When the Red Sox leadership blamed the Yanks and called for a salary cap yesterday, it was really only a matter of time before Yankee attack dog Hank Steinbrenner got in on the action. While Hank’s comments were not up to their usual biting self and generally pale in comparison to anything George used to unleash, the Steinbrenner son did not disappoint.
In his response, he defended the Yanks’ spending on revenue sharing grounds. “Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package,” he said. “As long as we’re..giving all this money to other teams in revenue sharing, a staggering amount, we should be able to spend on salaries what we want to. Because of revenue sharing and because of the popularity nationwide, the Yankees are critical to baseball.” Amen, Hank. Amen. · (36) ·
Update (2:30 a.m.): Who had 36 hours in the “find A-Rod‘s cousin” pool? Intrepid ESPN.com reporter Amy K. Nelson along with a producer from ESPN Deporters discovered the identity of A-Rod’s anonymous cousin and respectfully left him alone dug up his story. Basically, Yuri Sucart, a Miami resident is indeed the cousin to whom A-Rod referred on Tuesday. According to ESPN’s sources, Sucart has long “lived his life vicariously” through A-Rod and would do the superstar’s bidding.
Now that this once-suspect version of A-Rod’s story has been proven to be true, the media witch hunt continues to look more and more biased against A-Rod.
* * *
I don’t particularly envy Derek Jeter right now. For the last 13 seasons, Derek Jeter has been the face of the New York Yankees, and over the last 15 months, he’s watched as some of the key players who have surrounded him have succumbed to the steroid scandal.
In Dec. 2007, George Mitchell’s incomplete trainwreck of a steroid investigation revealed numerous drug users on the Yanks’ teams from 2000, and Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens took the their fair share of criticism. Three years before that, Jason Giambi apologized to, well, something that we all took to mean steroid use. Meanwhile, Jeter has supposedly led a clean career in an era filled with PED-enhanced ballplayers.
This week, when finally given the chance to speak to the media yet again, the Yankee Captain issued something more than the vanilla statements for which he has become famous. While expressing his support for A-Rod, he also voiced his disappointment.
Beyond this rare showing of an opinion from Jeter, though, was his statement on the way the steroid scandal — and the so-called Steroid Era — has been covered in retrospect. “Everybody wasn’t doing it,” he said to a gaggle of reporters at Steinbrenner Field yesterday afternoon. “That’s the thing that gets irritating. I think it sends the wrong message to baseball fans and kids, saying that everybody was doing it. That’s just not the truth.”
In a way, Jeter’s criticism is one the fans have been leveling at the media this week. The reporters have seemingly gone overboard in their zealous glee surrounding the A-Rod story. For example, take Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand’s lengthy pieces slamming A-Rod here and here.
As with many who cover the Yanks, Feinsand feels that A-Rod’s apologies have been more scripted than real. He feels that the Yanks’ third baseman should, for the good of the game, just take responsibility for what he did without blaming his cousin, his youth, the pressure of fame or anything else. In all fairness to Mark, he has some good points. After all, how sorry can A-Rod really be when he will exit this game having made well over $400 million in salary alone?
It’s not, however, just this reaction to A-Rod that seems so off. Rather, it’s the reaction to A-Rod coupled with the reaction to Andy Pettitte’s HGH admission from last December. Take a read through Feindsand’s piece on Pettitte. “Good for him,” Feinsand wrote, commending Pettitte for owning up to his mistakes and attempting to put the past behind him. Talk about a double standard.
Of course, this may not be an unfair double standard. After all, Andy Pettitte didn’t go live on national TV to tell Katie Couric he never used steroids. But while A-Rod has been just as forthcoming as Pettitte, the media has been ruthless. Maybe they expected A-Rod to be a bigger figure in the game. Maybe everyone is collectively disappointed that A-Rod, when he eclipses Bonds’ home run totals in a few years, will hold a still-tainted record. Whatever the reason, A-Rod is being far more scrutinized than anyone who has so far admitted to drug use.
