Ken Rosenthal has a new short column up at FoxSports — more like a blog post, really. The title: “Yankees are not better off without A-Rod.” As one might expect, he says just that and then elaborates using facts, like the Yanks ranking seventh in the AL in runs scored last season. They then lost Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, who are replaced by Teixeira and the hope that Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher rebound from disappointing 2008 seasons. All in all, a reasonable, if not completely obvious, thought by Rosenthal.

The column is so obvious, in fact, that it seems like Rosenthal is addressing someone in particular. Who actually thinks that the Yankees are better off with Cody Ransom than A-Rod? No one I know, and I talk to plenty of people who hate A-Rod. Oh, wait, whats this? A column in the Bergen Record titled “Better off without A-Rod?” written by Ian O’Connor (who also happens to contribute to FoxSports). I believe this is the target of Rosenthal’s ire.

O’Connor’s column is chock full o’ A-Rod haterade. For example:

The Yankees could go back to being the Yankees. They could go back to being the team that won four championships in five years with reliable pitching and a harmonious band of position players that didn’t need a slugger whose favorite teammates are Me, Myself and I.

You hear that? Cody Ransom doesn’t need above-average stats to help the Yankees. He just needs to be harmonious. And gritty and a grinder and all those other awesome baseball terms.

This is, of course, patently ridiculous. The dynasty teams that many in the media pine for were built differently. You can’t just replicate that, or else everyone else would do it. The Yankees might have gotten by with lesser third basemen than A-Rod in the past, but those teams were assembled differently. The Yanks had a superstar center fielder. They had Derek Jeter, Chuck Knoblauch, and Jorge Posada at premium defensive positions. They weren’t a team with so many question marks from so many important players.

The Yankees can certainly survive without A-Rod, especially if it’s for a relatively short stretch. But by no means are they better off without him. Writers spew platitudes every day about team chemistry, but it really comes down to production. The Yankees offense is less productive without A-Rod. He’ll certainly provide them a boost when he returns in late April or May.

Bonus quote from O’Connor

But facts are facts: The Yankees haven’t reached the World Series in Rodriguez’s five seasons, and they reached six in the eight seasons before he arrived.

Coincidence, or guilty as charged?

In a world where correlation meant causation, I’d go with guilty as charged. Otherwise, I would not.

Categories : Rants
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  • Jesus Montero, catcher

    In The Journal-News today, Peter Abraham profiles Jesus Montero, the Yanks’ 19-year-old catching prospect. Montero, 19, is six-foot-four and weighs 225 pounds. Most baseball analysts see his big league position as first base, but Tony Peña and Montero believe Jesus’ future lies behind the dish. No matter the role, Montero could mature into a top offensive threat. · (42) ·

After a few anemic days, the Yanks’ offense erupted for 12 hits and 12 runs this afternoon in Lakeland as the team’s pitchers held the Tigers’ bat in check. The Yanks emerged with a 12-3 victory, just their second in the month of March.

Leading the Yanks’ bats were Angel Berroa, Xavier Nady and Jose Molina. Nady and Berroa homered, and Molina added a pair of RBIs. Berroa also doubled and drove in four runs. However, Cody Ransom — 2 for 2 on the day — is the current heir apparent to the third base job. The Yanks also drew ten walks — three by Nick Swisher and two each by Molina, Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui.

On the other side of the ball, the Yanks’ pitching was again stellar. A.J. Burnett made his spring debut and sailed through two innings. He gave up one hit and a whole bunch of zeroes. Phil Hughes relieved Burnett and was spectacular. In three innings of work, he allowed a nary a hit while striking out four and walking two.

Brian Bruney and Andrew Brackman ran into some trouble later in the game, but Mark Melancon nailed down the final three outs on a walk and a strike out to seal the deal for the Yanks. At some point, the Yanks will have to start considering Mark Melancon as a viable bullpen option out of the gate. He’s been nearly untouchable this spring.

The Yanks will face the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon at 1:15 p.m., and the team’s next televised game is Tuesday evening under the lights.

