The Reality of the Yankees’ Playoff Chances

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Regardless of what happens in today’s game against the Red Sox, the Yankees are still going to be in position for a run at the last realistic Wild Card spot. Ignoring that they’re injury-ravaged, have no pitching left and are staggering toward the finish line, that is not going to change in the next several days at least.

No matter how many times we hear the mathematical probabilities from the New York Times, the truth about their current and future state from the New York Daily News and Mike Francesa’s death bed postmortem, the fact remains that the Yankees are still only 2.5 games behind the plummeting Rays and 1.5 games behind the Orioles and Indians. They have a four-game series in Baltimore this week and, obviously, if they pitch as they have against the Red Sox the real funeral for the Yankees of 2013 will be underway. But now? No. They’re a three game winning streak and a little luck away from suddenly being in the lead for the second Wild Card.

Of course, one thing that many seem to ignore is that making the playoffs with the Wild Card isn’t a guarantee of anything beyond one extra game. Given how battered the Yankees are and that the team they’re going to play in the game is the Athletics or the Rangers, their chances of advancing even if they make it that far are weak. They’re old and in significant transition. The overwhelming likelihood is that they’re as done as the above-linked articles say. The idea that they were “the team no one wanted to face,” or other clubs were feeling the Yankees’ breathing down their necks, or that the old warhorses Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte still had something to say in the playoff race were no more than reminiscing for remember when. Pettitte has been good and A-Rod has had his moments.

Then we come to Jeter.

The decision by manager Joe Girardi to pull Jeter from yesterday’s game was made because he didn’t like the way Jeter was running. It’s clear that he’s nowhere near 100 percent. In fact, he’s probably at around 70 percent. His range, never that great to begin with, is even worse; he’s not hitting; he’s not helping the team on the field. All the talk of the lineup not looking the same without him in it and how his mere presence in the lineup is a lift for the team is a politically correct thing to say to play up Jeter’s value. Except his current value isn’t all that much. He can lead from the clubhouse and they can put someone into the game who’s going to provide more on the field and considering that someone is Eduardo Nunez, that says about as much about what Jeter can currently do as anything else.

This could change within the next 2-3 days, but the fact is that the Yankees are still in contention no matter what the numbers and opinions say.




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American League Ticking Tempers Of Ownership

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Let’s take a look at some American League teams that have unexpectedly struggled or made ghastly blunders that would normally elicit a reaction from ownerships.

New York Yankees

Does ownership have a right to be upset?

Yes.

In yesterday’s NY Daily News, Bill Madden wrote what I’d been thinking about a George Steinbrenner missive being issued following Michael Pineda’s injury.

I’m not going to give Cashman as hard a time as others did for letting Bartolo Colon go and keeping Freddy Garcia—neither could’ve been expected to replicate anything close to what they did last season—but his other pitching mishaps have been horrific. As much of a joke as Steinbrenner was for his instantaneous and combustible temper tantrums, many times he had a right to be angry.

Beyond Cashman, if the Boss was still around, Larry Rothschild would be in the crosshairs for what’s gone wrong with Phil Hughes.

I’m wondering that myself.

What should be done?

There’s really not much they can do. Having already bounced Garcia from the rotation in favor of David Phelps, Hughes has to improve or he’ll be in the bullpen or minor leagues when Andy Pettitte is set to return to the majors.

What will be done?

Hal Steinbrenner will be secretive and deliberate; Hank will be kept away from the telephone. Cashman will continue to spin doctor and “take responsibility” by saying how “devastated” he is about Pineda.

Devastated? Really?

Garcia will be kept around just in case and Hughes is going to wind up being sent to the minors.

The Boss would’ve made Cashman take responsibility in a way consistent with what Madden suggested and he wouldn’t have been out of line in doing so.

Boston Red Sox

Does ownership have a right to be upset?

Yes, as long as they have a mirror nearby.

