What I love about the nightly open thread is that we can write about basically anything. If you find it boring, irrelevant, or overdone, you can just skip over the post and dive into the comments. If you want to use the post as a jumping off point you can, but there’s certainly no obligation to do so.
Why did I open like this? Because I saved up some articles relating to the Joe Torre book, and I figured I’d dump them on you in the open thread, rather than litter your day with them. I know a lot of people are sick of the topic. Even for those who aren’t, it’s a tough topic to navigate because so few of us, if any of us, have read the book. We’re going on reactions. But they can be fun too, right?
First up is Ken Davidoff. He wrote about Brian Cashman‘s relationship with Joe Torre following the 2005 season. Yet before he gets into that, he says something about A-Rod which I think is worth repeating:
And as Tyler [Kepner] points out, if Mariano Rivera had just picked up the save in 2004 ALCS Game 4, then Alex Rodriguez would’ve been riding a monster first two rounds into the World Series, and we wouldn’t be standing here today, dissecting A-Rod the way we do.
Of course, this isn’t blaming Mo, just like “if he hadn’t thrown the ball into center field we would have won the 2001 series” isn’t blaming Mo. It does bring up an interesting point, though. People also kill A-Rod for striking out with a man on third and less than two outs in the game, and then dismiss his early home run. This I will never understand. Sans the home run, Mo doesn’t have a lead to blow.
Next up, and also relating to A-Rod, is a statement by Brian Cashman. Bryan Hoch brings it to us.
“I think we’ve gone through so much of the Alex stuff that, you know, if anything, maybe this brings people closer together,” Cashman said on Monday during a conference call to announce Andy Pettitte‘s one-year contract.
I’m not so sure this will bring anyone closer together. Cashman does have a point, though: the team has been through all this. They’ve dealt with A-Rod for five years now. I doubt anything Torre makes public in the book will change how the guys on the team view him now.
Finally, Jack Curry has some quotes from Torre on the book. The former Yanks’ skipper made it clear that he never used the word “betrayal,” despite every tabloid in the city saying so. He also had a comment on A-Rod: “I don’t think I said anything about A-Rod that I didn’t say already.” Yeah, that you didn’t already say to Tom Verducci. Thankfully, it appears A-Rod is taking this all in stride.
This is your open thread for the evening. The Knicks and the Nets are off tonight, the Hurricanes are in the Garden, and the Devils are in Ottawa.
While I had pegged Dan Giese as the likely man designated for assignment, the Yanks had other ideas in mind. The AP reports that Chase Wright has been designated for assignment to make room for Andy Pettitte. Wright, 26, is a lefty famous for giving up back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs against the Red Sox in 2007 when he was rushed into an emergency start. As a young lefty with a good MiLB ERA but mediocre peripherals, I doubt he’ll clear waivers. I guess the Yanks like Giese as a potential long man instead. (Hat tip to MLBTR.) · (63) ·
A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory finds a unique way to honor and remember post-renovation Yankee Stadium: through the appearance of the old BRUT ad in baseball cards. In a massively long but highly entertaining post, Jere tracks the appearance of that once-iconic ad in baseball cards throughout the 1980s. A surprising number of visiting team players are featured in front of the ad. I guess Topps didn’t want to dispatch a photographer too far from its home at One Whitehall St. in Lower Manhattan. · (6) ·
When the Yankees announced they were bringing back Andy Pettitte yesterday the first thing a bunch of fans said was “now Joba can go back to the bullpen, where he belongs.” They said this when they signed CC. They said this when they signed AJ. It’s like clockwork. Luckily Eric Seidman at Fangraphs broke out some math and showed just how more valuable a starter is than a reliever.
Seidman shows that as a starter, Joba could pitch to a 4.10 FIP over 150 innings and be worth +2.6 wins. That’s a good but not great projection, and I suspect many Yankee fans would be a little disappointed with that kind of output out of the big Nebraskan. In fact, 51 starters put up +2.6 WAR last year, including guys like Wandy Rodriguez (+2.7), Dana Eveland (+2.7), Jesse Litsch (+2.8), and Ubaldo Jimenez (+4.4). The +2.6 WAR Starter club isn’t the most exclusive club in the world, as you can see.
Now, to match that production as a reliever Joba would basically have to be one of the five or six best relievers in baseball by putting up a 2.28 FIP in 80 innings, and even that only works out to a +2.4 WAR. Only eight relievers matched the +2.6 WAR Joba could reasonably put up in 150 mediocre innings as a starter, and they’re like, the eight best relievers in baseball pitching in highest of high leverage situations. Even the almighty Mariano Rivera, baseball’s most valuable reliever last year with a +4.2 WAR, was just the 26th most valuable pitcher in the game last year.
