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A-Rod Gets it Right

I don’t know if this was A-Rod acting on his own, or someone told him to do it, but issuing a handwritten apology for his actions was the smartest thing he has done pr-wise ever.

There was zero upside to some sort of press conference to discuss what happened over the past few years. First of all, would anyone believe what he had to say ? Second, what answers would he have been prepared to give?  I hope Alex takes a page from Mark McGwire when the cameras do reach him and tells everyone, “I am not here to talk about the past”.

Some will say A-Rod didn’t need to apologize to the fans. I disagree with that. He played all of us for fools. He proclaimed his innocence, attacked his accusers and tried to create the case that he was getting railroaded by MLB. I think the sentence he wrote about how he, “made the situation worse than it had to be”, captures what happened perfectly. I commend him for apologizing for that.

But an apology doesn’t excuse his behavior. Alex cheated and lied. He tried to manipulate lots of people involved in this sordid saga. There have been plenty of worse crimes committed, but that is a not a person I want to root for. I will still cheer for the Yankees as vociferously as I have in the past, but I will also be very happy when Alex, and all the drama that goes along with him, is no longer a part of the equation.

 

The Value of Prospects

Rob Neyer nailed something I have been struggling with for awhile- the value of prospects. Neyer makes two really great points.

1- It’s not that prospects in general are overrated, it’s that it is very hard to identify the ones that will succeed. His example of the 2011 evaluation of the Royals’ system by Baseball America is perfect.

2- There is no real system for checking or evaluating the ratings. Nobody goes back and grades the prospect reports. (Take a look back at NFL draft evaluations from year’s past sometime if you want a good laugh. They are generally terrible.)

Again, I am not arguing that prospects are overrated as a group. But teams are increasingly treating prospect development as a scientific fact when it is much more like a lottery. More prospects will end up as fringe guys, get hurt, or wash out, than truly develop into stars. For another example, take a look at the 2009 top-10 prospects for Tampa.

David Price is the top guy. No shock as he was coming off a great postseason and he certainly is one of the best pitchers in the game so I can’t really credit a lot of insight in this ranking, but then work down the list.

Tim Beckham is still young, but he hasn’t hit in years and he looks like a fringe guy at best.

Wade Davis became a very good bullpen arm in KC, but he was projected to be a top starter.

Reid Brignac is a fringe player at best.

Demond Jennings looks to be an average ML-er. Nothing more, but probably nothing less. Certainly not the replacement for Carl Crawford they thought he was.

Matt Moore was very good, but got hurt and had TJ surgery.

Nick Barense never made the majors and was in independent ball last year.

Hellickson started really well in the bigs, but he has regressed the past two years to below-average.

McGee was a very good closer for the Rays this past year.

Niemann’s career was derailed by injuries.

So we have one bonafide All-Star,  three fringe All-Stars (Davis, Moore and McGee) two possibly useful ML’er in Jennings and Hellickson, two guys who are fringy at best, and two guys essentially out of the game. That’s not bad, but remember this was essentially the best system in the game when this was published.

If you had gone to Tampa as Cleveland in 2008 and asked for the #2,#3,#4 and #7 guys in the system for CC Sabathia, you would have been laughed out of the room. Yet, that trade might have won the World Series for Tampa at almost zero future cost. In fact, if you look back at the Sabathia trade that was made, Cleveland came very close to missing out entirely without the benefit of some luck.

What this underlines to me is that prospects are fun to dream about, but you have to be very smart in how you use them. If your team is a clear contender, trading prospects for surer things is a smart move. If you are in sell mode, by all means trade for prospects, but remember that there is a lottery aspect to this. Teams seem to be hoarding them more than ever before, the smart GM’s will use that to their advantage.

 

A Good Offseason

With James Shields now heading to the Padres, I think we can declare the Yankees offseason is over. They could always bring in another guy on a minor league deal, but the heavy lifting is certainly complete. Let’s review the results.

