Baseball America has started digging through the aftermath of the 2008 Draft, and handed out some hardware. Unfortunately this article is subsciber only, but I’ll tell you this much: Pat Venditte has one of the best pro debuts of any college player, Jeremy Bleich had one of the draft’s best secondary pitches, and Garrison Lassiter was one of the best late round picks. Sadly both Gerrit Cole & Scott Bittle were two of the best players who got away, but that should come as no surprise. All-in-all, the Yanks spent just over $5M on the draft this year, down nearly $3M from last year. Had Cole and/or Bittle signed, they would have spent north of $8M this year. · (89) ·
As much as we don’t like to comment on rumors from The Post, in an earlier thread today, Steve noted a brief piece in Alexander Hamilton’s paper suggesting that the Yanks are interested in Mike Cameron. Since the Yanks are looking for a center fielder and Cameron could be a free agent this year, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes looking at Cameron.
First up is the issue of Cameron’s current contract. In 2008, the Brewers paid the outfielder $5 million. They hold a $10 million option or a $750,000 buyout. If the Brewers either need a center fielder or anticipate a high demand for Cameron, they could opt to pick up the buyout. However, $10 million for his level of production at his age seems a bit steep.
So going under the assumption that Mike Cameron will be a free agent, what would this option look like? Cameron will be 36 on Opening Day and has always been a good defender. For his career, he’s a .250 hitter with a 106 OPS+. He still has decent power — .477 slugging in park that slightly favors hitters — but he’s coming off successive seasons at around .240 with an OBP hovering around .330.
Clearly, in this regard, Cameron wouldn’t be much of a long-term solution in center. He’s too old; he’s not very good at hitting. But should the Yanks even consider him as a short-term solution?
Right now, the Yankees have a few center field options. They could keep Johnny Damon in center. That is, by far, their best offensive option but their worst defensive choice. They could go with some platoon of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Odds are that one or both of them could get on base at a better clip than Cameron, but the power isn’t even close. They could look to trade for someone such as Matt Kemp or Nate McLouth, but neither of those would come cheap or with guarantees.
Cameron is definitely not Plan A for the Yankees. He probably isn’t even Plan B in center, but the Yanks are more concerned, rightly so, with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Cameron would be acceptable as a one-year solution if the Yanks felt that Austin Jackson would be ready by 2010. But fans advocating for this solution should be aware that Cameron’s offense will not be the great. He’ll hit a bit for power, but he strikes out a lot and doesn’t get on base. It’s a lukewarm option at best.
With the off-season upon us, it’s time for the New York media to start their annual George Steinbrenner Health Watch. Ken Davidoff kicks things off with a column about George’s recent appearance with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. King George, says Davidoff, ain’t lookin’ so hot these days. While his family simply says that George is “fine,” the 78-year-old is clearly not in the best of health. · (24) ·
For what seemed like the first time all season, I watched a baseball game with no real emotional interest. On Sunday night, I was pacing and gnawing at my fingers as the Tampa Bay Rays gritted out a Game 7 ALCS win over the Red Sox. Tonight, I sat passively — flipped to South Park at 10 — and returned to watch a compelling 3-2 Philadelphia Game 1 win in the World Series. It was a liberating feeling to say the least.
As this Fall Classic kicks into gear, I’m not really sure for which team I’m rooting. I went to college outside of Philadelphia, and for four years, I saw a good number of Phillies games. I remember seeing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard when they first arrived in the City of Brotherly Love. I tracked the hype of Cole Hamels and saw Jim Thome, pre-White Sox trade, blast a few balls into the far reaches of the lovely Citizens Bank Park. That the Phillies continue to trump the Mets is a source of joy too.
Meanwhile, the Rays are the classic example of the adage that says the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Never before last week had I rooted for Tampa, and I poured a lot of emotion into the Rays. I needed to see them beat a very vulnerable and not-too-impressive Boston team.
I needed it to give it back to that one guy in the bars I was at on Saturday night who kept applauding for the most mundane of outs. I needed it so that Boston fans — the bandwagon Boston fans — could know that their team isn’t entitled to win every year and that with success comes postseason disappointment as well. We in New York know it well; Boston should grow accustomed to it as well.
As I feel no love for the Boston bandwagoners, Tampa then presents a problem. As Florida news reporters are eagerly noting, Yankee fans and other Florida residents are hoping aboard the Tampa bandwagon. Tonight’s game — the first World Series game in Tampa history — drew 40,783, but on the season, Tampa, nearly the wire-to-wire leaders in the AL East, finished 26th in attendance. They drew just 22,259 per game, and most nights, the Trop featured crowds in the low-to-mid teens. These fans at the game now are bandwagoners pure and simple. Can I really reward that level of fandom with my own support?
