The best seasons at each position by a Yankee during the RAB era

2007 A-Rod was a hell of a thing. (NY Daily News)
2007 A-Rod was a hell of a thing. (NY Daily News)

RAB celebrated its tenth birthday Monday. Tenth! I can’t believe it. Ben, Joe, and I started this site as a hobby and it grew into something far greater than we ever expected. The site has been around for a World Series championship, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez getting to 3,000 hits, Mariano Rivera becoming the all-time saves king … we’ve seen lots of cool stuff these last ten years. Thank you to everyone who has been reading, no matter how long you’ve been with us.

For the sake of doing something a little out of the ordinary, let’s look back at the best individual seasons at each position by Yankees players during the RAB era. Who had the best season by a catcher? By a right fielder? That sorta stuff. We launched on February 20th, 2007, so this covers the 2007-16 seasons. Come with me, won’t you?

Catcher: 2007 Jorge Posada

Very easy call behind the plate. Posada had the best offensive season of his career in 2007, hitting .338/.426/.543 (157 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 589 plate appearances. He caught 138 games that year — it was Jorge’s eighth straight season with 120+ starts behind the plate — and went to his fifth and final All-Star Game. Posada also finished sixth in the MVP voting. By bWAR (+5.4) and fWAR (+5.6), it was the third best season of his career behind 2003 (+5.9 and +6.0) and 2000 (+5.5 and +6.1). Honorable mention goes out to 2015 Brian McCann and 2016 Gary Sanchez. (Sanchez’s +3.0 bWAR last year is second best by a Yankee catcher during the RAB era.)

First Base: 2009 Mark Teixeira

Another easy call. Teixeira’s first season in pinstripes featured a .292/.383/.565 (142 wRC+) batting line and AL leading home run (39), RBI (122), and total bases (344) totals. He went to his second All-Star Game and won his third Gold Glove at first base as well. Teixeira was the MVP runner-up to Joe Mauer, though Teixeira and the Yankees swept Mauer and the Twins in the ALDS en route to winning the World Series. Got the last laugh that year. Both bWAR (+5.0) and fWAR (+5.1) say Teixeira’s 2009 season was far and away the best by a Yankees first baseman since RAB became a thing. Honorable mention goes to a bunch of other Teixeira seasons.

Second Base: 2012 Robinson Cano

The only question at second base was which Cano season to pick. His run from 2009-13 was truly the best five-year stretch by a second baseman in franchise history. Cano hit .313/.379/.550 (149 wRC+) with 33 homers in 2012 while playing 161 of 162 regular season games. He set new career highs in homers, slugging percentage, total bases (345), bWAR (+8.7), and fWAR (+7.6) while tying his previous career high in doubles (48). Robbie was a monster. He went to his third straight All-Star Game and won his third straight Gold Glove, and also finished fourth in the MVP voting. The club’s best season by a non-Cano second baseman during the RAB era belongs to Starlin Castro. Quite the drop-off there, eh?

Shortstop: 2009 Derek Jeter

The Captain circa 2009. (Paul Bereswill/Getty)
The Captain circa 2009. (Paul Bereswill/Getty)

As great as Teixeira was in 2009, he wasn’t even the best player on his own infield that year. The Yankees flip-flopped Jeter and Johnny Damon in the batting order that season and the Cap’n responded by hitting .334/.406/.465 (130 wRC+) with 18 home runs and 30 steals in 35 attempts as the leadoff man. It was also the first (and only) time in Jeter’s career the fielding stats rated him as above-average. I remember thinking Derek looked noticeably more mobile in the field. That was the year after Brian Cashman reportedly told Jeter the team would like him to work on his defense after finding out Joe Torre never relayed the message years ago. The 2009 season was the second best of Jeter’s career by fWAR (+6.6) and third best by bWAR (+6.5) behind his monster 1998-99 seasons. The Cap’n was an All-Star that year and he finished third in the MVP voting behind Mauer and Teixeira.

