Archive for December, 2010
Let’s end this night with an unexpected notion brought to you by Ken Davidoff: The Yankees have talked to Johnny Damon about coming back to the Bronx.
The most obvious positive is that Damon might be the best combination of viable defensive outfielder and legitimate offensive contributor still on the market (depending on your opinion of Manny Ramirez at this point). Damon could play a role off the bench, getting time at designated hitter and left field.
The obvious negatives are that Damon bats left handed and would leave Nick Swisher as the only Yankees outfielder with recent experience in right. Of the team’s four outfielders, three would be lefties. They could land a super utility type to bat from the right side, but it seems easier to simply find a right-handed fourth outfielder.
It doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit for either the player or the team, but as Davidoff points out, the outfield free agent market has thinned since Matt Diaz and Bill Hall came off the board. I’d argue that Marcus Thames — despite his defensive flaws — makes much more sense for the Yankees, and it could be that the the Yankees and Damon are talking to one another only as a last resort for both parties.
If the Yankees don’t find a better fit, at least they’d have a known veteran to plug into the lineup. If Damon can’t find an everyday job, at least he’d have a familiar situation and a chance to win.
The Associated Press comes through with a non-Pinstripe Bowl story… CC Sabathia did some charity work today back home in California. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to be there to speak to the big man, so I’ll let the AP do what it does.
Deep in the story is news that Sabathia has lost 15 pounds and feels good after offseason knee surgery.
CONCORD, Calif. (AP) — CC Sabathia hoped to be pitching alongside close pal Cliff Lee again next year, reunited in Yankees pinstripes.
Instead, Lee turned down an extra $30 million to return to the Philadelphia Phillies with a five-year deal that guarantees $120 million. Sabathia, having gone through the free agency process himself just two years ago before landing a $161 million, seven-year contract from New York, wasn’t about to beg or bug baseball’s biggest offseason prize.
As a father of four children ages 7 and under, Sabathia fully understands making a decision based on family, what feels right for the future and loyalty. In fact, the left-handed ace — fully recovered from recent right knee surgery — is back home in his native Bay Area for a whirlwind week of goodwill events to help his downtrodden hometown of Vallejo as part of his “CC’s Christmas Caravan.”
“I’m excited for him,” Sabathia said Wednesday, while entertaining some 20 needy teens as they purchased clothes, shoes and athletic gear through his PitCCh In Foundation. “As part of the Yankee family and organization I’m disappointed. As a family friend, I’m happy he’s in the place he wanted to be. You have to do what makes you happy and what’s best for your family. It’s a long time. Five years is a long time, seven years is a long time.”
For years now, Sabathia has been giving back in the very place he grew up, including refurbishing his former Little League field and his projects this week. On Thursday, he and wife, Amber, and his mother, Margie, will visit a Victorian home in Vallejo they have helped make over. It serves as a clean and sober living environment for women recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.
While Sabathia now spends much of his time in New Jersey, he still has a home in nearby Fairfield.
“I grew up here. It’s just a really tight, close-knit community,” Sabathia said. “A lot of people have family roots there, and I’m one of them. I just feel like any chance I get to do anything I can for the kids, I’m there for them.”
He helped 17-year-old Travis Smith-Fox, who is working to finish his GED, pick out a pair of charcoal gray shoes to wear for skateboarding. Each teen had $250 to spend.
After going 21-7 and finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting, Sabathia had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in late October to repair a partially torn meniscus, the same procedure he had in 2006 when still pitching alongside Lee in Cleveland.
“I’m feeling good,” Sabathia said. “I wasn’t really worried about the surgery because I had it before. It was just swelling up on me after starts during the year, just achy pain that affected me while I was pitching.”
Sabathia has lost 15 pounds from his 6-foot-7 frame through a tough offseason training program of cardiovascular workouts and weight training. His knee recovered in just less than a month after the procedure, so he is well into his full exercise program and playing light catch.
He hopes to lose an additional 15 pounds before the season starts.
“I’m turning 30 this year, getting a little older,” he said, chuckling. “Hopefully it will take some pressure off my knee and extend my career.”
Sabathia spoke to Lee several times during the free agency process and again after Lee’s decision. The two plan to go fishing during spring training.
“Just knowing what it’s like to go through that, you don’t want somebody calling you all the time,” Sabathia said. “He knew what the Yankees could offer and what New York would bring and that I loved it over there. We’re pretty close. I didn’t want to keep bugging him with it. Everybody was like, ‘Did you make a pitch?’ For what?”