To make matters worse, Major League Baseball is exploiting this temporary attention on Tampa to push for a new ballpark. Why can’t the game just speak for itself for a few days? Does it always have to be about money? I know baseball is a business, but for a week, let the Series play itself out.
In the end, I might root for the Phillies to see if our neighbor to the south can ends its string of sports championship losses. I might root for the Rays to see if they can become the fifth AL East team to down Philadelphia in the World Series. But no matter what, I’ll just kick back, relax and calmly enjoy the games.
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An aside: I watched tonight’s game mostly on mute, and it was glorious. While mostly I did this to tackle some Civil Procedure reading, I also didn’t have to hear Joe Buck. When I finally turned the game on in the 9th, Joe Buck had some expert analysis for me.
“If Carl Crawford can reach, Willy Aybar is in the on-deck circle,” Buck said. The only problem is that this isn’t a true statement. Crawford was up; Aybar was on deck. If Crawford can reach, then Aybar is up, unless someone else hits in between Crawford and Aybar.
Sure, I’m arguing announcing semantics, but if these two are the best FOX has, I’m going with mute until this series is over.
It seems like pitchers and catchers reported to camp just yesterday, but here we are, 219 days later getting ready for Game One of the Fall Classic. We’ve already been well versed in Tampa Bay’s worst-to-first story, and we all know that the city of Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship in the four major sports since the 76ers took home the title during the 1982-83 season, so really all that’s left is to watch the games.
The Phillies have already managed to lose a World Series to the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles & Blue Jays in their history, and the Rays will look to complete the AL East sweep starting tonight with Scott Kazmir on the mound. The third longest tenured Ray is the fifth youngest player on the team, and hasn’t looked right for a good month now. This is no time for excuses though, he just has to get it done now.
Taken two picks after Kazmir in the first round of the 2002 draft, Cole Hamels looks to continue his superb postseason pitching tonight, except now he’ll be facing a real lineup instead of those wimpy NL offenses. The Phils haven’t played a game in a week, so there figures to be some rust early on. Simulated games and extra BP can only do so much.
The pre-game ceremonies start at 8pm, with the game to follow afterwards. Joe Buck & Timmy McCarver have the call on FOX. Yippee.
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF Jayson Werth, RF
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Pat Burrell, LF
6. Jayson Werth, RF Shane Victorino, CF
7. Pedro Feliz, 3B
8. Chris Coste, DH
9. Carlos Ruiz, C
- Cole Hamels, P (14-10, 3.09)
1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. BJ Upton, CF
3. Carlos Pena, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Carl Crawford, LF
6. Willy Aybar, DH
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Ben Zobrist, RF
9. Jason Bartlett, SS
- Scott Kazmir, P (12-8, 3.49)
I’m going to throw my predicition out here for the record: Rays in 6, with the Phils winning only Hamels’ starts. If the Rays win tonight, get the brooms out. MVP … let’s say … Carlos Pena.
In their illustrious history, the Phillies have had little success in the World Series, garnering just one title in all of their years. There’s an interesting hitch to this history of title losses: The team has faced and lost to the Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays in the World Series. If Tampa wins, the Phillies will become the first team to lose a World Championship to each of the current AL East teams. This historical failure would truly set the bar for a team that has 10,098 regular season losses. (Hat tip to The Big Lead) · (31) ·
In advance of the release of The Bill James Handbook 2009, the venerable baseball analysts has released his list of the top young talent in baseball. James has also put forward a ranking of the Major League clubs by top young Major League talent, and the Yankees aren’t looking so hot with the team ranked 29 out of 30.
According to ACTA Sports, publishers of the Handbook, these rankings include players 30 and younger:
To achieve his inventory, James first eliminates from the list all players who were 30 years old or older in 2008. He employs two widely used statistics—“Runs Created” for position players and “Runs Allowed” for pitchers—as the basis for comparison. He makes several adjustments, including for injuries suffered during the year and the differences in predictability between pitchers and position players, and then takes into account the number of years the player should be at his peak performance.
Of course, it doesn’t take a baseball genius to recognize the Yankees’ young-gun problems. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano turned in disappointing 2008 campaigns; Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy didn’t meet the lofty expectations placed upon them; and even Joba Chamberlain suffered a lengthy stay on the disabled list.
As the Yankees head into free agency, this list should be a part of their considerations. Five of the top 15 and three of the top ten youngest teams made the playoffs this year, and if the Yanks don’t get marked older, they’ll suffer through some pretty bad seasons over the next few years.
The full franchise rankings and James’ top 25 young players are after the jump.
While Yankee officials are set to appear before a Congressional subcommittee this week to discuss land-valuation concerns, the IRS has paved the way for the team to wrap up the financing of their stadium construction. The Times reports that the IRS will allow the teams to float tax-exempt bonds. The politicians won’t like it, but the new rule should limit this practice of doling out money to rich entities in the future. · (11) ·