Third Base: 2007 Alex Rodriguez

The single greatest season by a Yankee not just during the RAB era, but since Mickey Mantle was in his prime. I went to about 25 games that season and I swear I must’ve seen A-Rod hit 25 home runs. He went deep every night it seemed. Rodriguez hit .314/.422/.645 (175 wRC+) that summer and led baseball in runs (143), home runs (54), RBI (156), SLG (.645), OPS+ (176), bWAR (+9.4), and fWAR (+9.6). All that earned him a spot in the All-Star Game (duh) and his third MVP award (second with the Yankees). A-Rod received 26 of the 28 first place MVP votes that year. The two Detroit voters voted for Magglio Ordonez. For reals. What an incredible season this was. I’ve never seen a player locked in like that for 162 games. Alex was on a completely different level than everyone else in 2007.

Left Field: 2010 Brett Gardner

With all due respect to Damon, who was outstanding for the 2009 World Series team, 2010 Gardner was better than 2009 Damon. Gardner hit .277/.383/.379 (112 wRC+) with five home runs and 47 steals that season to go along with his excellent defense. Damon, meanwhile, hit a healthy .282/.365/.489 (122 wRC+) with a career high tying 24 home runs and 12 steals in 2009. His defense was so very shaky though. Remember how he used to take those choppy steps that made it seem like he had no idea where the ball was? Both bWAR (+7.3 to +4.2) and fWAR (+6.1 to +3.6) say 2010 Gardner was better than 2009 Damon, but forget about WAR. Gardner got on base much more often and was the better baserunner. I think that combined with the glove more than makes up for Damon’s edge in power. Honorable mention goes to Matsui’s .285/.367/.488 (124 wRC+) effort with 25 home runs in 2007.

Center Field: 2011 Curtis Granderson

Remember how much Granderson struggled the first four and a half months of the 2010 season? He was hitting .240/.307/.417 (91 wRC+) with ten homers in 335 plate appearances prior to his career-altering pow wow with hitting coach Kevin Long that August. Granderson made some mechanical changes and hit .259/.354/.560 (144 wRC+) with 14 homers in 193 plate appearances the rest of the way. He went from a passable outfielder to one of the game’s top power hitters seemingly overnight. That success carried over into 2011, during which Granderson hit .262/.364/.552 (146 wRC+) with 41 home runs. He led the league in runs (136) and RBI (119), went to the All-Star Game, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. My man.

Right Field: 2010 Nick Swisher

We’re picking between Swisher seasons here, and I’m going with 2010 over 2012. Swisher managed a .288/.359/.511 (134 wRC+) line with 29 home runs in 2010, making it the best offensive season of his career. Add in right field defense that was better than Swisher got credit for, and you’ve got a +3.7 bWAR and +4.3 fWAR player. Right field lacks that big eye-popping season like the other positions during the RAB era. Swisher was reliably above-average but not a star.

Designated Hitter: 2009 Hideki Matsui

Happier times. (Al Bello/Getty)
Happier times. (Al Bello/Getty)

I came into this exercise with a pretty good idea who I’d have at each position, and I assumed 2009 Matsui would be the easy call at DH. Then when I got down to it and looked at the stats, I realized 2015 A-Rod was pretty much right there with him. Check it out:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR XBH RBI bWAR fWAR
2009 Matsui 528 .274/.367/.509 127 28 50 90 +2.7 +2.4
2015 A-Rod 620 .250/.356/.486 130 33 56 86 +3.1 +2.7

That’s really close! Matsui hit for a higher average and got on-base more, though A-Rod had more power. A lefty hitting 28 homers in Yankee Stadium isn’t as impressive as a righty hitting 33, even when considering the 92 extra plate appearances. Since they’re so close, I’m fine with using the postseason as a tiebreaker. Matsui was excellent in October while A-Rod went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Wild Card Game loss to the Astros. Tie goes to the World Series MVP.