Meanwhile, over at the Worldwide Leader, Gene Wojchiechowski is ready to start A-Rod’s clock anew beginning today. Sounds good to me.
After suffering through an off-season of Yankee spending and losing out on Mark Teixeira at the last minute, Red Sox owner John Henry and team president/CEO Larry Lucchino have renewed their calls for a salary cap. Henry last called for a cap following the 2004 trade of Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers to the Yankees, and while the Boston officials feel that support may be growing among other owners for an “enlightened” cap, the Yankees are sure to oppose a firm spending limit.
“I think you have to make an intelligent, persuasive case for it,” Lucchino said to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I do look around and I see a hockey league, a basketball league, a football league, all with forms of a salary cap or payroll system, and I think it’s as inevitable as tomorrow that there will be some kind of system like that in baseball. It’s just not as imminent as tomorrow.”
According to Lucchino, the owners are already doing what Browne termed their “due diligence” in advance of the 2011 expiration date for the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Obviously, the Yanks’ off-season spending has spurred on the dissent from Boston despite the fact that the Red Sox consistently are among the game’s top spenders. Lucchino slammed the Yanks’ winter spree despite the fact that the team’s Opening Day payroll will be on par with 2008′s. “I think we’ve seen when the Yankees have spent like the U.S. congress,” Lucchino said. “I agree whole-heartedly with John, that an examination of a salary cap, an enlightened approach to a salary cap, could make sense for the game. I think people in baseball are examining that possibility.”
Clearly, the next few years will be telling. If the Yanks continue to spend as they have, teams will band against them. However, the owners may be spoiling for a fight they can’t win right now. The Players Association will probably not support a salary cap, firm or otherwise, and the PA leaders aren’t too happy with the way they have been portrayed during the recent PED scandals. With the Red Sox on board, though, we’re just getting a glimpse of labor fights to come.
Joe Girardi announced today that new first baseman Mark Teixeira will fill the Bobby Abreu Memorial third spot in the batting order, with Alex Rodriguez retaining cleanup duties. The announcement does seem a bit premature considering no one’s faced live pitching yet, but Tex has always loved batting third, being quoted as saying “I’ve always loved batting third.” Good enough for me.
Some numbers for argument’s sake:
Batting Third: .311-.394-.573, 19.3 PA/HR, 8.3 PA/XBH
Batting Fourth: .279-.378-.523, 16.3 PA/HR, 9.8 PA/XBH
Career: .290-.378-.541, 19.4 PA/HR, 9.0 PA/XBH
Batting Third: .303-.396-.602, 14.7 PA/HR, 8.7 PA/XBH
Batting Fourth: .300-.394-.569, 16.0 PA/HR, 9.6 PA/XBH
Career: .309-.389-.578, 16.4 PA/HR, 9.0 PA/XBH
Yeah, I’m still in the camp that wants A-Rod batting third. Let him get more plate appearances over the course of the season.
Anyway, here’s your open thread. The Rangers are playing the Islanders, and the Nets are in Dallas. Anything goes, just be nice.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
As the 2009 season dawns, the Yanks have more outfielders than they need. Some combination of Hideki Matsui — who will mostly just DH — Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher has to find its way into the lineup every day. This glut, however, hasn’t stopped Brian Giles. The Padres’ outfielder could be mid-season trade bait this year, and while Giles quashed a trade to the Red Sox last year, he told The Union-Tribune’s Tom Krasovic that he would be open to a deal to the Yanks (as well as the Red Sox and Angels) this year. The right fielder is currently facing legal troubles and is owed an additional $2 million if traded. I wouldn’t expect him on the Yanks this year. (Hat tip to MLBTR.) · (16) ·
Or: As the Jim Leyritz Saga Turns. Last Friday, as you might remember, former Yankee Jim Leyritz was jailed for defying his pretrial sobriety mandate. The case’s prosecutors claim that The King attempted to drive his car with alcohol in his system “on at least four occasions,” so Circuit Judge Marc Gold signed a warrant for his arrest. Leyritz’s attorney said he’d dispute the claim, and it appears that he has won.
