So here’s a “shocker” from Ken Davidoff: Andy Pettitte is mad at Roger Clemens, and — brace yourselvse — the two of them weren’t as close as everyone made them out to be.

My world has just been torn apart. No, wait. It hasn’t. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, the goods:

“They were never as close as they were made out to be,” a friend of both said on the condition of anonymity. “They just sort of went along with it in the media, because it was a good story.

Indeed, we had one of the game’s all-time best pitchers taking a fellow Texan under his wing, a guy whose childhood bedroom featured a Clemens poster. We had the pair bolting together to the Astros and returning together (a few months apart, granted) to New York.

Though Clemens and Pettitte enjoyed working out together, their relationship didn’t extend much beyond that. Clemens is an extrovert, Pettitte an introvert. Clemens enjoyed going out after games on road trips; Pettitte almost always stayed in. Their families aren’t particularly close, although both make the Houston area their full-time residences.

When Clemens sat out the start of the 2006 season, keeping the Astros waiting for months on yet another unretirement, Pettitte joined other veteran teammates in growing annoyed by The Rocket’s prima-donna vacillating.

So not only is Pettitte, as Davidoff’s piece notes, mad at Clemens for his defense tactics concerning the Mitchell, but it seems that the two had fleeced the media. And, oh yeah, had the media bothered to report this story two years, they would have found out that Clemens and Pettitte weren’t best friends then either. But, hey, that would actually require reporting and effort.

Now, I don’t care about the facts in this story. Does it matter to me if Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are friends? No. Do I care if they’re close or not? No. It impacts my life and the Yankees about as much as that overblown story concerning the quote-unquote fight that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are in. Whatever. This is baseball, not high school.

But this story matters because it’s yet another example of how the media gets things wrong. Switching gears for one minute, if you take a peak at The New York Times’ coverage of Saturday’s Democratic caucuses in Nevada, the article leads with the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton captured more votes than her opponents, and then the reporters conveniently slip in the fact that Senator Barack Obama will actually get more national delegates. You know how one becomes a presidential candidate? By capturing more national delegates. So who really won, other than the people reporting the story and selling papers?

This story from Nevada and the Clemens-Pettitte story are from opposite sides of the news spectrum. One is about a highly-charged partisan battle for the chance to run for the White House; the other focuses on two baseball players from Texas who are dealing with accusations from a shoddy report. Yet, these stories both have one thing in common: They are complex issues with shades of gray that media insists on presenting in black and white.

Everything is win or lose. Clinton either wins the most votes or loses the most votes; forget the more important delegate count. Clemens and Pettitte either are best friends because they follow each other to Houston or not. There is absolutely no leeway for anything else. Maybe Clemens and Pettitte were friends, but the Mitchell Report strained that relationship. Maybe Davidoff is right or maybe not. How are we to judge a story when, three years later, the media basically says they covered it wrong the first time? Does anyone care what the facts are?

There is, of course, one final explanation that would get the media off the hook, at least in this one case. Roger Clemens planted this story about his non-friendship with Andy Pettitte so that when Congress questions him about Pettitte’s admitted HGH use, he can avoid answering by pointing to the “revelation” that the two aren’t that close. I wouldn’t put that past the Rocket; would you?

Nothing in this post is an endorsement of any political candidate or party. I don’t care for whom you choose to vote. Please leave the partisan politics outside of the comments.

Categories : NYC Sports Media
Comments (26)

This one comes from Vincent Gennaro, consultant to Major League Baseball and baseball economics expert. His headline says it all: Santana not worth the tariff.

Santana is only one season from free agency, so much of his value is shifting from the team to the player, yet the Twins seem to be pricing Santana as if he has two or three years remaining until free agency. This trade is basically free-agent signing with a tariff tacked on – a payment to the Twins in the form of promising low-salaried prospects in exchange for the right to sign Santana to a long-term contract without a bidding war.

