As we well know by now, Hank Steinbrenner has become the new Voice of the Yankees. He’s not shy with his opinions, and he often, according to some fans, may be speaking too much. While Hank may be the outspoken guy who enjoys getting his name in the papers, the truth is far more complex: The two Steinbrenner brothers share duties, and they seem to know what they’re doing.
This weekend, Newsday’s Kat O’Brien, often the Official Beat Writer of Hank Steinbrenner, sat down with the other Steinbrenner son. Hal, not known for sharing much with the press, agreed to an interview, and the resulting piece further illuminates the balance of power within the Yankee organization.
Hal on Hank:
“That’s what Hank’s for. He’s perfect. He’s everything you guys want. How many more papers can you sell?…Nobody’s going to have my cell phone number. Nobody’s going to be calling me at night. That’s just not going to happen.”
It’s a telling quote. Hank is the de facto face of the Yankees, but who’s pulling the strings? Considering the postmortem news we’ve continued to hear about the lack of firm offers for Johan Santana, it’s certainly believable that Hanks’ schtick is just that. It’s an act designed to get teams to question whether or not the Yankees are involved in negotiations. It certainly kept Santana out of Boston.
Hal on George:
“Working for George was not the easiest thing in the world, and one would get the impression that you really weren’t needed sometimes.”
If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about George Steinbrenner‘s current position within the organization, nothing well. For all intents and purposes, George Steinbrenner is not in charge of the Yankees. He may still be the Principal Owner in title, but in practice, it doesn’t sound as though Hal, the team’s General Partner, is working for his dad anymore. We have truly entered the post-George Era, and the transition seems rather seamless.
Meanwhile, fans who like the Steinbrenner’s invest-to-win approach can breathe easy; the family has now reiterated their position to hold on to the their $1-billion asset. They won’t be selling the team anytime soon.
But as far as I’m concerned, the money came in O’Brien’s outtakes. Hal on the new Stadium:
“I think the exciting thing about this stadium is it looks more like the original stadium than the stadium we’re in now, much more like the original stadium than the one we’re in now. So I think when you walk into that stadium, walk into the great hall and walk in gate four … it’s going to be nostalgic even when it’s brand new. It’s going to take you back.”
That is an intriguing take on a stadium chock full of martini bars, premium seating experiences, steakhouses and state-of-the-art museums. But in a way, Hal is tapping into the sentiments of the fans who didn’t try to save Yankee Stadium; the renovations in the 1970s destroyed the heart and soul of the old Yankee Stadium.
Of course, to me, the new Yankee Stadium will always seem like some other ballpark. It will be this new place across the street that the Yankees play in, and the only nostalgia I’ll feel is for the memories I have of the House that Ruth Built.
It’s a new era for the Yankees; it’s the era of the Steinbrenner sons and daughters and a new Stadium. Right now, everyone is saying the right things. How long this peace can last, no one really knows.
With a week to go before Opening Day, the Yankees have already sold 3.8 million tickets this year. Before a pitch is thrown, the Yanks are guaranteed an average per-game attendance of at least 46,900 fans, and according to the team, this figure is 400,000 tickets ahead of sales from the same day in March 2007. That’s insane. · (5) ·
When Chris Britton received word of his trade from the Orioles to the Yankees, he probably thought he had died and gone to heaven. Escaping Baltimore’s baseball purgatory is a dream come true for any Major Leaguer. Little did Britton, now 25, realize that the Yanks simply wanted him to get outs at AAA. After throwing a few good spring innings and only 12.2 big league innings last year, Britton, who turned in a fine 2006 effort in Baltimore, was sent to AAA today. One day, we’ll understand why the Yanks don’t like Britton as much as his limited numbers would suggest they should. · (43) ·
Unless you’re willing to sacrifice a kidney or your first-born, getting into the All Star Game will be neigh impossible. The Yankees however are looking for All Star Game volunteers. Be a part of the New York welcoming committee; man the DHL All Star Game Fan Fest; register for the “opportunity to win All-Star Game tickets.” The team needs 2000 volunteers, and that commemorative shirt, cap, lanyard, and fanny pack may be as close to the game as most of us will get this summer. · (4) ·
You might have caught Bob Klapisch, normally one of my favorite MSM writers, discussing the Joba situation yesterday. Honestly, I have no problem with people arguing that Joba should be employed in the bullpen, so long as they provide ample logic to back up their position. However, Klapisch’s logic doesn’t pass muster.
A question Klapisch has early on: “But who else in the American League can boast a Joba-factor?” He goes on to say that Joba “demoralizes” lineups, “softening them up for Mariano Rivera in the ninth.” Well, what exactly demoralizes opposing hitters? The fact that they’re completely shut down in the eighth, I guess. And yeah, Joba completely shut down teams over his 24 innings last year, allowing just one run. However, I’m more than doubtful that the ratio would rise over the course of a full season.
Even if Joba managed a herculean 1.30 ERA in relief, he’d still have company. If B.J. Ryan does indeed come back, the Blue Jays have Jeremy Accardo, who is rather sickening in the bullpen. The Indians have Rafael Betancourt, who posted a 1.47 ERA last year (and don’t forget Rafael Perez, too). The Angels have Scot Shields, who is usually a shutdown guy, last season notwithstanding. So right in the AL, we have a few elite setup guys.
