2010 Season Preview: Robo-Tex

Centerfield and catcher have historically been the two positions of strength for the Yankees, but first base hasn’t been too shabby either. Long after Lou Gehrig and his .474 career wOBA (!!!) called it quits, we had Don Mattingly winning an MVP in the 80’s, Tino Martinez winning World Championships in the 90’s, and Jason Giambi posting .400+ on-base percentages like nobody’s business in the 00’s. Until last season, Mattingly, Martinez, and Giambi were the only three regular first baseman the Yanks had since 1983.

Mark Teixeira figures to be the regular first baseman well into the 2010’s after signing an eight year, $180M contract last offseason. His first season in pinstripes could not have gone more according to plan; he led the American League in HR (39), RBI (122), and total bases (344) while posting a .402 wOBA, his third consecutive season north of .400. He also solidified the infield defense, making spectacular stops on balls in the hole and saving teammates countless errors by scooping up errant throws around the bag. And, of course, the Yankees won the World Series.

Now that Year One in the Bronx is complete, what does Year Two hold for Big Tex? Well, hopefully more of the same, that’s for sure.

In typical Mark Teixeira fashion, he’s likely to come out of the gate slow. Last season he hit .182-.354-.338 with just six extra base hits and a puny .317 wOBA through his first 99 plate appearances. For his career, Tex is a .249-.349-.433 hitter (.342 wOBA) in March/April, and there’s no reason to expect 2010 to be different. During his introductory press conference, Tex said it takes him longer to get going because he has two swings to work on in Spring Training (one from each side of the plate), which makes sense. With one year in pinstripes under his belt, hopefully the April swoon won’t be so dramatic this season, something more along the lines of his career performance in March/April than last year’s.

Teixeira will turn 30 exactly one week after Opening Day in Boston, so he’s still comfortably in the prime of his career. Since turning 27-years-old, Teixeira has hit .309-.398-.560 with a .403 wOBA for (amazingly) four different teams, and he’s improved his contact rate every year (78.4% in ’07, 83.0% in ’08, 83.5% in ’09) which in turn has helped reduce his strikeout rate to just 11.5%, a phenomenal mark for a power hitter. On top of all of that, Tex has been supremely durable since breaking his ankle at Georgia Tech in 2001, coming to plate at least 575 times every season of his big league career.

We know he’s a stud defensively, and UZR backs that up. Even though he posted a -3.7 UZR in 2009 (which raised some eyebrows), Tex’s three-year UZR is +2.6, much more in line with his real ability (imagine that, a better answer when looking at a larger sample). Anyway, age-adjusted UZR projections peg Teixeira as a one UZR defender in 2010, which is probably a little light. Regardless, we all known how fantastic he is with the leather, and at his age, there’s no reason to expect a defensive decline.

Despite being one of the best all-around players in the game today, one area where Tex really drags the team down is with his baserunning. It’s not that he’s gets caught trying to steal often – he’s been successful in all four stolen base attempts he’s made in the last three years – he’s just generally awful rounding the bases on balls in play. Last year he cost the Yankees 2.67 runs on the bases according to EqBRR, which essentially negated all of the good things Brett Gardner did with his legs. This isn’t a one-year fluke either. He’s been consistently bad throughout his career whenever he’s not holding a bat or wearing a glove, so this is something that’s sure to continue (if not get worse) in 2010. Thankfully, if Tex is going to be bad at something, he picked the part of the game that has the smallest impact in the grand scheme of things.

For such a tremendous player, Teixeira is pretty boring guy to preview. He’s a robot; a player in his prime that’s great at pretty much everything, and there’s every reason in the world to expect another elite season of production out of him in 2010. Let’s see what the projection systems are saying. Remember to click for a larger view.

