Steroids. Santana. The Bullpen. Melky. Pick one, and you’re bound to hit a topic that we — and countless other Yankee blogs — have hit upon with more regularity than any of us would like to admit. But we’re almost done with that. As the handy-dandy countdown on the right tells us, Spring Training starts in about four weeks, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

For now, as we slog through the last few weeks without baseball, we’ll spin that Wheel of Topics and land on steroids. As we all know, Congress got to be on TV today. Lucky them. Appearing in front of a few members of Congress were Senator George Mitchell, Commissioner Bud Selig and Executive Director of the MLBPA Donald Fehr. If you want to read the news coverage, The Times has article on the way Congress latched onto the stimulants issue, another article on the day’s events with a focus on the Congressional inquiry into Miguel Tejada and a George Vecsey Sports of the Times piece on the hearings.

For the purposes of this post, I don’t care about what happened at the hearings as much as what didn’t happen at the hearings. Missing from the hearings were much mention of the NFL, the NHL or the NBA. Missing from the hearings were talks of Michael Vick’s questionable moral decisions representing a league filled with many players who have faced legal troubles. Missing from the hearings were talks of steroid use in football, referee scandals in the NBA and general PED use across sports that aren’t baseball.

This double standard — baseball must hold itself to some unattainable, drug- and cheating-free standard that has never existed in the history of the game — just has to stop. As witnesses to Congress, Selig and Fehr were deferential toward Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which somehow holds sway over baseball. But as the figureheads of baseball, it’s time for them to go something of an offensive. How can they sit there mostly passive while the NFL elects steroid users to the Pro Bowl and EA Sports awards them with video game covers?

Personally, I have stopped caring about steroids in baseball. Once upon a time, I cared about this scandal, but in the ensuing years since this scandal became more and more of a front-page issue, I grew less and less concerned. Does it matter what people did in the early 2000s? There is no Delorean. We can’t change the past.

Instead, Congress, baseball, whoever should focus on what the game can do to improve in the future. But beyond that, the powers that be, the grandstanding masses, should look beyond baseball. They should look at football and see what’s going on there. They should look at basketball and the Olympic athletes who will do just about anything to gain a competitive edge. It’s become an overplayed Internet meme, but leave baseball alone. Go fry some other fish for a change.

I can only laugh and wonder at the irony: Mark McGwire was right when he said he wasn’t there to talk about the past. Why talk about the past? It looks good for politicians and doesn’t solve the problem. Three years later, nothing accomplished.

Categories : STEROIDS!
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In a piece available to non-Baseball Prospectus subscribers, Joe Sheehan talks about his break-out candidates for 2008. Making the list is none other than our own Melky Cabrera, and Sheehan likes what he sees:

Cabrera is listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds. He’s not Willy Taveras, but rather a player who should be developing power and learning how to drive the ball, rather than hitting the ball on the ground 60 percent of the time.

I’m reminded of Alex Rios, who doesn’t look a thing like Cabrera. Rios was largely disappointing in 2004 and 2005, hitting just 11 homers in more than 900 at-bats, with an isolated power of 117. The problem: Rios was hitting the ball on the ground too much, a 1.82 G/F in those two seasons. Starting in ’06, Rios put the ball in the air more than half the time, and became a star. When you look at Cabrera’s body, his established control of the strike zone, and his ability to hold his own at a young age, you recognize that all it’s going to take is for him to start elevating the ball. Cabrera may not get there in 2008, but he’s going to pop 80 extra-base hits and slug .500 in a season very, very soon.

Where to begin? Where to begin?

First off, if Melky is 5’11” and 200 pounds, then I’m 6’3″, 220. And trust me; I’m more like 5’9″, 170 in real life. While Melky may be listed at a robust 5’11” and 200, I’ve heard from people who have seen him that Melky Cabrera is not that tall. Now, usually, a player’s height doesn’t matter, but when Sheehan starts comparing Cabrera to the 6’5″ Alex Rios who has a fairly substantial wing span, something is not right.

