Sunday, December 28

Merry holidays and a joyous new year to one and all.

The year's end seems an appropriate time to review the good and the bad in our national pastime over the past 12 months, so, to start, here's a shortlist of things to celebrate and be thankful for, in no particular order:

-Derek Jeter. A gracious star who makes the most of NY, always says the right thing, and plays with athleticism and intelligence every day of the season.

-Two books that pulled back the curtain to show us something of the inner workings of MLB, both on the field and in the executive suite: Michael Lewis's "Moneyball" and Andrew Zimbalist's "May the Best Team Win."

-The New GMs. Call them Bean Babies, if you will. A new guard of young, nimble, general managers are remaking baseball in Boston, Toronto, and elsewhere.

-Postseason drama. Complaints abound regarding MLB's playoff format, but this year's postseason was dramatic from start to finish.

-Jamie Moyer.

-YSFS. A self-congratulatory cheer to ourselves, for our first year of intelligent and for the most part cordial debate on the state of baseball and its greatest rivalry. And we're just getting started. The new year will bring an entirely new look and upgraded, interactive features to YFSF. Stay tuned.

As for the worst of 2003, here are a few things we're happy (or would be happy) to see in our collective rearview mirror:

-Derek Jeter's shoulder separation 3 minutes into the season. Let's just hope things get off to a better start this year.

-Steroids. It's time for serious accountability from the players.

-Sammy's bat.

-Zimmer vs. Pedro.

-Bud Selig. As commissioner he has only inflamed tensions with the players, exacerbating and perpetuating baseball's deceptive and murky economic situation; his decisions have benefited his teams and his friends at the expense of other owners; the franchise that he owns is under serious legal investigation. It's time to step down.

-Aaron Boone as a Yankee. The coup de grace on the Sox can't justify all those errors and strikeouts. Back to the NL.

-The Expos. Secours!

-Ronan Tynan's "God Bless America."

-"Cowboy Up"


-Partisan Politics at the Hall of Fame.

*** YF is shortly departing for the exotic climes of the Subcontinent, so this will be the final posting for the next few weeks.***

Wednesday, December 24

Jeez, this Curt Schilling appears just too good to be true, perhaps the most mature star to come to Boston sports in a long while. I was surfing SoSH this morning, and Schilling just posted under the handle "Gehrig38". He's no Kevin Brown, it appears.

Don't let people make something out of nothing
Hey folks, on the record, don't let anyone tell you anything in regards to this clubhouse other than a player. The media has no idea what the state of our clubhouse is, or isn't. Anything printed to the contrary is false, unless it contains a quote from a player saying the clubhouse is in shambles, which it isn't. Bottom line is through this entire situation, debacle, fiasco, whatever you want to call it, members of the media, not all, but some, have tried to interview quite a few of us, and most wanted to or did get to the question of "Who would you rather have on the team?" at some point. Undestand this is a lose lose, or win win situation, depending on how you look at it. Great example was Kevins comments earlier this week. Kevin tried to avoid answering the question altogether, but when pressed on it he gave an answer. Now the answer, in my opinion only, was very easily misinterpeted if you weren't privy to the entire interview. I am pretty confident based on what I heard in that Kevin meant no disrespect nor did he try to offend anyone. I've been asked this very same question, and it's a stupid one really. Bottom line is if the Arod trade doesn't happen, we go to spring training with Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, two future hall of famers, I can think of worse situations, alot worse. Until you hear otherwise assume Nomar is doing just fine, he's a grown man, and he doesn't need people reading tea leaves to tell you how he feels, I would assume based on his call into the WEEI that he wants to remain in Boston, and that's a good thing. In my opinion lots of people have spoken out of turn and out of place, and I may be doing so here, but fact of the matter is, based on teammates I have talked with through all this, we are coping just fine. No therapy needed, no patchwork needed, we are big boys, it's a business, stuff happens. I am pretty confident that this manager will have whichever 25 guys end up heading north on the same page, and with one goal, to win a World Series.

edit: I don't necessarily agree with his take on Nomar's call to WEEI, and I do sense a little "pin it on the media" tone, but in the end, Schilling's comments exemplify a sensitivity to the situation as well as a candor that I very much appreciate.
Hey, maybe John Henry et. al made the right financial and baseball decision, but I can't help but feel that the last 10 days has been bad, karmically speaking, for the Bosox.

Tuesday, December 23

In the spirit of the coming New Year, and in homage to our own local Times Square tradition, John Henry apparently will drop Larry Lucchino off the new Green Monster seats during the final 1.8 seconds before the deadline...
Reese = very strong sabermetric acquisition.

Meanwhile, meaningless, self-imposed A-Rod deadline #2 approaches....
Welcome to Pokey Reese. Another Theo-stamped move, a superb fielding 2nd baseman who hasn't shown a great proclivity for offensive prowess, Pokey strengthens the middle of the field. Pitching and defense improved again.

Paging Tina Fey:

Reported by AP: "Pop singer Michael Jackson has found a friend in another celebrity who's had his own brushes with the law: former baseball star Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry, a member of the Without Walls International Church in Tampa, ministered to Jackson during a trip to the singer's Neverland Ranch this weekend."

Tell me if I am out of line here, but I don't see how the A-Rod/Manny non-deal is holding up signings like Grieve. I read that Hicks was upset that he "missed out" on Grieve because of the lack of certainty regarding the trade, but I fail to see how a near-major-league minimum (non-guaranteed at that!) signing of a spare part was at all influenced - they could have signed him regardless of the status of the deal. This is just more of Hicks' misinformation, and it's almost laughable at this point.

On Monday, the Rangers continued to see results of how the stalled Rodriguez talks are affecting their plans to put together a 2004 roster. They went into the off-season needing starting pitching, bullpen help and a corner outfielder.

A corner outfielder the Rangers had their eyes on in case they don't get Ramirez – Arlington's Ben Grieve – was among those who signed Monday. And he did so rather cheaply, going to Milwaukee for a non-guaranteed $700,000 contract.

Monday, December 22

One excellent question, not yet asked, as far as I can tell, in any major news outlet: Why isn't Manny Ramirez, in addition to A-Rod, being asked to restructure/defer money, saving Hicks cashflow in the current day and therefore making the deal workable?

Just wondering.
I guess one difference we have is in our expectations. I don't expect Orza or the PA to have any care whatsoever about PR - that much should have been clear from the last labor negotiation. Orza is in a position of power - he absolutely can't (and really, shouldn't) give the Owners a crack to crawl through, and I don't really see how, other than acceding, he can do that. Prickly, maybe, but how, exactly, can anyone spin the PA position without looking like a greedy ass? He's in a tough spot, and I don't expect the PA to ever give a cent back, no matter what the context. Disappointing, yes, but unexpected or avoidable? Not really. Schilling said some apt things, but, even as smart as he seems to be, I think he's missing something that Orza isn't - that the Owners should never be trusted, particularly not when it appears that Selig is steering a deal.

And yeah, I guess A-Rod could have done massive damage, but I don't feel obligated to give him major props just because he's not Barry Bonds (how low have our standards fallen!). So, marks up, but just a little.

And a revision on Hicks: F. Even if he does get Manny + cash (to be turned into Ponson, perhaps) for A-Rod, it's just whipped cream on shit - a trade of the best player in baseball for an aloof (but deadly) slugger who can't field so well and some greenbacks. Where have you gone, Chan Ho?

