Open Thread: Is The Boss a HOFer?

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George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees for a mere $10M back in 1973, and has watched the team grow into a $1.2 billion dollar mega-franchise. The most recognizable owner in sports has had his share of highlights, low lights, and all sorts of in-between lights, and remains as recognizable as ever despite handing the reins over to sons Hank & Hal. He’s been suspended from baseball for paying people to dig up dirt on one of his players, he revolutionized a new income stream by being the first owner to sell his team’s television rights to a cable network, he was indicted on 14 criminal counts for improper contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and he’s donated millions of dollars to charities of all shapes and sizes, most of which was done outside of the public eye.

During last weekend’s HOF induction ceremony, both Goose Gossage and Dick Williams shared their thoughts on Big Stein’s HOF candidacy, and that candidacy is what we’re here to discuss tonight. Does Steinbrenner belong to be immortalized in the Hall of Fame?

Many claim that he’s ruined baseball by exploiting his team’s financial advantages, others claim that he’s helped increase the game’s popularity to record highs. He may best be known for his firey temper and a revolving door of managers, but his contributions, particularly to the Tampa community, will leave the longest lasting impression of Mr. Steinbrenner.

What do you think, does The Boss belong in the HOF? Discuss it here, and play nice.

Open Thread: The Yankees we have, not the Yankees we want

With apologies to Donald Rumsfeld for the headline…

Let’s assume for a minute something rather unlikely: The Yankees will make no trades this year prior to the deadline. Therefore, the team as it is now is the team we will have after the season ends whether that be in September or October.

As the Yankees stand now, the 2008 edition will look vastly different from the one on the field come Opening Day 2009. Of the high-price free agents hitting the market this winter, the Yanks have their fare share of them. Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Mussina, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and LaTroy Hawkins (if he makes it that long) will all be off the books.

But besides the money, the Yankees will have roster spots to fill. The losses of Abreu and Giambi will create big holes in the middle of the lineup. The pending free agencies of Moose and Pettitte would leave the Yanks without two pitching stalwarts, and even Kyle Farnsworth has turned himself into a useful part this year.

Tonight, as we suffer through yet another evening with no Yankee game, let’s turn our thoughts to 2009. What should the Yankees do?

They could — and probably will — work out a reduced-cost extension with Jason Giambi. They owe him $5 million if they don’t pick up his $22 million option next year. But Mark Teixeira‘s impending free agency looms large over any discussion of first base. And somehow the Yanks will have to fill Bobby Abreu’s outfield spot. Austin Jackson isn’t ready yet.

Andy Pettitte will come back if he wants to come back, and I have to believe that he’ll want to be there to open the new Yankee Stadium after his long tenure in pinstripes. But what about Mussina? A few months’ shy of 40, he’s pitching his way toward a multi-year deal if he wants it. Should the Yanks — with young pitching galore — wave good bye to Mussina? Or should they subscribe to the philosophy that one can never have too much pitching?

And then there are the free agents. CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets are both hitting the market at the same time. The lefty — healthier, better — will want Johan Santana money while Sheets is an injury risk but won’t expect a six- or seven-year deal. A.J. Burnett is also an intriguing name.

So have some fun with this, and try to be realistic. Who do you want to see in the Bronx next year? What moves should the Yanks make? Who should they pursue in free agency and which of their own players should they eschew signing to new deals? And just what do you do with the enigma that is Kyle Farnsworth?

Open Thread: Derby drinking games and the A-Rod Question

Mike and I will be enjoying the Derby tonight from Section 31 of the Tier Reserve (fair territory!). So let’s roll with an open thread. Ostensibly this is about the derby, but use this to discuss trade rumors, the terrible state of the Yankee offense, Brian Cashman‘s head on a silver platter and anything else that tickles your fancy. If you’re over 21 (of course) want to get drunk during the Derby, play the Home Run Derby drinking game.

Anyway, I’ll start the open thread fun.

This morning, Jayson Stark penned a typical A-Rod-bashing column about Alex’s decision to eschew the Home Run Derby. Stark claims that A-Rod first opted out of the “Call Your Shot” promotion that would have featured David Ortiz had he not been injured and then opted out of the Derby all together. Why? Stark posits it is because of Alex Rodriguez‘s fragile psyche.

Well, I’m fairly certain that with his face plastered all over the tabloids these days, A-Rod’s fragile psyche could have handled losing the Home Run Derby. While Stark claims A-Rod may be afriad of ending up on the tabloids after the Derby, I have to wonder how that end result would be any different from, oh, the last two weeks.

Stark slams the Yankees’ hitter — and indirectly Jason Giambi as well — for opting out of the game in their home town. Giambi would have participated had he been selected to the All Star team, but heaven forbid he enjoy a four-day vacation at home for the first time since early February. Writes Stark, “It’s not important enough, apparently, for Alex Rodriguez to risk not living up to his own ego. How sad is that?”