Now that we have our nine position players, I’m going to build a lineup, because why not? Lineups are fun. Here’s how I’d set the batting order:

  1. 2009 Derek Jeter
  2. 2012 Robinson Cano
  3. 2007 Alex Rodriguez
  4. 2009 Mark Teixeira
  5. 2007 Jorge Posada
  6. 2011 Curtis Granderson
  7. 2009 Hideki Matsui
  8. 2010 Nick Swisher
  9. 2010 Brett Gardner

Look good? It does to me. Dave Pinto’s lineup analysis tool tells me that lineup would average 6.87 runs per game, or 1,113 runs per 162 games. The modern record for runs scored in a season is 1,067 by the 1931 Yankees. (Several teams from the 1800s scored more.) The 1999 Indians were the last team to score 1,000 runs. They scored 1,009.

Starting Pitchers

Moooooose. (Nick Laham/Getty)
Moooooose. (Nick Laham/Getty)
IP ERA ERA+ FIP bWAR fWAR
2008 Mike Mussina 200.1 3.37 131 3.32 +5.2 +4.6
2009 CC Sabathia 230 3.37 137 3.39 +6.2 +5.9
2011 CC Sabathia 237.1 3.00 143 2.88 +7.5 +6.4
2012 Hiroki Kuroda 219.2 3.32 127 3.86 +5.5 +3.8
2016 Masahiro Tanaka 199.2 3.07 142 3.51 +5.4 +4.6

Chien-Ming Wang‘s 2007 season as well as a few more Sabathia seasons (2010 and 2012, specifically) were among the final cuts. Late career Andy Pettitte was steady and reliable, but he didn’t have any truly great seasons from 2007-13.

Sabathia is the gold standard for Yankees starting pitchers during the RAB era. From 2009-12, he was the club’s best pitcher since guys like Pettitte, Mussina, David Cone, and Roger Clemens around the turn of the century. Mussina had that marvelous farewell season and Tanaka was awesome last year. Kuroda? He was the man. One-year contracts don’t get any better than what he did for the Yankees.

The Yankees haven’t had an all-time great pitcher during the RAB era, a Clayton Kershaw or a Felix Hernandez, someone like that, but they had four years of a bonafide ace in Sabathia plus several other very good seasons. Everyone in the table except Kuroda received Cy Young votes those years. Sabathia finished fourth in the voting in both 2009 and 2011.

Relief Pitchers

IP ERA ERA+ FIP bWAR fWAR
2008 Mariano Rivera 70.2 1.40 316 2.03 +4.3 +3.2
2009 Mariano Rivera 66.1 1.76 262 2.89 +3.5 +2.0
2011 David Robertson 66.2 1.08 399 1.84 +4.0 +2.6
2014 Dellin Betances 90 1.40 274 1.64 +3.7 +3.2
2015 Dellin Betances 84 1.50 271 2.48 +3.7 +2.4
2015 Andrew Miller 61.2 2.04 200 2.16 +2.2 +2.0
2016 Dellin Betances 73 3.08 141 1.78 +1.1 +2.9

So many great relief seasons to choose from. I had to leave out several Rivera seasons (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013), several Robertson seasons (2012-14), a Miller season (2016), a Rafael Soriano season (2012), and even a Phil Hughes season (2009). Remember how great Hughes was in relief in 2009? Hughes and Rivera were automatic that year. The Yankees have been blessed with some truly excellent relievers these past ten years. The great Mariano Rivera retired and somehow they have replaced him seamlessly. We’ve seen some amazing performances since launching RAB.

Saturday Links: Lefty Reliever, Top 100, Captain’s Camp

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

Only three more weekends without baseball after this one. Spring Training games aren’t that far away! Thank goodness. I am so ready for this offseason to be over. Here are some links to check out today:

Yankees still looking for a cheap lefty reliever

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees remain in the hunt for a left-handed reliever, but only want a player who will take a low base salary or minor league deal. Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins, the two best free agent southpaws, are seeking two-year deals worth at least $12M, says Rosenthal. If they stick to that demand, the Yankees won’t get either. I assume Travis Wood is a non-option too given the low base salary thing.

