It’s tough to argue against the guy calling the shots in the personnel department. With a three-year agreement tying him to the team through the 2011 season, the future of the Yanks is in Cashman’s hands. His decisions will determine their course, making him the most important person to the Yankees right now.
2. Hal Steinbrenner
How do you rank the guy who cuts the checks No. 2? He’s not the guy dictating who takes the field for the Yankees. He surely has veto power, and because of this you could arguably put him in the top spot. But Hal doesn’t know how to assemble a bullpen. He doesn’t know who’s coming up through the minors and on what schedule. In other words, he doesn’t know the day-to-day stuff that goes into building a team. Cashman gets the tie-breaker for nuance.
3. CC Sabathia
Right now, CC Sabathia is the most important player on the Yankees 25-man roster (Buster Olney agrees). The Yankees have struggled with their rotation over the past few years, and Sabathia presents them with something they haven’t had in quite some time: an undeniable ace. Cashman said that the Yankees No. 1 priority over the winter was to rebuild the pitching staff, and it all started with CC. His success or failure will likely coincide with that of the team.
Blasphemy! A-Rod above Jeter. Like it or not, though, Alex is under contract for the next nine seasons. He has a full no-trade clause. Even if he didn’t, his contract is pretty much untradeable unless the Yankees eat a significant — yes, that needed italics and bold — portion of it. Remember, the Rangers kicked in $67 million of A-Rod’s remaining $179 million when they traded him in 2004. In any trade scenario, he’d be going from the Yankees, so you can imagine how much money they’d have to eat. He’s here to stay, and like CC his success or failure will be a big part of this franchise.
You might notice that Nos. 3 through 5 have something in common: they’re all tied to the Yankees for the long haul. You can talk about intangible importance all you want, but it won’t make Sabathia’s, A-Rod’s, or Teixeira’s contracts any shorter. That Tex plays first base means he’s blocking a position to which a number of vets switch once they’re unable to man other positions. His ability to hit for the duration of the contract means the world to the Yanks.
6. Derek Jeter
He’s the face of the franchise, and would have been higher on the list if the Yankees weren’t tied up in multiple ridiculously-long-term deals. There will be more talk than most of us can handle about Jeter’s contract situation following the 2010 season, which provides an indicator of just how important he is to the franchise. If his performance declines over the next two years, what do the Yanks do? Tough question to answer. Yet it will could be one of the most important ones the franchise faces in the near future.
7. Jorge Posada
After watching the team struggle last season it was tough not to put Jorge a bit higher. Unfortunately, he’s just a victim of a crowded organization. No. 9 doesn’t nearly do Jorge’s importance justice, as the team will rely on him to man the backstop position until the younger catchers in the system are ready to break in. His bat, which is at a premium for catchers, becomes pedestrian at DH. Combine that with a far inferior bat replacing him behind the plate and the Yanks in a difficult position. Jorge’s ability to stay behind the plate will keep a top bat there for years and years to come if one of Montero/Romine can take over by 2012.
This role was supposed to belong to Phil Hughes, but now it’s Joba Chamberlain who represents the Yankees new crop of pitching talent. He’s emerged as a potential ace, and he’ll try to reach that over the next few seasons. If Joba can place himself atop the rotation with CC Sabathia, the Yanks could have the best 1-2 punch in the league.
9. A.J. Burnett
Like CC, A-Rod, and Tex, this is about the contract. Five years is a long time for a pitcher, and if it turns out poorly it will seem like much longer. I like to say that when you sign a pitcher to a long-term deal you can probably expect to lose about a year due to injury. That Burnett has had just two healthy seasons by age 32 heightens that concern. If the Yanks need to replace A.J. at any point they’ll have a tough time doing so, considering his $16.5 million salary through 2013.
10. Damon Oppenheimer / Mark Newman
The Yanks simply won’t be able to play future free agency periods like they did in 2008-2009. Not only is it unlikely that the talent level will be there, but by signing three long-term deals in 2008-2009 (plus one in 2007-2008 that outlasts them all), management might not be so apt to enter another five-plus year deal. This means that development from within becomes that much more important. The guy who calls the shots on draft day and the guy who manages their path through the system will be of the utmost importance in the coming years.
