Over the last few days, Hall of Fame talk has inevitably followed Mike Mussina’s decision to retire.

Some writers favor his induction; others don’t. But the debate is more of the same old, same old. The people who will not vote for him can’t get over the fact that Mussina didn’t win 300 games. The people who will smartly vote for him will look at the teams he was on, the teams he pitched against and the general success he enjoyed both relative to the time in which he pitched and to other comparable players.

In my opinion, Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to King Kaufman dismiss wins on Salon.com. Many argue, writes Kaufman, that “the Hall of Fame is getting too big. It’s meant to honor the great, not the very good.”

He continues:

Much as I hate to say nice things about a Stanford guy, I think Mussina’s a Hall of Famer, but I understand and respect those arguments. But the real argument against Mussina going to Cooperstown is going to be dumber than that. It’s going to be about how he didn’t win 300 games…

Mussina got his 270 wins in 536 starts, meaning he got a W in 50.4 percent of them. Sutton got 321 wins — he won three as a reliever — in 756 starts, which was 42.4 percent. Tom Seaver, who pitched on a lot of bad teams and a few good ones, got 310 wins in 647 starts, 47.9 percent. Perry won 44.2 percent of his starts.

If Mussina had won at the same rate in Seaver’s 647 starts, he’d have retired with 326 wins. That would have tied him with Eddie Plank for 13th all time, and not only would no one have suggested he didn’t belong in the Hall, no one would have dismissed the gaudy win total because he played on a lot of winners. With Sutton’s 756 starts — including the one during the Battle of Bunker Hill — Mussina would have won 381, more than anyone but Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

Of course, pitching every fourth day, he might have blown out his arm in 1992 and retired with 11 wins. We’re talking about silly stuff here.

But so is talking about 300 wins. Today’s starters only get the ball a little more than 80 percent as often as yesterday’s. Yeah, they have better medical care and aren’t asked to complete games anymore, but they also have to face real hitters from the top to the bottom of opposing lineups, which was not true in earlier eras.

If 300 wins used to be your magic Hall of Fame number, you need to lower it.

This is, of course, but one reason why Mussina deserves a spot in Cooperstown, but it’s a relevant one nonetheless. Maybe someday, the voters will understand that. I guess we’ll find out in five years.

Categories : Pitching
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Unless some big happens, use this as the thread to discuss whatever you want on Saturday. We’ll update with new content about Mike Mussina and the Hall of Fame at midnight tonight.

What if? That’s always the big question in sports. What if the Yanks had played the infield back in 2001? What if David Roberts is out at second base in 2004? What if the Yanks had traded for Johan Santana a year ago?

This offseason, as the Yanks look to retool via free agency, what if’s still hover over the team. Specifically, as Phil Rogers discussed today in the Chicago Tribune, the Yanks don’t sign CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett? Do they even have a Plan B?

I’ll admit it; the thought has crossed my mind but in a slightly different vein. I’m not particularly enamored of the ideas of Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett. But if the Yanks don’t sign Sabathia, I’m not really sure what happens.

They may feel increased pressure to trade for Jake Peavy. They may just stick it out with the young pitchers and go hard after Mark Teixeira. Had they scored a few more runs last year, they would have made the playoffs without top pitching. It’s not a recipe for post-season success, but at least, they’d get there.

So as Saturday night arrives and baseball is dormant, what do you think the Yanks’ back-up plans are? Do they take a mulligan on 2009 and look forward to 2010? Do they trade top prospects for pitching? The possibilities are both limitless and scary.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • New York stadium updates

    In the Bronx, the new Yankee Stadium is, according to MLB.com’s Barry Bloom, 90 percent complete. The Yankees will shift their offices across the street in February, and deconstruction of the House that Ruth Built could begin as early as late March. I’ll try to swing by the Stadium in a few weeks to grab a final set of construction photos.

    Meanwhile, across town, things aren’t as rosy. While the Mets’ new stadium will be completed on time, Citi, the Mets’ naming rights partner, has seen their stock drop nearly 90 percent this year, and the government is on the verge of bailing out the beleaguered financial institution. The Mets and CitiGroup again reiterated on Friday that the naming rights deal will remain in place, but I’m skeptical. If the Mets lose out on this deal — widely regarded as the most lucrative in sports history — the team will be struggling in this economic climate to find a replacement partner.
    · (10) ·

We all know by now that CC Sabathia is sitting on a few $100-million offers. The Brewers seem willing to give him $100 million over five years; the Yanks would like his services for six years at $140 million.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a tough decision. The Yankees are offering more stability in term sof the number of years and more money in pure dollars. If only life — and baseball — were that simple.

