Not your father’s Bubba Crosby

Brett Gardner tries to race Joe Mauer to the plate. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Following the 2005 season, the Yankees knew they had a center field problem. Bernie Williams, due to the destructive nature of age, could no longer man his long-term position, and having passed on Carlos Beltran a year before, the Yankees were facing a season without a set center fielder. Sure, Johnny Damon was a free agent, but the Yanks weren’t going to proclaim they’re desire for Damon less they give up some leverage.

Enter Bubba Crosby. In 2003, the Yanks acquired Crosby along with Scott Proctor from the Dodgers for Robin Ventura, and for parts of 2004 and 2005, he served as the Yanks’ fourth outfielder. Following the end of the 2005 season — an end brought about in part because of an outfield collision — Crosby had a career line in New York of .232/.266/.318 with an OPS+ of 55, but Brian Cashman said the Yankees were willing to start the season with Crosby in center field.

It was, of course, a bluff and an obvious one at that. Crosby couldn’t hit a lick, and he certainly wouldn’t be starting in center field for the Yanks. A few weeks later, right before Christmas, the Yanks signed Damon, and Crosby would suffer through just 96 more Big League plate appearances before calling it a career. Cashman’s threat never came to be.

Fast forward to today, and many commentators are calling the Yanks’ commitment to Brett Gardner a version of Cashman’s Bubba Crosby threat. This time around, Johnny Damon has priced himself out of the suddenly stingy Bronx, and although it seems as though he could return on a one-year deal worth approximately $5-$6 million, Boras and Damon would have to concede a big defeat to do that. So with Melky Cabrera now in Atlanta, the Yankees are looking at Brett Gardner as either their starting left or center fielder with Curtis Granderson filling the other position. The Yanks will try to find a right handed platoon partner — probably a Reed Johnson type if not Johnson himself, as Joe said earlier — and after that, the roster will be set.

So up in arms are those who want an All Star at every position. Up in arms are those who see Bubba Crosby in Brett Gardner. Reality looks quite different. Crosby was a 29 year old with no value. He had put up a combined -0.7 WAR in his first two seasons in the Bronx and had shown some average defense. He had no real Minor League pedigree and wasn’t a prospect.

Brett Gardner is a different story. Throughout the Minors, he’s shown the ability to get on base, and while he hasn’t flashed much power, we can’t just ignore a .389 Minor League OBP. Last season, he hit a respectable .270/.345/.379 with 26 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He has a career WAR of 3.2 and has been an above-average defender in center and left in his young playing career. On the cusp of his age 26 season, he should improve and be at least adequate in 2010.

In the end, we won’t know until after the fact if Gardner will amount to much. He may just be a more valuable fourth outfielder/pinch runner extraordinaire. For now, he’s the Yankee left fielder, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He’ll give the team some value, and if we know what to expect, he just might exceed our expectations. With a power threat in center, the Yanks don’t need a traditional left fielder. They need an average bat and a good glove. Gardner as we know him now fits that bill to a tee.

Late night link dump: K-Long, Joba, Pitch F/X, LF

Quite a few short items to note this evening.

Kevin Long already working with Yanks hitters

On the official site, Bryan Hoch writes about hitting coach Kevin Long’s work with players this off-season. He’s currently with Alex Rodriguez, has spent time with Nick Swisher, and plans to visit Curtis Granderson before players report to camp. Unfortunately, it looks like Long won’t have enough time to visit with Robinson Cano.

Joba to be honored at Thurman Munson Awards dinner

For his philanthropic efforts this past year, Joba Chamberlain will be honored at the 30th Thurman Munson Awards dinner. As’s Jon Lane explains, “His DUI arrest in October 2008 was a big mistake and he’s done everything he said he’d do in terms of talking to children about the dangers of drinking and driving.” While the circumstances aren’t ideal, at least Joba has made the best of it.

Two pitch f/x tools to waste your time

Tango points us to a pair of pitch f/x tools. First is Texas Leaguers. The other is Joe Lefkowitz’s Pitch F/x Tool. Don’t blame me if you don’t sleep tonight.

Every available left fielder

I’m pretty sick of talking about left field candidates — hence compiled a list of free-agent, right-hand hitting outfielders. I still think Reed Johnson is the frontrunner, though the Yanks could go with Jerry Hairston. Xavier Nady remains a wild card, though I think if he’s healthy Atlanta will be in on that too.

Open Thread: Global World Series?

The news: Bud Selig wants to implement an additional championship baseball series. Redundantly dubbed the Global World Series, the plan would involve the MLB World Series winner playing the Japanese champions. According to Japanese commissioner Ryozo Kato, Seligs “wants to realize the plan before his tenure ends,” in 2012.

Two cliches come immediately to mind: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and leave well enough alone. People will certainly have differing opinions on this, and there’s no need to shout down people who want to see this implemented, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The playoffs already run long enough, and there already appears to be a talent disparity between the Japanese and American leagues.

