Perusing through The Times this morning while eating breakfast, I left their coverage of the Iowa caucuses for a quick glimpse at the Sports pages. What did I find but yet another article on Johan Santana.
Today, Tyler Kepner reinforces the rumors we’ve heard of a debate between Hank and Hal over the money Santana will command. Both Steinbrenner brothers, Kepner reports, are as hellbent on winning as their father is, but Hal is concerned that the financial outlay for Santana doesn’t justify a trade.
Interesting in the Kepner article – besides, of course, the Santana question – are the descriptions of the chain of command. While Hank has become the de facto spokesperson for the Yankees ownership, Hal considered an equal in the organization and is responsible for the money. As Kepner writes, Hank, for all his bluster, “cannot and has not acted unilaterally.”
So how do the Santana economics play into this? Well, Hank is willing to sign on to GM Brian Cashman‘s player development deal but wants to avoid a possible scenario where Santana ends up on the Red Sox. Hal wants to keep the payroll at $200 million, an amount that, if spent wisely, should keep the Yankees competitive forever. Santana and his contract would add substantially to the Yanks’ payroll. Kepner writes:
If the teams agreed on players, the Yankees would have to negotiate a contract extension with Santana, who would probably ask for seven years and $140 million.
For the Yankees, the $140 million figure would be compounded by an additional $56 million they would owe in luxury taxes, because they are still charged an extra 40 cents for every dollar they spend. Investing almost $200 million in Santana for seven years — and the prospects — is clearly too steep a price for General Manager Brian Cashman.
Shelling out $200 million plus prospects for the services of Johan Santana is indeed a price that is too high. As long as Hal and Cashman are on the same side, it seems like the Yanks won’t trade for the Twins’ lefty. As the Santana shenanigans continue, it’s interesting to watch the Yanks’ new organizational structure take place.
Adam Olbrychowski | RHP
Olbrychowski was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lettered in baseball all four years at Grover Cleveland High, the same school that produced two-time Cy Young Award winner Brett Saberhagen. He was the starting right fielder as a freshman, when he helped lead the Cavaliers to the California Interscholastic Federation City Championship over four-time defending champs Chatsworth High (the same school that produced 2007 first rounders Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez). He was a two-way player as a sophomore and junior (he earned All-City honors as a junior), but he didn’t develop into a legit prospect until he was a senior, when he focused on pitching and went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA and 61 K in 32.2 IP. The LA Times named him a “Player to Watch” in 2004, but Major League teams shied away from the righty and he went undrafted.
Last night, Gelf Magazine hosted its monthly Varsity Letters reading series. With Will Leitch’s reading from his new book and Dan Shanoff and David Zirin on the roster, I ventured down to Happy Endings in Chinatown for the readings.
Good times were had, but that’s besides the point. The point is that Will Leitch does not like Yankee Stadium, and I have to wonder if, despite the history of the stadium, he’s tapped into something about the whole experience that speaks to everyone. In the new book, one of the chapters is a running diary surrounding a trip up to Yankee Stadium. It’s a narrative familiar to many.
In a nutshell: Ride the overstuffed subways up to Yankee Stadium after buying tickets at way above face value; find a sketchy place to check your bag for too much money; spend 20 minutes waiting in a pointless security line; shell out the most money at any MLB ballpark for food and beer; get inundated with loud between-innings promos; get serenaded yet again with “God Bless America”; hear Cotton-Eyed Joe for the one billionth time; inch down the ramps after the game; retrieve your checked bag; get home.
As Leitch puts it, that doesn’t sound like fun. From the money to the crowds to the incessant noise emanating from the scoreboard, Leitch doesn’t understand why Yankee fans are so attached to the House that Ruth Built. And I’m not even mentioning his critique of our inexplicable love for Paul O’Neill because, hey, that’s just a New York thing. My answer to that question: We love Paul O’Neill because he’s Paul O’Neill. You just had to be there.
But on a lot of the other points, I found myself laughing in agreement with Leicht. I know you’re shocked; me, the most outspoken blogger on the new stadium thinking bad thoughts about Yankee Stadium.
Well, in my opinion, going to Yankee Stadium has become something of a burden when you break it down like that because the Yankees have not tried to make the stadium more welcome and because of an odd sense of short-term tradition that no one really likes. How many people fly into a murderous rage whenever the grounds crew come out to the YMCA? How many people dread hearing John Sterling scream “Theeeee Yankees win” at the end of the game? We came to the game to escape John Sterling! And really, does anyone like Cotton Eyed Joe or the other music clips thrown at us at maximum value?