Grade adjustments:

Henry: Sorry, not buying your line here. Yes, he’s working from power, but his financial decisions remain, at best, opaque.
Theo: I neglected to bump his grade for the potential Magglio deal, so he goes up in my book.
Nomar: The man has a right to say he wants to stay in Boston. But he should have taken that deal. So, yes, points off.
Orza: What do I want from Orza? Better pr management. The PA looks like a joke to just about everyone here, including PSchil38. That’s bad. The PA needed to be out spinning this thing from the outset. They did a horrible job.
Hicks: If he’s stuck w/ A-Rod he loses. How sad that the League’s best player is its biggest booby prize.
A-Rod: Don't underestimate the massive damage that he could have done to the union by throwing some kind of nasty public challenge. He’s been relatively gentlemanly through this process. He’s no Derek, but, really, who is?

Curiously, we’re in pretty wide agreement.
OK, here goes.

John H: B+. I don't really think Henry has done much of anything wrong. Beyond posting a cryptic message at SoSH, he's flown under the radar, hasn't been snippy (he let Leisure Suit Larry do that for him), and is working, baseball-wise, from a position of power.
Larry: F. Pisses off A-Rod (supposedly), pisses off Orza (definitely), pisses off Henry (see: US Airways one-way flight 1223 to Pittsburgh). Enamors himself to Selig. All-around terrible.
Theo: I. I don't see Theo as either the "puppet" you say or as a man in control of the A-Rod move. He's surely crunched some numbers (see: Magglio component, which has Theo's stamp all over it), but I think Henry/Werner are in control here, with Theo providing advice.
Nomar: C-. Nomar's sportsradio call-in from his honeymoon to say he "wants to stay in Boston" and that he "loves the Pats" was Arn Tellem-inspired, transparent garbage. Nomar should be following Manny's lead, and just keep quiet, deal with this when the situation plays out. He's the one who turned down 4/60, and likely, though passively, set into motion this whole situation. This gets us back to:
Manny: A-. About as well-handled as possible. No comments, no complaints, no "keep me" plea. He's been, ironically, the most professional of all.
Orza: B-. What do you want from Orza? He's the PA lead negotiator, labor leader. He's in a tough spot - he has to protect the players, and from those dastardly owners, to boot. He's in a tough spot, and maybe could have been a bit smoother, but really, what do you expect?
Hicks: I, potential A or F. He needs the deal way more than Henry et. al, he keeps moving deadlines, he can't keep his or Hart's story straight, plus he's trying to bargain with the Sox like a used-car salesman. I hedge with the "incomplete" because when and if a deal happens we'll know how smart he really was (and hence the A or F) But until then, he gets an I, he seemingly has no backbone.
A-Rod: C. He "backs" the PA? Not quite. He issued a modest statement after the re-jiggered deal was agreed to by Boras and the teams, he actively lobbied for Nomar's spot, and he spends an extra few days in NY so he can fly to Beantown for an introductory press conference that never happened. He's got way more clubhouse bad karma than Manny, Nomar, or:
Millar: C. It's worth reading the entire context in which Millar made his comments. He was obnoxiously pressed by Dan Patrick on ESPN radio after initially refusing to make judgment on the potential trade, and his jibes weren't really all that bad. In this case, they really have been wrestled out of context, though his post-facto apology seems diplomatically appropriate, and he should have known better than to say anything.


Peter Gammons: F. I grew up on the drug of Boston Globe Sunday Gammons, I think he's still worth reading regularly, but in this case he's been truly awful. You rightly point out his shameful hypocrisy with regards to Hicks, and he's reported more bad information in the last 10 days than Ari Fleischer did in his 2+ years.
Don't have time quite yet, but I have some different thoughts re: grades. Will grade your grades soon.
The dependable Peter Gammons, reaching the red zone on my hypocrisy meter with this from his latests column on the A-Rod deal: "Complicating things was Hicks' hopeless leaking of information in Texas, which clearly disgusted Henry, who does his business where it should be done -- in private." From the man who lives on inside dope? Come on!

Meanwhile an A-Rod-for-Manny scorecard:

John H.: C-. Suck it up and pay already. You know you want it.
Larry: D-. Claims of deal's demise are wildly exaggerated. Credibility?
Theo: B-. Looking like a puppet here, but maybe best to be sitting this fiasco out.
Nomar: B. Comiskey looking grim, but he's holding up a good front.
Millar: D. "I'd rather have A-Rod" comment low blow from would-be captain.
Schilling: C. Careful with those statements challenging the PA....
Manny: B. Guess what: he's behaving.
Orza: D. Fighting the good fight or a power grab? Bad job of PR either way.
Hicks: D. If he hadn't put up all that cash in the first place....
A-Rod: B+. Shows $30 million commitment to win, and then stands behind the PA even after they kill his deal. But if it falls through there'll be some explaining to do back in that Texas dugout.

Saturday, December 20

Just to clarify - I understand that A-Rod and the PA are under absolutely no obligation to concede anything to ownership.

Friday, December 19

I understand that only a shred of this must be accurate, but if it is even remotely true, then Orza and the Player's Association are really misguided. In this scenario, the PA supposes that Rodriguez becoming a FA as early as '05 offers him some kind of benefit greater than the restructuring proposed by the Red Sox. The Red Sox proposal (as represented in the press) would commit over 150M to the player over the next several years with some deferred income, and would have him playing in an environment of his choice and one which would afford him far greater exposure and upside w/r/t endorsements and other such endeavors. The PA proposal suggests there is "greater benefit" to A-Rod having a two year, $42M contract with some additional licensing ability and the option for free agency in '06. I don't see how, in ANY universe, the PA proposal is more "beneficial" to the player. In fact, that proposal (again, I take this with a huge grain of salt but engage it for the sake of debate) is insultingly non-conciliatory. As the market clearly bears nothing like what Hicks gave A-Rod three years ago, it is implausible that the PA has any sincere interest in working out a deal that actually helps out A-Rod. The "option" to become a free agent would never be used, and hence is no sort of concession to ownership. Who are they kidding?

Boston asked that he slash his contract by $28 million to $30 million, which the union blocked, saying it would violate the sport's labor agreement by lowering the deal's value.

The union and Boras proposed that Rodriguez lower his contract by $12 million in exchange for the right to use the Red Sox logo and marks in marketing deals. In addition, the shortstop would gain the right to become a free agent after the 2005 season.

What to talk about? Millwood accepts arbitration in Philly, so when and where will the likes of Maddux and Ponson end up? Will Vlad sign in Baltimore, to be followed by the re-acquisition of Sidney and then Lopez or I-Rod? Will the AL East eat its own next year? Still so many weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so many unanswered questions.

Lastly, and I have no basis for this, but I have a strange feeling there will be a December 23rd or 24th run to the Twins store on Yawkey Way for that first run of Sox #3 jerseys...

Thursday, December 18

"Due to the unique and complex nature of the negotiations surrounding the proposed transaction involving Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez and the number of teams involved, the negotiations did not reach a successful conclusion by the deadline set," Selig said in a statement. "I have terminated my permission for Boston and Alex Rodriguez to continue pursuing this transaction at this time."

What Selig said is that he terminated the Boston/A-Rod discussion, not a Texas/Boston discussion, so as far as I can tell, this is all a smokescreen.
Was that trade really between the Yankees (Cashman) and the A's (Beane) or between "Brian's Fantastic Cash-men" (BC's rotisserie team) and the "Beaneball 9" (Billy's roto-team)?

I hadn't realized that Cashman was even relevant still...
Note that according to ESPN neither the Sox nor the Rangers asked for an extension of the deadline.

Meanwhile, under the radar, a trade between Cashman and Billy Beane: Chris Hammond to Oakland for 2 apparently solid prospects: a 23 y/o pitcher (2.09 era in 51 games in a ball) and a 21 y/o infielder (roughly .285 w/ 85 rbi between a and aa).
The hangup in the talks: How much money the Red Sox would pay the Rangers to defray Texas' cost of absorbing Ramirez's contract. According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, the Rangers have dropped their demand of $5 million for five years to $5 million for three years.

