As 2007 neared an end ten days ago, Jim Leyritz, suspended license and all, got behind the wheel of his car after a night out. During his drive home, as numerous sources have reported, he crashed his car and, in the crash, a Florida woman died. He has since been arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular homicide and, if convicted, faces up to 16 years in jail.

Jim Leyrtiz’s story is one of tragedy. The death of a 30-year-old mother because Jim Leyritz was allegedly driving drunk is tragic. Leyrtiz’s ultimate fate — a potential jail sentence of 16 years — is tragic. Leyritz was beloved by his fans, his co-workers and his family. Now, his life is in tatters, and the lives of the Fredia Ann Veitch’s family is ruined.

But for this tragedy, this story is not an isolated incident in recent baseball past. When Cardinals’ reliever Josh Hancock died in a car crash, his BAC was nearly double the legal limit. Six weeks earlier, Tony LaRussa had been arrested and charged with a DUI. For all the talk about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, I have to wonder: Does Major League Baseball have an alcohol problem?

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Categories : Rants
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  • With friends like these, who needs Mike Wallace?
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    As we all get ready to ignore watch Roger Clemens’ appearance on 60 Minutes tonight, take a read through this excellent piece at Baseball Analysts by Pat Jordan. In it, he discusses his experiences covering Roger Clemens in 2001. The focus is, of course, on Clemens’ relationship with Brian McNamee and the way the Rocket would seemingly blindly follow McNamee, who Jordan calls “sour, suspicious, and taciturn.” It certainly makes me wonder why teams would so accepting of these sketchy trainers during the late 1990s and early 2000s. · (16) ·

The understatement of the Hot Stove League may be the headline on a La Velle E. Neal III article from Saturday. It asks, “Twins softening demands for Santana?

Now, on the surface, that seems like a legitimate question to ask, but when you look at what Neal wrote, the answer is glaringly obviously yes.

For instance, indications earlier in the off-season were that the Twins wanted the Yankees to include righthanded pitching prospect Ian Kennedy in a package led by prized young righthander Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera. Now it’s believed that the Twins are willing to accept other players instead of Kennedy. Recent reports have righthander Jeff Marquez as part of the deal.

Lefthander Kei Igawa, who floundered to a 2-3 record and 6.25 ERA in his first year after arriving from Japan, also has been mentioned in talks with the Yankees, perhaps as a fourth player in the package. His salary — $4 million annually over the next four seasons — shouldn’t be a problem for a club whose payroll would drop under $50 million if Santana is traded.

Any time you can get a team to drop its demands from Ian Kennedy to Kei Igawa, the demands are most definitely softening. While I still don’t want to see the Yanks shell out all of the prospects for one year of Santana, I would certainly get a good laugh out of things if Kei Igawa ends up being the missing fourth piece for the Twins.

If Bill Smith actually knew what he were doing, he would have laughed the Yankees out of the room when Kei Igawa’s name came up. Or he could said, “No way. No how. Not interested.” But if we’ve learned one thing this off-season, it’s that Bill Smith isn’t exactly the most confident of General Managers.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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When the Yankees’ season unceremoniously ended at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in October, Bob Sheppard was out with a long bout of laryngitis. Until today, we hadn’t heard anything about Bob, and I had just assumed he had gotten better. If he had gotten worse, the news would be out there. In a weekend mailbag, Peter Abraham confirms that assumption: According to Yanks’ Media Director Jason Zillo, “Mr. Sheppard is feeling much better and is scheduled to resume his position behind the mic for Opening Day.” Phew.

Categories : News
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As a follow up on my post from Friday about the shifting organizational structure in the Yankees Front Office, Yanks GM Brian Cashman has confirmed what we’ve known for a while. The Steinbrenner brothers are taking a more active role in running the team, and Cashman’s autonomy, granted to him by George in 2005, is waning.

Speaking at a Boston fundraising on Saturday, Cashman gave the media some insight into his current role in the organization. MLB.com’s PeteAbe has the word from Cash:

“The dynamics are changing with us. When I signed up with this current three-year deal, and this is the last year of it, it was with full authority to run the entire program. George had given me that. But things have changed in this third year now with the emergence of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and that started this winter,” he said, “I’m learning as I go along, too. But it is different. But one thing is that I’ve been with this family, the Steinbrenner family, for well over 20 years. So I’m focused fully on doing everything I possibly can to assist them in their emergence now as decision makers.”

Meanwhile, an article on MLB.com has a bit more from Cash and his relationship with the Steinbrenners. “Everybody has their own style,” Cashman said. “And Hank has obviously taken charge on behalf of his father, along with his brother, Hal. They have different styles. Hal is more quiet and Hank is very available, but my job is to continue to line up the structure of the organization that can find the amateur talent.”