The Yankees have Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve, and Richard Bleier as their top middle innings lefty reliever candidates at the moment, and Brian Cashman talked up Joe Mantiply at the town hall last week. “He’s a soft-tossing situational lefty that I know that people were coming up to me saying, you snookered us when you claimed him off waivers,” he said. Would Charlie Furbush take a minor league deal after a shoulder injury sidelined him all of 2016? He might be the best available cheap southpaw.

Five Yankees on ZiPS top 100 prospects

In a companion piece to Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list, Dan Szymborski put together a list of the top 100 prospects according to his ZiPS projection system (sub. req’d). ZiPS is entirely data-driven, so you’ve got to take the projections with a big grain of salt, though I still always like seeing where the scouting reports and stats disagree.

The best prospect in baseball per ZiPS is Braves SS Dansby Swanson, who Law ranked second. Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi is first on Law’s list and seventh on the ZiPS list. The Yankees had five ZiPS top 100 prospects:

8. SS Gleyber Torres (Law’s rank: 4th)
9. OF Clint Frazier (Law’s rank: 27th)
34. OF Aaron Judge (Law’s rank: 44th)
44. OF Blake Rutherford (Law’s rank: 22nd)
65. 3B Miguel Andujar (Law’s rank: DNR)

RHP James Kaprielian and LHP Justus Sheffield made Law’s list but not the ZiPS list, though ZiPS tends to skew towards position players because they don’t carry as much injury risk. The top nine and 21 of the top 25 prospects in baseball are position players according to ZiPS, so yeah. Interesting to see Andujar a middle of the top 100 guy according to ZiPS. The system likes his low strikeout rate and developing power, it seems.

New Spring Training hats leaked

For the umpteenth straight spring, teams will wear different hats for Spring Training this season. A photo of the new Yankees hat was leaked over at SportsLogos.net and my goodness, it’s hideous:

spring-training-hat

It should be noted MLB and the Yankees have not officially revealed their new Spring Training hats, so it’s entirely possible that hat is a rejected design or something like that. I can’t. I just can’t anymore. Stop messing with the classic interlocking NY, yo.

Captain’s Camp now underway

Remember yesterday’s mailbag question about Captain’s Camp? Well now we have an update, courtesy of Brendan Kuty. Farm system head Gary Denbo said Captain’s Camp is currently underway and will run from January 18th to February 24th this year. Andy Pettitte, Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, and Tino Martinez are among the scheduled guest instructors. Several current Yankees will help out as well once Spring Training beings. Derek Jeter has taken the prospects out to a surprise dinner the last two years and Denbo hopes he does the same this year.

Denbo came up with the idea for Captain’s Camp a few years ago and says the goal is to “develop championship-type complete players for our Major League club.” The Yankees bring in a bunch of prospects for Captain’s Camp and basically teach them how to be professionals, how to be accountable, and help them become the best player they can be. Workouts and drills are part of Captain’s Camp, no doubt, but most of it is geared towards the off-the-field aspects of being a Yankee. They’re the most recognizable brand in sports, which creates unique demands.

Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on May 14th

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Captain is officially heading to Monument Park.

On May 14th, the Yankees will retire Derek Jeter‘s No. 2 and honor him with a plaque on Monument Park, the team announced. That’s a Sunday game against the Astros, which means former teammates Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will be there. Pretty cool.

This, of course, comes as no surprise. It was a matter of when the Yankees would retire No. 2, not if. Jeter is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits (3,465) and games played (2,747), among other things, plus he helped the team to five World Series championships. He’s on the very short list of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.

Now that No. 2 will officially be retired, the Yankees are out of single-digit numbers. Every single one is retired:

  1. Billy Martin
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Lou Gehrig
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Joe Torre
  7. Mickey Mantle
  8. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
  9. Roger Maris

No. 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 20 (Jorge Posada), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 46 (Andy Pettitte), 49 (Ron Guidry), and 51 (Bernie Williams) have all been retired as well. Twenty-one retired numbers in all.

Single-game tickets do not go on sale for a few weeks. Needless to say, tickets for May 14th are going to go fast.

