• IDA approves more tax-free bonds for Yanks

    Despite contentious hearings, a strident Times editorial, and opposition from numerous advocates and officials, the New York City Industrial Development Agency has approved another $370 million in tax-free bonds for the Yankee Stadium construction project.

    The agency voted 11-1 in favor of the bonds with Comptroller William C. Thompson’s representative voting against the issuance and the Queens rep abstaining. Neil de Mause estimates the total subsidy for the Yankee Stadium and CitiField construction projects at $1.8 billion. One can make convincing arguments for against public support of the initial costs of construction, but by now, I have to believe that the teams should be taxes for more bond requests. Either way, the bond issue is pretty much closed. Problems surrounding land valuation and missing green spaces and parks in the Bronx remain.

    For Mike’s chat, click here. He’s still going. I wanted to get this breaking news up on site.
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  • Yanks demanding the moon for Nady

    Via Ken Rosenthal comes this gem: “A trade remains a possibility, but the Braves are unwilling to meet the Yankees’ price for outfielder Xavier Nady, knowing they might get better deals in July.” That’s music to my ears because it shows the Yanks aren’t going to just give Nady away because they have a bit of a logjam. They don’t have to move him, but if someone is willing to pay the right price, they will. It works for me. · (71) ·

As the baseball owners met quietly in Phoenix this week to discuss the baseball economy and take care of some administrative details, the ever-popular stop-the-Yankees salary cap idea came out for the umpteenth time this postseason.

“I think there’s a lot of owners that would like to have that right now,” Lew Wolff, owner of the A’s, said. “I think the parity is what we’re looking for, and the more ways you can get to parity the better. I think it’s pretty good now, but I think it could be better.” Coincidentally — or not — the A’s ownership has a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion.

Brewers owner Mark Attanansio, who recently paid a quarter of a billion dollars for the right to get into the ownership club, echoed Wolff’s complaints. “I would ask, if it’s such a bad idea, what sport doesn’t have a salary cap other than us?” he said.

The AP, linked above, had more:

The Yankees’ offseason spending spree has sparked renewed talk of a cap, an issue owners haven’t brought up in negotiations since the disastrous 1994-95 strike that wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years. But not all owners are critical of the Yankees’ acquisition of pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and infielder Mark Teixeira.

“I have no problem with what they’ve done,” [Cubs Chairman Crane] Kenney said. “They’ve done it within the rules, within the confines of our agreement…

Wolff’s team recently agreed to a one-year, $5.25 million year with Jason Giambi, who had bolted Oakland after the 2001 season to sign a $120 million, seven-year contract with the Yankees. Asked if the Yankees’ spending concerned him, Wolff replied, “I probably should say it does, but to me it doesn’t because, frankly, the more visible they are — they are baseball, traditionally. And they’re not doing anything different than they’ve done traditionally for years. I think they benefit all of us more than they hurt us…”

“There’s no sour grapes here,” Attanasio said. “The Yankees are playing within the rules of the system. So you can’t blame the team. You have to change the system.”

I won’t pass judgment on Attanasio, but it’s interesting to see Kenney’s comments make this article. In a way, it shows what the real fight would be if the owners try to hammer out a salary cap. In one corner would be the rich teams, the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Angels of the game. In the other would be the Pirates, Marlins, and A’s of the world. Never the twain shall meet. The players, indeed, have nothing to worry about.

As I said last week, baseball doesn’t need a salary cap, and baseball probably couldn’t even afford a salary cap. These owners are failing to recognize that the Yanks will have a lower or comparatively similar Opening Day payroll in 2009 as they did in 2008, and they are spoiling for a fight with each other that neither side can win. This is one sleeping dog best left undisturbed.

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Since the off-season began, I’ve heard Yanks fans mention Jon Garland as a possible solution in the rotation. Those comments have heated up a bit over the past few weeks as it has become increasingly unlikely that the team signs Andy Pettitte to fill the fifth starter void. The argument usually goes something like: “He’s a guy who can eat innings and give you league average pitching.” If we were sure this is what Garland would bring, I could see signing him. Unfortunately, the way his stats have trended make it look unlikely.

Garland made a name for himself in 2005, posting a 3.50 ERA in 221 innings, en route to a World Series title with the White Sox. However, since that season he’s not been nearly as good. Not even close. In fact, even that season his FIP was 4.24, which is not bad, but shows that his results might have been part of the randomness that baseball players experience from year to year. For more on randomness, read books by this guy. His 75.4 LOB% might have something to do with that low ERA as well.

