For those among us interested in the ongoing battle between the Bronx and the Yankees over the promised community funds, the story heated up a bit over the weekend. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reported that Yanks President Randy Levine faced some tough talk from members of the New York Assembly over promised constructions and community money that had yet to materialize. Today, the paper reports that the Yanks will begin to dole out the promised funds in April, more than 18 months behind schedule. When all is said and done, if the Bronx gets its park land and money, the borough pols won’t care when it landed in their coffers. · (1) ·
Why else would he call them “the so-called ‘Big Three’? Anywho, Hoch has a great piece up at milb.com about the Yanks newfound approach to building from within. It contains a brilliant quote regarding the Proctor-Betemit deal: “Our people were right,” Cashman said. “We had Proctor in other forms. It was just that [fans] didn’t know the names yet.” Word up. · (9) ·
The guys over at Project Prospect posted their list of the Top 150 prospects, with seven Yankees making the cut. James at YanksBlog gives you the rundown on those guys, so I’ll just refer you to his post. I’m glad Braves lefty Jeff Locke got some love at #89, that kid’s a dynamo sleeper. I’m also glad they knocked Dan Cortes of the Royals (#126) down a peg, the guys at BA were touting him like he’s the next Felix Hernandez, despite only having one good pitch.
Update: I meant to link to this yesterday, but it slipped my mind. BA ranked the 30 farm systems based on how close their talent is to the bigs. The Yanks came in at number 2. That’s a good thing. · (9) ·
I was thinking aloud on this one this morning, so I thought I’d bring it to you guys for a public review. Keep in mind that this is a best case scenario. It’s assuming that no one completely bombs or gets injured for more than two weeks or so. So let’s break this down:
Andy & CMW: 33 or 34 — so we’ll say Andy with 33 and CMW with 34.
Mussina: 28 — could be more if he’s effective, but he does have a tendency to wear down.
IPK: 28 — at 7 innings a start, that brings him to 196, right around his projected goal number.
Hughes: 22 — at 7 innings a pop, he’d be at 154, or right around his goal.
Joba: 8 — could be 10, could be none.
Add ‘em all up, and we’re looking at 153 starts, so that’s nine that have to be filled by the likes of Igawa, Karstens, Rasner, Wright, White, Marquez, and Horne. Not too shabby.
Of course, there are a couple of further caveats to the above list, foremost being Joba. Going back to the 2003 Johan Santana parallel, he could make as many as 18 starts, but I think the Yanks will use him a bit more liberally out of the pen early on than the Twins did, and will transition him to starting later on. As I’ve said, even if he opens in the pen, the team would be wise to give him a spot start in each of the season’s first three months, so he’s not completely unused to starting.
Hughes is a tough call. He threw 146 innings in 2006, so he could probably go decently over the 150 cap we’re hearing about. I probably wouldn’t go more than 160 with him in any event, though 165, 170 shouldn’t be out of the question.
And, of course, Mussina’s 28 starts depend wholly on his effectiveness. Hell, if he could hit 30 starts, that would be amazing. Even at a 4.40 or 4.50 ERA, he could carry value.
Playoffs are another concern. This is why I see the Yanks keeping Hughes to around 145 innings during the regular season. It’s also why I don’t see Joba making more than eight starts, 10 tops. They want these guys to be able to pitch in the playoffs. This is why Mussina is that much more important. If he can eat 30 starts, he takes the pressure off the younger guys, allowing the Yanks to free up innings for playoff time.
Then again, in this year’s AL, the playoffs aren’t any kind of guarantee. The Yanks will be fighting with Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim, and Seattle for four spots. And even then you don’t know if a dark horse like the Rangers will emerge as competitive.
The overall message, though, is to not listen to the mainstream media. The Yanks look fine in terms of starters as of this moment. If something changes along the way, I’m sure we’ll discuss it. But it need not be met with panic.
5. Brian Cashman, Yankees. Three rings in his first four years are something of a memory, though 10 straight postseason appearances and the ability to last in that pressure cooker aren’t bad accomplishments, either. The negative is one bad free-agent pitching pickup after another, leading to the new strategy to spend on youth and to go with youth. So far he’s spent on the right young guys, and that’s a big plus.
If Heyman’s talking about Carl Pavano as a bad free agent pick-up, let me again say hindsight is 20-20. Carl Pavano was a hotly-pursued pitcher, and no one knew he would make 19 starts over three seasons.
Meanwhile, for a number five ranked GM, Cashman doesn’t seem to garner much praise from Heyman. This guy’s put together a team that hasn’t missed the playoffs during his tenure. Despite some skeptical bloggers, Cashman is the guy who should be helming this team.
