MLB investigating Nova, DeLaRosa

Via Baseball America, Major League Baseball is investigating both Ivan Nova and Wilkin DeLaRosa for allegedly injecting each other with B-12 shots while the two were teammates last season with Double-A Trenton. B-12 is not on MLB’s list of banned substances, but only licensed physicians are allowed to inject the medication without a subscription. And, of course, they want to make sure neither player injected themselves with something other than B-12.

I honestly don’t know what happens from here, if there’s a penalty or something since it’s not a banned substance. Hopefully nothing comes of this.

Sanchez dealing with some kind of arm injury

Via Donnie Collins, Romulo Sanchez is on the disabled list with some kind of arm injury. We first heard of his move to the DL last night, but no details were provided. Romulo was seen with a wrap around his right elbow in the clubhouse yesterday, but Collins’ says it could still be another part of the arm that’s bothering him.

Sanchez was reportedly going to be one of three players – along with Jon Albaladejo and Juan Miranda – the Yanks were set to call up on Sept. 1st, but obviously that’s not going to happen now. The only other pitcher in Triple-A on the 40-man roster is Hector Noesi, but I can’t imagine the Yanks will call him up so soon after promoting him from Double-A.  Heck, he hasn’t even pitched for Scranton yet. Al Aceves should be ready to return soon, so chances are he and Albaladejo will be the only help the Yanks’ bullpen help gets in the first wave of call-ups.

RAB Live Chat

Mailbag: Killer B’s, Garcia, Wood, Bad Contracts

Time for another edition of the RAB mailbag, which I hope will one day be as awesome as KSK’s Sex/Fantasy Football Mailbag. Yes, I like to dream big. These week will discuss the futures of two prominent pitching prospects and one former prominent pitching prospect, whether or not Kerry Wood will be with the Yankees beyond this season, and my personal favorite, ugly contracts.

If you ever have a question you want answered, send it in to us via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar under The Montero Watch.

Anonymous asks: Who do you like more, Betances or Banuelos on reaching their ceilings?

I like Manny Banuelos‘ chances of reaching his ceiling because he’s got a much better track record when it comes to the health of his arm. Yeah, he missed a big chunk of this season with an appendectomy, but that kinda stuff happens. Other than that, he’s had no arm problems during his time with the Yankees.

Betances, meanwhile, dealt with some nagging elbow issues before finally having reconstructive elbow surgery last year, and he also missed over a month with a sore shoulder back in 2008. He has yet to have a full, healthy season starting in April and finishing in September in his three-plus year career while Banuelos did it just last year. If you can’t stay healthy, you can’t stay on the field and develop into the best player you can be, so that’s why my pick is on ManBan.

Mike asks: Whats the latest on Christian Garcia? Is he back from injury and are the Yankees looking to re-signing him to a minor league deal?

In his interview with NoMaas this week, Mark Newman said they “haven’t had a discussion with (Garcia) or his agents about (rejoining the organization on a minor league deal). He’s got a ton of rehabbing to do.” It doesn’t get more reliable or up-to-date than that.

Anonymous asks: We all know about how poorly (predictably) Cashman’s moves have gone this year, and you’ve already talked about Kearns, but what are the chances of Kerry Wood staying with us? He seems completely revitalized by a playoff hunt and is throwing well. Will his closing experience put him out of our price range? Will we go cheap in the pen to sign Lee/Crawford/Werth etc?

Why is it predictable that his moves failed? So typical.

Anyway, the Yankees have gone cheap on the bullpen for three years now, and I really don’t expect that to change. Taking a one year, $1.2M flier on Chan Ho Park is a lot different than committing multiple years and big bucks to someone like Wood. Cashman has built the bullpen around cheap strikeout pitchers with enough depth that anyone who’s ineffective can be replaced with someone from Triple-A. It really is the best way to build a relief corps, having plenty of cheap and interchangeable options rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.