I am violating my own proclamation by posting this, but don't you think the Red Sox can make that 15M up just in A-Rod bobblehead dolls next week?
As with all labor negotiations, if there is a bargain close at hand, there seems little reason to arbitrarily cut off negotiations. So if this is the case, you'd think there's good cause for an extension. The irony that the Yankees summary dismissal of Trammell might end up, in its own way, killing the Sox chance to acquire A-Rod is, admittedly, quite appealling from a purely partisan perspective.

But you'd have to wonder why Selig would not extend a deadline to John Henry, a friend. As usual, there's a lot going on here that remains completely unexplained.
This just in from Jayson Stark:

The hangup in the talks: How much money the Red Sox would pay the Rangers to defray Texas' cost of absorbing Ramirez's contract.

Bottom line: nobody has any fucking clue what the negotiations involve - this report contradicts almost everything that has been reported about what still needed to be worked out, unless of course the Sox are resigned to the fact that they cannot change his contract and now are going back to the Rangers to work out a change in previously agreed-upon payments.

All A-Rod to Boston chatter will unilaterally cease until the deal is done/not done!
From what I have read, the teams have agreed upon the terms of the trade. So all that is left to work out is the restructuring of A-Rod's deal. News reports say that Orza is in Florida today for a Bubba Trammell-related issue, so he's not available (who knows if that is accurate, of course). I therefore question the timing of the "deadline". Again, the constipation of the system is a real concern, for sure, but this deal (obviously) requires complex negotiation with the PA, with the player himself, and this deadline seems arbitrary, like a power play from Bud Selig. I don't trust it, nor do I think it necessary.
Regarding the deadline, it is imposed, so far as I understand, because the Sox have asked for the right to negotiate directly with a player contracted to another team, a situation that is rightly regulated by a (theoretically) impartial power, that being the commissioner. And there is some broader implication here beyond the teams involved: this trade has constipated the entire system, as teams and free agents wait to see how this situation resolves itself. So there is a broad interest in seeing it done so that the other individuals can get on with their lives and business in a fair and timely manner.
Hey, I understand that MLB wants this wrapped up so that other things can happen, and the trade banter seems to be, at least to me, a massive league-wide energy suck, but how the hell does Bud Selig get off setting a deadline for the completion of this deal? Why can't the teams continue to talk at their leisure, and consequently at their own risk? For the "good of the game"? Please.

The Red Sox and Rangers appear to be at an impasse in their attempts to agree on a restructuring of Alex Rodriguez's contract before today's 5 p.m. ET deadline, thus making a proposed trade between the sides unlikely, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports.

There has been no indication that either Boston or Texas has applied for an extension of their window to negotiate a restructuring that would allow Rodriguez to be traded for Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Stark reports. The deadline for a deal to be finalized was set by commissioner Bud Selig.

You've raised the essential issues that might come back to haunt the players, but it would be good to hear an independent source or two--or a few competing opinions--discuss the potential fallout. You mention Zimbalist, but why not other academics, economists, legal authorities with some expertise in labor relations, someone from the NLRB, Marvin Miller? One Globe piece, and not an especially perspicacious one, with but one source hardly makes up for the dearth of sensible coverage, esp. on television.

More broadly, as you've implicitly noted with your comments about the PA's public position w/r/t the idea of a "free market," baseball operates in an artificially constructed and largely shrouded economic system in which there is little accountability to the public. Situations like the present one provide our media with ideal platforms to report on this general state of affairs. But that kind of reporting doesn't sell papers and commercial space with nearly the alacrity of highlight films and an "arms race" between the game's most visible teams.
From what I have been reading (mostly at Sons of Sam Horn, an invaluable resource, populated with pseudonymous writers, lawyers, and eponymous team owners even!), the big issue is obviously precedent-setting. Applying the contract-reduction dogma to other situations, it has been posited that Owners would be able to demand that players reduce their contracts in order to facilitate trades. In other words, if A-Rod agrees to reduce his contract value, and the PA gives approval to a situation where contract value is reduced (regardless of context), then what's to prevent an Owner from approaching a under-utilised player and saying "I'll trade you to Team B where they want to start you if you agree to reduce your contract value, but if not, well, enjoy riding the pine". I think the PA just wants to not go near that possibility - a contract reduction is a contract reduction, and context be damned. I am not sure what the legal implications are, since, as a layperson, I don't have any idea if context has a bearing on legal concerns. Though I want the trades to happen, I don't really fault the PA for trying to protect that - they have no reason whatsoever to put any trust in the owners, they have no reason to crack open the door if they fear the door being swung wide open down the road.

On the other hand, I also wish the PA would just 'fess up and say that they really aren't interested in free mobility for their players (that much was obvious when the "everyone's a free agent and there's no more arbitration" deal was rejected by the PA some years back). What they are interested in is the maximum dollar amount on contracts within a system that limits player mobility just as much as they feel comfortable with. That kind of honesty would be refreshing, and would at least give everyone (fans, mostly) a dose of reality. As it is, both sides continue to play an elitist, out-of-touch game with the general public, and to the nines.

Boston.com / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / Baseball law expert cites 'perverse irony' 

Published this morning. Give the Globe some credit, even if you don't think the article all that deep. Of course, you might get angry because they didn't quote Andrew Zimbalist...

Boston.com / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / Baseball law expert cites 'perverse irony'
The squelching of this deal seems destined to go down in history as prime evidence of just how out of touch the PA is with the fans, if not its own membership. Clearly, that's the way the League, the ownership parties, and even the players involved are spinning it. And obviously the Boston mediahave a big stake in seeing this deal go through.

But I'm not so sure I agree--yet. First, if the various parties are able to come to an acceptable resolution by this afternoon's deadline, the PA will be vindicated. More to the point, we've heard a lot of screaming in the press (esp. the Boston press), but I have yet to read one clear examination of exactly what issues are at stake here from a legal and economic perspective. It's easy for those involved in the deal to claim that it will have no repercussions down the line, but they are hardly the most impartial or historically balanced sources. Why hasn't the mainstream press pulled out its labor and economic consultants to explain exactly what's at stake here for the players--and not just A-Rod and Manny and their superstar teammates, but the journeymen players who bounce around the league and up and down from the minors.

This may be a case of the PA overstepping the proper bounds of its authority--certainly it's been a poorly managed pr disaster--but the opposite may just as well be true. I give the national media an F in their coverage of this story. As usual, when it's time to talk about business matters in the national game, emotion creeps in and takes over the story.
Oddly, a Dan Shaughnessy column that's quite useful.

Boston.com / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / He's laboring under a delusion
Curt Schilling, the Sox newly acquired pitching ace, expressed empathy for the players involved in the deal, especially Ramirez and Garciaparra, two teammates with whom he said he was looking forward to playing and whose futures are being held hostage by the Rodriguez squabble.

"As a player, if Alex Rodriguez wants to go to the Boston Red Sox, I can't imagine the players' union stopping him from doing that," Schilling said yesterday in a phone interview.

"At the end of the day I hope it's not greed that kept this deal from getting done. I would think if Alex Rodriguez wants to come to the Boston Red Sox, he'd sit down and find a way to get it done. God forbid if he did that and the players' union said, `No, you can't.' The last time I checked, I pay money to pay the salary of Don Fehr and Gene Orza. I understand they say there would be a ripple-down effect if Alex wants to change his contract, but what other player would be affected by the restructuring of Alex Rodriguez's contract? None that I know of."

Orza, apprised of Schilling's remarks, noted that the union's executive council, which comprises players, agreed with the decision to reject the restructuring. "If Curt Schilling has a problem, he should take it up with the board," Orza said.

