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.

Beware the $100 million contract

Baseball salaries changed forever in the winter of 2000-2001. That off-season four position players and a pitcher signed contracts that would pay them a combined average annual value of $92 million, or just around the total salary of the Yankees, bearers of the league’s highest payroll.1 In the following eight years, nine more position players and three more pitchers signed $100 contracts, in addition to Ken Griffey’s $116.5 million deal in 2000. So how did these $100 million players fare?

Clearly, the Matt Holliday signing spurred this question. Earlier this week he signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, the decade’s first nine figure deal. Because contracts for pitchers carry different risks than contracts for position players, we’ll focus on the latter. Let’s see where these contracts stack up. Played out contracts, obviously, have the edge.

1. Albert Pujols: 7 years, $100 million (2004)

We’re just six years into the Pujols contract and already it’s the best of the lot. The deal will look even better when the Cardinals pick up his 2011 option for $16 million. Pujols is one of four players on the list who signed before reaching free agency, so his contract is expected to provide surplus value. Over the last six years Pujols put up the best raw numbers in baseball: .334/.435/.636, a 175 OPS+. He has manned first base for the duration of the contract, the position furthest right on the defensive spectrum, but even so his numbers are just insane. Plus, defensive handicap or not, the value of his contract makes it the best of the $100 million lot.

2. Alex Rodriguez: 10 years, $252 million (2001)

Did Tom Hicks overbid? Probably. Did A-Rod live up to his contract? Absolutely. Over that span he hit .304/.400/.591, an OPS+ of 154. For the first three years he played shortstop, winning two gold gloves — though we know that they’re no measure of true defensive ability. In its first two seasons of usage, 2002 and 03, UZR had him as enormously positive. After that he moved to third, not quite as premium a position, but certainly ranked above the corner outfield spots. He also won all three of his MVP titles during this span. Plus, for what it’s worth, he outperformed his WAR-dollars in all but two years of the contract, and outperformed it on the whole.

3. Manny Ramirez: 8 years, $160 million (2001)

The Red Sox needed a big bat in the winter of 2000, and they got perhaps the best pure hitter on the market in Manny. His offensive numbers were actually better than A-Rod, as Manny hit .315/.415/.595, a 158 OPS+, from 2001 through 2008. But he stole only nine bases to A-Rod’s 128, and also played a far less important defensive position. Manny has faced endless criticism of his defense, though he did the one important thing for a Boston left fielder. He played balls well off the monster.

4. Derek Jeter: 10 years, $189 million (2001)

For a player who puts up Jeter’s numbers, that contract might seem a bit out of line. But by the time he signed the deal in the winter of 2000-2001, he was already the face of the franchise. Alex Rodriguez had just signed his mega deal, and Jeter wanted a favorable comparison. While Jeter ended up worth the salary, the Yankees could have had him cheaper. In the winter of 1999-2000, the two sides agreed to a seven-year, $118.5 million deal, which would have mean an AAV of $2 million less. Oh well.

Here’s where things start to get tough.

5. Carlos Beltran: 7 years, $119 million (2005)

While Beltran got off to a slow start with the Mets in 2005, he has generally shined during this contract. He hit .275/.362/.505, a 125 OPS+, through the first four years, during which time he played a stellar center field. He seemed poised for a career year in 2009 before he hurt his knee and missed half the season. Beltran has two years left on the deal, and if he performs like he did in the first four years, it will be a good value for the Mets.

6. Todd Helton: 11 years, $141.5 million (2001)

In 2000, Helton’s contract didn’t quite seem like a steal, but it seemed pretty good. He had just come off a year in which he led the NL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, hits, RBI, and total bases. He went on to post an OPS above 1.000 for the next four seasons, and although his production has dipped a bit in the past five years it’s still at an elite level. Back issues have hurt him throughout the contract, though 2008 was the only year in which he missed significant time. Otherwise, a .326/.433/.554, 143 OPS+ performance sounds great to me.

7. Miguel Cabrera: 8 years, $152.3 million (2008)

Even though his OBP dipped during his first year in the American League, Miguel Cabrera still led the league in home runs in 2008. He followed that up with a much better 2009, with his OBP again approaching the .400 mark. During the two years of his deal he’s hit .308/.373/.542, a 135 OPS+. He’ll be 27 in 2010, meaning he’ll be just 32 during the contract’s final year. Once he’s through, he could be ranked above Beltran, and maybe even above Jeter. But that’s a tall order.