11. Austin Jackson
Ajax is on the fast track to the majors, and could make his debut as early as this season if he continues his ascendancy in the minors and the Yanks don’t get the production they need from Melky and Gardner. The more realistic scenario is a 2010 debut, which would time out perfectly with the expiring contracts of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Xavier Nady. Jackson is the Yanks top prospect, and he’ll be much needed in the coming seasons.
12. Nick Swisher
Much like Jackson, Swisher’s success or failure could mean a lot for the 2009-2010 off-season. He’s the only corner outfielder under contract for next season, which means he’s going to have to recover in a big way from his uninspiring 2008 campaign. If he does, though, he might save the Yanks some bucks on a big-name free agent like Matt Holliday. If both he and Jackson come through it would be a huge win for the Yanks and their 2010 outfield.
13. Robinson Cano
There aren’t too many second basemen who will content for a batting title, let alone an MVP. There’s Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Dan Uggla, and Chase Utley, followed by a pack of guys like Brian Roberts and Brandon Phillips. Robinson Cano has a chance to be right up there with the big four guys; even if he’s at the Roberts/Phillips level it would be a big plus for the Yanks. That means recovering from a poor 2008. He did show some more life with the bat in the second half. His return to 2007 form would mean big things for the Yanks.
14. Phil Hughes
Phil Phranchise was a bit higher on the list last year, but thankfully Joba Chamberlain was able to step up and take his place. Still, Hughes has an incredible ceiling and could be a second low-cost option for the next few years. A 2010 rotation of CC-Wang-Burnett-Chamberlain-Hughes would be ideal for the Yanks. It would mean not spending any more money on the rotation in the off-season, and would give the Yanks another chip from the system. The Yanks won’t live and die with the success or failure of Hughes, but his success would bring enormous benefit.
15. Nardi Contreras
I considered lumping him with Oppenheimer and Newman, but Nardi’s importance is a bit different. He’s charged with developing a system rife with pitching. The Yanks want to win with young arms, and Nardi’s ability to get these guys to the major league level is integral to that plan.
16. Dave Eiland
Once Nardi gets the guys to the majors, it will be Eiland’s job to make sure they keep doing what got them there in the first place. It appears the Yanks have a lot of faith in Eiland, and after hearing how he’s worked with pitchers and managed the bullpen I can see why.
17. Mariano Rivera
It pains me to put Mo this low, but a 39-year-old closer probably shouldn’t be high up on an organizational list of importance. This is not to discount what Mo has meant to the Yanks in the past. He was a big part of the four championship teams and he could be a big part of number 27. Looking into the future, though, Mo’s impact just won’t be as big as the guys ahead of him.
18. Jesus Montero
The Yanks have had big hopes for this guy since they signed him as an international free agent in 2006. Much of his importance lies in his ability to stay behind the plate since the position many scouts have envisioned him playing, first base, is occupied for the next eight years. Still, Montero’s bat can play anywhere, and his development will mean a lot for the Yanks’ future.
19. Mark Melancon
It’s tough to feel bad for guys who play a kids’ game for a living, but the expectations heaped on Melancon are quite daunting. Who, after all, can step into the shoes of Mo himself? No one, yet the hype around Melancon is that he’s the future closer the Yanks need. He’ll never be Mo, but his development into a Jon Papelbon or Joakim Soria would mean the world to the Yanks (and to Joba’s spot in the rotation).
20. Andrew Brackman
After watching him fall all the way through the first round, the Yanks snagged Andrew Brackman with the 30th overall pick in 2007. They took a significant risk, basically knowing he’d need Tommy John surgery. Now that he’s recovered, he’ll have a few years to prove he’s ready before running out of options. Like Joba and Hughes ahead of him, he means having a cost-controlled ace, which not only gives the Yanks another potential top of the rotation starter, but allows them to spend ace-money elsewhere.