The best things that could’ve happened to the Red Sox were the Sunday night rainout of the game against the Yankees and going on the road to play the bad Twins and mediocre White Sox. The ship has been righted to a certain degree.

For all the love doled out to departed GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona, ownership—John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino—have been left to clean up the mess. Regardless of what you think of Lucchino’s insinuating himself into the baseball operations as he has, you can’t absolve Epstein and Francona. Epstein saddled the club with the contracts of John Lackey and Carl Crawford; Francona’s lax discipline as manager and passive aggressiveness from the broadcast booth as the team spiraled out of the gate gave a sense of the former manager exacting revenge on the franchise that gave him a job with a team ready-built for success when no one else would’ve.

What should be done?

A desperate trade would only make matters worse. There’s no one to fire. They have to wait and hope. Making a final decision with Daniel Bard and sticking to it would end speculation on the pitcher’s role.

What will be done?

They’ll wait it out. Had they continued losing following the series against the Yankees, they might’ve done something drastic like firing Bobby Valentine even though it’s not all his fault. Their winning streak has given them breathing room.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Does ownership have a right to be upset?

Very.

Arte Moreno has been a great owner. He’s let his baseball people run the club and hasn’t interfered. They have everything they ask for and more.

This past winter, he spent an uncharacteristic amount of money to address the offensive woes from 2011 with Albert Pujols and traded for Chris Iannetta.

The bullpen’s missteps have been magnified because set-up man Hisanori Takahashi and closer Jordan Walden have been horrible.

That’s not to say they’d be that much better with a more proven closer than the deposed Walden. In retrospect, they were lucky they didn’t sign Ryan Madson or trade for Andrew Bailey.

Their biggest problem has been at the plate.

When an owner throws that amount of guaranteed money at his roster, he has a right to expect more than 7-15 and 9 games out of first place before April is over.

What should be done?

The Angels released Bobby Abreu on Friday and recalled Mike Trout. They demoted Walden from the closer’s role in favor of Scott Downs.

Apart from waiting for Pujols to start hitting and perhaps dumping Vernon Wells, there’s little else of note they can try.

What will be done?

If Moreno were a capricious, “blame someone for the sake of blaming them” type, hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and bullpen coach Steve Soliz would have been fired a week ago and perhaps first base coach Alfredo Griffin for good measure.

He’s not a quick trigger owner, but if they’re not hitting by mid-May, Hatcher’s gone. This could expose a rift between manager Mike Scioscia and the front office. Scioscia’s influence has been compromised with the hiring of Jerry Dipoto and if one of his handpicked coaches and friends is fired, a true chasm will be evident. Firings will be shots across the bow of Scioscia and, armed with a contract through 2018 (that he can opt-out of after 2015), if he’s unhappy with the changes he’ll let his feelings be known.

It could get ugly.

As of right now, they’ll see if the jettisoning of Abreu, the insertion of Trout and the new closer will help. With Moreno, they have more time than most clubs would, but that doesn’t mean they have forever.

***

The National League will be posted later and yes, that does mean I’ll be talking about the Marlins.

//

Yankees Need To Think Long, Hard And Round With CC Sabathia

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Without the snide jokes and the Moneyball references about fat players being the new sex symbols, CC Sabathia‘s weight is an issue that the Yankees have to consider—among others—if he opts out of his contract and wants what amounts to an extension.

Bill Madden wrote in his column that in the last 6-8 weeks of the season, Sabathia put on 35-40 pounds.

In two months!!!

It’s a problem.

And it’s something the Yankees have to address if Sabathia wants his contract basically extended so it’s a guaranteed $150 million.

In fact, I’d tell him straight out that he has to lose weight. Period. And I’d put it in the contract.

Much was made of Sabathia dropping significant poundage coming into this season to take pressure off his knees.

Sabathia’s a large man and he’s never going to be svelte, but there’s no excuse for him expanding like the reputation of The Most Interesting Man In The World.

