Just like every other year, the 2008 July 2nd International Free Agent Signing Period was dominated by the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners, baseball’s international superpowers.
Wait, no it wasn’t. In a surprising turn of events, the fiscally challenged A’s and Padres dominated the market, dropping nearly $10M combined on some of the very best players available. Oakland, as you already know, landed the top prize in Michel Inoa, while the Pads used their brand spankin’ new, $8.5M state-of-the-art Dominican academy to land five of the ten best ranked players, including three of the top six. Paul DePodesta is giddy, and rightfully so. (By the way, how awesome is that DePo blog? I wish the Yanks had something like that set up)
The Yanks, always a major factor on the international scene, have had five signings confirmed: shortstops Giancarlo Arias & Anderson Felix (both from the Dominican Republic), outfielders Yeico (15 minutes could save you 15% on your international free agents … okay, that was lame) Calderon (DR) & Ramon Flores (Venezuela), and catcher Jackson Valera (VZ). Saber Scouting says these players were “fringe seven figure talents” who apparently agreed to below market deals between $500,000 and $900,000.
It’s hard to blame the Yanks for focusing on hitters because they are generally safer bets than pitchers (especially when they’re that young), plus they have a nice track record of developing position players from the international scene, especially recently (Alfonso Soriano, Robbie Cano, Juan Rivera & Dioner Navarro come to mind). Flores appears to be the best prospect of the lot, ranking the 12th best Latino Prospect by ESPN. Here’s what they had to say about him:
Flores is a fast runner and an excellent defensive outfielder. This left-handed hitter has good mechanics at the plate, great control of the bat and power to the alleys. He can easily add 25 pounds to his frame (6-0, 160) and gain more power in the process.
Baseball America backs up that report and said he was likely to receive a bonus upwards of $800,000 (subscriber only). He was born in 1992. I feel ridiculously old.
The top overall prospect from the 2006 International Signing Period was Jesus Montero, and we all know what he’s up too. The best player the Yanks signed last year was outfielder Kelvin DeLeon, who is having himself an excellent season in the Dominican Summer League. The best pitcher they signed last year was Arodys “don’t call me Luis” Vizcaino, who has been brilliant with the Rookie level GCL Yanks (sample size warnings obviously apply). Hopefully all of these players continue to develop and be successful.
Here’s a good one for you that slipped under the radar: Over a week ago, Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced that the city would tear down Yankee Stadium once the Yankees vacate the city-owed facility. The footprint of the stadium will be converted into parkland.
Bill Egbert of the Daily News broke this story on June 23, but not too many people picked up on it last week. Egbert reported on the doom of the House that Ruth Built:
Hardcore Yankees fans may wail and rend their jerseys at the prospect of any trace of one of the last great ballparks from baseball’s golden age disappearing, but Benepe said that after the stadium’s massive renovation in the 1970s, very little of the original structure remained.
“The steel inside is historic,” he said, “and some of the brick, but not much else.” The rest, including the stadium’s iconic facade, dates back only to the Age of Disco.
While the details have yet to be worked out, Benepe said that some parts of the old stadium will be sold off to collectors, with the proceeds shared between the Yankees organization and the city’s General Fund. “Everything that’s sellable will be sold,” Benepe said. “The city’s Economic Development Corporation will be overseeing that.”
This is, of course, the aspect of the new stadium that I hate the most. Condemn the current Yankee Stadium to this fate, and you are condemning baseball history. Sure, the Stadium was renovated to death in the 1970s. Sure, it looks different than it did when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford played for the Bombers. But the history is there, and even the physical structure is there too.
Take a stroll around Yankee Stadium, and you will see the outside of a stadium still in place since 1923. The windows are boarded up; the entrances are modernized. But the structure’s shell is still the same, and the city doesn’t seem too well to to keep even a part of the stadium up for the sake of history.
Over the last fifty years, New York City has done a fabulous job tearing down its history. We’ve lost Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds. We’ve destroyed the Beaux Arts Penn Station to make way for the monstrosity that is Madison Square Garden. And soon, we’ll sentence Yankee Stadium to a similar fate.
I know, for me, it will be a sad day when the wrecking ball meets the Yankee Stadium wall. A part of my life will die along with the stadium. I just hope New York knows what it’s doing before that ball come crashing through the façade hanging high above River Ave.
It’s no secret that the Yankees and Red Sox play marathon baseball games each time they meet. With FOX and ESPN fighting to broadcast every possible game they can, longer commercial breaks and drawn-out production add time to games between two teams very adept at wearing down starting pitchers and bullpens. Today, Ed Prices takes a look at that long-game phenomenon in The Star-Ledger. While the Commissioner’s Office has put some measures into place to cut down on the time of games overall, the Yankees, it seems, are not up to snuff. The Red Sox are. Of course. · (9) ·
In his first start for the Yankees, last Friday evening in Shea Stadium, Sidney Ponson was good if you didn’t look too closely. He threw six scoreless innings and emerged the victor in a game the Yankees won 9-0. But those were six rather dicey scoreless innings.
Through the first four innings of the Mets game, Ponson had put nine runners on base. He also struck out four and saw his defense turn a double play behind him. As I noted last week, Ponson was flirting with danger all night; the Mets just couldn’t bite.
Tonight, danger flirted back with Ponson in a big way. This time, Ponson managed to put 12 runners on base through four batters into the sixth inning. The Rangers, however, would not go down as easily as the Mets did. While the Yankee offense turned three double plays behind Ponson, eventually the Rangers broke through with a few runs in the third followed by a pair of two-run home runs in the sixth to chase Sir Sidney.