I’ll let Leyritz’s attorney explain why his client was released:
“When Judge Gold issued that order, he had no jurisdiction to issue it,” said Leyritz’s attorney David Bogenschutz.
So he’s out on a technicality, I guess. Here’s a sentence from the CBS 4 report that has me baffled: “Bogenschutz doesn’t dispute the allegations but claims his client ‘misunderstood’ his restrictions.” So his attorney doesn’t dispute that he attempted to drive while drunk, the very action that got him in this mess in the first place. So does that mean that Leyritz “misunderstood” that he can’t drive his car while he’s drunk? That’s what it sounds like to me.
If you want to watch the CBS news report, you can watch it here.
Kanekoa Texeira | RHP
Born in Maui and raised in Honolulu, Texeira attended Kamehameha High School, which has produced two fringe big leaguers: ex-Yank Bronson Sardinha and his brother Dane. His high school career was plagued by inconsistency – after flashing premium arm strength as a junior his stock took a hit when he was merely ordinary as a senior. Baseball America rated Texeira the second best talent in the state for the 2004 Draft, but he lasted until the 34th round of the draft (916th overall), when the Brewers grabbed him. He didn’t sign and instead headed to Saddleback College in Orange County, CA, a two-year institution.
As the Andy Pettittee free agent “will he or won’t he?” saga dragged on this winter, proponents of Pettitte’s possible return cited his off-season involvement with a PED investigation as one of the reasons for his bad second half. They tired, he reasoned, because he was too involved with a federal investigation and Congressional hearings to keep himself in perfect baseball shape. This year, these supporters said would be different.
However, on the first day of Spring Training, The Daily News gave to me a story about Andy and the Feds. According to the report, Pettitte met in D.C. last Tuesday with two federal prosecutors who are investigating Roger Clemens for perjury. Pettitte said simply that he “couldn’t talk it” to reporters this week.
As Yogi said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. Of course, 2009 isn’t at all like 2008, right? This time, Pettitte had just one visit with the two assistant U.S. attorneys as far as we know. The rest of the off-season, he was able to spend resting his injured throwing arm.
Now, I don’t mean this to cast doubt or suspicion on Pettitte or the team. The rest of the New York sports media is doing fine in that regard with A-Rod, thank you very much. But this winter, Pettitte had a contract dispute extend through the end of January, and he took a journey to D.C. The distractions are there, and Pettitte isn’t one to make excuses about them. He’ll show up as ready to play as any soon-to-be 37-year-old can.
In the end, the Yanks don’t really need Pettitte to be anything spectacular. He is the fourth starter in the Yankee rotation and the fifth best in terms of stuff and potential at this point in this career. They’re guaranteeing him just $5.5 million 2009 and have a plethora of young arms waiting in the wings. Basically, anything the Yanks get from Andy will be icing on the cake. A good season would be a pleasant surprise; a mediocre one is more likely. As long as he throws the innings, I’ll take it.
Check out this quote from Brian Cashman following yesterday’s A-Rod press conference (via PeteAbe): “We’ve invested in him as an asset. And because of that, this is an asset that is going through a crisis. So we’ll do everything we can to protect that asset and support that asset and try to salvage that asset.” Salvage that asset? Sheesh, he makes it sound like Alex is an unproductive player with a franchise crippling albatross contract. That’s straight up cold blooded, yo.
