Game 150: For George

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

It’s been more than two months since George M. Steinbrenner III passed away, but that certainly doesn’t mean he’s been out of our minds. We’re reminded every day of the impact he had on this organization, of his drive to win and succeed, of his often overbearing personality and unrealistic expectations. We had to take the bad with the good, but it’s all part of what made George the finest owner in sports history.

The Yankees will dedicate a new monument in Monument Park to the Boss’ memory tonight, the first new monument in more than a decade. Events like this tend to be followed by the most memorable of games, so expect the unexpected. Here’s the starting nine…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Berkman, DH
Gardner, LF
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s Ivan Nova. Jon Lane has more on the pitching matchup, so check it out.

The ceremony is schedule to begin right at 7pm ET, with the game starting about a half-hour later. All of the pregame stuff will be on YES, but I’m willing to bet you’ll be out of luck if you’re watching on MLB.tv. Enjoy.

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Torre, Mattingly to attend Monday’s Steinbrenner tribute

The Yankees are set to pay tribute to George M. Steinbrenner III prior to their game against the Rays tomorrow evening, and according to Bill Madden, both Joe Torre and Don Mattingly will be in attendance. The Dodgers are off tomorrow, and it will be the first time that either Torre or Mattingly will return to Yankee Stadium (new or old) since leaving after the 2007 season. I expect them both to get roaring ovations, especially Donnie Baseball.

The Yanks will be unveiling a monument honoring Steinbrenner in Monument Park, the first new one since 1999.

Steinbrenner stadium tribute set for Sept. 20

The Steinbrenner family announced today that the Yankee organization will unveil a monument in memory of the Boss on September 20 prior to the team’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Long-time owner George Steinbrenner passed away on July 13, just nine days after celebrating his 80th birthday. “We remain profoundly grateful and touched by the many expressions of sympathy and support from so many. We wish to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers, which we continue to hold close. We are especially appreciative that our family’s privacy was respected as we grieved the loss of George,” the family said in a statement.

The Steinbrenner monument will be the first new one in Monument Park since the team unveiled a statue in honor of Joe Dimaggio in 1999. “We know we will always share George’s memory with Yankees fans everywhere,” the Steinbrenner said, “and a monument in his honor to be located in Monument Park will reflect the special connection, appreciation and responsibility that George felt for New York Yankees’ fans everywhere as they were always uppermost in his mind.”

Mailbag: Joba, The Boss, Swisher, Montero

Time for another edition of the RAB Mailbag. Remember, you can email me your questions at any time, but the easiest thing to do is use the Submit A Tip box below The Montero Watch in the sidebar. This week’s topics include the mess known as Joba Chamberlain, the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees, Nick Swisher‘s future in pinstripes, and players I would be willing to acquire in a straight up trade for Jesus Montero. Let’s get to it…

About Joba Chamberlain… I wonder how much of his current troubles with consistency are due to the inconsistencies in his role, shifting from starter to reliever and back, then back again. I can’t remember any pitcher being moved back and forth so many times, aside from spot starters/long relievers of the Ramiro Mendoza mold, but that’s not the same. I personally have always been in the “Joba is a starter” crowd, and I still think he could be a top notch starter as he’s still young, has great stuff, and has been healthy. I think next year he should become a full time starter (yes, even though it’s another change, at least it will be the last), possibly starting in AAA to rebuild his mojo (if necessary), then set him loose on the AL and hope it works. Thoughts? – Howie

The Blue Jays really screwed around (bouncing back-and-forth between the rotation and bullpen) with both Dustin McGowan and Brandon League earlier in their careers, particularly McGowan. He hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues in 742 days because of major reconstructive shoulder surgery, and he recently had another setback. I’m not saying the juggling act led to McGowan’s injury though, not at all. He threw 80.1 more innings in 2007 than he did in 2006, when he was still just 25-year-old. That’s the likely culprit

Anyway, back to Joba. I definitely think the constant changing of roles has impacted him in a negative way. There’s nothing wrong with shifting a player to the bullpen at the end of the season, but going from reliever to starter and having that transition take place in meaningful games is tough. Also, while well-intentioned, the 2009 Joba Rules were horrifyingly stupid. The fact that the Yankees aren’t doing the same thing to Phil Hughes this season is basically an acknowledgment of that stupidity. Joba definitely had a deer in the headlights look towards the end of last season, like he didn’t know if he was coming or going, looking over his shoulder at the bullpen wondering if this was going to be his last batter.

