Setting the table with Derek and Brett

As Joe Girardi held forth this morning on the first day of camp, the Yankees plan to head into 2011 with their newly-resigned Captain as the team’s leadoff hitter. Despite his hitting a career-low .270/.340/.370, Jeter will not fall in the batting order.

“We signed him to be our shortstop and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter,” the Yanks’ skipper said of his captain.”he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball.”

Girardi, very good at speaking for reporters in baseball platitudes, continued with his praise of Jeter. Noting that by September, Girardi believed Jeter to be back at his Jeterian levels, he expressed utmost faith in the current leadoff hitter. “He’s very in tune with what his role is as the captain of the New York Yankees, as the leadoff hitter of the New York Yankees and what he’s supposed to do,” he said. But all of this begs the question: Should Jeter be leading off?

By and large, American League teams were surprisingly bad at leading off last year. Overall, AL leadoff hitters reached base just 33 percent of the time. Five teams — including Boston — saw their one hitters put up a cumulative OBP of .320 or lower, and the Indians managed to put their number one hitters on base just 29.4 percent of the time. The Yanks’ .358 OBP out of the one hole was second only to Ichiro and the Mariners.

That lofty OBP was due to two factors: Jeter’s split in the one spot was .283/.348/.387 in 656 PAs — strange how he seemed to struggle more when not leading off — and Brett Gardner as the one hitter reached base 41.2 percent of the time. As much as Yankee fans groaned over Jeter’s 2010 struggles, as a leadoff hitter, he was better than average.

The numbers grow even more intriguing when we isolate only the first at-bat of the game. In essence, that’s when the leadoff hitter gets to shine, and both Jeter and Gardner — the only two Yankees to start a game in 2010 — did so. Showing no power, Jeter hit .304 with a .365 on-base percentage in 137 plate appearances to start the game while Brett Gardner reached base in 15 of his 25 leadoff ABs. That’s a whopping .600 on-base percentage in a very small sample. For comparison’s sake, the cumulative OBP for AL batters who started the game was just .311.

All of that is to say that the Yanks have two seemingly viable leadoff options. We can’t right now conclusively say that Brett Gardner is a better choice to bat first than Jeter. He’s not going to maintain a .600 OBP in the first inning over the course of 140 games, but his willingness to take a walk and his ability to work the count and make contact leads to good things. Jeter, on the other hand, is the long-time vet who hasn’t yet hit himself out of the spot in the lineup. If he struggles again this year, though, the Yanks have another leadoff hitter on deck.

Perhaps, though, the ideal lineup would allow Gardner to showcase his skills leading off. The Yanks slotted Jeter into the one hole to avoid the endless double plays into which he kept hitting, but by having Gardner bat first, the Yanks can use his wheels to keep Jeter from creating two outs with one swing. It’s a thought at least.

For now, though, the lineup will have a familiar look to it. Derek, the incumbent, will bat leadoff, and Brett the upstart will likely be breathing down his neck. Having two potential leadoff candidates should be a nice luxury for the Yanks this year indeed.

The RAB Fantasy Baseball League(s)

Well, it’s that time of year again. Last year we had nine leagues, and it looks like our master plan of relegation and all that won’t happen. It seemed a little too ambitious at the time, but so be it. First thing we have to do is get the leagues back open and see who’s returning. I’ve already renewed my league, and if you were commissioner of one of the other eight, please go to Yahoo! and renew yours today. If you don’t want to be commish anymore, renew the league and invite everyone back, then let me know.

Let’s give everyone a chance to accept the invites before we start filing empty spots, so check back in next Monday for another update.

Open Thread: Spring Training TV Schedule

Musta been watching Montero take BP. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you know what I love? Watching the Yankees play baseball. Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training, real live games aren’t far off. After the jump is a list of which exhibition games will be on television for all to enjoy (all times ET), the first of which is less than two weeks away. Otherwise here’s the open thread for the night, just in case you’re a loser like me and not doing anything for the holiday. The Nets are the only local team in action, making tonight that much more depressing…
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Two great Yanks blogs become one

If you read any Yanks blogs other than RAB, I’d guess that Yankeeist and TYU are among them. If you’re an astute reader, and I know you are, you might have noticed that those blogs no longer exist on our blogroll. That’s because they’ve merged. Head on over to The Yankee Analysts to read content from Larry, Moshe, and the rest of both blogs.

