AJ, CC and Joba on the top stepWe usually try to avoid stories from the tabloids, but occasionally one comes along that’s worth directing your attention to. Joel Sherman of The New York Post penned one such piece, talking about the bond that has developed between the members of the Yanks’ starting rotation, and what newcomers CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett have done to build up some of that all important team chemistry. Allow me to quote:

On a suggestion from A.J. Burnett before a Feb. 28 game at Steinbrenner Field, the members of the Yankees’ projected rotation went to watch Joba Chamberlain warm up. And a habit was born.

“We have Five Musketeers,” manager Joe Girardi said.

One for all, all for one.

The fraternity in the Yankees clubhouse has been noticeably stronger this spring, and no place has that been more overt than among this re-shuffled rotation. The five starters have committed to each other in a variety of ways, including going to watch each other’s pre-game warm-ups.

Most days all four non-starters will attend the bullpen session of that day’s starter. Only Chamberlain and CC Sabathia made it yesterday (Chien-Ming Wang continues to battle a cold and Burnett had a family issue), but this has become the in thing and about seven young pitchers, including David Robertson and Phil Coke, stood on the side to offer support. At the conclusion of the warm-up, Pettitte was surrounded by fellow pitchers giving him fist bumps. This is now routine for that day’s starter: fist-bumping unity.

“It means a lot to get those knuckles,” Sabathia said.

[snip]

“You have to have each other’s back,” Pettitte said. “This is a tough place to play, but if you know everyone is in your corner pulling for you and wants you to be successful, that does help you win. We have to have (this unity) and we are going to have it.”

[snip]

“As a starting pitcher you can leave,” Chamberlain said, “and to look over and see that they have not left that feeling is indescribable.”

I’m firmly in the “chemistry is overrated” camp, but it’s great to see the staff coming together like this. Andy Pettitte is a guy that doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone in this game, but his quote shows just how much each guy appreciates knowing that every one else has their backs. Sherman also mentions that Sabathia bought a slew of courtside tickets for Orlando Magic games and has been taking different teammates to each game, and that Burnett has taken his teammates out on his boat and is organizing an all-out bass fishing tournament. Good stuff.

What do you guys think, how important is chemistry? Talk about that, or whatever else you want here. The only local team in action tonight is the Nets, who are out in Denver. Anything goes, just be nice.

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten a chance to vote in this week’s Fan Confidence Poll, make sure you don’t miss out.

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, Reuters Pictures

Categories : Open Thread
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  • Yanks’ stadium debt hits $1.3 billion
    By

    As the Yanks prepare to open their new ballpark in a few weeks, Sports Business Journal reports that the team took out another $100 million loan to cover final cost overruns. The total debt incurred by the team to build the stadium now stands at $1.3 billion, but according to SBJ, analysts are projecting healthy finances for the Yanks. According to sources, the team projects to $450 million in revenue for 2009, and while the team must dole out payroll and revenue sharing payments, the Yanks still stand to be one of the higher grossing clubs — if not the highest — in all of baseball. · (10) ·

If anyone is missing Jason Giambi this spring, you can head over to Athletics Nation where Tyler Bleszinski has conducted an interview with the former Yanks first baseman. It’s quite the long one — and it’s only the first part. Jason talks about the difference between playing in Oakland and playing in New York, how he views himself on each team, and the adjustments he made to his swing upon coming to the Yanks.

Head over to read the whole thing — I can’t possibly do it justice without completely reprinting it. However, there were a couple of parts I found particularly interesting. The first of which is Giambi’s reply to the question of how he views himself as a defensive first baseman. I didn’t know what to expect after reading the question, but it certainly wasn’t this: “I view myself as great.” Yeah, right. Tyler’s talking about playing first base, Jason, not about chugging Jack. Jay at Fack Youk takes a closer look at this statement.