This is the same thing we’ve been saying here all winter, preferring “bribe” to “tariff.”

Gennaro then goes on to analyze the financial implications of signing Santana, both what he’ll cost and what the potential return on investment will be (i.e., playoff appearances and playoff wins). And then we have my favorite paragraph in the entire piece:

The net impact for the Yankees is a contract extension for Santana that gets the Yankees about $25 million in value, but is more than offset by trading Hughes, Cabrera and one or two other minor league prospects, giving up about $60 to $70 million in value. What would need to happen to make this a good trade for the Yankees? If Santana signs with the Yankees at $5 million to $7 million per year below the price he would have gotten in an open bidding war as a free agent next winter, or if Hughes becomes only a fifth starter or bullpen reliever, the deal could make sense for the Yankees.

I like that rationale. He also discusses the Mets and the Red Sox, saying that the deal makes even less sense for the Red Sox, but wouldn’t be a bad move for the Mets.

He sums up the piece perfectly:

Any team who makes this trade will likely set its farm system back while placing a tremendous investment – and therefore risk – in one player. But if Santana ends up taking the hill in Game 1 of the World Series, the deal will considered a good one.

A very sober analysis indeed. I know some people are going to scoff, saying that the Yankees shouldn’t be worried about money, that they’re a billion-dollar enterprise that won’t see a shortage of cashflow. Yet every single person that says that has never seen the Yankees books. This is Gennaro’s realm, and I tend to defer expertise to him.

Categories : Analysis
Comments (39)

We don’t write too frequently about Robinson Cano. Our four sparse posts about the Yankees’ young second baseman are chock full of some of our better analysis, but we’ve also written just four posts about such Yankee luminaries as Jose Molina and Edwar Ramirez. It’s not about the numbers.

We don’t write much about Robinson Cano because there’s not much to say. For the better part of three seasons, this kid — and yes, I’m calling someone a few months older than me a “kid” — has hit the tar out of the baseball. At the tender age of 25, Cano has 1728 Major League plate appearances and a career offensive line of .314/.346/.489. The Yankees have a middle infielder who, at 25, has a career OPS of .835 and a career OPS+ of 117.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that players like Robinson Cano do not grow on trees. If you look, historically, at how second basemen who have played more than 300 games at their position before their age 25 season have fared, you will find that a grand total of five of them had a higher career OPS+ than Robinson Cano. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame — Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Tony Lazzeri and Rod Carew — while Larry Doyle, the other one, is a bubble candidate for Cooperstown.

Furthermore, just to drive home the point, Cano’s 509 career hits rank him 89th overall among all players up through their age 24 seasons since the Expansion Era began. Derek Jeter, 588 hits through age 24, is 51st on this list. Not too shabby.

Now, as we know, these age comparisons aren’t predictive. They serve to tell us simply what a player has done in an historical context and not what he will do for the next five, ten or even fifteen seasons. That said, Robinson Cano is in some pretty elite company right now.

So when faced an arbitration situation with their young stud, what do the Yankees do? Well, as I see it, they seem to have lowballed Cano. The Yankees, who will be paying Jason Giambi well over $20 million in 2008, offered Cano $3.2 million. The second baseman is seeking $4.55 million, a seemingly modest total for the player Rob Neyer just ranked as his most desirable second baseman.

The Yankees, as they’ve shown over the years, are loathe to give out multi-year contracts to players during their arbitration years. For a team that spends money so freely, they are rather conservative with their players when they don’t have to spend the dough. Instead, the Yankees seem more keen on waiting to make sure these players justify their annual investments. As Derek Jeter and his contract history shows, the Yankees are happy to reward their own when free agency nears but not a moment sooner.

Earlier this winter, when Cano’s name popped up in the Santana trade rumors, I was vehemently against that idea while others reading were in favor of it. Based on what I see from Cano and what I see others of his ilk have accomplished in their careers, the Yanks could have the next Hall of Fame second baseman on their hands. Of course, they could also have the next 27-year-old burnout; just ask Carlos Baerga about that one.