On Friday, I wrote about how the new relationships affect the Santana deal. Today, we can extend that look to the entire organization. Right now, Hank talks a lot — maybe too much — and Hal is the quiet, behind-the-scenes guys. While Brian Cashman knows and understand that he doesn’t have the same unilateral power that he had during the waning days of George Steinbrenner‘s reign, he stills has a very influential position of power within the Yankee organization.

From his comments, it’s clear that he is the de facto leader of any sort of transitional organizational team in place ensuring that the Yankees continue down the solid path they’ve built up of developing young players and making smart free agent signings to fill in the holes. While George got away from that plan earlier this decade, the younger Steinbrenners are seemingly much more willing to let this plan unfold.

Sure, they may be in on Santana, but right now, Hank has listened to Cashman and Hal, the two anti-trade forces in the organization. Because of that, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera are both still on the Yankees and slated for pinstripes in 2008. While some of Hank’s more outspoken critics may not like what Cashman is saying, the Yanks haven’t made any off-season mistakes yet this year, and I’m willing to believe that the Steinbrenners are letting Cashman do his job. He did say after all that his job is to “assist them in their emergence now as decision makers.”

Make as much of that as you will, but in the end, that’s the General Manager’s job. Every signing, every contract, every trade in baseball will always have the seal of the team’s owner’s approval. The Yankees — even with Cashman’s so-called autonomy — were no different the last few years, and they will be no different going forward. The difference instead lies in the mental health and acuity of the men at the top, and the younger Steinbrenners seem prepared to build up a fiscally strong and talented Yankee team with the help of a top-notch General Manager. I can’t argue with that one.

Categories : Front Office
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Via friend of RAB Mischa and Sean McNally comes the news that the Yankees — or at least those named in the Mitchell Report — are heading down to Washington in a few weeks. Or as Sean put it, “The circus is coming to town!”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), head of the House Oversight Committee, has asked some of the folks currently involved in the media pissing contest to come down and testify under oath in front of the Committee on January 16. According to the press release, the committee has invited — but not subpoenaed — Brian McNamee, Kirk Radomski, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Roger Clemens to testify. Apparently, only Yankees used steroids and were named in the Mitchell Report. Fair and balanced indeed.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that Clemens and McNamee have both accepted the invitation. The others have not yet been reached for comment. With McNamee, Clemens and lawyers in tow, it might actually be worth it to turn on CSPAN the Wednesday after next.

This committee hearing is set for the day after leading baseball figures sit before Waxman and Co. to testify on the findings in the Mitchell Report. Part me wants something — Bud Selig’s resignation, perhaps — to come out of these sessions; the other part of me wants Congress to focus on the future and not something that no one can change.

Categories : STEROIDS!
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Some minor transactions:

  • Mighty Matt DeSalvo, the Yanks’ 2005 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, signed with the Braves. This is a sad, sad day in Mike A. land. Almost as sad as when Mike Richter announced his retirement.
  • Andy Phillips inked a deal with the Reds. Kinda shocked it wasn’t the Dodgers.
  • The Yanks signed RHP Scott Strickland, LHP Heath Phillips, LHP Billy Traber, C Jason Brown and IF Nick Green to minor league deals.

Brown and Green have spent time with the organization before. Strickland is a career journeyman, last pitching in the bigs with Houston back in 2005. The Padres released him in Spring Training last year just before his $550k salary was to be guaranteed. Traber was a first round pick way back in 2000, but has bounced from club to club and got pounded with the Nats last year (39.2 IP, 50 H, 21 ER, 13 BB, 27 K). I figure he’ll at least get a look-see in Spring Training to see if he can be an effective lefty specialist.

Heath Phillips is actually a halfway decent arm, and part of me was hoping the Yanks would take a flier on him after the ChiSox choose not to tender him a contract in December. He’s a barrel chested soon-to-be 26 year old workhorse with a high-80′s sinker and a rainbow curve. He can get into trouble by leaving pitches up in the zone, but he limits the damage because he keeps his walks down. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your LOOGY sleeper.

Update: Here’s a clip of Phillips (not Andy, obviously):

Categories : Transactions
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  • Will A-Rod show at Negro Leagues Museum award show?
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    Next week, Alex Rodriguez will receive four Legacy Awards from the Negro Leagues Museum, a fine institution in Kansas City. But will he join his fellow award recipients in attending the show? With no response yet from the A-Rod camp, that’s the question Steve Penn asked in The Kansas City Star earlier this week. This will be the fifth year that A-Rod receives a Legacy Award, and he has yet to attend a ceremony. I hope A-Rod can find the time for this event next week. · (3) ·

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.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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