In WBC action, Cuba downed the Republic of South Africa this afternoon 8-1. As of this writing, Panama, behind Ramiro Mendoza (!), is down 3-0 in an elimination game for the loser. At 8 p.m., the US will take on Venezuela as Roy Oswalt will attempt to pitch the US into the second round. That game is on ESPN. It’s the return of Sunday Night Baseball.

Here’s your open thread for the night. Play nice.

Categories : Open Thread
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As Opening Day draws near and the Yanks still haven’t sold out their new $2 billion playground, ticket pricing on both the political and economic sides of the issue has creeped back into the news.

In reverse order, we start with a Richard Sandomir piece in today’s Times. The Yankees are a bit concerned about the number of unsold premium seats. The Yanks are taking out ads in all of the city’s major papers and are generally finding it tough to fill seats that cost a few hundreds a game for 81 games.

Sandomir also relates more tales of woe from the fans, and we at River Ave. Blues received our own story this week. Writes a reader who will remain anonymous:

I have read in your blog and others how the Yankee ticket office has treated past season ticket holders pretty bad. Well you can add prospective season ticket holders that put down $1,065.00 deposit for the full 81 games back in early December. I checked with the Yankees in Dec. and was told it would be January before I heard. At the end of January I was told it would be the end of February. Now at the beginning of March I spoke to a very rude person in the Yankee ticket office that said that I would not hear until the end of March. That is, if they have anything at all to offer. But “don’t worry,” you won’t lose any money. I was told that I could have my deposit back or just leave it with them as a down payment for the 2010 season. Like I’m going to do that.

As companies these days face debates over customer service, the Yanks are intent on pushing an old maxim — the customer is always right — to its limits. While in a good economy, the Yanks would have filled their premium seats with high-rolling financial clients and the like, in a bad economy, the team and their customer service reps just come off looking bitter.

That said, what Richard Brodsky is proposing is rather preposterous. While I’ve supported Brodsky in his efforts to get to the bottom of the sketchy accounting surrounding the land underneath the new Yankee Stadium, his latest clash with the Yanks is a bit extreme. On Friday, Randy Levin and Brodsky clashed horns over the Assembly representative’s desires for price-controlled tickets in publicly-funded stadiums. Reports Bloomberg News:

New York Yankees President Randy Levine said he opposes state lawmakers’ efforts to dictate prices for tickets sold at sports stadiums built with public support such as the franchise’s new ballpark in the Bronx.

State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, has introduced a bill requiring that 7 percent of tickets sold to any sporting event carry “affordable prices” as a condition of pro-sports facilities receiving state or local benefits…

“If you’re charging too much, people will not come,” Levine said at an assembly committee hearing today in lower Manhattan. “If we’re not selling enough tickets to pay it back, the responsibility is on us to adjust.”

While the hearings were ostensibly about tax documents and tax-exempt bond financing, Levine and Brodsky were yelling at each other, according to Richard Sandomir’s account.

The problem with Kavanagh’s proposal is that teams already have affordable pricing. As far as sports in New York go, it’s still far cheaper to see a Yankee or Met game than it is to get tickets to a game in the Meadowlands or a Knicks game at the Garden. The economics of baseball and demands of an 81-game schedule preclude overly expensive tickets, and this move seems like the Assembly sticking its nose into something it should just leave alone.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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With A-Rod only missing up to nine weeks due to his hip injury, some might think it imprudent to deal for a replacement. After all, that would entail sending away what could be valuable parts to get a guy who will fill in for a month and then be relegated to bench duty. Then again, there are some in Yankeeland who want to see the bench improve, and this could provide a means to do so. Deal for a capable player who can hold down third base for a month, and once A-Rod is back use him as a player who can give other guys on the Yanks’ aging offense a day off or two.

A few commenters at RAB favored signing Eric Hinske before he landed in Pittsburgh. So what if there was a player comparable to Hinske who would just might be available right now? Via MLBTR, we hear the beginnings of a Mark Teahen to the Yanks rumor. It does make sense. The Royals don’t quite have a spot for Teahen, who has been bounced around the diamond the past few years. He came up as a third baseman, but moved around the corner outfield spots to accommodate for top prospect Alex Gordon. First base is occupied by Mike Jacobs, and behind him are Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka-aihue. The acquisition of Coco Crisp moves David DeJesus to left, and Jose Guillen and his contract are a lock in right. Even the DH spot is filled by (the lighter) Billy Butler.

