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.

Tonight He Speaks!

Tony Bosch will be on 60 Minutes tonight revealing his side of the A-Rod saga. It should be interesting viewing and I will post a summary and some thoughts afterwards.

A few more notes on this whole situation.

First, here is a link to a good summary of the legal situation with Alex. Short version, it doesn’t sound good for him.

It’s hard to say A-Rod won anything yesterday, but he did “win” almost $8-million. Remember, he was originally suspended for 211 games. If he had accepted that decision in July, or if that decision had been upheld, he would have had to forfeit the salary he earned from when the suspension was handed down. By suspending him for the 2014 season, the arbitrator lets him keep that money, almost $8-million.

The Spring Training saga is a real mess and a loophole I don’t understand. To participate in Spring Training, you either need to be on the 40-man roster or be invited. A-Rod is no longer on the 40-man roster and the Yankees are certainly not inviting him, so how can he be part of Spring Training?

The more I think about what happens from here, the more convinced I am that Alex has two goals going forward. The first is to get as much money back as he can. While everyone is focused on the legal bills he is racking up, it’s important to remember that he has made back that $8-million and he stands to lose $27.5 million for 2014 unless he can get that changed. I am sure the bills are high, but they aren’t that high.

I believe his second goal is to get the Yankees to cut him a check and release him. I believe Alex wants to play baseball again, but I would bet anything that he wants to do it in a quieter place, say South Florida. If the Yankees cut him, they end the Spring Training issue and Alex gets $61-million. (People seem to think the Yankees could buy him out, but why would Alex do that? The only buyout I could see him accepting would be a slight discount to the money owed him if it was paid now. Otherwise, he has no financial incentive to take anything less that what he is owed.) He could then try to get another team to give him a roster spot for the league minimum. I bet the Marlins with all of their troubles would be interested in bringing him in. He is from Miami and his presence would certainly bring some additional customers to the ballpark.

Back later tonight after 60 Minutes

Is It Over For Alex?-UPDATED 2PM

The decision is in.  Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for the 2014 season. This includes the postseason, so barring a reversal in court, Alex will not be in uniform again until 2015.

Personally, this decision shocks me. I thought he might get 100 games, reasoning that an arbitrator would view the 2003 failed test as strike one and this as strike two. But I was wrong and this is a very clear signal that Alex did a lot more than fail a drug test.

What it means for the Yankees is that $189-million is back in play. Assuming they don’t do anything stupid with Tanaka, they should make it. (They are around $150 million with A-Rod off the books.) They will need someone to play third and I suspect Mark Reynolds could be back now.

What it means for Alex is much more complicated. He can try to find a judge willing to overturn an arbitrator’s decision, but that will be exceedingly hard. He has already issued a statement (have to assume it was prepared in advance) that says: “The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one.” He will keep playing the victim card, but it is hard to think of anyone who will buy that storyline now. MLB didn’t act honorably in this, but it doesn’t change the fact that Alex broke a lot of rules.

The biggest question I have about Alex’s future is will we ever see him in a Yankees’ uniform again? If he sues the team, I would expect the answer to be no. Even if he doesn’t,  the Yankees may have had enough.  With this suspension, the Yankees will owe Alex $61-million for the final three years of his contract. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see them simply write that check sometime next offseason and say good-bye forever.  It wouldn’t upset me either.

*****

I was thinking the other day how much joy I used to get watching Alex play back when he was in Seattle. I have no idea if he used PED’s back then, but he was so much fun to watch. You could see the fun he was having out there and the enjoyment he got from the game. Unfortunately, that joy went away and now we are left with this version of Alex, something we all want to move on from.

It’s funny to think that once Alex and Jeter were good friends because they are so different. For Alex, it seemed like he never could get enough attention. Even with all the money and accolades, he seemed to want more attention. He could have played out his deal in the quiet baseball backwaters of the Metroplex, but he tried to get a trade to Boston and then New York- two places that will never be quiet when it comes to baseball. Jeter is intensely private and while I truly believe he loves being a Yankee, I think he would have been happy anywhere he could have played baseball and won championships. Watching all of this go down with Alex makes me think that I don’t think give Jeter enough credit for what he has done on the baseball field and how he has conducted himself off of it.

UPDATE Here’s a link to Alex’s full statement. Basically, he denies everything and says he will take things to court.

UPDATE Here’s a link to the MLBPA statement on the ruling. Very interesting statement here:

“While we respectfully disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling, we will abide by it as we continue to vigorously challenge Alex’s suspension within the context of this hearing.”

UPDATE 2pm- Here’s a “fun” twist. MLB Network is reporting that Alex is 100% certain that he will attend spring training with the Yankees. Yup, that’s right, the suspension only counts for the season, so Alex could play in spring training and as a member of the MLBPA he has the right to do so. I don’t think circus is enough of a word for what that scene would be.

 

Sometimes “Free” Isn’t Good Enough

The Yankees DFA’ed Vernon Wells today. This was a smart move (it would have been smarter in July of 2013) that seems to have put some people into a tizzy. After all, Vernon didn’t cost the Yankees anything against the luxury tax in 2014, so anyone who replaces him will count towards the $189-million.