After posting a .403 wOBA over the last three seasons, the five freely available projection systems (sorry, PECOTA fans) see Teixeira “dropping off” to a .401 wOBA in 2010. Even though the aggregate triple-slash projection is a slight step down from last year, it’s right in line with Tex’s career performance. I suspect his power numbers will be better than the projections think, simply because he’ll come to plate as a lefty in the New Stadium so many times that he’s bound to pick up a few cheapie homers during the course of the season.

So let’s round it all up. If we’re projecting Tex at .401 wOBA, +1 UZR, and -2.5 EqBRR over 654 plate appearances, he’ll essentially be a five win player in 2010 (4.8 WAR, to be exact). It would be a small drop from last season’s 5.2 WAR, but would still be among the best in the game. As I’ve been saying all along, there’s every reason to expect the Yankees’ first baseman to continue to be extremely productive in the coming season.

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP

2010 Season Preview: Will Posada continue to defy age?

Catching is hell on the knees. For over 120 pitches in most games the catcher squats behind the plate, receiving pitches with varying speed and break and coming in at all different locations. That’s over an hour a game in the squat position. Life then becomes harder with runners on base, when the catcher has to put himself in a position to throw out a would-be base stealer and block a potential ball in the dirt. It’s no wonder that many catchers see their production decline by their early- to mid-thirties, and that most are out of the game by the time they’re Jorge Posada‘s age. Yet the 38-year-old catcher posted one of his finest seasons in 2009, though he did catch only 100 games. Can he hold up again in 2010?

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Since 1901, only 11 catchers reach 400 plate appearances at age 37. Only 16 got into 100 or more games. At age 38 that dropped off even more, with only three reaching the 400 PA plateau, and eight getting into 100 or more games. Even worse, the catchers who did survive over 100 games in their age-38 season did not play because of their offensive contributions. Of the 21 age-38 catchers with more than 200 PA, only seven posted an OPS over .700 — and five of those did it before 1950. None posted an OPS of .800.

At age-37, however, some catchers still played often and hit big. Of the 11 with more than 400 plate appearances, four posted an OPS over .800 and another two were above .750. Only Ernie Lombardi played his age-38 season before 1950. The rest played in 1985 or later. None of the .800 OPS catchers came to bat even 300 times the following season (though Posada is one of the four), and among the .750 OPS players only Benito Santiago continued playing and hitting in his age-38 season. The odds, then, seem to be against Posada posting a repeat of his 2009 campaign.

Both Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza hit well in their age-37 seasons. Fisk came to bat 620 times that year, 1985, and hit .238/.320/.488, which translates to a .345 wOBA and a 115 OPS+. Of the 153 games he played, 130 were at catcher. Yet in his age-38 season he saw start drop-offs in production and catching time. He did play in 125 games that year, but only 71 as a catcher. Even if he had made the age-38 list, he wouldn’t have fared well, as his numbers dropped to .221/.263/.337, a .264 wOBA and a 60 OPS+. While it appeared at the time that Fisk was finished, he did come back to post five more average or better seasons, including two stellar years, 1989 and 1990, at ages 41 and 42.

Piazza realized a resurgence of sorts in 2006, his age-37 season, after he signed with the Padres. After hitting .251/.326/.452 in his final season for the Mets, Piazza rebounded to hit .283/.342/.501, despite accumulating about half of his plate appearances at PETCO Park. He did play his age-38 season, though the stint with Oakland did not go too well. He didn’t catch a single inning and posted a meager .275/.313/.414 line in a season shortened by injury. Unlike Fisk, there would be no late-career revival for Piazza. He hasn’t played since his final game with Oakland in 2007.

The stories of Fisk and Piazza might appear to bode poorly for Posada, but as with any player-to-player comparison it never tells the whole story. All three catchers traveled different paths to their age-38 seasons. Fisk was a highly touted prospect, the No. 4 overall pick of the 1967 draft, who came up in 1972, at age 24, and hit right out of the gate. While Piazza broke out at the same age, he was not nearly as highly regarded. The Dodgers took him in the 62nd round, apparently as a favor to Tommy Lasorda. Yet he killed the ball when the Dodgers handed him the starting gig at age-24.

