The Joe Torre Book Tour gets started tomorrow afternoon at the Barnes & Noble at 46th and Fifth Ave., and the general consensus is that this book tour will make or break his Yankee reputation. He isn’t off to a great start.
The big issue right now revolves around his critiques of A-Rod. As Neil Best writes today, Torre is attempting to backtrack on his A-Fraud comments. On his Friday appearance on Larry King Live, Torre claimed that his less-than-glowing nickname for the Yanks’ third baseman was simply a joke. I don’t buy it and neither, it seems, does Mike Mussina.
In the Bob Klapisch column linked above, Mussina opines on this debacle, and his words ring true:
“Joe has started something that a lot of people are going to have to answer to,” Mike Mussina said by telephone on Thursday. “Joe’s going to have to answer to it too, but it won’t be as bad for him because he’s with the Dodgers now. But it’s going to be bad for the guys he left behind.”
Mussina said, “it’s not just what goes on in the clubhouse, it’s sitting on the bus, or if you’re out having lunch. As a ballplayer you need to know who you have to watch out for and who you can trust. First and foremost, you should be able to trust your manager.
“I mean, people knew that Brown was out there, and that Randy was ornery all the time. And Pavano is whoever he is. But if you’re their manager, you can’t go out and write about them like that.”
This gets back to an issue that will plague Torre in two weeks. He will show up for Spring Training in Glendale, Arizona, and confront a bunch of players who have, for weeks, heard about Torre’s throwing the guys he doesn’t like under the bus. Would you trust your manager with that knowledge? I don’t understand why Torre wrote the book, but things aren’t looking good for Torre’s reputation.
Sports Business Journal, via Maury Brown, reports that Bud Selig’s total compensation exceeded $18 million in 2008. His $18.35 million package put him $7 million ahead of the NFL’s Roger Goddell and makes Bud Selig, the beleaguered commissioner, the eighth highest paid person in baseball in 2008. Suddenly, the Yanks’ spending doesn’t seem so exorbitant, and all of the outrage over escalating salaries may be a bit misdirected. · (50) ·
Sports teams seeking new corporate sponsorships in 2009 might find themselves disappointed by a lack of interest. We’re all used to seeing commercials, billboards, and other advertisements from corporate sponsors in the automotive and financial services industries, but the credit crunch is going to suppress their marketing budgets. The result could be the bursting of the sports bubble, Jordan S. Solomon of Gibbons P.C.
That seems pretty obvious, right? If companies are cutting back on their marketing budgets, sports teams will see less money than they’ve been used to in years past. True, baseball and football aren’t as directly reliant on corporate sponsorships as NASCAR, but if there are fewer marketing dollars flowing into our favorite sports, they’ll surely suffer.
We’re seeing signs of this changing tide in the Citi/Mets saga. We’ve long known that Citi would sponsor the Mets new stadium, CitiField. But when the credit crunch started hitting hard this past fall, Citi fell into some trouble. This caused a bit of an uproar about their sponsorship of the stadium. Congressman Dennis Kucinich thinks that the Treasury Department should “demand that Citigroup cancel its $400 million advertisement at the Mets field“. That would certainly have an adverse effect on the Mets ability to keep their payroll at the level it’s been the past few years.
Solomon also points to broadcasting as an area affected by these marketing cutbacks. Since many of these companies also advertise with broadcasters, we will see a cutback there, too. This means broadcasters will likely not pay as much for exclusive rights, as they have in the past. That’s another area which could deal a financial blow to our major sports.
What I do find strange, though, is the assumption Solomon makes at the very end of his article:
eams that are unable to offer the highest salaries will be unable to attract the best players and without the best players, teams will have difficulty winning. Losing teams will have a more difficult time attracting sponsors. It is a vicious cycle that is bound to have a lasting effect on how the sports industry has been operating during this sports bubble, which could be the next bubble to burst.
This is true, but only to an extent. As we’re seeing this winter, many teams aren’t willing to spend. This will drive the price down on free agents — it is a market, after all, and if there aren’t dollars flowing in a market prices will go down. Some teams, possibly of the small market persuasion, will get Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu for a sweetheart price. Not only that, but the team with the biggest wallet has piles of money tied up in future salaries, thus taking them out of the bidding for many free agents, including, by default, those who play first and third base.
What I’m trying to say is that as baseball revenues fall, salaries will fall as well. The teams best positioned for this will be those with smaller and shorter term contracts on the books. If sponsorship and broadcasting rights get squeezed enough, the Yankees, the team with the huge wallet, might find themselves in a tough position because of their current salary commitments. A smaller market team with few long-term contracts, like, say, the Pirates, might find themselves better positioned in a slumping market.
