Not Mike Mussina


Who do you think of first when you think of the New York Yankees, #24?

Recency, a penchant for the dramatic, a great glove and a power bat would of course lead one to what might seem like the obvious choice: Robinson Cano. And it’s a pretty good answer, too, in my opinion. Robbie’s grown up into a core member of the team and is, quite frankly, a really good baseball player. He’s expected to hit third in the lineup this year, which means that there will be many men-on dingers and RBIs this year, plus lots of stellar plays he makes look easy and, of course, thousands of giant gum bubbles.

But Cano isn’t the only answer. Here’s some hints: he played first base for the Yankees from 1996-2001 (really knew how to pick his years, didn’t he?), hitting .279 with an OPS+ of 114 and 175 home runs. The answer, to anyone who was around during those years, should be obvious: the wonderful and amazing Tino Martinez. As a kid, I loved Tino only slightly less than I loved Paul O’Neill, and even four years after Tino left, I was still a little sore over this obnoxious second-baseman taking his number, which I believed should have been retired. I was a little insensible as a kid, but the point still stands. In sports and especially on the Yankees, where there are no names on the jerseys, the numbers become associated quite strongly with the player.

(While we’re on the subject of Paul O’Neill and #21, I seem to recall LaTroy Hawkins begin given a lot of crap for taking that number and then changing it, which filled me with more joy than you can ever imagine.)

As the Spring Training pictures roll in, the one thing that keeps throwing me off is Michael Pineda wearing #35. Like every other sensible Yankees fan, I loved Moose and felt it was really depressing that he never got a ring, and while I don’t think retiring his number is in the cards, it’s really strange to see someone else wearing it. Pineda’s a good choice to carry on his legacy of really good pitchers I wouldn’t want to meet in a back alley at night, but that doesn’t change that he isn’t Mike Mussina. Of course, people taking the numbers of old players is just another part of growing up with baseball. Pretty sure no one else is ever going to wear 2, though.

Let’s switch gears a little bit. I had this argument with a friend while I was in New York last year, so I’ll ask all of you: my friend had purchased a Hideki Matsui jersey some years ago while he was still a Yankee. Like a sensible person with disposable income, he had no name of the back. These days, Russell Martin, who is a pretty valuable piece of the team in his own right, now wears #55. Does your jersey magically become a Russell Martin jersey? Is it still a Matsui jersey in your brain, and that’s all that matters? Is the jersey meaningless without the player you bought it for? If no one ever wears #55 again, do you never wear the jersey? What if the number’s retired?

And because this is an article about Yankees jersey numbers: between 6, 46 and 20, which ones get retired?

Who's next? (photo by flickr user 2Eklectik, used under Creative Commons.)

Dickerson clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

Now here’s a surprise. Chris Dickerson has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the Yankees announced. He will remain in big league Spring Training but is no longer on the 40-man roster. Dickerson, 29, is out of minor league options and had to first clear waivers before being sent down. I figured he was a lock to be claimed given his classic fourth outfielder skill set, meaning a lefty that can hit righties, play all three outfield spots well, and run a little. I’m glad he’s sticking around.

Meet the Yankee: Michael Pineda

I was slumming through some video on this morning, and I stumbled across this recent Yankees on Demand feature about Michael Pineda. He talks about the trade that brought him to New York, what he’s working on, stuff like that. His English is pretty good considering he’s only been in the States since 2008. Anyway, check it out. It’s a good way to kill some time on a lazy Sunday.

Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The first full squad workout was held today, after position players officially reported on Friday. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa…

  • As always, Chad Jennings has today’s bullpen and hitting groups. All the projected big league pitchers threw in the bullpen today except Ivan Nova, who threw live batting practice. Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and Kevin Whelan did the same.
  • Pretty much everyone took batting practice today, and apparently Eric Chavez was launching bombs. Austin Romine was the one guy who didn’t hit, sitting out due to a sore back both today and yesterday. [Jennings & Bryan Hoch]
  • “I’m still mad about ’09 World Series,” joked new DH and former Phillie Raul Ibanez, who also said the Yankees have “[all the] criteria you’d want” in choosing a new team as a free agent. He spent some time in minor league camp talking to young players yesterday, which is pretty neat. [Erik Boland & Ken Davidoff]
  • “I take enormous pride in hitting fourth,” said Alex Rodriguez after today’s workout. “I’m going to make it as difficult as possible to take me out of that position.” A-Rod also said that his knee feels healthy, and that he plans on playing way more than 99 games this season. You know, just in case you thought he was planning to play less. [Dan Barbarisi, Mark Feinsand & Boland]

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Rangers are the only local team in action, though the NBA Skills Competition is on as well, if that’s your thing (8pm ET on TNT). Talk about whatever you like here, go nuts.

