• Yanks, Sony agree to HD pact for new stadium
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    The Yankees and Sony have agreed to a deal in which the electronics giant will outfit the new Yankee Stadium with state-of-the-art HD screens. As part of the deal, Sony becomes, according to Bryan Hoch, the official LCD television, HD television and consumer electronics manufacturer of the Yankees. In return, the Yanks’ new digs will feature 550 BRAVIA and LCD HD TV sets as well as PS 3 consoles and some VAIO notebooks. According to the press release announcing the deal, Sony will air a 30-second promo prior to each game and sponsor the Yankee highlight reel.

    For better or worse, this attention to screens is a part of the Yanks’ plan to bring fans the most up-to-date stadium experience possible. The old Yankee Stadium was equipped with old CRT TVs, and those sets were few and far between. “Integrating Sony products into Yankee Stadium is very important to us as we near completion of what will certainly be among the most modern and technologically advanced sports venues in the world,” Lonn Trost, team COO, said.
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As Mike and I discussed in the podcast, and as Ben stated earlier, we don’t think the Yankees should trade Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher. Yes, it would appear they have more starters than spots, but plenty can happen between now and Opening Day (and beyond). Unless they use that surplus to fill another need, or are blown away by the level of prospects offered, the Yanks would do best to stand pat and see which team has the greatest need come March. For all we know that team could end up being the Yankees themselves.

Still, it’s fun to play mock-GM. As fans we do it every day. Like all faux-trade proposals, take this one with a grain of salt. It’s just a suggestion, and clearly the executives on either or both sides might not think it optimal for their respective club. That doesn’t preclude us from speculating.

One of the teams reportedly interested in Nady is the Cincinnati Reds. This makes sense. Over at Redleg Nation, a superb Reds blog, Chad notes that he would have loved Pat Burrell at two years and $16 million, or even Milton Bradley at three years and $30 million. Instead, they’re “going to be stuck with an outfield of Willy Taveras, Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Jay Bruce.” They also have options in Norris Hopper and Chris Dickerson, but neither looks like a high upside player. Dickerson had a very good 2008, his age 26 season, OPSing .863 at AAA before destroying the majors in 201 at bats (.304/.413/.608). In other words, they could use a left fielder.

Aaron Harang is coming off his worst season since 2004. He pitched to a 4.78 ERA and tossed far fewer innings, 184.1, than he had for the previous three years (211.2, 234.1, 231.2). However, he looks like a good, if not great candidate for a bounceback season. Not just because he had a stellar three years from 2005 through 2007, but because of the way his 2008 unfolded.

On May 25, Dusty Baker (who else?) called on Harang in relief during a marathon game with the Padres. He entered the game in the 13th and pitched four innings, allowing two hits, no runs, one walk, and issuing nine strikeouts. Two problems with this scenario. First, it came just three days after Harang got lit up by the Padres (5.1 IP, 5 ER, 2 HR). Of course, pitching four innings on three days’ rest isn’t that huge a deal. The second problem is that he didn’t have time to prep like a starter would. While the effects didn’t show up that game, they sure did immediately afterward.

His next outing was a four-inning, six-run debacle at home against Pittsburgh. Two starts later, in Florida, he got ripped for eight runs, seven earned, in Florida. In the 10 outings after the relief appearance, Harang tossed 51.2 innings to a 9.06 ERA, with a 1.90 WHIP. That certainly sullied his season. Before that relief sting, he pitched 74.2 innings of 3.50 ERA ball. In his last eight starts of the season, he pitched 54 innings of 2.83 ball. This isn’t to necessarily say that the relief stint caused Harang’s mid-season drop-off, but it’s hard to ignore the circumstances.

Surely the Reds know this, which might make them disinclined to deal the righty when his value is perceived a bit lower than in years past. They also probably won’t want to lose an innings-eating starter, especially considering the rest of their rotation aside from Edinson Volquez. Johnny Cueto could be good, but he’s no sure thing, not at this age. Still, Harang is owed $11 million this year, a $4.25 million raise over last year, plus $12.5 million in 2010 with a $12.75 million team option for 2011 (which becomes a mutual option if traded). Do the Reds want to keep that kind of payroll committed to Harang in his 30s (2009 will be his age-31 season)?

Here’s how a trade would help the Reds. They’d gain the difference between Harang’s and Nady’s contracts, which will be about $5 million, assuming Nady makes $6 million. If they can use that money to help them in another place, then they might consider it. Nady’s salary would come off the books after 2009. Although there’s not much to choose from with the 2010 free agent class, the Reds could use that money to pay Volquez, who could be a Super Two.

If the two sides are, in fact, remotely discussing a Nady swap, I’d assume Walt Jocketty is pushing Arroyo on the Yanks. This, clearly, would be a terrible move. Arroyo is still owed $22.5 million for 2009 and 2010 (counting the $2 million buyout of his 2011 option). No way do the Yanks want any part of this guy.