(Sabathia needs to lay of the cerveza, by the way.)

What makes it all the more egregious is that he’s quite possibly going to be a free agent again. One would think at his age, 31, he’d be more conscientious about staying in some semblance of shape (for him). What was he doing on the extra day the Yankees gave him by using the 6-man rotation? Spending it making the rounds glad-handing in the all-you-can-eat section at Yankee Stadium? How is it possible to gain that much weight?

The Yankees have to think seriously and unemotionally about this before doling out a check to Sabathia. The entire team isn’t getting any younger; they have multiple holes in the starting rotation that they’re apparently not prepared to use Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos to fill at the beginning of 2012; and when they do bring them up, they’re certainly not going to let them pitch like normal human beings; they’ll be on strict pitch/innings counts for at least the first two seasons of their big league careers.

So where are they getting those innings from?

Here’s what I’d do if I were the Yankees and Sabathia opted out of the contract.

I’d let him leave.

Sabathia’s current contract would call for $23 million annually through 2015; if he opts out and returns, one would assume he’ll want it extended through 2018 for another $60 million.

No.

If Sabathia isn’t willing to show a commitment for fitness, then there’s no new contract.

What the Yankees could do in lieu of Sabathia is pursue and get two of the three big name starting pitchers on the free agent market. Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are all out there and available.

Buehrle, 33 next March, is a guaranteed 220 innings; he’ll win 15-18 games; he’ll lose 8-12; and he’ll gut his way through with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.50, allow 20 or so homers allowed and maybe sprinkle a perfect game somewhere in there. Best of all with Buehrle, he’s constantly talking about when he’s going to retire, so he’s not going to require a 5-7 year contract a pitcher of his stature could reasonably ask for if he so desired.

Say he’s willing to take 3-years, $40 million.

Then you have Jackson and Wilson.

I think Jackson has star potential; he’s big and durable and because he was in the big leagues at 19, he’s only 28; even represented by Scott Boras, one would think a contract of 5-6 years at $75-80 million would get it done.

Wilson, 31, can be expected to provide 200+ innings a seasons for the foreseeable future in part because he was a reliever for the first 5 years of his big league career and the wear-and-tear on his arm is lessened as he enters his early-30s. Perhaps he wants a 6-year, $80-$90 million deal.

Rather than pay Sabathia that guaranteed cash and get the 200 innings a year—from an admittedly terrific pitcher—for the next couple of seasons, they could have two pitchers for the same money and get 400 innings and not have to worry about the burgeoning waistline of Sabathia.

If he opts out, they have to take a long, hard, round and ruthless look at it. If he’s too demanding or they have the above options in hand, they have to let him walk.

He could use the exercise anyway.

//

Einhorn Or No Einhorn

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Amid their egocentric beliefs that they’re influential in the big business that is baseball ownership, you can read the clumsily presented and agenda-driven Mets stories from those who have neither the skill nor the nuance to even try to hide their contempt for the Wilpons.

They’re everywhere.

Or you can read what Bill Madden wrote yesterday in the NY Daily News.

It says something that there are very few in-depth, verifiable narratives regarding the deal collapsing apart from broad-based assumptions and outsider statements of what’s “obvious”.

We don’t know what happened; Einhorn said his piece, rife with corporate cliches; the Wilpons have said nothing.

Don’t automatically think that the supposed “white knight in a bad hairpiece”—Einhorn—is being entirely forthright as to the chain of events and that the Wilpons’ silence is an admission of “guilt”.

The main issue that’s being debated now is how much money are the Mets going to have to spend this winter to improve the club and who’s in their price range.

You’ll find your answers if you care to look for them.

Here are the facts: the Mets have prohibitive contracts coming off the books; there’s not much available via free agency; the Mets improvement—if any—in 2012 will come from rebounds, returns from injury and young players stepping forward.

