Open Thread: The early odds

Over at Blogging the Bombers, Mark Feinsand has the early odds on 2009. The Yankees are at 6/1 to win the World Series with only the Phillies, Angels, Cubs and Red Sox ahead of them. Imagine how good the Yanks will look with CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and Willy Tavares on the team too.

It’s interesting to see how the Rays catapulted up the standings. Prior to the season, Vegas was giving anywhere from 150/1 to 100/1 on Tampa’s winning the World Series. While Baseball Prospectus had the upstart team as clear-cut AL East competitors, Vegas was slow to realize that Tampa had a potential worst-to-first team on their hands.

Heading into 2009, the long-shots are as follows:

Kansas City Royals 100/1
Baltimore Orioles 100/1
Seattle Mariners 100/1
San Diego Padres 100/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 200/1
Washington Nationals 300/1

I wouldn’t bet on any of those teams to surprise us next year though.

So now, as we head into Halloween and a Friday night after the World Series, let’s just open this thread up to whatever. Talk baseball; talk 2009; talk life; talk rumors; talk football. Just leave the partisan politics at the door, and if you’re hanging out at home looking for a place to chat, this thread’s your landing spot.

Open Thread: The Next Big Import

Via the Worldwide Leader, we learn that Junichi Tazawa is now a free agent. While the Japanese Leagues have recently tightened the rules about players heading to the U.S., nothing prevents teams from signing amateur free agents. The bidding war will not involve a posting fee.

So then attention this off-season will turn to Tazawa. He is a 22 year old with a high-90s fastball and some very good breaking pitchers, according to scouting reports. Early rumors indicate that he will draw plenty of interest from the usual suspects of MLB teams with the Red Sox and Yankees leading the pack.

As we while away the days until free agency, let’s speculate on Japan. The Yankees have gotten burned on Japan recently with Kei Igawa, but he didn’t come with nearly the same level of hype as Tazawa. The Yanks have also seen their rival Red Sox land an overhyped but pretty good pitcher in Daisuke Matsuzaka. What then do you do here?

Should the Yanks pursue Junichi Tazawa within reason? Are we too afraid of the Kei Igawa/Hideki Irabu vortex of overhyped Japanese pitchers?

It would be pretty unprecedented for a young Japanese pitcher to start his career in the Majors, and it sounds like Tazawa has the goods to make a go of it. But as the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Open Thread: Putting together the USA WBC team

Back after a three year hiatus, the World Baseball Classic returns next spring to what seems like less fanfare than the 2006 installment. Implemented essentially to replace Olympic baseball (which was voted off the island by the IOC), the ’09 WBC will start in four countries in early March, and wrap up with a one-game, winner-take-all Championship Game two weeks later at Dodger Stadium.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and then-Yankee Al Leiter suited up for the USA in the inauguaral WBC, while Bernie Williams played for Puerto Rico. You may recall the Yanks forbid Jorge Posada from joining Bernie with Puerto Rico, while Mariano Rivera chose not to play for Panama. King George let it be known that he didn’t like his players taking an unnecessary risk, but when the dust settled the only player to suffer a serious injury was Luis Ayala, who blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

Jeter & A-Rod have already expressed their desire to participate in the ’09 WBC, but otherwise the news is mum on the rosters, save for a few pissed off Venezuelans. So that’s where we come in. Who would you like to see suit up for the USA? Teams will work with a 30-man roster, but you don’t have to go that deep (unless, of course, you want to), perhaps just a 9 man starting lineup and some semblence of a pitching staff.

Play Bob Watson for a few minutes and stick your USA WBC team in the comments. Play nice.

Open Thread: Why do the playoffs suck?

Aside from last night’s improbable and exciting comeback by the Sawx, this year’s playoffs have been pretty lame. All four Division Series were yawn worthy, as was the NLCS. It hasn’t just been this year either. The American League has gone 12-1 13-4 in the last four World Series, and none of those four series were particularly competitive. I don’t think there’s any question that the College World Series in June has been more exciting that the traditional Fall Classic for the past few season.

Games are starting later and later, which means most adult fans are asleep by the 7th inning, while young kids – the future of the game as both fans and players – as asleep by the 3rd. A stupid commercial (a commercial!!!) by a Presidential candidate will delay the start time of a World Series game even further. The number of off-days has reached ridiculous proportions, with a typical best-of-series series spanning an ungodly ten days, with even more days off before and after the series. The Phillies are going to have six days off between clinching the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series, a year after the Rockies endured a ridiculous nine day layoff.

