rather than the left fielder's, a routine play of gathering up the ball and returning it to the infield, DiMaggio made his move. He dashed--no, strode is the better word--he strode for second, long-legged and sure, and the centerfielder, in a sudden flurry of activity, a man upset because the unconventional was being done, threw in a hurry to second base, but a scant fraction of a second too late.

It was not a game-winning effort in itself--the Yankees won, 0-1--but it was symbolic of the skill of Yankee players of that time. DiMaggio had hit an ordinary single. But because it was so ordinary, the left fielder--the man moving in on the ball and toward second base at the same time--did not make the play that he should have made, and the center fielder had to cut in front of him, moving away from second base as he picked up the ball. It was just this very thing DiMaggio sensed might happen, and he was prepared to act if it did.

But the remarkable thing is that nobody cheered. Nobody. Not a single soul in the entire ball park. Oh, yes, they cheered the blow. As soon as the ball was hit they yelled, and when it rolled past the shortstop they increased the yell for now it was surely a hit. But by the time the outfielder picked up the ball, they were silent, absolutely dead silent. It was a display of mass ignorance that I have never seen equaled in a ball park. I have never gone back to the Yankee Stadium since that day.

I think some of what Hano says still holds true today, though I'm pretty sure if Jeter--or anyone else, for that matter--pulled off a move like that in the Bronx, Yankee fans would pour on the applause. Regardless, this is the kind of observation you can find all over Hano's small book, a perfect gift for the holidays.

What Would Andy Do?
2006-12-10 07:43
by Alex Belth

"My elbow feels pretty good," Pettitte said. "My wife and kids have no desire for me to retire right now. They don't want me to be at the house. I thought they would."
(N.Y. Times)

Andy Pettitte addressed the Houston media yesterday.

That is all.

Andy's Heart May Be In Houston, But His Arm is Back in the Bronx
2006-12-09 05:10
by Alex Belth

Good Andy Pettitte coverage by Jack Curry and Tyler Kepner in The Times this morning. The Astros were evidentally the southpaw's first cherce, but Houston would not go near a second year. Pettitte still has to take a physical, which won't happen for another nine days (Andy and his father are headed to South Texas for a previously-planned hunting trip). Here's Tom Pettitte, Andy's old man:

"I never wanted him to leave New York to begin with, as far as where his baseball numbers were going to stack up," Tom said. "I always thought he could get to 200 wins as a Yankee. Now the ironic thing is he'll have a chance to win his 200th game with the Yankees."

..."The Yankees were always a special part of his life, no question," Tom Pettitte said. "When he was deciding to pitch down here, he said: 'I'm a Yankee. I'll always be a Yankee.' That's how he understood it. Now he gets to go back and be a Yankee again."

Joel Sherman likes the move, and here is one of the reasons why:

The team's prospects get more than a great role model to see in spring training. Pettitte's arrival also means the Yanks can keep all of their prospects, notably Phil Hughes, in the minors to begin the season to continue their education. No one has to be rushed now. This also provides a stockpile of options for when the inevitable injuries occur. Between Double-A and Triple-A, the Yanks should have Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and Steven White vying to be summoned. It is the best Yankees depth in a while.

Again, while the Yankees don't have that one guy that strikes you as a true ace, they've got a nice group of veteran starters. As Sherman notes, they also have depth, a bunch of young arms. That hasn't been the case in New York for more than a minute now. I know that I feel more confident about their starting pitching this morning than I did a week ago. Beauty, eh?

Back in the Fold
2006-12-08 13:26
by Alex Belth

According to Buster Olney, Andy Pettitte will sign a one-year deal worth $16 million. He will also have a player option for 2008. The Big Unit, Chien-Ming Wang, Mikey Moose, Andy, and ? That's not too terrible. Not really a proper Ace in there, but four very solid B/B+ pitchers. Funny, I wasn't sorry to see Pettitte go, but if the report is true, I'm happy to see him back. Go figure.