Saturday Links: Miller, Beltran, Teixeira, YES, Jeter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Yankees want “sure things” for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees are seeking “sure things” in return in any Andrew Miller trade, reports Jon Heyman. I guess that means they want MLB ready young talent, not prospects who are a year or two away from the big leagues. Makes sense, right? No need to settle for lottery tickets when you’re dealing a player of Miller’s caliber. Either get players who can help you right now or keep the reasonably priced elite reliever who is under contract two more years. The Yankees don’t have to move Miller, after all. If someone wants him, it’ll cost them.

Yankees, Beltran have not talked new contract

Another one from the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees and impending free agent Carlos Beltran have not yet had any talks about a new contract, so says Barry Bloom. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Beltran is having an awesome season, but he’ll be 40 next April, and the Yankees have a small army of outfielders in Triple-A. They’ve been going young pretty much everywhere possible — and they absolutely need to do that, in my opinion — and part of that is letting Beltran go and replacing him with one of the many younger options. There’s nothing wrong with having a courtesy chat about a new deal, but yeah, this ain’t happening.

Teixeira admits to thinking about retirement

Chances are Mark Teixeira is in his final season as a Yankee — they could bring him back next year as Greg Bird insurance, though I would be surprised — but he has already said he’d like to play five more years. That doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about retirement though. Here’s what Teixeira said during a recent radio interview when asked about retirement, via Joe Giglio:

“Yea, it’s in the back of mind mind,” Teixeira said. “Absolutely. Even last year when I broke my leg on a fluke foul ball. I’m having a great season and we’re in first place and I break my leg. I’m like, ‘Man, is this ever going to stop?’ You think about how much longer do I want to do this. But you get through it. You have those frustrating times. You joke around when you’re on the DL and think it’s rock bottom watching your team on TV. But you get through and when you get back and hit a couple home runs, you think this is fun again. Hopefully, I’ll get through it this season and perform and help the team. Then we’ll sit down and discuss it as a family as far as what I want to do.”

I can’t imagine thinking and talking about retirement can be an easy thing for a pro athlete. They’re facing the inevitability of walking away from pretty much the only thing they’ve ever known. Teixeira’s been dealing with all these injuries the last few years and you know no one wants to go out like that.

YES ratings down 10% in 2016

According to Richard Morgan, YES Network ratings are down 10% from last season. They’re averaging a little more than 230,000 viewers per game these days. YES averaged nearly 400,000 viewers per game from 2002-11, when the Yankees were in their heyday and contending every year. This isn’t unexpected, right? The Yankees are bad and when teams are bad, ratings (and attendance) drop. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to the team doing something stupid, like trying to spend their way back into contention in a weak free agent market this winter.

Jeter-Davis wedding set for July 2nd

How about we close with some happy news? According to Emily Smith, Derek Jeter and Hannah Davis will be getting married on July 2nd, so two weeks from today. Smith says it’ll be a small family and close friends only ceremony in Napa, and they “want to start a family and have kids right away.” Are those kids gonna have the best genes ever, or what? Also, various social media accounts sure make it seem like Jeter is out doing the bachelor party thing with Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, and Andruw Jones. That is some serious #squadgoals right there.

Fake Old Rumor: Expos offered Vlad Guerrero and Pedro Martinez for Derek Jeter

Vlad. (Getty)
Vlad. (Getty)

I’m not much of a baseball historian, but the older I get, the more I enjoy thinking back to the game when I was a kid. Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, the late-1990s dynasty, that sort of stuff. It’s fun to remember those years. I’m a sucker for “what ifs” too. What if David Cone didn’t walk Doug Strange with the bases loaded? What if Jim Leyritz didn’t hit that homer? What if Tony Clark’s double was off the wall and not a ground-ruler?

So, needless to say, this super old and fascinating and weird rumor is right in my wheelhouse. From Nick Cafardo:

As the story goes: When Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos, he was obsessed with Derek Jeter. So he ordered his general manager, Jim Beattie, to try to make a deal with the Yankees and to give up whatever he had to. Beattie offered Yankees GM Brian Cashman Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. Stunned, Cashman told Beattie, “I can’t trade Derek Jeter.”

