Saturday Links: A-Rod, YES, NYCFC, Nicaragua, Mustaches

Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)
Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Mets resume the Subway Series later this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. It’s a 4pm ET start. Blah. Until then, here are some stray links I had lying around to hold you over.

How the Yankees will fight A-Rod‘s home run bonuses

Back in Spring Training we heard the Yankees were “confident” they could get out of paying Alex Rodriguez his home run milestone bonuses. Now that the season is underway and A-Rod is mashing taters, the breaking point is rapidly approaching. He is two shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with 660 dingers, so it could happen any game now and trigger the first $6M bonus.

Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman have the breakdown of exactly how the Yankees plan to get out of the bonuses, which are part of a separate marketing contract, not Rodriguez’s player contract. Here’s the nuts and bolts of their report:

According to two sources familiar with the situation, when Rodriguez goes deep with number 660, the Yankees will have a precise period of time — two weeks, as per one of the sources — to declare this as a marketable milestone. If they were to do this, then Rodriguez would sign over the rights to his image and associated branding for the price of $6 million.

Once the Yankees formalize this decision, then A-Rod has a set period of time — 30 days, according to one source — to file a grievance. Though Rodriguez has shied away from publicly discussing this, every indication is that he will challenge the Yankees’ interpretation of the side deal.

The Yankees will have to prove they utilized good faith in declining to declare A-Rod’s 660th homer a milestone. They’ve gone so far as to not include A-Rod in the “Upcoming Milestones” section of their daily press notes.

I dunno, seems like a lot of work to save $6M. They really can’t slap together some generic AROD660 shirts, call them official, and at least break even? Besides, you know they were hoping he didn’t hit the two homers in Detroit just so they could get the attendance boost on the homestand.

YES Network ratings down 21% so far in 2015

According to Richard Sandomir, YES Network ratings have dropped a staggering 21% so far this season, down to 267,000 viewers per game. Woof. The report is from Thursday, so it doesn’t include the last few games of this little hit streak. YES averaged over 400,000 viewers per game when it first launched and 355,000 as recently as 2012. Viewership fell to 244,000 per game in 2013 and rebounded to 288,000 per game last year thanks to Derek Jeter‘s retirement. There are still 145 games left to play, so there’s plenty of time for ratings to increase, but still. That’s a big drop. I imagine it would have been even worse if a whole bunch of people weren’t tuning in to hate-watch A-Rod.

No stadium deal for NYCFC on the horizon

New York City Football Club, the expansion MLS franchise that is doing the pro sports team version of crashing on the couch at Yankee Stadium this year, is not any closer to securing their own stadium. “We’re recognizing it’s probably going to take longer than we thought,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber to the Associated Press yesterday.

”There hasn’t been too much buzz about playing in Yankee Stadium or a baseball stadium yet,” said Garber, referring to problems with the field. ”That will happen soon, after somebody trips on a divot perhaps and perhaps misses a ground ball, but we hope that doesn’t happen.” Uh, yeah. Me too.

When we first learned NYCFC would call Yankee Stadium home, it was reported they would play their home games in the Bronx for three years (!). They still need to find a stadium location, build the place, and move in. So yeah, NYCFC isn’t going anywhere for a while. They’re 1-4-3 on the season and 1-2-1 at Yankee Stadium, in case you’re wondering. They’re playing like an expansion team.

MLB announces new amateur prospect league in Nicaragua

Earlier this month MLB announced a new amateur prospect league will be launched in Nicaragua this summer to provide scouts with “neutral in-game scouting opportunities of unsigned prospects.” This is baseball’s second amateur prospect league — they launched one in the Dominican Republic back in 2012. The league will run until July 4th, and there will be another “season” starting in September.

The press release says 46 players from Nicaragua have signed with MLB teams since 2010 and right now there are 31 Nicaraguan players under contract in MLB or the minors. Everth Cabrera and Erasmo Ramirez are the only players from Nicaragua in the big leagues at the moment. By far the best player to ever come out of the country is Dennis Martinez. (Vicente Padilla and Marvin Bernard are distant runners-up.) I’m glad MLB is branching out and giving young kids a chance to show their stuff. Hopefully they open more prospect leagues in other Latin American countries soon.

