Mailbag: Madson, Garza, Draft, NJ, Meche

Oh hey, look at that, the Yankees aren’t interested in Soriano
Imagining Alomar on the Yankees

Ah yes, the return of the regular old mailbag. We milked some questions for longer posts over the holidays, but here’s one of the old school, quick hits style mailbags that we’ve all grown to love. This week’s topics include a potential trade for Ryan Madson,  interest in Matt Garza, using Cliff Lee money on prospects, Nick Johnson‘s job prospects, Gil Meche, and book recommendations. If you want to send in a question, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go.

Changeup, strike three. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Steve asks: Do you think there’s a chance the Phils will trade Ryan Madson, say for Nunez & one of their young pitchers? This way if they can play Nunez at ss & trade Jimmy Rollins save around 12m.

No way. The Phillies are clearly going all in right now, as they should because the core of the team consists of players on the wrong side of 30 (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, etc.), and they won’t be productive forever. Madson is arguably the best setup man in the game, and they sure as hell won’t trade Jimmy Rollins. He’s massively overrated but still a damn fine player, and who’s taking on that contract? I’d love to see Madson in pinstripes because he’s downright awesome, but it would take a lot more than Eduardo Nunez and a pitching prospect to even get their attention.

Tucker asks: If Matt Garza was in a different division, would the Yanks be all over him?

Yeah, probably. Young enough (27), cheap enough ($3.35M last year and is up for arbitration for the second time this winter), healthy enough (hasn’t missed a start since April of 2008), and effective enough (4.24 FIP last three years, identical to Gavin Floyd and Brett Myers). He’d be an ideal target, but I can’t see the Rays trading him within the division. Andrew Friedman’s been calling the shots in Tampa Bay since the end of the 2005 season, and he’s made exactly one three trades within the AL East: he acquired Chad Bradford and Gregg Zaun from the Orioles in separate deals, and he also dealt Nick Green to the Yankees. Just not gonna happen, not at a reasonable cost anyway.

Late update: Looks like Garza’s headed to the Cubbies.

Sam asks: Does any part of you wish that the Yanks would re-allocate some of the money they almost spent on Cliff Lee to trying to sign more high-end international guys/draft picks than they would have originally? I get that what they already spend is substantial but I would love to see them throw an extra 2-3 million into both budgets.

Of course, but as you said, they do spend a bunch of money as it is. You can always spend more, but eventually you’ll reach a point where you’re just throwing money away because the rate of return is so low. We can complain about a lot of things with the Yankees, but the farm system isn’t one of them. They know what they’re doing in that department these days.

Matt asks: Was looking back at the 2010 roster, and who the Yanks were getting rid of and keeping. One that I know won’t be back in Nick Johnson, but is there any clue where he would go ?

Reportedly, NJ is fully recovered from his latest wrist surgery and is working out twice a day down in Arizona. He was in the mix for Oakland’s designated hitter job at one point, but they’ve since signed Hideki Matsui. The Cubs were also in the mix before they signed Carlos Pena, but that’s pretty much it. We haven’t heard a peep about Johnson all offseason. Just look at how little activity there is in his MLBTR archive.

I don’t know where he could go next year now that most of the major free agent first baseman are off the board and teams in need of a DH will turn to Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez or Vlad Guerrero. Maybe the Rays? Twins? Angels? The Marlins are seeking a lefty hitting bat off the bench, and he played there for half-a-season, so maybe that fits. If he was willing to take one of those ever popular minor league “prove yourself in Spring Training” contract with a mid-summer opt out date, I’d be all over the guy. No risk with that type of contract, and it could end up having a high reward.

"I signed here because I want to win." (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Howard asks: It is pitching (of course) which we want to discuss—maybe a deal for Soria would be easier if we took Meche and his contract at the same time? Is Meche still a capable starter? And why do the Yankees insist on keeping Mr. Chamberlain in the bullpen? His performance as a starter was quite good when they let him pitch on regular rest.

Once upon a time, Meche tossed up two consecutive seasons of at least 210 innings pitched and a 3.82 FIP. Of course that was three years ago. He’s since been battling back and most notably shoulder injuries, and his performance has cratered: just a 5.03 FIP in 190.2 IP over the last two seasons. Meche finished the 2010 season as a reliever (and a pretty good one at that), and the decision has already been made by the Kansas City brain trust that he will return to that role next season. They don’t think he’s physically up to starting after missing 150 days with shoulder issues in the last two seasons.