(Of course, Boston could add a Joba-esque 8th inning guy if they moved Josh Beckett into that role. Ditto Tampa Bay and Scott Kazmir, Detroit and Justin Verlander, and Seattle and Felix Hernandez.)
Klapisch goes on to say: “The Bombers haven’t been this reliable after the seventh inning in more than a decade.” The Yanks were 81-4 last year when they had a lead going into the 8th inning. In 2006 they were 84-5 in that situation; 77-2 in 2005; 82-5 in 2004. In 1998, a decade ago, they were 93-1. So yes, there is room for improvement. I just think that Klapisch overstates the point here.
In other words, the Yankees foresee Chamberlain as their ace – someday. But that grooming process could take a year or two, which is why the Bombers were wise to return Joba to the bullpen last week and would be even smarter to keep him there for the entire 2008 season. Put it this way: Is there anyone in the organization who can clone his eighth-inning brilliance? Anyone at all?
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems Klapisch is suggesting that since it will take “a year or two” to get Joba fully up to speed — at which time he’ll be 23 or 24 — they should eschew that option and just use him in the bullpen? I’m sorry, but that reeks of shortsightedness.
Furthermore, does it matter that no one can match his eighth-inning brilliance? The team ERA in that inning was 4.83 (5.16 without Chamberlain), but it wasn’t their wirst. The second and third innings were particularly terrible, at 5.56 and 5.33. The fifth inning was at 5.00, and the seventh was at 6.50. So it seems the team needs some brilliance all around. Of course, as a starter, Joba would be covering some, if not all of those innings in question.
Another disagreeing point: “Consider that Chamberlain is on a 140-inning limit this year. How many of those will be wasted as a starter when the Yankees are on one of their run-scoring binges?” Is that justification for starting Kei Igawa? Seriously, it’s a heap of faulty logic. You never know when you’re going to score runs. Joba will pitch in blowouts, and he’ll pitch in close games, just like every pitcher.
“When Chamberlain blew away three Blue Jays hitters the other day on 15 pitches, it was a reminder why he kept the American League to a .145 average last year…” Yeah. He blew away three Jays minor leaguers. Forgot to mention that, huh?
“In case anyone hadn’t noticed, Chamberlain’s ERA had swelled to 6.14 before returning to the bullpen this spring.” Repeat after me. Spring Training doesn’t count.
Klapisch finishes up by saying that “by all logic” Joba should be in the pen. Which is true if you count logic which has holes I can drive a Mack truck through.
In Grapefruit League action, Brett Gardner, the Yanks’ speedy 24-year-old center field prospect, is hitting .379/.455/.517 with six stolen bases in six attempts. While Melky Cabrera, the reigning center fielder, is having himself a decent spring, rumblings are growing around Gardner. Last week, Brian at Depressed Fan pondered Gardner’s fate. Today, in The Times, Jack Curry looks at the player who considers himself the center fielder of the future. It’s a excellent look at a dynamic player, and as we’re somewhat skeptical of Melky’s long-term prognosis — to say the least — Gardner is a intriguing option in center field for sure. · (45) ·
Did you know that more than one in every 100 American adults is in prison? That’s kinda scary. Every year over 1,500 players hope to kick start a potential big league career come the June amateur draft, and it’s inevitable that a few bad apples end up in the crop. Lastings Milledge was a first round pick despite being expelled from high school because he allegedly raped a classmate. Clay Buchholz was a sandwich pick after … well, you know what happened there. Elijah Dukes is in a class all by himself. Heck, even Tyler Clippard was booted off his high school team because of a DUI. Boys will be boys, except sometimes those boys are really good at playing baseball.
Major league teams have shown that they’re willing to take a chance on a player with makeup issues if the talent is there. While it’s not ideal to build your franchise around guys with less than colorful backgrounds, remember that prospects generally serve two purposes: feed talent to the major league roster, and serve as trade fodder. There will always be someone out there ready to take a chance on a talented kid if you’re sick of dealing with him. And people do change; life isn’t about what they do or what they’ve been through, it’s about the type of person they become afterwards. Everyone needs a second chance now and then.
This draft class is no different, with a handful of guys bringing more than just baseball ability to the table. I’ve decided to highlight the best of the worst because sometimes the talent is just too good to pass up. Fun starts after the jump.
According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to convert Joba to a starter some time this summer if all goes according to plan. He will transition from the pen to the rotation in 2008, Yankee officials say. This is, in my opinion, good news, and the more I see of Ross Ohlendorf, the more I think he could be the answer to the Yanks’ 8th inning once Joba is starting. · (35) ·
In the seemingly never-ending march toward Opening Day, the Yanks find themselves yet again facing off against the Pirates. They didn’t take many regulars with them. So this game is bound to be filled with all the excitement of a late-September call-up game against the Royals.
It’s on YES and MLB.tv, and only the promise of potentially seeing Ross Ohlendorf pitch is a bright spot. Jeff Karstens draws the start, and it’s hard to say if the Yanks brought the four regulars with them that MLB requires for Spring Training away games. Maybe they think Morgan Ensberg counts.
Graig Nettles is battling prostate cancer, according to the New York Post. Nettles was diagnosed with the disease around Thanksgiving but put off surgery to come to Spring Training. He’ll go under the knife on April 8, and the Yankee community will be pulling for him. · (15) ·