Update: Our man on the spot, Pete Abraham confirms the story. Andy's back.

The Big Chill
2006-12-08 05:29
by Alex Belth

Yo, dudes and dudettes: It is b-r-i-c-k in New York this morning. First stupid cold day of the winter. Good gosh. I spend the winter months bitching and moaning about the cold while Emily whines all summer about the heat. Everything evens out in the end, right?

So, according to Nick Cafardo, the bloom is off the rose for Theo Epstein up in Boston. Murray Chass reports that all may not be kosher with the way the Sox are doing business. There has been talk this week that the negotiations with D. Matsuzaka have hit some trouble, but I figure Boston will get their man when all is said and done. Our man out west, Rich Lederer likes what the Sox have done so far.

Meanwhile, closer to home, nothing to do but wait and see what'll happen with Andy P.

Sweating the Small Stuff
2006-12-07 11:32
by Cliff Corcoran

For the first time in eleven years, the Yankees have claimed a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Back in December 1995, the player they claimed from the Brewers was Marc Ronan, a then-26-year-old catcher who had caught six games for new Yankee manager Joe Torre's Cardinals in 1993. Those six games were destined to be Ronan's only major league appearances. With the newly acquired Joe Girardi, Jim Leyritz and a rookie named Jorge Posada in camp, Ronan was cut in spring training. This year, the Yankees' claim is far more compelling: former Baseball Prospectus cover boy Josh Phelps.

Phelps fits the description of the right-handed power-hitting first baseman the Yankees were looking for, though whether or not he does so any more than Andy Phillips, who is still on the roster, or Craig Wilson, who may yet be resigned, is questionable. Phelps, now 28, came up with the Blue Jays as a catcher and, arriving directly from double-A, went 0 for 13 in two sips of coffee in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 he abandoned catching and split the year between triple-A Syracuse and Toronto, mashing the ball in both places as a DH/first baseman. It was at this point that Phelps became a cover boy. At age 24, he was drawing comparisons to a young Dale Murphy, another tall, lean, powerful, right-handed-hitting converted catcher. Pegged as a future star in Toronto, Phelps suffered a slight sophomore slump in 2003. When his struggles got even worse in 2004, the Blue Jays dealt him to Cleveland for never-was Eric Crozier. Phelps did better with the Indians, hitting .303/.338/.579 over the remainder of the season, but departed for Tampa Bay as a free agent that winter. In Tampa, Phelps lost his DH job to Jonny Gomes after hitting .266/.328/.424 through June 5. He hasn't appeared in the majors since then, but he had his best season since 2002 with triple-A Toledo in the Tigers' system last year. Coming off that .303/.370/.532 season, Phelps signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on November 15, but the O's left him unprotected and the Yankees, against whom Phelps has hit .318/.369/.523 in 107 at-bats over his major league career, snapped him up.

The selection cost the Yankees $50,000 and the Yankees will have to offer Phelps back to Baltimore (in exchange for half of their money back) if they want to remove him from the 25-man roster at any point this season. Phelps will clearly compete directly with Andy Phillips this spring. Since Phillips is out of options, one of the two (if not both should Craig Wilson re-enter the picture) will likely be with another organization come opening day. With that, here's a chart comparing Phelps, Phillips, Wilson, and a pair of similarly skilled lefty first basemen, Carlos Peña, who made a cameo as a Columbus Clipper in 2006 before making a briefer one in Boston at the end of the year and is once again a free agent, and Hee Seop Choi, who after all the hand wringing we did over his landing with the Red Sox, had an awful, injury-shortened year in Pawtucket and has since signed a minor league deal with the Devil Rays:

Josh Phelps28R.268/.336/.473 (1203).288/.360/.524 (2719).308/.370/.532 (464-AAA)
Andy Phillips29R.228/.266/.391 (294).295/.363/.516 (2530).240/.281/.394 (246-MLB)
Craig Wilson30R.265/.354/.480 (1952).275/.357/.496 (2271).251/.314/.446 (359-MLB)
Carlos Peña28L.243/.331/.459 (1685).283/.393/.510 (2485).278/.383/.490 (418-AAA)
Hee Seop Choi27L.240/.349/.437 (915).275/.380/.511 (1794).207/.347/.361 (227-AAA)

Phelps stacks up well against that competition. If anything, his continued search for a major league contract may have as much to do with his glove as his bat. It remains to be seen whether or not Phelps, who has played the field in just 31 of his 343 post-catching major league games, can be trusted at first base. With Jason Giambi locked in at DH, his defense this spring is sure to be closely watched by Joe Torre and his staff. That said, mark Phelps down next to Brian Bruney and Darrell Rasner as further evidence that Brian Cashman and company are on point in all phases of their game.

"A" is for Lefty
2006-12-07 05:18
by Alex Belth

So the word from Andy Pettitte's camp is that the southpaw still wants to pitch in the big leagues. The Yankees are clearly hot for him and are reportedly prepared to pay him $15-16 million for 2007, and perhaps even give him a two-year deal when all is said and done. Now whether Pettitte's agents are using the Bombers simply to get a better deal from the Astros, only time will tell. According to The Houston Chronicle:

The Astros' excitement was a bit tempered by the realization that Pettitte hasn't decided where he will play.

"We certainly are motivated," [GM, Tim] Purpura said. "I think certainly Andy is motivated. I can only control our part of the process. They obviously will talk to other clubs and see what financial parameters they can glean from the other clubs.

"That part of it I can't really tell you. Certainly from our point of view, we're ready to move forward if we can make the right deal."

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman had dinner with Scott Boras, Mike Piazza signed with the A's, Freddy Garcia was moved to Philly, and the Cubs landed Ted Lilly.

Not the Retiring Type?
2006-12-05 17:31
by Alex Belth

According to Tom Verducci, the Andy Pettitte situation is heating up:

The free-agent left-hander, who is strongly considering retirement, is said to be intrigued with the idea of returning to pinstripes and "could possibly have a deal by the end of the week" with New York, according to a baseball source familiar with the negotiations.

The Yankees are willing to wait as long as necessary for Pettitte, whose original timetable was to defer a decision on 2007 until later this month. Pettitte is the club's No. 1 option because the former Yankee is New York-proven, is left-handed (possibly joining Johnson and Kei Igawa to give them three lefties in the rotation), does not require a lengthy term to his contract and is coming off an impressive second half of 2006.

In this market, the Yankees would do well to get Pettitte at two years and about $26 million.

I liked Pettitte when he was with the Yanks. How can any Yankee fan ever forget his performance in Game 5 of the 1996 World Serious? That said, I wasn't sorry when he left. Though I'm generally not crazy about second-comings, I have to say, given what is out there, and the current state of the Yankees starting pitching, I wouldn't be unhappy to see Pettitte return for a year or two, would you?

Strange Ways
2006-12-05 05:33
by Alex Belth

Still nuthin' doin' from the Yanks, though reports have it that they are still interested in Andy Pettitte. Bill Madden reports:

As one rival AL scout observed in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel: "What's with the Yankees? Are they even here? Everybody seems to be going crazy this winter and they're just sitting back watching it all."

"I'm patient," said Cashman, "but I'll be aggressive if it's something that makes sense. At the same time, I'm more than willing to go into spring training with what I've got."

I don't think any of us would be surprised if the Yanks made a splashy move before the season begins (maybe a former fan lands a job in the front office, who knows?). That said, it sure is odd to see them so restrained. Time will tell if this is a good or a bad thing. A friend of mine wondered the other day whether or not the Red Sox are out-Yankeeing the Yankees. He worried that the Bombers could be left behind. But I'm not so sure. Hey, in Cashmoney, we trust, right? Muh-hu-ha-ha.