It’s (finally) official: Andruw Jones is a Yankee

At long last, the Yankees have officially announced that they have signed outfielder Andruw Jones. The two sides originally agreed to terms about four weeks ago, but for whatever reason the signing was delayed. Jones was issued number 18 and had a locker in the clubhouse today, so it was only a matter of time.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have designated right-hander Brian Schlitter for assignment. They claimed him off waivers from the Cubs last month, but they have more pitchers in camp on minor league contracts than they know what to do with. Schlitter was nothing more than an up-and-down guy, so he drew the short straw. I’m surprised that Reegie Corona lived to see yet another day.

Bidding war could damper Yanks’ radio signal

Ma & Pa Pinstripe could find their radio tenures soon coming to an end. (Murawinski/Daily News)

With the Yanks’ radio deal with WCBS AM 880 expiring after the end of the 2011 season, rumors of a potential switch to another station along the dial are swirling. As Bob Raissman reported in the Daily News this weekend, the Yankee brass would like to cash in on the value of their radio rights, and other prominent media companies — including ESPN — are prepared to enter the bidding.

This isn’t the first time this winter that Raissman has broached the topic of the Yanks’ radio machinations. In November, he questioned the futures of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. If the Yankees switch frequencies, the new station managers may opt to bring in their own on-air talent. Sterling and Waldman, after all, elicit strong reactions — few positive — from Yankee fans, and fresh blood could drive up the ratings.

But before the personnel decisions are to be made, the Yanks must secure a good deal for themselves. They currently earn $13 million a year from WCBS, but as Raissman notes, the club would rather get Red Sox money — $18 million a year. In a bad market for radio, could the team cash in? If the right outlet enters a bidding war, they certainly could, but the fans might lose out.

Raissman notes that ESPN-1050 with its weak and confined signal could be a likely landing space. He writes:

ESPN-1050 will be a player for Yankees rights. It could play the role of the “desperate” outlet. Acquiring Yankee baseball would instantly fill a huge void for a station hustling for ratings, bringing it higher visibility from a vast audience that has no idea ESPN-1050 even exists. A 1050 partnership with the Yankees would instantly turn up the competitive heat on WFAN, home of the Mets, by increasing – probably significantly – 1050’s ratings.

There’s a major stumbling block for ESPN-1050 – its weak signal. Two Dixie Cups attached by a string is a powerhouse by comparison. Seriously though, Yankees brass probably doesn’t want its games airing on a station with – literally – no juice.

ESPN can alleviate the problem by purchasing a station with a strong signal. Industry sources say ESPN has shown interest in buying RXP 101.9, an FM station owned by Emmis Communications. Emmis was asking $125 million for the station, but the price has apparently dropped to $100 million. If ESPN does not acquire a station with a big-time signal, but comes in with the highest bid, would the Yankees decide to glom the money at the expense of being stuck on 1050?

The Cardinals tried a similar move in 2005, but it backfired. Fan complaints pushed them back to the KMOX powerhouse this year, and the Yanks were certainly watching that saga unfold. Meanwhile, Raissman notes that the Yanks could try to push the Mets off of WFAN or they could buy their own radio station spots by purchasing time on another network.

No matter how this ends, two off-field storylines here are worth watching. The first concerns Sterling and Waldman. Older fans seem to enjoy Sterling’s histrionics while younger fans would prefer a better broadcaster. Will the next radio broadcaster opt for traditional or change? Second, will the Yanks flip to a weaker signal? Fans in Connecticut and New Jersey simply cannot get ESPN 1050 over the air, and the Yanks would alienate a significant portion of the fan base if they do. Such a change could have far-reaching ramifications for the club looking to cash in on valuable broadcast rights.

The RAB Radio Show: February 14, 2011

It’s pitchers and catchers day, which means that we get to invent some news. A few items swirled around camp on the first day, including bits about CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain. We look at that and a few other items of note.

Podcast run time 17:23

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