No Dempster

Ryan Dempster has announced he will not pitch in 2014 sighting a physical ailment and wanting to spend more time with family.

First the impact on the Red Sox. This greatly erodes the team’s pitching depth. Dempster wasn’t going to be counted on for 200 quality innings but as a spot starter and long relief option, he will be missed.

By putting him on the restricted list, the Sox needn’t pay his $14m salary. I don’t know of this frees up salary space under the cap or not but if is does it provides space to add pitching help.

As for his reasoning, it really seems he wants to spend more family time which is great. But if prefer he say that without adding the physical ailment part as, and I’m probably looking too much into this, but the physical part is minor, minor part of his rational.

Good luck to Dempster, from all accounts he is a good guy, unless you are Alex Rodriguez.

Derek’s Retiring-UPDATE

Derek Jeter has just announced that the 2014 season will be his last. So, just like Rivera, he will go out with a goodbye tour. We can debate Derek’s place in Yankees’ history and MLB’s history another day. For now, I will say that I have never seen Derek Jeter do the wrong thing on a baseball diamond. And off the field he has never done a thing to embarrass himself or the Yankees. That’s a pretty rare combination to achieve in the 21st Century.

And while Yankee fans are hoping to see Derek leave the field a champion again, it is worth mentioning that the Yankees regular season ends September 28th- in Fenway.

UPDATE- Ken Rosenthal just tweeted (in jest I think) “Former player says Alex is taking ground balls at short RIGHT now.”  That’s a great line.

 

A Very Good Start

Is anyone really surprised that Masahiro Tanaka said his goal is to win a World Championship?  What I thought was far more interesting was that Tanaka stood up at the microphone and said in English, “Hello, my name is Masahiro Tanaka. I am very happy to be a Yankee.” If you have ever tried to speak a new language, you know that takes some guts. And to do it in front of about 200 media members on live TV is impressive. And it didn’t end there.  Tanaka was confident and easy with his answers. He smiled and laughed frequently and he certainly gave the impression that none of the attention is going to bother him at all. We’ll see what happens  if he gets knocked around early, but Tanaka made a great impression today.

Here’s something I never knew until today. Japanese pitchers like to wear number 18 because that is the number given to the ace of a pitching staff. Tanaka will wear #19 because Hiroki Kuroda already wears #18 for the Yankees.

I don’t know if its snow fatigue, but today got me excited for baseball. The college baseball season starts Friday and the first Yankees’ game is only two weeks away. And they go against a pretty good football player no less.

Is It Really Over?

According to the paper of record, Alex Rodriguez has dropped his lawsuit against MLB, the MLBPA and Bud Selig. T.S. Eliot forecasted this when he said it would end- “not with a bang but a whimper”

So we won’t have Alex to kick around in 2014. That much is certain, but several questions remain.

1- Will Alex ever again wear a Yankees uniform?

2- If he doesn’t play again for the Yankees, will he get an offer from another team?

3- How can he drop the suit if he was so “grievously” wronged by this process?

Let’s take it from the top

1-This will be a fascinating battle between the Yankees and A-Rod. I suspect the Yankees will offer Alex a check for his remaining salary when the 2014 season is over. But they will try and escape from the home run clauses in his contract. His first home run bonus of $5-million is due when he hits his sixth home run post-suspension. Clearly, the Yankees don’t want to pay that, but I think they know Alex would certainly attain that bonus in the final three years of his contract. Will they go to court to try and invalidate that bonus?

2- I would say yes. Jeffery Loria needs a draw in South Florida and would be very interested in signing him for the league minimum. But that doesn’t mean he will play for them.

3-  The $27.5-million question if you will. I would guess that the prospect of testifying under oath was a bit more reality than Alex wanted to face. He has a lot of questions to answer if he ever faces the media again, but I wouldn’t expect him to do that. He spent months bombastically protesting his innocence, but he didn’t take the stand in his arbitration and he withdrew his lawsuit after 5pm on a Friday. That’s the equivalent of sneaking out the back door. At this point I am only left to wonder when he lines up his interview with Oprah?

