Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Of all the secular holidays, there probably isn't one that resonates with me as much as Thanksgiving. The proposition that we should dedicate time to be thankful for all the good things in the world is simple, elegant, and necessary. Tomorrow--as I am on just about every other day--I'll be thankful for La Chiquita, for my brothers, my parents (who are currently somewhere on the other side of the world), and my friends. I'll also be thankful for baseball, the fact that I get to write about it and get paid to do so, and to all of you who stop by here or Baseball Prospectus to see what I have to say.

Today, I'm going to single out a couple of things that I take for granted, but for which I'm grateful:

Thanks, Andy Pettitte:

I've been doing a bunch of research on Yankees rookies for Bombers Broadside 2008, and it's given me a big appreciation for how big a step it was when the farm system produced Andy Pettitte in 1995. It had been quite a while since the Yankees had groomed and kept an elite starting pitcher--arguably since Ron Guidry in 1976 (guys like Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksbury and Al Leiter were all dealt away before getting established; Dave Righetti had been acquired as a high-level minor leaguer, so he wasn't really a product of the Yankee system).

Andy's given Yankee fans over 2,000 innings of excellent baseball in his career, and a ton of great memories. Last season, after a regrettable (but brief) separation, he returned to the Yankees and really was a rock in a sea of uncertainty. It's only fitting that we should thank him, and Steve Lombardi over at Was Watching has thought of a great way to do that, and ask Andy to come back for one more go-around. He calls it Project P46 (shades of Alex Rodriguez's Project A13 last season). I'll let him take it from here:

Here's an idea - where maybe Yankees fans can help the team's chances in 2008. Some time over the next 5 days (meaning over the long weekend where you should be able to find 15 minutes to get this done), why not send a card or note to Andy Pettitte? You can send it to:

Andy Pettitte
c/o Hendricks Sports Management LP
400 Randal Way Ste 106
Spring, TX 77388

Tell Andy that you're a Yankees fan. Offer best wishes for the holiday season and new year to him and his family. And, of course, tell him that you would be thrilled to see him be a big part of the Yankees season in 2008.

Maybe an outpouring of affection by Yankees fan would help sway Andy towards returning next season? At the worst, it wouldn't hurt.

Are you willing to try it? Also, if you think this is an interesting idea, please pass the word about it. Let's try and get over 100,000 cards and notes to Andy by the end of this month. Wouldn't that be something? But, you have to have one sent before you can have 100,000 sent - so, that means you have to send one...yourself.

Again, why not take 15 minutes between today and Sunday night and "pitch" in on Project P46?

So pass the word along, get some stamps, and let's get going!

Thanks for Local Theater:

Yeah, a lot of people are bummed out about the big Broadway Theater Strike that's shut down much of the Great White Way through this weekend's holiday. But hopefully, something good can come from the strike--not just making sure that a little bit more of the money from those high, high ticket prices trickles down to the men and women who make things run behind the scenes. Hopefully this is a good time for anyone who's in New York to discover that there's much, much, more theater off-Broadway than there is in the big production houses, and that it's just as much fun, and often a much better viewing experience.

Off-Broadway can be scary, with lots of off-putting "experimental" entries that--although I enjoy them greatly--might not be suitable for everyone's palate. Personally, my most reliable off-Broadway pick is Classic Stage Company. I just caught their presentation of Richard III this weekend, and it was fantastic. People are alternately intimidated by Shakespeare, or else consider his works to be old chestnuts. What pleases me about CSC's presentations of the Bard, led by lead actor Michael Cumpsty and director Brian Kullick (this time out, he's co-director with Cumpsty) is that they bring the text to place that's more human than either of those camps would expect.

While we often consider Shakespeare's language lofty and archaic, Cumpsty's line readings show us that it's the delivery that makes them seem so. At the same time, without changing the text (other than the cuts that are necessary to bring Shakespeare's second-longest play down under three hours) the Classic Stage troupe wrings all the comedy possible from one of the canon's bloodiest plays. And it isn't inappropriate, since Richard III is a very strange tragedy: usually, tragedies are about good people who are unable to overcome their flaws, and wind up ruined as a result. Richard starts the play, and he's already a villain. There's no indication that he ever was a good man, and he doesn't get any better as things go along. When the end comes, it's not tragic in the least--so it all kind of makes sense.

Anyway, it's very highly recommended, and it's running through December 9. Go see it, and if you're not in New York, I entreat you to find the group of people near where you are who are putting on a play, and give them some of your time. It's the least I can do, by way of thanks.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Few More Headlines

A few other random stories and thoughts:

This better be good: I stumbled on TBS the other day (Jerry Maguire was on. You got a problem with that?) and I see more of those Frank TV commercials. And the commercial says it premieres on Tuesday.


