The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with two big signs fans are losing interest in the Yankees.
For the first time in five years and only the second time in 19 years, the Yankees missed the postseason in 2013. They didn’t just miss the postseason, they missed the postseason because so many of their best players either got hurt or underperformed. I’m not talking about minor injuries either — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira combined for 76 games (44 by A-Rod) while Curtis Granderson missed over 100 himself. CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career and Andy Pettitte battled injury and ineffectiveness for a long stretch of time. The only star-caliber constants were Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera.
As a result, fan interest was the lowest it’s been in years. Certainly the lowest since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. I don’t think the Yankees do a very good job of cultivating fans with caravan events and stuff like that — get to the Stadium early and Chris Stewart might shake your hand at the gate! — and their in-game entertainment at the ballpark is older than half the roster. The Subway Race is still pretty cool but the YMCA and the Match Game and Cotton-Eyed Joey are all outdated. Dammit do I hate Cotton-Eyed Joey. The giveaways* are pretty lame as well.
* Special shout out to the Yankees for the awful Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Day experience as well. Yes I’m still bitter.
When the Yankees aren’t winning, it’s not all that fun to go to Yankee Stadium. It’s too expensive and the non-baseball stuff isn’t worth it. When the Yankees aren’t winning and half their star players are hurt or playing poorly, they’re barely worth your time. That lack of fan interest showed this season in more ways than one.
Attendance across baseball was down slightly this season, an average of 333 fans per game*. That’s 1.08%. The Yankees, on the other hand, saw their average attendance drop 3,245 fans per game from 2012 to 2013, or 7.4%. It would have dropped even more if not for the Mariano Rivera retirement tour boost in September — three of their four highest attended non-Opening Day games were in late September. Attendance has dropped 5,429 fans per game since the first season of the new Stadium back in 2009, or 11.8%. Obviously the team’s attendance has trended downward quite a bit the last three years, especially relative to the league average. I don’t think you needed the above graph to see that.
* Attendance data courtesy of Baseball Reference.
Unfortunately, information on network ratings is hard to find, or at least I don’t know where to look. According to Joel Sherman, the YES Network saw ratings fall a whopping 33% this past season. Neil Best said it was roughly 39% back in late-May, so Sherman’s number passes the sniff test. The network’s highest rated game of the season was Alex Rodriguez’s return and I’m sure there was a boost for the Rivera/Pettitte retirement tour in September as well. The exact percentage of the decline really isn’t important. We know there was a significant decline in ratings in 2013 and that’s all that matters. If the numbers reported by Sherman and Best are true, that’s staggering.
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So, clearly attendance and ratings were a problem this year, and they are one representation of fan interest. If people aren’t interested in the team, they won’t watch and they sure as hell won’t spend a boatload of money to attend a game. Thankfully I’m not the one who has the figure out the solution to this problem, that’s on the Yankees. The declining attendance and ratings is the result of many, many things I’m sure. Ticket prices and the economy, fan apathy, lack of star players in 2013, ownership talking about slashing payroll at every opportunity, a team that isn’t all that exciting on the field … all of that and more is playing a part here. It’s a problem and, based on all the talk this winter, the club seems to think adding several big name players will be the way to fix it. Maybe it’ll work. They have to hope it will.
The Yankees have announced a series of roster moves. First, they have acquired IF Dean Anna from the Padres for Single-A reliever RHP Ben Paullus. Second, IF Corban Joseph has been outrighted off the 40-man roster. Third, they have added Anna, C Gary Sanchez, OF Slade Heathcott, RHP Jose Campos, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and RHP Shane Greene to the 40-man roster. Midnight tonight was the deadline to set the roster for next month’s Rule 5 Draft and all six players were eligible. There is still one open spot on the 40-man roster.