The Royals plan at this point is to try out Teahen at second, but there is no guarantee that he can man the position on a daily basis. If he can’t handle it, a trade is the most likely scenario. The Yankees have a need at third base, and could later use Teahen to fill in at the corner outfields, and he could probably play second base in a pinch. This means that the Yankees wouldn’t be acquiring him just for a month of service. He can be a utility player and a bat off the bench once A-Rod returns to action.

The problem is that the Yankees will already have a backup corner outfielder in whoever loses the right field job between Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher. It would be tough to find at bats for one of those guys and for Teahen. It would help out a ton if Mark could handle shortstop, but there’s no evidence that he can. That means Cody Ransom is still needed — he’d have to be the utility infielder for the first month, anyway, but he’d be needed afterward to cover most of the infield.

Despite the lack of definitive playing time for Teahen beyond April, he’d immediately give the Yankees one of the most formidable benches in the league. Say Nick Swisher wins the RF job. The Yanks would then have Nady as a big righty on the bench and Teahen as a big lefty. Ransom and Molina would fill the other two bench spots. Both Swisher and Damon could cover center in the late innings, so there would be little hesitation to pinch hit for Melky or Gardner.

While the price tag on Teahen is unknown, it likely wouldn’t be too high. He’s slated to make $3.75 million this season. This might not seem like a lot to the Yankees, but to the Royals, who are at a $75 million payroll and would like to get to around $70, it could mean plenty — especially if he’s relegated to bench duty. A prospect and salary relief should do the job, though Royals GM Dayton Moore, quoted in the linked article, says he hopes for the Yanks to pick up Mark Grudzielanek, which would net his team a sandwich pick.

Given the month the Yanks will miss A-Rod, coupled with the risk that he could re-injure the hip at some point during the season, taking on Mark Teahen for one year would be a good idea. Not only would he give the Yankees an adequate short-term replacement, but once A-Rod is back he’d become part of a solid bench. He’d give the Yankees a late-inning left handed option, as well as someone who can spell players at four, maybe five positions (both corner OF, 3B, 1B, 2B). It sounds like a win-win for the team. The only issue is of what they’re willing to give up to make it happen.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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After a few consultations and a weekend of pondering the future, the Yankees and A-Rod announced that the Yanks’ third baseman will undergo hip surgery on Monday to correct a torn labrum. A-Rod will be out six-to-nine weeks and will need more invasive surgery after the season is over.

Joe Lapoint has more:

The procedure will correct a torn labrum and will address some of the underlying bone irregularity in the hip, Dr. Marc Philippon said in a conference call, but Rodriguez will probably need more extensive surgery after the season.

Under the best-case scenario, that would mean that Rodriguez could return to the Yankees by early May and miss about a month of the six-month season.

The option chosen on Sunday is the middle alternative that was discussed over the weekend by Rodriguez, the team and the doctor. At first, the Yankees and Rodriguez hoped he could start the season following the draining last week of a cyst caused by a torn labrum.

But that option quickly was dismissed. The most aggressive correction would have been to undergo more extensive surgery to correct the underlying cause of the problem, but that likely would have kept Rodriguez idle for 12 to 16 weeks, Dr. Philippon said.

This hybrid option — what one source called “using a nail instead of a steel girder” to fix A-Rod’s balky hip — came to light last night. From that point on, it was all but inevitable that A-Rod and the Yanks would choose this option. It allows the Yanks to get A-Rod at or near full strength for five months of the season, and while they have big shoes to fill for April, they have the pitching to weather this storm.

In the end, the original ESPN Deportes report, pegging A-Rod’s DL stint at ten weeks, ended up being on the mark after all. Get ready for far too much of Cody Ransom.