As a fan, I am left to feel empty by all of this. MLB has “won” their war with A-Rod. Alex has been exposed as an enormous fraud and cheat. By dropping the lawsuit, he has given up his last opportunity for redemption in the eyes of the public. But, even with this suspension, he will have made over half a billion dollars from baseball when everything is said and done. Shoeless Joe had to live out his days in poverty after getting banned from baseball. A-Rod can slink off to one of his many mansions. There are no winners here.

 

Insanity?

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have “won” the Tanaka bidding with a 7-year/$155-million deal. Add on the posting fee of $20-million and a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the majors will cost them $25-million a year. (Rosenthal reports that this deal has an opt-out after four years.  I hope the Yankees strongly consider letting him walk if he triggers that, but I will save that conversation for 2017.)

The experts can say whatever they want about Tanaka, but nobody really knows what his stuff will translate to in the majors. If he pitches like the reports, the $25-million a year will be a decent deal. If he doesn’t….

But this deal is about the Yankees’ brand too. Japan is a baseball hotbed and Tanaka will draw a lot of interest. The Yankees certainly made plenty of money off the field from the Matsui signing and I would bet they see that happening again. Plus, this will certainly drive ticket sales in the Bronx.

And now we can say goodbye to the $189-million plan. It wasn’t a bad idea, but the execution in the minor leagues didn’t allow it to happen. Now that the won’t make it, I suspect there will be more spending to come. Tanaka puts them at about $192-million for 2014 and I suspect they might have $20-million or so left to spend.

For now though, the rotation is probably set. Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka and Nova are the locks with some interesting names like Pineda, Phelps and Banuelos in the running for the fifth spot.

After Arbitration

The Yankees settled all of their arbitration cases today, leaving them at a payroll of just over $170 million according to the New York Post. Since benefits count against the luxury tax and are around $10 million, that leaves them with about $9-million is space if they want to make the $189 goal. And while there are some tweaks they could make to reduce payroll (finding someone to take part of Ichiro’s $6.5 million for example) I think we can agree that they will not be able to sign Tanaka and stay under the $189 million threshold.

Now if the Yankees want to stay out of the Tanaka bidding, I am fine with it. I am skeptical at best about his prospects. I’ve heard too much hype followed by mediocre (or worse) results from similar pitchers to proclaim him the savior some people think he is. But if the Yankees do sign Tanaka, they can’t stop there.

The Yankees created a plan to make the $189 payroll goal. They have hemmed and hawed about actually going through with it, but now that they have signed all of their arbitration players, it could be a reality for 2014. If they decide to blow it up, they have to go all in. Tanaka probably gets anywhere from $12 to $18 million a year, so let’s say he puts the payroll at $187 million. Last year the Yankees spent $237 million (that includes benefits) so they could spend $30 million on top of Tanaka and still spend less than in 2013.

What could they spend it on? Well, Stephen Drew would be a nice addition. I know A-Rod won’t be missed by many, but do you remember how badly the Yankees failed trying to replace him in 2013? And does anyone really expect Jeter to bounce back and play like he did in 2012? Having Drew would help cover both of those spots.

And how about adding someone like Balfour to the bullpen? Sure, Robertson could close next year, but it would be nice to have a safety blanket just in case.

There are still a number of good players on the free agent market and the Yankees could jump in with both feet if they wanted to. It’s just a matter of figuring out if they are really going to stay under $189.

Again, I am not saying the Yankees should sign Tanaka. I’m more than happy not to. But, signing him and then standing pat would make zero sense.

Poor Alex

Proving yet again that he does not think before he speaks, Alex Rodriguez said the following:

“I think that in the year 2014, the league could have done me a favor because I’ve played 20 years without a timeout.”

Is it hubris? A general cluelessness about how the real world works? Or is it just plain stupidity that made him say that? I don’t know, but Alex really needs to learn to shut up.

I Don’t Know Is On Third

Relying on a platoon of Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez to fix the third base situation is a bad idea. Let’s start with the basics. Nunez is not a good fielder and the Yankees would be asking him to learn a position he has only mild familiarity with. That’s not a recipe for success. But Nunez is a pro at third compared to Johnson. Johnson has a total of 16 games there in his career. Between the two of them, you barely have 100 games combined at third in the majors and minors. Do you really want two guys learning the position in the majors?