The contracts of Luis Castillo ($6 million) and Oliver Perez ($12 million) are expiring; and they’ve already dumped Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

The one free agent the Mets are absolutely going to pursue and will pay is their own free agent, Jose Reyes.

Apart from that, here are the big name free agents this winter: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Lance Berkman, Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, K-Rod.

The Mets don’t need a first baseman; they could use Buehrle and Kuroda, but neither is coming to the Mets; Jackson is big and durable and I’d go after him, but the Mets aren’t giving him the $70-90 million (at least) he’ll get on the open market and he’s represented by Scott Boras. Given what the front office believes about relief pitchers, they’re not paying for Bell or Papelbon; if they go after a closer as a backup to Bobby Parnell, it’ll be a Brad Lidgetype on an incentive-laden contract.

What free agents are they missing out on sans Einhorn?

On the trade front, they could go after B.J. Upton or Marlon Byrd; check in on Brandon Phillips. There are useful though not earth-shattering free agents like Jason Kubel and Josh Willingham.

These are ancillary acquisitions who would help, but not throw a scare in the NL East that the Mets are coming.

The Mets improvement in 2012 will stem from finding out what’s wrong with Jason Bay and getting him into some semblance of what he was with the Red Sox and Pirates, or trading him for another heavily-paid underachiever like Chone Figgins.

The rotation will be solid if Johan Santana comes back and gives them 180 innings at 75% of what he was; if Mike Pelfrey is serviceable; if Jon Niese steps forward; and if R.A. Dickey continues to pitch as well as he has.

They’re not spending big on the bullpen. Teams build superior bullpens with castoffs and retreads and, money or not, that’s what the Mets were and are going to do.

Offensively—with or without Reyes—they’ll have enough to score a fair amount of runs with David Wright, Ike Davis, Bay, Lucas Duda and an improved Angel Pagan.

The size of the offer they present to Reyes will be a greater window into the financial circumstances of the club; not a pieced together extrapolation that pops up—without disclosed sources—in the blogosphere or on Twitter.

When the Reyes negotiations start, then we’ll know.

And not before then.

//

Verlander’s MVP Chances, Hurricanes And Hackery

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A confluence of events are bringing back a controversy from 12 years ago as the borderline incoherent ramblings of a writer with a partisan agenda and flimsy excuses should again be brought to light.

Justin Verlander‘s candidacy for Most Valuable Player in the American League is discussed in today’s New York Times by Baseball-Reference‘s Neil Paine.

Naturally the arguments will pop up as to whether a pitcher should be considered for the MVP. This debate is generally based on them having their own award (the Cy Young Award); and that advanced metrics dictate that a pitcher’s contribution—no matter how good—doesn’t have the affect on team fortunes that an everyday player’s does. These awards are subjective and voted on by the baseball writers. There are some who know what they’re talking about; some who don’t; some shills for the home team; some simply looking for attention; and some who do what’s right rather than what would be palatable based on team and employer allegiances. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t imply guilt or innocence in a particular vote and there are no rules to dictate who should win various awards. It’s a judgment call.

I look at the MVP as a multiple-pronged decision.

Was the player (pitcher or not) the best in the league that particular year?

Would his club have been in their current position with or without him?

Who are his competitors?

Paine says that Verlander probably won’t win the award—and he’s right; one thing he fails to mention when talking about pitchers who’ve won and been snubbed is how one or two individuals can make a mockery of the process by injecting factional disputes or self-imposed “rules” into their thought process.

In 1999 George A. King III left Pedro Martinez off his ballot entirely.

Martinez’s numbers that season speak for themselves. Martinez went 23-4; struck out 313 in 213 innings; had a 2.07 ERA to go along with the advanced stats Paine mentions. He finished second in the voting to Ivan Rodriguez of the Rangers and should’ve been the MVP in addition to his CYA; but that’s irrelevant compared to King’s response to the rightful criticisms levied upon him.