I’m not so keen on his choices as Theo Epstein and Billy Beane as numbers 1 and 2. Epstein can rest on the laurels of the Josh Beckett trade, a deal made when he wasn’t the General Manager, and the jury is still out on their $102-million import.
But with Epstein, it comes back to the same criticisms as Cashman should face. A lot of big-ticket free agent moves haven’t worked out. Anyone remember Edgar Renteria or Matt Clement? And had the Sox not gotten hot in October last year, Epstein wouldn’t be on the top of this list. Remember how the Sox had squandered a 14-game lead? That’s the team Epstein put together as well.
I’d rather see these lists headed up by guys who have put together winning teams with budgetary constraints. Again, with Cashman, Epstein can rest on his money. The Red Sox were, after all, the most expensive team to ever win a World Series (and, yes, Boston fans, the Yanks were the most expensive team to ever lose in the first round of the playoffs). But I’d have to go with the Indians’ Mark Shapiro as the game’s top GM.
As Heyman wrote, “He does more with less and should have made the playoffs two out of three years, despite decided dollar disadvantage in the increasingly tough AL Central.” Imagine what Shapiro could do with the payroll of the Red Sox, Yankees or Tigers. It’s not much of a competition.
Everyone likes to pick on baseball for its drug problem because it’s supposed to be some bastion of American integrity, and few sports leaders have publicly spoken out about this double standard. Well, Hank Steinbrenner is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. The Yanks’ VP said yesterday that the NFL’s drug culture is much worse than that of Major League Baseball. Where’s our Congressional hearing now, Mr. Waxman? · (6) ·
Even the steel girders will have corporate sponsors. (Photo by Ben K.)
Around these parts, we’ve known for a while the the Yanks are going to name everything except the Stadium when the new digs open across 161st St. Now, we know just how much the Yanks are going to ask for when corporate sponsors come a-knockin’.
According to a report in Sports Business Journal, the top sponsorship opportunities are going to come with a $20-million annual price tag. The opportunities, of course, are limitless.
Terry Lefton has the details:
CAA is selling the package and using it as a cornerstone for marketing efforts of its sports division. The package includes a variety of sign and marketing inventory in and around the Yankees new home, but does not include naming rights to Yankee Stadium. That means that the Yankees and CAA Sports are attempting to sell one of the biggest facility sponsorship packages ever without what’s usually considered the most valuable piece of sponsorship inventory. That’s exactly what makes it so intriguing to the rest of the sports industry.
“As the uber-brand for baseball, and sports generally, the Yankees are the only American franchise that could do this, with the possible exception of the [Dallas] Cowboys,” said Phoenix-based naming-rights consultant Rob Yowell, who’s had a hand in the deals that put Honda’s brand on the home of the Anaheim Ducks and Oracle’s name on the Golden State Warriors’ home arena. “But I would put any price tag, even the asking price, in quotes on this, because you are dealing with a proposition that truly has never been done before.”
…Among the biggest signage opportunities offered in the comprehensive financial services package are large signs on the highways around the stadium; prominent exposure on Gate 4, the stadium’s main entrance; several fixed signs on top of the stadium, affording an aerial view; a large sign atop the right-field scoreboard; even bigger signage on the back of the scoreboard, facing a new subway stop; signs on interior gates leading to the field; fixed and LED signs inside the stadium and the stadium bowl; permanent dugout branding; scoreboard vignettes; behind-the-plate signage and a logo on all Yankees tickets.
That is quite the impressive array of packages, and basically, advertisements will fill up just about every single available space you can imagine in the new stadium and then some. Tickets will carry branding; concessions will come with corporate sponsors. It will be an advertiser’s heaven.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about this. In fact, more sponsorship opportunities leads to more dollars for the Yankees, and more dollars for the Yankees invariably means more of an in-field fiscal commitment to winning. Of course, some of this money will have to go toward those $500-million stadium construction cost overruns, but with advertising a-plenty, the team will hardly be hurting for dollars.
Now if only we at River Ave. Blues could brand something. Anyone got a few million dollars to spare?
In a word, Andy Pettitte said nothing during his hour-long press conference this afternoon. Or at least, nothing we haven’t heard already.
For sixty minutes, Pettitte spoke to reporters and basically reiterated his position: He took HGH for only two or three days. He felt really bad about it. He feels bad about everything, and he just wants it all to go away.
But while Pettitte didn’t add much to the steroid talk, he did clarify a few of his own thoughts and shed some — but not much — light on baseball’s drug subculture. At the outset, reporters were quick to ask Pettitte if he thought of retiring. “I’d be lying if I said that didn’t cross my mind,” he said at least twice. He had a difficult off-season, he said, and wanted to hold the press conference as much to clear up his conscience as to clarify the issues.
