January 11 is a rather important date for New Yorkers. First, at 10 a.m., Yankee Spring Training tickets go on sale. If you want home-game tickets to any Legends Field game, you better be ready to go at 10 a.m. Eastern on Friday morning. Those things sell out in a flash.
Second, no matter your party affiliation or candidate choice, January 11 is the postmark date for people registering for the primary elections in the State of New York. If you’re 18 or older and live in New York State, please register. New York primaries are on February 5.
There’s been plenty on the Brian McNamee/Roger Clemens front over the past few days. Although I’d love nothing more than to see this whole thing just disappear, it’s not going to, which means we’re stuck with it. First thing I caught on it this morning was a piece on ESPN, where McNamee’s lawyers are looking to expose a conversation between McNamee and Clemens which took place on the day before the Mitchell report was revealed.
“They should ask for the entire tape of the interview back in December. That’s the tape they should ask for,” Earl Ward, one of McNamee’s lawyers, said Tuesday. “According to Brian, they tried to get him to recant. Brian said, look, what I told the [Mitchell and federal] investigators was the truth.”
If that’s the extent of the conversation, I’m not sure how much it helps McNamee’s case. However, if his lawyers are pushing for its release, there’s bound to be a bit more revealing information contained therein.
But then I caught a piece in Slam! Sports which aims to trounce McNamee’s credibility. In fact, just three paragraphs in, we’re treated to this quote:
“I hope baseball is not putting all of its case on this one witness because in my 32 years as an investigator, I would not find him to be very credible,” Florida state attorney office investigator Don Crotty said yesterday.
Crotty’s distrust of McNamee stems from an incident back in 2001, where a number of Yankees were having a party in Florida — which incidentally started in Chuck Knoblauch’s room. Outside, investigators found a woman passed out in a swimming pool. She had been drugged with GHB. McNamee was implicated, but never charged, since prosecutors didn’t think the victim’s case would hold up — because he had slept with a married member of the team. Crotty believed that McNamee was dishonest with him when questioned pursuant to the case.
It also appears that Brian referred to himself sometimes as Dr. McNamee:
An investigation showed his doctorate earned at Columbus University in Louisiana is now Columbus out of Mississippi, since Louisiana closed its operation in 2001 for handing out degrees to many who did “little or no academic work.”
The article says that Clemens actually believed that McNamee had a medical degree.
Also discrediting McNamee is his tenure with the NYPD. Though he was involved in many high-profile cases, including the death of Eric Clapton’s son, he’ll never shed the 30-day suspension he received for his negligence in the escape of a prisoner.
And then we have the issue of physical proof of Roger’s use of steroids. The Blue Jays team chiropractor at the time Roger was with the team didn’t see the telltale signs of steroid use:
“I worked with him daily and didn’t see any signs of steroid use,” Dr. Patrick Graham told The Sun yesterday. “I didn’t notice any rashes, acne or increased muscle mass or structure.”
“I think I would have seen signs of it,” he said, adding he always thought the Rocket’s success in Toronto was because of his newly developed “split-fingered fastball.”
Even after Clemens left the Jays organization, he would come in for a back treatment whenever in Toronto and Graham said he observed no body changes. “I haven’t seen him for two years, but I just don’t think he was on steroids.”
Professional trainer Phil Zullo, of North York’s Pro-Fit, agrees — saying if Clemens took the amount of steroids and the type McNamee alleges in the report, he would have ended up looking like Hulk Hogan. “With the way Roger works out and trains, he would have been a giant,” said Zullo, who did not work with Clemens but has always been known to be against the use of any substances for the amateur and professional athletes he trains.
True, none of this proves that Clemens didn’t do steroids. But then again, is he ever going to be able to prove that?
My stance remains the same as it has since the beginning, in that I don’t think he has to prove that he didn’t. Clearly, my opinion differs with much of the public. But why should Roger have to go to these lengths to defend himself against one person, with a spotty history, who was facing jail time? If there was more than one source of this allegation, then yeah, maybe Roger has to up his defense. But I don’t see the reason to assume the worst when we’re talking about the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence.
Once again, though, it’s my deepest desire to see this story go away.
In a story in which she utterly buries the lead, Kat O’Brien reports that, while nothing new is going on, the Yanks are still interested in Johan Santana. That buried lead, however, comes at the end where she quotes Hank Steinbrenner saying that the Yanks would be inclined to cap any deal for Santana at five years through the 2013 season. “I wouldn’t do it if it were a six- or seven-year contract,” Steinbrenner said. “I wouldn’t go past five, on an extension.” Now, that’s some sensible talk from Hank. · (15) ·
Some critics think he’s overrated and that the talent-evaluators working for him deserve more credit; others see postseason berths in every year of his ten-year reign as GM as indicative of the fact that he’s not good enough. He can’t build a bullpen; he can’t build a bench. You know the drill.
Well, outside of New York, the Cashman vultures are gearing up for what many, rightly, consider to be the steal of the century. When Brian Cashman, who many not seem to like the new Yankees organizational power structure all that much, leaves New York, Philadelphia will be ready to with open arms. Or at least the fans in Philly will be waiting.