Associated Press photo
Pinstripe Bowl updates • 12.22.10
Do Yankees fans care about the Pinstripe Bowl? I get the feeling that the fan base is mostly indifferent, but still thinks it’s kind of cool that a bowl game will be played at Yankee Stadium. I’ve tried not to go heavy on Pinstripe Bowl updates, but when the days get slow like this, I figure I might as well throw in a few bowl game updates. So, here ya go, three Pinstripe Bowl notes passed along by the Yankees the past few days. We’ll start with good work by the Yankees once again reaching out to the community.
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl today donated over 6,000 tickets to New York City-based charitable and community groups for the inaugural bowl game to be played on December 30, 2010, at Yankee Stadium.
Thanks to donations from the New York Yankees, Goldman Sachs, the Big 12, the Big East, Ken Langone and Fresco by Scotto, members of the community groups will be able to be a part of history at the first-ever bowl game in the current Yankee Stadium, which also marks the first college football bowl game in New York City in nearly 50 years.
At an event this morning at the restaurant Fresco by Scotto in Manhattan, New York Yankees President Randy Levine and Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost presented representatives from the following groups with donated tickets to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Bronx Colts, NYC Park and Recreation, Bronx Community Boards (1-12), Police Athletic League, Bronx YMCA, Public School Athletic League, Highbridge Community Life Center, Renaissance EMS, Highbridge Voices, Scan New York, Junior Achievement, Sports Buddies, Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports, Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, Wounded Warriors, and the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.
On Tuesday, December 28, players, coaches and university staff participating in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl will visit the NYSE to showcase their respective universities to the New York metropolitan area. To highlight this special occasion, Randy Levine, New Era Pinstripe Bowl President and New York Yankees President, joined by Chris Koch, New Era Chief Executive Officer, will ring the Opening Bell.
Cast members from the Broadway musical Rock of Ages will perform at halftime of the bowl game. The cast will sing three songs: “Here I Go Again,” “Wanted (Dead or Alive)” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Building a Top 10 rotation • 12.22.10
Over at ESPN.com, Buster Olney has posted his picks for the top 10 rotations in baseball. It’s Insider-only content, so I won’t post the entire list, but it predictably begins with Philadelphia and San Francisco in the top two spots, and it predictably does not include the Yankees.
My question is this: How close are the Yankees to making the list?
Technically, Olney listed 11 rotations, with the Dodgers and White Sox tied for 10th place.
Those two have young No. 1 starters in Clayton Kershaw and John Danks, but right now I’d take CC Sabathia over either of them. Phil Hughes matches up fairly well with Chad Billingsley and Gavin Floyd — you might have a preference, but they’re in the same league — and depending on which version of A.J. Burnett shows up next season, he could matchup with Ted Lilly and Mark Buehrle.* The big difference comes at the back of the rotation, where the Yankees are currently featuring Ivan Nova and that 19-year-old kid from Hank’s Yanks (kidding, but you get the point).
My question is, what could the Yankees do to put themselves in the top 10?
Is Andy Pettitte enough to at least matchup with those two rotations? I’d say no, largely because I still don’t know what Burnett is bringing to the table. Would they become significantly better by adding Pettitte and also plugging a veteran (Kevin Millwood for example) into the No. 5 spot? What if they got Pettitte to come back and also traded for a Fausto Carmona-type? Would that put them comfortably into the top 10?
The Yankees clearly don’t have a top 10 rotation right now, but is it possible to build one before Opening Day?
* Granted, comparing Burnett to Lilly and Buehrle is kind of absurd. Burnett’s value comes in his raw talent and ability to be a dominant pitcher on any given night. Lilly and Buehrle’s value comes in their reliability. In a lot of ways, they’re the anti-Burnett.
Associated Press photo of Hughes
According to Jerry Crasnick, the Yankees are among the teams that have checked on left-handed starter Jeff Francis.
In a free agent market that’s thin on rotation options, a risk-reward candidate like Francis might make some sense. It would be hard to count on him as a sure-thing, back-of-the-rotation starter, but he had some good years with the Rockies before shoulder problems started to kick in. If he’s healthy, he could help.
Of course, as with every Yankees rumor this winter, it’s hard to know whether the Yankees have real interest in Francis, or whether he’s simply part of Brian Cashman’s wide net.
Looking for pinch hitters • 12.22.10
The pinch hitters series has become something of a tradition here at the LoHud Yankees Blog, and we’re looking forward to continuing it in January.
As always, we’re looking for volunteers who would like to write a guest post for the month or so leading into spring training. Maybe it’s your take on the (lack of) offseason moves, or your full-throated defense of Francisco Cervelli as an everyday catcher, or your unique view of a Yankee past or present.