If Harang is in fact on the table, and for all we know he might be off limits, the Yanks might have to kick something else the Reds way. That, of course, could make or break the deal. Or this deal might not even be under consideration. Who knows. It’s fun to speculate. If we’re going to give up Nady, I’d want it to be for a player like Harang. Well, I’d ideally like it to be for a player like, say, Tim Lincecum, but I’m trying to display a modicum of realistic thought.

Pictured: Harang, his cousin, and my little brother.

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It’s the first podcast of the new year. We start things off chatting about, what else, the Mark Teixeira press conference. It’s tough for guys to make poor impressions at these things, and Tex was no exception. He came off confident and aware of the pressures ahead. Another interesting tidbit: He says that being a switch hitter, it takes him longer to get into the groove because he’s working on two swings. His April splits lend some stats to that anecdote.

To make room on the roster for Tex, the Yankees DFA’d Shelley Duncan. This comes as no surprise. Like all DFAs, Shelley will hit the waiver wire. If unclaimed, though, he does not have the right to declare free agency. He’ll instead be forced to accept and assignment with the Yankees. If I had to venture a guess I’d say he’ll be in Scranton in April.

Then it’s onto the minor league contracts. The Yankees inked Jason Johnson, Angel Berroa, Jorge Vazquez, and John Rodriguez. They’re all no risk moves, so it’s tough to complain about them (but that won’t stop some people). It looks like Rodriguez could provide some level of reward.

We touch on the Nady and Swisher rumors and come to a conclusion: Keep ‘em. Depth is valuable, and becomes more valuable as we get to March and April. Unless something good comes along (Aaron Harang?), the Yankees should just stand pat and see how the spring unfolds.

At the end, Mike discusses the case of Andy Oliver. He was drafted out of high school, but chose to attend Oklahoma State. Just before the playoffs this year, he was suspended indefinitely. Why? He used an agent/lawyer to negotiate his post-draft deal. Mike explains the whole thing. While I understand NCAA’s desire to keep their athletes amateur, it seems unreasonable to expect an 18-year-old to negotiate a deal without a lawyer.

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.

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The lede in Ken Davidoff’s latest column says it all: “Andy Pettitte is extremely unhappy with how his negotiations have gone with the Yankees, and the lefthander might be softening on his opposition to rejoining the Astros.” Once Pettitte rejected the Yankees $10 million offer, this development became inevitable. Pettitte hails from Texas and spent three years pitching in Houston, so the speculation makes sense, at least on one level.

The problem is that the Astros have not been inclined to spend this winter. In fact, as recently as Tuesday, Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle noted that “the Astros are essentially done shopping and unloading.” Drayton McLane has said the same himself. How, then, would the team go about freeing up the more than $10 million Pettitte seemingly desires? Ortiz’s colleague at the Chronicle, Jerome Solomon, explains:

Don’t be distracted by the reports that Pettitte told the New York Yankees he would not work for $10 million this season. That’s in New York. We’re Texas.

A quick check of the cost-of-living in Houston on the site CNNmoney.com shows that $10 million in Manhattan equates to only $4,054,415 in Houston. (And it is cheaper in Deer Park where Pettitte owns a home.)

Throw in New York state taxes versus the Republic of Texas and heck, a man as rich as Pettitte could work for a couple million bucks and one dollar in Texas, donate the couple mil to charity — keeping the dollar — and feel better about himself than he would taking the Steinbrenners’ money.

Sorry, forgot to factor in the hometown discount: cha-ching. Got change for a dollar?

First off, the telling line in Solomon’s little spiel is the second sentence of the first paragraph. That’s Texas. This is New York. Is there really any need to go further than that?

I can only think this is a tongue-in-cheek remark by Solomon, because it’s so patently ridiculous. He can’t seriously think that Pettitte wants more than $10 million from the Yankees solely based on the cost of living. That would make him, uh, not so smart. Pettitte wants more than $10 million because he feels he’s worth more than that. That number won’t change because of taxes and living costs in Houston.

Another insane Solomon quote: “Wouldn’t you sleep a lot better if you made up for being injured in Houston by returning for a modest salary this coming season?” Excuse me, but don’t the Astros have Mike Hampton on their team? Ah, if only he went back to the Braves to make up for all the time he spent on the DL.

Oh, and I’ll keep laying it on. Yet another: “Money isn’t that important to Pettitte.” If money wasn’t that important to Pettitte he’d be on the Yankees roster right now. At least that’s not an obscured fact. Check out an earlier paragraph:

If Pettitte was so willing and felt he had no choice but to take performance-enhancing drug because of an early-season injury, then he ought to be willing to play for a discount rate this season to make up for it.