Inside the stadium, the Yankees haven’t made the concession stands easy to negotiate. Serpentining lines could have solved this problem years ago. Admittedly, “God Bless America” is a sensitive subject and one I’d rather not get into here, but the security lines outside have gotten ridiculous. Sometimes, the guards check cellphones; sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they check cameras; sometimes, they don’t. It’s very easy to fold up a backup and take it into the stadium in a clear plastic bag, and it’s incredibly easy to take a camera in without anyone noticing. Considering that the Yankees seem more concerned with opaque plastic bags rather than true security measures, can we really just ditch the charade already?
At the end of his segment, Leitch said he won’t miss Yankee Stadium when it’s gone, and that’s where he and I differ. To me, Yankee Stadium is where I grew up. Some of my earliest memories are night games in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Yankees just weren’t that good and the team drew about 26,000 to night games. I remember ditching high school to get to the 1 p.m. mid-week day games and just buying Tier Reserve tickets at the game for $14, the cost of a 2008 bleacher ticket. I remember watching Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS from the Upper Deck, and I remember the crowd’s energy during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.
After this year, nothing will be left but memories. I can forgive the high prices and obnoxious music because it’s still Yankee Stadium. What I learned from Leitch is that fans of other teams just don’t get it. Maybe that’s why I find Fenway Park to be an insufferably small stadium with poor sight lines, no leg room and rather disgusting facilities. It’s all about your team’s memories, and that’s what fills up Yankee Stadium every night.
So how about those Knicks, huh? A few days after passing his own self-imposed test by coaching the Knicks to a 1-4 record over the course of two weeks, Isiah Thomas has not said that he won’t resign as Knicks coach until he brings home a title and creates a legacy for future generations of Knicks. Or until the men in white coats come to take him away. Needless to say, the Knicks are 8-22 this year and 41-71 under Thomas. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2001, and for some unknown reason the Dolan’s just won’t fire this guy. Oh, well. · (17) ·
Scott Proctor’s Arm directs our attention to a piece in The Daily News about Roger Clemens. This time, Hank Steinbrenner opened his month and smart words flowed out: The Yankees will not be signing Clemens in 2008. Well, phew. Talk about $20 million poorly spent. · (8) ·
After yesterday’s news about the free parking spots at Yankee Stadium,
Presidential candidateMayor Mike Bloomberg expressed his displeasure with the plan. “It does sound like a large number,” Bloomberg said, as he reminded the public that he controls two of the five seats on the board that will set parking rates the Stadium. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion also said that the number of free spots would be “examined and addressed” before the deal is sealed, according to The Daily News. · (4) ·
The Yankees are still not out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes, they say, and today, Hank Steinbrenner gets back to work as he attempts to figure out the team’s final decision on Santana. Or at least, final until Hank changes his mind again.
Anthony McCarron of The Daily News has more from Hank:
“I think the Twins realize our offer is the best one,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I feel confident they’re not going to trade him before checking with us one last time and I think they think we’ve already made the best offer.”
Steinbrenner said the offer “does not include two of the three young pitchers” – Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, from a group that also includes untouchable Joba Chamberlain – “but it’s still the best one. And let’s face it, we’re the best able to handle the kind of contract (extension) Santana will be after.”
Steinbrenner would not divulge the Yanks’ offer, but multiple reports have pegged it as Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeff Marquez and another prospect.
So Hank, who once said that the Yanks were completely out of the Santana sweepstakes, has once again changed his mind. In fact, he seems to feel that the offer the Yanks reportedly didn’t have on the table anymore is the best one out there. Don’t worry; I’m as confused as you are.
Meanwhile, Steinbrenner spouted off a few other contradictions. First, he noted that “a majority of fans don’t want to lose Hughes,” and then he said that the Yanks are content to “stay the way we are. We’re going to have the best pitching by far in baseball in two or three years and we’ll be tough this year.”
So what’s it going to be, Hank? Do you keep the guy projected to front what you just called the best pitching in baseball? Or do you trade him along with a few other players for one year of Johan Santana and a window to negotiate a contract extension? You all know where we stand. Hopefully, the Yanks’ brass realize what’s best for the team.
Okay, okay. One more (for now) Mitchell Report story.
This time, it’s a visit with our old friend Number Six. As you may recall, Joe Torre was the skipper of all of those Yankee teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s when many members of the teams were supposedly based on the testimony of one person using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Torre, with his Hall of Fame spot all but guaranteed, did all he could to defend his team. No, wait. No, he didn’t. Torre issued a rather equivocal statement coming out in support of his favorite players but not quite picking sides. ESPN had more:
Joe Torre won’t pick sides between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, the former New York Yankees strength coach who accused the Rocket of using performance-enhancing drugs.