But putting aside height, let’s look at the numbers. Melky Cabrera has a career slugging percentage of .388. His Minor League mark is .422, and for 135 plate appearances in AAA in 2006, Melky slugged .566. That’s the only time in his career his slugging percentage at any level of the game has topped .462. That is a far, far cry from .500.

Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus’ own PECOTA doesn’t put Melky anywhere close to .500 “very, very soon.” At best, Melky looks to slug below .440 during his age 26 season. Those numbers will head south after his 2007 numbers are added to the equation. That too is a far, far cry from .500, and anything more than four years from now isn’t really “very, very soon.”

It’s no secret that we are skeptical of Melky Cabrera’s long-term outlook as a Major Leaguer. He’s never profiled to anything more than a 4th outfielder, and he has yet to show anything at any level to suggest otherwise. Feel free to point to Sheehan’s statement as an indication that we’re wrong about Melky, but when history is on our side, I bet our assessment is closer reality than the prediction that Melky will suddenly develop into one of the game’s best power hitters “very, very soon.”

Categories : Analysis
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  • Joba or Laptop Boy? You decide.

    Jerry Crasnick hosted an chat this afternoon in which he facilitated something of a discussion on the Joba vs. Buchholz debate. It’s your typical back-and-forth bluster with most folks coming down, rightly, on the side of Joba. But the fun is in the poll. Joba’s got over 60 percent of the vote right now. I like that. · (21) ·

The Yanks announced that they’ve invited a small army of non-roster players to Spring Training. The breakdown:

IF: Bernie Castro, Eric Duncan, Nick Green, Cody Ransom, Marcos Vechionacci
OF: Justin Christian, Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Austin Jackson, Jason Lane, Greg Porter, Jose Tabata
C: Kyle Anson, Jason Brown, Jesus Montero, PJ Pilittere, Austin Romine
RHP: Dan Giese, Alan Horne, Steven Jackson, Dan McCutchen, Mark Melancon, Darrell Rasner, Scott Strickland
LHP: Heath Phillips, Billy Traber

Wow, you think the Yanks like Austin Romine just a bit? I can’t remember the last time they invited a HS draftee to ST the year after he was drafted; maybe Eric Duncan? I don’t think this is a case of simply needing some catcher to catch all these pitchers, the Yanks have a ton of guys older and more experienced than Romine at their disposal to do that. Hopefully he stations himself directly between Jorge and Tony Pena at all times.

Jon Albaledjo, Jeff Marquez, Scott Patterson, Steven White, Juan Miranda and Frankie Cervelli will also be with the big boys during ST, by virtue of holding down a 40-man roster spot. If I was Kevin Whelan, I’d feel a bit snubbed. Just about all of the pitchers listed – Mark Melancon being the exception – will compete with the likes of Edwar, Ohlendorf, Bruney, Britton, Henn, etc. for a big league bullpen spot. Whoever pitches the best will get it. My dark horse? Steven Jackson.

Categories : Spring Training
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For any of you who are new here recently either from our guest post at Lo Hud or elsewhere, help us spread the River Ave. Blues word by showing your love through our Facebook page. You know you want to be friends with a blog.

Categories : Self-Promotion
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I know a few readers here have grown tired of my new stadium posts, but I have my reasons for following this story. I’m a firm believer in good government (as is evidenced by my other blog focusing on the MTA), and I don’t think the stadium financing and the land deals represent anything close to good government. So bear with me, and if you don’t like it, read about Huston Street.

The latest news comes in the form of land deal that Bronx activists say will turn former park land into commercial developments. That wasn’t supposed to be part of the original deal. Bill Sanderson has more from the Post:

A sneaky city land “giveaway” will turn over former Parks Department property to real-estate developers – and further infuriate activists in the park-starved South Bronx neighborhood near Yankee Stadium, The Post has learned.

