Yanks still trying to bring NHL’s Winter Classic to Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium hosted its third college football game this weekend, as Rutgers beat Army by a score of 27-12 on Saturday. While at the game, Mark Herrmann asked Lonn Trost about possible future non-baseball sporting events at Yankee Stadium, to which the team’s CEO responded “Hopefully, we’ll have hockey here.”

The Yankees tried to bring the NHL’s annual Winter Classic to the Bronx three years ago, but conflicts with other events at the Stadium prevented it from happening. The Rangers are playing in this year’s outdoor exhibition, but it will be played at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia on New Years’ Day. There are rumblings that the 2013 Winter Classic will played at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan, so Trost might not get his wish until 2014 at the earliest. Whenever the Yankees do get the game, I will totally be there.

Open Thread: Melky Cabrera

The greatest Melky moment.

I was never much of a Melky Cabrera fan, mostly because the hype got completely out of control early in his career. People were calling him the next Bernie Williams, and that was nothing short of insane. But just because I wasn’t the guy’s biggest fan doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that he was a useful player. He played fine defense in the corner outfield spots and was passable in center, plus he made lots of contact and would run into the occasional mistake pitch. Melky was the perfect fourth outfielder, he just ended up playing everyday most of the time.

The Yankees signed Melky out of the Dominican Republic on this date ten years ago, paying him a $175k signing bonus. He was a fan favorite because he played with a lot of energy and had a knack for walk-off hits, plus the cool name didn’t exactly hurt his cause. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

In other historical Yankees transactions news, today is also the 20th anniversary of Ramiro Mendoza signing as 19-year-old free agent out of Panama, and it’s also the third anniversary of the Nick Swisher trade heist. So hooray for that.

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Here is your open thread for the night. The late football game as the Patriots at the Jets (8:20pm ET on NBC), and the Islanders are playing on the west coast a little later on. You can talk about anything you want here, the thread is all yours.

Noesi continues to dominate in winter ball

Jose Quintana signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. (UPDATE: He’s on their 40-man roster, so apparently it was a big league contract.) The 22-year-old southpaw broke out with High-A Tampa this year (2.96 FIP in 102 IP), but became a free agent after the season. For shame, I was looking forward to seeing the follow-up performance. Oh, and Jeff Marquez signed with the Mariners, but I don’t think anyone will lose any sleep over that one.

By the way, the Arizona Fall League season ends next Thursday, with the Championship Game scheduled for Saturday. Phoenix has the worst record in the league and has already been eliminated from postseason play.

AzFL Phoenix (5-0 win over Scottsdale) Wednesday’s game
Rob Segedin, LF: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – threw a runner out at third
Ronnie Mustelier, 3B: 0 for 4
Dan Burawa, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 13 of 19 pitches were strikes (68.4%)

DWL Licey (5-1 win over Gigantes) Wednesday’s game
Hector Noesi, RHP: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 11-1 GB/FB – damn Hector, way to go … 17 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 12 K, 27-3 GB/FB in his last three starts

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Mailbag: Trading Soriano

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Kevin asks: Does Rafael Soriano have a no-trade clause? If he doesn’t, his $9 million a year contract might look good for other teams in the market for a closer after seeing what Jonathan Papelbon got for his contract. Is that feasible? And what kind of value can the Yankees get back?

Soriano’s contract does not have any kind of no-trade protection, but it’s also not worth $9M per year. He’ll make $11M in 2012 then another $14M in 2013. Papelbon’s contract (four years and $50M with a fifth year vesting option) is pretty ridiculous, but I don’t think it makes Soriano more attractive to other teams for a number of reasons.

For one, Papelbon is just straight up better than Soriano, he’s better and he doesn’t come with the same injury concerns. Remember, Rafi is coming off a disappointing season that included nearly three months on the shelf with an elbow problem. Secondly, the two contracts are worth just about the same amount of money in average annual value, so you’re getting a lesser reliever for the same amount of cash. The only difference is that you’re getting two years of Soriano instead of four years of Papelbon. Thirdly, instead of giving up a draft pick, you’re giving up some kind of non-useless player in a trade, and that non-useless player has more value than a draft pick, even a first rounder.

You don’t see too many high-end relievers get traded these days, but we do have a decent comparable in Mike Adams. The Rangers gave up two pretty good (but not elite) Double-A starting pitching prospects for a year and a half of Adams, but his salary is about a quarter of Soriano’s, maybe a third if he gets a big arbitration raise this winter. He’s also better than Soriano, and has been healthier in recent years (he’s definitely had his own injury problems though). You’ve got to adjust down a bit because of those two factors, so instead of two pretty good Double-A prospects, you’d be getting what … one good Double-A prospect? Maybe a useful Triple-A player that figures to be a bench player or something? I really don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.

Either way, I can’t imagine the return will be enough to justify a trade. I’m no fan of Soriano’s contract, but he can definitely be a valuable member of the team when healthy. If anything, I’d say wait until Joba Chamberlain comes back from Tommy John surgery to trade him. If they end up moving Soriano this offseason then lose David Robertson (or even Mariano Rivera) for a period of time, suddenly the bullpen is real short and we’re looking at Boone Logan, Eight Inning Guy™. We didn’t see the real Soriano this season, but let’s hope we do in 2012.

Montero talks Wilson Ramos, still plans to go home this winter

By now you’ve heard about the ordeal endured by Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped from his home (at gunpoint) in Venezuela before being rescued two days later. Jesus Montero grew up near Ramos and played with him as a kid, so the incident hit a little closer to home for him. “He is my friend,” said Montero to Roger Rubin. “I felt sad because I’ve known him for a long time. I was really worried when I saw the news. I was crying a little bit. It’s not an easy situation he was living. Thank God everything is fine and the police, they took care of it.”