Most interesting, though, is the revelation that Giambi very well might not have been a Yankee had ownership not intervened. The A’s and Giambi apparently had a place in deal before the 2001 season which would have paid Big G around $90 million over six years.

Trust me, I wanted to stay in Oakland. We had a deal done. You can ask Billy Beane. It was my free agent year before the season started. And ownership at the time pulled the deal off the table. I had flown my parents out, my agent, everybody. A lot of people don’t know that.

That creates one massive what-if scenario. Looking at the list of free agents that year, there was really only one superstar bat available: Barry Bonds. Would the Yanks have pursued him to fill their left field void? He was, after all, fresh off a record-breaking season. The Giants ended up signing him for four years and $72 million with a $18 million club option, but without another blue-chip slugger on the market perhaps the Yankees would have put their resources towards Bonds.

Barring that, they could have gone forward with a Johnny Damon signing, putting him in left field. Considering the money they would have saved on Giambi, they could have as easily signed Rondell White, too, to play right field.

I love how one little interview sparks so many questions. We’ll never know how Yankee history would have unfolded had Giambi re-upped with the A’s in 2001. But it’s fun to think about for sure.

Categories : Interviews
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Just a couple bits of actual Yanks news for the early afternoon:

  • The MRI results are back for both Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte. Cano has shoulder bursitis (didn’t they know this before?) and will be out until Friday. Marte is day to day with shoulder inflammation. So while it’s not great news, it certainly could have been worse. The extended nature of this year’s Spring Training should have these guys back on track soon enough.
  • The Marlins returned Zach Kroenke to the Yanks. He hasn’t had a great spring, and after getting shelled in his last appearance was nowhere to be seen for the Marlins. His return is unsurprising.
  • Juan Miranda has been optioned back to AAA. It would have taken a monster spring from Miranda for him to take a bench role, and that clearly wasn’t happening. He’ll get more at bats this way.
Categories : News
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We praised the Yankees earlier this off-season for reading the bad free agent market in advance. While the team was willing to dole out top bucks to the players it wanted, the Yanks’ decision not to offer Bobby Abreu looked great in hindsight.

Of course, therein lies the rub. That’s a decision that could look great only in hindsight, and it’s disingenuous of anyone to praise it as being anything more than a gamble. When the Yanks didn’t offer Bobby Abreu arbitration, they didn’t know he would end up signing a one-year, $5-million deal. When they didn’t offer Abreu arbitration, they had no idea he would have accepted had they done so.

Five months later, it’s still impossible to judge that situation as anything other than a good decision in hindsight. Over the weekend, Ken Davidoff caught up with Abreu and spoke to the former Yankee about his self-proclaimed bad off-season:

Abreu said he was “surprised” that the Yankees never so much as made him an offer, as he enjoyed his two years and two months in the Bronx. He shouldn’t have been that surprised. They sent signals for months that, at best, they would offer Abreu salary arbitration.

As it turned out, the Yankees opted against offering Abreu arbitration – a great call, as they would have committed themselves to a one-year deal for about $18 million had Abreu accepted. The Yankees correctly predicted how the economy would impact him.

When Newsday asked Abreu if he would have indeed said yes to the Yankees’ arbitration offer, the 35-year-old said, “It depends. Like I say, if you never make an offer, you don’t want to know the answer.”

“It depends.” How telling.

At the time the Yanks could have offered Abreu arbitration, the market hadn’t yet formed, and Abreu would have had to make a quick, uninformed decision. Maybe he would have accepted, and the Yanks would have been stuck paying him a lot more than any time would or should have. Maybe he would have declined, and the Yanks would have earned themselves some draft picks.

As it turned out, had Abreu declined arbitration, he probably wouldn’t have signed for even $5 million, and the Yanks’ opting to eschew arbitration looked to be a solid move. Whether it was actually a prescient decision by Cashman and Co. or a fortuitous bit of luck, the baseball world will never know.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Things were much more positive in Yankeeland this past week than they were the week before, even if Robbie Cano and Damaso Marte came back from the WBC with hopefully minor injuries. Jorge Posada returned to action behind the plate and felt good afterwards, and Mariano Rivera threw both a bullpen session and live batting practice. A-Rod is also off crutches as he rehabs from his hyrid hip surgery.