Interestingly, Pettitte noted that he took HGH without much knowledge of the drug. “I didn’t know much about it,” he admitted. This, to me, is the kicker. Clemens took a similar stance during his Congressional circus hearing the other day. How can Major League Baseball players continue to inject substances into themselves without knowing what it is? How can they pump themselves full of chemicals without bothering to figure out the side effects and long-term problems associated with the drugs? It’s mind-boggling.
Finally, in the part that I found most interesting, Pettitte routinely discussed his relationship to the money he’s making. We take for granted the fact that baseball players play for a lot of money. Salaries, as you’ll see in a later post, are indeed absurd, and fans seem to assume that baseball players simply take the money and run. But along with multi-million-dollar salaries come the pressure the perform.
Pettitte, if you believe him, took HGH on two different occasions because he was trying to recover from injuries. Once with the Yankees and later with the Astros, he felt the need to come back and pitch as well as he could to justify the team’s investment in him and to help his team win. For players not used to the idea of taking home $12 or $16 million annually, the dollars can exert a lot of pressure.
At one point, a reporter asked Pettitte what sort of support the Yanks’ brass gave him and if they had asked him to come back or stay home. He said he wanted to do what the team wanted. “I don’t need the money, and I don’t need to go through this,” he said. If the Yanks thought he was a distraction, they could, he said, ask him to shut it down and go home.
Now, I’m not trying to make excuses for Andy Pettitte, but money does some odd things to people. If Pettitte feels the pressures of a contract when he’s hurt, imagine what players who aren’t making the big bucks must think. If they can bulk up, they get rewarded. So as baseball seems to be avoiding the subject of why and how PEDs are prevalent in the game, I think the answer lies in the economics of the sport as it always does.
For Pettitte, the days ahead will set the tone for his season. Does the media portray him in a sympathetic light? I thought the questions he faced today weren’t that tough, and he was more than willing to answer them more candidly than I thought he would. While the fans will be harsh, the media, at least, probably won’t be.
But baseball is once again left with questions it won’t or doesn’t want to answer. As players are sent out as sacrificial lambs, will anyone in power be willing to take the blame?
I’m sure this is something of a pipe dream for Yankee fans dismayed at the black hole around first base but Nick Johnson is feeling good and looking good early on in the Nationals’ camp. The Nationals have two first basemen — Johnson and Dmitri Young — and will, if both are healthy, look to trade one before camp breaks. The Yanks are definitely keeping an eye on their former farm hand and OBP machine. · (50) ·
In a few short hours, the Yanks’ first of many days of reckoning will arrive. When Andy Pettitte takes the microphone with his lawyer at his side this afternoon, he will, in effect, set the tone for the 2008 Yankee season for better or for worse.
On the field, as we all well know, 2008 is a year of transition. It’s a rebuilding year for a team built to win now and win later. The new guns are coming up, and the old guys are playing out final years of costly contracts. With a farm system rich with talent and coffers nearing replenishment, the 2008 season will continue to lead in a new era of Yankees as the old ones find their way to the door.
The field itself is undergoing a transition. In just 1 month and 13 days — check out the snazzy new countdown at right — the Yankees will take the field in the Bronx for their final Opening Day at the old Yankee Stadium. Each game will bring that ticker closer to zero and closer to the day that the Yanks and their fans cross the street for newer and more expensive pastures.
But while new players and the ongoing construction of a new stadium will set the tone for much of the season, today brings the bellwether event for the Yankees’ 2008 season. When Andy Pettitte faces a skeptical media and a very skeptical public, the Yankees will begin to learn what is in store for them this season.
Make no mistake about it: Andy Pettitte is the pivotal player on the Yankees this year. The team opted against pursuing Johan Santana because Pettitte said he would come back. They view Andy as a bridge to the new. He was very effective last year and brings a wealth of knowledge about the game and his pitching. The team needs Pettitte to make his 35 starts and to impart his knowledge to those who will inherit his position.
Looming over everything are the HGH revelations and the Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee circus, and it’s a shame to think that a report issued by a Red Sox part owner that didn’t manage to paint a complete picture of drug use in baseball could be the deciding the factor in the Yanks’ 2008 season. But here we are. Such is life.
If Pettitte can convey a sincere apology, if he can diffuse a scandal, and if he can come out of today’s press conference confident, the Yanks should have reason to hope. If he gets bogged down — as his Congressional testimony did — in a confusion of details and information, it will be a long season of media skepticism and abuse at the hands of harsh fans in Boston and Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
Here we go. Let’s hope everything gets off on the right foot.