Anna, 26, hit .331/.410/.482 (140 wRC+) with nine homers and three stolen bases in 582 plate appearances for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate this past season. He’s a left-handed batter with little power (.138 ISO in 1,339 plate appearances between Double and Triple-A) but a good idea of the strike zone (12.5% walks) and good bat control (11.9% strikeouts). Anna has a ton of experience at the two middle infield positions while also dabbling at third and in the outfield corners. I’m guessing the Padres didn’t have a 40-man roster spot for him and wanted to turn him into something rather than lose him for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft. Nifty little pickup for the Yankees, nice extra guy to have.
We heard Greene and Mitchell would be protected from the 40-man roster a few days ago. Sanchez and Heathcott were no-brainers but Campos was on the bubble as a 21-year-old who has never pitched above Low Class-A. He now has three years before running out of minor league options and having to stick in the big leagues for good. Joseph missed most of this season due to shoulder surgery and is really just a spare part for New York. He can hit a little but he doesn’t really have a position — he doesn’t have the range for second base or the arm for third. Not a surprise he cleared waivers.
The three most notable players the Yankees left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft are RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Chase Whitley. The first two are hard-throwing relievers with questionable control (especially Kahnle) who spent last season with Double-A Trenton while Whitley is more of a command and control guy who spent the year at Triple-A Scranton. The Bombers tried to trade Kahnle for Michael Young and Alfonso Soriano at the trade deadline a few months ago, but no dice. Both he and Kahnle are very likely to be selected — hard-throwing relievers are the backbone of the Rule 5 Draft — and there’s even a chance both will stick in the big leagues next season. Most Rule 5 picks don’t, however.
Via Jon Heyman: The Rangers and Tigers have agreed to a trade that will send Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler. It’s a one-for-one swap and the Rangers will get some cash as well.. The trade has some affect on the Yankees since the Tigers and Rangers were potential suitors for Robinson Cano, moreso the former. Detroit now has a second baseman and the Rangers just took on a huge contract that runs though 2020. Hot stove! · (65) ·
I was in a Curtis Granderson highlight watchin’ mood today, so here’s a Curtis Granderson highlight video. You are forewarned, the music is a little NSFW. There’s a pretty good chance Granderson will sign with another team this winter and I’ll really miss him. Flawed player, yes, but also very fun to watch. Plus he seems like a pretty cool guy too. He’ll be missed.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all playing, plus there’s college something on somewhere. You folks know the drill by now, so get to it.
Every day during Alex Rodriguez‘s arbitration hearing, news outlets have placed reporters outside the building. Ben and I frequently crack jokes about this absolutely pointless assignment. No one is divulging testimonies. Their only purpose is to sit there and wait for something to happen. Today, their efforts paid off. Something happened.
Minutes ago Rodriguez issued a statement — after storming out of the room — which I picked up from the Daily News Sports I-Team Twitter feed. It reads:
“I am disgusted with this abusive process designed to ensure that the player fails. I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the Players Association refused to order Selig to come in and face me. The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce.”
As with every statement from both sides in this case, there is more it than what A-Rod portrays. Given Selig’s heavy hand in this, he absolutely should come in and justify his decision. I can understand why anyone would get upset in that situation.
But let’s not simply assume that Alex’s intentions are pure here. Perhaps this is a ploy to avoid testifying himself. Perhaps his legal team sees the writing on the wall, knows that he’s going to be suspended, and will instead prepare for a larger fight in federal court.
For the moment, I’ll say hats off to A-Rod for calling out Selig. It’s pretty clear — to me, at least, from the evidence we’ve seen publicly — that Selig does indeed have a vendetta against Alex. If the man wants to levy such a heavy punishment and then refuses to justify it, then how can an arbitrator rule that it’s appropriate? Again, just my input on this. I’m sure opinions on this will come down from every possible angle.
Update by Mike (5pm ET): A-Rod just made a live in-studio appearance on Mike Francesa’s show to discuss today’s events and the arbitration hearing in general. A partial video is above and the full audio is right here. I can not recommend it enough. It’s amazing. Among the major points:
- A-Rod flatly denied all PED allegations stemming from Anthony Bosch and Biogenesis. Francesa asked him directly and the answer was a clear denial, no wiggle room. That’s all on the record. Alex also declined trying to interfere with the investigation.