The Yankees did a lot of good things this offseason, but I wonder if we will think about it more in the future for what they didn’t do? They didn’t make another huge bet in free agency. They certain weren’t parsimonious, they gave Chase Headley and Andrew Miller contracts that total over $80-million combined, but they were careful. Nobody received more than $13-million a year. Nobody received more than a four-year commitment. For the Yankees, this equals frugal.

They also got younger. Not incredibly so, but about as much as they could given the commitments they have made in years past. Didi Gregorious will only be 25 when the season starts. The hoped-for rotation in May of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Eovaldi and Nova would have four guys in their 20’s with Sabathia as the grey beard at 35. The bullpen will probably only have guys in their 20’s when the season starts. What will the end result be? Your guess is a good as mine. I can make a case for them finishing first, and I can make a case for them finishing last. Let’s get through March and then assess where the team might end up.

For now, I think we can be cautiously optimistic that the Yankees are trying a new way of building a roster. There are some real benefits to that, but there will be hiccups along the way. The next two seasons will be some of the most interesting ones we have seen in a long time. Prospects are coming and the Yankees will have some tough choices to make with sunk costs like Sabathia, Teixeira, and you know who. How long do they run they out there based on their salaries and at what point do they simply move on?  As a fan, I am very excited to see it all unfold.

Cut Him or Welcome Him

Two different stories in today’s papers with the same theme- the Yankees are rejecting A-Rod’s attempts to apologize and meet with the top brass. This is a stupid approach for the club to take.

I have said that I don’t think the Yankees should allow Alex to ever wear their uniform today. I still believe that they should cut him. But, if they are not going to cut him, they need to stop acting like five-year olds. Alex has behaved like a total ass, but he deserves some small amount of credit for wishing to meet with team officials and apologize for that. The Yankees gain nothing from preventing him from doing that. In fact it makes no sense at all.

The Yankees owe Alex $61-million for the remainder of his contract that much is clear. Barring a career-ending injury, they are going to have to pay that. So unless they are willing to cut him and swallow that hit, they should make nice with Alex and pray that he can give them some production in exchange for that money. They don’t have to do anything special to accommodate him, but would listening to him apologize really hurt them in any way?  And how will making it harder on him help them get a productive Alex this spring?

I get it, the Yankees are mad at Alex. Get in line, pretty much everyone is. He cheated, then he lied, and then tried to cover it up in a despicable fashion. Everyone knows all of that, but the Yankees have to decide if they want a chance at a return on that $61-million, or they simply want to throw a tantrum.

Back Where They Belong

The Yankees are heading back to Channel 11, WPIX next year for 20 games. I am thrilled by this.

It has been 16 years since the Yankees last appeared on Channel 11, and in the interim the channel became home to Mets games of all things. But from 1951 until the late 70’s, Channel 11 was the only place to watch the Yankees on TV. It was the channel I turned on as a six-year old on October 2nd, 1978, and watched Dent hit a big homer and Greg Nettles catch a huge pop-up. It was the channel that gave us Bill White and the Scooter calling games and showed us flashes of the GWB every game because Rizzuto was worried about beating the traffic.

It is also the channel that broadcasted Batman every afternoon along with the “Pix Game“, and the Yule Log every Christmas. (They still do the latter, and I put it on every Christmas morning.) In short, Channel 11 reminds me of my childhood, so excuse a 40-something guy for getting a bit nostalgic over this news.

Meet The New Boss…

Rob Manfred has made some committee decisions and he is not off to a strong start.

First, he has removed any owner who voted against him from the executive council. Hal Steinbrenner and others are on, John Henry and others are off. That seems like pretty blatant favoritism to me.

Second, he has appointed Fred Wilpon as head of the MLB Finance Committee. This one is even better because Wilpon was a pretty famous victim of Bernie Madoff. In that respect, he certainly had company. But Wilpon was sued by the trustee of Madoff”s victims for showing “willful blindness” to Madoff’s schemes. Wilpon eventually settled that claim for $162-million.