Categories : Injuries
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As A-Rod and the Yankees attempt to figure out how best to approach the third baseman’s torn labrum, Michael S. Schmidt introduces a hybrid approach to the treatment options. The Times scribe writes:

According to a person in baseball familiar with the deliberations, the Yankees, Rodriguez and his doctors have discussed a limited operation before the season to repair the labrum without fixing the underlying condition. Other options for treating Rodriguez are allowing him to play with the injury this season or sidelining him for four months with surgery to correct the problem.

The limited surgery would probably sideline Rodriguez at least four weeks and may allow him to play most of the season. But he would still need a more involved procedure at a later time to fix what caused the tear.

“It would be like using a nail instead of a steel girder to repair it,” said the person, who did not want to be identified because the conversations were confidential. “Eventually, the nail would have to be replaced with the steel girder.”

At best, the person said, this so-called hybrid option would allow Rodriguez to play for one to three years before undergoing more invasive surgery to correct the problem.

To me, this sounds like the best option. A-Rod would be able to fix this problem in the short term. He could play out most of the 2009 season — rehab would bring him back before the end of April — and then get this problem fixed after October. If this option is on the table, I think the Yanks should jump at it.

Meanwhile, if I’m the Yankee front office though, I’m a little wary of the long-term implications of this approach. As long as two surgeries in short order can fix A-Rod’s problem, there is nothing to worry about. Otherwise, the Yanks will have to guard A-Rod’s hip carefully between now and 2017.

Update by Mike (10:45am): According to PeteAbe, A-Rod will have the less invasive surgery on Monday, then have the full blown surgery after the season. Recovery time is 6-9 weeks, so a late April return is possible. Like Ben said, this seems like the best option.

Categories : Injuries
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  • Bernie: A-Rod’s injury a ‘blessing in disguise’

    Bernie Williams knows about the pressures of playing in New York with a big contract. He knows about expectations and the media. To that end, he had some interesting things to say about Alex Rodriguez this weekend. “As hard as this may sound, it could be a blessing in disguise for him, because it might give him an opportunity to get away from all this craziness and give him an opportunity to heal. Kind of dissipate the whole distraction,” Bernie said while practicing with the Puerto Rican WBC team.

    I agree with that aspect of Bernie’s comments, but he also said that it “might be good for the Yankees too” because the team has “enough firepower in that lineup.” But with older players returning from injuries and younger players coming off sub-par years, the Yanks were really counting on A-Rod’s bat. It’s nearly impossible to replace a .306/.389/.578 hitter, and while being away from the PED scandal fallout may do A-Rod good, the Yanks will suffer if he is to miss a lot of time. (Hat tip BBTF.)
    · (19) ·

Chien-Ming Wang threw three strong innings this afternoon, but a silent Yankee offense came out on the wrong end of a 3-1 game against Atlanta.

Wang, making his second start after missing half of 2008 with a Lisfranc injury, went three innings and used just 33 pitches. Twenty-seven of those went for strikes, and his one mistake with a high change-up that Casey Kotchman deposited into the right field seats. Wang, as I detailed on RAB’s twitter account during the game, made a few nice plays in the field and had his splitter and sinker working. For an early March outing, it was a good one.

Brett Tomko followed Wang, and while he walked away with the loss, Tomko continued to make his case for a spot in the Yankee bullpen. He threw three innings, giving up a run on three hits while striking out three. Phil Coke allowed a run before giving way to three pitchers who probably won’t see action in the Bronx this year.

Offensively, the Yanks mustered just six hits against the Braves and struck out eight times. It was an unimpressive showing by the depleted Yankee lineup.

In WBC action, Team USA eked out a win against Canada. In a thrilling game, the Americans secured 6-5 win after JJ Putz threw like a Mets reliever and nearly gave away the game. Derek Jeter had a pair of hits; Chipper Jones went 0 for 4 with three strike outs and left five runners on base; and after rooting for Kevin Youkilis to deliver, I felt the need to shower. The Dominicans fell to the Netherlands in a shocker, and Japan, the defending champs, advanced to the second round. As of this writing, Panama is losing to Puerto Rico, and Italy and Venezuela play at 8 p.m.

Anyway, you know the rules: Here’s your open thread. Play nice.

Categories : Open Thread
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