- A-Rod also said this is personal for Selig, who is retiring after next season and wants “my head on a mantle on the way out.” He also said this is about the money, that MLB wouldn’t have it in for him like this if his contract was so big. I think he’s right, this whole mess doesn’t happen if the league didn’t go for the kill with a 211-game ban.
- It’s unclear if A-Rod will testify as scheduled on Friday. It’s basically a “if Selig doesn’t testify, I don’t testify” situation. He did hedge a bit by saying he’ll talk things over with his lawyers once he calms down.
- Oh, and by the way, Alex is angry at the Yankees. He made that clear. He also said he has an obligation and will play third base for them when the time comes.
Like I said, I can’t recommend the interview enough. Make sure you watch the video. I thought Francesa killed it with his questions and A-Rod scorched every last bit of Earth. Such great theatre.
When a team expects to win and fails, the players are typically at fault. They are, after all, the ones who take the field every day and therefore control the team’s fate. But as the old saying goes, you can’t fire all the players.* As an alternative, teams often opt to fire the manager. Leaders make for good scapegoats, even if they do not directly participate. It’s also easier to get rid of one man and one contract (coaches typically go year-to-year) than to publicly identify the players at fault and get rid of them.
* Unless you’re the Red Sox, who fired three highly paid players and the manager. It’s almost as if winning the World Series was a reward for that decision.
It would have been easy to blame the Yankees’ 2013 season on the manager. The team was expected to win and it did not. The Yankees could have walked away from Girardi cleanly, too, since his contract expired after the season. Instead they signed him to a new four-year deal that exceeds his previous three-year contract. It shows just what upper management thinks of the on-field boss. If anything, 2013 further solidified Girardi as one of the game’s top skippers.
Many fans disagree with that sentiment, but certain fans will always hate the manager for one reason or another. It’s just the nature of baseball. A few close friends of mine dislike Girardi.* They have their criticisms, and while I disagree they do deserve fair trial.
* One of them dislikes Girardi, but likes Big Bang Theory, so I think it’s fair to call his judgment into question.
They don’t like his bullpen management
Pardon me if I don’t pay this critique much credence. While there are managers who handle their bullpens poorly, it seems that vocal, if not large, groups of fans from every team bemoan the manager’s pitching changes. All managers could be wrong, and fans could be right, about bullpen management tactics — in theory. In theory Communism works. In theory.
Three main factors are at play here. First is the now-tired, but still relevant, trope that managers possess far more information than fans. Girardi, we learned early in his tenure, keeps track of not only when his relievers get into games, but also when they warm up in the pen. You might not have seen David Robertson for a few days, but if he pitched two days in a row and then warmed up in each of the next two, he might not be available. This information gap also extends to Girardi’s knowledge of the individual player. Perhaps he doesn’t feel a particular player, on a particular day, is well-suited for a particular situation. We can criticize that, but it doesn’t hold much water if we don’t know the players and the circumstances.
Second is negativity bias. We tend to remember the bad decisions, because they result in agita and, in many instances, losses. Losing sucks, so that feeling sticks in our craws far longer than, say, the time when Girardi brought in David Robertson in the third inning after Andy Pettitte, who left with an injury, put two on with one out and had three balls on the batter. We might not remember that Robertson got out of the bases loaded, one out situation unscathed, which kept the game close at hand for when the Yanks exploded for seven runs and won.
The third is general discontent with managers. Moe Szyslak aptly sums up the sentiment: “The only thing I know about strategy is that whatever the manager does, it’s wrong. Unless it works, in which case he’s a button pusher.”
They don’t like how he deals with the media
I find this gripe odd. Why do fans care if the manager gets testy when the media asks its typically dumb questions? In many instances it comes off as endearing. There are good reporters who ask thoughtful questions, and they certainly deserve a respectful answer. So far as I have seen, Girardi has done just that. There are other reporters who ask the same pointless questions, or cliched and meaningless questions, all the time.* There comes a point where it’s reasonable to lose patience with them. We saw Girardi get a little angry in those situations in 2013.