So to answer the first question, no, he’s no longer a capable starter. With a $12M salary, he’s a deal breaker if the Royals want to try to lump him into any potential Soria trade. As for the second question, I don’t think any of us know why they insist on keeping Joba in the bullpen. I’m sure they have a very valid reason (Brian Cashman said something like “his stuff just isn’t the same as a starter,” but … duh), but we outsiders don’t know what it is. I’d love love love to see him given a chance to start again, but I’ve accepted that it just won’t happen. For shame.

Dan asks: After just finishing Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, which was brilliant I might add, can you suggest other books of the same quality? I know that these long, drawn out winter days make everyone a bit nostalgic. What better way to keep the flames burning then with a decent read through Yankee, or Baseball in general, history/insight? I know I’d love to get some suggestions from Yankee writers and fans on titles that are not to be missed.

I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know anything about it and can’t make any good recommendations. However, I’m sure some of our readers have, and I’m willing to bet they have some recommendations to offer. If you have one (or some), leave it in the comments.

Oh hey, look at that, the Yankees aren’t interested in Soriano
Imagining Alomar on the Yankees
  • Juke Early

    BOOKS –

    If you haven’t read it all ready BALL FOUR Jim Bouton. Sure it’s old, but it was the first of its kind. Amazing stuff. History lesson: 1921 : The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York – Lyle Spatz. Also get an idea of what it was like being treated like shit by MLB & finally getting a shot: Satchel : The Life and Times of an American Legend – Larry Tye. Should hold you awhile. . ..

    • Doug

      Cardboard Gods — Josh Wilker

      Josh takes baseball cards from his collection and uses them as a starting point for ruminations about the player, baseball, and life in general. It is a fantastic read.

      Seven The Mickey Mantle Novel

      This is one funny book. Written as a novel but filled with all the stories about Mickey that you get the feeling are way too true. Interested in what happened when Marilyn Monroe hit on Mickey?

      The Celebrant –

      Written about a fan’s celebrant’s)relationship with the great Christie Matthewson. Good book and good sense of baseball during that era.

      Anything by Jim Bouton

      Ball Four Obviously but Foul Ball about his struggle to buy a minor league team was interesting as well.

      You’ve got to have Wa – Baseball in Japan

      and a quick non baseball recommendation

      The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro – Joe McGinnis

      Always a great writer Joe spends a year following a lower level Italian soccer team. I don’t like soccer. Never did but this book was the first time I could relate to it. A GREAT book.

    • Wayne

      When it comes to funny baseball books, there are none better than these two by umpire Ron Luciano: The Fall of the Roman Umpire and The Umpire Strikes Back.

      The books were written many years ago, but they contain some of the funniest stories ever written about baseball. The books contain great stories about guys like Nolan Ryan, Tommy John, Carl Yastrzemski, and Earl Weaver, who detested Luciano (the feeling was mutual, though). His Earl Weaver stories were hysterical.

      Everthing about the man was funny, except his demise: he commited suicide at age 57. As the NY Times said at the time: “In his 11-year career as an American League umpire, he had a theatrical flair in making calls and did not shrink from confrontations.” Luciano, in fact, may have been the only umpire in baseball history who was actually fun to watch. He was frequently more entertaining than the games.

  • JAG

    If you want a book to check out, I highly recommend Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat by Sol Gittleman. It’s a fantastic read that sheds a lot of light on the Yankees of the 40s-50s and their 5-year dynasty.

    • Esteban

      Ha, I was going to recommend that book. He was a professor of mine in college, but that book is great.

      • JAG

        Me too! He gave me my copy. His Baseball History class was the best class I ever took.

  • Johnny O

    The Bronx is Burning was phenomenal, especially for someone who was born right after that time period. Not only the baseball parts, but the history of NY (Koch/Cuomo mayoral race, Summer of Sam, Newspaper wars, urban decay, etc.) was amazing. Soooooooooo much better than the TV series.

    The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle is supposed to be great as well, it’s next on my list. The author did an interview with Francessa a few months ago, and there are some great stories there.

    • Smallz_LOS

      I was gunna suggest the Last Boy too, it was really really good.

  • Steve H

    They don’t think he’s physically up to starting after missing 150 days with shoulder issues in the last two seasons.

    Remember when the Red Sox were moving Papelbon to the rotation because they didn’t think his shoulder could handle the rigors of relieving? Is there any evidence proving either the Royals or the Red Sox right?

    • Zack

      Doctors told him surgery would preclude him from pitching the 2011 season and might have been career ending. It would’ve been his third career shoulder surgery. His other two came in 2001.
      “I took an option of not having it,” Meche said. “My shoulder’s beat up and everything. We’re going a different option. The only way to play out my contract and contribute something to this organization, having surgery wasn’t the way to go.”