Let’s take a look at Garland’s peripherals. We’ll start at the basics, with his strikeouts and walks.

Year K/9 BB/9
2005 4.68 1.91
2006 4.77 1.75
2007 4.23 2.46
2008 4.12 2.70

In 2008 he walked nearly one more batter per nine innings than he did two years prior. If that was a one-year jump, it wouldn’t scare me as much. Yet his 2007 figure, 2.46, sets off a red flag. Combine this with his incrementally declining K rate, and you have one messy situation.

Moving down to his other peripherals, it paints a strange picture. His line drive rate has been pretty consistent throughout his career, right in the 22 percent range, but he saw an enormous spike in groundballs last year — 49.9 percent, which was over 10 percent higher than his 2007 campaign. This means he was giving up fewer fly balls, generally a good thing, but not when your HR/FB ratio jumps up by nearly five percent (7.1 percent in 07, 11.9 percent in 08).

No, Jon Garland probably wouldn’t be a poor choice to fill the fifth starter role. A 4.50 ERA/FIP, which is what the three projection systems (Bill James, CHONE, Marcel) have him at in 2009, is fine from the five hole, especially if it’s over 200 innings. However, the price will not match the output, and that gap becomes wider if Garland continues his downward trend. Unless he’s available for one year and around $5 million, the Yanks would do best to pass on him.

(Plus, as tommiesmithjohncarlos says: “Jon Garland is the exact opposite of Katie Holmes topless.”)

Categories : Hot Stove League
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  • Wrapping up the Stadium hearings

    With Yankee President Randy Levine’s tardiness in responding to his subpoena kicking things off yesterday, the New York State Assembly’s Yankee Stadium hearings were unfriendly and downright tense. There were some nasty back-and-forths between Levine and Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, on one side, and Assembly Member Richard Brodsky on the other.

    For solid coverage of the hearings, check out Neil de Mause’s running journal of the proceedings at The Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared site (Part 1, Part 2), and I highly recommend reading through it if this issue interests you. De Mause clears up some questions many RAB readers have had about the funding mechanisms and who is paying for what.

    Meanwhile, few conclusions emerged from these hearings The Yankees, it seems, have not been completely transparent with their numbers but neither has the city. It also remains unclear whether someone did something wrong, who has the power to penalize anyone, who would be penalized and what the punishment would be. Now that New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson has thrown his hat into the mayoral ring, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from him on the stadium issue again as well as Brodsky and perhaps Congress. The IDA vote on the bonds will go on as scheduled tomorrow, and I expect them to be approved.
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Yes, this is in direct response to the four year, $40M+ deal Kevin Youkilis agreed to today, which bought out his two remaining arbitration years and two free agent years, with an option to cover a third. As you can imagine, Sox fans are now out in full force claiming that Youk is better than Mark Teixeira  because he spurned them for greener pastures (I’m looking at you, Fire Brand), which is just not true. Let’s break it down.

Here’s Youkilis’ stats over the last three years:

2006: .279-.381-.429, 42 2B, 13 HR, 72 RBI, .357 wOBP, 106 OPS+, 2.3 WAR, 18.6 VORP
2007: .288-.390-.453, 35 2B, 16 HR, 85 RBI, .373 wOBP, 117 OPS+, 3.9 WAR, 29.6 VORP
2008: .312-.390-.569, 43 2B, 29 HR, 115 RBI, .402 wOBP, 143 OPS+, 5.6 WAR, 53.6 VORP

And now, Tex:

2006: .282-.371-.514, 45 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI, .374 wOBP, 126 OPS+, 3.2 WAR, 37.7 VORP
2007: .306-.400-.563, 33 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .406 wOBP, 150 OPS+, 4.0 WAR, 54.0 VORP
2008: .308-.410-.552, 41 2B, 33 HR, 121 RBI, .410 wOBP, 151 OPS+, 6.8 WAR, 67.2 VORP

To get Tex’s VORP in ’07 and ’08, I just added his VORP totals for the two teams he played with those seasons. So ’07 is VORP (Rangers) + VORP (Braves), and ’08 is VORP (Braves) + VORP (Angels). I know this isn’t 100% accurate because a AL replacement level 1B is different than a NL RL 1B, but it’s close enough for this application. I mean, what are we talking about here, maybe a 4-5% error?