In an excellent piece of analysis earlier this week, Jeff Sackman at Brew Crew Ball examined how these two offers aren’t as different as the media would make them out to be. First, we have the issue of average annual value. The Brewers are reportedly offering $20 million a season while the Yanks’ contract comes in at $23.3 million. If Sabathia truly does enjoy the NL and Milwaukee, would a meager $3.3 million per season be enough to convince him to come to New York?

But more importantly, is that really a difference of $3.3 million per year? Using some cost-of-living adjustments and basic economic assumptions, the Brew Crew Ball has put together a spreadsheet tracking the two offers. Sackman provides the explanation:

Depending on to what degree Sabathia wants to engage with his new community, that’ll be more expensive in New York. First and foremost, he’ll pay more taxes as a part- or full-time resident of NYC. If he wants to buy a celeb-style compound for his family, it might take $20MM for such a place on Long Island; for the same amount, he could probably buy Manitowoc.

This is a tough adjustment for us to figure, because we don’t know just how much money CC would spend in NY or MKE. With that caveat, I think the taxes alone would come close to an extra 10% bite on Yankees earnings. Mykenk’s spreadsheet estimates something closer to 15%, which isn’t all that far-fetched, either.

So…if we use the 10% number, $140 looks more like $126–a yearly value of just barely more than the Brewers offer. If we up that to 15%, the Yankees are down to $119, or slightly less on an annualized basis.

Now, as Sackman, notes there are plenty of other considerations to take into account. The total value figure of the Yanks’ offer is fairly shocking and would certainly set the bar high for future free agent pitchers. Sabathia’s odds of winning a championship are higher in New York than in Milwaukee. The players association may pressure CC into taking the higher offer.

But in the end, Sackman has a point that I hope the Yanks and CC’s agent understand. The Yanks’ offer just isn’t as high as we all thought, and perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why Sabathia’s camp has remained silent on the state of the lefty’s free agency.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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On the last page of his biography of Ed Barrow, author Daniel R. Levitt allows a long quote from Branch Rickey to close out his tome. “I say there has never been a smarter baseball man than Mr. Barrow,” Rickey once said. “He knows what a club needs to achieve balance, what a club needs to become a pennant winner. I, perhaps, can judge the part, but Mr. Barrow can judge the whole.”

These are glowing words from one of the men considered to be among the smartest baseball minds in the game’s history. It is a quote, in fact, better served for the first page of a book. Branch Rickey, one of baseball’s most famous executives, talks about Ed Barrow, one of the games most influential — but not quite as well known — executives, in positively glowing tones.

With that type of quote setting the stage, Levitt as the author of a biography would have had free reign to build up Ed Barrow’s life and accomplishments in baseball. Instead, the quote is buried. This is but one of the many missed opportunities that arise in Levitt’s informative but misguided biography of a man who deserves so much more.

For many Yankee fans, the name Ed Barrow is lost to time. But he was part of the game for fifty years and nearly half of those he spent constructing Yankee dynasties. He saw baseball emerge as a big business in the early 1900s, won a World Series ring as a manager, help bring the Babe and Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio to New York, ushered the Yanks through the dark days of World War II and sat on a committee to bring in some of the Hall of Fame’s first members. Throughout those years, he was a key player in establishing first formal relationships between minor league clubs and Major League teams and later building up the farm team system we know and love.

But Levitt doesn’t always bring across just who Ed Barrow was. Early on in the book, Levitt introduces Barrow as a stubborn hot-head with little taste for the internal politics of baseball. He is very much the bulldog in the book’s subtitle, “The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty.” While we learn this much about Barrow in the late 1890s, for the next fifty years, Levitt relies on that trope to tell Barrow’s story. At turn after turn, meeting after meeting, he doesn’t get what he wants because of his stubbornness.

While reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel that there was more to the story. I never got a sense of who Barrow was, and he seemed almost incidental to Levitt’s year-by-year recitation of Yankee — and baseball — history. Now and then, bits and pieces of Barrow’s personal life are interspersed into the baseball narrative, but one gets the sense that Barrow either had no life outside of baseball or just wasn’t an interesting enough person to warrant a biography.

When the book first hit stores in April, Levitt ran through the blog circuit. Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts interviewed him, and Baseball Prospectus chatted up the author as well. Those Q-and-A’s better serve to introduce Barrow than the book does, but that doesn’t mean the tale is not one worth reading.