And the Mets also have reduced their payroll from $140-million to a projected $82-million this year. Considering they play in New York and reap the revenue benefits of that, should they really have the 22nd-biggest payroll in MLB?

But the guy who presided over the collapse of the payroll from $140-million to $82-million and was accused of being complacent in the Madoff scheme is now running MLB’s finance committee. Perhaps I celebrated the demise of Bud Selig too soon.

Pitch Clocks?

Apparently, the “wise” owners have decided to try pitch clocks this upcoming season at the AA and AAA levels.

I am not against the idea of a faster game. I wouldn’t mind it one bit, but one of the great things about baseball is the lack of a clock. Adding a clock to MLB is like putting a TV up in church to me.

If the owners really want to speed up the game, here are a few ways they can do it without adding an artificial clock.

1- Start calling strikes on balls above the waist. This would lead to fewer pitches in a game and shorter AB’s.

2- Cut down on the time between innings. This will never happen because it would reduce TV commercials, but if you took 45 seconds out of the break between each inning that would eliminate at least 12 minutes from the length of a game.

3- Call a strike if a batter steps out of the box after a pitch. This is a personal peeve of mine. Why do hitters need to readjust everything after every pitch even when they haven’t taken a swing?

4- Make replay an automatic process. Have someone in charge of reviewing calls who decides if a replay challenge is needed or not. Stop the stupid system of a manager stalling for time while he waits to see if the dugout tells him to make a challenge. The point of replay is to get the calls right, so why not make it automatic?

How about trying some of these ideas before bringing a clock to baseball?

 

Height Matters?

The Yankees made another trade today, getting Chris Martin from the Rockies for cash. Martin is 6’8″, which puts him in good company with the new Yankees’ pitching staff. The Yankees designated Gonzalez Germen, a pitcher they had acquired for cash from the Mets, to make room. Germen is only 6’2″.

Poor Brett Gardner. At 5’10”, he is the shortest Yankee and he gives up three inches to the Yankees shortest pitcher- Adam Warren. The Yankees have the makings of a basketball team with the quintet of Betances, Miller, Martin, Sabathia, and Pineda. Everyone is 6’7″ or 6’8″.

What does the height  mean? I have no clue, but Martin is another guy who throws heat. He has only had a brief cup of coffee in the majors, but he misses bats, a common theme among the Yankee bullpen. (Sidenote- Buster Olney ranked the Yankees bullpen second in MLB today behind the Royals) Realistically, Martin will head to AAA and wait for an injury to get his chance. But, it isn’t impossible that he beats out someone like Rogers for a roster spot.

38 days until pitchers and catchers.

 

An Interesting Point

Buster Olney (subscription required) points out that the Yankees could have a serious platoon advantage in the new AL East.

To summarize, the Yankees can trot out an all-lefty lineup now between switch-hitters and lefty bats. The AL East is projected to have 16-of-20 righty starters on teams other than the Yankees, much less than in recent years.

Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium clearly favors lefties, and it could be a solid advantage.

 

 

It’s Their DNA

Jon Heyman is reporting the Yankees have reached a deal with Stephen Drew. It sounds like a one-year deal for $5-million with an extra $1 or $2-million possible in incentives. I haven’t seen anything else about this, but Drew is a Boras client and Heyman has exceptional sources with Boras, so I would believe it.

Drew was terrible last year as we know, but a bounce back closer to his career levels is certainly not out of the question at the age of 32. The money is not a lot for the Yankees, but two things about this deal bother me.

1- All advanced metrics show that Drew wasn’t a very good second baseman last year. Now I am assuming he will play second, so that is a concern for me. (I don’t think they are trading Didi, but Cashman has been wheeling and dealing lately.) He had never played second before, so maybe he needed to learn the position, but it is something to worry about.

2- The Yankees had two young guys deserving of a shot to take over the position. Who knows if Refsnyder or Pirela would have worked out, but trying to beat Drew’s 2014 season wouldn’t take much. I am having a hard time seeing how this makes the club better.

And ultimately, wouldn’t it have been better to spend this money on starting pitcher?