The Yankees are growing mustaches, for some reason

And finally, you may have noticed during last night’s game that several Yankees are growing — or attempting to grow, anyway — mustaches. Apparently it is part of some kind of team unity thing. Marly Rivera says Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Esmil Rogers, Dellin Betances, Garrett Jones, and Stephen Drew are among those growing mustaches, and during the game last night it looked like Jacoby Ellsbury is trying to get in on the act as well. This is either going to be very good or very bad. Maybe a little of both.

Brian Cashman on next Yankees captain: “Captaincy should be retired with No. 2″

(AP)
(AP)

With Derek Jeter now retired, the Yankees are without a captain for the first time since 2003. And since Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners last year, there is no obvious captain candidate on the roster either. That’s alright. The Yankees have gone years between captains before and they’ll do it again.

If it was up to Brian Cashman though, there would be no next captain. During a radio interview on Thursday he said he believes the team’s captaincy should be retired alongside Jeter. From Bill Price:

“As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not to decision maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”

“Leadership comes in a lot of forms, it would be a hard one to anoint someone captain,” Cashman continued, “regardless of how great they might be.”

That … seems a little excessive. But, then again, the majority of the Jeter lovefest has been over the top, so this fits right in. Jeter was undeniably a tremendous player and leader, but at some point another tremendous player and leader will come along, and he will be deserving of the captaincy. I man, geez. Retire the concept of Yankees’ captaincy?

Anyway, captaincy isn’t up to Cashman, that’s an ownership call. The Yankees went seven and a half years without a captain between Don Mattingly and Jeter — not to mention 37 years between Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson — and it looks like it’ll be several years before another captain emerges. I’m cool with that. Captains should be all-time greats, like Jeter. The captaincy shouldn’t cease to exist because of him though. Sheesh.

Michael Pineda and the pine tar of our discontent

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

As you know, Michael Pineda was ejected from last night’s game because he had pine tar on his neck. This came less than two weeks after television cameras and the internet caught him with a big glob of pine tar on his hand against the same team, the Red Sox. Manager John Farrell did not play dumb this time, instead bringing it to the attention of umpires, who checked Pineda out and ejected him immediately. Farrell had to say something. It would have been irresponsible not to at that point.

Let’s start with the obvious here: it was pretty stupid of Pineda to use a foreign substance so blatantly. Both times, but especially yesterday. He had to answer questions about it last time and it was all over the media. Television, internet, radio, newspapers, everything you could imagine. He knew it was a big deal. Pineda knew everyone knew he was using something last time out and he still tried to get away with it again. Not the smartest move on his part. Here’s what he said after the game:

I dunno, he sounds remorseful to me. Maybe I’m just biased. Pineda said he apologized to his teammates and seems genuinely upset. He seems like a player who thought he was just doing what he could to help his team, really. I thought Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman said all the right things, that it was an embarrassment to the organization and everyone’s fault, not just Pineda’s. And it is. After the first incident two weeks ago, I don’t know how they let him get out of the dugout like that.

Girardi said they spoke to Pineda about using pine tar after the first start against Boston, but apparently they did not convey the message clear enough. That’s on the coaching staff. Pineda made a dumb mistake — note: dumb mistake =/= dumb person, no need make conclusions about his intelligence, we’ve all done embarrassingly stupid stuff — but I don’t see how anyone can blame this on him and him alone. The team failed him to some degree. Everyone said the right things, but at the end of the day, words mean nothing. Pineda is going to be suspended and deservedly so.

Now, about that suspension. The rulebook says pine tar results in an automatic ten-game suspension in the minors, but MLB can hand down whatever penalty they want. They’ll talk it over with the umpires and look at the video and all that. Joel Peralta got eight games for having pine tar on his glove two years ago, and ex-Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly got ten games for the same infraction back in 2005. Because Pineda was so obvious about it and made zero attempt to hide the pine tar (twice!), I bet he gets ten games. Who really knows though. MLB tends to make up arbitrary suspension lengths.

The Yankees have an off-day on Monday, so even if Pineda gets ten games, he would only have to miss one start. If he appeals the suspension, it’ll get delayed until whenever the appeal is heard. Could be weeks. Again, because he was blatantly cheating (twice!), I’m not sure an appeal would do him any good. It would just delay the inevitable. They could get the suspension out of the way now, let David Phelps or whomever make the spot start, and that’ll be the end of it. And heck, it would give Pineda a nice little breather early in the season. The Yankees are going to have to monitor his workload anyway.