Steve at Yankees: Minor to Majors posted his list of the organization’s best catching prospects yesterday, and I don’t think I need to tell you who’s number one. I agree with the list entirely, although at first I was thinking PJ Pilitrere over Chase Weems. After thinking about it for a bit, it’s clear that Weems’ upside trumps Pilittere’s probability. Is Jose Gil really only 22? Holy geez, it seems like he’s been around since the days of Nick Johnson. Make sure you head over and check it, Steve’s doing some great things over there. · (34) ·
As the Steelers sealed the Super Bowl deal tonight, pitchers and catchers started eying their calendars. In less than two weeks, these players will head to points warm for the annual Spring Training rite. While their position player brethren will join them a few days later, a few key players remain unemployed.
Former Yankee Bobby Abreu is still waiting for a job, and Adam Dunn remains unsigned. But the one of the bigger on-field catchers of the Hot Stove League is still out there. After ensuring that options worth a combined $40 million wouldn’t be exercised, Manny Ramirez is still a free agent looking for work.
It’s surprising, in a way, that Manny is still out there. He’s a career .314/.411/.593 hitter with a 155 OPS+. Age hasn’t slowed him down too much, and had Mark Teixeira landed in Boston, he’d probably be Bronx-bound right now. But as fate would have it, Manny, persona non grata on the one team that could really use him, has suffered from the poor economy.
According to the latest reports, Manny may find that a two-year, $30-million offer is the best he can do. It’s hard to imagine Ramirez happy with that deal. It does seem to be all about the money for him.
So I have to wonder about the Yanks. I know the team is, according to GM Brian Cashman, done with their free agent signings. I know they want to get younger all around and better defensively. I know they have too many outfielders. Could the team really pass up Manny at $15 million per though? Travis at Pinstripe Alley pondered this question over the weekend, and I’m almost tempted to agree. Manny the bat is an appealing target, and if the price drops, who could say no?
That’s Super Bowl 43 for those that don’t know how to read Roman numerals once they get beyond X’s, V’s and I’s. Don’t worry, I had to look it up myself.
This year’s matchup is pretty much everything the NFL and NBC could have hoped for. You’ve got the historic power franchise in the Steelers and the feel good underdog in the Cardinals, who are making their first ever trip to the big game. The last time these two teams met was Week Four of the 2007 season, when Pittsburgh walked away with a 21-14 win. That was the second to last game Matt Leinart has started in the NFL.
The Steelers had the league’s best defense by far this year, giving up just 237.2 YPG, nearly 23 YPG less than the next best defensive unit. Only once did a team gain more than 300 yards of total offense against the Steelers this year. The Cards offense, on the other hand, was one the best this year, averaging 365.8 YPG, a distant second in the NFC behind the Saints’ supercharged attack. They racked up at least 300 yards of offense sixteen freaking times this season, so something’s gotta give.
Arizona’s going to rely on University of Pittsburgh product Larry Fitzgerald just like they have all year, but the Steelers held Andre Johnson, TJ Housyomomma , Plaxico Burress, Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens to a grand total of two touchdowns (56.6 YPG on avg) in seven total meetings this season. Troy Polamalu has the ability to match every big play Fitzgerald makes with one of his own.
John Manuel of Baseball America ran through the SB43′s baseball ties earlier this week. Steelers running back Mewelde Moore spend three years in the Padres’ farm system and was rated the system’s 29th best prospect back in 2001. Third string QB Dennis Dixon was the Braves’ fourth round pick in ’07 and is still active in their system, but he didn’t play baseball in ’08 because of a knee injury. Hines Ward is a former 73rd round pick of the Marlins and Cards’ corner Matt Ware spent two years in the Mariners’ farm system. Polamalu was rated the fifth best prospect in the state of Oregon out of high school in 1999, but he instead went to USC on a football scholarship and the rest is history.
Here’s your open thread for the night. I’m assuming SB43 will be the primary topic, but feel free to talk about anything and everything. Just be civil.
Enjoy the game.
One of the more obvious aspects of Joe Torre’s book is the former Yankee manager’s dislike of Carl Pavano. At least that’s the one remaining thing upon which Torre and all the people he reportedly skewers in the book can agree. Pavano, on the other hand, isn’t too happy about it.
Writing on the ESPN Radio 1050 AM blog, Andrew Marchand notes a statement by Pavano concerning the book:
“I am extremely disappointed that someone I had a lot of respect for would make these type of comments in his upcoming book,” said Pavano, in a statement released to 1050 ESPN New York through his agent, Tom O’Connell. “I wish nothing but the best for Joe Torre and my former Yankee teammates, but with that said it does explain why I haven’t received any Christmas cards from Joe the last few years.”
Now, I can understand why plenty of Yankees past and present — such as David Wells who called Torre a punk — may take exception with the excommunicated St. Joe’s words. But Pavano shouldn’t look his gift horse in the mouth. The Yanks paid him $40 million to be a fraud. He should take his money and stay out of this, no matter how right he may be in calling out Torre.
MLBTR has started to put together it’s annual list of players who are out of options, and this year it includes the Yanks’ very own Melky Cabrera. There was some confusion on our part whether he had used an option last year (mostly because we were too lazy to look), but he did spend 21 days in the minors last year, eating up his final option. His first option was used when he was sent down following his disasterous 2005 debut, the second option was used when he was sent to Triple-A to start 2006. Melky will have to be passed through waivers to be sent to the minors from here on out.