Posada, however, did not break into the league until age 25, and at that point he was a part-time player. Over the next two seasons he saw more playing time, but it wasn’t until 2000 that he truly took over as the full-time catcher, at age 28. He also didn’t convert to catcher until age 20, when he played behind the plate for just 41 games. Entering his age-38 season he has started 1,793 games behind the plate between the majors and minors. Piazza had 1,898 at that age, though Fisk, because he caught under 100 games in four different seasons, had 1,782.

Through his age-37 season, Posada has defied age. His .885 OPS in 2009 ranks best for catchers with more than 200 PA in their age-37 seasons. Even if he does decline drastically and produces only 80 percent of that, .702, for the 2010 season, he’d still rank among the top catchers at age-38. The Yankees, however, are not so much concerned with how Posada stacks up with his historical comparables as they are how he fits into the lineup. While the .702 OPS might stand out in the former sense, it would be a huge burden in the latter.

These represent five of the freely available projection systems. After mashing them together, they think that Jorge will see only five percent fewer plate appearances than in 2009, though ZiPS accounts for most of the drop-off. All the others expect right around the same playing time, while Bill James is overly optimistic — though his article on players declining is a bit more pessimistic. In terms of production the systems forecast a 2.5 percent reduction in OBP, modest enough, but a nearly 14 percent reduction in power. Perhaps the short porch at the Stadium would inflate those projections.

While all aging catchers warrant concern, Posada presents an interesting case. He’s had an odd career path, switching to catcher in the minors and not taking a full-time role until age-28. The following 10 years were excellent, though, as Jorge became one of the game’s premier catchers, and perhaps the best hitting catcher over the past decade. He enters his age-38 season with few comparables, and unfavorable ones among those that exist. Still, Jorge has given us little reason to expect a drastic drop-off.

Just how much has A-Rod made during his career?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Alex Rodriguez, I think of two things: his enormous talent, and his enormous salary. There’s just no way around it. The man signed the two biggest contracts in the history of the sport, more than 25% larger then the third biggest contract. The Yankees will pay Alex $32M in 2010, far and away the largest annual salary in the history of the game. If you’re a regular working stiff making $40,000 a year at the nine-to-five, it’ll take you about 16 lifetimes to make what A-Rod will pocket this season. It’s not fair, but that’s life.

We know what the contracts were. Ten years, $252M back in 2001, then another ten year, $275M monster after he opted out of the first deal in 2007. He also signed a Major League contract out of the draft, guaranteeing him more than four times the league minimum during his first three seasons. However, base salary is just one piece of the puzzle. A-Rod’s deals have contained incentives for making the All Star Team, various finishes in the MVP voting, Silver Sluggers, all sorts of stuff. In addition to all that, A-Rod will get 3% interest on $45M he agreed to defer just a year into his original deal with Texas, though he forfeited $15M of that when he opted out of his deal.

Well, words can only do so much, so here’s a breakdown of A-Rod’s annual earnings. Remember to click it for a larger view.

Update: I missed the signing bonus from his most recent contract. That’s the correct chart.

First off, none of that would be possible without the greatness of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Second of all, I make no guarantees about it’s accuracy, but I’m confident that I’m close.

A-Rod’s base salaries from 1994-2000 and 2008-2017 are straight forward. His base salaries from 2001-2007 were reduced by $3-5M per year as part of the deferred payments he agreed to (I assumed the 3% interest was compounded annually). That deferred money will be paid out from 2011-2020. The $10M signing bonus A-rod received as part of his deal with Texas was paid out over five years, and then there’s the incentives…