Despite Ramos’ incident and several others in recent years, Montero is still planning to go home to Venezuela for about a month in December. “You’ve got to be careful where you go or where you are,” he said to Dan Martin. “Venezuela is not easy. You’ve got to know where you’re at and you’ll be good.” Montero hasn’t hired any kind of private security, he just plans to stay at home and with his family a lot, and be extra cautious when he goes out. After his trip home, he’s heading to Miami to train with Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Long.

Fans & Role Models: Learning From Penn State

Sports are supposed to be fun. We invest ourselves in our teams, live vicariously through the players, and generally enjoy our experience as fans. But every so often, a watershed moment comes along that snaps us out of the fantasy world that we construct around our favorite sports. These moments make us reevaluate how we connect with the athletes that we follow and how we view them as people. For many baseball fans, the day Sports Illustrated released the first huge expose on steroids was one such moment, a revelation that caused many to reevaluate the players that they had come to admire. The events at Penn State over the last 10 days, and truly over the last 15 years, serve as another clarion call to sports fans around the world, begging us to pause and take stock of how we lionize those who play or run the games we love.

Jerry Sandusky was a pillar of the Penn State community. A defensive coach who was once the heir apparent to Joe Paterno, he was the driving force behind Linebacker U, an identity that defined Penn State football for a long time. He also ran a large charity for children and young adults, dedicating countless hours to providing disadvantaged children with important services. Sandusky was well respected in the community and was widely regarded as an integral member of the Penn State family. Meanwhile, Joe Paterno was practically God at State College. When a number of school officials showed up at his door and asked him to retire in 2004, he respectfully refused, showed them out, and kept coaching. A local institution who has been at Penn State for 60 years, he was very much a benevolent ruler who was loved by most in that little slice of Pennsylvania. He was well know for being a good man, a strong educator, and a fierce competitor.

These are some, but not all, of the men at the center of the most heinous sports scandal of our time. Sandusky is alleged to have molested or raped at least eight children, with rumors suggesting the actual number is likely closer to 20. Later, Paterno was informed by underlings that something untoward was occurring, and he allowed the whole issue to be swept under the rug on his watch. While Paterno’s was clearly a much lesser offense, it showed a startling lack of judgment and fortitude from a man who was revered as being a pillar of integrity. These are terrible and despicable actions taken by individuals who many assumed to be excellent citizens and fine leaders of men. The question I am left with as a sports fan is, how do we connect with players and leaders in the future? How can we observe this atrocity and just return to lionizing players as being courageous or moral when we really know little about them? How can we watch the Penn State fanbase have the rug pulled out from under them and then just get right back on that rug ourselves?

It’s an obvious lesson that we can take from this atrocious story: we don’t really know athletes and coaches at all. We view them through the prism of the media, sitting a distance while journalists try to coax illuminating answers from largely unwilling subjects. We watch them answer a few questions and then think we can understand what motivates them. But there is a large distance between our couches and their minds, and our picture of their personal attributes is flawed and incomplete at best.

The first instinct upon coming to this realization is to swear off connecting with athletes at all, to treat them as automatons who perform athletic feats to entertain us. But that approach steals some of the joy from sports as well. Our love for stories built around heroes and villains is an integral thread in the tapestry of sports, and distancing ourselves from making character judgments of players would eviscerate that element of fandom.

Instead, there’s an important line we can draw between admiring someone for what he does and making a full scale character judgment as to what kind of person he is. Everyone is entitled to have their sports heroes, but it’s important not to diminish or neglect that “sports” qualifier and simply revere people we barely know as true heroes. We can admire actions that they take, venerate their performance on the field and their charitable acts, but as the PSU scandal illustrates, it is dangerous to lionize them. When we do, we can end up being duped into thinking they can do no wrong, and may find ourselves defending them for actions that have no justification. As fans, true hero worship will often end up with us get burned, because athletes and coaches are human beings, subject to the same flaws and weaknesses that we all have. Holding up a man as a paragon of greatness and then finding out that it was all an illusion saps the joy from fandom, destroying the happiness that sports should be about. It might just be better to avoid holding them up as role models to begin with.

Open Thread: Jaret Wright

(The Detroit News/Steve Perez)

In many ways, Jaret Wright is the poster boy the Yankees’ starting pitching failures over the last decade or so. He was still pretty young (29) when he signed that three-year, $21MM contract, but he had major injury concerns, walked a few too many, and had the proverbial “one good year” under his belt. The craziest part of the contract is that he failed his physical, but the Yankees sent him to the doctors a second time and signed him anyway.

Wright managed to get hurt almost instantly in 2005. He made four awful starts in April (9.15 ERA) after opening the season as the team’s fourth starter, then spent the next four months on the shelf with shoulder problems. In nine starts to end the season after coming off the DL, Wright walked 23 batters and struck out just 21 in 44 IP (4.70 ERA). He started the next season as the fifth starter and managed to stay on the field just about all season, throwing 140.1 IP with a 4.49 ERA. Wright didn’t make it out of the third inning in Game Four of the ALDS against the Tigers, the game that ended the Yankees season.

Brian Cashman cut ties with Wright shortly thereafter, trading him to the Orioles for Chris Britton in a move that took place five years ago today. The Yankees ended up paying the right-hander $18M for 204 IP of 4.99 ERA and 4.60 FIP ball. It’s pretty well known that the Wright signing was a George Steinbrenner move, a move The Boss felt would help lure pitching coach Leo Mazzone to the Bronx after he’d gotten close to Wright in Atlanta. Mazzone never did come to New York.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. There’s plenty of college football on for you to enjoy, plus the Devils are playing as well. Talk about anything you like here, it’s all fair game.