Over and over again, this week, we’ve heard how the Yankees are going to benefit from a bad economy. The team is flush with money. They have some high-priced contracts coming off the books; attendance remains at record-setting highs; and with a new stadium set to open, the Yanks’ coffers will be full for years to come.

For Yankee fans hoping for a return to dominance, that is, of course, good news. Few teams can afford CC Sabathia, and as the Yanks illustrated on Friday, they’re willing to outbid themselves to show just how willing they are to use their position of economic strength.

Similarly, not many teams are in a position to make offers to Mark Teixeira or A.J. Burnett that will be in line with what these players want. It’s almost as if they’re the Yanks’ — or Angels’ or Dodgers’ — for the taking. The rich will emerge from this Hot Stove League richer.

On the flip side of this economic argument are posts such as this one from Buster Olney. Somewhat spuriously, Olney, playing off of a column by Richard Griffin, claims that this off-season will prove the popularity of the hidden gem or the free-agent bargain. “All of the baseball world is looking for a bargain, so Penny, Johnson and Pettitte could have a wide range of choices,” he writes.

For his part, Griffin parlays the story of Randy Johnson’s inability to come to terms with the Diamondbacks as a sign that third- or fourth-tier free agents may have a tough time finding homes. For once, I’m inclined to believe that it’s not the economy, stupid.

What Olney fails to recognize is that Major League teams are always looking for bargains. That, in fact, is the real message of Moneyball. How do you put together a cost-efficient team with a lot of flexibility and the chance to win? By signing the Brad Penny’s of the world to one- or two-year contracts. Similarly, in Griffin’s case, Randy Johnson isn’t getting a deal that he wants because of his age. How many teams would be willing to give a 45-year-old with a recent history of back problems an $8 million deal, even for one season?

The real story of this baseball economy isn’t personnel based. It’s market based. As the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Angels and a few other teams can weather this financial storm with ease, baseball’s middle- and small-market teams are in trouble. In Detroit, for example, the U.S. auto industry is in danger of collapsing. In other markets that don’t enjoy the benefit of a large population, attendance will suffer, and teams’ financial bottom lines may not emerge from 2009 unscathed.

Every year, the free agent bargains get the phone calls, but not every year do the stock markets collapse. How Major League Baseball handles the disparities in wealth that are sure to be magnified this year will be a real testament to Bud Selig’s legacy. Brad Penny? He’ll be fine no matter what.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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As Saturday night dawns on the East Coast, the Yankees have made a minor move this evening. Not quite content with Darrell Rasner’s performance last season, the Bombers have, at the right-hander’s request, sold him to Japan.

The Yanks are getting $1 million, and in return, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League will sign the former Major Leaguer to a two-year deal. In 2008, Rasner made 24 painful appearances — 20 of which were starts — filling in for various injured and demoted members of the Yankee rotation. He went 5-10 with a 1.54 WHIP and a 5.40 ERA. Opponents hit .293/.354/.454 against him.

Fun trivia fact about Rasner: His last Major League win came on July 12. Ouch.

For Yankee fans, this ensures us no Darrell Rasner appearances next year. I’ll feel a lot better when Sidney Ponson is shipped to Japan too.

Meanwhile, use this as your open thread. Discuss the Hot Stove League, the college football games or whatever else comes to mind. Just play nice.

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  • Ruining Spring Training

    The Dodgers made some waves yesterday when the AP revealed some $90 tickets in the team’s new Arizona Spring Training home. That price tag comes as shock to this baseball fan who hasn’t missed a Spring Training trip since 1997. One of the joys of Spring Training has long been the price tag. It’s a time to kick back and catch a game under sunny skies in spring. The regulars play a few innings, and a bunch of prospects and non-roster invitees duke it out for the rest of the day. To charge $90 for what should be a $20 experience seems a bit excessive. But if the market can support, who am I to argue with economics? · (10) ·

The best way to understand Chien-Ming Wang‘s popularity in Taiwan is to compare him to the Beatles in the mid-1960s. So this week, when Chien-Ming Wang finally returned home to his native country for a few weeks, an adoring press corps was there to greet him. The news about the Yanks’ ace right-hander’s foot was encouraging as well.

According to the Taiwanese news, Wang says his foot is completely healed, and he had been throwing three times a week as part of his rehab program. The News Agency reported earlier this week:

Taiwan-born New York Yankees starter Wang Chien-ming returned to Taiwan yesterday morning and pronounced his right foot injury that forced him to miss the last four months of the season completely healed.

