Hopefully, most of you are familiar with Ken Burns’s Baseball, a documentary on the history of the game. If not, I suggest you go drop $120 on the box set. While the creator says he’d never revisit any of his other works, he’s currently working on an update to the series. It’s a year away, slated for spring 2010 on PBS, and will be titled The Tenth Inning.

A great segment from the Houston Chronicle article:

“There was a guy named Pete O’Brien who said in 1858, ‘You know, they don’t play baseball the way they used to,’ ” Burns said. “Every 10 years, somebody is saying the same thing — that it’s all over.”

Burns clearly does not subscribe to that theory.

“Think of it. Since the end of (the original Baseball documentary), we have seen Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and the Braves,” he said. “We have seen the Yankees finally coalesce under one of the game’s most gifted managers (Joe Torre), throwing off the buy-buy mentality of George Steinbrenner to give him time to develop Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

“Sure, we had steroids, but, man, look at what else we have to offer. The Red Sox. We have Ichiro. We have Cal Ripken. Think of the Willie Mays catch (in the 1954 World Series). Now we have a caliber of play and athleticism that produces similar (catches) all the time. The Marlins won the World Series, twice. The Rays made it to the World Series.

“We are in the middle of a baseball renaissance, as (commissioner) Bud Selig says, and, working on this, I have to agree.”

As Burns contemplates the steroid era, he looks at it through the filter of American life at large.

“We live in the age of Viagra,” he said. “People take (medications) to make things better. Why would players be any different?”

The series moves forward from the 1992 World Series. Count me among those who will watch this with rapt attention.

Categories : Days of Yore
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  • Smoltz: Yanks courted me
    By

    Via MLBTR, we hear a Dan Patrick interview with John Smoltz in which the former Brave and current Red Sox pitcher explains that the Yanks were in on his contract talks. According to the injured hurler set to come off the DL by early June, the Yanks were one of four teams — the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves being the others — to come calling, but in the end, Boston won out. It’s good to hear that Brian Cashman was doing what he could to land a low-risk, high-reward starter. If Boston wanted to guarantee more money, so be it. · (159) ·

In a time where baseball talk hits a lull, we have plenty to talk about on the podcast. The theme of the last few weeks has been building out the team, both the back end of the rotation and the bench. In our discussion, Mike and I find that the bench isn’t all that bad, and that it’s tough to improve since it only contains four guys, and one of those spots is locked in with Jose Molina.

There is a little concern about the other spots, though. If the Yanks hang onto both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher, one of them can be a powerful force off the bench. Then you’d have one of Melky and Gardner, whoever isn’t starting. And then utility infielder, who at this point looks like Cody Ransom. I suggest another player, someone who turned down arbitration and the money it guarantees for the chance to play for a winner. Listen in to find out who (though I’ll probably say it in the comments for those who don’t/can’t listen).

We take plenty of questions from readers. If this bit about Ben Sheets is true, the Yanks would have to jump on it. Most teams would probably enjoy that, but he only costs the Yanks a fourth rounder — though the Mets would get away with only a second rounder. I know picks can be overrated at times, but why would a small market team spend $6 million+ and a draft pick on a player who might give them zero innings?

Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.

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We appreciate any feedback. You can leave it in the comments or email either of us.

Categories : Podcast
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It came as a surprise, but earlier this week we got word that Jorge Posada plans to play in the WBC. As many commenters noted, the Yankees would probably rather have him in camp working with the new pitchers. That, and he’s coming off pretty major shoulder surgery. Because Posada ended the season on the DL, the Yanks have the right to deny his entry into the tournament. According to Bryan Hoch’s latest, it appears that they’ll do just that.

“I am sure he would love to play [in the World Baseball Classic], but he is currently rehabbing from surgery and would not be ready,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

There’s no direct quote, but Hoch says that Jason Zillo confirmed the team’s stance. It’s understandable. The WBC is a luxury. It’s a nice little event we have every few years, and it’s somewhat enjoyable to some fans (yeah, I’m hedging here). What’s more important is Jorge’s ability to play for the Yankees. He signed a huge contract after the 2007 season, and after year one he hasn’t lived up to it. I would think that fulfilling his obligation to the Yankees would be more important to him than a — I don’t want to say meaningless, but — meaningless tournament.