As far as the action on the field goes, CC Sabathia got knocked around a bit but Joba Chamberlain returned to form and AJ Burnett dazzled in his second spring start. Things went so well last week that we even found out that Bryce Harper wants to be a Yankee and Guiseppe Franco will say ci vediamo dopo to YES. All in all, I’d call it a pretty good week.

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll create a permanent link to a graph showing the change in fan confidence over time, but for now this will have to hold you over. Don’t worry, I’ll pretty it up eventually. Thanks in advance.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results
Categories : Polls
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We interrupt the dog days of spring training to bring an installment of “What’s New in the World Baseball Classic?”

The World Baseball Classic is great fun when you’re not watching your own team’s players get injured. While no one has come close to the level of Luis Ayala circa 2006, this year’s World Baseball Classic has seen its fair share of injuries. The Yanks who were once playing in the tournament are no exception.

As we know, sometime on Monday — or Tuesday or Wednesday if the Yanks keep pushing this back by a day — Damaso Marte (throwing shoulder) and Robinson Cano (throwing shoulder) will head into the MRI tube for some post-WBC scans of sore muscles. While the Yanks wouldn’t really miss Marte if he were to go down, losing Cano after losing his fellow Dominican teammate Alex Rodriguez would be a huge blow. Cano, however, played on Sunday and probably isn’t hurt that badly.

Meanwhile, across baseball, other players are feeling it from the Classic. The Marlins’ Alfredo Amezaga, the Braves’ Chipper Jones and the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia are among the players who are out of the Classic after hurting themselves during the early rounds. For those wary of the pre-season tournament, these aches and pains are simply fuel for the anti-Classic fire.

In a way, of course, that’s a patently silly side to take. After all, Dustin Pedroia could hurt his ab during a game in Fort Myers just as easily as he could strain it playing for Team USA. While the USA team shows a little less than complete enthusiasm for the tournament, though, I see players on most of these other teams giving their all for their countries. The Dominicans, victims of an upstart and now-eliminated Netherlands team, particularly left it all on the field. At this point early in spring training, the players’ bodies just aren’t prepared for the proverbial 110 percent effort.

But that’s baseball life under Bud the Internationalist. As long as we don’t worry too much about it, the Classic makes for good baseball. The other 162 games, though, are the ones that count.

* * *

Meanwhile, in other Classic news, international tournaments make strange bedfellows. Last week, the Boston Herald reported that Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are all new best friends following their time on the same team. Jason at IIATMS noted the nausea-inducing backslaps Jeter doled out to his two arch-rivals.

It is, of course, no secret that the fans of the Red Sox and Yankees take this rivalry far more serious than anyone on both teams not named Jason Varitek. It’s still jarring to hear Jeter speak about two key players on the team most likely to battle the Yanks for the top spots in the American League East this summer. Other bloggers aren’t so sure about the purity of these words.

Digging a little deeper into Derek’s recent statements, Jay at Fack Youk wonders if they are implied digs at Alex Rodriguez and other Yankee teammates. Jay notes a recent quote by Jeter about Team USA third baseman David Wright:

The thing with him, I respect the way he handles himself in New York. I think he shows all the right leadership skills – he leads by example and he’s not phony. What you see is what you get from him. It’s not an image he’s trying to portray; I think that’s how he is as a person.

While none of the A-Rod Outrage Clan known as the New York sports media has picked up on it, Jay sees the not-so-subtle digs in A-Rod in this quote. When A-Rod complimented Jose Reyes, it was a national emergency. When Jeter compliments A-Rod’s Mets counterpart in a way far more critical of A-Rod than Alex was of Derek, Jeter is greeted with dead silence.

