• Olney: Teams concerned about Sheets’s shoulder
    By

    When talking about Ben Sheets, the subject of his health inevitably arises. He’s missed significant time in 2005 through 2007, and ended last year with a torn muscle in his elbow. This has raised a red flag of sorts with other teams. There’s been very little chatter about Sheets this off-season, save for a couple of stories from the Winter Meetings involving the Yankees, and some interest from the Rangers. It appears, according to Buster Olney, that teams are concerned “about his shoulder, and not his elbow.” If there is indeed damage in the righty’s shoulder, it certainly explains the lack of interest. I have to wonder, though, why Sheets would decline arbitration if his shoulder was cause for concern. · (64) ·

I’ve gotten about a million emails about this (give or take a few hundred thousand), so I figured it was time to address it on the site. From Jim Callis’ chat over at ESPN last week (sub. req’d):

M Kantar (Marlborough, MA): Hi Jim, I have actually pre ordered a copy of the 2009 Prospect Handbook. I did have one question about where would the Red Sox farm system rank in MLB, about #9 overall?

SportsNation Jim Callis: The Handbook is off at the printer’s and should be back in mid-January. I won’t give away all of our farm system rankings–and we will update them again in spring training after more trades are made–but I will tell you that the Red Sox system ranked 13th.

. . .

Doug (NY): Since you can’t give away the Sox ranking without their heated rivals, yankees please. thanks!

SportsNation Jim Callis: OK, that seems fair enough. The Yankees ranked 15th.

Most of them emails asked the same thing: a) I thought the Red Sox had such a great system, and b) are the Yanks ranked too low? Let’s get the BoSox portion out of the way first.

The Sox had a great system coming into ’08, ranked #2 overall by Baseball America. During the season they graduated Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie to the big league club, who were ranked their #1, 2, 4 and 5 prospects, respectively. Graduating four Top 100 prospects will take the huge bite out of any system, and that’s the main reason for their drop. Ryan Kalish struggled as he returned from a wrist problem, and Nick Hagadone had Tommy John surgery after 10 innings. Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss were dealt away, also contributing to their slide. The Sox have four legit prospects at or above the Double-A level, and one of those is a fastball-only reliever who walked 3.46 batters per nine innings last year. The rest of their talent is in the lower minors, and Junichi Tazawa is just a hyped up question mark at this point. Their ranking did seem a bit low, but it’s reasonable.

As far as the Yanks go, it’s a similar situation. Right at the top, Joba and Ian Kennedy graduated to the bigs a year after being Top 100 guys. Jose Tabata, Jeff Marquez, Ross Ohlendorf and Dan McCutchen were traded away after ranking amongst the Yanks’ top 14 prospect coming into the year. Alan Horne blew out his shoulder , Frankie Cervelli had his wrist broken, and JB Cox struggled in his return from TJ. Carmen Angelini had a bad year, and Humberto Sanchez’s return from TJ wasn’t so glorious. Of the guys that did take a big step forward, two of them will start next year as 26 year olds who project as back-end starters/relievers (Phil Coke & Al Aceves). Outside of Austin Jackson, all of their high end talent is in A-ball or lower. Then, of course, you have to factor in the unsigned first and second round picks from the draft. All that adds up to a middle of pack ranking.

Ranking fifteenth overall isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely a step down from the past two or three years. The Yanks will have picks in every round but the third next year (assuming they don’t sign another Type-A free agent), so they’ll have a chance to replenish the system a bit.

Categories : Minors
Comments (188)

While we don’t often link to the New York Post around here — for good reason, I might add — every now and then, something so outlandish comes along that to pass it up would be a shame. Coming to us via BBTF, then, is Kevin Kernan’s latest on one final move the Yanks should make. That move? Sign Oliver Perez. And the rationale? To be able to move Joba Chamberlain — you guessed it — back to the bullpen. Feel free to insert a facepalm here.

Anyway, Kernan writes:

The Yankees are waiting on Andy Pettitte, but there is another lefty available at basically Pettitte dollars and that’s Oliver Perez. Signing Perez would cement the Yankees’ rotation for years to come and would give them flexibility with Joba Chamberlain.

“Putting Perez on the Yankees would be a great move,” says one top pitching evaluator. “That would be the perfect environment for him. He would be more focused there. He needs strong leadership around him, and pitching in front of a packed house, he would not be complacent.”

[snip]

Perez is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Mark Teixeira. Cashman has a good working relationship with Boras. The GM would have to take a leap of faith with Perez, but the upside could be tremendous. In Pettitte, the Yankees will get a pitcher they hope has one good season left in his cranky left shoulder.

