A-Rod and the money game

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As the Red Sox and A’s duke it out in the late innings – good work, Huston Street – the Daily News checks in with everyone’s favorite third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. In an interview with John Harper, A-Rod talked about his past regrets and contract decisions.

The piece takes a different tone from others. Instead of rehashing that familiar territory of the opt-out saga, A-Rod talked about his 2000 decision to go with the money in Texas instead of his heart with the Mets. It’s a twist, but in light of this off-season’s events, it doesn’t ring totally true. Harper writes:

The conversation initially centered on A-Rod’s pursuit of a ring, but veered off into areas he has rarely discussed: The regret he suffered when he shunned the Mets in favor of the Rangers in 2000, and the .personal conflict that surrounded his decision to break away from agent Scott Boras this past offseason.

“I went for the contract when my true desire was to go play for the Mets,” Rodriguez said of his decision to ink his $252 million deal with Texas eight years ago.

As A-Rod looked back on the events of the past offseason, he seemed haunted by the idea that in breaking free of the Yankees he could have made another decision based strictly on money and wound up as unhappy as he was in Texas for three years.

The three-time MVP says that at some point after his opt-out decision in October, he realized he could have been heading for a similar scenario, with Boras dictating his next destination…”So to make the right decision just feels really good,” Rodriguez said, “versus being taken down a road where I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, where am I? Oh, $400 million to play in some place I hate? Great, I’ll blow my — head off.’ I wanted to remain a Yankee and for once I put my money where my mouth was.”

Of course, absent in this seemingly honest confession by A-Rod is any mention of the fact that he still managed to cash in to the tune of at least $275 million. He still managed to land the biggest contract in the history of baseball, and for all we know, the Yankees pulled a Tom Hicks and outbid themselves. Since A-Rod reconciled with the Yanks before fielding any other serious offers, we’ll never know if the Cubs or Angels were willing to hit that $300 million plateau.

As Opening Day approaches, the cynic in me wonders if A-Rod should just leave this past behind him. What’s done was done for whatever reasons. It’s hard to envision an altruistic A-Rod eschewing millions of potential dollars to play for the Yanks for just $275 million plus endorsement opportunities and those historic bonus clauses. Maybe for A-Rod, he viewed this as a decision to stay in New York, but he has hundreds of millions of reasons to forget his regret.

Categories : News
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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.

Categories : Front Office
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  • Britton again exiled to AAA

    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) ·

  • Volunteered for All Star weekend; get a fanny pack

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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.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (43)
  • Gardner drawing Spring Training attention

    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.

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Categories : Draft
Comments (17)
  • Yanks: Joba to start this summer

    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) ·