8. Alex Rodriguez: 10 years, $275 million (2008)

This was perhaps the toughest to rank. A-Rod missed time in 2009 but came back to produce big time. He also had a good but not great year in 2008. Part of this ranking is future potential. He should have a few more good years before he starts to decline. Plus, I couldn’t put Giambi’s contract over this, ill-advised as it may have been.

9. Jason Giambi: 7 years, $120 million (2002)

The good of Jason’s deal: He hit .260/.404/.521 during his deal, a 142 OPS+. He raked during the first year of the contract, had a huge comeback year in 2005 that powered the Yanks to the playoffs, and he contributed a lot to the 2006 team. The bad: in two years he missed about half of the games, and in two others he played in 139 games. His spot on the defensive spectrum hurts, but his bad D at that position hurts a bit more.

10. Mark Teixeira: 8 years, $180 million (2009)

We’re just one year into Teixeira’s contract, so it’s tough to judge it at this point. As you’ll see, however, this ranking is more due to Tex’s durability. The players below him either have injury concerns, or have underperformed their contracts. Tex was worth his salary in 2009, and is entering his age-30 season in 2010. He should have at least a few more very productive years in him.

11. Carlos Lee: 6 years, $100 million (2007)

It’s not that Carlos Lee has hit poorly in Houston. He’s actual hit quite well, posting a .305/.354/.524, 127 OPS+ line during the first three years of his contract. That’s not a $100 million performance, however, especially for a corner outfielder. Then again, it’s not like Lee demonstrated that he’d be any better. His 144 OPS+ in 2008 was the highest of his career, though he played in only 115 games. But he gets the nod over the three bad contracts.

12. Ken Griffey Jr.: 9 years, $116.5 million (2000)

Signed a year before the big contracts hit, Griffey was still an exciting player in 2000. Had had led the league in home runs in each of the previous three years, and looked to use that power to turn around the Reds franchise. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Griffey played well during his first season, but didn’t again reach 140 games played until 2007. He averaged just 110 games per year during the contract, so even though he put up a .269/.361/.510, 121 OPS+ line he was a disappointment.

13. Alfonso Soriano: 8 years, $136 million (2007)

Soriano is another player who parlayed a career year into an way too big contract. His .351 OBP and .560 SLG in 2006 were career highs, leading the Cubs to greatly overpay him during that off-season. Like Griffey, he almost immediately ran into injury problems with his new team. He played in just 135 games in 2007, his OBP dropping back to normal levels. In the last two years he’s played in 109 and 117 games, and while the home runs have come not much else has. He’s entering his age-34 season, so there’s not much reason to remain optimistic that he’ll live up to the deal.

14. Vernon Wells: 7 years, $126 million (2007)

This deal looked bad before the extension even kicked in. Wells posted a stellar 2006 season, hitting .293/.357/.542, a 129 OPS+, while playing a good center field. Fearing he’d lose Wells to free agency a year later, then-GM J.P. Ricciardi signed Wells to his extension, which wouldn’t kick in until 2008. In 2007 Ricciardi was already having second thoughts. Wells hit .245/.304/.402. In 2008 he missed 59 days with a hamstring strain and wrist fracture, though he hit well while healthy. In 2009 he was mostly healthy, but again hit poorly. The worst part of this deal, other than Wells probably never living up to it, is that it’s highly backloaded. After earning $12.5 million this year, Wells will earn $23 million in 2011 and $21 million in 2012-14.

Where will this list stand in 5 years?

It’s tough to tell what the $100 million position player contract list will sit a few years from now, though that won’t stop me from speculating. I doubt anyone tops the Pujols contract, or even the Manny and A-Rod contracts. Teixeira’s ranks should rise, as should Cabrera’s. As for where Matt Holliday falls, I’ll bet right ahead of Giambi and Lee, but behind Helton and Beltran. Good production, but not 1.000 OPS good or premium position good. Though, as we can see from the list, he can really end up anywhere.