And that’s life in New York with the World Baseball Classic.

Categories : Rants
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  • Yanks keeping an eye on Crosby
    By

    Via The Boston Globe, the Yanks and Cubs have been keeping an eye on Bobby Crosby, who no longer has a spot on the A’s roster after the signings of Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra. In an effort to improve his versatility and (of course) boost his trade value, Oakland has played Crosby at short, third and first base this spring. I lobbied against Crosby before we learned about A-Rod’s injury (a day before, to be exact), but that doesn’t change my opinion at all. I mean, I guess if it’s a pure salary dump (owed $5.25M in 2009) and all they have to give up is one of those “future considerations” thingees, then maybe. But just maybe, nothing more. (h/t Seamus) · (19) ·

Mar
15

Open Thread: USA FTW

By in Open Thread. Tags: · Comments (90) ·

Jeter and LillyTeam USA has their backs against the proverbial walls in the WBC tonight, facing elimination after being mercy ruled by Puerto Rico last night. Their opponent: those gutty, gritty, pesky, playing the game the right way Netherlandians. I’m sure you remember that this is the same Netherlands team that send the Dominican Republic home with their tail between their piernas.

Roy Oswalt gets the ball in the elimination game, and of the four starters on the team, he’s the one I feel most comfortable with in a win or go home situation. Team mascot Dustin Pedroia is officially out of the tournament with an oblique strain and has been replaced by the Orioles’ Brian Roberts. It looks like the Netherlands is sending Marlins’ farmhand Rick VandenHurk to mound since staff ace Sidney Ponson (hah) threw yesterday. VandenHurk was the World Team’s starter in the 2007 Futures Game, and has a 6.96 ERA in 95.2 big league innings.

ESPN2 is carrying the game; first pitch is scheduled for 7:30. Chat about that, or anything else on your mind here. Oh, I also want to mention that Chase Utley is making his spring debut tonight, less than four months after having the same surgery to repair a torn hip labrum that A-Rod will eventually have. I guess that’s a good sign. Anyway, enjoy the game.

Update (7:49pm): If you’re bored on this somewhat lame feeling Sunday night, Brian Foley at The College Baseball Blog is going to be chatting at 9pm. Head over and ask him how awesome Steven Strasburg is or how long he thinks it’ll be until Gerrit Cole blows out his labrum (12 K in 5 IP last night). I keed, I keed.

Photo Credit: Hans Deryk, Reuters Pictures

Categories : Open Thread
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Jorge Posada made his long awaited catching debut today, handing four innings behind the plate without incident. He didn’t have to make any throws during the game (other than back to the pitcher, obviously), but did throw down to second between innings. According to Kat O’Brien, Posada said he felt “surprisingly good” and will be on an every other day catching schedule for now, with a day of rest between starts behind the plate. I’m guessing they’ll work this like a starting pitcher, building him up to the point when he can catch a full nine innings. I also assume they’d want him to catch back-to-back days before breaking camp. All in all, today was a success for the Yanks’ stalwart.

The rest of the game went according to plan as well. Andy Pettitte twirled three scoreless innings, striking out one and allowing just two hits while working on the ol’ Uncle Charlie. Phil Coke followed with three strong innings, giving up the only run the team allowed  on three hits and a walk. He’s looking like a lock for a bullpen at this point, Damaso Marte’s injury notwithstanding.  Jose Veras, Anthony Claggett and Steven Jackson closed out the game with a three scoreless innings.

At the plate, Posada chipped in a single and a double in two at-bats, coming around to score both times. Hideki Matsui beat out a double play and he’s knees didn’t fall off afterwards, so that has to be considered a win. Melky and Nick Swisher each doubled as did Angel Berroa, who drove in two runs and raised his spring line to .438-.454-.625 in 32 at-bats. Huh, maybe he should fill-in for A-Rod?

The Yanks beat the Twins 5-1, but the real win was getting Posada back behind the plate.

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