Tomorrow, if all is still on schedule, the Yankees will officially receive the keys to their new home sitting on the northwest corner of 161st St. and River Ave. in the Bronx. In the meantime, I have three stadium-related stories.
- First up is a story about the rent. According to NYC Comptroller William Thompson, the Yankees owe $65,511 in back rent for 2008. The team plans to pay what they owe and says that the difference arises over improper deductions. Adam Lisberg’s article ends with a good zinger from Randy Levin too. “If I was Bill Thompson, I’d start paying more attention to Mike Bloomberg than the Yankees,” Levine said, referring to Thompson’s mayoral hopes, “or else he’s going to find himself in a situation similar to a cellar-dwelling baseball team.”
- Last week, NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman got a grand tour of the new Yankee Stadium, and it seems as though the NHL is considering the Bronx as a potential host for the 2010 Winter Classic game. The Sporting News loves the idea.
- Finally, we have some food news for the new digs. When it opens to the public in April, the new home should have far better food options than the House that Ruth Built. Salsa on the Go’s Cuban sandwiches, however, won’t be among the options. Salsa Caterers, the vendor’s parent company, lost its support from Goya and will not earn a spot in the new stadium. The Yanks say that the new ballpark will feature local food ventures and what Crain’s termed “Latin fare” as well.
Via Bryan Hoch, The Mexican Gangster is going to pass on the World Baseball Classic this year, instead focusing his efforts on making the team. Aceves made a big splash last September by making four strong starts and finishing with a 2.40 ERA in 30 big league innings, but beware the low strikeout rate (4.80 K/9), low groundball rate (1.03 GB/FB), high FIP (4.80) and absurdly low BABIP (.234). Sample size is an issue, but he still could use a little more time in a minors after his meteoric rise last season. With the rotation full, Aceves will likely start the year in the Triple-A Scranton rotation, and will be among the first called up if a spot starter is needed. (h/t Patrick) · (18) ·
Save the Big Three! We still say it today, though not with as much fervor as we did last winter. Clearly, one is safe. Another is relatively safe. The last is the subject of many chat queue trade proposals and character slams. Still, even Ian Kennedy could prove to be a valuable asset to the Yankees following a year in which he not only pitched horribly at the major league level, but alienated some fans with his over-confidence following a shelling. Kat O’Brien catches up with the young hurlers, but most importantly she catches up with Brian Cashman and Dave Eiland to shed some light on two controversial Yankees.
First up is Cashman, who says exactly what he needs to say:
“In terms of what they can be, they haven’t dropped in our opinion,” Cashman said.
Fine wording by Cashman. He implicitly acknowledges their poor 2008 campaigns while still noting that it doesn’t categorize them as busts. They’re still young and have time to prove their worth to the team, even if their worth amounts to currency in a trade.
As for the pitchers themselves, you might have heard that Hughes showed up to camp a bit heavier. The line, for now, is that he added 10 pounds of muscle. That brings him well above his weight for last season, which O’Brien notes was “his lowest weight since the middle of high school.” We’ll see if that extra off-season work can help him stay healthy throughout 2009. He could easily get a dozen starts in the Bronx if he does.
Kennedy seems his regular confident self after a winter of dominating the Puerto Rican winter league. He went down there to work on his curveball and his command, and in doing so managed a 1.56 ERA in 34.2 innings. He’ll face stiffer competition this season, but that can be good for him as he continues his development. “I feel better now than I ever have as a pitcher,” said Kennedy. “I just feel more complete than I ever did before.”
Neither pitcher is likely to open the season in the rotation. Yet, as Eiland tells it, they’re both ready for whatever the Yanks throw at them. “In their minds, they need to feel like they’re competing for a spot,” said Eiland. “We still have very high expectations for those two. We still look at them as we always have, that they’re going to play a major role in this organization – if not today, not too far off.”
Spring Training. It’s a time for optimism, for hope. Reports gush from camp that Player X has lost a ton of weight, that Player Y is in the best shape of his life, and that Player Z is feeling great despite his injury history. Unfortunately, there are times when a player just isn’t feeling his best. From the schadenfreude department comes this report from the Providence Journal about J.D. Drew’s back. It’s been sore all winter, and things aren’t looking up as he heads into camp. The Red Sox knew his injury risk when they signed him after the 2006 season, and with three years and $42 million left on his contract, they just might be running into a worst case scenario. Not that I would wish that on them or anything. · (15) ·
A year ago, Scott Boras and Alex Rodriguez suffered through a public and personal divorce. While A-Rod‘s opt-out resulted in a $270-million, 10-year deal from the Yanks, his timing — in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series — earned him universal baseball scorn. With another top client jobless as Spring Training begins, Boras is again on the receiving end of some bad press.
According to a report in the Dominican-based Impacto Deportivo, Manny Ramirez may be on the verge of jettisoning Boras as his agent this week. The free agent could attempt to handle negotiations himself.
For Scott Boras, losing Manny Ramirez at this point in his career wouldn’t be the biggest loss to the agency business. After all, Mark Teixeira, also a Boras client, just landed himself a $180-million, eight-year deal. Boras will draw a far bigger commission from that one Teixeira deal than he will throughout the rest of Manny’s career.
But on the other hand, Boras seems to play a dangerous game with his clients. He tried to steal the spotlight for A-Rod in 2007, and he completely misread the Manny market this year. Teams seem to be getting wise to his dealings. It’s tough to convince a GM that some unknown team is also in on the GM’s top target when the GM is expecting Boras to drop that line.