In this NY Post retort, King discusses a life and death experience surviving a hurricane while he was on vacation as the controversy was taking place. Whether this is a maudlin attempt at sympathy or to provide “perspective” for life out of baseball’s context is unknown. I have no patience for this in a baseball-related discussion because it’s generally disguised as social commentary and a learning tool when in reality it’s a clumsy and self-serving attempt to sound philosophical. Adding his pet and children into his tale of survival is all the more ridiculous.

The most glaring parts of King’s response—in a baseball sense—are also the most inexplicable and unbelievable.

King’s argument that Martinez’s exclusion from his ballot was that he was convinced—EUREKA!!!—the year before that pitchers should not win the MVP.

However, after listening to respected baseball people at last year’s Winter Meetings grouse about giving $105 million to a pitcher (Kevin Brown) who would work in about 25 percent of the Dodgers’ games, I adopted the philosophy that pitchers — especially starters — could never be included in the MVP race.

Furthermore, pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young, something position players aren’t eligible for. Martinez, the AL Cy Young winner, appeared in 29 games this year for the Red Sox. That’s 18 percent of Boston’s games. For all of Martinez’ brilliance, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was more valuable to the Red Sox. So, too, was manager Jimy Williams, the AL Manager of the Year.

Jimy Williams?

More important than Pedro Martinez?

Then King takes swipes at other writers who ripped him by calling them a “pathetic group of hacks”.

Presumably this group included Hall of Famer Bill Madden, who eloquently discussed the absurdity in this NY Daily News piece; and Buster Olney, then a writer for the NY Times, said it made all writers look dumb.

Leaving Martinez off the ballot is one thing—it was obviously done with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in mind and that Martinez was public enemy number 1, 2, and 3 for the Yankees in those days; but to compound it by insulting the intelligence of anyone who can see reality with this kind of whiny, “what does it all mean” junk while simultaneously ignoring the initial point by attacking “hacks” who disagreed with him and said so was, at best, contradictory; at worst, it was pathetic. If King came out and said, “you really think I was gonna vote for Pedro Martinez as MVP after all the stuff he’s pulled against the Yankees?”, it would’ve been unprofessional as well, but at least it would’ve been honest.

I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season; I might even agree if Verlander is bypassed for the award; Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, and Michael Young all have cases to win; but Verlander deserves to be in the conversation and everyone should adhere to the rule that there is no rule for MVP eligibility and be truthful without self-indulgent qualifiers.

One thing I was unaware of is that King works hard and plays harder. I suppose that’s important as well. But it might alter my decision to call him a Yankees apologist who had a vendetta against Pedro Martinez when he cast his 1999 MVP ballot and left him off intentionally. Was there a rule against voting for then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams as MVP? I don’t know.

I haven’t decided where I’m going with this as of yet and my excuse could have something due to the rampaging Hurricane Irene heading for New York.

I’ll let you know.

//

Challenge, Catastrophe Or Both?

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In yesterday’s NY Daily News, Bill Madden wrote about Tony La Russa and the spate of injuries that could derail the Cardinals season before it gets underway. The big guns Adam Wainwright (out for the year with Tommy John surgery); and Matt Holliday (an appendectomy on Friday) have put the Cardinals in a precarious situation to stay in contention.

Regarding La Russa, Madden wrote the following:

How soon is Tony La Russa going to regret coming back for another season as St. Louis Cardinals manager? Rather than joining Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston in retirement after last season, La Russa opted to sign a one-year extension, in hopes of leading the Cardinals back to the postseason after an extremely disappointing 2010. But a couple of days into spring training, La Russa lost his best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, for the season due to Tommy John surgery and then, Opening Day in St. Louis on Thursday, his worst nightmare was realized as his defensive liability double-play combo, shortstop Ryan Theriot and second baseman Skip Schumaker, both made critical errors and closer Ryan Franklin blew the save in the Cards’ 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. The next day La Russa’s cleanup hitter, Matt Holliday, had an appendectomy and is out indefinitely.