What do you guys think? Have you been disappointed by the way the playoffs have been drawn out and made inconvenient to a typical fan? Would it maybe be better to chop a week or two off the regular season to keep players fresh for the postseason, or do you prefer seeing tired relievers and exhausted starters throwing meatballs that determine games, series, and sometimes even career paths?

So while we wait another another off-day before Game 6 of the ALCS, let’s take this chance to air any playoff grievances here. Play nice.

Open Thread: Manny or Tex?

While it’s nice and trendy to blame the pitching for the Yanks’ woes this year, the fact is they did score nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last (179 to be exact). We’re used to powerhouse offenses that feature multiple 100 RBI guys (they had two this year) and about five or six 20 homerun hitters (three), but it just wasn’t meant to be this year. Injuries, subpar years and general suckiness were the main culprits.

While it’s clear the Yanks will look to make a splash on the pitching front, their offense will need a pretty significant upgrade, especially if Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu are allowed to take their stout OPS+’s elsewhere as free agents.

Enter: Mark Teixeria. And … uh … Manny Ramirez.

Both players offer what the Yanks need – the ability to hit for average, hit for power, and get on base like it’s going out of style – but best of all they’ll come at the cost of just money, no other players need to get involved. Manny’s Hall of Fame caliber resume leaves no question that he’ll be an impact player, and Teixeira’s just entering what should be the best years of his career. Neither guy will come cheaply, and even the Yanks have their financial limits, so it’ll come down to one or the other.

So what would you prefer: Tex on a 7 yrs, $154M deal, or Manny at 4/88? Your call, play nice.

Open Thread: Building a small market team

We’ve talked about payroll a ton over the past few days, months, years. As fans of the Yankees, we’re used to spending what it takes, without any practical limits. However, there are 29 other teams in the league, many of which face payroll constraints.

Tonight, in the absence of baseball, we can pretend to be small market teams. Kinda. Here’s the exercise. You have $50 million to spend. You must fill 25 roster spots using 2008 salary data (which can be found at Cot’s). Ah, but it won’t be that simple. To ensure that you’re not just snagging quality young players who are making the league minimum, we’re going to put some service time restraints on the players you can choose. And what better model to pick than our very own New York Yankees?

For your nine starting position players, including DH, you can pick 1 player with 0-2 years of service time, 2 players with 3-5 years of service time, and 6 players with over six years of service time, hence free-agent eligible. That’s going to be tough. Service time can be found at Cot’s as well. Since we’re using 2008 salary data, we can use 2008 service time, too, so just use the number they’ve got there. If a player has 1.161 (1 year, 161 days) of service time, it counts as 1 year. If a player isn’t listed, he’s assumed to have no service time.

For starting pitchers, two can have 0-2 years, 1 can have 3-5 years, and 2 need to have 6 or more years. For the bullpen, it will be 2 with 0-2 years, 3 with 3-5 years, 2 with 6 or more.

On the bench, you’re free to do whatever. Restriction: it actually has to be a bench player. A reasonable guideline is fewer than 200 plate appearances in 2008. However, if a guy came up later in the year and started, you can’t use him.

Everything clear? All right. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Open Thread: One week of baseball left

It’s a quiet night in Yankeeland as the players and fans have spent the day reflecting on last night’s Yankee Stadium finale. But just because the Yanks are off doesn’t mean baseball stops.

Across town, as the Mets look to close out Shea Stadium, the team has entered their annual September swoon. Already out of first place, they’re playing the Cubs with their October hopes on the line. In Atlanta, the Phillies are looking to hold on to their slim NL East lead. In Cleveland, the Red Sox are searching for that one win to clinch a playoff berth while we’re hoping the improbable can happen.

Meanwhile, we’re always have CC. Jon Heyman chimes in with yet another Yankee-filled column, and this one’s a doozy. He says it’ll take “crazy” money for CC to come to the AL and the Bronx. Funny thing about the Yanks is that they just happen to have crazy money lying around in piles. Heyman also believes that Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte will be gone but that Mike Mussina will retire.

He also mentions two other items of note: The Yanks have all but given up on Melky Cabrera and will be looking for a center fielder this off-season. Second, Robinson Cano remains the Yanks’ biggest trade chip, and it is Heyman’s view and his view only that the Yanks could explore trade options. Considering the younger/better mantra the Yanks are attempting to adopt, I don’t see the team moving Cano.

So as the evening wears on, and baseball heads to a finish, use this thread for an open thread. Speculate on the Yanks. Check in on the pennant races. Nothing is off-topic.