Mailbag: An Extension For Martin

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Paul asks: Word that the Yankees were exploring an extension for Russell Martin seems to go against their standard procedure. I can only remember Robinson Cano getting an extension. I think we can all agree that Martin, while a great guy and above average, is not in the same arena as Robbie. So are the Yankees changing their stance on extensions or do they really see Martin as worthy of an exception to the rule?

Brian Cashman put an end to all this Martin extension stuff yesterday, saying the two sides would not talk about a new deal until the end of the season. Rather than drag this out and answer and outdated question on Friday, I figured I’d get this one out of the way today so we can all move on.

The team’s policy is to wait until contracts expire to negotiate new deals, and that applies to players as well as management like Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. Cano is the lone exception, signing a four year, $30M deal with two club options prior to the 2008 season. He was four years away from free agency at the time, but the Yankees ended up saving some serious dough because Robbie was a Super Two and would have been eligible for arbitration four times instead of three.

Martin is obviously not the player Cano is, plus he’s only one season away from free agency, not four. I think the team’s willingness to lock him up for the next few years has more to do with the state of catching that an particular affection for Martin. Quality catching is very hard to find, and although he’s no Johnny Bench, Russ is an above average hitter for the position and a very good defender. Above average catchers almost never hit the free agent market, especially on the right side of 30. Prior to Martin last winter — who was damaged goods because of the hip surgery — you have to go all the way back to Ramon Hernandez during the 2005-2006 offseason to find another free catcher that meets the criteria.

Mike Napoli, Miguel Montero, and Yadier Molina are all scheduled to become free agents after the season as well, so next winter has a chance to be the epiphany free agent class in terms of backstops. That said, I fully expect Molina to sign a contract extension before hitting the open market, and chances are Montero will as well. The Rangers have spoken openly about signing their core players long-term and have had extension talks with Napoli. All three guys would be upgrades over Martin, but none of the three are guaranteed to be available.

The Yankees have the option of sticking with what they have for the foreseeable future, or rolling the dice and hoping they could get someone better after the season. It’s risky, because they could be left either empty-handed or paying too much for someone and impacting that 2014 austerity budget. That three-year, $25-30M deal I keep throwing out there could turn into four guaranteed years in a hurry on the open market, especially if Jarrod Saltalamacchia posts another sub-.300 OBP up in Boston this year.

In my perfect world, they’d tear up Martin’s one-year deal for 2012 and hammer out a new three-year pact. Austin Romine would then spend this season playing regularly in Triple-A before easing into big league duty over the next two years with Martin as his caddy. Romine takes over full-time in 2015 and Martin heads elsewhere. Of course it’s not that simple, but like I said, that’s in my perfect world. Tabling talks until after the season is perfectly fine, but if they do intend to keep Martin beyond 2012, it would behoove them to avoid a bidding war on the open market. I think they realize this, which is why they hoped to sign him this offseason.

Video & Musings: Rafael DePaula

The Yankees agreed to sign Rafael DePaula for $500k back in November 2010, but the 20-year-old right-hander is still waiting for his visa to be approved so he can come to the U.S. and finalize his contract. He was one of the top arms on the international market back in the day, but was suspended for a year after lying about his age and his identity. Apparently the government doesn’t like to let people into the country after they do that.

As we wait for DePaula to secure a visa, the always resourceful Andy in Sunny Daytona dug up some quality (and recent!) video of the 6-foot-3 right-hander throwing a bullpen at what appears to be the Yankees’ complex in the Dominican Republic. The video above is all fastballs, a pitch that can touch 97 mph according to reports from back when he agreed to his contract. The video below is primarily low-effort breaking balls from in front of the mound. It’s pretty slurvy, looking like a slider one pitch then a curveball the next. It’s still February though, he’s just getting back into the swing of things like everyone else .

DePaula will turn 21 in March according his official documents, so while he’s still very young, he’s also lost a lot of development time over the last few years between the suspension and visa-related hiatus. He’s not allowed to participate in any games because he’s not officially under contract, so he’s just been working out at the team’s complex for the time being. That’s all well and good, but he’s got to get into games and face actual hitters to make real progress in his development. For now, the Yankees and DePaula can’t do anything but continue to wait.

Cashman: No extension talks with Martin until after the season

Via George King and Andrew Marchand, Brian Cashman put an end to all the Russell Martin contract extension speculation by saying the two sides have agreed to not discuss a new deal until the winter. “We will talk at the end of the season,” said the GM, while agent Matt Colleran added “[we] mutually agreed to wait.”

The Yankees and Martin were discussing a new three-year contract earlier this week depending on who you ask, with the team reportedly willing to do three years and $20M. That would be a pay cut for the backstop, but it is just a first offer. As I’ve been saying, three years and $25-30M seems reasonable, though I would prefer if it covered 2012-2014 rather than 2013-2015. The Yankees will have the five-day exclusive negotiating window after the end of the World Series to re-sign Martin before he hits the open market.