Uh, he did that for the Yankees. He got injured (it was 2002, IIRC) and took HGH to return quicker. He might have done it with the Astros as well. Of that I’m not sure. But, again, why such a Houston bias here? He played just three years there. He played most of his career, and won all of his rings, with the Yankees. Not that I need to tell you guys that.

Unless the Astros open the purse, Pettitte will not be returning to the team he pitched for from 2004 through 2006. He’s not going to return to a team he reportedly did not enjoy playing for, at a discount, just to spite the Yankees. And if he does, well, I think we can wrap up the discussion about his integrity.

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Join Jon Heyman to the growing list of national baseball columnists proclaiming Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady expendable. In a recent post, Heyman notes that the two outfielders could be available for the right price, but more notable is his note on Johnny Damon.

The Yankees are fielding trade offers for corner outfielders Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher. There’s been some speculation they might consider trading Hideki Matsui, too, but he has a full no-trade clause and is coming off knee surgery, so there’s really no way to trade him…

Johnny Damon isn’t in the trade mix, as the Yankees need him to be their leadoff hitter and part of a center field rotation. The other in-house candidates for center field are Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner.

So here’s what doesn’t make sense. Hideki Matsui just isn’t a viable outfield candidate. Even if his knees could take the daily wear-and-tear, his range is a huge negative. So if the Yankees are planning on going with Damon in center field, that would leave whichever of Nady and Swisher aren’t traded to man right field and…no one…to man left field.

Now, the idea of Damon in center makes most Yankee fans queasy. He’s a very good left fielder, but his range in center is a big diminished. I’m not even going to mention his limp noodle arm. Meanwhile, most of us are quite content with giving Brett Gardner a shot in center field, but there’s a real chance that he just doesn’t have the bat to succeed at the Major League level. It’s tough to say how committed the Yankees are to that idea though.

Considering that the Yankee outfield is a huge question mark for 2010, the team has no real need, as we’ve been saying over and over again, to trade Nady or Swisher. If they get a great offer, of course they should consider it. But for now, both players have roles on the 2009 Yankees, and my money is on the team breaking camp in April with both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher in tow.

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  • Boston nearing deals with Smoltz, Baldelli
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    The Red Sox are on the verge of landing themselves a pair of injured players with high upside. Buster Olney reports that John Smoltz, a 20-year veteran of the Braves, will jump leagues and cities. He and the Red Sox are nearing a deal on a one-year, $5.5-million contract. Smoltz will be playing his age 42 season in 2009, and he’s coming off surgery. The Sox don’t expect him back until the end of May, and I wonder how he’ll handle the AL for the first time in his career. Boston, however, can well afford the risk.

    Meanwhile, MLBTR directs us to various reports on an impending deal between Rocco Baldelli and the Red Sox. When healthy, Badelli ranks up there with the game’s top outfielders, but he has played just 155 games since the end of 2004. Baldelli received some good news earlier this winter when his mitochondrial disease was revealed to be a misdiagnosis, but he’s not out of the injury woods yet. Again, this is a nice potential low-risk, high-reward signing, but Baldelli shouldn’t be considered more than a role player until he can be healthy for long stretches at a time.
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Meet Corky Simpson. He is a member of the Arizona Associated Press Sports Hall of Fame and once made a name for himself when he was the sole AP voter to tab Alabama for the top slot of the NCAA poll every week during the 1992 season.

He is not, apparently, a firm believe in taking his responsibilities as a sports writer too serious. “If that year,” he once said about 1992, “proved anything to me, it was the fallacy of the polls. They’re a lot of fun, but they mean nothing. It’s fun to follow the teams, but they’re not that important.”

Now, during the Winter Meetings in December, Simpson, now retired from the Tucson Citizen but a lifetime honorary voting member of the BBWAA, unveiled his Hall of Fame ballot in the Green Valley News & Sun. This ballot languished in the Arizona community newspaper Website until Rob Neyer got wind of it, and boy, is it creating a stir.

Corky, you see, voted for Matt Williams. And Don Mattingly. And Tommy John. And Tim Raines. And Jim Rice. And not Rickey Henderson.

I’ll let that sink in for a second. Corky Simpson, a lifetime honorary member of the BBWAA, did not vote for Rickey Henderson for the Hall of Fan.

Now, there’s even some irony, as Neyer points out, in Simpson’s argument. He claims not to have voted for Mark McGwire because of the steroid scandal but opted for Matt Williams, a career .268/.317/.489 hitter with 378 lifetime HRs and a place in the Mitchell Report, because “nobody ever played the game with more intensity, nor with more reverence for the sport.” I guess reverence included cheating.