  • $50,000 for finishing sixth in the 2001 MVP voting
  • $100,000 each for being selected to the All Star Game from 2001-2007
  • $100,000 for receiving the most All Star votes in 2007
  • $100,000 each for Silver Slugger Awards in 2001-2003, 2005, and 2007
  • $100,000 for being named The Sporting News Player of the Year in 2002
  • $100,000 each for being named Baseball America’s Major League Player of the Year in 2002 and 2007
  • $200,000 for finishing second in the 2002 MVP voting
  • $500,000 for being named the 2003 AL MVP
  • $1,000,000 for being named the 2005 AL MVP
  • $1,500,000 for being named the 2007 AL MVP

And you know what? That’s not even all of them. From 2001-2007, A-Rod would have received $100,000 each time he was named to a postseason All Star Team by the AP, Baseball America, or The Sporting News. I couldn’t find that info, but that’s potentially $2,100,000 in incentives laying out there. He surely pocketed the majority of that.

So all told, A-Rod has made at least $216,940,700 $219,940,700 in his playing career to date. He’s guaranteed another $243,463,310 $250,463, 310 between now and 2020, and then there’s the $30M in possible incentives for setting the career homerun record. A-Rod’s sitting at 583 career homers right now, and he’ll make an additional $6M each when he hits his 660th, 714th, 755th, 762nd, and 763rd homers. If Alex hits 130 homers over the next four years (32.5 per year), he would have a shot at getting the last four homerun incentives all in one season. In that perfect storm scenario, A-Rod’s 2014 earnings would be $52,746,331 $55,746,331.

A-Rod is guaranteed to make $470,404,010 during his playing career, and he’ll be within shouting distance of clear half-a-billion dollars should he reach those homerun incentives.  And remember, that’s just what he’s made playing baseball. He also has/had endorsement deals with Nike, Rawlings, Wheaties, the Got Milk campaign, Pepsi and Oasys Mobile. I’m sure those are seven figure payouts, otherwise they wouldn’t be worth his time.

Some will call A-Rod greedy, but I’m inclined to say he just used common sense when presented with not one, but two nine-figure contracts. Alex did a tremendous job marketing his talent and maximizing his earning potential, which in the end is what we’re all trying to do. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

New numbers for new players

There’s very little official business left for the Yankees to take care of this offseason. They still have to renew the contracts of their 19 pre-arbitration players, but that should happen in the next week or so. Other than that, it’s just show up for Spring Training, assign numbers to the new guys, and get to work.

During his introductory press conference, we learned that Curtis Granderson would be wearing No. 14, giving some credibility to a number that had been used exclusively for spare parts in recent years. The Yankees did make three other significant additions this offseason, though the numbers Nick Johnson, Javy Vazquez, and Randy Winn will sport in 2010 still aren’t listed on the official site.

However, as astute commenter Mo’s Savant noticed, their numbers are listed in MLB.com’s store, available for customizing a shirt or jersey. Of course these aren’t official, but if you’re like me and find a weird satisfaction in these kind of things, it’s worth mentioning. Let’s run through them one by one.

Nick Johnson: No. 26

NJ wore No. 36 during his first stint in the Bronx, but apparently Edwar Ramirez has too firm a grip on it. I suppose Nick could buy it from him in Spring Training, but I’m guessing it’s not that important to him; he wore No. 24 with the Expos/Nationals , and No. 20 with the Marlins. Jose Molina, who will always hold a special place in my heart as the best backup catcher of the Jorge Posada era, was the last to wear No. 26, and before him it belonged to other backup backstops like Wil Nieves, Koyie Hill, and Sal Fasano. The last significant player to wear the number was Orlando Hernandez during the Dynasty Years.

