Food For Thought: Bernie Williams

Murphy received 73 votes for the Hall of Fame this year, just 12.6% of the total, so he was well short of induction. Bernie will jump on the ballot for the first time next year, and as you can see, his overall career path was very similar to Murphy’s. Both fell off considerably at age 32-33, and both had absurd peaks: Murphy hit .290/.383/.536 from ’83-’87, Bernie hit .324/.410/.551 from ’96-’00. The former can’t match the latter’s postseason exploits and World Series rings, but the latter can’t match the former’s two MVP awards. How do you think Bernie will fare in the voting ext year?

(related graphs) (h/t Jonathan Mitchell)

Yankees have “started talks” with Andruw Jones

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have “started talks” with Andruw Jones, but nothing is close right now. The standard Heyman-Boras client warning applies. We first heard of the team’s interest in Jones a few days ago, and he makes sense for the Marcus Thames role of a righty hitting outfielder/designated hitter. He’s also some halfway decent insurance in case Brett Gardner‘s wrist injury persists into the new season, since he can, you know, actually play the field on an everyday basis.

Open Thread: Fonsy’s birthday

"Damn, 35 already?" (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Happy birthday to former Yankee Alfonso Soriano. He turns 35 today. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that this wiry kid came up and starting hitting bombs? Hard to believe he’s that old already. Ben re-lived the Fonsy Experience a few nights ago, and while he never made the Yankees regret the A-Rod trade, he’s still had a long and productive career. Among the other players celebrating birthdays today, we’ve got Jon Lester (27, and I hate him because he’s so effing good), Eric Gagne (34, why didn’t the Yankees sign Rafael Soriano trade for Gagne?!?), and baseball’s biggest head, Kevin Mench (32).

Anyways, here is tonight’s open thread. The Nets, Rangers, and Knicks are all playing at different times (7:00, 8:30, and 10:30pm ET, respectively), plus the Cotton Bowl (LSU-Texas A&M) is on FOX at 8pm. One of these days they’ll get around to playing the National Championship game, maybe even before the spring semester starts. Talk about whatever, enjoy.

Photo of the Day: The Boss, in bronze

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Boss has been memorialized in bronze. As Neil Johnson of The Tampa Tribune reported this morning, a life-sized statue of George Steinbrenner now stands at the entrance of the stadium that bears his name at the team’s Spring Training complex down in Tampa. A formal dedication ceremony will take place on the morning of February 26 before the Yanks’ Grapefruit League home opener.

Standing on a three-ton polished granite base, the 600-pound bronze version of the Boss is wearing a suit and a 2009 World Championship ring, the last title the team won under his watch. Yankee Stadium plays host to a statue of George already, but he did a ton for the Tampa community. It’s only right for him to honored in his home town.

“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick”

Via Chad Jennings, Brian Cashman said (very explicitly) that he will not forfeit the team’s first round draft choice to sign a free agent this afternoon. “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” he said. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.” There’s only two unsigned free agents that would cost a draft pick remaining (assuming Carl Pavano goes back to the Twins): Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour. The latter was never going to happen, but conflicting reports have surfaced about the former in the last few days. Either way, I’m glad this is over with now. Time to move on.

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Imagining Alomar on the Yankees

1996 ALCS Game 1. (Roberto Borea/AP)

In the early 90s the Yankees weren’t exactly a hot landing spot for free agents. The team tried to sign David Cone, Barry Bonds, and Greg Maddux, and all of them rejected the team. Maddux, most notably, took less money to pitch in Atlanta. But by 1995 the Yankees became a more attractive destination. They were the AL’s top team when baseball ended in 1994 and then made the playoffs in 1995. It was after that season that Roberto Alomar became a free agent. As Jon Lane of the YES Network reports, Alomar actually wanted to be a Yankee.

While the Yankees didn’t really need much more help at that time, adding Alomar would certainly have changed the team’s composition. We often remember that Mariano Duncan hit .340 that season, but often forget that he played in only 109 games. That year the Yankees’ second basemen ranked 18th (out of 28) in WAR. Duncan himself produced 2.2 WAR. Alomar produced 5.6 WAR. Where Alomar really might have made a difference was in 1997, when the Yankees ranked 25th out of 28 in WAR among second basemen — Luis Sojo, Rey Sanchez, Pat Kelly, Homer Bush, and Duncan combined for -0.5 WAR that season, while Alomar produced nearly 4 WAR.

Since Alomar signed a three-year deal with the Orioles, we can assume he would have done the same with the Yankees. That changes history again, as the Yankees traded for Chuck Knoblauch prior to the 1998 season. This was an excellent trade, of course, as Knoblauch upgraded the second base spot to 3.1 WAR. But Alomar was worth 4.1 WAR that year. He also would have saved the Yankees the prospects, which means they could have used Brian Buchanan, Christian Guzman, Eric Milton, and Danny Mota to acquire an upgrade at a different spot.

Why the deal never happened I’m not sure. Maybe it was a payroll thing. The Yankees led the league in payroll for 1996, and at the time they signed Duncan they still needed a couple of pitchers. Alomar’s three-year deal with the Orioles appears to have been worth around $17 million, including $4.2 million in 1996. Duncan’s two-year deal was worth under $2 million total. Since the Orioles had the second highest payroll of 1996, moving Alomar would have mean the Yankees outspend the next highest team by over $10 million. At the time it would have been by far the largest discrepancy between No. 1 and No. 2 in baseball history.

Who knows how baseball would have been altered if Alomar had signed with the Yankees. We can start with the Jeffrey Maier catch and work forward from there. Alomar certainly would have been a welcome addition to the Yankees, since he would have represented an upgrade in the three years he could have been part of the team. That’s not to lament them not signing him; there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the late 90s. It’s just an interesting idea regarding a player who just received baseball’s highest honor.