We all know what Hank Steinbrenner has been up to this off-season. Not a day goes by without Hank’s name appearing somewhere in the newspapers.
Part of this constant attention stems from the New York sports media’s tendency to write about anything — literally anything — no matter how mundane in an effort to fill the space between the playoffs and Spring Training. Once-a-week football games and the pathetic Knicks can only draw so many readers.
The other half of Hank’s ubiquitous presence comes from his inability to keep his trap shut. At every turn this off-season, Hank has issued a comment. Joe Torre gets fired? Hank fires back. A-Rod opts out? Hank won’t talk him until he changes his mind. A deadline for Johan Santana? Well, only a little bit.
Fans and bloggers have enjoyed poking fun at Hank, but we’ve also grown wary of his comments. Last week, at the Fast Company FC Now blog, Jason Del Rey delved into Hank Steinbrenner’s tendency to publicize his every move in the Johan Satana dealings. Del Ray wondered if Hanks’ approach represents a good business strategy for a billion-dollar business such as the Yankees.
His answer — with an assist from New York Times beat writer Tyler Kepner — is probably not:
Is this any way to run a business? Commenting to the media on every twist and turn of negotiations for a major acquisition that will greatly affect the product on the field — the product that is directly correlated to the team’s billion-dollar valuation?
The business of sports, in many ways, is unlike any other sector of the business world. But, at the same, time, could you imagine a big-time financial or tech CEO holding court for the press every time there is a development in talks for a takeover of a large competitor? Maybe it wouldn’t crush the negotiations, but couldn’t it make them unnecessarily more difficult?
“I think the Twins were puzzled early on,” The New York Times Yankees beat writer Tyler Kepner wrote to me in an e-mail.
“I don’t get any sense that it’s part of a business strategy,” he added, speaking of Hank’s general vocal approach…”It complicates the job of the baseball operations staff, but all general managers would rather keep almost everything secret.”
It’s often easy to forget that baseball is very much a business. Teams sign players for a myriad reasons, but chief among those is return on investment. How can a general manager justify a multi-million-dollar signing of a player who may not deliver? Howcan a chief executive bank the next ten years of success on one player?
On the surface, fans see it as a simply calculation that includes wants, needs, desires and movable pieces, but it’s rarely that simply. In business negotiations as in baseball, it’s better not to show all of your cards. Hank has yet to demonstrate that he can do this, and as Del Rey notes, Hank’s big mouth could derail negotiations or it could drive up the price of a desired commodity. The New York Yankees, a successful business valued at around $1 billion, would be better of if their new chief executive kept some company secrets to himself.
Unsurprisingly, Chuck Knoblauch, a very private individual who wants to put baseball behind him, declined Congress’ invitation to appear in Washington next month. So the bullies in DC subpoenaed him instead. One way or another, Chuck will be in Washington making a rare public appearance since the end of his playing days. I wonder what he’ll have to say. · (3) ·
Mike Easler’s in. The Don of Baseball cites family reasons for leaving, but he’ll still serve as a special assistant coach. Assuming the family reasons are nothing serious, I’m happy because I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Donnie Baseball in a non-Yankee uniform. · (3) ·
My Baseball Bias tips us off to this post at the Let’s Go Yankees Blog about Hideki Matsui‘s knee. Let’s Go Yankees Blog sends us to an article on MLB.com’s Japanese affiliate. Got all that? There will be a quiz.
The article, according to Jessica Lee’s Taiwan-based blog, concerns Hideki Matsui and his road to recovery. While I tried to run it through Google Translate’s Japanese-to-English Beta translate program, the output included the following line: “Godzilla’s ass with a fire.” Clearly, that’s not Matsui’s problem right now.
Lucky for us, Jessica lives with a Japanese-speaking roommate who gave us this translation:
Matsui is going to go to USA 10 days earlier in order to check his right knee condition with the doctor in New York who help him operate his right knee surgery. He will then go to Tampa to check his right knee condition with Yankee Trainers again. This is not a normal action which go to USA earlier for Matsui. He usually trains with his formal Japanese team and then reports in spring training.
Right now, Matsui doesn’t feel pain about his right knee, but he can’t run. He is not sure he can run or not when he reports to Tampa. He understands he has to fight with Johnny Damon for left outfielder job and wants to do his best. That’s why he decides to go to USA earlier.