Opponents batted .290 last season against Pettitte, 56 points higher than they did against Perez, who allowed 66 fewer hits. Perez also had a lower ERA (4.22 to 4.54) and more strikeouts (180 to 158). Perez is 10 years younger, too, which fits Cashman’s plan of making the Yankees younger.

By signing so many quality free agents this season, it gives the Yankees a window to develop their own talent, and that is still the basis of what Cashman is trying to do. The bottom line, however, is the David Prices of the world can only be drafted when you have the top pick, something the Yankees never have. Teixeira was the fifth pick of the 2001 draft; the Yankees selected 23rd that season. And Sabathia was the 20th pick of the 1998 draft; the Yankees selected 24th that year.

I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that Oliver Perez helps “cement” any rotation is mind-boggling. This is a 27-year-old lefty who has already been on three teams and has a career WHIP in the National League of 1.43. His career BB/9 IP is 4.76. If Perez needs every game to be Game 7 of the World Series as the scout contends, then I worry for his place in any rotation.

Meanwhile, Kernan’s logic about draft picks is completely backwards as well. By signing another top-tier free agent, the Yanks would be surrendering yet another draft pick in 2009. Thus, they wouldn’t be anywhere close to a position to draft the Teixeira’s and Sabathia’s of the world. Meanwhile, losing out on Sabathia by four draft slots is hardly a crime. That year, the Yanks drafted Andy Brown in the first round (who?) and tried to take Mark Prior as a supplemental draft. The ability to pay overslot and the drive to draft smart can be just as important as a team’s position in the first round.

Additionally, a first round draft pick nets a team one whole player for development. While that player could be a huge impact player, the odds are against that happening. It’s far more important for the Yankees to keep open international scouting avenues as well.

Oliver Perez, in the end, is a mediocre pitcher masquerading as a lefty. He’ll always be in demand, and someone will always see him as a reclamation project because he throws hard. But he’s enjoyed limited success in the NL and would cost most teams more dollars and years than he is worth. Tying up a rotation spot with Oliver Perez is no way to commit to developing your own pitchers, and this is one avenue the Yanks have not seemed eager to pursue.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (182)
  • A sensible Hall of Fame ballot
    By

    Oftentimes, when BBWAA voters release their Hall of Fame ballot choices, they do with little regard for common-sense analysis or even baseball reality. Ken Davidoff, however, offers up an exception. In a thorough blog post about his ballot, Davidoff explores how he has come to understand statistical tools and how he arrived at his ballot choices. If only every voter was so enlightened… · (30) ·

The Sporting News, the once-relevant bastion of all things sports, recently chatted with Chipper Jones on a variety of topics. While he swung and missed with his comments on the ongoing trash talk between the Phillies and Mets, he had a few interesting things to say about the Yanks’ recent spending spree.

It’s never happened to me personally, but I think anybody who hits the free agent market is going to wait and see what the offer is from the Yankees. Because everybody knows that they’re going to inflate the price. Whether they get you or not, they’re going to hike the price up.

Scott Boras and some of these other high-profile agents, they’ll use New York as a measuring stick. If New York is going to offer 5 percent or 10 percent or 20 percent more than anybody else, why not? They feel they have to offer a New York-style signing bonus on top of what a player is actually worth to the rest of the league just to get them to come play in New York.

Ten or 15 years ago, we could lure people to Atlanta strictly on reputation. You knew we were going to win, and we had a bunch of good players. Players would shun money from New York and take less to come here. For the past three seasons, we’ve kind of been on the downslide and not making the playoffs, so you can’t do that anymore. We can’t compete monetarily, so the only way we’re going to get players in here to play and win is to force them–and that’s done by trading.

The downside to trading is that it weakens your minor league system. But the only way that we are going to win now is through trades. We just don’t have enough money to compete with the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago teams.

While a lot of baseball commentators have problems with the Yankee money machine and some owners like to clamor for a salary cap that will never get passed, the players all seem to get it. Of course, the players stand to gain the most from the Yankees. Even though just 25 players, give or take a few, end up on the Yankees each year, every player in baseball benefits from the team’s spending.

Whether these other players have contact with the Yankees or whether they use offers from the Yanks to jack up their prices, our team in the Bronx is always on the radar of free agents and their representatives. In the minds of other team GMs, the Yankees always lurk because the Yankees could always potentially outbid another team for the services of a player they want.

Others can complain, and owners can cry poverty while promoting the idea of a salary cap. But as long as the players know it — and Chipper Jones’ words makes me believe they are well aware — the Yankees will be free to spend, and everyone except, perhaps, the 29 other teams will benefit.

(Hat tip to iYankees and Baseball Musings for this one.)

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (59)

Few Yankee fans realize it, but Jan. 3 is actually a rather significant day in Yankee history. It was on this day in 1973 that a syndicate headed by George M. Steinbrenner III paid a meager sum of $10 million to the Columbia Broadcasting System for the New York Yankees.