Photo Credit: Linda Kaye, AP

Javy Vazquez: No. 31

A former Yankee like Johnson, Vazquez wore No. 33 during his one season in pinstripes, and did the same with the White Sox and Braves. During the Expo and Diamondback years, Javy rocked No. 23. Nick Swisher is the proud owner of No. 33, and he went out of his way to get the number from Brian Bruney last year, so I don’t think he’s giving it up anytime soon. So Javy is stuck with No. 31, previously worn by Mike Dunn and Ian Kennedy, and Edwar Ramirez and Aaron Small before them. Dave Winfield was the last big time Yankee to wear the number, though Tim Raines also had it during the late-90’s and Steve Karsay during the early-00’s.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gunby, AP

Randy Winn: No. 22

During his time with the Devil Rays, Mariners, and Giants, Winn had always worn No. 2. Obviously, he’s not getting that as a Yankee. Instead, he doubles up on it and takes No. 22 from the departed Xavier Nady. That number has a prominent place in recent Yankee lore, having been worn by Roger Clemens, Robbie Cano, and Jimmy Key with a few LaTroy Hawkinses and Jon Lieberses mixed in. Jorge Posada even wore it for part of the 1997 season, his first full year in the majors as Joe Girardi‘s backup.

Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara, AP

Unfortunately, we still don’t have numbers for the likes of Boone Logan or Greg Golson, or any of the prospects added to 40-man after the season either. We’re just going to have to wait for camp to open and see what’s on their backs. I’m happy I can finally buy my Nick Johnson shirt, but damn, did they really raise the price of customizable shirts to $36.99? It’s a recession, you know.

Beware the $100 million contract

Baseball salaries changed forever in the winter of 2000-2001. That off-season four position players and a pitcher signed contracts that would pay them a combined average annual value of $92 million, or just around the total salary of the Yankees, bearers of the league’s highest payroll.1 In the following eight years, nine more position players and three more pitchers signed $100 contracts, in addition to Ken Griffey’s $116.5 million deal in 2000. So how did these $100 million players fare?

Clearly, the Matt Holliday signing spurred this question. Earlier this week he signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, the decade’s first nine figure deal. Because contracts for pitchers carry different risks than contracts for position players, we’ll focus on the latter. Let’s see where these contracts stack up. Played out contracts, obviously, have the edge.

1. Albert Pujols: 7 years, $100 million (2004)

We’re just six years into the Pujols contract and already it’s the best of the lot. The deal will look even better when the Cardinals pick up his 2011 option for $16 million. Pujols is one of four players on the list who signed before reaching free agency, so his contract is expected to provide surplus value. Over the last six years Pujols put up the best raw numbers in baseball: .334/.435/.636, a 175 OPS+. He has manned first base for the duration of the contract, the position furthest right on the defensive spectrum, but even so his numbers are just insane. Plus, defensive handicap or not, the value of his contract makes it the best of the $100 million lot.

2. Alex Rodriguez: 10 years, $252 million (2001)

Did Tom Hicks overbid? Probably. Did A-Rod live up to his contract? Absolutely. Over that span he hit .304/.400/.591, an OPS+ of 154. For the first three years he played shortstop, winning two gold gloves — though we know that they’re no measure of true defensive ability. In its first two seasons of usage, 2002 and 03, UZR had him as enormously positive. After that he moved to third, not quite as premium a position, but certainly ranked above the corner outfield spots. He also won all three of his MVP titles during this span. Plus, for what it’s worth, he outperformed his WAR-dollars in all but two years of the contract, and outperformed it on the whole.

3. Manny Ramirez: 8 years, $160 million (2001)

The Red Sox needed a big bat in the winter of 2000, and they got perhaps the best pure hitter on the market in Manny. His offensive numbers were actually better than A-Rod, as Manny hit .315/.415/.595, a 158 OPS+, from 2001 through 2008. But he stole only nine bases to A-Rod’s 128, and also played a far less important defensive position. Manny has faced endless criticism of his defense, though he did the one important thing for a Boston left fielder. He played balls well off the monster.

4. Derek Jeter: 10 years, $189 million (2001)

For a player who puts up Jeter’s numbers, that contract might seem a bit out of line. But by the time he signed the deal in the winter of 2000-2001, he was already the face of the franchise. Alex Rodriguez had just signed his mega deal, and Jeter wanted a favorable comparison. While Jeter ended up worth the salary, the Yankees could have had him cheaper. In the winter of 1999-2000, the two sides agreed to a seven-year, $118.5 million deal, which would have mean an AAV of $2 million less. Oh well.