There really is no debate. Joba Chamberlain, even as a middling starter, is more valuable to the team than he is as a shut down reliever. Bringing Pettitte back doesn’t change anything, all it does is push Joba back to the fifth spot. This isn’t a situation like Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan, where the guy doesn’t have enough pitches to start. There’s a reason guys become relievers, and it’s because they aren’t good enough to start.
Please, end the foolishness. Joba should be a starter until he proves he can’t handle it.
In an effort to protect the team from staph infections that have plagued baseball clubhouses over the last few years, the Yankees are employing a disinfectant sports coating to keep their new stadium clean. The team plans to spray, according to Newsday, “all public bathrooms and concession areas, along with the home and visiting clubhouses, weight rooms, lounges, showers, coaches’ rooms, dugouts and bullpens, are being treated.” While one doctor thinks regular cleaning would do the trick, the company behind the coating obviously thinks otherwise. Either way, this move should satisfy all the germaphobe Yankee fans out there. (Hat tip to Shysterball.) · (25) ·
Basically, Pettitte can earn $4.5 million in performance bonuses and $2 million in roster bonuses. The deal is structured in way such that the southpaw would have earned the full $12 million in three of the last four seasons. The only exception was 2008 when Pettitte threw only 204 innings. The bonus breakdown is as follows:
- $4.5M in performance bonuses: $0.5M each for 150, 160, 170 IP; $0.75M each for 180, 190, 200, 210 IP
- $2M in roster bonuses: $0.1M for 120 days on active 25-man roster; $0.2M for 130 days; $0.25M each for 140, 150 days; $0.4M each for 160, 170, 180 days
As long as the lefty stays healthy and continues to rack up the innings, he’ll get his money. His baseline for performance is to pitch well enough to stay in the rotation with the kids knocking on the door.
Meanwhile, speaking of the kids, Mike Ashmore offers up a dissenting opinion on the Pettitte signing. Noting the ever-increasing number of young arms in the Yankee system, Ashmore ponders the depth question:
If the consensus is that Pettitte is little more than a placeholder, why not use one of your numerous starting pitching prospects in a meaningful role at the big league level instead of picking up garbage innings as a long man in the Bronx or spending another year in Trenton or Scranton?
And how long before some of these players start getting frustrated with having to repeat levels of the minors?
Things are looking great at the big league level, and the minor leagues certainly look stacked as well. But at what cost?
I’ve struggled with this one for much of the winter and have no good answer. I was fine seeing Andy leave; I am fine seeing him return. With this incentive-laden deal, he’ll put pressure on himself to pitch. As long as the Yanks don’t leave him in there to the detriment of the young arms if the time is right to replace him, this one-year contract will work out for everyone.
By the end of this week or the beginning of next, RAB will have its copy of The Yankee Years. After reading it — and only then — will any of us be in a position to comment on the controversy that has exploded across the pages of the New York tabloids and more reputable newspapers this week.
We have all seen an excerpt, but that’s hardly conclusive. The rest of us who haven’t read the book are simply basing our opinions on the raging “he said-he said” debate. All that leads to is a bunch of ill-informed sweeping pronouncements about who’s right and who’s wrong.
While we’re waiting for the book — now with eager anticipation — one aspect has emerged as the truth, and it is a truth that has been dominating Yankee coverage since 2004: It is, for better or worse, all about Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez. Torre, from the early reports, never thought too fondly of A-Rod. The Yanks’ one-time skipper supposedly couldn’t reach the seemingly cerebral slugger, and A-Rod was envious of Torre favorite Derek Jeter while others in the clubhouse weren’t fond of A-Rod.
“We never really had anybody who craved the attention. I think when Alex came over, he certainly changed the feel of the club,” Torre writes in his book. Of course, baseball-wise A-Rod had a little bit of an impact too. The game’s best hitter will do that.
The Yanks, of course, are rallying around A-Rod. “I think we’ve gone through so much of the Alex stuff that, you know, if anything, maybe this brings people closer together,” Yanks GM Brian Cashman said during Monday’s Andy Pettitte conference call.”There’s always going to be some controversy that surrounds this club. The best way to try to deal with it is, I guess, rally around each other the best you can if there’s real feelings there.”
Defend each is is, after all, what a team is supposed do, and Pettitte got right to it. “I have never one time heard of the term `A-Fraud’ until I saw that rolling on the TV, I guess this morning or whenever they started reporting it,” he said. “If it did go on, it went on before I was there.”
For their part, A-Rod’s team is fighting back through anonymous quotes in The Post, according to NJ.com. That’s fighting fire with, um, fire.