Nothing is more indicative of this philosophy and outside view of Brian Cashman better than this post from The Good Phight. Take a look:
But what I find ironic about Cashman and how he’s perceived is that the same bloated payrolls that critics once alleged made it impossible for him to get burned by his mistakes now largely obscure the best work he’s done. Following the Yankees’ 2003 World Series loss to Florida and shocking ALCS defeat at the hands of Boston a year later, Cashman saw an aging roster and a largely depleted farm system. Cashman made a few additions of the type Big Stein had demanded since the ’70s, bringing in the likes of Randy Johnson and, um, Carl Pavano–but his focus was on rebuilding a farm system that Baseball America had ranked 27th in early 2004 and 24th before the 2005 season. A year later, that ranking had jumped to 17th, and an assessment by Baseball Prospectus a year after that put the Yankees at 4th of the 30 MLB teams. BP’s Kevin Goldstein wrote in December, “After years of sitting near the bottom of the organizational rankings due to some drafts that border on reprehensible, the Yankees have begun to place more focus and priority on the draft, and the results have come quickly. Their bounty of young pitching is the envy of baseball…”
That is, in essence, the praise that I have for Brian Cashman, and I would probably go one step further and give him a pass on the Carl Pavano deal. At the time, Pavano was a highly sought-after commodity. The Mets, Red Sox and Tigers were all showing various degrees of interest, and the Yanks got him at something of a bargain rate. Who knew that he would utterly break down and make fewer than 20 starts over three years? That was a great signing then; it just looks terrible in hindsight.
But the Good Phight’s point is one that is often overlooked, and it certainly relates to what Tommy said earlier. For much of the early 2000s, the Yankees were puttering along with no farm system. A series of poor drafts and few big-ticket international signings had left the system depleted, and the George Steinbrenner win-now-before-I-forget-it attitude led the Yanks to acquire pieces, such as Raul Mondesi, that never should have been in New York.
When Cashman made his power play, he and his people really turned things around. The Yankees are still big spenders; they can sign that big free agent — A-Rod, anyone? — when they have to, but they’ve built up an organization that is in the top five of all Minor League systems. They’ve got the chips to use when the time and returns are right, and they’re developing a core group of kids who are well on their way to becoming the next set of homegrown Yankee greats.
I believe that losing Cashman would not be a good move for the Yankee organization. Through thick and thin, Cashman has sustained Yankee success. He did it while facing constant pressure from a Boss who meddled too much in baseball affairs, and he did it by building up the farm when the Boss finally backed off. I’d hate to see the Steinbrenner brothers push him out, and Hank and Hal would be wise to heed a fan base and ownership in Philadelphia who could use a GM with Cashman’s ability to construct a top-notch Big League club while building up the farm for the future.
We’ve got quite the lengthy discussion going on in the comments to my post on Joba Chamberlain, but one in particular deserves some recognition. Written by Tommy, the Phillies fan who serves as one of the co-authors of RAB’s offshoot at Breaking Balls (which you should all read), the comment talks about player development and spending with the Yanks’ seemingly unlimited budget:
I think the key question here is how the Yankees ought to leverage their clear superiority in the “ability to spend” category. There are more or less two ways to acquire talent that cost nothing but cold, hard cash up front:
1. Free agency
2. Scouting and player development
Because of the way the rights to young players are distributed (especially under the new CBA), the Yankees enjoy a massive advantage in scouting and player development. They can dole out huge bonuses to foreign players, whether they pan out or not. Smaller market teams regularly fail to sign top international free agents because the ownership is unwilling to spend a few million dollars on a prospect who may never reach the majors. But, in terms of average expected value, these types of deals tend to be favorable.
But the Yankees comparative advantage widens even further when you consider the Rule 4 draft. There, the unrealistic slotting system is supposed to dictate the bonuses received by players taken at each spot in the draft, thus leveling the economic playing field. In reality, players with signability concerns drop to the second half of the first round, where teams like the Tigers and Yankees scoop them up. Phil Hughes at 23rd overall, when he was the best high school pitcher in the draft? Exactly.
And by signing free agents or trading away these youngsters, the Yankees either forfeit the draft picks or forfeit the potentially high upside of scouting/player development types.
The danger of evaluating prospects is that occasionally it’s a good idea to trade a few, because individually they don’t have a ton of average expected value. But if you make a habit of it, as the Yankees did consistently after the 2001 season, you will significantly worsen your team while spending steadily more money.
By getting away from that trend, they have completely turned around their entire farm system.
Tommy basically nails the issue. The Yankees need to strike the right balance among player development through above-slot signings (as they’ve done), free agency pick-ups to fill in the holes and trades at the right time. The Yankees shouldn’t trade their top prospects for low impact pieces that they can find within their own farm system.
Of course, another piece to this puzzle is knowing when to trade which prospects. Here at RAB, we’ve advocated against trading Phil Hughes because his potential is sky high. At the same time, that makes him valuable as a trading chip, but just imagine if the Yankees had traded another sky-high prospect 15 years ago named Andy Pettitte when other teams came knocking? At some point, the Yanks will have to trade prospects we all like, but I’m sure they’ll get the right pieces in exchange.
