Friday, February 16, 2007

Um, Yeah, Pitchers and Catchers

Every year we get excited for Spring Training--for pitchers and catchers to report to the team's Spring strongholds to start getting . Then all you get for the first two or three weeks is pictures of guys stretching, and folks writing either a) human interest stories, b) stories about people's visa problems or other lateness getting to camp, c) "he's in the best shape of his career" stories, usually aimed at veterans who are past their prime, or d) stories about folks wanting extensions on their contracts.

I'm probably spoiled, from having been at the Caribbean Series last week, but the idea of people stretching didn't get me too psyched up after a week of catching a doubleheader per day of real baseball action. Here's what's happened over the past few days in Yankeeland:

The Dude Abides -- Bernie Williams made the predicted choice of not accepting a minor league contract from the Yanks. Bernie Baseball will instead hang around the sidelines waiting for the Yanks to come to their senses, which, y'know, they probably won't do, absent an injury during the springtime. This is the way that things end; this is the way they ended with Don Mattingly, who was even more revered by the Bombers Faithful than Bernie was. I could say that I hope Bernie gets his chance this season, except I won't, because that would mean something went wrong. Does that make any sense?

Sandman Off to Never-Never Land? -- Mariano Rivera announced that he will explore free agency if the Yanks don't sign him to an extension. This is a non-story, other than for its tone: yeah, that's the way it works. Either you get a contract extension, or you become a free agent. It's like saying "If you don't get me a chair, I'll have to stand."

I'm pretty sure that Mariano was saying similar dark things about free agency three years ago, prior to signing his current contract. The big difference this year is that he's seen how Williams--a longtime teammate who's his age--has been treated by the organization. So maybe this time the negotiations will have a bit more edge to them. But I can't imagine that the Yanks don't sign Rivera, not unless his arm's not healthy.

Ron Villone Isn't Insulted by a Minor League Deal -- Villone gets a minor league contract, reportedly an incentive-laden $1.5 million deal if he makes the team. It seems reasonable to give Villone a shot to prove that he's more like the good pitcher from the first half of last season, than the miserable wretch he turned into after Torre pitched his arm off in June and July. Not a lot of risk, and there could be some reward, there.

Heir Apparent Busted -- Steve Swindal--George Steinbrenner's son-in-law, who's the managing general partner of the Yankees--took a DUI arrest early Thursday morning in St. Petersburg, Florida. This news actually has me more worried than Mariano's threats, since Swindal has reportedly been a voice of reason behind the scenes ever since Steinbrenner designated that he was the person who would exercise control of the Franchise after the Boss is gone. Supposedly, it was Swindal who argued for giving Brian Cashman greater authority after the 2005 season and for retaining Joe Torre after the Yanks' early exit in 2006.

If Swindal's position is undermined by this arrest, things could backslide, with the "Tampa Baseball Men" again vying for prominence in the organization. Steinbrenner has been known to be morally outraged, short term, by people's substance abuse problems, before turning into a big softy and giving them nearly limitless chances to redeem themselves. Hopefully, Swindal does whatever he needs to do to make things right, as quickly as possible.

Moose Calls Out Pavano -- Welcome to Paraphrase Theater. Let's give this a try. Carl: "I'm fine with all my teammates." Moose: "You'll be fine with us when you make 30 good starts in the Show, meat." Anybody want to argue with that?

Additional Odds and Ends:

Frank Torre, who previously had a heart transplant, is now waiting on a kidney transplant. Here's our best wishes to Frank on a swift and successful surgery. I remember when he had the heart transplant, they held a press conference, one of the reporters asked if they would be able to speak to the donor. The doctor, who I seem to recall had an accent, said "You must be one of the sports press, yes?" At least, when Frank gets his kidney, there's a possibility the beat writers will have someone to talk to.

The Yanks will wear black armbands this season to honor Corey Lidle. One of the stranger moments working on Baseball Prospectus 2007 was seeing an early draft of the PECOTAs that included a projection for Lidle.

While I was away, John Sickels wrote a prospect evaluation entry about Tyler Clippard. Check it out.

For any of you who are interested, here's the rest of my Caribbean Series Saga that I didn't link last week: Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and -- for the commenter who wanted to see them -- we got photos. Just, sadly, no pics of the Jailbait Dancers.

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