Previously: Mike’s 20 Most Important Yankees
Beyond the Box Score has been running a series on the value of each team’s farm system – broken down by division – based on prospect values determined by Victor Wang’s research. The Yanks’ farm system is valued at $97.8M, thanks partly to having two top fifty position player prospects (Austin Jackson & Jesus Montero), but mostly thanks to the horde of Grade B and C pitching prospects. The $97.8M figure places them fourth in the division, ahead of only the Blue Jays at $94.1M. Baseball America and Keith Law both rated the Yanks’ system fourth in the division as well, so it’s nice to see the numbers support the popular opinion. Make sure you check it out, there’s some really interesting stuff going on there. · (12) ·
Last week I put together a Yahoo group at the last second for this year’s NCAA Tournament, spending no more than a nano-second thinking up the RAB Bracket Busters nickname. Even though I posted the group info barely an hour before the first tip-off, we still managed to get forty-four people to join.
I’m not overly interested in college basketball, but I do have an idea of what goes on throughout the year. However I followed less than usual this year, so I figured my brackets were going to go boom before the weekend even started. I got lucky though, losing just seven of the thirty-two frst round games, and only one of those losses could haunt me beyond the second round (Wake Forest). The weekend went well, and I’m currently sitting pretty with thirteen of Sweet Sixteen correct (the misses are Wake, Washington, and Texas). I had Washinton in the Elite Eight, which kinda sucks, but whatever.
My Final Four is pretty standard – Louisville, Memphis, Pitt and Oklahoma – as is my Championship matchup (Pitt over Louisville). I’m tied for fifth place in our league with 51 points, and I’m well within striking distance of the leader’s 55 points. The scoring doubles each round (one points in the first round, two points in the second, four in the third, etc), so one game means a big swing now. Current standings are after the jump, if you’re interested.
The discussion of optimized Yanks batting order was a good one last week, even though an optimal batting order vs. the worst possible batting order only nets a team maybe one win over the course of a year. Still, this isn’t about being right; it’s about looking at an aspect of the game and talking about it, seeing where conventional wisdom goes astray and where it makes sense. Today, though, we’re talking about an aspect of lineup creation that could have a greater impact on run creation.
Last week, John Walsh of The Hardball Times wrote an article on the double play and its detriment to a rally. After recalling Bill James’s argument that Darren Daulton was particularly adept at avoiding the DP, Walsh makes an important notation: we should be looking for GIDPs vs. GIDP situation. That is, just because a player has a good GIDP to at bats ratio, as did Daulton, doesn’t mean he’s particularly adept. The reason is that some players simply come up more often in DP situations.
Derek Jeter grounded into 24 double plays last year, fourth most in the AL. This comes at a high cost to the team because he hits second. The leadoff hitter, Johnny Damon, posted a sparkling .375 OBP, but a few of those on base instances were wasted because of Jeter’s propensity to hit into the twin killing. Of course, Jeter could turn it around this year, but he’s in his age 35 season and has shown a higher GIDP per at bat ratio than he did earlier in his career. Unfortunately I’m not able to find his number of GIDP situations, but considering his spot in the batting order I’m fairly certain it hasn’t changed much over the years (but could easily be wrong).
Many have suggested this off-season that the Yanks flip Jeter and Damon in the order. The logic goes that Jeter’s grounders won’t cause two outs and kill a baserunner. But what about Damon? Yes, his GIDP rate is low, but is that a function of his being a leadoff man? One might think so at first, but a look at Walsh’s article shows that this is not the case. In fact, Johnny has one of the best all-time GIDP per situation ratios. In his career he’s faced 1,373 opportunities to hit into a DP, but has done so only 75 times for a rate of 0.055. That’s good for the fourth best rate on Walsh’s chart, behind all-time leader Joe Morgan, Mickey Rivers, and Darryl Strawberry. This has led to 79 double plays avoided, sixth all time.