Comparing managers is dicey and has to be done on a conditional basis.

Cox and Torre are three and four years older than La Russa respectively; I don’t get the impression Gaston wanted to retire and would come back if an opportunity presented itself; Piniella, understandably, was burned out after spending 3 1/2 years managing the Cubs.

But La Russa?

What would he do with himself if he wasn’t managing?

He’s a lawyer, but would he want to go back to that now? He has his animal charities to keep him busy I presume, but what else is there?

Retirement? Please.

There are baseball lifers who don’t look right doing anything but wearing a uniform. Don Zimmer is one; Tony La Russa is another.

Would he be able to slide into a cushy job at a law firm as what would amount to a show horse? Make himself a lot of money and relax?

Yes.

Maybe he’d make as much or more money than he does now as the Cardinals manager if he went on the corporate speaking circuit. But would the legal world and adoration of dinner theater drones provide the rush and high profile to help his charities and keep his ego satiated?

La Russa would go insane if he wasn’t managing; the implication that he might regret coming back would make sense if he was ever teetering on retiring, but he never indicated a “will I or won’t I” type of vacillation that has been a hallmark of football coach Bill Parcells and drove fans, media and owners batty in his latter years.

There wasn’t a great deal of soul-searching involved with La Russa. He’s healthy. This is what he does. He’s still great at it. Why shouldn’t he continue doing it?

As for the idea that he made a mistake and regrets it, how could he have known that he’d lose his ace pitcher to a catastrophic injury before the season started? That Holliday would need an appendectomy?

Just as there’s no way to know that good things—like the emergence of Albert Pujols in 2001—will happen, how can you account for injuries to stars to that degree and choose not to manage at all?

You can’t.

A top-heavy team like the Cardinals has to hope their key players don’t get hurt. They’ve relied on stars—Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright and Chris Carpenter—and filled out the rest of the roster with youngsters and foundlings. La Russa and Dave Duncan are trusted to run the games and put the pieces in place.

Regret?

Perhaps, in some weird way, La Russa is relishing the challenge of winning under trying circumstances. While it might not be as sweet as it would’ve been 10-15 years ago to outwit his opponents and make the media look foolish—again, he can boost his already ginormous ego by guiding a compromised team into contention when every “expert” had written them off as soon as Wainwright went down.

La Russa is thin-skinned and arrogant, but with all the success he’s had, he has a right to be.

Could it be that he might have to do his best managing job of his career to navigate the minefield of lost stars and win anyway? And that it would further cement his status as one of the best—if not the best—manager ever?

He’d never say it publicly, but perhaps he’s taking this as a challenge.

And you’d be unwise to bet against the baseball savvy of Tony La Russa.

****

My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

****

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available and will be useful for your fantasy leagues all season long.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


//

The Policy Of Truth

Hot Stove
  • The mouth that roared:

Brian Cashman needs to shut up.

Now.

This new honesty doctrine under which he appears to be living is hurting Cashman and the Yankees organization and needs to stop.

The days in which Cashman spoke in circles, responding to questions without responding to questions, never letting the public or players know what he was really thinking and protecting club and selfish interests, are gone.

Long gone.

And it’s not good.

After the ridiculous, borderline offensive and inappropriate disclosure that he didn’t want their marquee signing of the winter, Rafael Soriano, Cashman unleashed this series of gems during appearances with WFAN’s Mike Francesa at a breakfast Q and A (Diet Coke for breakfast? Why not?!?) and on Michael Kay’s ESPN show:

Derek Jeter could eventually move to center field.

Andy Pettitte doesn’t want to pitch, but he’ll let them know if he does.

Joba Chamberlain is staying in the bullpen and hasn’t been the same since his shoulder injury in 2008.

You can read the column from which these were culled here—link.