However, when I first read this question, something popped into my mind. Given his injury history and the current market, there’s zero chance Wood will get another multi-year deal worth $10M+ annually this winter. What if the Yanks could woo him with say, a one year deal worth $3M and incentives that could put another $5M or so in his pocket with the promise that if Mariano Rivera decides to call it a career after 2011, Wood gets the closer’s job as long as he’s healthy?

Obviously that’s a bit of a reach, because a guy with Wood’s pedigree should be able to find a closer’s job on the open market, and saves equals money the next time his contract is up. Maybe the lure of being Mo’s heir apparent is enough to keep him in pinstripes, but I’m sure his number one goal is to secure as much money in his next deal as possible to make sure he, his kids, and his kid’s kids never have to worry about a thing financially.

Kevin asks: If it was decided that every team could clear one contract from their payroll with no penalty, who do you think the Yankees would choose? A-Rod is such a vital part of the team, but they couldn’t blink on getting rid of those last seven years could they?

It has to be Alex Rodriguez. I love the guy, he’s a great player, the best I’ve seen in a Yankee uniform, but that contract is just awful. There’s still $174M and seven years left on that sucker after this season, and that doesn’t include the extra $30M he could earn thanks to the historic homerun milestones. There’s basically no chance of A-Rod retiring before the contract is up and forfeiting whatever is left on it because we’re talking generational wealth here. And you know what? If I was in the same boat as him, I’d do the same thing.

I love the guy, but I’m sorry, I’d shed him and his contract in a cocaine heartbeat if given the opportunity. I think A.J. Burnett‘s would be a close second, or maybe I could preemptively say whatever Derek Jeter gets after the season, which is almost assured of being too much for too long.

With finances laid bare, what future revenue sharing?

Earlier this week, a leak rocked the baseball world. Now, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill steroid leak. This wasn’t news of a player traded, suspended or otherwise disgraced. This was a meaty, juicy leak of MLB’s hard-to-find financial information, laid bare for all to see.

The documents, originally posted on Deadspin included the Pirates, Rays, Marlins and Angels in one leak, the Mariners in another and the Rangers in a third. The numbers are in line with what most industry-watchers perceived them to be. Small market teams have been, thanks to revenue sharing, turning small profits while putting teams of varying quality on the field. It’s not so much an outrage as it is a giant question mark for the future of the game and baseball’s next collective bargaining sessions in 2011.

Over at the Biz of Baseball, Maury Brown contextualizes the numbers in the documents. Since two of the clubs — the Angels and the Mariners — dole out revenue sharing money while three others — the Marlins, Pirates and Rays — receive it, we can see the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Florida, for instance, had a combined net income of $32 million over the past two seasons while receiving over $90 million in revenue sharing. The Rays had a net income of $15 million while taking it $74 million in other team’s money. If Yankee fans want to a bit jilted, they have every reason to. In a sense, our team is paying to compete against Tampa Bay this year.

This glimpse at the numbers leaves us wanting more. We don’t know how the Yankees’ finances look; we can’t see the Red Sox’s books. We can only guess from the Angels’ ledger — and their $30 million revenue sharing charge — the top-tier teams must contribute to Major League Baseball’s pot. Without a full sense of how each of the 30 clubs are doing, it’s tough to issue many conclusions about the state of revenue sharing and the luxury tax in baseball, but we can try.

Maury Brown, writing this time for Fangraphs, already has. In a piece earlier this week, he made the case for increased revenue sharing. Even though teams are seemingly overly subsidized, Brown wants to see what he terms “salary compression.” Because, as he puts it, “subsidizing clubs at the current levels that continue to lose repeatedly may not be incentivizing them to move up the standings,” the top teams’ spending must be reined in while revenue sharing continues in an effort to level the playing field.