As I mentioned in the open thread, there’s a bit Bill James has noted about Jeter that factors in here. His batting average on groundballs has steadily increased since 2002, up to .291 in 2008. Yes, that’s a career high BA on groundballs despite a career high in GIDP. Could Jeter hitting in the leadoff spot, where guys won’t be squeezing the middle, possibly raise his groundball BA by affording him more hits up the middle? Perhaps. Given the available data I don’t think you can draw a definitive conclusion. It’s something to consider with this argument though. (Plus, his rising BA on groundballs might be a product of hitting around fielders who are squeezing for the DP…who knows?)
Given Jeter’s increased GIDP rate over the past two years and Damon’s ability to avoid the twin killing, would it then make sense to flip them in the order? Given the available evidence, I’d say yes. Not that it would ever happen — and, just to make a point clear from the last discussion, this isn’t written with the intent of mailing it to Cashman and Girardi. It’s just an exercise in baseball knowledge. If you guy who hits into a lot of double plays and a guy who is historically among the best at avoiding them, wouldn’t you want the latter hitting in back of the former, rather than the other way around?
In South Jersey, a giant bluegrass field awaits the Yankees. This farm, run by Rick DeLea, is the sole supplier of the grass under the feet of the Yankees at both the new and old stadiums. With the Yanks opening up a new home in a few weeks, DeLea had to outfit the park with a new carpet. He ended up with 10 acres of the sod and reams of extra grass. Now, he has struck a deal with the Yankees to sell Yankee Sod at NYC-area Home Depot stores. The sod will cost $7.50 for a 16-inch by 4-foot square and will come with all of the anti-counterfeiting certifications that the so-called Official Grass of the New York Yankees should carry. Johnny Damon, unfortunately, was not quoted in the article. · (11) ·
Over in Queens, CitiField is turning into an epicurean delight. While the Mets have unveiled Nathan’s hot dogs, Shake Shack and a whole raft of Danny Meyer/Blue Smoke options, the Yanks have been largely silent on the dining at New Yankee Stadium.
Today, they lifted that curtain to unveil a wide array of dining options for patrons of the Yankee Experience. The Yankees, through their Legends Hospitality group, are bringing back what the team is calling “traditional favorites.” I won’t judge you if you consider a lukewarm, overpriced piece of congealed cheese pizza from Famous Famiglia traditional or a favorite.
Meanwhile, the new offerings are mostly predictable, if a little disappointing. Brother Jimmy’s BBQ seems to be the headliner, and the delis will now offer Boar’s Head sandwiches. I’m not quite sure why the Yanks are promoting Garlic Fries, something they call “a staple of West Coast ballparks” when New York City itself offers far better food options, but that’s the way it is. (The full list is available after the jump.)
As part of their continued push to make the new ballpark affordable, the team is continuing to offer a $3 hot a dog, a $3 soda and a $6 beer. Everything from the old ballpark will cost the same as it did last year with the team’s preparing for a plethora of promotional items. The team has hired 4000 union workers to staff these concession booths, and they plan to donate leftover edible food to charity.
All in all, I’m a bit underwhelmed by the concession options. Items such as the Highlanders’ traditional food — a pushcart hot dog vendor with sauerkraut and onions — aren’t that compelling, and the sushi choices, noodle bowls and Tommy Bahamas drinks are what I would expect from stadiums in Phoenix or Denver. The local flare seems missing, and as much as I hate to admit it, it seems as though the Mets did a far better job stocking their new home than the Yanks did.
Yanks fans have plenty of reasons to get excited for the 2009 season. Whether it’s the new Stadium, the free agent acquisitions, or the up and coming talent, things seem to be going pretty well for the Bronx Bombers. Over at Jorge Says No! — which, despite the title, is not a Yanks blog — Josh continues his Five Things to Look Forward To series with the Yanks. So what does an outsider (Josh is a Mets fan) think about our favorite team?
Joba, A-Rod, Gardner, Jorge, and CC. Of course, there are different things to be thankful about with each of them. For instance, Josh seems to think we can look forward to A-Rod’s tabloid antics, yet makes no mention of the XBH he’ll rack up during his five months. Other than that quibble, I think Josh is pretty spot-on with the reasons we Yanks fans are so excited for 2009.