Wednesday, December 17

The Boston Red Sox and players union officials were in disagreement Wednesday afternoon about how to restructure Rodriguez's contract that would allow the team to complete a trade with the Texas Rangers for the reigning American League MVP.

"Their offer is not good enough," Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 man, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Major League Baseball has set a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday to get the contract finished. "The question is whether we can find some common ground.

"It's one thing to restructure and reduce and then offer compensation with other things. It's quite another to say, 'I will reduce your salary.'"

The implication of what is happening now is that A-Rod understands the situation, has reached some sort of contract re-structuring with the Red Sox, and needs the seal of approval from the MLBPA. They won't give it. So, against the free will of the player, the association is restricting his movement. How ironic.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, it seems like there’s a nasty case of Back to the Future developing. Why does it all of a sudden seem like we’ve been thrust ino to the mid 1980s. Mattingly’s back, and of course Willie’s still around (truth be told, we’d prefer an unretired Pags over Boone at 3rd). Meanwhile, George has seemingly foresaken the wise counsel of Stick Michael and Brian Cashman for his trusty old method of hiring big budget players whose best years are likely in the past. So instead of Beltran we have Lofton; instead of Guerrero there’s Sheffield, Pettitte is gone, and there remain questions at the back end of the staff. Meanwhile, Bernie Williams has been relegated to DH—but is Lofton really much better as a defensive replacement?—and there’s the threat that even this slot is going to have to be filled by Giambi (and who’s spelling him at first?) or even Sheffield. Nothing has been done to improve the team defensively.

The Yankees have plenty of talent. Will it gel into one smoothly operating machine? We shall see....
Well, if the deal goes down, the Red Sox will have barely two homegrown players on their roster: Trot Nixon and Lou Merloni. Not that better minor league development, skillful drafting, and generally fine dealing over the last few years haven't helped them swing several important deals in the last few years, but there will be no claims, from this party, of the Sox' ability to develop and play homegrowners. Until Kevin Youkilis shows up, that is.

It is amazing how baseball has changed for those teams that can afford not to wait for their youngsters.
Looks like A-Rod/Manny is back on, with Nomar and Williamson to the Chisox for Ordonez.

Big trouble in Yankeeland...
The press release omitted a paragraph:

"Following the press conference, Sheffield will berate various members of the media as well as stand-ins for two teammates, in order to prepare everyone for the coming season".
Foregone conclusion from Yankees.com:


The New York Yankees announced today that they have signed
free-agent outfielder Gary Sheffield to a three-year
contract with a club option for a fourth year.

He will be introduced at a media conference at
Yankee Stadium today at 2:00 p.m.

Sheffield, 35, joins the Yankees after leading the Atlanta
Braves with a .330 batting average and a career-high 132
RBI in 2003. He also set a career-high in runs (126) and
posted a career-best 24-game hitting streak from July 26-
August 20. He ranked among National League leaders in RBIs
(third, 132), total bases (third, 348), runs (fourth, 126),
slugging percentage (fifth, .604), extra-base hits (tied for
fifth, 78), on-base percentage (sixth, .419) and home runs
(tied for seventh, 39).

In addition to reaching the 2,000 career-hit plateau, the
seven-time All-Star stole his 200th career base this past
season and became just the 17th player in Major-League
history to hit at least 300 home runs and steal at least
200 bases.

Monday, December 15

NOW we can see the Expos grand strategy in full, it just took some time. The Vazquez trade and the Vlad release all were in order to bag....CARL EVERETT?!??!?!
Sox adding Foulke is another masterstroke by Theo. He now has major flexibility with Kim and Williamson, both inexpensive, young, tradeable, and he didn't give up a thing.

Also, Cashman re-upped by a club option for '05? Is Steinbrenner imposing a death sentence or what?

Sunday, December 14

One of the first phone calls Paul Quantrill made after agreeing on his yet unannounced two-year contract with the Yankees was to a Dodgers official. Quantrill thanked him for his time with the Dodgers, told him how exciting it was to be a Yankee and finished up his sentiments with this kicker: "I'm really happy to be getting away from Kevin Brown."

Saturday, December 13

There's no question you're right. As Steinbrenner has reasserted control of this team they've become disorganized and reactionary.

The loss of Pettitte, as we've both noted, is a tremendous blow: a stable presence, a consistent winner, a link to the Yankees dynasty. The truth is that he was easy to admire but difficult to love--a retiring Texas transplant never really comfortable as a public figure in New York--and so his departure is not the devastating loss to fans as, say, that of Tino Martinez.

What happens now is anyone's guess. The Yankees have many great players, and are clearly set to add a few more. Whether they can make a whole that is something greater than the sum of these parts--and greater than the sum of Boston's parts--remains to be seen. Joe Torre will have his hands full.

Friday, December 12

If this is true, and not from the Onion (I got this off of ESPN), then shame on Roger. He's worried that they'd take away his Hummer? Isn't the guy worth $50M?

Clemens is taking the weekend to decide whether he'd like to pitch for the Astros, where he would join friend Andy Pettitte, he told local talk show hosts from KKRW-FM Radio.

Rumors have been circulating since Clemens announced his retirement that he would unretire and pitch near home for the Astros. Clemens is technically a free agent, and can sign with any major league team.

When Pettitte decided on the Astros Thursday, that likely added to Clemens' motivation. Clemens and Pettitte were best friends on the Yankees.

However, Clemens was concerned that his Yankees' farewell gift -- a Hummer -- would be taken away if he decided to resume his career.

There is now a trend, amongst some of the national (as opposed to the biased local) media, to say that the Yankees loss of Pettitte isn't a big deal, that if you stare at his numbers long enough you realize that had he accepted the 39M the Yankees finally offered the team would have been stuck with a greatly overpaid pitcher, one who isn't a whole lot better in the postseason than he is during the regular. This, to me, is sabermetric/statistical folly. Pettitte was valuable, from an emotional, psychological, and talent standpoint. That can't be priced in a conventional way. Wasn't Albert Belle a sabermetric tour de force? Wasn't Albert Belle a punk? I think losing Pettitte hurts, beyond his statistical value.
What Epstein/Henry are doing with the Red Sox stands in interesting contrast to the Yankees offseason moves. The Sox clearly seem to be working in the interest of both finance and chemistry, whereas, to these eyes at least, the Yankees seem to be responding like rotisserie owners. The potential Rodriguez/Garciaparra/Ramirez merry-go-round has clear roots in the team checkbook, but is a deal which is also geared to not destroy a relatively harmonious team. Ramirez out, Nomar traded for reasonable return, and an addition of Rodriguez (in addition to Schilling) would do nothing to weaken the team make-up, nothing to make players wonder what the front office is thinking. Compare that to the Yankees situation - they let a bedrock of the franchise go, their glue, Joe Torre, is in his walk year, they trade for a 39 year-old NL stud/health risk, and are on the verge of signing enfant terrible Gary Sheffield, who can't even navigate an overly generous offer with any kind of class. Plus there are the usual grumblings about signing newyorkaphobe Vlad Guerrerro and now also perhaps Tejada. Where is the plan in all this? What are the "baseball" men doing? Beyond the acquisition of Vazquez, which is a smart and valuable long-term move for the Yankees (that is, if he's extended), how are the Yankees better off right now? From a non-rotisserie standpoint, how is this a better "team"? Are the Yankees just a reactive franchise at this point? Where has the agile, active, beat-everyone-else-to-the-punch Yankees front office gone? Or am I missing something? I wonder what YF thinks of all this. If this IS all part of a plan, then what does YF think of that plan? And if it's NOT part of a master plan, then what are the ramifications of that?
I guess there's a chance that the Pettitte situation was just a baseball decision, that the Yankees didn't think that Pettitte was worth keeping, that they figured there was a chance he'd stay out of loyalty but that if he left, no big deal. If so, why did they think that? What, exactly, over the last 9 years, made him so unimportant, so replaceable?