For right now though, if the Yanks are going to play the one-year contract game with Cano, they should be willing to go beyond $3.2 million as an initial figure. Why lowball a kid with a bright future and potentially ruin a relationship over what amounts to small beans for the $200-million team? That doesn’t sound like smart baseball to me.

Categories : Analysis
Comments (24)

selignose.jpg

Bud Selig demonstrates to Congress that he even looked for steroids up his nose. (Photo — a a few more like it — from The Big Lead via Big Head DC.

Let’s be honest: Despite most people’s vehement denials, at some time or another, we all pick our noses. Sometimes, it’s hard to breath; sometimes, you just have to get something out. But the vast majority of us do this unappealing act far from others. We do it in the confines of our own homes or maybe in the bathroom or maybe when we think no one else is watching us.

But not Bud Selig. No, no, not Bud. Baseball’s Commissioner will defiantly pick his nose while the cameras are rolling. He will defiantly pick his nose in front of a Congressional Committee during one of the few times ever that normal people will stop and watch a Congressional Committee hearing. And he will do it while a row of photographers sit a mere five foot away from him and while cameras are broadcasting the event to the world.

Have you no shame, Mr. Commissioner? You are, after all, supposed to the face of baseball.

Categories : STEROIDS!
Comments (6)

News! Transactions! Huzzah!

Wilson Betemit has agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.165 million. So, uh, good move.

For what it’s worth, PeteAbe thinks the Yanks will settle with Cano, Wang, and Bruney before arbitration hearings begin on Feburary 1.

Categories : Transactions
Comments (13)
  • What about Bud?
    By

    Over at Pinstripe Alley, jscape2000 chimes in with his views on Bud Selig’s undeserved contract extension. He sums up my views in a few sentences:

    A strike, a steroid scandal and a sham investigation, and a revenue sharing program that allows the owners to pocket obscene amounts of money without improving their teams? Not to mention draft-slot guidelines that stink of collusion, no international draft, and a screwy (Selig-designed) Japanese posting system. I wish it was this hard for me to get fired from my job.


    Some day soon, I’ll write more at length on Selig’s tenure. Despite the bad, Selig has led MLB through the good as some of you noted in the comments to Joe’s post. But part of being a good leader is knowing when it’s time to step down, and Selig has long passed that point. · (4) ·

Over the last 18 months or so, some of the Yanks very best pitching prospects went down with major arm injuries. It was frustrating and almost laughable at how many quality arms went down with Tommy John surgery, but at the same time it’s a testament to the kind of pitching depth the organization has when they can lose that many guys still have arms like Hughes, Joba, IPK, Tyler Clippard and Ross Ohlendorf make contributions at the Major League level.

A popular comment amongst…uh, commentors is that “Player X [who went down with a major injury in 2007] will be ready to help the bullpen by midseason,” and you know what? That statement is completely wrong. Pitchers have to relearn their mechanics and find their control after such a long layoff, and that process can be painstaking at times. Guys who rely on command and control need even more time to get things back to once they were.

Just like Brian Cashman, I can’t predict the future, so the info presented here is basically just my best educated guess, if that makes sense. We’re all hoping these guys get healthy and dominate in 2008, but in reality we should hope that they just finish the year strong. Fun starts after the jump.

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Categories : Minors
Comments (30)

Over the last few days, we’ve had a few not-so-friendly arguments break out in the comments. We’ve since removed many — if not all — of the offending comments, and I just wanted to take a chance to remind you all to play nice in the comments. Try to refrain from nasty name-calling; don’t provoke each other; don’t post your personal information, or anyone else’s, on a public forum. Remember: We’re all, for the most part, Yankee fans here. It’s fine if we disagree about something, but don’t turn it into a war. We don’t like policing the comments as much the overwhelming majority of you don’t like reading juvenile fights.

Comments (12)