To be brief: so what? There was nothing Wells could contribute to the 2014 Yankees. His final 2013 numbers of .233/.282/.349 were bad enough, but those are inflated by his incredibly hot start. Through May, he hit 10 home runs. For the rest of the he had a TOTAL of 10 extra-base hits. His speed was mostly gone and his glove was no longer good. The Yankees can take a flier on any number of fringe players and feel confident that he will be at least as productive as Wells was.

Right now, the five outfielders who will break camp with the Yankees are  Soriano, Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran and Ichiro. The ironic thing is that the Yankees could really use a righty-swinging outfielder to complement that group. I suspect they are desperately trying to trade Ichiro for any sort of salary relief they can get. If they can’t they might have to go the DFA route with him as well.

Failing Logic

Well the results are in and Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are all headed to the Hall of Fame. I think anyone who watched baseball in the 80′s, 90′s and 00′s can wholeheartedly agree with those selections. Craig Biggio has to be like the kid who went to bed on Christmas Eve and then woke up to find out that Christmas had been moved overnight to March. 74.8% is a tough number to live with, but he at least is almost guaranteed to get in next year.

I gave my thoughts on the absurdity of Maddux not getting 100% yesterday and while it amazes me that 15 or so voters didn’t see fit to put him in the Hall, that’s not the biggest story of the day to me. The biggest story has to be the fact that Rafael Palmeiro didn’t get enough votes to stay on the ballot. A guy who hit over 500 home runs and amassed over 3,000 hits didn’t even stay on the ballot for five years.

“But Peter”, you say, “he was a major PED user so of course he doesn’t belong in the Hall.”

I can’t disagree with your argument, but here’s the problem then. What about all the other PED users who remain on the ballot? We all know the names, so I won’t recite them, but if they all cheated shouldn’t they all be punished equally? And if not, how do you justify it? Perhaps you perceive that certain players cheated for x number of years while others cheated for “x plus” number. But nobody could begin to prove that and even if you could, do you really know what kind of difference it made? How does Palmeiro get bounced while McGwire (for one) remains? Does this make any sense?

Of course not and this why somebody in the has to clean up this mess. Look at the record books and you will see the the names of these guys all over them. For his part, Palmeiro is in the top-25 all-time for games played, hits, home runs, doubles, RBI’s and runs created. Yet 50 years from now, some kid is going to call up MLB stats with his IBrain (trademark pending) and wonder how so dominant a player isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He is going to notice that this guy isn’t the only one omitted too. Sure, he can go and research it and find out what really happened or he could listen to one of his era’s baseball historians to explain it, but why can’t we, the people who lived in the present do it? Why can’t we fix this right now and leave an indelible record for the future?

I think we can. We can tell the writers that not voting for someone because of suspicion of steroids is no longer necessary because it is going on their plaque. If they admitted to PED use, it is on the plaque. If they were tried in a court for something around PED use, the conviction or acquittal goes on the plaque. If they failed a test and didn’t get it overturned or appeal it, it goes on their plaque. So for Rafael Palmeiro his plaque would list all his accomplishments and close with- “Was suspended in 2005 for failing a steroids test”. If the player doesn’t want to go into the Hall under those circumstances, they can remove themselves from the ballot, but that’s the deal.

It’s not a perfect solution, but one of the greatest parts of baseball is its history. We love to argue whether Ruth or Williams was the better hitter. If the ’75 Reds could have beaten the ’27 Yankees.  We are failing the fans of the future if we don’t figure out a way to fix this.

It Won’t Be Unanimous

MLB.com revealed the Hall of Fame ballots for their writers today and we now know that Greg Maddux won’t get 100% of the vote.

Ken Gurnick, using utterly failed logic, has decided not to vote for a single player who participated in the PED era, so he has only voted for Jack Morris. Here’s Gurnick’s reasoning

Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Players votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.

Let’s set aside the argument of whether or not Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame. Gurnick’s blanket statement that he won’t vote for anyone who played during the period of PED use means he shouldn’t vote for Morris! You can argue that PED use started in 1987 with the long ball explosion and I wouldn’t argue with you. If you want to wait until 1988 and Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal for PED use, I wouldn’t argue either. But to think that PED use didn’t start until after Morris retired in 1994 is silly. I’m not saying that Morris used PED’s. I have no idea if he did or didn’t. But if you are not going to vote for anyone from that era you have to be consistent.

And, while I imagine Gurnick will argue that Morris did the bulk of his pitching before the PED era started, he cited “three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Players votes in five” as reasons to vote for Morris. Morris won 21 games in 1992 and received Cy Young and MVP votes in 1991 and 1992, so Gurnick looks foolish.

We’ve argued this issue before here on YR.com and come up with various suggestions for improving the process. I will be interested to see if Gurnick is the only guy who left Maddux off the ballot, or if some other writers did as well. Maybe, just maybe this will lead to some sort of reform process for the voting system.