You mean Frank Caliendo's show hasn't aired yet? How is that possible? They carpet-bombed us during the playoffs just to wait, what, another month before releasing it?

How many 15- and 30-second spots have they aired for this show over the past six weeks? It's a half-hour show, so that's maybe 22 minutes of actual Frank TV per week. So the question is, when all is said and done, will we see more minutes of Frank TV than we've seen commercials?

The ballsiness of all this could be enough to back off my Frank TV ban. But at this point, there's so much hype behind this that the show better do more than just make people laugh. It better cure the common cold or something.

Yanks Sign Jose Molina to a 2-Year Deal: Not sure that there's anything else to say here. The Yanks have dumpster-dived for catching backups since the tandem behind the plate was Posada/Girardi. Molina's the best guy available--it's virtually guaranteed that any of the available players that are better than him (Lo Duca, Barrett, Yorvit Torrealba) are going to get starting jobs elsewhere--so a commitment was in order.

Gold Gloves Awarded, the Golden Child's Reign Ends: Derek Jeter's three-year reign as the AL's Gold Glove at shortstop ended. Orlando Cabrera got that spot, and it's not a horrible pick, although he's been such a whiner over the past few years--whining about Yankee fans, whining about the Mariners, whining about how no one gives him respect--that it's hard to feel happy for him. Based on the stats, he's a more worthy contender for best defensive shortstop than Jeter, but he probably wasn't as good as Tony Peña, Jr. in 2007.

Derek Jeter Accused of Not Paying Taxes: the State of New York. They're fighting Jeter's claim that he was a resident of Florida in 2001-2003, claiming that because he owns an apartment in Manhattan, and because the tabs were full of stories about hooking up with starlets in New York City's trendiest night spots. Of course, I oversimplify. Regardless, overall, it's not been a good off-season for the Captain.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Proof of Life

My head's been wrapped so deep in work that it's starting to feel like a hostage situation. I feel the need to post here more as proof to the proud few of you that still read this space that I'm still alive, and relatively well. If any of you need further proof, I can post a picture of myself with today's newspaper (the Times, sadly, which is La Chiquita's subscription).

Since the last time we posted:

Jorge Posada Signs for 4 Years, $52 Million -- The rise of H&H Steinbrenner means that we're shifting from IOGM (It's Only George's Money) paradigm to the slightly more generic IOSM (It's Only Steinbrenner's Money). One way to look at it is, is paying $26 Million for Jorge Posada's age 38 and 39 seasons really a good idea? That's a daunting question, to which I can only answer: IOSM. But the real question is, what was the alternative? Yorvit Torrealba? Michael Barrett? Paul Lo Freakin' Duca? You've got to tip your hat to Hip, Hip Jorge! for having an A+ season in his walk year, at a time when there wasn't another viable soul on the market.

Yanks Offer Mariano $45 Million for 3 Years -- I'm less than overjoyed with the Yankees new policy of sharing their every negotiating thought with the press; divulging their contract offers to Joe Torre, Alex Rodriguez and now Mariano Rivera with a plaintive cry of "Look! We're offering these folks top dollar!" seems like some backstepping toward the bad old days when George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin used reporters the way other people used telephones. Still, this is a great deal for Rivera. Look at it this way: over the last five years, Mariano's averaged just under 75 innings per season. Paying him $15 million a year would likely be over $200,000 per inning, which is a pretty world-beating return for anyone this side of Carl Pavano. By way of comparison, Roger Clemens received $189K/inning this season, on his absurd contract. That's some nice coin.

Barry Bonds Indicted -- This is today's news. Obstruction of justice and perjury are the reported charges, which leaves out the most serious charge leveled against him, for tax evasion. Expect a number of articles tomorrow about how this is the worst thing to happen in baseball history. Fay Vincent has already gone on the record claiming that this is worse than Pete Rose's gambling and tax evasion, and possibly worse than the Black Sox scandal. That's crazy talk.

Barry Bonds's getting indicted--after three or four years' worth of grand juries to toll the statute of limitations for perjury--is a sad thing. But it's something distinct from baseball's (or Bonds's) steroids problem, in the same way that Rose's tax evasion conviction was distinct from his permanent suspension from baseball for gambling. If Rose's suspension had been for failing to pay his taxes--a serious legal offense, and one that no one could justify--then I'm 99% certain he'd be in the Hall of Fame today. Sports and the law work in parallel worlds; in the sports world, his biggest offense (betting on baseball, and on the Reds) could have been carried out legally, but it was more serious than his violation of the law. In the baseball world, it's established that gambling is a more serious offense than PED use--the proof is in the respective punishments (lifetime ban for gambling vs. 50 games for the first steroid offense, less for amphetamines) and the basic "shrug and nod" response that the whole thing is given in other sports, like football.