So basically, Matsui is coming back to the States earlier than anticipated because his knee may not to be responding to treatment as quickly as it should. He can’t run and doesn’t know when he’ll be able to run.
If this holds up through Spring Training, the Yankees will be trying to fill both their DH and 1B positions from a combination of injured, old guys – Jason Giambi, Matsui – and young role players not yet suited for prime time – Wilson Betemit, Shelley Duncan. Good thing the rest of the offense is so potent.
Every now and then, Ray Negron’s name pops up in the press. A special adviser to George Steinbrenner, Negron has spent a lifetime in baseball as a bat boy, player agent, one-time prospect, all around gopher and now a Yankee executive. In a stunning four-part piece on Negron’s life from his days spray painting Yankee Stadium to his time as one of Steinbrenner’s closest compatriots, Bronx Banter’s Alex Belth reminds us why he’s the grandfather of all Yankee blogs. The tale is moving and tantalizing.
At one point, in the mid-1970s, Negron served as the go-to guy in the Yanks’ clubhouse. He was practically Reggie Jackson’s personal valet, and he knew how to please Thurmon Munson at the same time. This was no small feat. Thirty years later, these tales would turn sinister as Kurt Radomski and Brian McNamee subscribed to the “Better Living Through Chemistry” Theory. But Negron’s age was one of decadence and the Bronx Zoo, not steroids and multi-millionairs. Check out Alex’s story. The four-part opus well worth the read.
Part 4 · (4) ·
Kat O’Brien’s story in Newsday today: Nothing moving on the Santana front. Thanks for the update, Kat! Glad to see that Newsday is making the most of their column space. She even had room for this gem from Twins GM Bill Smith:
“We obviously haven’t done a deal.”
Well, that makes everything clear, now doesn’t it?
The Pioneer Press reveals a bit more about the situation this morning, though. Take it away, Charley Walters:
The Twins say they’re not panicking while holding out for the best deal for Johan Santana. But word within baseball circles is that offers by the New York Yankees (no more Phil Hughes) and Boston Red Sox are diminishing by the week. Best bet now for a trade of the two-time Cy Young Award winner appears to be with the New York Mets in a deal that would not include fast-rising hitter Fernando Martinez.
Of course, we’ve heard so damn much about this over the past month and a half that it’s tough to decipher what’s real and what’s not. But Walters clearly implies that the Yankees have taken Phil Hughes off the table. That’s good news. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will prepare an offer centered around different players, probably IPK and Horne, and if that package will surpass what the Red Sox are reportedly willing to offer.
The bigger news, though, is that the Twins are considering trading Santana to the Mets without receiving Fernando Martinez. So now you’ve got Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber, and Deolis Guerra, which is what was reported earlier this month. It was speculated that if the Mets added Martinez to that package, they’d have a deal. But now it appears that the Twins will settle for less in order to get Johan out of the American League.
Once again, this is all speculation. The only reason it’s even worthy of a post is because it mentioned the Yankees no longer offering Hughes, and the Mets likely not parting with Martinez.
I still say the Twinkies are better off holding onto him. But that’s just my biased opinion.
Two weeks ago, I had fun with a little What If? scenario involving Randy Johnson in 1998. This time, at the suggestion of Hollaforskolla, I’m jumping ahead a year to the 1999 trade deadline when Andy Pettitte was nearly traded.
It is the morning of July 30, 1999, and the Yankees are right where they should be. At 61-39, the defending World Series champions are in first place with a 6.5 game lead over the Red Sox. But all is not well in Yankeeland.
Andy Pettitte, 27 and not too far away from free agency, is struggling. Two days before, Pettitte couldn’t get out of the 4th inning against a pathetic White Sox team, and the lefty finds himself 7-8 with a 5.65 ERA. The Yanks are on the hook in 1999 for $5.95 million and are facing another year of arbitration before free agency. While to us in 2008, that seems like small beans, to George Steinbrenner in 1999, Pettitte is not coming through and the Boss has made it known that Andy Pettitte is on the trading block.
