A Good Night

Yeah, the game isn’t over, but the big things you wanted to see tonight have happened.  In no particular order….

 

1- Joba looked like Joba, something we hadn’t seen this spring.  

2- Matsui looked very good scoring from second on a single.  I know he won’t play the field very often, but he has to be able to run the bases.

3- Phil Coke looks very good.

4- Cody Ransom made a great throw on a play at third.  It was actually a foul ball, but he pegged it to first.  If he doesn’t hit, he has to play great defense and it looks like he is up to that.  (And he went 2-for-3)

5- Brett Gardner continues to hit.  He looked bad on one flyball, but I expect he lost that particular one in the lights.   

Finally in the "too little/too late" department Kei Igawa looks great.  I shouldn’t say too late because the Yankees would love to trade him and his salary, but if he shows up in New York in 2009, something has gone terribly wrong.   

No Thanks

I have seen a number of rumors about the Yankees and their quest to find a third baseman and most of the names scare me, but none more so than Bobby Crosby. 

Last season Crosby played his first healthy season since 2004 and put up a line of .237/.296/.349.  And, he is due $5.25 million in 2009.   I would much rather take a shot with Cody Ransom than sign up for that salary.

I am also very down on the idea of Mark Teahan, who is a better hitter and cheaper than Crosby, but still a huge question mark.  Teahan had a great 2005 and his bat has never come close to that since.  In addition, he has lost speed and his fielding, especially at third, has regressed.  

Neither one of these solutions adds anything more than Ransom in my mind and they cost more.  Ideally, the Yankees could take one of their young pitchers and trade him to another team for a young hitter.  Somone who could play the entire left side of the infield would be great since expecting Jeter to play 150 games this season is a risk.  I don’t think they would trade him, but Martin Prado of the Braves is the type of player that would be perfect.  He can play all over the infield and hit.  

The thing is, the Yankees can afford to be patient right now.  As March progresses teams will shake out their 25-man rosters and players who are out of options will have to be traded or released.  Not that he has shown much in the bigs, but Andy Marte was once a top prospect and he would be worth a look if Cleveland tried to send him to the minors.  There will be choices out there and while the Yankees shouldn’t jump at many of them, I do hope they are keeping their eyes peeled.  

Savant or Idiot?

The Associated Press, via ESPN, is reporting that Manny Ramirez is not going to collect all of recent 2-year deal with the Dodgers until 2013.  Per ESPN/AP:

Ramirez gets a $25 million salary this year, but just $10 million is paid up front. The rest is due in $5 million installments each June 30 in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

His contract calls for a $20 million salary in 2010, with $5 million payable up front. He is due two installments of $3,333,333 by June 30 in 2011 and 2012, and a final payment of $8,333,333 by June 30 in 2013.

Because of the money deferred without interest, Ramirez’s 2009 salary is given a present-day value of about $18.4 million by Major League Baseball.

Ok, the economy hasn’t been kind to many (not Manny, but many).  Even ultra-short ETFs can kick you in the butt, but Manny’s decision to hack his way out of Boston has proven financially costly.  Maybe in a better climate he’d have scored more cabbage, but alas, he didn’t.

Not to dwell on Manny, but he hired many people to make his bed and now he has to sleep in it.

Anyway, real baseball, just 28 days away.  28 days?  Aren’t some wars fought in less time?  The 27-day war as an example!  See, I studied…something…at some…point.

A Welcome Change

One thing I haven’t commented on this spring is the apparent change in Joe Girardi.  As stories like this one show, Girardi really seems to have loosened up this offseason and I think that is a great move.  Too often last season you would hear about how Girardi pissed off some player with another hard ass rule.  His no ice cream in the clubhouse seemed pretty foolish and he was terrible with the media, especially when it came to talking about injuries. 

This being New York, the comparison will instantly be made to Tom Coughlin.  Coughlin showed his softer side to the Giants and they won the Super Bowl.  That comparison ignores a number of things, including the fact that the Giants opened their season 0-2 and trailed 17-3 at halftime of their third game.  2 1/2 football games is about the equivalent of about 25 baseball games.  If the Yankees get off to a bad start over the first 25 games I don’t think Girardi will still be manager.  

Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that and the Yankees get off to a good start and have a good season.  I think Girardi’s attitude adjustment will definitely help. 

Lester for the Long Haul

Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe, as well as other sources, is reporting that the Red Sox and Jon Lester have agreed to a $30mm, 5-year deal.  The deal includes a team option for a 6th year at $13mm.

Nice pick-up.  It buys out 2 years of free agency if they pick up the option.  Lester is far from a sure thing as he has had his health issues and really has only put together one good season, but lefties who can throw hard don’t grow on trees…except on the rare south paux pine, only found in the forrests of the Ozarks.

If you are ok with me spending the Red Sox money for a minute, then I’d also try to lock up Jason Bay.  He isn’t home-grown, but he is a more than solid player and the economy has weakened enough of late that it seems long-term deals are being signed for far less than they were just months ago.