Over at Sports Illustrated, Joe Sheehan has a different proposal. He would prefer to see Major League Baseball establish a market size-based model of revenue sharing. Instead of a welfare system where mediocrity — or downright losing — is constantly rewarded, Sheehan too pushes for something that can create economic parity by adjusted for the market. “If a team does a particularly good job of leveraging its market to make money,” he writes, “they shouldn’t be penalized for that. Similarly, if a large-market team becomes a sad joke, they shouldn’t get bailed out by dipping into the fund. Revenue-sharing shouldn’t be punishment for failure or reward for success; it should be a tool to create a fair and level field of competition.”

Should we, as Yankee fans, be satisfied with either of these answers? After all, although revenue sharing is billed as a way to penalize all of the teams, its primary purpose is to limit the Yankees’ natural economic advantages, and thus, any revenue sharing/luxury tax proposal will inevitably hit the Yankees the hardest. Some might say that if the Yankees are unhappy, the revenue sharing is doing the job, but as long as the Bombers are outspending everyone by significant margins, MLB’s shot at parity isn’t working.

It’s easier to say first what shouldn’t happen. MLB can’t simply increase revenue sharing money that goes to the teams without money. An extra $5 million in the pockets of the Pirates won’t help them become competitive. Perhaps it will allow them to spend more at draft time, but the two-win player $5 million can buy on the free agent market will be the difference between a 90-loss season and a 92-loss season. Fans won’t come out in droves for that quality of play.

Major League Baseball also cannot put itself in a position of penalizing owners for making a profit. It’s easy to fault the Pirates and the Marlins for taking millions out of their baseball clubs while the Yankees invest millions in the on-field product, but that’s a calculated business decision. Owners get into the game to make money, and the $10 million will do just as much on the field as it will in the pockets of an ownership group. The Yanks shouldn’t be paying out more dollars just so that the Pirates owners can enjoy higher profits from a team that’s consistently losing.

So we’re left trying to find some economic incentive to invest. Maybe baseball should allow revenue sharing for small market clubs on the verge of competitiveness. On a case-by-case basis, MLB can assess how much money a team would need to field a competitive club. Of course, this would lead to a situation where non-competitive clubs see their margins shrink. In essence, this could create contraction by market forces as the clubs that don’t compete can’t and are no longer viable MLB teams. The union would demand an expansion of the active rosters, but baseball would see the gap shrink between the haves and the have-nots simply by economic attrition.

Despite this glimpse into baseball’s tortured economics, we’re left where we started: with few real answers and no good solution to a problem that will dominate headlines for the coming year. Baseball certainly has a competitive imbalance as the Yankees and the Red Sox can pump more money into their teams in one season than some clubs can in three. Even as we learn more and more about baseball teams’ ledgers, to solve this problem while encouraging competitiveness remains an ever elusive goal.

There are 29 other teams in the majors

If you haven’t yet read Mike’s post on the rotation concerns, go do that now. He hits on some important point regarding how we mistakenly use hindsight when comparing last year’s team to this year’s. That’s one pitfall into which we can easily fall, but it’s not the only one. When we get emails and comments from fans who express concern, or panic, over the current team I often wonder how much baseball they watch outside the Yankees. Because while the Yankees certainly have flaws, other teams have them too.

In terms of the regular season the Yankees seem set. They are tied for the best record in baseball, and even if they finish with the second best record they’re obviously still in the playoffs. The Red Sox present the only possible threat to the Yankees’ playoff chances, but that’s quite the long shot. They’re 5.5 games out and will miss the right side of their infield for the rest of the season. Two of their three starting outfielders won’t return, and their bullpen is in tatters. Five and a half games might be a surmountable deficit for a team at full strength, but the Red Sox are far from that.

The only concern, then, is how the Yankees will fare in the playoffs. While it might seem like the Yankees have a few fatal flaws, they’ve managed to do pretty well despite them. No team in baseball, after all, boasts a better record. This signals that other teams have more glaring flaws. And since the next closest team after the Rays is 5.5 games worse, it would seem that those flaws are considerably more significant. It might be tough to see this at times, since most of us don’t watch many non-Yankees games, but it’s true. The Yankees are far better off than their non-Rays competition.