Wang, who suffered the foot injury while rounding third base in an interleague game against the Houston Astros on June 15, had to delay his return to Taiwan for several weeks to rehabilitate the foot in the United States following the end of the baseball season…

Wang said the Yankees have arranged a special training program for him during his time in Taiwan to help strengthen his foot, with the program including cycling and weightlifting exercises, but no jogging. Since being diagnosed as completely healed, Wang said, he has been throwing three times a week, including one session last month where he threw fifty pitches and “felt really good” afterwards.

Wang also let slip some details about his next few months. The so-called “Pride of Taiwan” won’t be participating in the World Baseball Classic because Brian Cashman doesn’t want him to. That’s the right call. By the time the WBC rolls around, it will have been nine months since Wang last appeared in game action. There’s no need to throw him into the middle of a heated international competition.

The sinker specialist also hopes to be on the mound come Opening Day. For that, I say, much depends on CC. It is very encouraging to hear that Wang is feeling good.

Categories : Pitching
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  • The Peavy rumors just won’t die

    According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yanks and Padres held “numerous discussions” about Jake Peavy during the GM meetings. Supposedly, the Braves and Cubs, Peavy’s top two destinations, are out of the running, and this trade may come down to the Yanks and Angels. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that whichever of these two teams doesn’t land CC Sabathia will push hard for Peavy. · (98) ·

On the first day of the free agent signing period, the Yankees gave to CC the biggest contract offer for a pitcher in the history of baseball. The offer is for six years and around $140 million. No one has reported on the exact figure.

This is no small offer. The Yankees have expressed their intentions. They want CC Sabathia, and they will pay through the nose for a chance to land the large lefty. Ed Price, at NJ.com, had the same succinct analysis we’ve been spouting for the last few months:

According to a person with knowledge of the Yankees’ plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the competitive free-agent market, the offer exceeds the record (for a pitcher) six-year, $137.5 million deal the Mets made with Johan Santana after acquiring him before the 2008 season.

Despite the overwhelming offer, the Yankees expect Sabathia’s agents to look around, but the team is confident it will end up with the top bid. Whether Sabathia, who prefers the National League, goes strictly for the most money remains to be seen.

That last line is key. If Sabathia wants to play on the West Coast or in the NL, the only thing the Yanks can do is toss more money his way. The Bombers will always out-bid the next highest contract offer. At some point, it will come down to what Sabathia wants, and at that point, it will be out of the Steinbrenners’ and Brian Cashman‘s hands. That’s a little bit of a harrowing thought.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Doug Melvin sounds like a man resigned to his fate. The Brewers GM was incredulous when he heard of the Yanks’ offer. “It sounds like they’re overbidding,” Melvin said. “If the speculation is true that we’ve offered CC $100 million, why would you offer $140 million? Why wouldn’t you offer $110 million?”

The Yanks are offering up that much simply to blow away Sabathia. If they exceed everyone by such a large margin, the Yanks won’t have to worry too much about the competition.

Meanwhile, Hank, the ineffectual voice, told the media that the Yanks want everyone. It’s quite possible that three free agent hurlers will end up in the Bronx this year. That would probably be an unprecedented haul, but if I’ve learned one thing about the Hot Stove League over the years, it’s that we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Free agency official started today, but unsurprisingly no big names came off the board. The Yanks did make their presence known however, dropping a 6 year, $140M offer in the lap of CC Sabathia. Right in line with the megadeal the Mets gave Johan Santana despite bidding against no one, this is just the start of what figures to be a rather intense negotiation.The Yanks are expected to tender offers to AJ Burnett & Derek Lowe in the coming days, which is more due diligence than anything.

No free agents signed today, and none are expected too anytime soon. The first major free agent to sign last year was Torii Hunter, who didn’t give it to the Angels until late November. It’s a marathon, not a race sprint; there’s still more than three months until pitchers & catchers have to show up in Tampa.

Your New York sports docket is empty tonight, unless you count the Knicks taking on Seattle Oklahoma City at the Gardner. Here’s your open thread for the night. Talk whatever’s on your mind, but keep it civilized.

Categories : Open Thread
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Carl Pavano is so tired

By in Whimsy. Tags: · Comments (22) ·

I’ve been sitting on this for a few days just because we’ve had better things to talk about. But since it’s Friday afternoon, and everyone enjoys humor on Friday afternoon, let’s make fun of Carl Pavano.

In an article about the mutual affection Carl Pavano and the Marlins seem to have for each other this winter, the long-time denizen of the DL issued a gem of a quote. “I look back at those four years with the Yankees, it was exhausting,” he said.

Exhausting. Someone get this man a dictionary.

Carl Pavano was so exhausted by his four years on the Yankees. He was exhausted by the 26 starts he made over four years, by the nine games he managed to win and by the 145.2 innings he pitched. Or perhaps he was just exhausted cashing his paycheck every other week while contributing little else to the Yanks.

Categories : Whimsy
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