How about that for a rumor? Imagine trading young Jeter for young Vlad and prime Pedro. Loria’s a native New Yorker and he has long admired the Yankees — why do you think he hired Mattingly this offseason? — so it makes total sense that he’d want Jeter. Who wouldn’t want Jeter back then? He was already a megastar.

That’s a great old rumor. Too bad it’s completely bogus. First and foremost, Loria did not buy into the Expos until 1999 — even then he didn’t have controlling interesting, that came a few months later — and by then Pedro was already with the Red Sox. He was traded to Boston in November 1997. Also, Cashman was promoted to GM in February 1998, two months after Pedro was traded to BoSox.

So no, this Jeter for Vlad/Pedro conversation didn’t actually happen. Sorry for being such a buzzkill. I don’t doubt Loria wanted Jeter, and hey, maybe Beattie did offer Vlad or Pedro for Jeter at some point. Pedro has said he was almost traded to New York. Time has a way of warping things — the older the story gets, the farther the home run travels, that sort of thing — and I’m sure this rumor had legs somewhere along the line. The Expos probably wanted Jeter. Everything else broke down during the game of telephone.

This is a very interesting what if though. Would Jeter for Vlad and Pedro have made sense for the Yankees? Let’s assume this happened during the 1997-98 offseason, when the Expos really got serious about trading Pedro. The Yankees would have traded four years of Jeter for five years of Vlad and one year of Pedro. If you simply add up the WARs — the lazy man’s trade analysis — it would have been 25.2 WAR (Jeter) for 32.9 WAR (Vlad) and 7.2 WAR (Pedro), so the Yankees would have come out way ahead.

It’s not quite that simple though. Who plays shortstop after Jeter? Andy Fox? Homer Bush? Shortstops like Jeter are harder to find than outfielders like Vlad, and don’t mean that as a knock on Vlad. He was awesome. Jeter was a much more valuable commodity as a player. So the Yankees would have no shortstop, and Guerrero would have to play left field because the Yankees had Bernie Williams in center and Paul O’Neill in right. They’d go into the season with a starting lineup that looks something like this:

  1. 2B Chuck Knoblauch
  2. DH Tim Raines
  3. RF Paul O’Neill
  4. CF Bernie Williams
  5. 1B Tino Martinez
  6. LF Vlad Guerrero
  7. C Jorge Posada
  8. 3B Scott Brosius
  9. SS ???

Would the Knoblauch trade have even happened if the Jeter trade went down? Would the Yankees trade their starting shortstop (Jeter) and top shortstop prospect (Cristian Guzman) in one offseason? Maybe! Knoblauch was a star and Vlad looked like a future star. The Yankees still had Bush as a stopgap and D’Angelo Jimenez in the system, after all.

The rotation aspect is pretty straight forward. Pedro, who won the NL Cy Young in 1997, would have joined holdovers Andy Pettitte, David Cone, and David Wells in the 1998 rotation. Ramiro Mendoza was the fifth starter to start that season, and eventually Hideki Irabu and Orlando Hernandez joined the starting five. One of those two would be out of the picture. Probably Irabu since Bush would have had to play short (and therefore not been involved in the Irabu trade with the Padres), but maybe El Duque instead.

This is a pretty wonderful what if scenario. It’s impossible to complain about in hindsight. The 1998 Yankees were one of the ten best teams in baseball history and the Yankees won three straight World Series after this hypothetical trade would have gone down. That Jeter guy stuck around for a while too. Things worked out pretty okay.

(Update: Cashman told Bryan Hoch the rumor was bogus. He did say he tried for both Vlad and Pedro over the years, and the Expos did ask about Jeter at one point.)

The Rays, not the Yankees, appear to be Derek Jeter’s best opportunity to join an ownership group

Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Earlier this week, Derek Jeter was part of MLB’s contingent in Cuba for the Rays’ exhibition game against the Cuban National Team. Tampa Bay won the game 4-1, though the trip was about much more than that. MLB wanted to make some inroads in Cuba and help grow the youth baseball landscape, and the trip also served a diplomatic purpose as President Obama, who was also on the trip, seeks to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Among the other ex-Yankees to join Jeter in Havana were MLB executive Joe Torre and MLBPA executives Tony Clark and Dave Winfield. During yesterday’s game, Jeter sat down with the ESPN booth for a lengthy interview, and during that interview he reiterated his desire to get back into baseball as an owner.