      They’re not really “protecting” his arm, it seems that Meche just can’t physically be out there for 90-100 pitches.

      • Steve H

        They said the same things about Papelbon though (in reverse). If Meche can’t throw 90-100 pitches once every 5 days, what says he can throw 25 pitches 3 times a week?

        • Zack

          He started the season on the DL, sucked when he pitched, and sucked during rehab. There’s something wrong with his shoulder and they said he can’t hold his velocity and effectiveness through games for the 2nd straight season.

          So he can A.) Have surgery and retire and the Royals are out 12m, B.) Be a starter, suck again, hit the DL, then come back in Aug/Sept as a reliever, or C.) He was effective as a reliever last year so start it from day 1 this year.

          Like you said below, it’s a case-by-bcase thing.

    • whozat

      I think that’s a facile analysis. Not all injuries are the same. Some may be a durability problem, where you just can’t throw 100 pitches in a row. Some may be exacerbated by an irregular regimen, where you can’t have sufficient time off between workouts, but if it’s rested and you get it stretched out and working, the joint can handle plenty of load. The former can’t start…the latter could, and possibly should.

      • Steve H

        You’re right, it’s a boversimplification and we don’t have all of the info the teams do on these two pitchers. The general belief, however, is that relieving is better for your arm than starting. I don’t think there’s really anything to back that up. On a case by case basis I’m sure there is, but in general, I doubt it.

  • Elliot F

    While its not about the Yankees, reading “Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball” was heartwarming and quite enjoyable. Leitch’s humor and nostalgia make this a fast read, and while the he uses the vehicle of a Cardinals Cubs Game, its certainly easy for a Yankee fan to relate to his love of the Cards and loathing for the Cubs.

  • Erick

    I enjoyed The Duke of Havana very much about the El Duque and how he escaped Cuba chasing the dream to play baseball.

  • ColoradoYankeeFan

    Ball Four is the place to start. I re-read the expanded version last year and it holds up very well.

    Hated the Mickey Mantle Book. It seemed like an attempt to take the Hero out of the Mick, almost a hit piece discrediting his accomplishments as no big deal or overly exaggerated. “The Mick” was a much better read.

    Sparky Lyle’s Bronx Zoo is a classic.

    Bronx is Burning was good, I ended up skimming through much of the NYC stuff (one paragraph was enough to get the flavor –didn’t need a whole chapter on how bad things in NYC were). The Yankees stuff was excellent.

    Greg Nettles Balls was also a good depiction of the era from someone who was a bit upset with Steinbrenner at the time (and it shows).

    A Non-Yankee book, Moneyball by Michael Lewis was great. Moneyball is about Nick Swisher and others.

    • Smallz_LOS

      I saw it from a different perspective. He was a human being too. He made mistakes, he had vices, he had flaws. I feel like the book just made him more of a relatable person, rather than this larger than life figure who was better than everyone. Thats my opinion of course though

    • Juke Early

      Gee I forgot about most of those [brain old] – All great books!

  • Smallz_LOS

    Joba is not a starter. I dunno where people get this idea that he was ever a good starter. He wasn’t. He had ONE dominant game against Boston, once. Every start besides that, he averaged 5 innings and 4 runs. Thats a bullpen killer my friends. He never ever should of been takin out of that role from 07. Moving him back and forth totally screwed him up. If he would of been Mos setup guy for the past 3 years I am confident in saying that he’d be the closer we all envisioned him being a few years ago. Do not mess with this guy anymore.

    • I Voted 4 Kodos

      I dunno where people get this idea that he was ever a good starter. He wasn’t. He had ONE dominant game against Boston, once. Every start besides that, he averaged 5 innings and 4 runs.

      This would be a great point if it was true in any way, shape, or form.

      Joba completely dominated the minors as a starter, then put up a 2.76 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 10.2 K/9, and 2.96 K/BB over 12 starts and 65 innings as a starter in the majors in 2008. That’s way the hell more than one good start against Boston.

      • pete

        those numbers include his first two shortened warmup starts and his truncated start in Arlington where he got hurt, too. Excepting those three, his ERA (in the small sample size of 9 starts) was almost exactly 2.00

    • Hughesus Christo

      A bullpen killer, so unlike Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre.

      YOU are why Joba was rushed up for the bullpen to begin with, and why he is useless now. You. Personally.

      • pete

        haha ietc. You’ve grown on me, hughesus

    • Zack

      Every start besides that, he averaged 5 innings and 4 runs.

      Joba pitched to a 7.20 ERA? Some one has been listing to Francesca too much.

