Peter Abraham notes that the Yankees renewed Joba Chamberlain’s contract at the $390,000 Major League miminum and wonders if the team couldn’t have found a few more grand to kick back to the kid. At the same time, Abraham notes that baseball is a business, and the Yanks were well within their rights to renew Joba’s contract. That’s where I land on this issue. Chamberlain landed an above-slot signing bonus of $1.1 million from the Yanks, and he threw just 24 Big League innings last year. He’ll get his money when the time comes. There’s no doubt about that. · (18) ·
Because it’s never too early to start speculating on next winter, Jon Heyman at SI.com checks in with C.C. Sabathia. It is seemingly a foregone conclusion that the Indians and Sabathia will part ways in November. The Indians have acknowledged it; C.C. has acknowledged it.
And when one of the game’s top lefty starters hits the open market, we all know what that means: a good, old fashioned free agent bidding war. Sabathia figures to command a contract in excess of $100-$120 million, and of course, our favorites are right at the top of Heyman’s list of likely suitors:
1. Yankees. Long seen as the most logical destination for Sabathia, the big reason they balked at Santana was their reluctance to part with top pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Since it’ll only cost them money (and draft choices), and Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte could be coming off the books, they remain the favorite. A perfect replacement in case this is Pettitte’s last year, a real possibility.
Of course, Sabathia makes sense for the Yanks whether or not Pettitte continues his “one more year” shtick or not. The Yanks have money coming off the books, and one can never have too much starting pitching, let alone lefties in the Bronx.
The Yankees will go hard after Sabathia, and they need only give up money this time. It’s a match made in baseball heaven. All Carsten Charles needs to do is turn in another top season and avoid injury. The gold is waiting for him at the end of the rainbow.
So what if the game only lasted 1.5 innings? This is what we’re talkin’ about with Hughes. He can shorten games.
Update: The Baseball Gods did not take kindly to my joke. The game is back on with Kei Igawa on the mound. The Yanks lead 2-0. For now.
Update: Scott Patterson goes 1, Kei Igawa goes 2 and Billy Traber goes 1 before rain ends the game. It’s a perfect game though. Yanks win 2-0. · (8) ·
Okay, so I’m livid right now. I grabbed MLB 2k8 for PS3 today, and got home to a defective copy. Nothing would load past the Playstation 3 title screen. So I went to another store to exchange it, and guess what? Same deal. I’m saying they’re defective. Unfortunately, 2KSports and Take Two Interactive aren’t easy to get a hold of. · (18) ·
In approximately 15 minutes, Phil Hughes will take the mound facing Major League hitters for the first time this spring. He’ll face, according to PeteAbe’s lineup, what is nearly the Blue Jays’ Opening Day lineup. The game is not being televised but will be carried on MLB.com’s Gameday Audio service. We’ll try to have some updates as it goes along. Expect two innings for Phil.
Bottom of the 1st: No score. Giambi got robbed of a potential two-run double in the top of the first. Here comes Phil. First pitch strike to Eckstein. Eckstein grounds the next pitch to second. Two pitches, one out. Rolen takes a first-pitch strike. No word on the velocity. Rolen hits the 1-1 pitch to Shelley Duncan. Two outs. Johnson hits the 2-1 fastball to Giambi for a nifty 1-2-3 inning for Hughes.
Bottom of the 2nd: It’s raining, and the Yanks are leaving the field. No idea how this impacts Hughes’ outing, but I have to believe the Yanks won’t trot him back out after an extended delay in Spring Training. · (6) ·
It’s not often I find myself eagerly awaiting the release of a video game, but this year The Show couldn’t come out soon enough. I had read previews online, watched trailers and flipped through screenshots all winter, and I got sucked up by the hype. The game is set for official release today, but I found a mom ‘n pop joint that was selling the game early, so I managed to get my hands on a copy this past weekend.
The gameplay is relatively unchanged from the 2007 version, although there are some minor tweaks to the Adaptive Pitching Intelligence thingy and baserunning controls. There’s a new Pitcher/Hitter Analysis feature, where you can look at what kind of pitches a guy likes to throw to a RHB in his third at-bat with two men on–stuff like that. You can basically go back and see a boatload of tendencies for both the pitcher and hitter based on data stored by the game. Frankly, I think it’s a bit of an informational overload for just a video game, but it’s cool that it’s in there.