The unevenness of competition becomes evident when viewing which types of players move to each league. Elite Japanese players come to MLB, while fringe players move to Japan. It’s basically a one-way flow of talent. If Japan loses players from its elite pool, while America loses players from its fringe pool, then can we expect a series between the best of each league to be fair? I’m firmly on the no side.

I’m sure some people will mention Japan’s status as two-time WBC champions, but that should play zero role in this decision. It’s irrelevant, actually. If the Red Sox make the Global World Series, Daisuke Matsuzaka will still play for them. In other words, this is not a battle of nations. This is a battle of leagues, and it’s pretty clear that MLB owns a distinct advantage. It might be better entertainment than the World Series champs playing the winners of the Bricktown Showdown, but there’s little reason to believe that the World Series champs wouldn’t prevail in the vast majority of series.

Then there’s the issue of season length. The World Series champs already play a seven-month schedule. Presumably the series wouldn’t involve a home-away-home scheme for logistical reasons. But if Japan agrees to this, surely the series would rotate every year. Why make the World Series champions, after seven long months of baseball, travel to Japan? It seems like more of a punishment than a reward. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love more baseball. But I’m sure the players enjoy their off-seasons, especially after 162 games and a month-long playoff schedule. Let the men rest.

Ultimately, I do not see anything coming from this. There’s just too much working against it. I won’t say this is just another attempt by Bud Selig to secure his legacy — nah, who am I kidding. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Since not everyone will want to talk about a potential Global World Series, this will double as the open thread. Enjoy.

Yanks’ recent drafts grade out as middle of the pack

Every year Jim Callis at Baseball America grades each team’s draft based solely on the quality of players they signed, and over the last four seasons (2005-2008), the Yanks’ drafts grade out as middle of the pack with a 2.63 GPA (tied with the Padres and Cardinals for 15th overall). Things would have been much worse if not for the epiphany draft of 2006, which rated as a pure A in Callis’ book. Both the 2007 and 2008 hauls were considered C’s, while 2005 came in as a C+. Obviously, the Yanks would have received a boost had they signed Gerrit Cole in 2008, probably pushing that draft up to at least a B.

The two best drafting clubs during that time have been the Giants and Red Sox, both of whom sport a 3.50 GPA. The Astros bring up the rear with a 1.25 GPA. I think they put you on academic probation for that.

Guest Post: Parrying with Jon Heyman’s HOF ballot

As we know, yesterday, the BBWAA elected Andre Dawson and no one else. The outcome was horrendous; the explanations even weaker. Today, RAB regular TommieSmithJohnCarlos grew so fed with Jon Heyman’s explanation of his ballot that he penned a massive response in the style of the late, great Fire Joe Morgan. You know how it goes.

…Generally, I’ve voted for one or two more players than average in most years, and this year should be no exception. This time I listed six “yes” votes — Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Dave Parker and Don Mattingly.

Alomar: YES
Larkin: YES
Dawson: A solid player, but NO
Morris: NO
Mattingly: NOT QUITE

Seriously, Dave Parker? Dave “.290/.339/.471/121+” Parker? Dave “Al Oliver and Rusty Staub were better players than me” Parker? Dave “people only love me because I wore a fancy black pillbox hat with horizontal yellow stripes and sang Sister Sledge songs” Parker? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

[Read more…]

Report: No Winter Classic at Yankee Stadium in 2011

Via Andrew Gross, Yankee Stadium will not host the 2011 NHL Winter Classic because of scheduling conflicts with an upcoming NCAA Bowl Game. Ben chronicled the situation last weekend, and Gross says that ESPN will soon announce a deal to televise the game, which is being targeted for December 30th. That wouldn’t give the NHL the 7-10 days of lead time they need to set up.

“The Yankees are still telling people it can happen but the NHL knows it can’t happen,” said one of Gross’ sources. The Meadowlands wouldn’t be considered for the game given the unpredictability of the NFL season, though it’s possible it could end up at CitiField. However, the NHL wants the Rangers to be the host team, something that wouldn’t fly in Islander territory.

Olney: Towers expected to work for Yanks as a consultant

Finally, we have some news on the Kevin Towers front. In today’s blog, Buster Olney wrote that the former Padres’ GM is expected to work with the Yanks this year, however it would be as a consultant and he would not be given a formal title. San Diego still owes Towers about $2M for 2010, and if the Yanks were to hire him and given him a title, they’d be at risk of having to pay him out of their pocket. Obviously, it makes sense for both sides to work out a consulting agreement.

We heard that Towers was “leaning towards” joining his good buddy Brian Cashman in the Yanks’ front office way back in early January, and he indicated that he was happy to serve in a complementary role. It’s seems now that it’s only a matter of time before he joins the organization, and the more voices the better.