1The Minnesota Twins paid their players $15.8 million in 2000, the lowest payroll in the majors. The AAV of the contracts to A-Rod ($25.2 mil), Jeter ($18.9 mil), and Manny ($20 mil) exceeded that, and Mike Hampton’s AAV came in less than a million below. (Up)

After one year, a home run park but nothing else

Throughout the early part of 2009, the main story surrounding the new Yankee Stadium focused on the home runs. While we anticipated a home run-happy stadium, no one expected the ball to sail out of the park as much as it did. Earlier in the year, fans and analysts were quick to blame wind currents, and as Yankee officials defending their new home, Peter Gammons called it “one of the biggest jokes in baseball.”

Guess what? Joke’s on him. ESPN has released its park factors for the 2009 season, and Yankee Stadium was not a hitter’s park. While the stadium certainly inflated home run totals, it cut down on hits, doubles, triples and runs. Overall, the Stadium ranked 20th for runs with a park factor of 0.965.

Drilling down on these numbers, we see a marked decline in the propensity of the stadium to surrender extra-base hits. Its home run factor — 1.261 — lead the Majors, but it was tough to knock out non-home run hits. Its 0.810 doubles factor was 29th, and its 0.500 triples factor was the lowest mark in the big leagues. Perhaps that’s because the Yankees were not a particularly speedy team, but more likely than not, the outfield’s shorter fences turned would-be triples into either doubles or outs.

Despite these findings, the myth persisted throughout the season that Yankee Stadium was some hitter’s paradise. In large part, the Yanks’ gaudy offense drove this tale. After all, the team hit a ridiculous .284/.368/.490 at home with 136 home runs. But their opponents hit just .249/.325/.404, and while those hitters belted 101 home runs, the visiting teams’ offense tailed off by the end of the year.

Greg Rybarczyk from Hit Tracker and The Hardball Times explained why in the comments to this BTTF post. After running the numbers, he found that Yankee pitchers drastically cut down the number of home runs allowed and that, after June 1, Yankee batters accounted over 70 percent of the home runs at Yankee Stadium.

“The Yankees figured out how to clamp down on their opponents’ deep fly balls to right field, while maintaining their own ability to exploit the short porch. This was most likely a combination of more innings being thrown by better and/or healthier pitchers, and conscious effort to steer fly balls towards the deeper left field,” he wrote. “The Yankees learned how to leverage the idiosynchrasies of their park, while (unsurprisingly) their visitors did not (or could not).”

Right now, we have to wary about drawing too many conclusions from this data. It is, after all, just one year’s worth of data, and the Yankees featured a left-handed power-hitting lineup in 2009. Based on the available data, the team will again field a power-hitting lefty-heavy lineup this year, and as the year progresses, we’ll have to see how these trends stack up with more data behind them. Yankee Stadium wasn’t, as the critics said early on, a joke for hitters. It is a home run-friendly park that limits the damage done by balls that don’t clear the fence, and as the Yanks build a roster to suit their park, you can get that the team is well aware of these park factors.

Running down Nick Johnson’s myriad injuries

Nick Johnson, as we know, is not a pillar of health. If he were, he’d have received far more than the one-year, $5.75 million contract he signed earlier this off-season. The Yankees took a gamble, and considering the injuries that have kept him on the bench during his eight-year MLB career it’s a pretty considerable one. Yet Johnson doesn’t appear to suffer any chronic ailments. The Yankees had concerns about Hideki Matsui‘s knees, knowing that they could be an issue in 2010. But with Johnson, there’s no single body part that has caused him constant problems.

Chris at The Yankee U pulls up Johnson’s injury history, noting that he’s missed 589 season days to injury over his career. That seems like a staggering number, though it gets skewed because of Johnson’s 2006 and 2008 injuries. Following an otherwise healthy 2006 season, Johnson broke his femur after colliding with teammate Austin Kearns. He missed the final seven days of the season and then the entire 2007 campaign, totaling 193 days. Then, 38 games into his 2008 return, he tore a tendon sheath in his wrist while swinging. That adds another 137 days. The two injuries cost Johnson 330 total days on the disabled list, or 56 percent of his career total.

Of the two injuries, the wrist clearly causes more concern. That he got through 2009 without any wrist problem provides a positive outlook, but there still has to be some concern. In fact, injuries to the right wrist and hand plagued Johnson earlier in his career. In 2002 he missed 26 days with a right wrist contusion, and then missed another 25 days with right wrist soreness in 2003, though that came in training camp. But later that season he missed 70 days with a stress fracture in his right hand. Like the wrist injury that ended his 2008 season, it came on a swing. He suffered no hand or wrist injuries between 2003 and 2008.