When that dust settled, Ponson’s tally on the evening was more in line with what we would have expected last week. He allowed 7 runs — all earned — on 9 hits and 3 walks. He struck out just one, and his ERA with the Yanks is now 5.77. He’s allowed 21 base runners in 11 innings.
In the end, Ponson’s pitching didn’t matter. The Yankees, as the narrative will have it tomorrow, responded to Hank’s threat and scored a season-high 18 runs on 16 hits, 7 walks and a few well-timed Rangers errors. They were aided by Ron Washington’s inexplicable decision to allow Warner Madrigal make his Major League debut in a one-run game against face Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi.
When the dust settled, this game tonight was half of just what the doctor ordered. The Yanks hit .390 as a team tonight with six extra-base hits. But on the other side of the ball, it doesn’t appear as though Sidney Ponson will be the answer to the gaping hole in the Yankee rotation. I’m sure he’ll get one more start against the red-hot Rays on Monday, but the only thing we can count on with Ponson is base runners. The Rays will have lots and lots of base runners.
Sorry folks, just don’t have it in me to do the whole shebang tonight. Some quick notes:
- Enter: The Venditte Guidelines. Dumb name, but necessary rules.
- CF Austin Jackson, RHP Jason Jones, 3B Chris Malec & C PJ Pilittere were named to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star team. Jose Tabata has a bum hammy.
- OF Justin Christian was named to the Triple-A International League All-Star Team. Brett Gardner would have made the team if he wasn’t busy taking Melky’s job.
- Jeff Karstens made a push to replace Sidney Ponson in the rotation, giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs in 7 clean innings, outpitching the recently demoted Brett Myers.
- The aforemented Chris Malec doubled twice while Ajax tripled. Chase Wright sucked.
- Jesus Montero had 2 hits, but the rest of Charleston’s disappeared. Carmen Angelini made another error, and Wilkins DeLaRosa continued the conversion to start with 5+ innings of 2 hit ball.
- Mike Lyon walked off with a solo shot.
Many teams have rocked Luis Mendoza this year. The Yankees have, in theory, a powerhouse offense. So can we please just knock this guy around? I don’t think it’s asking too much.
MLB.com has a a piece on Talib Kweli, a life-long Yankees fan. Says the emcee: “I collected every baseball card, I had season tickets to Yankee Stadium, but baseball is a great metaphor for life.” I loved his stuff with Mos Def in Black Star.
To keep the game thread filled with randomness, here’s evidence that Joe Buck should no longer be calling baseball games:
Couple of notes from Chad Jennings. Chris Stewart has cleared waivers, of course, and is back with Scranton. Alan Horne is on the DL with what’s being called a tired arm. It doesn’t sound serious. But Shelley Duncan’s shoulder injury does. He could miss the rest of the season.
And on the mound, number forty-seven, Sir Sidney Ponson
When the city’s cement-truck drivers went on strike yesterday afternoon, work on the city’s major construction projects ground to a halt. As Steve Greenhouse notes in The Times today, those projects include construction on Yankee Stadium and CitiField. The strike is expected to last through Monday at the earliest, but the drivers could stay out of work longer. While a short delay won’t disrupt the timetables for the two stadiums, if the strike appears to be a long one, both the Yanks and Mets could face the prospect of delays as both teams race to finish their new stadiums before Opening Day 2009. · (4) ·
When Hank Steinbrenner starts talking, you know things are bad. But just how bad is another matter.
Over the last four games, the Yanks are 1-3. They managed to beat Johan Santana but have since been shut down by the likes of Oliver Perez, some guy named Scott Feldman and Kevin Millwood. That’s quite the rogues’ gallery of pitchers.
With the help of Baseball Reference, we know some cold, hard facts about the Yankee offense lately. Since Saturday, the Yanks have 140 plate appearances. They’re hitting, as a team, .172 with a .230 OBP and a .258 slugging. While the Yanks have had a few unimpressive four-game streaks this season, this one is by far the worst of the year.
For the Yankees, the timing of this slump couldn’t really be much worse. After closing their AL East deficit to about five games, they’ve slipped a beat. Just four games over .500, the Yanks find themselves 7.5 games behind the red-hot Rays and five games behind Boston in a very crowded Wild Card race.
With the Red Sox and Rays due in for a four- and two-game set, respectively, the Yanks needed to beat a mediocre Texas team before playing the AL East’s top dogs. But our Bombers, it seems, weren’t up to the task, and once Texas leaves town this evening, the Yanks — and their currently slumping offense — will face its toughest challenge of the year. While no team built like the Yanks and with their resources can ever be considered down and out by July 10, we’ll know in a week what sort of team we’re pulling for this year and what to expect over the last 70 games of the season.
Well, at least we know our owner can pick out the obvious. Hank Steinbrenner has opened his mouth again, so we in blogosphere are ready to listen with open ears. It’s nothing much, really, just echoing a lot of the talking points about the team’s poor offensive play. Strange part of the quote: “I don’t know. Maybe a little less outside distractions and a little more concentrating and they’ll start hitting better.” Is there any outside distraction in particular that you’re worried about, Mr. Steinbrenner?
For what it’s worth, the Yanks are 6-7 since the Yanks allowed ice cream back in the clubhouse. · (19) ·
From the D-Backs’ official site: “[Catcher Chris] Snyder was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart in the fourth inning. Snyder was diagnosed with a left testicular fracture and will have surgery on Wednesday.” And you thought what happened to Jose Molina the other day was bad. · (13) ·