When the city gave up plans for a parking garage on East 151st Street between River and Gerard avenues last fall, the property was set aside for “neighborhood-oriented mixed use, retail or parking,” according to documents…

What’s unclear, said Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates, is whether a state law allowing South Bronx parkland to be used for the stadium project permits commercial development on the site, south of the stadium and adjacent to the Bronx Terminal Market shopping mall now under construction.

In the grand scheme of problems with the stadium deal, this little trade-off isn’t nearly as sneaky as the Post would have believe, and the Parks Department didn’t consider their former holdings at E. 151st St. as green parkland. However, with parkland at such a premium in the South Bronx, the city’s surrendered land shouldn’t be going to real estate developers.

The Stadium project came with real estate development plans and a new mall has spurred on talk of a Bronx boom. With concerns over increased traffic due to increased parking spots around the Stadium, the city should be pressing for more parkland in the Bronx. Those parks were part of the original deal, and so far, no one – not the Yankees, not the city – has delivered on that front.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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We’ve got less than a month until pitchers and catchers report, and with all the crap that’s gone on this winter, I couldn’t be more psyched. Maybe when they start playing some games, we can put the winter of Santana and PEDs behind us. You might have heard that there’s a congressional hearing going on now about steroids, but let’s forget about that and talk some baseball.

Yesterday, a Mark Kotsay for Joey Devine trade was finalized, furthering Oakland’s reconstruction. Remember back in 2005, when we needed a CFer, and the A’s wanted Phil Hughes for Kotsay? Yeah. Glad we didn’t pull the trigger on that one.

This leaves the A’s younger and less experienced, as have all of their moves this winter. My first question: How far-reaching is this rebuilding going to be? One might figure that Joe Blanton will be on the move, but new reports suggest that he’ll be around to make the Opening Day start for the A’s. Another big name is Huston Street, Oakland’s stud closer who spent much of 2007 on the DL. That’s the name that attracts — or should attract — the Yankees.

With such a compelling case to keep Joba in the rotation, the Yanks are still short a solid 8th inning guy. Barring a surprise turnaround from Kyle Farnsworth (hey, he’s had three completely dominant seasons), there’s going to be a lot of nail-biting going on late in close games. A proven reliever — a rare commodity for sure — would help alleviate those woes. Street is ideal not only because he’s proven he can pitch, but because he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2010 season.

If he is available, the next question is, how much? Billy Beane clearly isn’t going to give Street away. He’s gotten a huge haul this winter by trading Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and now Mark Kotsay. He’s not going to, for instance, trade Street straight-up for, say, Jeff Marquez. He’s going to ask for the sky at first, likely Hughes. And then he might back down to Kennedy, but I can’t see him going below that. And that’s not a move the Yankees should be making. At that point, I’d rather just stick Kennedy in the 8th inning.

(For the record, I do not advocate sticking Kennedy in the 8th inning role. I’m just saying that if the Yankees felt they needed an 8th inning guy so badly that they’d trade Kennedy for Street, they’d be better off just putting Kennedy in that role.)

The only slight on Street is that he’s a one-inning pitcher. In 2006, he never pitched two innings in an outing. Of course, that is the purpose of an 8th inning man. But what I’m asking is, what’s that worth to you? The 8th inning is critical, and it’s one the Yanks could stand to improve, as we said in our pinch-hit post today. But at what cost? Would you trade Ajax? Tabata? Horne?

It’s not an easy question to answer. We’re talking unproven prospects here in exchange for a proven reliever. That stacks the deck in Beane’s favor. And when he’s got the advantage, my suggestion would be to avoid doing business with him. While he fails some of the time (see: Tim Hudson), he often gets the better of teams (see: Mark Mulder). Why play with him when he’s at an advantage?

This all might be a moot point, though. Street does have injury concerns, which likely deflate his value. Beane would be smart to hang onto him until July. If he’s healthy, some contending team is going to overpay for him. I just hope that team isn’t the Yankees.

Categories : Pitching
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