Now, Corky’s only 70. He’s not that old. But this ballot is a pure embarrassment, and it does nothing to help the reputation of baseball or the Hall of Fame. I would commend Simpson for making this thing public, but if the BBWAA had any common sense, they would strip him of that honorary lifetime title. He doesn’t deserve it.

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the-babe

Yesterday marked the 89th anniversary of the Yanks’ acquisition of George Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Red Sox, perhaps the single biggest player transaction in baseball history. All told, the Bombers sent Sox owner Harry Frazee $125,000 in cash, as well as three annual payments of $25,000 at 6% interest in exchange for Ruth. The Yanks also loaned Frazee $300,000, accepting the mortgage to Fenway Park as collateral.

Fresh off a recording setting 29 homerun season in his final year with the Sawx, Ruth became the Sultan of Swat as we know him immediately after the trade, clubbing 113 homers in his first two years in pinstripes. The team went from a 701-780 (.473) record in the ten years preceeding Ruth’s acquisition to a 924-670 (.580) record in the ten years following the pickup. Ruth finished his career with a .342-.474-.690 batting line, a 207 OPS+, 714 homers, 2,217 RBI, 1330-2062 K/BB ratio, a .518 wOBP, and seven World Titles. He’s easily the greatest player in baseball history based on how he performed in comparison with the rest of the players in his era.

Thanks Harry. (h/t UWS)

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Rangers take on Montreal at home, the Knicks are off, the Isles are off, and the Devils suck. Talk about whatever else is on your mind, just be nice.

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Via ScottBoras.com, er, I mean, MLB Trade Rumors, we get some commentary from Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. He spoke of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees’ choice of A.J. Burnett over Derek Lowe, All-Star Catcher Jason Varitek, and the AL East. So let’s hear what Gammo has to say.

First we’ll start with Tex. Gammons doesn’t add much to the story we’ve come to know over the past two weeks. He does say that the Red Sox were kind of blindsided, and that Boras kind of hemmed and hawed in order to get things going with the Yankees:

They didn’t know it. They were waiting on the day that he signed . . . they thought that they were going to get him. They tried to close the deal on Monday night [Dec. 21], and Scott [Boras] said, ‘Well, the Teixeiras are flying, and they haven’t quite done this, and they haven’t quite done that,” and he kept putting it off an all along it was to just finish the language with the Yankees.

Shortly after this quote, Gammons goes on to note the “testiness between Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira when they played in Texas together.” He doesn’t comment on what that could mean for the Yankees, but allow me. It won’t matter. They’ll be together in New York, with no-trade clauses, for the next eight years. They’re professionals. They can handle it.

After saying that it might have taken $220 million for the Sox to actually nab Tex, Gammons goes on a little rant about the media, specifically as it exists on the Internet:

What happened this winter is that, as the internet has expanded to become the media power, the flow of information is quickly controlled by agents. A lot of general managers and those of us in the business kid about a couple of sites referred to as ScottBoras.com, and Scott will float things out there and throw it out there and people will report it, you know, ‘The Brewers are jumping in on Derek Lowe.’ They’re not jumping in on Derek Lowe. I mean, please. ‘The Red Sox are really hot for Derek Lowe at $16 [million] . . . ‘ No, they’re not. But Scott floats this stuff out, and he’s able to get people to report it.

Not only does it get reported, but it’s then aggregated at MLB Trade Rumors and other similar sites. So the news does spread rather quickly.

Next topic: Derek Lowe. As Gammons tells it, he could have easily been a Yankee if not for the efforts of A.J. Burnett’s agents:

[Lowe] could have gotten four-times-$15 million from the Yankees, but A.J. Burnett’s agents stopped Scott Boras [who is Lowe's agent] and beat him to the Yankees. The Yankees wanted Lowe, but A.J. Burnett’s agents did a better job.

At the time, considering the market was still pretty wide-open, I have a hard time believing that Derek Lowe would have taken a four-year, $60 million deal. Then again, since he’s probably not going to get that now, maybe he would have. I don’t know.

On the subject of Jason Varitek, Gammons, like most of us, can’t believe he and Boras declined arbitration:

How Scott Boras looked him in the eye and said, ‘By the way, I turned down $10 million [in arbitration],’ is beyond me.
(snip)
I know the players’ association was strongly advising agents not to take arbitration. They felt that teams were trying to control players for one year at a lesser amount than they’d have to pay down the line. But again, if you’re Jon Garland or Ben Sheets or Orlando Cabrera or Jason Varitek, it cost you a lot of money.

Finally, on the AL East:

I picked the Red Sox second, just because we don’t know about the health of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, and I think Josh Beckett will be fine. You never know about J.D. Drew’s health. And the Yankees, with the innings that [CC] Sabathia and [Chien-Ming] Wang can give them and all the offense they should have, they clearly have to be the favorites.

There’s plenty to discuss here, so fire away.

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