Update by Ben (11:14 a.m.): The Artist Formerly Known as Steve sends us this Reuters article with more less-than-glowing quotes from Cashman. “The one thing he could have said was the fact he chose to do this to make himself better … at what he does on the baseball field,” Cashman said. “That’s the truth. I don’t think Alex is very good at communicating … whether it’s about talking about your game and the impact you had on it after hitting a home run or if he had a tough game at the park, let the team down. Anybody that’s been in that clubhouse when he’s trying to talk about success or failure on the baseball diamond knows that is something he is not very good at.” Ouch. · (132) ·
One of our bigger complaints about Joe Girardi in 2009 was that he tinkered with the lineup a bit too much. Some of this was due to injury, but other times it was based on match-ups. While playing to the strengths of your roster is generally favorable, some of Girardi’s moves weren’t defensible with split data. Instead, it seemed he subscribed to the “sit lefties against lefties” mode of managerial thought. Unfortunately, that’s not always the best way to go.
We knew going into last season that Jason Giambi wouldn’t play 162 games. He’d have been lucky to play 150 games, especially since he was the primary first baseman. He ended up with 142, and only a few of his off-days were due to small injuries. For the most part, he sat against lefties, which caused some frustration at RAB. Jason does hit from the left side of the plate, but he holds his own well enough against lefties, posting identical splits in batting average and OBP in 2009. His slugging was a bit higher against righties, but that’s no reason to sit him against southpaws.
This issue was exacerbated by Giambi’s normal spot in the lineup, No. 5. The normal replacements at first, Wilson Betemit and Richie Sexson, weren’t going to slot in there. When Giambi sat, the guys at the bottom of the order had to move up. The problem was that the Yanks rarely had a player who could hit adequately behind A-Rod. This meant the order juggled when Giambi sat. I can’t imagine that being good for anyone.
Lesson: Don’t get into a platoon situation with a player at the heart of your order. It doesn’t appear as though this will be an issue this year, though one of the bounceback candidates will have to step up and take that slot. The top four are basically set in stone: Damon, Jeter, then Teixeira and A-Rod. A healthy Matsui could take the spot, as could Jorge Posada if his shoulder holds up. Even Robinson Cano could be a candidate.
Two guys who likely won’t get a chance to hit fifth: Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher. That’s a good thing, because those are two guys you could see platooned to some degree or another. Let’s check out their recent and career splits.
Last year, Swisher was equally crappy against lefties and righties, as you might expect. He had a much better eye against lefties, putting a .197 batting average against a .359 OBP (.162 ISO — .094 ISO against righties). His slugging against righties was a bit higher, but the ISO mark — slugging minus batting average to cancel out the singles — was along the same lines, .189 against lefties, .192 against righties). Career he’s a .240/.338/.459 hitter against righties, .253/.396/.429 against lefties. So it looks like if you’re going to platoon Swisher, you want him hitting against lefties.
(His 2007 stats were skewed heavily towards lefties, for what it’s worth.)
Problem there is that Xavier Nady has long been known as a lefty masher. In 2005 he posted a .700 OPS against righties vs. a .852 mark against lefties. In 2006 the split was even more pronounced, with a .969 OPS against lefties vs. a .736 OPS against righties. However, that started to change in 2007. In 366 plate appearances against righties Nady posted a .802 OPS, while posting a .819 mark against lefties. His .805 OPS against righties in 2008 might signal that he’s developed over the years and could be fine as an everyday player.
What does this mean for the Yankees lineup in 2009? It might mean Hideki Matsui gets in on the platoon situation. He has a career .870 OPS against righties vs. a .803 OPS against lefties. This includes splits of .815 vs. .751 in 2008 and .885 vs. .821 in 2007. Hideki could then take his off-days against lefties, allowing both Swisher and Nady to be in the lineup. Against righties, either Swisher or Nady could sit.
Of course, given the lesson posted above, this would disqualify Hideki from the fifth slot. Well, at least in my mind. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I’d far rather see a consistent lineup one through five, day in and day out. Since Jorge won’t be in the lineup every day, that leaves Cano to round out the heart of the order. Slotting him fifth would allow the Yanks to trot out Damon-Jeter-Teixeira-Arod-Cano for almost every game. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel more comfortable when the lineup fluctuations come at the bottom, not in the heart.