That said, I don’t think Joba is beyond repair. I’ve given up on him being a starter not because I don’t think he can do, just because I don’t expect the Yankees to give him the chance to do it again. If they were going to give him another shot at starting, they should be very straight forward about it and do it in very controlled manner. Start him in the minors, let him stretch out at his own pace, get into a routine, and then call him up once he’s found a groove and has earned it. At times he does appear a little too comfortable, something we never saw out of Phil Hughes because he did the up-and-down thing for a few years. Maybe he needs a little kick in the ass in that regard.

That’s all easier said than done, of course. After this season Joba will have to clear (revocable) waivers to be sent to the minors because he’s been in the bigs for more than three calendar years. If someone were to claim him, the Yanks could pull him back, though he couldn’t go to the minors. If they tried to send him down again, then those waivers are irrevocable and the claiming team would get him. That might throw a wrench in any plan that involves sending him to the minors.

Will George Steinbrenner’s passing have any immediate impact on the Yankees day-to-day operations? – David

This question was sent in after we heard about The Boss’s passing last Tuesday, which is why it seems a little outdated. That’s my fault, not David’s.

As you probably know by now, Steinbrenner’s death will not impact the team’s day-to-day operations in any way. He handed control of the organization over to his sons in 2007, at which point George stepped into the background. Nothing will change, it’ll be business as usual from here on out.

Where can I find 2010 wOBA and FIP for minor leaguers? Fangraphs only has miLB numbers through last season. – Larry

I have absolutely no idea when FanGraphs will update with 2010 minor league info, so they’re out of the question for now. The best place to get wOBA and FIP for minor leaguers is FirstInning.com, a very underrated site. They also have a version of HR/FB% for pitchers, as well as runs created (RC) and RC/27 for batters. MinorLeagueSplits.com has more comprehensive FIP data, broken down by level, by year, career, you name it.

Swisher isn’t just having a lucky season, the peripherals prove that. I believe that he has really enjoyed his time in New York, and has worked his ass off to keep his stay… the Yankees got him for nothing and he is really hitting his ceiling. He is hitting for power and avg, and his fielding is infinitely better than it was when he joined us as a platoon player. Do we see Nick in pinstripes for an extended period of time? – Daniel

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another player be so happy to be a Yankee. Maybe on the inside, but no one has shown it as much as Swisher, and that has everything to do with his personality, of course. He’s put a lot of work in to become the player he is today, losing weight in each of the last two offseasons and working with hitting coach Kevin Long to improve his performance against breaking balls, all of which shows you that he wants to be a better player and remain with the team long-term.

Swish signed a big fat contract with the A’s back during the 2007 season, signing away his three arbitration years and one year of free agency in exchange for $26.75M guaranteed. Can’t say I’d blame him, I’d take the long-term security too. Anyway, Swish will earn just $6.75M this season (FanGraphs says his performance has already been worth $11.6M) and $9M next season. The Yankees could then choose between a $10.25M option for 2012, or a $1M buyout. If Swish finishes in the top five of the MVP voting this year or next, the option jumps up to $12M.

Nick is right in the prime of his career right now, and will turn the big three-oh this November. Usually any decisions on option years are due ten days or so after the end of the World Series, so the Yanks will have figure out what to do with Swish for 2012 a few weeks before his 31st birthday. Assuming they pick up his option, which they unquestionably would if he maintained his currently level of production, Swisher would be able to test the free agent water as a 32-year-old, for all intents and purposes.

That’s when players, particularly power hitters like Swisher, tend to slow down, so the Yankees might not want to fork over a big four or five year contract at that time. Ideally Swish would sign for something like two years at $12M per plus an option for a third year, but the end result will likely be something in the middle. I’m not going to waste any more time talking about something that won’t happen for two years down the road, but for now rest assured, Swish will be in pinstripes* through next season at the very least, and more than likely through the end of 2012.

* Obviously, things can always change. This is all theoretical.

Mike, last year you would always say that there were 50 guys you would trade [Jesus] Montero for straight up. Does that still hold true this year? For the mailbag would you list those 50? Or even just 25. – Joe

Sure, I’ll give you 50 right now. The list is after the jump for space reasons, but I’ll explain my methodology here. It’s pretty simple. I didn’t consider salary or whether or not that player actually fits with the Yankees, because there is a difference between being willing to acquire a player and actually being able to acquire that player. Take David Wright for example. I would trade Montero for him straight up, but the Yanks already have a third baseman, it’s not a realistic fit. Nonetheless, Wright’s on my list.

What I did consider, however, is the number of years of team control a guy has left. I essentially ruled out all the rentals like Cliff Lee. Oh, and Yankee players too. They weren’t eligible for the list.

Again, the list is after the jump. It’s alphabetical, so don’t read anything into the order. Hiss and spit in the comments.