As for the pine tar itself, it doesn’t seem to bother players and coaches around the league, so it doesn’t bother me. It’s against the rules but apparently everyone does it, so that makes it okay. That seems to be part of the problem. It’s okay but against the rules at the same time. I don’t care if Pineda uses pine tar to improve his grip going forward but he can’t be so obvious about it. On the glove or the belt or whatever. Of course, now teams will be gunning for him, asking to have him checked even if he isn’t using anything just to throw him off. The Yankees will probably retaliate somewhere down the line by having a BoSox starter Clay Buchholz checked, but that doesn’t accomplish much.

Do we have to question Pineda’s strong start to the season after this? I guess. I mean, once a player is exposed as a cheater, we have to question his entire existence. That’s how it seems to go. Fair or not (fair), Pineda is going to be second guessed for the rest of the season and likely beyond that. Good start? He was hiding pine tar somewhere. Bad start? Didn’t use pine tar because he was worried about getting caught. The inches fill themselves. The coverage of this over the next few weeks will be insufferable.

Like I said, I don’t care that Pineda was using pine tar and I don’t care if the masses want to invalidate his first three starts. I care that he made a pretty dumb mistake and now a pitcher not as good as him has to take a turn or two in the rotation. Pineda’s return from shoulder surgery and early-season success was one of the most fun and exciting things about the Yankees this year. Now, instead of talking about that, we’re talking about pine tar. Pineda and to a lesser extent the Yankees brought this on themselves, and now they have to deal with the consequences.

Long was out of line with comments about Cano

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The whole “Robinson Cano is lazy because he doesn’t run out ground balls” thing has been beaten into the ground and I really hoped we would never hear about it again once he signed with the Mariners, but apparently that is not the case. Over the weekend, hitting coach Kevin Long declined to take the high road when asked about Robbie’s tendency to jog to first. From John Harper:

“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long said here Sunday, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’

“We all talked to him,’’ Long said. “I’m pretty sure [Derek Jeter] talked to him a number of times. Even if you run at 80%, no one’s going to say anything. But when you jog down the line, even if it doesn’t come into play 98% of the time, it creates a perception.”

“But he just wouldn’t make that choice to run hard all the time. The reasons aren’t going to make sense. He might say his legs didn’t feel good, or he was playing every day and needed to save his energy. To me there was no acceptable answer.’’

Joe Girardi was asked about Long’s comments yesterday and the interview was ended abruptly by the team’s public relations people according to Brendan Kuty, so this is a thing now. Everyone is talking about the hitting coach trashing the former star player when they should be talking about bullpen sessions and batting practice and how great everyone looks. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

Regardless of how true any of this is — we all know Robbie doesn’t run hard to first — Long was wrong to talk about it publicly. Doesn’t matter that Cano is no longer on the team and frankly that only makes it worse in my opinion. This is like the Red Sox talking about Terry Francona’s use of pain medication after he was let go*. Criticizing a former player after he leaves town is the ultimate low blow.

* Joe thinks Dan Duquette’s comments about Roger Clemens entering the “twilight of his career” are a more appropriate comparison. I agree.

On Tuesday, new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon defended his new star and fired back at Long. From Jerry Crasnick:

“Last time I checked, I didn’t know that Kevin Long was the spokesman for the New York Yankees,” McClendon told ESPN.com. “That was a little surprising. I was a little pissed off, and I’m sure Joe [Girardi] feels the same way. He’s concerned with his team and what they’re doing, not what the Seattle Mariners players are doing.

“I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees. I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book (“Cage Rat”) proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”

The Yankees spent all winter talking about their “family” and the importance of having strong character guys in the clubhouse whenever they signed a new free agent. That shouldn’t stop at the players. Long is a high-profile member of the organization and he threw a former player — a former member of the “family” — under the bus on his way out of town. It was a classless move and everything the Yankees claim not to be. Dan Martin says Long has already reached out to Cano to offer an apology, but at this point the damage has been done. This became something when it should have stayed nothing.

The Yankees, Stephen Drew, and the worst part of the hot stove season

When the Yankees agreed to sign Masahiro Tanaka to his massive seven-year contract, it eliminated any small remaining chance they would stay under the $189M luxury tax threshold this coming season. Their payroll currently sits around $204M and, based on their Opening Day payrolls over the last three years, it appears they have another $10M or so to spend. Once you’re over the threshold, might as well go way over, right? Fill out the rest of the roster as needed.