So instead, Boras the agent tells his clients that he can get them a better deal. Turn down the two-year, $40-million option; turn down the two-year, $45-million offer; turn down the one-year, $25-million offer. Somewhere out there is a three-year offer, and somewhere out there are a bunch of fans who aren’t going to look too kindly on a player haggling over a few million dollars while the American economy hits a recession.
Manny will probably land with the Dodgers. Joe Torre is expecting him, and the team is holding open a locker for the slugger. But he looks bad, and Boras’ players are finally deciding that perhaps the bad press just isn’t worth it. As teams grow tougher, it will be interesting to see how Boras maintains his empire. He didn’t get to the top without smarts, and he’ll have to adapt. It’s all part of the game of the business of baseball.
A riveting nugget of information from Tyler Kepner today:
Finally, Brian Bruney’s movie re-aired on cable Sunday morning. You didn’t know Bruney was a film star? In 1990, when he was eight years old, he appeared in Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie was filmed in Astoria, Oregon, the next town over from Bruney’s hometown of Warrenton.
The producers needed some extras for a scene where a bunch of kids pour out of the school during a fire drill. Bruney is one of the kids, wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt with a bright orange hat. That hat was the suggestion of his grandmother, who told him to wear it so she could spot him when the movie came out.
Exciting stuff, huh? I guess it’s better than talking about the Bruney-Reynolds feud. Yeah … there’s not a whole lot going on right now. PeteAbe’s got a bunch of pictures from camp today, but that’s about it. Otherwise, use this as your open thread. Anything goes, as usual.
With former teammates questioning his credibility on the first day of Spring Training, Alex Rodriguez may be in for a long 2009, and the Yankees’ Front Office seems to be keeping their slugger at arm’s distance. A-Rod will face the media circus on Tuesday, and the team wants him to be as forthcoming as possible. Meanwhile, Ken Davidoff wonders if George Steinbrenner’s tough love would have helped A-Rod save face. At this point, not even King George at his finest could have saved baseball from itself right now. · (14) ·
Bob Sheppard, the Yanks’ public address announcer since 1951, spoke to Ed Randall on WFAN this morning about his health and the Yanks in general. You can listen to the audio here. Sheppard says he’s back up to 145 lbs, which is where the doctors want him. He’s hopeful for an Opening Day return, but says that it all depends on his stamina. Make sure you give it listen, it’s worth it just to hear him say “stamina.” The Voice of God. (h/t Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve) · (9) ·
Now that the Mets have signed Livan Hernandez, the team does not expect to resign Pedro Martinez, and the MLBTR community is wondering who will. A month ago, before the Yanks brought Andy Pettitte back into the fold, I advocated taking a flier on the one-time Yankee nemesis. I’d still say give him a look. Bring him to camp for the depth. If he looks good, I’m sure the Yanks could find a trading partner, and if not, they can just cut him loose. It won’t happen, but it’s an interesting thought at least. · (40) ·
Pitchers and catchers reported a few days ago, and as expected nothing happened. The beat writers were around to give us updates on who was throwing and who was at the minor league complex working out, but that’s about it. Still, there has to be something to talk about, and it seems the theme of the day is Mariano Rivera and his eventual retirement. It’s a subject no one really wants to think about, yet it’s addressed in a number of the New York papers.
Kat O’Brien opens with an ominous quote: “The end is coming. Sooner or later, it’s going to come.” My only follow-up would be, does this mean the end as in the end of his career, or the end as in the end of days, since we know Mo moonlights as the creator of the universe? Either way it doesn’t bode well for Yankees fans.
Pete Abraham, writing in his newspaper and not on his blog, focuses more on Mo’s injury last year, which started far before most of us imagined. Yet he still managed, despite feeling pain in his sleep, to produce one of the finest years of his career, tallying a WHIP below 0.70. And when it comes to this season, Mo knows he’s ready:
“It will be there,” he said. “It will be there. I don’t have those thoughts in my mind. When I go on the mound, I know that everything is going to be there. And if it’s not there that day, I know that the next time it’s going to be there. I don’t worry about those things.”
Of course, not every story focused on Mo himself. John Harper, who I like a lot less after he wasted my time by writing this article which I would inevitably read, opens up the same old can of worms “On the other hand, the start to spring training provides just as much reason to argue the other way on the Great Joba Debate: starter or reliever?”
Call it a debate if you will, but it is certainly not great. I know there are still some people reading RAB who believe that Joba should be in the pen. We’ve had this argument numerous times, and I feel that the Joba as a starter crew has met the burden of proof dozens of times over. Yet Harper still clamors for Joba to the bullpen, based on something he calls “logic.”
At least Harper invokes the one argument I find remotely acceptable for moving Joba to the pen: “Look at it this way: where would the drop-off without him be more dramatic this season, in the rotation with Phil Hughes as the No. 5 starter, or in the bullpen with Brian Bruney as Rivera’s set-up man?” That’s a well-reasoned, team-need-based argument. But because we can’t answer the question, it’s best for the Yankees to stick to what they’re doing.
They went out this off-season and signed two top of the rotation starters because they didn’t want to guarantee Phil Hughes a rotation spot this spring. I’m assuming nothing has changed between now and then. The Yankees will check out Hughes in Spring Training, obviously, and will have to take some time during the season to determine the drop-off from Joba to him. Similarly, the team will have to evaluate how well Brian Bruney can handle his role. Not only that, but they’ll have a good long look at Mark Melancon and determine how he can fit into the bullpen.
While I applaud Harper for making a reasonable argument, I also scold him for wasting time with it. The Yankees are bringing Joba along as a starter. That’s not going to change unless something else changes first. Spring Training itself should not evoke this debate.Call me when something changes. Even then, chances still are that Joba’s ideal role will be in the rotation.