The other major injury, the broken femur, resulted from a freak accident. Perhaps his fragility played into the severity, but there’s no way to prove that. It wasn’t the first time Johnson suffered a freak injury that kept him out for a prolonged period. On August 20, 2004, a Royce Clayton ground ball struck Johnson in the face, dropping him face first into the ground. He suffered a fractured right cheekbone, sidelining him for the rest of the season, 44 days. That puts his freak injury total at 237 days, or 40 percent of his total injury time.

In 2009 Johnson missed 24 days due to injury. The first came after fouling a pitch off his foot. The second, a right hamstring strain, landed him on the 15-day DL and caused him to miss 17 days. It must not have been that severe an injury; we’ve seen players miss much more time with hamstring strains. Finally, he missed six days in September with the flu. So, one real injury, and even that was less severe than many of its type.

Nick Johnson is an injury prone player, no matter how many mitigating factors exist. But because of his similarity to other players on the market, specifically Matsui, those mitigating factors probably did play into the decision to sign him. Because his time on the DL is skewed by two freak injuries, and because he had surgery to correct the one recurring injury seemingly make him a better bet than other injury prone DH types. For instance, Carlos Delgado is coming off major hip surgery, and Hideki Matsui has chronic knee problems. The Yankees, it appears, would rather deal with an injury-prone player with no chronic issues than one with a specific area of concern.

If you want to check out Johnson’s injury history, here’s the chart, courtesy of Fantasy Pitch F/X.

Photo credit: AP/Paul Sancya

Coaching staff set to return in 2010

Via Bryan Hoch, Joe Girardi‘s entire coaching staff will return next season. The contracts of Tony Pena, Rob Thomson, Mike Harkey, Dave Eiland, and Mick Kelleher had all expired after the season, however the team wanted to bring them all back and it seemed like just a matter of time before things got worked out. This isn’t much of a surprise, thought it’s good to get this wrapped up.

Meanwhile, Dave Miley and his entire Triple-A coaching staff will also return next season. Miley has guided the Scranton Yanks to the league’s best record (253-175) over the last three seasons.

Open Thread: Who is the next Yankee HOFer?

Another year has passed without a Yankee entering the Hall of Fame. Not only that, but there aren’t any Yankees currently on the ballot who stand a fighting chance. Don Mattingly, though he improved his vote total from 11.9 percent last year to 16.1 percent this year, has just a few more years of eligibility, and chances are he won’t approach the 75 percent threshold. So who will be the next player to wear a Yankees cap in the HOF?

Bernie Williams? He last played a game in 2006, so his time will come soon enough. But will he get the vote? Certainly not on the first few ballots, and even after that it will take a Jim Rice effort to get him in. If he’s on the ballot in 2012, I don’t expect to see him get in before 2025, if at all.

Roger Clemens? He last pitched in 2007, putting him on the 2013 ballot. Two questions here: 1) Will the voters put the steroid allegations aside? 2) Is there any chance he goes in as a Yankee? He did win two World Series in the Bronx, as well as his 300th game. But, since he spent more time with the Sox than any other team, chances are he’ll go in with their cap. But even then, chances are he’ll spend a few years in limbo.

Mike Mussina? He’s slated for the 2014 ballot, and he certainly has a case. But he spent a year and a half longer with the Orioles, and those were generally more productive years. Five times he was top five in the Cy Young balloting with Baltimore and only once with New York. Again, it’ll take a few ballots for Moose to make his case, and there’s a good chance he never gets in. But if he does, I bet he dons orange and white.

Beyond those three, we’re looking at active players. If we’re choosing among them, it’s pretty obvious that Mo gets the first nod. He and Derek Jeter will get in on the first ballot — and A-Rod should, though we never know how the voters will go on that one. But, since it’s almost a certainty that Jeter plays longer than Mo, it’s safe bet that Mo goes in first. Since he’s a first balloter, he’ll probably get in ahead of Bernie and Clemens.

So, barring unforeseen circumstances, I think we can reasonably predict that Mariano Rivera will be the next Yankees representative in the Hall of Fame.

With that, enjoy the open thread for the evening.