* At a game I was covering in 2010, Girardi was giving his pre-game press talk. Javy Vazquez had pitched the previous night, and Phil Hughes was on the mound that night. The reporter asked a random question about A.J. Burnett — something asinine, too, along the lines of, “how would you characterize your confidence in A.J. Burnett?”
Honestly, I appreciate it when players and personnel take an attitude with the media. Yes, the reporters are just doing their jobs, but the good ones recognize that asking dumb, repetitive questions don’t help their causes. I miss the days when Mike Mussina scoffed at reporters. In 2013 I missed Derek Jeter poking fun at Kim Jones’s generic questions. It sure beats hearing players give the same boring responses to the same boring questions.
They mock the binder
Heaven forbid the manager has material at hand to inform his decision. For some reason, the media started mocking Girardi for consulting this binder in 2008, and fans followed in kind. This I will never understand. You mock a guy who makes poor “gut” decisions, but also mock a guy who employs data when making those same decisions? It’s senseless, and it goes right back to what Moe said.
Friend of RAB R.J. Anderson wrote about this issue at the time of Girardi’s previous extension:
Pretend for a moment that Girardi’s binder contains information about platoon splits and the basic rundown of data that a manager should be equipped with for in-game decisions. Whether this is the case or not is unbeknown to outsiders, but just pretend. Is there any downside to a manager having the information on hand with which to consult? Perhaps if the information itself is trivial or useless (i.e. how batters fared versus lefties over the last week or on Sundays), then Girardi is hurting the club, otherwise it’s hard to think of a downside.
Assuming that is not the case, the mocking of Girardi’s binder highlights the weird juxtaposition of the media’s treatment toward baseball managers who use information and prep work and their football counterparts who absorb film and schemes. Using numbers does not make Girardi a great manager, but it also does not make him a nincompoop. If he acknowledges that his gut and experience in the game does not hold all of the game’s answers, then he might be more self-aware and conscious than quite a few of his managing counterparts.
The binder contains information that can help balance data and gut feelings. It can influence better decisions. I’m sure that if he kept all the data in an iPad (which, as far as I can tell, isn’t allowed in an MLB dugout), fans and media wouldn’t say a word.
There are, to be sure, a number of other reasons why fans dislike Girardi, and I encourage detractors to elaborate in the comments. For our current purposes, I’ll list the one reason, above all others, I like Joe Girardi and think that he’s a great fit for the Yankees:
He protects his players
When the media asks questions of his players, he refocuses the conversation to himself. In other contexts that might sound egotistical, but in the case of a baseball manager it’s a virtue. Fans lauded Joe Torre his ability to manage the media, and Girardi is in many ways growing into that role (though he’s quite a bit surlier than his predecessor). Girardi never speaks even a drop of ill about his players, even when they deserve it.
If you stick up for your players, you can earn their respect. It does seem that Girardi has the team’s respect, which is all you can really ask of a manager. What effect did that have on the team? Well, they did outperform their Pythagorean record by six wins and their third-order wins by more than 10. Not all of that was due to Girardi’s influence, but if even one of those wins stemmed from something intangible he brings to the table it speaks well of his clubhouse presence.
In terms of the 2013 season, Girardi took an impossible situation, which started with shaky roster construction and continued with key injuries, and did a good a job as you can expect from anyone in that position. What could he done to further tip the scales in his team’s favor? From this perspective, little to nothing. The four-year deal he just signed signals the Yankees feel the same way.
Aaron Judge | OF
Judge is a Northern California kid who was born in Sacramento but grew up a few miles outside Stockton in a small town called Linden. According to the internet, only about 1,800 people live in the eight or so square mile town. Judge was a three-sport star at Linden High School (baseball, basketball, football) and was twice an All-League selection in baseball. He also earned All-American honors as a senior.