A side note: The thing I like about Mr. Vincent is how, even 15 years after being ousted as Commissioner of Baseball by Bud Selig, he still acts as if he were the Commissioner in Exile rather than just some guy who got fired. Rather than just publishing his memoirs and going away, he's establishing a shadow government. And until the tyranny of the Selig regime collapses, and Vincent is restored to his rightful place in MLB's Madison Avenue offices, he's available to talk the media--at all times--and second-guess everything that happens in the game from the sidelines. It's a pretty sweet gig, if you can get it.

Alex Rodriguez Resumes Negotiations with Yankees
-- In the time that it took me to write the foregoing, the Yanks and A-Rod have reportedly come to terms on a 10-year $275 million contract. The story's not mature, involving more than a little rumor-mongering that's keeping me from commenting at this time. be continued.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A-Rod: The High Price of Admission

Well, as I guess you've already heard by now, there were about one hundred and nineteen million reasons why Alex Rodriguez should be treated differently than Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. That's allegedly how far apart the two sides were when they were attempting to hook up for a meeting to keep Alex in pinstripes.

I don't know that I've ever heard of two parties starting off that far apart in a salary negotiation. Then again, there's only been one negotiation like this one in baseball history, and that happened the last time Rodriguez hit the free agent market.

However, I probably wouldn't be thrilled to see the Yanks make that kind of commitment to any player, under any circumstances, so I guess I'm not as torn up about the Yanks being unable to negotiate Alex under the circumstances he's created as I would have been otherwise.

Part of me would like for this to be the last time we talk about Rodriguez, but I have to be practical--I'll be doing team grades and tallying up the Player of the Week/Month awards, so obviously he'll figure highly in that, plus the MVP award, plus the hoo-ha that will come down the pike if he signs with one of the Yanks' many rivals.

But here's another practical consideration I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere: how long did it take for the Texas Rangers to grow fatigued of A-Rod's last contract? Let's say that Rodriguez does get his 10 years and $350 MM from some ballclub. How many teams will be able to sustain that level of expenditure throughout the life of the deal? Isn't it likely that three or four years down the line, someone will be looking to get out from under the crushing burden of the next Rodriguez contract, or Alex himself will be seeking a trade to get out from under a losing team?

And when that happens, who're they going to call? Which teams would be able to absorb $35 or more million per year in salary? It's a small list, and it's headed by the Yankees.

So while some media members and fans rush to burn those bridges and close the book on the A-Rod Era (and I'm sure that in the months to come they'll be joined by team execs and former teammates), I wouldn't be quite so fast on the trigger. While I doubt that A-Rod will don the pinstripes in 2008 or 2009, I wouldn't bet that he's forever done playing for the home team in the Bronx.


I'd forgotten that before the same World Series game when A-Rod made such a big splash by having his agent announce to the world that he was opting out of his contract, he'd snubbed the ceremony in which he was to receive the American League Hank Aaron Award from Hammerin' Hank himself. Now Alex (well, Boras) wants to make it clear that Alex is really sad that he was too busy to come to Game 4 (but not too busy to upstage baseball's premier event) and that he meant no offense to Aaron. Since Aaron's a pretty classy guy, he'll probably accept Rodriguez's half-assed non-apology and vague family commitment excuse.


The reported shake-up of the coaching staff for the Girardi era gives some interesting clues about the direction the team is taking. Where the last coaching staff was full of star power--guys with management experience coaching first (Tony Peña), third (Larry Bowa), and the bullpen (Joe Kerrigan); Yankee icons as bench (Don Mattingly) and pitching (Ron Guidry) coach--the rumored coaching squad is a bunch of no-names. The only returning members are hitting coach Kevin Long--who's reportedly getting a huge-for-a-coach three-year $1 million contract--and Peña. They'll be joined by a pair of ex-Yankees who scuffled in the majors--Bobby Meacham at third base and Dave Eiland at pitching coach--an organizational soldier sitting next to Girardi on the bench ("field coordinator" and advance guy Rob Thomson) and ex-Cub pitcher (and former Girardi associate) Mike Harkey in the bullpen.

This no-frills approach indicates a partnership between Girardi and Cashman, promoting some guys from within but also bringing in a few guys who coached for Girardi in Florida. It's hard to believe that anyone named "Steinbrenner" would have selected a staff with this little name recognition. The biggest announcement of this bunch is Eiland, who will be charged with the Yanks' pitchers of the future--Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and the like. Eiland has been a pitching coach for the Yanks in the minors (AAA last year) and his selection is hailed because he worked with the Yanks' blue-chippers on the farm. But methodical analysis by the always-insightful Cliff Corcoran indicates that Eiland's influence may be a bit overstated--for example, Kennedy and Chamberlain breezed past AAA this season, . Still, with once-coveted pitching coach Leo Mazzone available on the market, going with Eiland at this crucial juncture is a big statement about dealing with known quantities rather than big names from outside the organization.