Here’s where things start to get tough.

5. Carlos Beltran: 7 years, $119 million (2005)

While Beltran got off to a slow start with the Mets in 2005, he has generally shined during this contract. He hit .275/.362/.505, a 125 OPS+, through the first four years, during which time he played a stellar center field. He seemed poised for a career year in 2009 before he hurt his knee and missed half the season. Beltran has two years left on the deal, and if he performs like he did in the first four years, it will be a good value for the Mets.

6. Todd Helton: 11 years, $141.5 million (2001)

In 2000, Helton’s contract didn’t quite seem like a steal, but it seemed pretty good. He had just come off a year in which he led the NL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, hits, RBI, and total bases. He went on to post an OPS above 1.000 for the next four seasons, and although his production has dipped a bit in the past five years it’s still at an elite level. Back issues have hurt him throughout the contract, though 2008 was the only year in which he missed significant time. Otherwise, a .326/.433/.554, 143 OPS+ performance sounds great to me.

7. Miguel Cabrera: 8 years, $152.3 million (2008)

Even though his OBP dipped during his first year in the American League, Miguel Cabrera still led the league in home runs in 2008. He followed that up with a much better 2009, with his OBP again approaching the .400 mark. During the two years of his deal he’s hit .308/.373/.542, a 135 OPS+. He’ll be 27 in 2010, meaning he’ll be just 32 during the contract’s final year. Once he’s through, he could be ranked above Beltran, and maybe even above Jeter. But that’s a tall order.

8. Alex Rodriguez: 10 years, $275 million (2008)

This was perhaps the toughest to rank. A-Rod missed time in 2009 but came back to produce big time. He also had a good but not great year in 2008. Part of this ranking is future potential. He should have a few more good years before he starts to decline. Plus, I couldn’t put Giambi’s contract over this, ill-advised as it may have been.

9. Jason Giambi: 7 years, $120 million (2002)

The good of Jason’s deal: He hit .260/.404/.521 during his deal, a 142 OPS+. He raked during the first year of the contract, had a huge comeback year in 2005 that powered the Yanks to the playoffs, and he contributed a lot to the 2006 team. The bad: in two years he missed about half of the games, and in two others he played in 139 games. His spot on the defensive spectrum hurts, but his bad D at that position hurts a bit more.

10. Mark Teixeira: 8 years, $180 million (2009)

We’re just one year into Teixeira’s contract, so it’s tough to judge it at this point. As you’ll see, however, this ranking is more due to Tex’s durability. The players below him either have injury concerns, or have underperformed their contracts. Tex was worth his salary in 2009, and is entering his age-30 season in 2010. He should have at least a few more very productive years in him.

11. Carlos Lee: 6 years, $100 million (2007)

It’s not that Carlos Lee has hit poorly in Houston. He’s actual hit quite well, posting a .305/.354/.524, 127 OPS+ line during the first three years of his contract. That’s not a $100 million performance, however, especially for a corner outfielder. Then again, it’s not like Lee demonstrated that he’d be any better. His 144 OPS+ in 2008 was the highest of his career, though he played in only 115 games. But he gets the nod over the three bad contracts.

12. Ken Griffey Jr.: 9 years, $116.5 million (2000)

Signed a year before the big contracts hit, Griffey was still an exciting player in 2000. Had had led the league in home runs in each of the previous three years, and looked to use that power to turn around the Reds franchise. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Griffey played well during his first season, but didn’t again reach 140 games played until 2007. He averaged just 110 games per year during the contract, so even though he put up a .269/.361/.510, 121 OPS+ line he was a disappointment.