In today’s dollars, the Yankees cost Steinbrenner and his group around $47,843,468.47 or what Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter make an a season. That price was, according to The Times article about the sale, a real steal, and CBS took a loss on their investment. “It’s the best buy in sports today,” Steinbrenner said about the Yanks. “I think it’s a bargain. But they [CBS] feel the chemistry is right. They feel they haven’t taken a loss on the team.”

While Steinbrenner bought the team after it a decade of losing seasons and its first sub-one million attendance season since World War II, he has, as we all know, turned the franchise into the premier team in sports with six World Series championships over the last 36 years, a new stadium and a run of attendance topping the four million mark. Needless to say, the team is worth far more than $47 million today.

Meanwhile, the best part of the article announcing the sale is the final quote from Steinbrenner. “We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” he said. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Truer words are often spoken.

Anyway, use this thread as your evening open thread. We’ve got two NFL playoff games today, and the Nets, Rangers and Islanders are all in action. Just play nice.

The photo above is of Yogi, George and Billy Martin in 1976 and comes via The Daily News.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (342)

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Do we really have to “revive” the Joba Chamberlain debate, as Justin Sablich attempted to do yesterday on The Times’ Bats blog? Is there nothing better to talk about during the first few days of January than something that should have been put to bed ages ago?

Since the answer to my rhetorical question is clearly “no,” let’s dispose of this attempt to put a potential ace into some overblown 8th inning role. The italicized parts are from Sablich’s blog post, linked above. The regular text is my response.

Despite his game-shortening ability as Mariano Rivera’s setup man, Chamberlain was converted to a starter for part of the 2008 season before tendinitis in his throwing shoulder sent him to the disabled list and eventually back to the bullpen.

So before we even get to the meat of the argument, already it’s distorting the issue. Chamberlain was not “converted to a starter” in 2008. He had been a starter his entire career and was converted into a reliever in 2007 because he was running up against his innings limit. He simply returned to the role in which the Yanks envisioned him when they drafted him.

Now with a revamped rotation for the 2009 season, a case can be made for keeping Chamberlain in the setup role. The Yankees simply do not need Chamberlain in the rotation the way they did last season.

Any starting rotation with Joba Chamberlain is better than any without him. He’s a far superior pitcher to Andy Pettitte at this point in their respective careers, and he has so far been a more effective Major League starter than Phil Hughes. We could even make the case that he’s better than Chien-Ming Wang and A.J. Burnett as well. The Yankees are far better putting a pitcher of Chamberlain’s caliber in the rotation than they are burning him in the pen.

Chamberlain in the bullpen would most likely make each starting pitcher better by shortening his starts. Fans concerned about Sabathia burning out in September or Burnett breaking down over the long haul could rest a little easier. A Chamberlain bridge would also make life easier for Rivera, who turned 39 in November and may not be able to crank out a two-inning save with as much ease as in the past.

You know what else would help shorten starts? Having CC Sabathia in the bullpen.

Seriously, though, the Yankees pen is not a problem. The bullpen had a 3.79 ERA last year and led the AL in strike outs. They can use Damaso Marte and Brian Bruney to shorten games and have a plethora of other options that can spell Mariano Rivera when necessary. Considering that around 25 percent of a set-up man’s appearances come in close situations with the tying run on base or at the plate, the value of a nearly perfect set-up man is diminished even further. This is just a psychological “we would feel better with Joba in the bullpen” argument with little support to back it up.

In addition to keeping others healthy, Chamberlain could be healthier by remaining a reliever. There’s no questioning his effectiveness as a starter. His numbers as a starter last season (2.75 ERA and 10.3 K/9) were almost identical to his stats as a reliever (2.31 ERA and 11.1 K/9). But his shoulder injury came about as a starter, and fewer innings could only help him keep his shoulder strong.

Except relievers are generally less healthy than starters. Ask Eric Gagne, ask Tom Gordon. The general consensus in baseball is that it’s far easier to monitor a pitcher’s workload if he’s starting every five days than if he is relieving on an erratic schedule.

A popular argument for having Chamberlain start is that you should not waste a player with such ability as a reliever because the more innings he can pitch the better. Wouldn’t you rather have 230 innings of Chamberlain rather than 90?

The problem with that argument is that you can say the same thing about Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon or a number of other great relievers. Are the Red Sox wasting Papelbon’s talent by limiting his innings and not converting him back to a starter?