Jorge is an integral part of the 2009 club. There’s no sense in risking his health by having him play in the WBC. If he just DHs, maybe, just maybe I can see the argument for allowing him to play. But even then, he’s got to get to know the new guys. And Joba.

Categories : Injuries
Comments (188)
  • Hockey coming soon to Yankee Stadium
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    Following the success of Jan. 1′s Winter Classic outdoor hockey match at Wrigley Field, the NHL would like to do it again. Unsurprisingly, the new Yankee Stadium is at the top of the league’s list for potential hosts. While this is a rather gimmicky game, the idea of the Rangers playing hockey outside in New York City at Yankee Stadium tickles me. It’s certainly cold enough in January, as we’ve learned over the last few days. Somehow, the Vegas Strip and the Rose Bowl are on the NHL’s short list as well. Hockey outside in Miami California (or Vegas) just doesn’t make sense. (Hat tip to the shell-of-its-former-self NJ.com.) · (53) ·

  • Submit your questions for the RAB Radio Show
    By

    We’ll have Ben on the show sometime soon, we promise, but for now you’re stuck with Joe and I again. If you have any questions you want us to answer today, send them in via email (our addresses are on the left sidebar) and we’ll get to them on the show. Emailed questions get priority, but we’ll go through the comments here if we have time.

    Just as a heads up, pretty soon we’ll be broadcasting an actual radio show, where you guys can call in and stuff. Another week or so and we should be up and running.
    · (6) ·

Over at LoHud, Peter Abraham hit upon a topic yesterday weighing on the minds of the Yankee Front Office and the team’s fans. In light of all of the spending on two front-line starters and an All Star first baseman, do the Yankees have enough pitching depth? His answer, when the Yanks are compared to the Red Sox, is no. I disagree.

Here’s what Pete had to say on the topic, and the emphasis is clearly mine:

Penny, Smoltz, Masterson and Buchholz are much, much better options than Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves and the assorted dreck the Yankees have lined up.

The LoHud Yankees Blog charter states “We believe Phil Hughes will stay healthy and realize his vast potential as a starting pitcher.” But facts are facts. He has a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP in 21 starts.

It’s not acceptable for a contending team to go into the season with four good starters and hold a contest for the fifth spot. You need to have a good No. 5 and decent options beyond that. Or do you believe that Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain will all stay healthy for six months?

Now, I have a few problems with this argument. First, “much, much better” is rather hyperbolic. While Brad Penny and John Smoltz certainly are, career-wise, much, much better than anyone the Yankees are throwing out there right now, will they be in 2009? Penny is a soon-to-be 31-year-old career NLer with unimpressive Interleague numbers. He is also coming off a shoulder injury but could wind up being a decent low-risk pick up for the Sox.

John Smoltz will turn 42 in May, a few weeks before he is set to return to game action after a major arm surgery. There are questions surrounding his health, and he has never pitched in the AL either. While the Red Sox don’t need much from Smoltz to get their guaranteed $5.5 million out of him, he, like Penny, is not a slam dunk.

Then, we get to the Hughes/Buchholz issue that any astute fan would recognize right away. Of course, we’re huge fans of Hughes around here, but you can’t dispute 106 innings of a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP. There’s only one problem. Do you know who’s been worse in his career than Hughes? That’s right; it’s Mr. Laptop Lover himself, Clay Buchholz. In 98.7 innings, Buchholz — who, by the way, is two years older than Hughes — sports a 5.56 ERA and a 1.601 WHIP. In no way should be Buchholz be considered much, much better than Hughes. The jury is still out on Masterson, but he certainly has more upside than Giese. (Ed. Note: Originally, I had Bowden over Masterson. That was a mistake. Bowden is ninth on the Sox’s starting depth chart.)