Prior to the 2010 draft, Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Judge as the 77th best prospect available in California. He was considered a better pitching prospect at the time and was selected in the 31st round by the Athletics. Judge declined to sign and followed through on his commitment to Fresno State, where he moved off the mound and into the outfield full-time. Most colleges recruited him as a tight end but baseball was his favorite spot, so he stuck with that.
The Yankees have an awful lot roster questions to answer this winter, including a bunch on the infield. Robinson Cano is a free agent, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter missed all of 2013 due to injury for all intents and purposes, and Alex Rodriguez may or may not be suspended in the coming weeks. There’s not a single sure thing on the infield at the moment.
New York has reportedly agreed to re-sign Brendan Ryan as insurance for Jeter, but they’ll need more help than that. They need to figure out a plan at third base regardless of what happens with A-Rod because even if his suspension is overturned, they can’t count on him to stay healthy for a full season. The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in bringing back Eric Chavez to provide depth on the corner infield spots, but the trade market could offer some help too.
According to Andy Martino, the Mets are open to trading infielder Daniel Murphy, mostly because his style of hitting doesn’t fit the organizational philosophy. I’m guessing this is a “if someone makes a nice offer, we’ll move him” situation rather than a “oh my goodness we have to dump this guy” situation. Either way, should the Yankees even have interest? Let’s dig in.
- Murphy, 28, is an excellent contact hitter who consistently hits to all fields produces solid batting averages. He hit .286 with a .315 BABIP in 697 plate appearances this past season and is a career .290 hitter with a .320 BABIP in a little more than 2,400 plate appearances as a big leaguer. His strikeout (13.6% in 2013 and 13.0% career) and contact (88.5% in 2013 and 88.2% career) rates are both well-above-average.
- Believe it or not, Murphy is a borderline elite base-runner. He stole a career-high 23 bases in 26 attempts (88.5%) in 2013 and is 42-for-56 (75.0%) in his career. Murphy also took the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) an insane 61% of the time this past season (49% career). Some nice hidden value there.
- Murphy offers some versatility. He came up through the minors as a third baseman but moved to second in deference to David Wright. The Mets have also had him dabble in left field and at first base. The left field thing was a disaster but he can play the three non-shortstop infield positions in a pinch.
- Matt Swartz projects Murphy to earn a reasonable $5.8M in his second trip through arbitration this winter. He will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2015 before becoming a free agent in two offseasons.
- The contact and batting average comes with no walks and little power. Murphy drew a walk in just 4.6% of plate appearances in 2013 (6.1% career) and his career-high 13 homers came with a below-average .129 ISO (.134 career). Yankee Stadium will help as a left-handed batter, but not a ton because he goes the other way so often.
- Although his average doesn’t really suffer, Murphy does have a big platoon split. He hit .273/.292/.324 (73 wRC+) against lefties and .292/.331/.459 (122 wRC+) against righties this past season, and for his career it’s .274/.301/.375 (86 wRC+) against lefties and .295/.344/.441 (115 wRC+) against righties.
- Murphy can play all over the field, but that doesn’t make him good defensively. The left field experiment was a disaster, as I said, and the various defensive stats (-26 DRS, -13.3 UZR, -12 Total Zone) indicate he stinks at second. The sample sizes at first and third are too small to take any numbers seriously, but his defensive reputation isn’t good.
- Injuries have been a bit of a problem. Murphy missed just about all Spring Training this past season with an intercostal strain, and he also missed close to two months in both 2010 and 2011 with MCL sprains in his knees — right knee in 2010, left in 2011.
The Yankees and Mets have not made a trade involving a player of Murphy’s caliber since the David Justice-Robin Ventura swap in December 2001. They’ve gotten together for a couple of minor deals involving relievers (Mike Stanton, Armando Benitez) since then, but nothing major. This isn’t a Yankees-Red Sox thing though — I don’t think either Brian Cashman or Sandy Alderson would balk at a trade that made sense for their team just because it involved dealing with their crosstown rival.