You Won't Have Tanyon Sturtze to Kick Around Anymore
2006-12-04 05:26
by Alex Belth

Actually, it wasn't poor Tanyon that got so many Yankee fans hot-under-the-collar. It was the way Joe Torre used him. Anyhow, he's an Atlanta Brave now. So long, Snoops. Thanks for the memories.

Meet and Greet
2006-12-02 06:17
by Alex Belth

The rich seats just got more expensive at Yankee Stadium. There are slight price hikes all around, but nobody was hit harder than the rattle-your-jewelry crowd.

It's a cool, crisp Saturday morning in the Bronx. The winter meetings are just a few days off. We'll be able to follow them closely through a variety of sources, including Pete Abraham's essential "Lo-Hud" blog. What do you think will shake down? Any hopes, any predictions? Whatta ya hear, whatta ya say?

Arbir Day
2006-12-01 11:49
by Cliff Corcoran

Major League Baseball's new Basic Agreement, now in effect, mercifully stripped a lot of red tape out of the free agent process. Arbitration offers are still a part of the process, however, and midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their declared free agents. This deadline is far less significant than it used to be, however, since players not offered arbitration will still be able to resign with their former teams (under the previous Agreement they couldn't do so until May 1 of the following season).

There are really just two remaining factors for teams to consider when deciding whether or not to offer arbitration. The first is that teams are only eligible to receive compensation for departed free agents to whom they did offer arbitration. Of course, with the elimination of compensation for Type C free agents and the reclassification of Type A and Type B players to the top 40 percent of the field (was the top 50 percent), this applies to a much smaller group of players. For example, the only Yankee free agent who falls within that top 40 percent is Ron Villone, who is a Type B (Mike Mussina was a Type A, but having resigned, that's moot). For those players, however, the old catch remains. If you offer a player arbitration in the hope that he'll sign with another team and bring you a compensation draft pick, you run the risk of that player accepting salary arbitration, which guarantees him a contract with your team for the following season.

Take the case of Villone, an undistinguished aging middle reliever who pitched way over his head for the first half of 2006 before bottoming out so severely that he ended up with an ERA below his already below league average career mark (how Elias subsequently placed him in the top 40 percent of all eligible free agents remains a mystery to me, though I believe playing time is a factor, and Villone did pitch in 70 games last year). Recent rumors have had Villone close to a contract with the Cleveland Indians, which suggest the Yankees may want to offer him arbitration in order to land a supplemental round pick in next June's amateur draft. Then again, Villone is also a New Jersey native who grew up a Yankee fan and is thus a prime candidate to accept the Yankees' arbitration offer, thus requiring them to pay for his age-37 season. In the David Parrish and Drew Henson era, the risk of Villone accepting arbitration wouldn't be worth the shot at a draft pick, but now that the Yankees are making the most of their draft picks, the shot at an extra pick is awfully tempting.

According to Peter Abraham, there are a few free agent deals on the table that are just waiting for tonight's deadline to pass in order to find out if compensation will be part of the cost. Those deals must be for Type A players, as the picks given in compensation for Type B free agents are supplemental round picks only, meaning they are not picks taken away from the signing team, but additional picks added to the draft specifically for compensation purposes. Remarkably, nine Type A free agents have already been signed, guaranteeing that their old teams will offer arbitration in order to receive that compensatory pick.

Who's on First?
2006-12-01 05:44
by Alex Belth

While there is still hope that the Yankees will persue Craig Wilson as their second first baseman, The Post reports that Shea Hillenbrand is still in the mix. Over at the Times, Tyler Kepner writes that the Bombers are also looking at one Julio Zuleta, a 31-year old who has played in Japan for the past three seasons. The chief reason the Yanks are curious about Zuleta is that he's faired well against D. Matsuzaka. Meanwhile, according to Newsday, Bernie Williams' future with the Yankees is more than a little uncertain.