While Yankee blogs were all atwitter this weekend discussing the Steinbrenner brothers article in this quarter’s edition of The Times’ Play magazine, a different story with New York parallels caught my eye.
Joe Nocera, one of the paper’s top business columnists, explores the idea of the Bad Owner. Using two basketball owners — our Knicks’ own James Dolan and the Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling — as examples, Nocera explores how sports franchise owners get rich without really trying. Outside of real estate, he says, it really is the easiest way to free money.
“To own a franchise in any of the three major sports — football, baseball or basketball — is to enter a club in which it is nearly impossible to come away a financial loser,” he writes.
Nocera’s premise is a sound one: Each sports league has a limited number of franchises and significant barriers to entry. Namely, an interested buyer or group of investors has to come up with a lot of money and find a franchise owner who wants to cash out. Meanwhile, league officials — whether David Stern is behind the helm or Bud Selig is steering the ship — are always trying to improve the league’s image, and teams will rise to the top.
More important to a team’s bottom line than even success is geography and media market. “Certainly a good owner can do things that add value to a franchise. But far more important is whether the team is in a big media market and plays in a stadium with modern, high-priced luxury boxes,” Nocera writes.
Sterling bought the Clippers for $13.5 million in 1984. The team has been terrible since then, and now Nocera figures Sterling could command in excess of $400 million. In New York, the value of the Knicks continues to increase, and as the team struggles and more potential investors make noises about buying the team, the value of the franchise will climb even further. They don’t win on the court, but they win where it counts for the Dolans.
Baseball, of course, has its fair share of bad owners. Some — Peter Angelos comes to mind — seemingly want to win but are too meddlesome; others — Nocera cites Carl Pohlad of the Twins — don’t care to spend an iota of their own copious amounts of money to churn a better product on the field. Yet, when Carl Pohlad or his heirs decide to sell the Twins, they will more than recoup their initial $36 million investment in the team. Why bother working to win if simply owning the team is an obscene money-maker?
Enter the Steinbrenners. As Jonathan Mahler’s article notes, the Yankees have indeed been an obscene money-making venture just like any sports franchise. King George bought the team in 1973 for a pittance: approximately $10 million. Now, the team is valued at around $1 billion with a $300 million cable franchise a part of its global entertainment network. With a new stadium with those high-priced luxury suites in the world’s biggest media market, the Yankees are a money-printing machine.
As tough as it is to embrace the Steinbrenners, then, as tough as it is to overlook George’s shortcomings and his blatantly illegal activities, it’s tough to ignore the impact the family has had on the team. The Steinbrenners have a burning desire to win; mostly, as Mahler intimates, it stems from some tough love issues the men in the family seem to have with their respective fathers.
No matter though; the fans benefit from the owners’ desire to win. The Yanks would still be a very profitable franchise if the team was merely okay. The team would still be worth nearly $1 billion if they won every few years instead of every year.
In a way though, the Yankees are in a unique position in the game. Because they are so successful both on the field and on paper, because they have owners who are willing to invest and spend to win, they have emerged as the leader in baseball. For better or worse, the Yankees, through their revenue sharing contributions, are funding their opponents. They set the bar for player salaries; they set the bar for coaching salaries; they, much to the dismay of everyone else in the game, can set the agenda.
But as I look south from Yankee Stadium to Madison Square Garden and watch the 18-42 Knicks slump away another season, I wouldn’t want it any other way in the Bronx.
Lowry’s name was tossed around this winter when the Yanks were supposedly shopping Hideki Matsui to San Fran, and while young and cheap lefthanders are highly desirable, it looks like the Yanks may have dodged a serious bullet. Here’s Lowry’s pitching line through two Spring Training outings:
2.1 IP, 2 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 12 BB, 1 K, 3 WP (at least 2 of which went to the screen)
“The Thing” is ugly. Steve Blass had it, Rick Ankiel famously had it, and a bunch of other guys through the years have had it. I truly hope Lowry’s just really, really rusty. · (25) ·
According to a statement issued through the Yankees by Kay Murcer, beloved Bronx broadcasting Bobby Murcer is resting after a brain biopsy procedure this morning. Murcer could be released from the hospital as soon as Tuesday, but results of the biopsy won’t be available until later this week. · (2) ·