    • Mike Myers
    • pete

      5 innings 4 runs

      that’d be a 7.20 ERA. His ERA as a starter stands at 4.18. Don’t say things that are blatantly false. Just don’t.

      Excluding his stretch-out starts and the start in which he got hurt in 2008, he allowed 12 ER in 54 innings. That comes out to an ERA (sss alert) of 2.

      In 2009, the year he was supposedly given all the chances in the world to succeed and completely and totally failed beyond any possible reasonable doubt, his ERA was at 3.78 when he simultaneously surpassed his previous innings high and started getting yanked around by the organization. Then the wheels (somewhat expectedly) came off.

      Personally, I have enough faith in the Yankee organization to think that they must know something we don’t about Joba’s shoulder, because all evidence in fact does suggest that he was on track to become an excellent starter. In some ways, his 2009 was even more impressive than his 2008 – his stuff was noticeably worse, yet he still managed to pitch pretty well for 2/3 of the season.

    • Steve H

      Every start besides that, he averaged 5 innings and 4 runs.

      You know there are about 102,458 websites to completely refute this nonsense right?

    • RiddlemeThis

      I looked at Joba’s fangraphs for 2009, I’ve been listening to so many on here talk about how Joba was “screwed up and its the yankees fault” and so on and so forth; maybe I’m missing something but I have some questions that maybe ya’ll can help answer.

      1. Joba was allowed to pitch till into the 5th inning 20 times (I’m counting any 4 1/3, and 4 2/3 because he technically did pitch part of the fifth inning just didn’t finish it) two starts he was yanked early because he was hit hard, and nine (all in September) he was kept on a 3-4 inning leash. Now my question is how does one month of short leashing screw up a player as bad as we’ve seen from Joba?

      2. My other question is this: When dealing with minor league pitchers don’t teams only let them pitch a certain number innings a year and slowly increase those numbers of innings every year? In order to keep those innings in check, aren’t those young pitchers pulled at varying times every start. (What I’m trying to say is one start a prospect is pulled in the 3rd inning but in the very next start he might be pulled in the 5th inning)

      Now if the Yankees were treating Joba with the kiddy gloves that young pitchers were going through in the minors, how is it that he is screwed up, but so many others aren’t?

  • JGS

    The Bullpen Gospels, by Dirk Hayhurst (sign him, Cashman!)*

    *not for the big league team

    • Mark

      Bullpen Gospels was an amazing book. And he’s now a free agent!

  • S.King

    “A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees in 1939”

    GREAT NY Yankees read with a bunch of good/old baseball stories thrown in throughout the storyline of the historic 1939 season. Selling for under $20 on amazon right now.

  • rbizzler

    Baseball book suggestions:

    Yankee related: Duke of Havana by Fainaru and Sanchez – a book about the amazing story of El Duque

    I also second the recommendation of Bronx is Burning.

    Non-Yankee baseball:

    Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck – Veeck’s autobio details his life in the game and his continuous fight with old-guard owners over his desire to innovate.

    non-baseball but excellent none the less:

    The Real All-Americans by Sally Jenkins – the story of the significance of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School football program that features Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner as coach.

    Also, anyone know of any books that they can suggest about the history of baseball in Cuba? Or a comprehensive history of the Negro Leagues?

  • Hannah Ehrlich

    I don’t have any good yankee recommendations, but I do have a few other baseball recommendations (some which have already been covered):

    Moneyball by Michael Lewis regarding the different view of players/stats by Billy Beane & the Oakland A’s due to contracts. It’s kind of a dry read, though, but if you love sabr junk, you will probably love this book. It features Swish heavily, curiously enough.

    The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst. It’s basically a memoir of a year of Hayhurst, a MiLBer in the Padres system. I’d say this is more about life as viewed through baseball rather than just baseball itself, but that doesn’t stop it from being a very good book Hayhurst has a lot of drama that he has to work through in the process. If you like stories about learning about yourself and figuring out what you want to do in life, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a light, dinky read, you’ll skip half this book.

    Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Pitcher by Matt McCarthy. This is a much lighter, more fun read than Bullpen Gospels, and it’s also shorter. If you’re looking for a book about silly minor leaguers and not much else, I’d go here. It was a short, fun, cute read.

    • Mike HC

      Disagree about Moneyball. It is not a dry read at all, and you don’t have to be into “sabr junk” either. That is actually the beauty of the book. Michael Lewis is a great, and entertaining story teller. Opposite of dry and stat heavy.