The actual content of what Cashman was saying is irrelevant in the grand scheme. Did he have reason to want to keep the draft pick rather than sign Soriano? Yes. He had several. Is it silly to think that Jeter might have to be shifted from shortstop due to diminished range? No.*

*But center field? Don’t you need range out there too?

Chamberlain’s stuff now translates better to the bullpen? Did Cashman discuss his part in the ruination of Chamberlain with the absurd usage dictates, limits and fluctuating roles?

This new policy of truth to which Cashman is adhering is an exercise in self-immolation; rather than being a boon to running the club “his way” as the repeated mantra states, he’s harming the effort by not knowing when to evade or simply keep quiet.

Is he channeling his inner J.P. Ricciardi? Ricciardi, whose mouth was the main obstacle to his tenure as Blue Jays GM, was great to listen to because he had a volcanic temper and no filter separating brain and mouth.

Is this what Cashman wants?

The Yankees are an organization and Cashman is their front man. What he feels and says behind closed doors should remain behind closed doors. There’s a significant difference between doing what’s right for the organization and yapping relentlessly to get one’s own name in the headlines with splashy statements.

There’s an egomaniacal, power-mad tint to his statements and actions now and it should be troubling to the Yankees and their fans. It seems to be all about him. The contentious Jeter negotiations were off-putting; his behavior during the press conferences of Jeter (looking at his cell phone in a disinterested fashion as Jeter expressed his displeasure at how things spiraled out of control) and the open disagreement with the signing of Soriano are not in his job description.

Does he want out of the Yankee universe?

What’s the purpose of all this?

None of the answers to these questions bode well. If he wants to leave, then he’s well on the way out the door with his actions. Alienating bosses and other members of the organization with honesty is self righteous; he’s still the club’s GM. Because he was overruled in the Soriano decision and the Jeter contract negotiations degenerated as it did doesn’t give him the free pass to behave like a misanthropic buffoon expressing private misgivings in public forums.

This is a problem.

And I can’t believe that the Steinbrenners, Randy Levine, colleagues and friends haven’t told Cashman to tone it down. If he doesn’t, he’d better. That’s if he wants to stay with the Yankees. But maybe Bill Madden was right on Sunday. Maybe he doesn’t.

If that’s the end he has in mind, he’s well on his way to achieving it. It’s all great for the fans and media to have something to sink their collective teeth into and debate, but it’s not good for the organization; in fact, it’s making them look petty and discombobulated—precisely what Cashman wanted to get away from when he consolidated his power by demanding full autonomy in baseball decisions.

He’s blowing up the bridge while he’s standing on it and may be taking a load of people with him.

Someone has to muzzle the renegade GM. Immediately.

  • Viewer Mail 1.26.2011:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman and Bill Madden’s Sunday column:

I read Madden’s piece on Cashman today in the Daily News and maybe he does want to leave the Yankees when his contract is up. On the other hand, maybe there’s no other Yankees news to write about and Madden needed a story where there isn’t one.

It’s possible that even Madden is told to add certain things to columns by editors, but it’s not as if there’s no evidence to back up the speculation that Cashman might like to try his luck elsewhere. Given some of his decisions that didn’t involve spending money, he’d better be careful what he wishes for. I wouldn’t have the same faith in Cashman as a GM able to succeed anywhere as I would with a Pat Gillick.

We may be about to find out.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Jon Heyman:

Don’t misunderstand, I have nothing against Heyman. He’s good at what he does and I appreciate that he’s in the middle of things, breaking stories.

But…
He is prone to hyperbole in a similar fashion to other sports media is, such as suggesting that such-n-what team has the best rotation/bullpen/bat-boy/etc in baseball.
I would also appreciate it if he had personal and professional Twitter accounts that were separate. I follow him more for baseball news and less for ‘what I did on my red-eye flight to NY’ kinds of updates.

He blocked me on Twitter because I’m scaaaaryyyy, so I dunno what he tweets about.