We are at that point in spring training where it is starting to become a grind.  What with loads of games, the distraction/worry of the WBC and the realization that we are still about a month away from an official game, this time of year can drag on.

Also, with NESN offering up intense coverage of the day to day spring training activities, I am realizing that life in Fort Myers for a Red Sox players isn’t exactly tough.  There is very little intense working out.  80% of the time you spot a group of players all standing around together doing next to nothing.

Unlike NFL camps or NHL camps or even your kid’s summer camp, where there is non-stop activity, spring training for baseball players (at least the Red Sox) is just bit more strenuous than watching an all-day movie.  Yikes.  I wonder what the impact on a team would be if they did more running or conditioning?  Maybe it’s just me getting old and longing for the "old days."

It’s Surgery

The Yankees just announced that A-Rod will undergo an operation that will keep him out 6-9 weeks.  A-Rod will need two operations, but the first one will be now with the second after the season.

I think this is the right call and I actually know someone who had this very surgery performed by the same doctor.  His injury essentially came from working out too much, something that A-Rod could be accused of as well.  His problem was running caused extreme pain and the surgery fixed that.  

Now, if we look at the calendat the Yankees shoudl expect to be without A-Rod until May 11th if it takes nine weeks for him to heal.  That would mean he misses 33 games, not optimal but certainly better than expected.  The problem is A-Rod will still not be 100% when he comes back and the Yankees can’t afford to be caught short.

For a team with a well-stocked farm system, this wouldn’t be a huge problem.  You could bring up a young hitter to take A-Rod’s place.  The Yankees don’t have that, they have Cody Ransom who is in his 30’s and has less than 200 AB"s in the majors.  Ransom is probably going to make Wilson Betemit look like an All-Star if he plays 33 games at third.

So, the Yankees need to think about a trade or a signing.  Nomar is officially an Athletic, so that’s not a possibility.  The remaining free agent options are not too appealing.  One thing the Yankees have a lot of is young pitchers who could help a major league bullpen.  Time to convert some of that into position talent, a move that is long overdue.  I will never understand how Brian Cashman can spend $200 million on a team, but neglect the bench, but that seems to be his preferred operating model.  With Posada questionable and A-Rod out, he has to change that.   

I Don’t Know Is On Third

Depending on what you read A-Rod may or may not need surgery.  He may or may not miss up to 10 weeks. 

I don’t know exactly who to believe right now, but I do know one thing, the Yankees can’t replace that bat.  And with the current bench, they won’t even come close.  If I am the Yankees I get on the phone with Nomar right now and try and stop him from going to Oakland.  Beyond that, I have no idea what to do other than hope this is all incorrect and not an Abbott and Costello skit. 

Time Warp

If you have been following the financial markets recently you may have heard how the S+P 500 closed today under 700 for the first time since Ocotber of 1996.  It was October 28, 1996 actually, the first weekday of trading after the Yankees won the 1996 World Series. 

Just think, the last time we were here financially Joe Girardi was a player and World Series hero.  A-Rod was 20 (and steroid free?), Jeter just 21.  Andy Pettitte, all of 24, had pitched an incredible Game 5 to send the Yankees home to New York with a 3-2 lead.   

The 1996 World Series was the first Yankees championship I was really old enough to remember and it will always be a special one for me.  I can close my eyes today and picture Charlie Hayes camping under that pop-up to win the Series.  I still can see Leyritz parking that hanging slider to tie things up at 6. 

Yet when I look at the calendar I see that those events happened nearly 13 years ago.  A glimpse in the mirror seems to confirm that too.  We seem a long way from "We play today, we win today", Mariano Duncan’s great team mantra. 

I have been thinking of that team a lot as the dire financial comparisons evoke that fateful October of 1996.  It brings me back to a theme we have bounced around this board a lot this winter; baseball’s power to distract us from life’s troubles.  I have to admit, I took some time today and watched some of the  Yankees-Team USA game.  I don’t normally watch much of early spring training, but it felt good to do so today.  I think I will watch a lot of the WBC and I will keep counting the days until April 6th.  It can’t get here soon enough. 

Life On Jupiter

I have spent the last week trying to figure out if A-Rod just doesn’t get it or if he is just stupid.  How can you explain A-Rod having his cousin (yes, that cousin) pick him up from a game last week?  How do you explain today’s photoshoot with his kids at the Dominican WBC practice in Jupiter, Florida?  (None of the other players brought their families out on the field to pose for pictures)

If ever there was a time for Alex to shut up, not make any waves and just hit the crap out of the ball, this is it.  But, he seems more determined than ever to remind everyone he is here and he is A-Rod.  I am sure we will have another Madonna story soon.  Thankfully, the WBC will keep A-Rod away from the Yankees for the next three weeks, we could all use the break.

Enjoy it because we have another nine years of this to look forward to.  I know you are supposed to "root for the laundry" but A-Rod makes it hard.