As Joe mentioned earlier, the Yankees were predictably connected to free agent shortstop Stephen Drew less than two days after the ink dried on the Tanaka contract. Jon Heyman had the news:

The Yankees are now considering free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, which could potentially put another dent in the rival Red Sox’s up-the-middle alignment only weeks after the Yankees signed Boston star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

There has been a thought the Yankees might be willing to keep spending after landing star Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. But while there doesn’t seem to be a push for another top starter or reliever, Drew is one free agent the Yankees are at least weighing, according to people familiar with their thinking … Although the Yankees apparently aren’t quite a bottomless pit of cash, a possible run at Drew “depends on the price” according to a person familiar with their thinking.

This makes sense, right? The Yankees have an obvious need for infield help and Drew is substantially better than any other free agent infielder left on the market. Agent Scott Boras has indicated Drew is willing to play somewhere other than his natural shortstop position according to Peter Gammons, which is good because Derek Jeter isn’t going to change positions. I know it, you know it, and the Yankees know it. It ain’t happening.

Now, just a little more than 14 hours after Heyman’s initial report, Buster Olney reported this:

Ken Rosenthal backed up Olney’s report, saying “sources say team essentially has reached spending limit” while noting a more likely move is a trade involving players with similar salaries, like Ichiro Suzuki for a reliever (J.J. Putz?).

The whole “sources say team has interest in a player, team then denies report and interest in a player” routine is so very common during the offseason. Both sides, the club and the player (and his agent), want to control information. Agents will float reports about teams being interested in their players even if they aren’t just to drum up some leverage. Teams will deny interest in a player even if they want him because they don’t want other clubs to get involved and potentially drive up the price.

We see this all the time and it’s possible (if not likely) that neither Heyman and Olney (and Rosenthal) is wrong. The Yankees could indeed have interest in Drew and be denying it at the same time. They may want to keep things quiet so the Red Sox stay out of the mix. It’s also possible Boras leaked a fake rumor as a way of creating the appearance of a bidding war in an effort to coax every last dollar out of Boston. This isn’t some kind of crazy conspiracy theory. This stuff happens all winter and especially with rivals like the Yankees and Red Sox.

Teams and agents manipulate the media in an effort to control information and, for the most part, fans eat this stuff up because we love talking about potential roster moves and playing GM. At the same time, all the conflicting reports are just awful. The 24-hour news cycle is really second-by-second, given me updates in real time news cycle nowadays, so every little blurb finds it’s way onto the web and in front of fans. It’s exhausting. It really is.

It makes perfect sense for the Yankees to have interest in Drew following the Tanaka signing. It also makes sense that Boras would try to use them as negotiating leverage against the Red Sox. I don’t know what to believe and this is the aspect part of the offseason.

Must Click Link: The Randy Levine-Alex Rodriguez emails

This is too great. Steve Fishman of NY Mag published some email exchanges between Randy Levine and Alex Rodriguez late last week as part of their big A-Rod feature. Apparently Levine, who is unwilling to fully type out “you” and “are,” frequently emailed Alex after games to offer words of encouragement, stuff like that. Oh, and he also once said Robinson Cano “needs some steroids fast!” He really said that. (Mike Puma says Levine claims it was a “bad joke.”)

The whole MLB/Yankees vs. A-Rod spectacle is pretty much everything I hoped it would be. It’s completely chaotic and both sides look like total buffoons. I can’t believe a team president said his best player “needs some steroids fast!” in an email to another player. That’s hilarious.

NYT: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks inquired about A-Rod last winter

Via Ken Belson & David Waldstein: The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan inquired about the availability of Alex Rodriguez through an intermediary over the winter. The Yankees never bothered to follow up because they knew A-Rod needed hip surgery at the time, plus there’s pretty much no chance he would have agreed to the move anyway.

The Hawks are owned by a prominent technology company, which uses the team as an innovative promotional tool despite taking a loss. They lead the league in attendance and won the pennant as recently as 2011. Rodriguez, 37, is currently working his way back from that hip surgery and is expected back around the All-Star break if there are no setbacks. It is so very unlikely he would have agreed to a move to Japan at this point, and besides, New York’s third basemen are hitting .262/.306/.365 (84 OPS+) this year. There’s a spot for him in the lineup.