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The post-George still-Steinbrenner Era begins

Hal Steinbrenner watches over his New York Yankees during yesterday's win over Tampa. Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

George Steinbrenner always had impeccable timing. He knew when to hire and fire managers in such a way that would generate the most publicity for the Yankees. He knew which free agents his team should have; he knew when his incendiary statements would garner the most outrageous coverage on New York’s back pages. And whether he realized it or not, he knew when to die.

As callous as that sounds, George Steinbrenner’s death could not have come during a better year for the Yankees than in 2010 for this is the year the estate tax has lapsed. Prior to 2010, those with estates of over $3.5 million were taxed at a rate of 45 percent. After 2010, those with estates over $1 million will be taxed at a rate of 55 percent. This year, though, Congress allowed the estate tax to go uncollected, and although some Senators wish to restore the tax retroactively to January 1, for now the Yankees are off the hook.

For the post-George Era, it’s hard to understate the impact this good luck has on the Yankees. Estimates from Forbes Magazine pegged Steinbrenner’s worth at over $1 billion, and the Yankee heirs would have had to liquidate some of his holdings to raise the money for a $450-$500 million government bill. Despite the value of the Yankees, the family apparently doesn’t have that much cash on hand, and the Steinbrenners may have had to sell a large chunk of the team to do so.

The point though is moot. As Forbes’ William Barrett wrote, the family has spent a lot of lately working to avoid that reality. The team is controlled by a variety of holding companies of which the various Steinbrenner children are the controlling shareholders. Major League Baseball officially recognized Hank and Hal Steinbrenner as the team’s day-to-day operations heads in 2008, a move made to protect the family’s control over the club. The family, says the Associated Press, wants to avoid falling into the same trap that plagued the Wrigley’s when then-Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley died in 1977.

But questions surrounding club ownership remain. Do the Steinbrenners want to cash in on their billion-dollar gem? Do the sons want to be as involved as the father was? So far, the family has given every indication that they will not be selling the Yankees, as Joel Sherman wrote on Friday. The Post scribe, well-connected in the upper echelons of the Yankee Front Office, offers up this revealing take about life after George initially stepped down:

Hank Steinbrenner — think a combination of hot-headed Sonny and underwhelming Fredo — briefly oversaw baseball operations after the 2007 season. He quickly burned out, not fully understanding the time and scrutiny that came with the job, especially if you were going to try to be Boss Jr. with loud proclamations.

Hal stepped into the breach, though it felt more out of responsibility to the family business than love for the job. So there was an assumption that whenever George died, so to would the Steinbrenner obligation to owning the franchise. It was not hard to imagine a frenzy of the super-rich bidding to buy the Yankees after George’s death.

Reserved and protective of his privacy, Hal projected the wrong fit for the job. Except Hal did a funny thing: He changed the way the Yankees Boss operates. Over the past few years, he learned he actually could run the Yankees under the radar. He has managed leadership without bluster or much inspection of his private life. He rarely speaks in public, offering almost none of the state of the Yankees messages that his father could deliver multiple times a day, especially in bad times. Does Hal burn to run the Yankees like his father? No. However, he has learned to like this job, and — as it turns out — the Yankees are in the Steinbrenner family blood now; George’s four children all having grown up in pinstripes.

Randy Levine, current team president, succinctly summed up the family’s thinking. “They have no plans to sell. There are no succession issues,” he said to Sherman.

Hal is, as Sherman puts it, the “cautious” version of George Steinbrenner. Whereas George’s brashness made baseball popular and rich off the field, Hal plans to own the game on the field. He’s a quiet and collected individual who knows when to delegate and knows when to step in. He’s willing to support a high-payroll team and understands that victories equals dollars in the world where Yankees and the YES Network dominate New York.

In one of the better business columns written about the Yankees post-George, Joe Nocera of The Times explains how George got lucky. The Yankees became so valuable because of their preeminent place in the country’s number one media market and because they started winning at the right time in the nation’s economic path. George happened to be the guy holding the reins, and although he made a lot of good decisions, he made some bad ones too. He didn’t sell when the chance arrived, and good fortune smiled down upon him. In a smaller market — had he bought the Indians as he so desired — George Steinbrenner might just be another irascible owner lost to the pages of baseball business history.

With a history of sports ownership in tow, the next generation of Steinbrenners will look to build on their wealth through wise investments. Luck always plays a part of the capitalist market, but so too does diversifying and smart management. According to one British tabloid, the family may bid £450 million on the Totteham Hotspurs with Hank taking his turn atop that Premier League team. Baseball owners have a mixed track record within the EPL, but it’s a start. The club reportedly has no interest in buying into the NFL, NBA or NHL.

For now, fans should see nothing new. The Steinbrenner family will invest and try to win those championships. The looming axe won’t be there to fall, but the pressures of a high payroll will remain. It is, after all, always beneficial to be in the business of winning. That’s what George was, and that is what his children should be.