Thursday, December 11

So Kevin Brown is apparently on his way here, for Weaver, two minor leaguers, and a few million bucks. Pettitte, Weaver, Clemens, Johnson, two minor leaguers and cash for Vazquez and Brown is the net situation. Is there a more clear indication that Brian Cashman and his staff are mere puppets? Will YF agree that there is one, and only one, person running the show here? The strategy with Pettitte was horrid (that's the last I will say about the incompetent way the Yankees handled his free agency), and I fail to see how a 39 year old player signed for 15M per both this and next year is an adequate replacement for the Yankees most consistent pitcher of the last 9 years. Add in the fact that Brown is a high risk w/r/t health and is switching leagues, and you have a great example of amatuerish front-office/ownership activity. The end situation is that, even if the A-Rod deal doesn't happen, the Sox have added Schilling to last year's team, have a new manager with a brain, and have given up nothing. The Yanks, on the other hand, are left to overspend, make rash trades just to keep up, which may, on paper, be an impossibility. It's kind of tragic but uplifting, all at the same time.
It's a done deal...or maybe it's not. Who knows. With Colon gone, the Yankees long game--if they had one--has officially backfired. And let's be frank: the Yankees' situation is dire without Pettitte. The Sox have added one blue chip to their rotation. Th e Yankees, thus far, have added one (Vazquez) but also lost one (Roger). If Pettitte departs, they will be down one. And even if they add Kevin Brown, they will only be even (or perhaps slightly ahead, if we see Brown as an improvement on Pettitte). So if the Yankees want to keep up in this arms race, they need Pettitte and Brown.

Also, has anyone talked to Bernie Williams about his presumed switch to DH? If he's unhappy, that could be a big, big problem. He has a huge salary, and he can't be traded without consent (10/5 rule). I love Bernie. He has been one of the linchpins of the Yankee dynasty. But you have to wonder about what he could provide in terms of young talent on the market (especially for a contending, NL team). Earlier this winter, Berroa would have been available, as well as JT Snow: in otherwords, a young star in center, and a solid defensive player at first (with a Yankee pedigree) who would allow Giambi to assume his natural slot at DH. The longterm signature of Matsui doomed Bernie. He cannot move to left, at least not as a Yankee.

It's funny, almost every single quote in this article could have been planted by the Hendricks. We'll see what happens...


Wednesday, December 10

Just wondering if the whole Pettitte-almost-an-Astro thing smacks of the Bernie Williams-is-almost-a-Red-Sox from few years back to you. Who's to say this isn't all a major ploy by the Hendricks brothers to get George to ante up millions? I will believe this signing only when Pettitte gives a news conference.
Report: Free agent Pettitte on verge of deal with Astros
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

Free agent lefthander Andy Pettitte, one of baseball’s winningest pitchers, is on the verge of an agreement with the Astros, industry sources said today.

The sources cautioned that some details remained to be worked out and that the deal still could fall apart if the New York Yankees made a last-ditch effort to re-sign Pettitte.

Pettitte has already taken a physical, and Astros owner Drayton McLane and agents Randy and Alan Hendricks are attempting to complete the deal within 24 hours, sources said.

I do agree with you on the Sheffield thing, with more facts at hand it's clear that he is, as we say, a tant. A greedy tant at that. But I also wouldn't be at all surprised if the Vlad situation gave the Yankees the opportunity to sprint away from Sheffield once that deal hit a snag, rather than loll away.

In other news, ESPN is currently reporting that Pettitte is about to sign with the Astros. I reiterate what I have been saying for weeks: the Yankees botched this one, they risk-managed like amateurs.

Also, re: Washburn. He isn't very good (though durable), and he isn't very cheap. He's a bottom of the rotation guy at $5M per year, and I don't think that's what the Sox will need if the deal happens.
There is no reason to believe that the Yankee negotiations with Sheffield were intentionally done in by the Yankees in order to pursue Vlad, and the fact that this deal has hit the skids clearly belies the Braves disingenuous claims that it has long been written in stone. If the Yankees were the ones calling off this deal, you know Sheffield would be the first one complaining to the press. Instead, even his friends are questioning why he tried to hit the Yankees up for more money (see today's Post). I sure wouldn't want Sheff to act as my agent: the second Vlad comes ON to the market he starts asking for more money. Isn't that the time to sign on the dotted line and be thankful your price isn't dropping?! By all means, the Yankees should go get Vlad. YF has never been enamored with the prospect of Sheffield as a Yankee.

Meanwhile, as Steinbrenner asserts control, it is indeed looking like we're coming to the end of the Yankee dynasty and along with it, the ascendancy of the Sox. If, as is rumored today, they are able to acquire A-Rod and then offload Nomar to the Angels for Eckstein and Jarrod Washburn, they will be unstoppable. Why the Angels would give up Washburn, however, is far beyond me, even with the signing of Colon.

And now that Colon is no longer avaiable, the signing of Pettitte is even more crucial for the Yankees. So the revelation in today's papers that the Yankees have been lollygagging and not simply playing a long game, is troubling.

Finally, I humbly eat crow. I thought there would be more of a buyers market this offseason, fueled by what is an (unspoken) collusion to keep salaries down.

Steinbrenner also played heavily on Yankee tradition in courting Sheffield, telling him, "I want guys who are Hall of Famers, and I want you wearing that Yankee cap in the Hall. When you get to 500 [home runs] we'll make it a big issue. I think you'll do it in three years."

Huh? The Boss has lost it (if he ever had it to begin with), and this exchange should scare the crap out of you. Sheffield isn't a hall-of-famer, under any circumstances, and if George thinks he is or ever will be then his talent-assessment abilities are beyond gone. If this is the Boss who is steering the ship, get your life preserver out.
Surprise, surprise, the Yanks are "back" in the Guerrero sweepstakes. I don't believe a word coming out of the Yankees front office re: Sheffield's "additional" demands. This is all backtracking following Guerrero's release from the Expos.

On the other hand, I don't see how Atlanta has a case for compensation. According to today's papers, they are asking for compensatory draft picks, which makes no sense to me. They state that they were under the impression that the Yankees had a deal with Sheffield, so they didn't offer him arbitration, but wouldn't the opposite situation rule if that were the case? If they knew he had a deal with the Yankees, why wouldn't they offer him arbitration (free draft pick, right?). That they didn't offer him such an option destroys their case. Or am I missing something?
Soap opera.

Boston.com / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / The Rodriguez watch heats up

Tuesday, December 9

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) – Boston Red Sox owner John Henry lashed out at Nomar Garciaparra's agent on Tuesday, saying it was the "the height of hypocrisy" to accuse the team of betrayal even though the star shortstop rejected the team's lucrative, long-term offer last spring.
"He says we're being disingenuous. I take great umbrage at that statement," Henry said at the opening of the team's academy in the Dominican Republic, according to two Boston newspapers that covered the event. "That is the height of hypocrisy."
Garciaparra said in radio and newspaper interviews this week that he would be hurt if the Red Sox went through with plans to trade him and acquire Alex Rodriguez from Texas. Calling the radio station and the Boston Herald from his Hawaii honeymoon with soccer star Mia Hamm, Garciaparra said he wants to finish his career in Boston, and noted his commitment to the community and the team.
Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, told The Boston Globe that the team's efforts to acquire Rodriguez – which are less about Garciaparra than outfielder Manny Ramirez – are "a slap in the face."
The Globe and Herald both quoted sources on Tuesday as saying that the Red Sox offered Garciaparra a four-year deal last spring worth $60 million. Garciaparra rejected it, instead seeking a longer deal worth as much as $17 million a year.
Since then, the market has declined, and the Red Sox have reportedly decreased their offer.
"I hope he's being more honest with his client than he is with the media because we have made credible offers," Henry said. "The reason we have continued in the manner in which we have, is that his agent has given us a very clear indication that there is no common ground. He seems to believe it is still the winter of 2000."
Tellem, reached in New York, thought Henry was out of line.
"Obviously, I strongly disagree with Henry's characterization of my comments in regards to Nomar's current situation with Red Sox," Tellem said. "All further communication regarding this matter will be conducted in a private and professional manner among myself, Nomar and appropriate representatives of the Red Sox organization. As Nomar has stated, it has always been and still remains his goal to stay with the Red Sox."