For now, though, the Yanks have the luxury of money and depth on their side, and that should be a lethal combination for years to come.
If Bruce Sutter can do it, Goose can do it better. The former Yanks reliever was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame today. He was on 466 of 543 ballots, or 85.8 percent. Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, and Bert Blyleven were the next three. Rice came very close at 72.2 percent, just 14 votes shy.
Pete Mackanin, the man who ended 2007 as the Reds’ interim manager, will join the Yankees as a scout. Mackanin has scouted with the Reds, Pirates and Expos in his career. That family tree of baseball hardly screams success, but Mackanin is well-regarded as a talent evaluator among his colleagues. · (5) ·
Sounding a lot like Joe Torre did last week, Hank Steinbrenner issued his own half-hearted views on Roger Clemens. “I thought the media commentary after the press conference was over was a little harsh,” Steinbrenner said on Monday night. “Too much rush to judgment in this country. As far as whether he’s telling the truth or not, I have no clue. But I’m not going to say, well, he’s lying, like everybody on TV did after he was done.” Steinbrenner also noted that PED use in baseball went far beyond the limited New York-centric scope of Mitchell Report. No big surprises here.
As is always the case these days with Joba, there’s a lot on the Internet about him. All of it is contradictory, and as an added bonus, none of it involves Hank Steinbrenner, Joe Girardi of Brian Cashman talking about Joba’s place in the rotation or bullpen next year. Instead, it comes from the Joba-Worshipping Yankee Universe.
In one corner, we have Joba the Starter. By way of Baseball Think Factory, we have Wax Heaven, a baseball card blog, taking a look at Joba Chamberlain. Mario Alejandro, the site’s author, runs a whole bunch of comps and finds that, yes, Joba Chamberlain should be a pretty damn good starter in 2008 and forever more. The conclusion:
Though Chamberlain’s GB% wasn’t very high, his K/9 ratio was so high that he effectively pitched better than every pitcher we have looked at thus far. I am fully aware that Chamberlain’s numbers are based off of a small sample size and his ERA will not stay at 0.38, but his K/9 ratio is very consistent with his minor league stats and his GB% is actually much lower than his minor league average. I expect that his K/9 ratio will remain above 10 and his GB% will likely reach 50% next year, meaning that he could easily outperform 95% of American League pitchers, including Johan Santana.
So how do Yankee fans respond to this glowing praise from an unbiased fan who doesn’t purport to have a mancrush on Joba like we do here at RAB? By turning to the other corner and mentioning Joba the Reliever of course. By way of My Baseball Bias comes this poll on YesNetwork.com. The poll asks, “Who should be Mariano Rivera‘s primary set-up man?” While none of the choices are Ross Ohlendorf, visitors can opt for Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins or Joba Chamberlain. With 2646 votes counted, Joba has received 53 percent of them, Hawkins 31 percent and Farnsworth at 16.
Talk about bad third-place finishes.
This is, of course, no surprise. Everyone loved watching Joba come out of the pen last year and do his best Mariano Rivera circa 1996 impression. And the numbers are pretty damn impressive: 24 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 34 K. It’s hard to argue with that. But it’s harder to sacrifice Joba’s place in the rotation and the potential to be the next Roger Clemens, sans Vitamin B12 shots, or Johan Santana.
Meanwhile, the YES Network poll highlights a topic Joe is planning on covering before Spring Training: the precarious state of the Yankee bullpen. With Hawkins and Farnsworth the designated heirs to the 8th inning right now, I’m stocking up on Pepto Bismal and calling my (non-existent) heart doctor. As I said, I’d like to see Ross Ohlendorf given that spot if he shows up and has a good spring training. He was willing to throw strikes in limited September duty, and his stuff is better than Hawkins’.
With Spring Training a few weeks away, we’ll be hearing a lot about Joba. But for now, it’s the same old, same old. Everyone thinks he should start except Yankee fans who were so seduced by his bullpen presence last year. Stick him in the rotation, I say. There’s your ace.
This one’s for you, steve. As we all know, Roger Clemens held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the Mitchell Report and his response to it. To put it bluntly, the press conference was a circus through and through. For the most part, Clemens and his lawyer rightly lashed out at the media for the piss poor coverage of Clemens’ response and their unreasonable demands for an immediate response from the Rocket. The conference ended with Rocket basically storming away from the dais.
Meanwhile, the other part — a replaying of the recorded phone conversation from Friday between Clemens and Brian McNamee — was fairly anticlimactic. While Clemens’ lawyer claims the ambiguous phone call in which McNamee never says he or Clemens is lying about their stances on Clemens’ injections — steroids or B12, respectively — the phone call wasn’t exactly a smoking gun that alleviated all doubt of guilt from the shoulders of Clemens.
Tellingly enough, Clemens did not really answer the question when someone asked him why he let McNamee inject him, and he said that McNamee provided his injections. So basically, we can see the defense he’s carving out for himself: He thought B12 just meant B12 while McNamee, taking a cue from accepted baseball insider lingo, thought that B12 meant steroids. So there you go. We’re right back where we started, and this pissing contest is just getting started.