Just to add some fodder to the discussion, I got an email from ACTA Sports earlier today with some tidbits from Bill James:
- The Yanks used to be a good baserunning team, with them taking an average 47 more bases than other teams in the six years from 2001 through 2007. Last year it was -4. Hopefully Gardner helps bring that number back to the positive.
- Melky hits way too many fly balls, and without a power stroke it’s the leading cause of his futility. “In 2007 he hit 28% fly balls (fly balls as a percentage of balls in play), and he hit .154 on them. In 2008 he increased that to 34% fly balls, and the average went down to .123.” If fly balls don’t leave the yard — and just 6.3 percent of Melky’s did in 2008 — they’re pretty much useless.
- Pitchers love to throw A-Rod inside: he’s led the league in three of the last four years in percentage of pitches off the plate inside. I wonder how much K-Long and A-Rod look at this type of data when determining how to prepare for the season.
There’s one more bit in there about Derek Jeters and groundballs, but I’m going to tackle that topic at midnight.
With that, here’s your open thread for the evening. Game 1 of the WBC finals is tonight, with Korea facing off against Japan. In NBA action the Magic head to the Garden, and in the NHL the Devils are in Philly. Just as an experiment: Anything goes here, so be bitches to each other.
Very Short Game Recap by Ben
We have a lot of content for the next few days, and the Spring Training recaps aren’t quite at the top of our list of priorities. So here’s a short one: The Yanks dropped a game to the Phillies today. Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada were set to play a minor league game, but it got rained out. Instead, the two trekked to Clearwater. Wang was strong through five and faltered a bit in the 6th. He took the loss while allowed 3 ER on 5 H, 2 BB and 2 Ks.
Meanwhile, Brian Bruney continued to struggle. He gave up a pair of runs on Matt Stairs home run, and his spring ERA stands at 7.56. While his job is safe, the Yanks are relying on him to firm up the 8th. Dan Giese also gave up three runs today. He probably won’t break camp with the Yanks at this point.
If the Yankees manage to snap out of their World Series-less funk and return to their smart team-building ways of the late 1990s, Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson will forever live as the two biggest symbols of Aught-Aught decadence. The Yankees spent a whopping amount of dollars on both of those players and additional prospects on Randy Johnson. When Johnson left after 2006 and Giambi left this winter, their departures were quick and rather forgettable.
Over the weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea checked in with the Big Unit and the Giambino as they settle in to their new digs and their new old digs, respectively. The two former Yankees had widely divergent views on playing in the Bronx.
Neither Randy Johnson nor Jason Giambi won a World Series with the Yankees, which is why neither is viewed in that Paul O’Neill-Scott Brosius “True Yankee” sort of way, whatever the heck that is. Johnson’s and Giambi’s sin was playing on teams that fell short of winning it all, the Yankees’ only goal.
“If you don’t win the World Series, it’s considered a failing year,” said Johnson, who’s working near his Livermore roots after signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Giants. “Those are extremely high expectations. It’s not that easy, though. I don’t think you should be measured on whether you won a World Series or not because the best team doesn’t always win the World Series.”
“I loved having that pressure on you,” said Giambi, who returned to the A’s for a $5.25 million guarantee. “If you’re an athlete and really love the game, it’s pretty incredible. The expectation level from the media to the fans, it’s awesome, an incredible environment to play in. I know some people don’t thrive in it, but I enjoyed it.”
For some reason, Shea’s main goal seems to be taking jabs at the Yankees. He openly mocks the “True Yankee” moniker that some players have earned, and he notes in the omitted section the Yanks’ winter spending spree. In a way, though, he misses the point.
For Giambi, his time in New York was about excelling on the big stage, and he seemed to do that just fine. While his contract and tenure here will be forever marked by steroids, the Yanks got their money’s worth out of Jason, and it wasn’t his fault the Yanks’ pitching fell apart.