13. Alfonso Soriano: 8 years, $136 million (2007)

Soriano is another player who parlayed a career year into an way too big contract. His .351 OBP and .560 SLG in 2006 were career highs, leading the Cubs to greatly overpay him during that off-season. Like Griffey, he almost immediately ran into injury problems with his new team. He played in just 135 games in 2007, his OBP dropping back to normal levels. In the last two years he’s played in 109 and 117 games, and while the home runs have come not much else has. He’s entering his age-34 season, so there’s not much reason to remain optimistic that he’ll live up to the deal.

14. Vernon Wells: 7 years, $126 million (2007)

This deal looked bad before the extension even kicked in. Wells posted a stellar 2006 season, hitting .293/.357/.542, a 129 OPS+, while playing a good center field. Fearing he’d lose Wells to free agency a year later, then-GM J.P. Ricciardi signed Wells to his extension, which wouldn’t kick in until 2008. In 2007 Ricciardi was already having second thoughts. Wells hit .245/.304/.402. In 2008 he missed 59 days with a hamstring strain and wrist fracture, though he hit well while healthy. In 2009 he was mostly healthy, but again hit poorly. The worst part of this deal, other than Wells probably never living up to it, is that it’s highly backloaded. After earning $12.5 million this year, Wells will earn $23 million in 2011 and $21 million in 2012-14.

Where will this list stand in 5 years?

It’s tough to tell what the $100 million position player contract list will sit a few years from now, though that won’t stop me from speculating. I doubt anyone tops the Pujols contract, or even the Manny and A-Rod contracts. Teixeira’s ranks should rise, as should Cabrera’s. As for where Matt Holliday falls, I’ll bet right ahead of Giambi and Lee, but behind Helton and Beltran. Good production, but not 1.000 OPS good or premium position good. Though, as we can see from the list, he can really end up anywhere.

1The Minnesota Twins paid their players $15.8 million in 2000, the lowest payroll in the majors. The AAV of the contracts to A-Rod ($25.2 mil), Jeter ($18.9 mil), and Manny ($20 mil) exceeded that, and Mike Hampton’s AAV came in less than a million below. (Up)

Curtis Granderson Press Conference Liveblog

Granderson The Manderson

Nine days after being officially acquired from the Tigers, Curtis Granderson will be formally introduced to the masses today at Yankee Stadium. The press conference is scheduled for 11am ET, and will be broadcast on both YES and MLB.tv. If you’re unable to tune in, I’ve got you covered with this here liveblog. Welcome to the Boogie Down, Curtis.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sabathia, the anti-Unit

Two things I love about the 2009 Yankees are that they have a real first baseman, and that they have a real ace pitcher. Since the Clemens/Wells/Pettitte troika left after the 2003 season, the team has struggled to find adequate replacements for top-end performance. They tried in 2004 with Javy Vazquez and Kevin Brown, and then tried again in 2005 with Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano. Finally, in 2009 they have CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

CC is about as far away from the last supposed ace, Randy Johnson, as one can possibly get. CC is approachable and affable. Randy welcomed himself to the city by shoving a cameraman. Reporters love talking to CC, but couldn’t get near Randy. The list goes on and on. YES Network’s Jon Lane notes the differences.

When Randy Johnson was here, you were strongly advised to stand at least 10 feet from him and his locker. Reporters would jokingly offer a cash reward if someone were to tap him on his shoulder and ask, “Hey, how’s it going?” Sabathia would actually respond, telling you that it’s all good. He’s that smooth. He’s the anti-Big Unit. Game 1 of the American League Championship Series is the best example to date. When Sabathia worked the count to 2-2 to Napoli, 49,688 people chanted “CC! CC!” in unison. It was the first time we’ve heard that from Yankees fans, and the first time in a long time the Yankees had the true definition of an ace on the mound working deep into October.

I suppose the crowd might have chanted for Randy had the Yankees gone deep into the playoffs and he pitched well. But we all know how Randy fared once the calendar flipped to October. Just another way that CC is the anti-Unit.