The only other interesting name on the out of options list is the Rays’ Jeff Niemann. He’ll have a very tough time cracking Tampa’s pitching staff, and I’m sure there will be a ton of interest in the former fourth overall pick. · (92) ·
Jay Busbee at Yahoo! Sports ranked the top 50 worst announcers in sports. While Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck all made the top ten, two Yankee homers, in the worst sense of the word, ranked high on the list as well. John Sterling came in at only ??only! ? number 17, and Michael Kay made the cut at 49. It’s hard to believe there are 16 announcers worse than Sterling, but there you go. · (58) ·
With the Red Sox recent signing of Jason Varitek, we’ve yet again been exposed to the non-guaranteed aspect of arbitration contracts. As we learned in late October, a player who accepts arbitration is not guaranteed a contract for the following season. This became a big issue in Yankeeland when the team declined to offer arbitration to any of its free agents. Perhaps now we can gain a clearer understanding of the process.
As we learned from Jon Heyman, Varitek didn’t accept arbitration because he “didn’t believe that accepting arbitration would guaranteed him a spot on the team.” This references a recent and similar case, that of Todd Walker and the San Diego Padres. Following the 2006 season the Friars offered Walker, a Type A free agent, arbitration, hoping he would decline and they would pocket the two draft picks when another team signed him. Walker, apparently foreseeing the lack of interest in his services, accepted the offer. Not only that, but he won the arbitration case, winning a $3.95 million salary vs. San Diego’s offer of $2.75 million.
During Spring Training that year, Walker didn’t hit so well. Over 40 at bats he hit just .225 with just one RBI. Battling with him for the second base position were Marcus Giles, who hit .326 with a homer and 4 RBI, and Geoff Blum, who hit .316 with two homers. The Padres used this terminate Walker’s contract, paying him only $971,000. This was under the non-guaranteed clause:
A Player whose Contract is terminated by a Club under paragraph 7(b)(2) of the Uniform Player’s Contract for failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability shall be entitled to receive termination pay from the Club in an amount equal to thirty (30) days’ payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract, if the termination occurs during spring training but on or before the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season. If the termination occurs during spring training, but subsequent to the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season, the Player’s termination pay shall be in an amount equal to forty-five (45) days’ payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract.
Walker and the Players Association filed a grievance, hoping Walker could recoup the total of his 2007 salary and become an unrestricted free agent. This did not work out well for them. The Padres were able to prove, via simple statistics, that Walker failed “to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability.” Walker then signed a minor league deal with the A’s, was eventually called up, but ultimately released (in the move which added Dallas Braden to the 40-man).
Given this case, one might understand why Varitek was wary about his prospects should he accept arbitration. However, it’s not like Walker was a mainstay in San Diego. He was a journeyman at that point. In other words, there was no San Diegan loyalty to Todd Walker like there is a Bostonian loyalty to Jason Varitek. I imagine that Theo might catch some flak if he wanted to release the Super Captain after Spring Training.
In the case of Bobby Abreu, well, I’m not so sure this would have been as cut an dry as the Walker case. First and foremost, Abreu is a much, much better player than Walker. Second, the Yanks would have to bank on Abreu having a poor, poor spring if they wanted to release him. Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher would likely have to outhit him in order for the Yanks to even make a case to release him. Not that Swisher and Nady are necessarily worse than Abreu, but it’s not exactly a slam dunk that they’d outhit him in the spring.
Moreover, because of the difficulty in releasing him, the Yankees, as Brian Cashman said at the time, would have had to consider Abreu a signed player, at a minimum $16 million, for 2009 if he accepted arbitration. Considering what we’ve heard from both Cash and Hal back in December and to this day, that might have been enough for them to pass on Mark Teixeira. That means he goes to Boston, and that changes the entire tenor of the off-season.
Looking back on the Walker case helps frame this arbitration debate. Yes, the Yankees could have offered Abreu arbitration, knowing that if he slipped up in Spring Training they could have released him for a fraction of his 2009 salary. However, that would take not only Bobby slipping up, but his potential replacements outhitting him. If that didn’t happen, the Yankees would undoubtedly have been on the hook for his entire 2009 salary, in addition to carrying him on the roster. Clearly, the Yanks couldn’t trade him without picking up a significant portion of the tab. As such, the Yankees would have to take his salary into consideration when making moves this winter. Clearly, the team had bigger plans.
Receiving two draft picks for Bobby Abreu would have been nice, but they weren’t guaranteed. Given Bobby’s contract demands (well, at least until recently), he might have declined the offer and hit the market, only to have his dreams shattered by a complete lack of demand. On the other hand, his agent might have had an inkling of the winter’s chill climate and advised his client to accept, with the hope of getting his multiyear deal in 2010. That would have significantly hampered the Yankees plans. Given how excited most of us are about the upcoming season, I’m fairly certain we prefer the way things eventually unfolded to the speculated outcome of offering Abreu arbitration and netting the draft picks.