How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

Ever hear that song?  It’s pretty funny and it really reminds me of the situation with Johnny Damon.  Stories like this one and several others keep talking about how Damon wants to come back to the Yankees. 

The thing I don’t get is why Damon kept playing games with the Yankees in that case?  Why did he let Boras do the negotiating if he wanted to come back?

 

The Fur Flies

Now that Johnny Damon absolutely, positively, won’t be returning to the Yankees (except maybe at the trade deadline) the stories are flying about who lied and who lost.  Personally, I think everything you need to know about this situation is summed up nicely by Brian Cashman in this quote:

“On Dec. 17, Scott’s exact words were that he would not take a penny less than $13 million a year for two years. We believed him.”

I really like the way Cashman added, "We believed him" to the end of that.  It’s a nice touch.

The need to fill column inches in a slow sports cycle have led this story to be way overblown.  The fact is, Damon was pretty much gone the moment the Yankees signed Nick Johnson.  Sure, they could have brought him back to play left field, but I never got the feeling the Yankees wanted to do that.  Rightly or wrongly (I think rightly) the Yankees viewed Damon as primarily a DH as this point.  Think about the playoffs, it was Damon who the Yankees substituted for in late innings situations, not Swisher.  There was Game 3 of the ALCS when the Angels loaded the bases with one out in the 10th.  Obviously, the outfield is going to play shallow, but even with that, Girardi removed Damon and put Hairston in left.  That move cost the Yankees their DH in the game, but Girardi had no choice, he knew Damon couldn’t throw out Jeff Mathis, a catcher, even though he was playing halfway in. 

The way to look at what the Yankees have done this offseason is this way.  Out go Damon, Matsui and Cabrera.  In come Granderson, Johnson and Winn.  Using an average of projection systems, the trio of Damon, Matsui and Cabrera could be expected to create about 225 runs in 2010.  The trio of Winn, Granderson and Johnson could be expected to create about 240 runs.  That’s a net difference of +15 for the Yankees and we haven’t talked about defense yet.  Factor in the addition of Javier Vazquez to the rotation and the Yankees have definitely upgraded their ballclub.

Now, that doesn’t mean they will win 103 games again, but they certainly could  They were a bit lucky in 2009 and probably should have won 101 games using Baseball Prospectuses’ third order wins calculation.  The lineup is a trickier proposition.  It isn’t far fetched to expect significant declines in production from Jeter and Posada because of their age.  A-Rod is also at an age where his numbers could drop back a bit.  But, you have Swisher, Teixeira, Granderson and Johnson in what should be their peak years.  You have Cano just arriving at what should be his peak years.  Add it all up and by removing Damon and Matsui for Granderson and Johnson, the Yankees got significantly younger at two spots and the lineup should be able to weather age regressions at cacther, short and third.  If they had kept Damon and Matsui, they would have been at risk for age regressions at five spots instead of three. 

Now, I would feel a bit more comfortable with the lineup if the Yankees added, as rumored, a player like Gomes or Thames on a minor league deal.  Jamie Hoffman is an interesting player, but Gomes and Thames have shown they can hit in the bigs.  Put one of them on the bench and you have a dangerous righty bat to use in a number of different ways.  But, even if the Yankees stand pat, they have an excellent chance of winning the AL East again and with an improved rotation, going far in the playoffs.

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And since I mentioned Marcus Thames, I thought I would throw out a trivia question.  Thames homered in his first big league at bat off of what pitcher?  

Randy Winn?

Joel Sherman is reporting that the Yankees have signed Randy Winn to a one-year deal.  This is a move I don’t get at all unless there is another move coming.  Yes, Winn is right handed and he can play all three outfield spots, but he is coming off a year when he hit .262/.318/.353 and put up a .384 OPS against LHP. 

We don’t have contract information yet and that will really determine if this deal was good or bad.  If they added Winn for very little money to play a bench role, that’s great.  Otherwise…..

UPDATE: Sherman is saying that Winn got about $2 million and the Yankees valued him more than Reed Johnson.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Also, that means this signing is the last move the Yankees will probably make this offseason and if so, it’s kind of like finishing a great dinner with a $2 cigar.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

You may have heard that David Cone is not returning to the YES booth next year.  What you may not have heard are the reasons and Joel Sherman details them today.  One of the main reasons apparently is a fight Cone had with a YES executive after he said the team would fall out of playoff contention if it kept playing poorly.  The executive came to Cone and said that Hank Steinbrenner didn’t like that comment and Cone shouldn’t make more comments like that.

That YES is a propaganda vehicle for the Yankees is no shock, but why does it have to be?  It is downright painful to listen to Michael Kay and some of the other announcers when the Yankees are playing poorly because they act as if everything is great.  I don’t know why the YES executives are so fearful of honesty.  If the Yankees stink, let the announcers say that. People are smart enough to figure out the quality of what they see on the tube.  YES seems to want to resemble a communist news organization, giving only its version of the news and blocking out any criticism of the team.  

As I was thinking about this, I realized that YES broadcasts the Nets during basketball season.  I am going to have to give them a listen and see what they say about that team.  If they won’t criticize the Nets and their 3-40 (yes, 3-40!) record, then there is no chance they will criticize anything and that’s a shame.  

