Yankee Stadium Winter Classic rumblings grow louder

On Friday afternoon, the Bruins and Flyers squared off in a thrilling contest that ended in overtime. At Fenway, 38,112 fans stuffed the old park to the brim, and 10 times that amount were turned away. By all measures, the three-year-old Winter Classic is a resounding success, and as Yankee Stadium is primed for off-season events, it’s just a matter of time before the NHL picks the Bronx as the site for a Winter Classic.

For the last few months, we’ve heard on-again, off-again rumors about the NHL’s interest in bringing the Classic to Yankee Stadium in 2011, but the Yanks have made a December commitment to the NCAA. Over the next few years, the stadium is due to host a bowl game. Because of the lead time the NHL requires — approximately seven to ten days — for the venue hosting the Classic, the Yankee Stadium bowl may preclude the Winter Classic.

Andrew Gross, a staff writer for The Record, throws an interesting wrench into the Winter Classic planning for the stadium and opens the door for a 2011 date in the Bronx. He writes:

The NHL didn’t award the 2010 Winter Classic — won by the Bruins, 2-1, Friday afternoon on Marco Sturm’s goal at 1:57 of overtime — until July 15, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated discussions on what would be the fourth annual outdoor game on Jan. 1, 2011 would not begin immediately.

“We want a community where the game can have an impact, first and foremost, in addition to a good market that we think will support the game,” Bettman said. “We need the right facility. And, obviously, we have to be in a place where we think the weather will be OK.”

In September, Yankees officials announced the new Stadium would host an as-of-yet unnamed bowl game pitting teams from the Big East and Big 12 conferences. But despite saying the game would be played sometime between Dec. 25-Jan. 1, which would preclude the NHL from setting up a rink, the new bowl game does not yet have a television contract. That means it’s not yet locked into a date.

For the Yankees, keeping the stadium open for sports business during the off-season is a matter of money as much as it is anything else. The team built a multi-billion-dollar sports venue, and as Lonn Trost once said, they want to make use of it for more than 81 regular season games plus some playoff dates.

We probably won’t find out until the summer where the NHL plans to host its next Classic, but it could very well be Yankee Stadium. Even as temperatures hover in the high-20s this weekend, you can bet that the joint would be jumping for a Rangers game outdoors come 2011. Whether the Bowl game impacts these plans remains to be seen.

Open Thread: The difference is at the top of the free agent market

In his latest column, Jeff Passan discusses the differences between this year’s free agent class and that of a similarly weak class, 2006-2007. While he starts off with the small differences, the multiyear deals for marginal and backup players, like a good columnist he make the strongest point towards the middle:

Most striking is at the top end. Three years ago, Alfonso Soriano got $136 million, Barry Zito $126 million and Carlos Lee $100 million. The Red Sox shelled out $103.1 million for Daisuke Matsuzaka

Notice, too, that three of the four teams listed no longer have cash to spend. The Giants have spent their winter signing second-tier free agents, when what they really need is a middle of the order bat. The Cubs, with plenty of up the middle needs, have had to settle for Marlon Byrd in center while trading away Milton Bradley for a bad pitcher. The Astros have a left side of the infield that will probably get on base less in less than 30 percent of their at bats.

Even put in the context of the 2006-2007 market these weren’t good deals. The Cubs, Astros, and Giants didn’t receive much praise for these overpriced signings that year. Revenues were peaking, which caused the players to be temporarily overvalued. I’m not sure anyone had that kind of foresight back then, but even without that benefit most analysts thought that none of those three players warranted the deals they received. If the Yankees had signed CC Sabathia to the same seven-year, $161 million contact that off-season, I don’t think we’d look back at it with the same disapproval as we do the three actual signings from that off-season.

If baseball has benefitted in one good way from this recession, it’s a more proper valuation of players. Corner outfielders on the wrong side of 30 no longer get $100 million deals. Questionable pitchers don’t get six year contracts. There are exceptions, of course, but in general it seems baseball has been moving away from these big money deals. I think that’s a good trend, as long as it applies to the players on this year’s market. The right free agents — the ones not quite 30 who have a track record of durability and elite performance — should still get paid. I hope we see more movement towards this over the next few off-seasons.

So, after seeing zero comments on this thread for an hour, we’ll just leave it up as tonight’s open thread. Enjoy.