“I needed to be away from the game for a year,” said Jeter (video link). “I didn’t watch too many games at all — obviously I have a lot of friends that are still playing, so I follow them, I communicate with them, I talk with them — but in terms of sitting down and following the game, I haven’t done it. But I’m going to start doing it again because I’ve always been very vocal about my next goal and desire is to be a part of an ownership, so I have to start paying attention.”

The Cap’n joked he doesn’t have the money to be considered for an ownership group — “Do you know much these teams cost?” he said — and added he is very early in the process of getting his foot in the ownership door. “The first step is sitting next to (commissioner Rob Manfred). I’m trying to get on his good side and hopefully get that opportunity,” added Jeter.

Jeter first acknowledging owning a team is “the next goal” back in June 2014, when he was still playing. I’ve always sorta assumed that when the time did come, the Steinbrenners would allow Jeter to purchase a chunk of the Yankees, but it’s not really that simple. First and foremost, the Steinbrenners say they aren’t selling the team, and it seems unlikely Derek would have much control with the Yankees. Does Jeter seem like the type to settle for being a figurehead owner? Nah. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) has more:

After it was announced that Jeter would be part of Major League Baseball’s entourage to Cuba, there was a fair amount of buzz within the industry that this might be the latest indication that Jeter will eventually but inevitably join the Tampa Bay Rays’ ownership group.

Two MLB sources say they have not heard anything substantive about a Jeter-Rays link, so for now this appears to be a rumor without substance. But the speculation makes sense in some ways: Jeter lives in Tampa, and he would be a perfect agent for change whenever the Rays reach a turning point in their ballpark situation, in the way that Magic Johnson was the right guy to be part of the Dodgers’ new ownership group in L.A. Jeter carries star power and credibility, of course, which will only grow once he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s easy to envision Jeter having power as a lobbyist for a team looking for a new ballpark situation.

The Rays recently received clearance from the City of St. Petersburg to begin looking for ballpark sites in the Tampa area, and they’re currently reviewing sites. This is step one in what figures to be a very long process in getting the Rays a new ballpark. They’ve got to find a site, get approval from all relevant parties, figure out the financing, then design and build the ballpark. That ain’t happening overnight.

The Rays represent the best opportunity for Jeter to get in on the ground floor of something big. It doesn’t seem MLB will be expanding anytime soon, at least not before the Rays get a new ballpark, so this is the best chance to buy into a team and immediately have some impact. Jeter lives in the Tampa area and he could be part of the ballpark process. He could play a major role right away.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg is a New Yorker — he grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Westchester — so he’s seen Jeter’s star power up close. Sternberg has talked about potentially selling parts or all of the team if they don’t get a new ballpark soon, and letting Jeter in could help the stadium cause. Jeter would certainly add some name recognition to the franchise. Heck, he’d be their popular player as an owner.

It would be weird to see Jeter as part of the ownership group of another club, especially an AL East rival, but it’s not something that is impossible. Not even close. The Yankees and Jeter don’t owe each other anything. He has every right to look for ownership opportunities around the league and the Steinbrenners have every right to run their organization as they see fit. They don’t have to sell him anything.

For now, it seems like we’re a long way away from Jeter buying into a team. Manfred and the owners have to approve any ownership candidate, though I doubt Jeter will have trouble there. It’s just a question of finding the money and finding the right opportunity. Right now, the Rays appear to present more of an opportunity than the Yankees.

Saturday Links: Randolph, Strength of Schedule, Yankees for Sale

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League season this afternoon with a road game against the Rays. We’ll have a regular game thread up a little closer to first pitch. Until then, here are some random links to help you pass the time.