Colon to Anaheim for 12M per. I think we had an argument about his value - didn't you predict he wouldn't get above 10 per year?
I wonder if you sabermetrically analyzed the Schilling addition, it's impact on the staff ERA, and then sadded A-Rod and a middling second player and subtracted Manny and Nomar, and calculated runs scored/runs allowed differential from last year to hypothetical next (does that make any sense), where would you be? My point is that yes, you are right, the A-Rod deal goes far beyond sabermetrics (local and national marketing, tv numbers, licensing, curse-exorcising, etc.), but I also wouldn't be surprised if Theo's crunched the numbers and recognized that such a deal would have little sabermetric downside as well.

Nomar has been vocal in his "shock" at the A-Rod trade talks, at feeling impugned that he wasn't "notified" of the Sox' interest in moving him. I think Nomar should get a clue (remember, I like Nomar, so don't read this as anything but an isolated criticism). Nomar (apparently) turned down a 4-year/$60M extension during spring training last year, and if there's anyone to complain to it's his agent Arn Tellem, who probably advised him to test the market, not presupposing that Miguel Tejada would draw max $10M/annum. Nomar had a very viable chance to end his career in a Sox uniform, and he ought to look at Tellem as the primary reason he might not, not John Henry.

I would also suggest that the A-Rod/Manny deal is one in which Sabermetrics are probably thrown out the window in favor of a broader world view. As noted, over at least a short term, Manny and Nomar are going to equal more in pure production than A-Rod plus one. So clearly the Sox management, even with Bill James at their side, clearly see that there is more to the game than numbers alone..
I think your analysis of the A-Rod/Manny/Nomar situation is pretty accurate, and I think I've pretty much changed my thinking on this matter over the past few days, at least in terms of analysis from the Sox perspective. While replacing Manny and Nomar with A-Rod and some much lesser player will inevitably mean a drop in offensive production (the Sox are certainly not going to equal their 2002 run total in 2003), they will still be an offensive force, and improved defensively--at least in left. And even with the drop in production, the Sox will have plenty of offense, especially with Schilling added to the fold.

A-Rod is clearly the best player in the AL, and probably baseball, and he could well become the all-time home run king (playing in Fenway won't hurt).If he were to pass Ruth in a Sox uniform...talk about reversed curses. Locking him up long term makes a great deal of sense.

As for Sheffield: note that the Braves are bringing a case against the Yankees to MLB for jumping the gun in their negotiations with Sheffield, and are seeking recompense in draft picks. What's the real story here?

-Are there actually differences between Sheff and the Yankees?
-Are the Yanks looking for wiggle room to get in the Vlad line?
-Are the Yanks looking for cover from the Braves grievance?
-Is the Braves action disingenuous? (If they wanted draft picks, they could have put Sheff on their arbitration list. This way they take no risk of him winning a big salary.)?

As usual, there's little hope that any of this will be resolved in a transparent manner.
I think I ought to pipe in with my thoughts on the A-Rod/Nomar/Manny shenanigans going on in the baseball world. Since I first suggested trying to get A-Rod early this October, I have to admit I am pleased to see the Sox' brass following up, at least from a pure baseball standpoint.

Let me break down some of my thoughts/issues:

1. Rodriguez is, hands-down, the best player in baseball, and adding him to any team should be viewed as an upgrade.

2. Clearly, moving Manny is a priority of the front office, and though he is a staggeringly dangerous player offensively, he is, at the absolute most, a near-average or slightly below average fielder (though not as bad as everyone says). He's a clubhouse case of the sniffles (I won't accuse him of being a cancer, since the Sox have done pretty well with him to this point) that management obviously wants gone, as well as a salary hog.

3. Nomar has been a great representative of baseball in Boston - a passionate player (despite his sheltered outward appearance, he gives EVERYTHING to the team, I believe), a gifted hitter (however limited), a solid to above-average fielder. As I have posted earlier, any team would be lucky to have him, and under other circumstances (say, had he been drafted by the Yanks) he'd have a few of Derek's rings by now.

4. The sentimentality factor plays hard. Much chatter has been devoted to a trade of Nomar being equal to a trade of Yaz circa 1969 or 1975, or the loss of Fisk in 1981. To me, the landscape of baseball economics and team loyalty has changed, making these comparisons less apt. I think that the loss of Nomar would be a hard one for fans emotionally, in a vaccum. But replacing him with Rodriguez will shorten our memories. I don't think there will be a single fan disappointed with what Rodriguez could bring to the Sox, from an abilities and heart standpoint. I don't think A-Rod has ever been accused of not bringing everything to the table. If the Sox had replaced Fisk in '81 with with Gary Carter, I don't think Sox fans would still be lamenting the loss of Fisk as romantically as we do (he was my idol). And Rodriguez is no Gary Carter - he's far beyond that.

Us Sox fans should be more realistic. In this day and age of player movement, to hold onto the idea of a playing career spent in one uniform is suffocating. It's noble, for sure, but no longer pragmatic. We need the Sox to win a World Series, bottom line, and I think that Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry understand that modern baseball is not only about romance, it's also about science, economy, and intellect as well. Nothing would be more romantic, to me, than to see a World Champions banner above Fenway, Nomar or no Nomar.

I couldn't help but catch the backsides of the NY tabloids today on the subway ride to work, articulating a snag in the Sheffield-to-the-Yankees situation, based on apparent additional money demands from Sheffield. I wonder if, in fact, this is actually Yankees-promoted spin instead (maybe he hasn't asked for an additional penny!), and that this is the Bombers' clever way of walking away from the deal now that Vlad Guerrero is available without compensation, quite a different scenario from just a week ago, circa Vazquez/Johnson. I wouldn't be surprised.

Monday, December 8

Moving back to the Expos: I'm opposed to contraction. If MLB fixes its problems, imho, contraction would not be necessary. The League, as far as I'm concerned, should be looking to expand into Latin America, if not immediately than in the foreseeable future.

For right now, a team belongs in our nation's capital. That's where the Expos should be going.
The Vlad situation should be shocking; it's a sad commentary on the state of that franchise, and frankly MLB in general, that it's not. The Vazquez deal, we were told, was made explicitly to free salary room for Vlad. Apparently not. Why is he now being allowed to walk? Why, as you've asked, wasn't he dealt last year? The Expos are a joke, and these latest shenanigans are undermining the integrity of the entire sport. Who's to blame?