Now, in a way, I’m being too hard on Pete’s argument. When you line up the two rotations, as things stand right now without Andy Pettitte or a similar starter, it breaks down something like this:

CC Sabathia – Josh Beckett
Chien-Ming Wang – Jon Lester
A.J. Burnett – Daisuke Matsuzaka
Joba Chamberlain – Tim Wakefield
Phil Hughes – Brad Penny
Al Aceves – John Smoltz
Ian Kennedy – Clay Buchholz
Dan Giese – Michael Bowden Justin Masterson

In that sense, you can see how the Red Sox, on the right, seem to have some more reliable names at the bottom of the order than the Yankees do, and those names do give the Red Sox the edge in that all-important depth category. Those pitchers, however, have question marks just as the Yanks’ bottom four do. Andy Pettitte would go a long way toward improving the Yanks’ rotation depth, but the Red Sox’s depth isn’t “much, much better” than the Yanks’ right now.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (200)
  • Rosenthal Roundup: Nady, Pettitte
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    Kenny R.’s got a new column up. While he focuses more on John Lackey’s impending free agency and Boston’s potential interest in Adam Dunn, he has a few Yankee-related items as well. First, he speculates via the ever-popular “rival executive” that the Mets could and should add Andy Pettitte at one year and $13 million. Pettitte would add depth to a Mets’ rotation sorely lacking in just that. At that price though, I have to believe the Yanks would step back in to the Pettitte fray.

    Rosenthal also adds a note on Xavier Nady. Noting that Nady will probably wind up with Type A free agent status next season, Rosenthal feels that this designation could help the Yanks trade the righty later on this year. With no right-handers other than Manny Ramirez on the market, Nady, at a low price point, is attractive to many suitors, and as Rosenthal writes, “a team could offer him arbitration without fear that his salary would be exorbitant, thus preserving its right to draft-pick compensation.”
    · (104) ·

The Yanks announced the list of players they’re inviting to Spring Training today, all twenty of them. Here’s the breakdown (PeteAbe gets enough links, so let’s give Mike Ashmore some love this time):

Catchers: Kyle Anson, Kevin Cash, Jesus Montero, PJ Pilittere, Austin Romine
Infielders: Doug Bernier, Angel Berroa, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo
Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Shelley Duncan, Austin Jackson, Justin Leone, Todd Linden, John Rodriguez
Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Jason Johnson, Mark Melancon, Sergio Mitre

Everyone on the 40-man roster tags along too, so the Yanks will have a total of sixty players in big league camp this year. Last year they had 66 players in camp; the only guy from last year’s group that’s still with the organization and healthy enough to participate in ST that didn’t get an invite this year is poor Eric Duncan. Can you call him poor when he got a $1,275,000 signing bonus? In reality, it is a shame what happened to the kid. He was one of the Yanks’ few legit prospects a few years ago, so they rushed him up the ladder to boost his trade value. For shame.

Todd Linden carved out a nice little niche for himself a few years ago as Barry Bonds’ late inning defensive replacement out in San Fran, but he’s got a 66 career OPS+ and a .290 wOBP. Bernier and Leone are just filler Triple-A guys, both can play a ton of positions. It’s unlikely either factors into the utility infielder situation, at least early in the year. Mitre is still rehabbing from having Tommy John surgery in July, so he’s just getting back on the bump.

Melancon was in camp last year despite having less than 8 pro innings under his belt after TJ, but he’ll be given every chance to win a bullpen gig this year. Montero, Romine, Jackson and Anson were in camp last year, but they’re just there for the experience. However with the WBC taking place this year, a lot of these young guys will be getting extended looks while the vets are off doing their thing. I’m looking forward to seeing Brackman more than anyone.

Anyway, it looks like Shelley Duncan cleared waivers after his DFAing. Justin Christian headed for the greener pastures of Baltimore, where he’ll actually get an opportunity to play. I wish him the best.

* * *

Andy in Sunny Daytona, I think you should go  and try out for this. It’s only what, a three or four hour drive down to Miami? That’s nothing. Plus I hear that your jiggliciousness rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Here’s your open thread. Anything goes, just be cool.

Comments (190)
  • The travails of selling up in a down market
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    With Opening Day less than three months away, the Yankees have some real estate to sell. Seven of the team’s fancy luxury boxes remain vacant and a quarter of the 4000 highest priced premium seats are unsold as well. To that end, the Yanks have hired Prudential Douglas Elliman, a high-priced real estate firm, to help move some seats.

    To me, this seems like an unnecessary move. The Yanks aren’t selling out the new stadium because the seats are disproportionately overpriced considering the current state of the U.S. economy. Once the markets rebound, the Yanks will have no problem selling out their 52,325-seat stadium. For now, though, if the Yanks don’t fill those seats, they may come dangerously close to missing out on that four-million attendance mark during their first in the new digs.
    · (2) ·