Randolph still looking for a coaching job

It has now been five years since former Yankee Willie Randolph held a big league coaching job, but as he told Brendan Kuty, he’s still trying to find one. Randolph, who interviewed for the Yankees third base coach job prior to last season, last coached with the Orioles in 2011. He was their bench coach for half the season and their third base coach for the other half. Here’s what Willie told Kuty:

“I let everybody know I’m doing my due diligence,” he told NJ Advance Media in the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday. “Let everybody know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.”

“What makes it hard to keep it out there is that there’s so much of a change of the guard,” Randolph said. “So many new kids out there, that even if you keep it out there — they know who you are. There are baseball people who are going to know who I am.

“My resume speaks for itself. It wasn’t that long ago when I managed. But there seems to be a comfort zone with some of these cats. I get it. That’s part of the game. It’s who you knows, who might sponsor you, who you’re comfortable with.”

Randolph, now 61, managed the Mets from 2005-08. He was on the Yankees coaching staff from 1994-2004, spending most of his time as the third base coach but also some as Joe Torre’s bench coach. Randolph managed Team USA in the inaugural Premium 12 tournament last fall and he’s currently in Yankees camp as a guest instructor.

Teams are skewing younger with their managers and coaching staffs these days (the Yankees are no exception), so I understand Randolph’s frustration. There’s no way this won’t sound like a knock on Willie, so I’ll just say it: I’m of the belief that if you haven’t coached in five years or managed in eight years, there’s probably a reason why. If a team felt Randolph could be an asset on their field staff, he would have been hired. Teams know him. He’s not flying under the radar or anything.

2016 Strength of Schedule

Each year, Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs calculates each team’s strength of schedule using projections. It’s not perfect — projections themselves are far from perfect, plus rosters change throughout the season — but it’s a nice ballpark number. The Yankees have the second toughest schedule in the AL this year, about a win more difficult than average. That means the Yankees are expected to win one fewer game against their schedule than they would the average schedule. Make sense?

The Orioles have by far the toughest schedule in the league at two wins below average while the Indians have the easiest at a win above average. Most teams are within a half-win of average. The Mets and Nationals have the two easiest schedules in baseball by a huge margin. They’re both at two wins better than average. That’s what happens when you get to play 54 games — exactly one-third of the 162-game schedule — against the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins.

MLB submits proposal for new Cuban player signing system

According to Ben Strauss, MLB has submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department outlining a new system that will allow Cuban players to sign directly with big league teams. This would provide a safer path to the big leagues for players since they’d no longer have to defect, and the plan includes a way to raise money to improve youth baseball in Cuba. From Strauss:

Under the proposed plan, according to M.L.B.’s top lawyer, Dan Halem, an entity made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials from baseball and its players’ union would be created. A percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to the new body, which would function like a nonprofit organization and support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in Cuba.

Because no money would go directly to the Cuban government, the plan could satisfy the embargo. A few months ago President Obama said he intends to normalize relations with Cuba and this could be an important step in that direction. MLB has been working with both the U.S. and Cuban governments behind the scenes to find a way to allow Cuban players to come stateside safely and legally.

The Rays are scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team in Havana on March 22nd. They’ll be the first MLB team to play in Cuba since the Orioles in 1999. Derek Jeter and Joe Torre are among the dignitaries who will be on the trip. Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal will be there as well.

The Yankees are for sale (kinda)

An unnamed minority owner is selling a 1% share of the Yankees, reports Scott Soshnick. The price? A mere $24M. Documents associated with the sale indicate the team is worth somewhere in the $2.75 billion to $3.25 billion range. That’s the team only. It doesn’t include the YES Network or Legends Hospitality. The Yankees and MLB would have to approve any sale, because duh.

Minority owners sell some or all of their shares all the time, so there’s nothing unusual about this. Hal Steinbrenner recently said the family has no plans to sell the team — they’re actually working on a long-term plan to hand over control to the next generation of Steinbrenners — and this won’t change anything. I have to say, 1% of the Yankees for $24M seems like a pretty good investment given how healthy the game is financially. We should start a Go Fund Me.