I wish people would stop comparing Papelbon to Chamberlain. It’s just not an apt comparison. Papelbon was a B/B+ starting prospect with two good pitches. Joba has long been an A/A+ starting prospect with four good pitches. The Red Sox tried to use Papelbon in the rotation, and that plan did not work out. In other words, he — much like Mariano Rivera — is a failed starter. Chamberlain has a long way to go before anyone considers him a failed starter, and as Sablich points out not two paragraphs before this claim, Joba actually enjoyed great success as a starter until his shoulder flared up.

If the Yankees used Chamberlain to shorten games to six innings, is that really a waste of talent? It sounds more like an incredible advantage to me.

Again, not an “incredible” advantage. In 1996, when the Yanks used Rivera to shorten games, he made 61 appearances. Of those, 15 were with the game tied or the Yanks up by one run. So that means that in 75 percent of his appearances, Rivera was protecting a lead of at least two runs or holding a deficit. As I said already, the Yankees would basically be sacrificing Joba in the rotation for around 20 innings of actual “clutch” pitching. It’s just not worth it.

In the end, in a few years, the Yankees may wind up putting Chamberlain in the pen, but that won’t happen until and unless he can’t handle the rigors of throwing 200 innings a season. We’re a long way from that point, and this debate is just a tired old rehash of things that should have been settled long ago. The Yankees are far better off with Joba Chamberlain making 30+ starts a year, and it shouldn’t even be called a debate anymore.

Categories : Rants
Comments (96)

In a couple of weeks, just one day after a public hearing and four days after releasing the appropriate numbers to the public, the New York City Industrial Development Agency is scheduled to hold a vote that would grant another round of tax-exempts bonds to the Yankees and Mets for stadium construction. The details of this $450-million bond have yet to be released to the public, and the IDA has scheduled just one hearing for Jan. 15. According to Assembly Richard Brodsky, this is not acceptable.

In a letter released yesterday and sent to the IDA, Brodsky called upon the board to delay the vote and solicit more public opinion, a sentiment a long time coming and a little bit late in the process. Brodsky originally called upon the IDA to move the vote from its originally scheduled time, three hours before Barack Obama takes the presidential oath of office.

This time, Brodsky would like more time to investigate the need for these funds. Wrote Brodsky:

The lack of public information, the controversial nature of the proposal, the undue haste and secrecy surrounding this deliberation are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the state laws governing IDA procedures. As you can see from the Interim Report, the manipulation of the IDA process including the use of a Deviation Letter and an Inducement Resolution inconsistent with each other, the artificial inflation of property tax assessments by the City, the successful pursuit of a luxury suite for City officials, the failure to consider the affordability of stadium tickets, the lack of permanent job creation, the uncertainty about the Community Benefits Agreement and the parkland replacement are issues that must be considered as the additional funding is advanced. We are particularly interested in the justification for the new funding, inasmuch as the initial funding was justified on a supposed Yankee threat to leave the City. Since the Yankees have signed a non-relocation agreement, it is unclear what justification can be made for the additional funding.

And in a statement, the Westchester pol and head of the State Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions took a shot at the IDA:

“At a time when we can’t fund the MTA or schools, the Bloomberg administration’s insistence on an additional $454 million of corporate welfare makes no sense. The IDA is an independent State agency which is not supposed to be under the thumb of the Mayor’s office. We are asking IDA board members to allow for a deliberate and open process to ensure that all points of view are heard and that New Yorkers are protected from more corporate welfare for the wealthiest corporations in our area. The spate of taxpayer bailouts of large corporations was at least justified by the threat that they would otherwise go out of business. There is no reason to provide public assistance to these hugely successful businesses at a time when taxes are rising, services are being cut, and jobs are being lost. We call on the IDA to do the right and legal thing.”

I don’t disagree with Brodsky here. I don’t think the stadium financing has been nearly as public as it needed to be. Our elected officials should have questioned this deal a long time ago. But at this point, Brodsky needs to deliver an endgame that constitutes more than just being a thorn in the side of all involved.

For better or worse, the new stadium will open in April. It’s about 45 days away from completed, and the project passed the point of no return basically the day after Yankee and city officials broke ground in 2006. Brodsky and his fellow committee members can make sure the city coffers get the money it deserves, and they have already made sure that future projects will be subject to more oversight. I guess these are small victories we should celebrate in the fight of good government and stadium construction.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
Comments (13)
  • Don Larsen couldn’t get home again
    By

    Don Larsen and Yogi Berra have ushered in the MLB Network to rave reviews. While the airing of Larsen’s famous World Series perfect game has been the perfect inaugural broadcast for the new TV station, Larsen suffered through a terrible trip to film the piece. In a story reminiscent of a John Hughes movie, Jack Curry relates how it took Larsen six days to make what should have been a 60-hour round trip. The former Yankee hurler was stranded in the airport, delayed and delayed again which is just proof that even famous baseball players go through hell when dealing with the airlines. · (8) ·