Between Randy Johnson and the Yanks, though, there is no love lost. Even in Johnson’s words — “I don’t think you should be measured on whether you won a World Series or not because the best team doesn’t always win the World Series” — are hints of excuses. He’s still trying to defend himself as the man who couldn’t put away the Angels in 2005 and couldn’t deal with the Tigers in 2006. He is every bit the insecure pitcher Joe Torre describes him to be in his book and nothing like the bulldog the Yankees thought he was.
When all is said and done, neither Randy nor Jason will go down in the annals of Yankee history as representative of a good time. This decade has seen the team try to find a way to return to World Series glory with no luck. For one of them, it certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying, and from the other, it will always just be sour grapes.
A year ago in April, we issued a Tabloid Declaration of Independence. Spurred on by a winter of rumors, some true, others nowhere near reality, we declared that with a few exceptions — Mark Feinsand’s news reporting being the most notable — we would no longer be linking to stories in The Post or The Daily News.
At the time, Joe wrote, “Every day, these publications assail our better senses and bring us little in the way of opinion and insight. We are constantly bombarded with fabricated rumors, flimsy analysis, and half-baked opinions that do not pass muster to the educated fan.”
We felt that we could provide intelligent and well-reasoned analysis that far eclipsed what many of the tabloid writers were producing on a daily basis. Our analysis would be as fair as we could make it and our reasoning as transparent as possible.
By all accounts, we had a successful summer doing so, and over time, we struck a balance between accepting what the tabloids say as analysis and what they report — or sometimes “report” — as rumors. In fact, we’ve even linked to a Post piece over the last few weeks about concerns surround Joba’s velocity in Spring Training. While those concerns may be George King’s and King’s lone, they deserved a nod.
Yesterday, though, I was served a firm reminder of our tabloid ban when seven or eight RAB readers e-mailed me the same story and a few others linked to it in the comments. That story dealt with A-Rod, of course, and it was printed not in the sports section of The Daily News but rather on George Rush’s gossip pages. In a nutshell, Rush claims that A-Rod is one of the Spitzer Madam’s other clients and that A-Rod allegedly told one of the high-priced prostitutes that he took steroids. (It’s here if you insist on reading it.)
In a time when New York City’s mass transit is in the midst of a financial crisis, as the nation’s economy founders, a gossip column’s story about a baseball player’s hiring a prostitute is somehow considered front page news. What’s next? Dog bites man?
Not only am I reminded why we eschew the tabloids as reliable news sources that strive to bring a level of intelligence to the daily discourse, but I again see the A-Rod Double Standard at work. Will George Rush look into the lives of the other Major League Baseball players, the vast majority of whom have probably earned or paid for their fair share of one-night stands? Will we see a catalog of Joba’s exploits? Jeter’s ladies? Or do we just get tales of A-Rod because he’s the $270 million whipping boy?
I don’t even think I want to know the answers to those questions.
In the end, then, at the end of March, 11 months after issuing a tabloid ban, we’re right back where we started. If sports gossip is your game, try Deadspin or any of the countless other sites that have reached for the lowest common denominator of reporting. We’ll keep trying to raise the discourse, and while we don’t always succeed and while we’ve made our mistakes, the least we’re going to do is rely on sourced articles that hack-job gossip pieces with dubious motives behind them.
Way back in November PeteAbe posted his list of the twenty most important Yankees, and Ben said we’d follow that up by posting our own list shortly thereafter. Well, four months later seems like as good a time as any to roll out our lists. That’s right, lists. I’m going to present my list of the twenty most important people in the organization today, and tomorrow Joe’s going to follow up with his version. Ben will post his list on Wednesday, then we’ll wrap this whole thing up on Thursday, podcast-style.
This list is a ranking of the most important people in the Yankees organization. It can be anyone – players, coaches, front office personnel, groundskeepers, clubbies, literally anyone on the payroll. We’re ranking them based on their importance from this day going forward, and not just in regards to the 2009 season. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer to this, it’s just my opinion.
Fun starts after the jump.