Anywho, let’s average these bad boys out:

Youk: .292-.387-.483, 40 2B, 19 HR, 90 RBI, .377 wOBP, 122 OPS+, 3.9 WAR, 33.9 VORP
Tex: .298-.393-.541, 40 2B, 32 HR, 112 RBI, .397 wOBP, 142 OPS+, 4.7 WAR, 53.0 VORP

In the words of Mr. Mackey, mmmkay. Tex has considerably more power and slightly better on base skills, although it’s probably a negligible difference. Youkilis had a 143 OPS+ in a career year last year, which is basically the same as Tex’s average output over the last years. Also, that 143 OPS+ would be just the fourth best OPS+ Tex has put up over the last five years. It’s obvious Tex has been an elite player for a much longer period of time, which makes it easier to project future performance. In fact, let’s check out what CHONE projects for 2009:

Youkilis: .286-.388-.474, 35 2B, 18 HR, 79 RBI, 3.9 WAR
Teixeira:  .286-.381-.521, 33 2B, 32 HR, 108 RBI, 5.4 WAR

Heh, I’m sure some fans with boo Tex for that “subpar” performance, even though he’ll still be better than Youk. Here’s some other small factors that are also worth noting:

  • Tex is thirteen months younger
  • Neither player has a significant platoon split, but Tex is a switch hitter
  • Both players are Gold Glover caliber first basemen
  • Youkilis can slide over to third without incident, Tex hasn’t played third since 2003

Now, obviously Kevin Youkilis is an excellent player, there’s no denying that. And for ~$10M a year, he’s a bargain. Based on the above however, I don’t see any way you can claim Youkilis is a better player, unless you really believe last year was a true breakout year and he’ll produce like that for the next three or four years while Tex plateaus at a .280-.370-.510 level.

Also, I know some people are comparing contracts, but you can’t do that because Youkilis wasn’t a free agent. He didn’t have the leverage of going to another team and shopping his services to the highest bidder like Tex did, but if he did you can be sure he wouldn’t have settled for 4/40. There’s no doubt Youk is more cost effective, but Tex is the better player on the field.

Here’s your open thread. Chat away.

Categories : Open Thread
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Hopefully, most of you are familiar with Ken Burns’s Baseball, a documentary on the history of the game. If not, I suggest you go drop $120 on the box set. While the creator says he’d never revisit any of his other works, he’s currently working on an update to the series. It’s a year away, slated for spring 2010 on PBS, and will be titled The Tenth Inning.

A great segment from the Houston Chronicle article:

“There was a guy named Pete O’Brien who said in 1858, ‘You know, they don’t play baseball the way they used to,’ ” Burns said. “Every 10 years, somebody is saying the same thing — that it’s all over.”

Burns clearly does not subscribe to that theory.

“Think of it. Since the end of (the original Baseball documentary), we have seen Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and the Braves,” he said. “We have seen the Yankees finally coalesce under one of the game’s most gifted managers (Joe Torre), throwing off the buy-buy mentality of George Steinbrenner to give him time to develop Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

“Sure, we had steroids, but, man, look at what else we have to offer. The Red Sox. We have Ichiro. We have Cal Ripken. Think of the Willie Mays catch (in the 1954 World Series). Now we have a caliber of play and athleticism that produces similar (catches) all the time. The Marlins won the World Series, twice. The Rays made it to the World Series.

“We are in the middle of a baseball renaissance, as (commissioner) Bud Selig says, and, working on this, I have to agree.”

As Burns contemplates the steroid era, he looks at it through the filter of American life at large.

“We live in the age of Viagra,” he said. “People take (medications) to make things better. Why would players be any different?”

The series moves forward from the 1992 World Series. Count me among those who will watch this with rapt attention.

Categories : Days of Yore
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  • Smoltz: Yanks courted me

    Via MLBTR, we hear a Dan Patrick interview with John Smoltz in which the former Brave and current Red Sox pitcher explains that the Yanks were in on his contract talks. According to the injured hurler set to come off the DL by early June, the Yanks were one of four teams — the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves being the others — to come calling, but in the end, Boston won out. It’s good to hear that Brian Cashman was doing what he could to land a low-risk, high-reward starter. If Boston wanted to guarantee more money, so be it. · (159) ·