Levitt’s book works best as a story of the development of the game from a pastime that was incidentally a poorly-run gathering of businesses into a big money-making business with tentacles throughout America. The appendices to the book are chock full of payroll and salary statistics from an era prior to free agency, and his superb detailing of the uneasy relationship between the Major and Minor League is a story rarely, if ever, told. In the end, Barrow, influential at the time, is almost incidental to the story Levitt ultimately tells.

Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty is available on the University of Nebraska Press. Cover price is $29.95, but Amazon has it for $21.86. I am, however, a firm believer in supporting local bookstores.

Categories : Reviews
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  • Yanks, Sox battling it out over free agent pitcher

    I expected the Yanks and Red Sox to battle it out monetarily over a few free agent pitchers this off-season, but Derek Lowe? Really? I realize Lowe is a workhorse coming off a season with a 3.24 ERA. But his home-road splits are fairly dramatic, and this guy was jettisoned by Boston a few years ago because they didn’t like his focus or mentality. He’s going to be 36 in April, and he’s not getting any younger. What’s all the fuss about anyway? · (40) ·

So how about that crazy first week of free agency, huh? Blockbuster trade after blockbuster trade and megahuge free agent deals were handed out like free samples of The Jacoby Ellsbury Eyebrow Wax Kit at Penney’s.

Okay, that was lame.

The hot stove is chock full o’ rumors but a little light on the action right now. Hell, the biggest trade action of the week came from the Knickerbockers, who completed Phase I of Operation Get LeBron by chopping like, $30M bucks off their future payroll. Not exactly what we all had in mind, but that’s just the way it goes.

Just to wrap up the action in Yankeeland, here’s a review of the week that was…n’t:

That about sums up everything you need to know. It’s Friday, go do something fun. If you must be here, use this as your open thread.

Categories : Open Thread
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Robbie needs to walk

By in Analysis. Tags: · Comments (17) ·

Tom Boorstein gets it. The lead editorial producer for SNY.tv and somewhat recent Columbia grad is slowly emerging as one of my favorite New York-based baseball commentators. He penned a great tongue-in-cheek column on A-Rod earlier this week, and today, he takes a more serious look at Robinson Cano.

Writes Boorstein:

After 2007, the Yankees made their move by giving him a handsome contract to buy out his arbitration-eligible years. How did Cano repay their generosity? By putting up a .271/.305/.410 line with bouts of horrendous defense in the field.

Here’s what could be bad news for the Yankees: There just isn’t much they can do about it. As poorly as Cano played in 2008, where is the upgrade to be had? The Yankees’ best hope is that the streaky player puts up lines more reminiscent of his 2007 (.306/.353/.488) or his even-better 2006 (.342/.365/.525)…

Cano has always relied on a high batting average. Let his 2008 serve as a reminder to those who scoff at the value of walks. Batting averages fluctuate much more from season to season than on-base percentages…This is why hitting streaks are overrated. Yes, it takes skill to get base hits. But patient hitters don’t usually end up with long streaks. That’s because their walks cut down on their chances to get hits.

What does that have to do with Cano and 2009? He needs to make sure his on-base percentage is more than 50 points higher than his average. Everyone worries about changing a hitter’s approach. “He’s aggressive,” coaches and announcers will say. “We like that.” What teams should like is “productive.” Aggressive is just a euphemism for impatient.

Basically, Boorstein’s analysis is spot-on. Robinson Cano must be a more patient hitter to be a more valuable piece of the Yankee lineup. Sure, if he hits .350, that’s great, but as we saw in 2008, he’s not going to hit .350.

It will be interesting to see how Cano and the Yanks approach 2009. He showed signs of offensive life after retooling his swing in the off-season, and he’s practically guaranteed to do better next year. But if the OBP stays the same, the Yanks may not have the player they thought they had when Cano made his Major League debut in 2005.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Yanks still want a bat

    While CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe have dominated the non-Nick Swisher Yankee headlines recently, Brian Cashman is well aware of the fact that the Yanks scored nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last. To that end, reports Mark Feinsand, the team is still searching for a bat. In particular, it appears that Mark Teixeira is still on the team’s radar. That’s good news. Outside of Teixeira, the Yanks could pursue free agents Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn or they could use some of their trading chits to land a slugger. Either way, I’m sure we’ll see some more offense come to the Bronx before the off-season is out. · (78) ·