The next four days bring a whirlwind of rumors and near-trades. The stories provide us with a glimpse into what could have been a very costly move. On July 30, Buster Olney, then the Yankee beat writer for The Times writes that Steinbrenner “did not order that Pettitte be traded, but the actions of his subordinates in the hours after the staff meeting in Tampa, Fla., suggested that they were working hard to formulate an acceptable deal before the deadline Saturday night.”
That day, the Yankees are rumored to be in discussions with the Phillies. A potential deal with net the Philadelphia Phillies Andy Pettitte, and the Yanks would get Adam Eaton, Anthony Shumaker and Reggie Taylor. At the time, those were three highly touted prospects. It’s funny how things work out.
Also on the table is a deal with the Giants for Shawn Estes. Olney, proving that old habits never ever die, does indeed call Estes “a better fit” for the Yankees because he’s due just $2.15 million in 2000. Imagine Andy Pettitte’s almost getting traded because of a $4 million difference.
As the clock ticks down to midnight on July 31, 1999, Pettitte’s future in pinstripes looks dim. As Olney notes, on the same day they reacquired Jim Leyrtiz, the Yanks had a deal in place with the Philadelphia Phillies. This deal however is contingent upon another deal: If the Yanks can land Arthur Rhodes or Roberto Hernandez, Pettitte is gone.
There are a few hitches. To get Rhodes, the Yanks would have to send D’Angelo Jimenez and Luis De Los Santos to the Orioles. At the time, Jimenez was a highly-regarded prospect. A terrible motorcycle accident would change his career a few years later. To give up Hernandez, the Devil Rays wanted one of two young kids: Alfonso Soriano or Nick Johnson.
Well, as we know, nothing happened, and the fallout exposed some divisions in the Yankee organization. George Steinbrenner, for one, was less than enthusiastic that Joe Torre intervened to keep Andy Pettitte. ‘Our manager seems to think things are all right,” Steinbrenner said. ”I have great confidence in my manager.”
Pettitte wasn’t too enthused by that statement, according to Olney. ”You want your owner to want you around,” he said.
The next day, George backtracked a little. ‘The manager is happy,” he said. ”That’s good by me.”
But when all was said and done, Andy Pettitte came oh so close to getting traded on that fateful night in July. But he wasn’t traded, and he responded in kind. Through August and September, Pettitte would go 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA, and he threw two stellar starts in the ALDS and ALCS before getting bounced early in game 3 of the World Series. The Yanks would eventually win that game on a home run by Chad Curtis in the 10th.
We know what happened after 1999 with Andy Pettitte. He had some stellar seasons in the Bronx, and except for a terrible start in the 2001 World Series, he pitched his heart out in the postseason. His game 6 start in the 2003 World Series against the Marlins was brilliant even though he was overshadowed by Josh Beckett.
This is one trade that the Yanks are glad they never made. Andy Pettitte has been far superior than Adam Eaton, and the money stopped being an issue for the Yanks shortly after they won again in 1999 and 2000. But eight years ago, without hourly-updated blogs and the constant surveillance of the Internet, not too many people knew that Andy Pettitte came to within a hair’s breadth of being traded. In the end, Pettitte and the Yanks were, to borrow a phrase, a good fit.
So I woke up this morning to quite the delightful bit of baseball literature: Rob Neyer actually linked to RAB. Neyer agrees with Ben’s stance on Robinson Cano’s arbitration situation, though calls the notion that Cano would be insulted by an arbitration hearing “silly.” Per Ben: “Called out by Rob Neyer. I’ll never complain about that.”
Later today, browsing Peter Gammons’s blog, I found quite an interesting paragraph:
Unfortunately, time keeps most of us from getting to those sites specific to teams. It’s amazing how many club officials read USS Mariner (Seattle), Fire Brand of the American League (Boston), Ducksnorts (San Diego), Athletics Nation (Oakland), Viva El Birdos (St. Louis), Lone Star Ball (Texas), River Ave. Blues (Yankees), MetsBlog.com, FishStripes (Florida), Dodger Thoughts, Bronx Banter (great writing), The LoHud Yankees Blog, Reds Reporter (Cincinnati), Bleed Cubbie Blue, Brew Crew Ball (Milwaukee) and more.
Needless to say, it’s a glorious day here at the RAB offices.