A B-Jobber New Year’s resolution

With the latest revolution of the Earth around the Sun, people are again making resolutions that aim to make their 2010 better than their 2009. Most of these get broken two weeks into January, so they’re meaningless. Also meaningless: Matt Snyder at AOL FanHouse’s resolutions list for each major league team. But, since it’s Saturday and I’m in a jovial mood, I’ll mock his Yankees entry.

The Yankees should resolve to move Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen permanently. He has the make up to take over for Mariano Rivera as closer once the best-ever decides to hang up the cleats for good. Joba’s career ERA as a reliever is 1.50 while it’s 4.18 as a starter. With four legitimate starters in house and a few serviceable fifth starters (even possibly including Phil Hughes) it’s time to end the charade. Put Joba in the eighth inning until Rivera retires.

Yep. Let’s judge Joba based on his tiny sample of relief work. Because he’ll clearly maintain this 1.50 ERA throughout his bullpen career. Let’s also judge him on his performance as a young starter. I guess Matt Snyder would have moved Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay to the bullpen as youngsters.*

But then again, Snyder does say that some of these resolutions are serious while some are lighthearted. Is Joba one of his light-hearted ones? Since it provides the flimsiest of arguments, it’s possible. But given the seriousness of the tone, the mocking stands. Just in case.

*Actually, probably not, because with those two there was no case of confirmation bias. Since those guys never came up in the desperate bullpen situation Joba did, we never got to see them dazzle in single-inning work before becoming starters. I wonder what would have happened if we did.

Learning from Dellin Betances

Four years ago, I urged the Yankees to take a tall, hard-throwing local kid from Brooklyn named Dellin Betances with their first pick of the 2006 draft. Proving again that they’re smarter than me, the Yanks did in fact take Betances, but not until the 8th round. Despite all his promise, Betances hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has yet to make it out of A-ball in three-plus professional seasons.

Moshe at the brand spankin’ new TYU says that we need to learn a lesson from Betances, that these kid pitchers in the minors are just prospects and far from sure things. Arodys Vizcaino has all the potential in the world, but he’s so young and far away that he would have just graduated high school last spring. Moving him as the centerpiece of a package for a pitcher of Javy Vazquez‘s quality shouldn’t be an issue.

Open Thread: Welcome to 2010

Well, the decade is just about a day old, and yet it still feels like 2009. Weird. I expected more.

Anyway, it’s a slow night, so talk about whatever you want here. The Knicks are playing, plus that 15-inning game against the Red Sox is playing on YES. So … have at it.

Summarizing the Damon situation

We’re very familiar with the breakdown in negotiations between Johnny Damon and the Yankees. We know what the Yanks were willing to pay and how Damon and Scott Boras have seemingly overvalued the left fielder. Today, at The Hardball Times, Chuck Brownson summarizes the Damon situation and walks away with a conclusion that Damon’s fielding averages out to average over the last three years and he can still hit. “Damon’s value, therefore,” writes Brownson, “should have him worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million per year for two years. Even at the discounted market rate this offseason, he’s easily worth $16 million over two years and yet, there’s seemingly very little interest in his services.

The problem though is one of decline. Damon’s defense has seen a decline over the last three years, and he is at an age when one year can be the difference between a 4.5-5 win player and a disaster in left field. He’s 36 now and playing in an era when teams are loath to dole out big money to older outfielders. Eventually, he’ll sign somewhere — perhaps with the Yanks — for few dollars, but it’s not a surprise that no team has come close to meeting his demands.

Jose Ramirez named Short Season Pitcher of the Year

Trades and attrition have put a sizable dent in the farm system over the last 18 months or so, but one of the few players that has emerged in that time is Jose Ramirez, who was named Short Season Pitcher of the Year yesterday.  The 19-year-old righty posted a 55-16 K/BB ratio in 64 IP last season, allowing just 34 hits for .156 AVG against.

“He wasn’t a high-profile guy, but he’s kind of what we’re searching for in Latin American pitching,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations. “He had a feel for the strike zone. He can spin the ball and has a good feel for a changeup. He can get it up to 96 mph. And he throws strikes.”

The Yanks can spend all they want in the draft, but the Latin American market is where they really make a killing. Ramirez is just the latest in a long line of unheralded arms that’s gone on to make some noise after coming to the states.