A Good Trade That Won’t Matter Much

The Yankees added Greg Golson to the roster today in exchange for Mitch Hilligross.  It’s a swap of two 24-year olds, but Hilligross has never gotten out of A ball while Golson has made 7 AB’s in the bigs.  It’s basically adding something for nothing, but the "something" isn’t much to get excited about.

Yes, Golson was once a #1 pick and yes he reportedly has great speed and a great arm.  Add in the fact that he is righthanded and you suddenly think the Yankees might have found the piece they need for their outfield.  But, the problem is Golson can’t hit.  He has a career .308 OBP in the minors and put up a line of .258/.299/.344 in AAA last year.   Sure, he could suddenly put it together, but it is unlikely.

Then again, he can play outfield at AAA next year and he certainly could fill the role that Freddy Guzman did in the playoffs last year.  At the cost of Hilligross, that’s a pretty good return.  

 

A Good Read On Damon

As Johnny Damon remains a hot topic, I found this article about why teams are wary of signing him a good read.

It basically argues that he is indeed a DH at this point, something that those of us who watched him play this season can hardly disagree with.  I have said it before and I will say it again, before the Yankees signed Nick Johnson, bringing Damon back made a lot of sense.  Now that they have closed the DH spot, Damon is a less than ideal fit for this team, but we will have to listen to talk about him until he signs somewhere.  

UPDATE: Nady will not be coming back to NY.

Tick..Tick…Tick…

It’s the first Saturday without football since August, which means we are rapidly heading to the dead zone of the sports year.  Three more NFL games left and then nothing.  Luckily, this year we will have the Olympics, which should help fill the cold days of February.

As for the Yankees, there really isn’t much news, but I did pick up a couple of things from the interview Joe Girardi did on YES the other day.

1- Five guys (Joba, Hughes, Aceves, Mitre and Gaudin) will have a shot at the fifth spot in the rotation.  

2- However, Girardi specifically said that Hughes and Aceves would have innings limits in the rotation.

This further solidifies my desire for Joba to go into the rotation.  The Yankees spent a lot of effort getting him in under his innings limit in 2009 and they throw that all away by putting him in the pen at the start of 2010.  Put him in the rotation and see what happens when he doesn’t have to worry about innings limits, etc..  I also don’t want another year of the Yankees monkeying around with a pitcher over innings limits which eliminates Hughes and Aceves and I definitely don’t want to see Mitre in the rotation.  Gaudin intrigues me, but I still don’t trust his command for work every fifth day. 

But, there is a longer term issue here and that is Hughes.  If his future is ultimately in the rotation, you want him to throw 140 innings or so this year.  That’s not going to happen with him coming out of the pen.  I don’t know what the answer is there, but the Yankees should spend a few minutes of spring and think about a way they can maximize Hughes’ 2010 innings.

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You keep hearing the Johnny Damon drumbeat and I imagine you will until he signs somewhere, but my question at this point is why would the Yankees want him back?  I know his bat and speed are a wonderful mix, but his defense is atrocious.  If you sign him, you have to play him in left because Nick Johnson has to DH.  Putting Gardner in left, drastically upgrades the defense.  And, while Damon would clearly out-hit Gardner,  the difference may not be as much as you think.  Bill James projects Damon to have a .785 OPS and Gardner to have a .743 OPS in 2010. Throw in the defensive difference and I wonder exactly how much of an upgrade bringing Damon back would be?

Hairston Gone

Jerry Hairston just signed a one-year/$2.15 million deal with the Padres. It’s not that shocking that the Yankees let him go, he just doesn’t have the bat to play the outfield and Ramiro Pena can do almost exactly the same things Hairston does.

His signing means that of the seven free agents the Yankees had at the end of 2009, four have found homes.  Hinske (Atl), Matsui (Ana) and Hairston (SD) all went elsewhere with Pettitte coming back to NY.  It leaves Nady, Damon and Molina still looking for a team to play on next year and we are less than a month from pitchers and catchers. 

Gotta Go With Curt On This One

So Curt Shilling took Martha Coakley, candidate for Senate, to task for claiming he was a Yankees’ fan.  You can listen to her make her statement here.

It sounds to me like Martha hasn’t watched a lot of baseball.  I just hope voters on both sides don’t use baseball knowledge or fan affiliation to determine who they are voting for.  Things are way too important in this country right now for that.

This Bud’s For Mark

Was there anyone left who thought that Mark McGwire was clean?  I really don’t have much to say about his "admission" today, but I did find this quote from baseball’s commissioner to be interesting:

"I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct his investigation. This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark’s re-entry into the game much smoother and easier."

So let’s get this straight.  McGwire cheated the game for years.  He avoided telling the truth for years.  He wouldn’t even admit to using steroids when asked by Congress and Selig feels fit to be "pleased" by him?  Now, let’s look at a statement Selig issued 11 months ago when A-Rod admitted he used steroids:

"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation.  While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances, and those who use them have shamed the game."

There seem to be some inconsistencies in these two approaches and I would LOVE to hear the commissioner explain why the two different statements.  A-Rod "shamed the game", but McGwire will have a "smoother and easier" re-entry into baseball because he told the truth.

From my view in the cheap seats we have two athletes who committed the same crime.  Neither one of them would have ever admitted it unless they had to.  I give A-Rod a little more credit for not dragging things out for years over this, but if one of them shamed the game, the other one certainly did as well.  So, why the two completely different statements?  Anyone have any ideas?