“You’re not going to get me in that jackpot,” the former Yankees manager said Wednesday. “I’d rather just stay away from making any in-depth comment about the whole steroid-HGH thing…”
“I’m very close to Roger. When I say close to him, he was a great competitor for me. Andy the same way. And I certainly know they’re two proud individuals that only like to do the right thing,” Torre said. “I’d just like to leave it at that…”
“It made it look like a lopsided report,” Torre said. “Plus, don’t forget, the Yankees have so many people coming through there on a year-to-year basis. We changed over quite often, whether it would be a player for the month of May, a player for the month of September. But I think the big part of it was the access, where these two people were both based in New York…”
“When you’re talking about 80 players that supposedly were using one thing or another, to me it may be an incomplete report,” he said. “The only thing I do know is that the most important thing for us in baseball is to make sure that when we take the field, that the fans trust us. So whatever we have to do to make that happen, I think that’s important.”
So either Joe Torre literally had no idea what was happening in his clubhouse with the players under his control or he just flat-out doesn’t want to talk about it. As always, I have no idea what the truth is; I’m just telling you what someone else said, and this time, that someone else was the man in charge for 12 seasons. Take that for what you will.
Ten years ago, New York and the baseball world witnessed the pinnacle of success for the New York Yankees. The Bombers, led by no one in particular, went 114-48 during the regular season and 11-2 in October to bring home a World Series Championship in resounding fashion.
That season, Scott Brosius issued one of my all-time favorite baseball quotes. “The core of the team is the team,” he said in a July 5, 1998 article in The Times. The Yanks would go on to win the World Series in 1999 and 2000, but they never did recapture the magic of that record-setting 1998 season. With El Duque and Shane Spencer arriving in the Bronx and a David Wells perfect game in May, it was truly a season for the ages.
When the clock struck midnight a few nights ago, 2008 arrived. Ten years later, the Yanks, despite all of their wins, haven’t had as much success in the first decade of the 2000s as they did in the last decade of the 1990s. From 2001 through 2007, the Yanks are unmatched in the regular season. They are 686-445 with a decade winning percentage of .606, but when the calendar flips to the postseason, everything looks different.
2001: A heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Diamondbacks in the World Series.
2002: A four-game loss to the Angels in the ALDS.
2003: A six-game loss to the Marlins in the World Series.
2004: This did not happen. Really.
2005: A five-game loss at the hands of
Bubba Crosby and Gary Sheffield the Angels.
2006: A pathetic four-game loss at the hands of the Tigers.
2007: Yet another four-game loss at the hands of
Joe Torre’s inability to get the team off the field when attacked by a Biblical plague of bugs the Indians.
Considering that Yankee fans measure their team’s success in postseason wins and World Series titles, the 686 regular season wins matter far less than their 32 postseason losses since the start of the 21st Century.
But with 2008 upon us, it’s hard not to think about a new era dawning in Yankee history. We have a new stadium on the horizon and a whole slew of young, good players on the rise. We saw teh potential of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy last season, and we know the Yanks have a very loaded farm system to go with their offensive powerhouse in the Bronx.
It may not be this year; the first full season with three young kids playing vital parts can be touch and go. But you can bet that when the new stadium opens and another new year dawns, the Yanks will be right there where they’ve always been: Playing to win in October and with a very good shot at yet another title. Hope springs eternal in January right now.
Last week, on the same day as my trip to the Museum of the City of New York, I trekked a little bit further north to the South Bronx. Rare are the days when I find myself at Yankee Stadium without the intention of going to the game, but that’s just what happened on Thursday.
It had been a while since I had checked out the stadium construction progress, and I thought that a vacation day when I’m already most of the way to the Bronx would be perfect. A short ride from 103rd St. dropped me off at that 161st St.-Yankee Stadium stop where I was greeted with a stadium looking much further along than it had been at the end of September when I last went to a Yankee game. With my trusty camera, I snapped a whole bunch of photos, and the slideshow is below.
But first, some highlights. All links open in new windows.
- The new stadium really looms over the subway stop. The edge of the stadium is only a few yards from the downtown 4 platform.
- With the front entrace façade in place, it seems as though the new stadium will be visually appealing from the outside.
- The old park next to the old stadium is being converted into a parking lot with a green space on top.
- The Old and the New face off.
- It certainly appears that Citifield is much further along than New Yankee Stadium is.
And now the slideshow. The next update on the photos probably won’t be until April now, and I expect a lot of progress in the meantime. I’ll miss the old stadium when it’s gone.