The Montreal situation must be understood within the overall context of MLB economics. As you've noted, management and players are so deeply embroiled in a system of mistrust and self-interest that it's hard to blame either party alone. However, it is the owners' responsibility to install an honest broker as commissioner, someone who can move beyond this history to establish a bipartisan way forward. Instead we have a divisive figure who has gone out of his w ay to undermine any such cooperation. Instead of creating workgroups with the players to study the economics and fut ure of the game, Selig, for example, organized a unilateral "blue ribbon" commission, and when the result of even this one-sided agglomeration failed to appease all of the owners, it was simply dismissed. Naturally, the players and their powerful uni on a re skeptical and obstructionist in the face of this kind of administration. So the blame, as far as I am concerned, begins with the owners; continues to the players; certainly includes the press--which does a miserable job of pr esenting these issues; moves on to our politicians, who are so busy accepting freebie tickets from the owners (see this week's suit against the Yankees) that they forget the public interest, irrationally value sports teams, and fail to pass sensible legislation at state and federal levels; and finally to the public, for voting with their pocketbooks and at the polls for this system which puts a needlessly unfair burden upon them, and is undermining the game. So it's everyone's fault.

These should be great times for baseball. Bar ry Bonds is closing in on Ruth. Football is overly violent, tawdry, and frankly uninteresting. Basketball is losing its cache. But instead of an upsurge fueled by great players and great rivalries and great new venues in Latin America and the Far East, we have a nasty steroid scandal, exploitation of Latin labor, and all of the issues that come from the continued ill will between players and owners.

There is another question, actually a rhetorical question, w/r/t the Guerrerro situation: Why didn't the Expos trade him last year if they knew they couldn't re-sign him? Obviously there was never a chance to keep him in the fold, that fact is made transparent as they didn't offer him arbitratration even AFTER they traded Vazquez - it wasn't like they offered him arb. and then had to dump Vazquez in order to afford Vlad. The Expos are a sham, we both agree, and this move, in concert with the dump of Vazquez, is the biggest indication that this team should be dissolved.

What is harder to answer is who is at fault. Surely the owners deserve considerable blame, that almost goes without saying. But I have to believe that the MLBPA has to shoulder some of the burden on this one too - they opposed contraction in any situation (though with the Twins fiasco they had a point), and through their own intractability they have also helped antagonize this situation. The Expos are a joke, and both players and owners are at fault.
So the Expos have cut Vladdy loose. This strikes me as especially pathetic, considering the Vazquez trade last week. Is there a better indication that the moving of Vazquez had nothing to do with improving the Expos comptetitive ability and everything to do with feeding the AL East fire? Not offering Guerrero arbitration illustrates how pathetic the Montreal situation is, how Selig and, by extension, all the other owners of MLB franchises (since they all have a piece of the Expos), really don't care about maintaining even the semblance of legitimacy with that franchise. Minaya is nothing but a powerless foot soldier - he may think he can change the franchise from within, but that's farcical - he's the Colin Powell of sports.

Sunday, December 7

Is someone reading our blog? First, the Sox make a move for A-Rod (portented by this scribe in early October!) and now today a Times beat writer refers to the Yankees as "gluttonous", a term I used just a few days back.

Makes you wonder.

Saturday, December 6

worth a read.

ESPN.com - Gammons: A-Rod's fate in owners' hands

Friday, December 5

Another post-mortem on the AL East moves: The Red Sox effectively got a front-line pitcher for nothing (at least nothing of note off their current roster), whereas the Yankees had to move one of their more potent (albeit part-time) members of the lineup in order to procure Vazquez. The Vazquez move is a solid one, for sure, and potentially a superb long-term move if they can re-sign him. But in the here and now, the Sox gave up less, and that's a better net gain, for the moment, I think. We'll see the ripple effect soon, I am sure.
I think it's reasonable to expect that Trot Nixon will continue to improve offensively, and that last year's spurt wasn't a fluke. He turns 29 this year, is in what should be his prime. If that's the case, he seems a viable replacement for Manny in the lineup (but don't over-read my thought - he's no Manny). Nixon hit over .300 last year, he walks enough (60-70 times a season, typically), and he did most of his damage from the 7-spot. So, I could foresee a scenario where Trot gets moved up to 5th or 6th in the lineup, and ends up with more like .290-30-100 numbers, an adequate piece of protection for someone like A-Rod.

(and such are the fantasies of a Boston fan drunk on images of A-Rod in a Sox uni...)
That "moronic" (as I myself termed it) scenario was actually a figment of my own twisted imagination. I was just thinking out loud - the Sox need to both dump salary and tease Texas in order to pry A-Rod - they would then need to move Nomar following an A-Rod acquisition. I figure Williamson, who is set to make (I think) 3 million this year, is a cheap closer for Texas, and Manny is in the deal regardless. The Sox seem dead-set on Foulke (though why they wouldn't slot in SW to the closer role after last year's playoff performance is a bit stupefying), so that would make Williamson expendable. As for moving Nomar, they could only move him to a team who can re-sign him, a team that is geographically alluring and has the cash. The Dodgers and Angels fit the bill. There was a rumor that Nomar would be moved to LA for Brown, but I don't see that as remotely realistic, just because of salary (the Sox are working all these deals with the 120M payroll limit as their internal limbo stick). So, my misguided train of thought led me to the player the Sox need, from both a salary and positional standpoint - a second baseman. And who on the Angels fits that bill? Eckstein. He's a small shortstop (very easily moved to second), a decent fielder, a reasonable leadoff or 2 hitter (the Sox have Damon, I know, but that's not a terrible problem to have), and he's cheap, at this point. He makes sense.

As for the issue of how that changes the Sox' offense: The Bosox brass clearly believes that moving Manny is addition by subtraction (uh, waivers anyone?). A-Rod more than replaces Nomar, and Eckstein fills a need, both offensively and defensively, and helps the bottom line. Foulke is an improvement over Williamson, despite my hesitations over the move. That is how that scenario makes sense to me, even though your reservations are, in my mind, appropriate.

Thursday, December 4

Or maybe not just chatter: Gammons and Kurkjian claim on ESPN tonight that Manny for A-Rod is for real, and that Boston's "baseball people want it to happen." (Gammons) So it's all about ownership and cash at this point: how much salary are the Sox willing to suck down.

Also, they report Pettitte close to signing with Houston or Atlanta.

So much ado...
I'd say it's just chatter. Does it really make sense? Foulke and Williamson essentially cancel each other out. So what you have is the Red Sox dealing Manny and Nomar for A-Rod and Eckstein. Is that a net gain? A-Rod is an improvement over Nomar at short, but Manny for Eckstein is a massive drop in production. Instead of facing Nomar and Manny back-to-back, pitchers will now just have to deal with A-Rod. Who would fill the left field void?

I know Nomar swings at too many first pitches, and I know he had a terrible post-season, and I know his numbers outside Fenway drop. But he is, in the end, a 5-tool player, and he's the heart of the Sox (well, maybe that's Varitek). It would be sad to see him leave Boston, and I think Boston fans would come to regret his departure. And frankly, so would Yankee fans: Derek needs his Nomar.

Moronic Sports Radio Trade Proposal or Extended Scenario of the Day 

Sox sign Foulke.
Sox trade Manny and Williamson to Texas for A-Rod.
Sox trade Nomar to Anaheim for Eckstein, move Eckstein to 2nd base.

Injury is a big concern, for both the Sox and the Yankees, who both have a large number of veteran players with troubling histories.

And the Blue Jays are another concern. With the Cy Young winner, two of the league's top hitters, a decent supporting cast, and a savvy gm, they might just wind up as a dark horse challenger for, at least, the wild card slot. With 19 games against divisional opponents, they will certainly be in position to be spoilers in a close race.