No sadder than an ESPN columnist using the meaningless Home Run Derby as just another platform to tear down A-Rod. It’s an old trope, but would we expect anything else from Stark and ESPN?

Open Thread: To buy or sell at the deadline

As baseball analysts raced to judge the CC Sabathia trade, an interesting tidbit emerged about the Yankees: They don’t, as I noted earlier, know their 2008 chances, and as the season rushes into the All Star break, the Yanks could go one of two ways.

If they finish strong in their last six games before the break and start the second half of the season with a few wins, they could close the gap in the AL or at least in the Wild Card race and emerge as serious contenders. If they stumble their way to the All Star break and lose a few games against some of their stronger opponents after the break, they could slip further behind in the playoff hunt. Or they could keep on treading water as they’re doing now, holding back too far in the division but not quite far enough in the Wild Card to figure out what’s happening.

So submitted for discussion, two scenarios:

The Yankees Should Be Sellers

The New York Yankees are old and underachieving. They’re a collection of overpaid, under-performing players past their prime spending too much time on the DL. The Yankees should sell.

Maybe they could move Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui for a few younger players. Maybe they could ship off Kyle Farnsworth while he’s in the middle of a solid stretch. Maybe they could foist Mike Mussina, in the middle of a latter-day career resurgence, onto the Phillies. Maybe they should look at some of their more expendable and younger players like Wilson Betemit, who doesn’t have a clear-cut role but could command a decent return, or Melky Cabrera, who has seemingly outlived his usefulness in the Bronx.

They should sell now because when 2009 rolls around, this team will have a whole new look. They could land CC Sabathia; they could sign Mark Teixeira. They’ll have a full year’s worth of Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, a repaired Chien-Ming Wang and a hopefully healthy Phil Hughes. Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero will be one year closer to the Bigs, and the 2009 team will look far different from the current iteration of the 2008 team. Sell. Sell. Sell.

The Yankees Should Be Buyers

Sell? Since when do the New York Yankees give up on a season? They’re just four games out of the Wild Card and only three in the loss column. Even the nine games between them and Tampa Bay — Tampa Freakin’ Bay! — isn’t that daunting. They’ve done it before; they could do it again.

No, my friend, the Yankees should buy. Brian Cashman has built up a stocked farm system, and one of the advantages of such a farm system is knowing who to keep and who should be traded for what when the time is right. They could use some of those pieces to acquire what they need — a right-handed bat, a top-line starter — to push them over the edge.

If they let Abreu, Mussina, Farnsworth and Giambi walk next year, they’ll land the draft picks to replenish the system. So why not buy and win this year? Anything short of the playoffs is simply unacceptable, and with $200 million and his potential job on the line, Cashman may need to let go of some of his vaunted prospects if he wants to see October or a new contract.

* * *

So there you go. What would you do with the 2008 New York Yankees? Sell the ones you can sell or hold to your Major League chips, jettison some kids and stock up for a stretch run?

Open Thread: Joba the All Star

When the All Stars take the field at Yankee Stadium three weeks from tomorrow night, we’ll be able to count more than a few Yankees among them. Deservedly or not, Derek Jeter finds himself the top AL vote-getter; A-Rod has a lock on his position; David Ortiz’s injury should push Hideki Matsui into the lineup.

While a few Yankees — Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi come to mind — are so far getting the shaft on the popular vote front, those two should find themselves selected by the players and coaches. Meanwhile, the Yanks will see some All Star representation on the mound as well. I can’t say enough about Mariano Rivera‘s incredible season. His numbers are just off the charts this year, and Mo deserves what will be the ninth All Star game appearance of his career. I believe Mike Mussina, 10-5 with a 3.93 ERA, will find himself aboard the All Star squad as well.

There’s one more Yankee pitcher who could get All Star consideration too. A loyal reader Nick tipped me off to this idea: Joba Chamberlain, All Star. Joba right now suffers because he doesn’t have the wins; his lone victory came in relief. But it’s hard to argue with his numbers otherwise.

As a reliever, he threw 23.2 innings to the tune of a 2.28 ERA. He struck out 30 while walking 11 and opponents hit .190/.284/.274 off Joba the reliever. As a starter, he’s thrown 18.1 innings while making his transition, and his ERA stands at 2.45. He’s struck out 19, and while the 12 walks are too many, opponents are batting just .239/.354/.328 off Joba the starter. Not too shabby, eh?

So here’s my question for us to debate while the Yankees enjoy their off day tonight: It’s hard to believe that there are too many hurlers in the AL who would be better choices than Joba considering the nature of the game, and it’s pretty easy to argue that he deserves to make it on his merits. The only knock — and it’s a weak one — is his win total, but if he has a few more stellar starts as he has the last few weeks, the case for Joba becomes even more compelling. So if you were in charge of the All Star Game, would pick Joba Chamberlain as one of your pitchers?