    • YankeeDave

      I would give a lot more credit to Odd Man Out. It was entertaining and had plenty of funny stories about minor league hijinks, but it was also an eye-opening glimpse to the harsh reality of minor league life. Especially interesting is how every team is actually 2 teams – the hispanic players (fondly known as “Dominicans”) and the non-hispanics. The book takes place in 2004 rookie league and many current day players are mentioned (Prince Fielder, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar). After reading this, you can’t help but have a lot more respect for anyone who makes it through years of minor league drudgery and makes it too the show. I found it very hard to put down once started.

  • ColoYank

    If you don’t care about time period, anything by Roger Angell will trump almost any other book on baseball (for me, anyway). “Game Time,” “The Summer Game,” “Five Seasons,” are a few titles.

    However, if you’re more specifically interested in straightforward reportage of facts, or stories focused on the Yanks, then there are a lot of great suggestions here. But if you want to take a pleasurable trip through some exceptional, sumptuous writing, go for Angell. His descriptions of players and games are endless treats. He had a wonderful appreciation of Jeter’s “high-elbowed” swing a couple of years ago, and I recall it to this day.

    • Rick in Boston

      Agreed on Angell.

      Also, Moneyball is a fave – it’s a business book wrapped around the baseball narrative. The idea of finding market inefficiencies in baseball is a time-honored thing, and Lewis does a great job of presenting it through Billy Beane’s group.

      Joe or Ben recommended “Ed Barrow”, which was fantastic. As is “You Gotta Have Wa” – a bit outdated now, but still great.

      Now baseball, but sports: “The GM” about Ernie Accorsi. You forget he helped craft the excellent but unlucky Browns teams of the mid-80’s.

      • mvg

        The GM was fantastic. I picked that up around Christmas shortly after it came out…a month an a half later I got chills remembering Accorsi’s last line as GM to the team as the Giants beats the Pats.

  • Beamish

    No comment love for Buster Olney’s “Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”?

    That book is still very relevant to the current franchise even though only three-and-a-half players remain from the end of that era, Cashman is still the GM and the effects of decisions made in the wake of that period have only recently passed.

    • CapitalT

      Great book, horrible ending

  • bexarama

    I don’t think anyone’s requested it here yet but for those of you that are my age (early 20sish), Birth of a Dynasty is really great because that 1996 Yankee team was generally my formative year. It’s also just a great read in general.

  • Andy


    The Yankee Years – Joe Torre
    The last night of the Yankee dynasty – Buster Olney

  • Mike HC

    I thought the David Wells book was an entertaining read, although it does start to drag a bit toward the end. And also the Torre book, The Yankee Years, was entertaining as well. I think Kabak gave a not so glowing review of the Torre book though if I remember correctly.

    • Mike HC

      I also enjoyed the Selena Roberts book about ARod.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        The Roberts book was a bunch of unsourced garbage. The Torre book I gave a mixed review to because I didn’t see the point. It was an “axe to grind” book that made Torre seem petty. It wasn’t poorly done but he and Verducci certainly played a bit fast and loose with the truth when it came to players Torre didn’t like.

        • Mike HC

          Both were still quite entertaining to me. Although I recognized I should not necessary treat all the information in those books as gospel.

  • OxFred

    “Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” by Buster Olney. Excellent, informative read.

  • CS Yankee

    The best baseball book ever: Summer of ’47.

    Other great reads;
    Ball Four or Five (updated version)
    The Comeback Yankees (story of the ’78 team)
    Eight Men Out (1919 BlackSox)
    Last Night of the Yankee Dynsaty
    Bronx Zoo (Sparky’s book of the mid-late 70’s Yanks)

    Decent reads;
    Mel’s Stottlemier’s book (forget title)
    The Yankee Years (Torre’s bitter beer face view)
    The Goose is Loose (Gossage tells a decent story)
    Dave Dravecki’s book (forgot title)

  • Dan

    Thanks for the suggestions on the books. There are a ton I will definitely check out.

  • Big Apple

    The Last Boy, by Jane Leavy…fantastic…i recommend it to everyone…I just finished it and it was great.

    Yankee Years – Torre
    George – Goldenbock
    October Men – Kahn
    Pride of October – Madden

    I’ve read a bunch on the steroid era – some interesting – Kirk Rodomski’s wasn’t bad and I felt he told a pretty good story about the problem since he was involved and spent time in jail.

    Game of Shadows – listed to that one – again, not bad.

    There are a number of books about NY baseball in the late 40s/50s before the Giants/Doddgers moved:

    Forever Blue is one..

    There is one more that I would recommend but I can’t find the title anywhere – i borrowed it from the library. But it was NY BBall from 1948-1957 and it was great…if I could go back in time i’d go right there…great time for baseball.

  • al

    summer of 47 is my fav baseball book. the big bam is good too. I enjoyed Clemente as well