Infielders traded two years prior to free agency in recent years include Jed Lowrie (Astros to Athletics), Aaron Hill, and Mike Aviles (Blue Jays to Indians). Lowrie (and a reliever) was traded for six years of Chris Carter and two okay prospects. Hill was mostly a salary dump for a year and a half of Kelly Johnson. Aviles (and a prospect) was dealt for an iffy reliever. Lowrie probably fits best a comparison but it’s not perfect — he had a much longer injury history, he was more productive when healthy, and he could legitimately play shortstop. Seems like it’ll take at least two pieces to get it done though, including one that is Major League ready. That sounds like it’s in the ballpark.
The Mets have a bunch of needs, specifically in the corner outfield and bullpen. They’d also need a second baseman to replace Murphy. The Yankees could offer a smorgasbord of fringy big league ready guys like Zoilo Almonte (outfielder!), Dellin Betances or Preston Claiborne (reliever!), and David Adams or Corban Joseph (second baseman!), something like that, but that package is more quantity than quality. Who knows, maybe Alderson would take it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Murphy makes a ton of sense for the Yankees as a part-time corner infielder/DH would could step right into the lineup everyday at first, second, or third in case of injury, but finding common ground with the Mets figures to be tough.
Robinson Cano has a been a Not A Yankee for a little less than three weeks now, but his market has yet to really take shape. He had not received any offers from other clubs as of November 10th. That isn’t all that surprising, however. Things have been relatively quite for other top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as well. The market for the big names usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings in early-December.
- Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team will meet with Cano’s people sometime this week, but also indicated they will continue to talk to other players in case things drag on too long. “We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics yet, but it’s the beginning of the process,” said Hal.
- Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez met with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, and assistant GM John Ricco at a Manhattan hotel yesterday. They supposedly made a “Scott Boras-like” presentation. Cano’s camp initiated the meeting and it sounds like they’re trying to drum up some leverage. The Mets aren’t handing out the type of contract it will take to sign Cano, especially under the risk-averse Alderson.
- “[Jay-Z is] going to be intimately involved in all areas, and that has been true for the last six months” said Van Wagenen recently. “Jay is a very, very successful businessman, who has a keen understanding of value, a keen understanding of brands, and a keen understand of what this player, Robinson Cano, wants to accomplish in his career. He’s been at the table both in strategy sessions and in preparation. And he absolutely has, and will continue to be, involved in the actual negotiations with potential suitors.”
- Cano’s camp has not yet budged off their ten-year, $305M request, but Randy Levine ain’t havin’ any of that. ”We want Robbie back — we think Robbie is terrific — but we have no interest in doing any ten-year deals and no interest in paying $300M to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about,” said the team president.
- The Dodgers still insist they will not get involved in the bidding for Cano. We first heard that a few weeks ago. Los Angeles seems like an obvious fit for Robbie given their huge wallet and second base vacancy, but they appear to be saving the majority of their cash for the inevitable Clayton Kershaw extension. Maybe they’ll circle back if they have some extra cash once that is taken care of.
- Just in case you were wondering, the Marlins will not be in on Cano this winter. Shocking, I know. “We have to know our market and our payroll and our history, and our history is to build around young players and add pieces when it has become very clear that we are ready to win,” said GM Dan Jennings.
I remember thinking that Jose Vizcaino was like, the greatest utility infielder in baseball history when I was younger. For whatever reason I always remembered him getting base hits and coming off the bench to have big games and stuff like that. That wasn’t really the case though. Vizcaino hit .276/.319/.333 (67 OPS+) during his one half-season with the Yankees — was it really only half-season? it felt like more — though he did manage a .358/.408/.418 line with men on base. Going 4-for-6 with a walk-off single in Game One of the Subway Series was, by far, his biggest moment in pinstripes and maybe the biggest moment of his 18-year (!) career.
Anyway, here’s the nightly open thread. The Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks are all playing, plus there’s college hoops on somewhere. Talk about any and all of those games as well as anything else on your mind right here. Have at it.