But the main concern is of course the Petey/Pedro/Derek problem. Keeping up with that trifecta, plus Wakefield, is going to be very difficult indeed. Who will come after Moose, Vasquez, Pettitte--Lieber? Contreras? Wells? Weaver? Hard to be confident with any of these solutions right now. Paging Rocket!
Does next year scare you? Does this mass maneuvering by these powers make you fear an injury armageddon? This coming season sets up as a massively hyped, insanely anticipated bust. But that might just be the Sox fan in me...
And all props to Cashman for that deal.
Wow. Let me just say how pleasing it is to find the Yankee brass taking YF's suggestions seriously. As YF wrote on this site only yesterday, "Vasquez should be the Yankees no. 1 priority,"

Now, a quick postmortem of the deal. First, let's just offer a sad goodbye and a sincere thanks to Nick Johnson, a longtime favorite of YF. A fine young player with a bright future. So let's give credit to Minaya: he got, arguably, the Yankees best young player, along with Rivera, who's a solid outfielder and cheap. If Choate ever finds his command, he will be valuable. You are completely right to point out Minaya's compromised position, though your conspiracy theory seems even more far-fetched than mine (SF Edit - that was a joke). But again the point here, on which we agree, is that the status of the Expos is an absolute joke, and casts a pall over the entire market.

Meanwhile, Vazquez was definitely the top prize out there on the market: a terrific young pitcher and a workhorse to boot. His acquisition is apparently the doing of Cashman, not Steinbrenner, and I can only say, BRAVO. This is just the kind of move the Yankees have not made in the past. Given the choice between Schilling (George's favorite) and Vazquez, they have definitely gone in the right direction (which is no knock on Schill or Theo). And Vazquez is affordable for this year, though one suspects Cashman will, before too long, renegotiate and extend his contract.

What now? Are the Yankees done on the pitching front? Sheffield is apparently in the bag. And clearly, a new backup for Giambi is required.

Uh, sure, Omar, you have a better opportunity. To finish fourth? Oh, sure, a high-potential, oft-injured pure hitter and two barnacles are surely a great replacement for a premier young pitcher coming into his prime. Minaya better sign Vlad or this trade looks engineered by MLB to create marketable AL East drama - how's THAT for a conspiracy theory?

"It's tough to trade a pitcher like Javier Vazquez, but I think we have a better opportunity with the situation going forward," Expos general manager Omar Minaya said at a news conference in Montreal.
Chips will fall now? Pettitte to re-sign imminently? Does Colon settle back in in Chicago, Maddux in Atlanta? Millwood offered arbitration, stick in Philly? Do the Sox and Yankees make the only splashes? Or are there any more moves to come? This is exciting.
Should we start the whole "Bud Selig is conflicted" commentary yet? I mean, I guess George should take his whole "Cliff Floyd got traded to the Red Sox as a part of a major MLB anti-Yankee conspiracy" and shove it really far up his bloated ass.
I think that's a superb trade for the Yankees, even with the loss of Johnson. Well-countered, the Schilling deal.
A message from Yankees.com:


The Yankees on Thursday acquired right-handed pitcher
Javier Vazquez from the Montreal Expos in exchange for
first baseman Nick Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera and
left-handed pitcher Randy Choate.

Vazquez, who was coveted by many teams, went 13-12 with a
3.24 ERA last season, striking out 241 in 230 2/3 innings
for the Expos. In parts of six seasons, Vazquez is 64-68
with a 4.16 ERA, though his ERA has been under 4.00 in each
of the last three seasons. A power pitcher, Vazquez features
an arsenal that includes a sinker, slider, cutter, curveball
and changeup.
Theo has more than lapped Cashman in the relevancy race.

ESPN.com - MLB - Olney: The almighty Boss
Roger was nothing if not a professional (headhunting aside). I used to love the guy (he was my Sox hero for his entire career there), he always pitched hard, always showed up. If I was a young power pitcher there isn't another player I'd listen to or admire more. But likable, friendly, approachable? Not a chance. That's what's anti-Clemens about Schilling - Curt seems like a truly unaffected person.

Wednesday, December 3

Schilling does in fact seem like a dream. And as noted on this site quite some time ago--well before and talk of trades--he had a terrific year in 2002 that was somewhat lost in the general discussion due to a bit of injury and his w-l record, which--as we know--can be deceptive. So kudos to the Red Sox. The only drawback with Schilling is his age.

And while I'm passing around kudos to enemies, this is a good time to point out the very clever work J.P. Ricciardi is doing in Toronto. Theo is deservedly getting attention this week, but the Jays are quietly building a solid club. And Baltimore is also likely to improve, which means win totals are likely to drop in a more competitive AL East next season.

But getting back to Schilling, it's interesting that you describe him as the anti-Clemens, as I believe Schilling himself has credited old Roger for giving him a talk about professionalism that redirected his career. So go figure.

C_Schilling1966 Has Entered the Room - What happens when a Red Sox pitcher logs on? By Seth Stevenson

This guy is the anti-Clemens. What's not to love?

The Yankees pursuing Gordon in lieu of Hawkins is pretty inexplicable. Hawkins is younger, better, more healthy, and a bit more expensive. Doesn't make sense to me.

Eric Milton is now off the market, he had been rumored to be a target of the Yankees but hindsight doesn't make that too plausible - the guy was hurt all last year, and is set to make 9 million. I see the Yanks re-upping Pettitte (how can they not at this point?), and the Vazquez hunt should be entertaining. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Red Sox were still in the Vazquez hunt, even with the Schilling deal.

Also, a big welcome to the AL East to Terry Francona - best of luck!

Addressing past concerns, I too think the whole Selig lack-of-transparency thing is a total joke, I think he's conflicted beyond belief. But I don't think the Schilling deal is the best illustration of it, not by a longshot. The Expos are the single biggest case of sports conflict-of-interest, possibly in organized league competition history, of any type.

some thoughts on this week's doings in yankeeland, on ysfs, and elsewhere:

On paranoia and the Schilling deal: The issue extends beyond "crying foul" over any one particular deal. The problem is that there is neither transparency nor integrity in the process of player movement and basic economics, so all of these hot-stove conversations that we're having--and that MLB encourages for promotional purposes--are basically ridiculous, because we have really no idea what's going on.

But seeing as this is what we're doing anyway, here are some of my observations on recent events:

I'm not sure why the Yankees interest was shifted from Hawkins, a blue-chip reliever in his prime, to Gordon, an injury-prone vet at the end of his career. Paul Quantrill looks like a nice acquisition. But why both?

Given the situation, the one year deal for Boone made sense, though one suspects he will be wearing another uniform by august. And not to harp on this, but the Yankees would have been much better off closing out 2002 with Ventura, and then signing a free agent at third for the future (Randa would have done nicely). And that would have kept Claussen in pinstripes as another starter or legitimate trade fodder.

The Weaver for Brown rumor. As the Post writes, the Dodgers are looking for a hitter, not a hittee. But there's always hope!

IMHO, Vasquez should be the Yankees no. 1 priority, followed by Pettitte. Sheffield....this move makes me very nervous. An aging and injury prone player with a weak arm and a bad attitude who's switching leagues... As Buster Olney notes, how many glorified DH's can the Yankees stock?

My suggestion: George should just by the Expos outright: this way he gets Vlad and Vasquez.

Tuesday, December 2

New rumor has the Yankees trying to obtain Kevin Brown.

Monday, December 1

Welcome back, Aaron Boone. 6 million in back pay, for a single hit, I suppose.
Now you sound like a paranoid Red Sox fan. Sure, Selig is compromised, but this trade is the most minor of conflicts (see: Montreal Expos). The D-Backs traded only one of the Schilling deal players (de la Rosa) for Sexson today, along with 5 others, so it's awfully hard to cry foul. Selig is in a terrible position, you won't get an argument from me on that one, but the Schilling/Sox deal is no indication of that. The key thread in the deal is Steinbrenner poaching Wells, that's your answer, and Bud Selig doesn't have to do a damn thing to remind Garagiola, Jr., or Colangelo about that. Stop pointing fingers elsewhere.

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