But that’s not the biggest argument against a Nunez/Johnson platoon. The biggest argument is that Johnson will be needed to platoon at second. Brian Roberts has not been able to play over 100 games since 2009. Expecting him to be the everyday guy at second is crazy. And, even if you did expect that, Roberts hasn’t shown much ability to hit RHP in the past few years. Platooning him with Johnson makes a lot of sense.

So I expect the Yankees to sign more guys like Scott Sizemore and see what they can turn up for third. And at some point they will look at their pitching. Tomorrow is currently the next scheduled starter.

Ugly Details

The arbitration decision against A-Rod was made public today and it is a doozy. Here’s a link if you want to read it.

I haven’t read all of it, merely skimmed some of the key parts. Here are some key excerpts all from page 64 and on:

“However, at minimum it cannot be disputed that Rodriguez was found to have used three distinct PES –IGF-1, testosterone and hGH — on three separate occasions….” 

“Yet Rodriguez committed the most egregious violations of the JDA reported to date, and engaged in at least two documented attempts to cover up that behavior in violation of the Basic Agreement.”

“The claim by Rodriguez that science exonerates him in this case is not supported by any evidence in this record. It is recognized that Rodriguez passed eleven drug tests administered by MLB from 2010 through 2012. The assertion that Rodriguez would have failed those tests had he consumed those PES as alleged is not persuasive. As advanced as MLB’s program has become, no drug testing program will catch every Player. In this case, the blood testing required to detect hGH or IGF-1 had not yet been implemented in the JDA and therefore was not administered during the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. With respect to testosterone, the record establishes that during the period in question it was possible for an individual to have passed a drug test despite having recently used the substance….”

I guess we know why Rodriguez’s lawyers tried to keep this sealed and away from the public today.

I saw Buster Olney talking about the case today and he used an analogy which I thought worked really well. A-Rod keeps doubling down on his hand. He could have probably settled this back in spring by accepting a 50-game suspension. He didn’t and kept going. The length of the suspension kept increasing, but the option was still there and he didn’t take a deal. When the decision came out, he could have accepted it, closed the book on all of this, apologized and try to move on, but he went the lawsuit route. Since I saw Olney’s report, this document has come out. Alex’s reputation takes another hit as people can read the thinking behind the arbitration decision. Clearly, Alex is “all in” on the fighting strategy at this point, but sooner or later you simply go broke. Every time I think it can’t get worse for Alex it does. I would hope someone who has a brain is advising him to really think about testifying about all of this under oath because as bad as this is, he isn’t facing criminal prosecution- yet.

60 Minutes Thoughts

If you didn’t see the interview tonight, I encourage you to read it/watch it here.

The thing that is absolutely clear to me once again is that the dopers will always have the upper hand in their contest with the testers. They will always come up with new and ingenious ways to beat the testers. Tonight I learned that there are now testosterone lozenges which you can take during a game and still beat a steroids test administered right after the game ends. Short of in-game testing, (and good luck getting the MLBPA to sign off on that) I don’t know how you expose that level of cheating. As a sports fan, that really bothers me because we can’t assume that what we see happen on the field is real.

After watching Bosch, I see why A-Rod wants to get him on the stand in a courtroom. He comes across as a sleaze and I suspect A-Rod’s lawyers would have a field day with him. But, Alex would also face a pretty stiff examination under oath. Bosch’s text messages with a BlackBerry that belonged to Alex are very, very damaging. Furthermore, would Alex want to answer questions like “Have you ever taken a steroid lozenge?” or “Did you ever give blood to Anthony Bosch?” under oath?

I find it ridiculous that Bud Selig is willing to sit down with 60 Minutes, but wouldn’t testify at A-Rod’s arbitration hearing. The Commissioner of Baseball should not be taking curtain calls. Since the owners forced out Fay Vincent, the Commissioners’ Office has turned into a joke. When Selig gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame (and sadly he will) I hope that nobody shows up.

It’s tempting to go from there and declare a pox on both houses, but MLB’s dive into the mud is a direct response to the garbage that has infiltrated the game. You won’t find any heroes in this story, but I can’t fault MLB for going after it.