Joe writes in two separate comments about Vernon Wells, Mike Napoli, the Angels and Blue Jays:

Lateral leap in the short term? Napoli is as good if not better than Wells. Rivera might be as good too.  Neither is expensive, while Wells is.  And before last year, when Wells was good, he was below-average for 3 straight years, and makes $20 million a year. This is one of the worst trades in baseball history, easily.

****

Playing Wells in center means costing runs on defense.  He is a corner-outfielder now. If they play him in center, he will give back some of the runs that he gives them on offense. The last 4 years — not just last year — Wells has been below-average, overall.  You don’t pay players like Wells $20 million. Rivera might be as good as Wells, and Napoli is too.  The Angels play a black-hole of a catcher, rather than trying to find a guy that plays defense and gets on base even 30 percent of the time. Mathis has a career .199 average, .266 OBP.  He is awful.  They could easily have found someone better, who has the skills they value — acceptable defense, veteran leadership, etc.  The point is, they GAVE UP something to get Vernon Wells.  Why did they have to give something up?  It was a poor contract, for an above-average AT BEST player.  If they wanted a more reliable center fielder, they could have found one at a much cheaper price, who probably isn’t that far off production-wise.

Judging from their decision to trade him to the Rangers for Frank Francisco, the Blue Jays didn’t think much of Napoli either. This is especially curious since the Blue Jays current starting catcher is the no-hit Jose Molina and they could’ve used Napoli.

So is it that the Angels didn’t appreciate what they had in Napoli? Or did they know what they had? Or are the Blue Jays just as dumb as the Angels days after they were “brilliant”?

The Blue Jays saw the same thing in Napoli that the Angels saw: a part-time player who was good as a part-time player but was exposed when asked to do too much.

The phrase: “What would he do if given the opportunity to play every day?” has two answers. Some flourish; some falter. With Shin-Soo Choo, he became a terrific all-around player; for Napoli, we saw what he was in 2010—a .240 hitter; some pop; and he strikes out a lot.

All of a sudden the Angels, after years of annual contention and playoff appearances, have gotten stupid? I don’t buy it. They take rapid steps to repair perceived mistakes as evidenced by their replacement of Gary Matthews Jr. with Torii Hunter after one year of Matthews as their center fielder.

I can’t imagine that they intend to play Jeff Mathis regularly. If anything, he’ll split time early in the season with Hank Conger, then they’ll go with Conger as the season moves along.

One of the “worst trades in baseball history”, Joe? You’re making this assessment in January? Really? With your life dedicated to the principles of objective analysis, this seems pretty subjective to me.

And please tell me what center fielder is available to the Angels now? Or left fielder for that matter?

You can’t because there isn’t one.

Mike Fierman writes RE Wells and the Angels:

First of all I don’t know why you would say Abreu is bound to come back because he’s been so good for so long. More likely he is in his inevitable decline. i’d be shocked if he hit 20 homers. Even his great OBP has been steadily declining. I can see your point that the Angels can more easily absorb this atrocious contract, but to conclude a mostly interesting post with “they are contenders again because of the acquisition of Vernon Wells.”  is going just too far. Especially since you had just posited that they need another bat …a bat they don’t have yet. Beltre would have been a much better option for them.

I’m not so quick to think Abreu is done. The hitters surrounding any batter do have an affect on his production. Without Kendry Morales and with Howie Kendrick having down years, Abreu still had a good year by any measurement apart from his own. 63 extra base hits is pretty good to me. If he repeats those numbers with Wells adding 25 homers and the return of Morales, the Angels starting rotation will be well-supported to win plenty of games.

They went after Adrian Beltre and didn’t get him.

Regarding the phraseology, maybe “they are contenders in part because of the acquisition of Vernon Wells” would’ve been better, but that’s arguable.

With their repeated success, the Angels deserve the benefit of the doubt that other organizations don’t. This reactionary response before one game has been played is ludicrous.