No matter how this soap opera plays itself out though, A-Rod will remain front and center. Since joining the Yankees in 2004, he has been far and away the team’s most productive hitter, but between his perceived playoff failures, his divorce and Madonna, he’s made more than his fair share of back pages for non-baseball related antics as he has for his baseball heroics. Until the Yankees win a title with A-Rod, he will remain this powerful, polarizing figure. It’s just the way it is, and no matter what it ultimately says overall, Torre’s book is just another part of the Alex Rodriguez circus. With that bat around, though, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Tim Dierkes of RotoAuthority and MLBTR fame surveyed eleven of the most popular baseball writers around (including RAB’s own Joe P.) about how many innings they expect Joba Chamberlain to pitch in 2009. Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus shot for the moon and said 175, while Jon Heyman brought up the rear at 109. Joe said 142 IP, the same as Jerry Crasnick and three fewer than Peter Gammons, and just about nailed the average total of 143 IP. Joba’s career high is the 118.2 IP he threw for Nebraska back in 2005 (100.1 IP last year), and I’m going to go a little high and say he’ll throw 160 innings this year. If the Yanks get 140 innings (roughly 22 starts) out of Joba this year, they’ll be in damn fine shape. What do you guys think? · (132) ·
The Torre book drama started yesterday and has been a steady source of conversation into today. Problem is, few if any of us have actually read it. Over at SI, they have an excerpt from the book which revolves around late October 2007. Torre obviously feels betrayed, but if you can look past his “my flaw is that I’m the good guy” rhetoric, you can see that the Yankees had come to a decision, and they intended to follow through on it. One year, take it or leave it. Torre left it, and that was that. Well, until this book was written, that is.
Torre apparently did pitch an idea to Cashman, and to an outsider it doesn’t sound half bad:
“Cash, I have an idea. What about a two-year contract? It doesn’t even really matter what the money is. Two years, and if I get fired in the first year, the second year is guaranteed. But if I get fired after the first year, I don’t get the full amount of the second year, just a buyout. The money doesn’t matter. I mean, as long as it’s not just something ridiculous. It’s not about the money. It’s the second year.”
Apparently, though, the Yankees were not willing to do that. Torre claims that, based on a post-meeting encounter with Brian Cashman, that the GM never even floated the idea to management.
Cashman looked at Torre oddly, as if this were something new. “Uh, I really didn’t understand it,” Cashman said. “Remind me, what was it again?”
Cashman then went back into the room, supposedly approached the Steinbrenners with the idea, and emerged less than a minute later with a response in the negative. Torre’s quote on this: “I’m thinking, Well, s—! He never told them!” I’m not so sure it’s that simple. From the beginning, it seemed like the Yankees knew what they wanted, and Torre knew what he wanted. The Yankees gave Torre their firm offer, and he deemed it unacceptable. They apparently were not keen on his idea.
I imagine everyone in the Yankees front office was in a tight spot during this time. Torre was a beloved manager of 12 years, an unprecedented run in the Steinbrenner Era. He wanted to come back. The Yankees were only interested under their terms. I’m not sure I can fault them on that. Argue if you want about the manner in which it was handled. But if the Yankees only wanted Torre back under their terms, and Torre did not accept those terms, well, that seems pretty ordinary to me.
You can hear more about the book on the MLB Network…right about now. Matt Vasgersian will interview Tom Verducci on Hot Stove at 7. So you can check that after or while you read the excerpt.
This is your open thread for the evening. The NHL has a night off after the All-Star game, the Rockets are in the Garden, and the Nets are out on OK City. For you Big East nuts like me, you can catch Marquette at Notre Dame at 7 on ESPN.
It’s been a whirlwind day for Andy Pettitte and the Yanks. After rumors emerged this morning of an impending thaw to the stalemate between the Yanks and their long-time lefty, news progressed quickly, and the Yanks just announced a one-year, $5.5-million deal with Andy Pettitte. The deal also provides up to $6.5 million in incentives.
According to PeteAbe, the incentives clauses are based on innings pitched and time spent on the roster. It seems that Pettitte will make a good chunk of changes as long as he remains uninjured and effective this season.
Meanwhile, Pettitte is taking a steep guaranteed paycut right now. He had a $16 million deal in 2008 and faced a $10-$10.5 million offer for 2009. In December, it became apparent that Pettitte was not keen on taking even that $6 million cut, and he held out for more. But as the U.S. economy has worsened, Pettitte’s options dwindled to one.
Without knowing the details of the negotiation, it seems to me as though Pettitte opted to go with the Yanks over retirement and had to accept a deal more on their terms than his. Reporting on the call, Abraham says that Pettitte felt slighted by the pay cut. He probably feels worse about turning down more guaranteed money.
By guaranteeing a low salary, the Yanks still seem to be on pace to meet but not quite exceed their 2008 payroll for now. The incentives may push them up to that limit, but the team should be just fine financially. Don’t hold your breath for any other big moves until much closer to the trading deadline.
Baseball-wise, the Yankees will now head into spring training with a starting five of CC Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Al Aceves and Phil Coke waiting in the wings. Barring any unforeseen injuries, Hughes will get to hone his craft at AAA to start the season, and with Joba’s innings limits, he’ll have ample opportunity to pitch in the Bronx this season. That’s pitching depth we can believe in.