Adding to the strength of this Yankees team is the division in which they play. We know anecdotally that the AL East is the toughest division in baseball. While other divisions have a couple of strong teams, the AL East boasts what could be the three best teams in the AL. The Red Sox, injuries and all, would lead the AL Central by a half game, and would sit a mere .001 percentage points behind the Rangers in the West. Then there are the Blue Jays, 66-60, giving the AL East another tough competitor.

Just how much better than the rest of the league is the AL East? Perhaps a pair of tables that loyal reader PJ emailed us will shed some more light on the situation.

Division

Runs Diff.

Division

Avg. Win Pct.

AL East

239

AL East

.536

NL East

142

NL West

.516

NL West

125

NL East

.513

AL West

(47)

AL Central

.487

AL Central

(122)

AL West

.487

NL Central

(337)

NL Central

.466

It’s no surprise that the AL East, NL East, and NL West are the only teams with positive run differentials, since they’re the only divisions with four teams at or above .500. But the margin between the NL and AL Easts is staggering. The AL East has a 68 percent larger run differential. Yes, the Yankees play a large role in that; they do have the largest run differential in the league. But they have to play all those other teams with superb run differentials, and they have to play them 18 times each. And, as we saw this week, that includes Toronto, which has the sixth best run differential in the AL. That’s rough for a fourth-place team.

In terms of the playoffs, the Yankees appear to be in a similar spot as last year. As part of Baseball Prospectus’s statistical package, they provide something called Secret Sauce, which blends defense, pitcher strikeout rate, and bullpen strength to determine a team’s likelihood of winning in the playoffs. You can read our write-up on Secret Sauce here. Last year the Yankees’ Secret Sauce score was 22. This year it’s — guess what? — 22. The only difference is that the Rays have a lower (i.e., better) score this year, but there’s nothing the Yanks can do about that. It would seem that they’re in the same position as last year, which as we know is nothing but a good thing.

Do the Yankees have flaws? Of course. Are those flaws more serious than those of other teams? Not at all. The Yankees own baseball’s best record, the league’s best run differential, and the AL’s second best Secret Sauce score. The only difference this year is the presence of the Rays, something over which the Yankees exert no control. It means one more tough team to beat, but little more. In terms of comparing the 2009 World Champions to the 2010 defenders, there isn’t too big a difference.

Sanchez goes deep as Staten Island sweeps doubleheader

Mike Newman provided a scouting report of Brett Marshall, Slade Heathcott, and J.R. Murphy from last night’s game. Meanwhile, Brandon Laird was named the third baseman for the Double-A Eastern League’s end of season All Star Team. No other Yankee farmhands made it.

In his chat today, Keith Law said that he considers Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances all to be top 100 prospects. That’s pretty cool.

And finally, Romulo Sanchez hit the disabled list for an unknown reason, so I guess he won’t be coming up on Sept. 1st. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and we’ll still see him next month.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, 2B, Juan Miranda, 1B & Eric Bruntlett, SS: all 1 for 4, 1 R – Russo drove in a run … Miranda double and drove in a pair … Bruntlett drove in one
Greg Golson, RF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K – 12 for his last 37 (.324)
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K – the was intentional, and it was issued by a former big leaguer in the 3rd freaking inning … can you say FEARED???
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 1 for 4, 1 K
Colin Curtis, CF: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K – 14 for his last 35 (.400) with six doubles and a homer
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 4, 2 K – he’s slumping big time, now six for his last 41 (.146) with 14 strikeouts
Chad Huffman, LF: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K
Lance Pendleton: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 10-8 GB/FB – 60 of 90 pitches were strikes … he would be an interesting dark horse Sept. call-up … he’s not young (turning 27 next month) but has performed very well since Tommy John surgery, and I think (don’t hold me to that) he’s scheduled to become a minor league free agent after the season, so maybe they should see what they got, even if it’s just trade bait
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 14 of 20 pitches were strikes
Eric Wordekemper: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K2-0 GB/FB – seven of his 11 pitches were strikes

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