Email your ideas to me — a few sentences explaining what you want to write — and I’ll make some choices and start organization a schedule. At some point in early January, I’ll start contacting those chosen for the series. Please, no more than one proposal per person. It’s not necessarily first come, first serve, so take your time coming up with what you want to write.
I’ll probably start making some choices the first week of January, but the absolute cutoff for submissions will be Friday, January 7. Keep in mind that the actual posts should generally be around 400 words. Some will have to to be longer, but try to aim for that number. Send your ideas to: cjennings (at) lohud.com
I’ll leave this one to The Associated Press.
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees lowered spending on players by $12 million this year, cutting payroll by $5 million and slashing their major league-leading luxury tax by more than $7 million.
New York was hit with an $18 million luxury tax Tuesday by Major League Baseball. The tax was New York’s lowest since 2003 and down from $25.7 million last year, when the Yankees won the World Series.
“Atta baby. And right now we’re in the $170s,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, looking ahead to his 2011 payroll.
Season-ending payroll information and the tax was sent to teams Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press.
Boston is the only other team that will have to pay. The Red Sox, who missed the playoffs this year, exceeded the payroll threshold for the first time since 2007 and owe $1.49 million.
New York’s payroll was $215.1 million for the purpose of the luxury tax, down from $226.2 million, and the Yankees pay at a 40 percent rate for the amount over the threshold, which rose from $162 million to $170 million. Boston’s luxury-tax payroll was $176.6 million, and the Red Sox pay at a 22.5 percent rate.
“We’re doing a better job of managing our payroll and managing our decision-making as we enter the free-agent market,” Cashman said. “Our payroll doesn’t necessarily have to live at that level, but it’s nice to know that our owners are committed to allow us to get there if we need to.”
To compute the payroll, Major League Baseball uses the average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters and adds benefits. The Yankees failed to land free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee despite being given permission from ownership to make a $150 million, seven-year offer. Lee agreed to a $120 million, five-year deal with Philadelphia.
“We weren’t going to exceed where we were this past year, but the bottom line is that now that the Lee thing has declared itself, it would be hard-pressed for us to get up to that level,” Cashman said.
Some notes and links:
• A.J. Burnett is getting himself ready to work with Larry Rothschild next week in Maryland. Ken Davidoff reports that Rothschild is expected to visit Burnett for a week to 10 days.
• In the notes of the Davidoff story is this quote from Cashman about why Joba Chamberlain is no longer considered a rotation option: “His stuff plays so much significantly (better) out of the ‘pen. We had given him an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, and the velocity dropped. It’s just not the same stuff.”
• Governor David Patterson has been charged $62,125 for his tickets to the 2009 World Series. The charge includes the face value of the seats, plus fines.
• The Yankees aren’t the only ones finding the price of pitching a little extreme. The Mets are also waiting for the prices to drop.
• Austin Kearns on his return to Cleveland: “I enjoyed playing here. There are a lot of good guys on this team. Guys I’ve maintained relationships with. They have a lot of talented young guys on this team.”
• The Plain Dealer listed three right-handed outfield alternatives to Kearns. Two of them are familiar names: Shelley Duncan and Chad Huffman.
Associated Press photo
From Hank’s Yanks to the real Yanks • 12.21.10
Here’s a long shot that’s worth cheering for.
The Yankees have signed a 19-year-old kid named Leonel Vinas to a minor league deal. The signing comes after Vinas stood out as the ace of Hank’s Yanks, a summer league team sponsored by Hank Steinbrenner. My friend Bryan Hoch has the story.
“They told me, ‘You’ve got a chance to be a Yankee,'” Vinas said. “When they first told me that, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think it was true. As the season went on, it got bigger and bigger, and here we are now. My dreams are coming true.”
Vinas moved from the Dominican Republic to Long Island when he was 11. By his own account, he was doing nothing but “being in the streets” before getting serious about pitching for Hank’s Yankees. Through 84 innings he had a 12-0 record, a 1.12 ERA and 168 strikeouts. Those numbers don’t mean much in the big picture, but they certainly prove he was considerably better than his competition and ready for another sort of challenge. It’s a long shot at best, but these are the kind of chances that are well worth taking.
“This is real. He’s got talent,” Cashman told Hoch. “We’re looking forward to seeing where the talent takes him. I try to tell all the players that we sign, we’re going to make sure that we provide everything at our disposal to see if the dreams can come true.”
The best of what’s left • 12.21.10
The remaining free agent market is rich in two areas: Designated hitters and relief pitchers. The Yankees have no need for a DH, but I could see them dipping into that relief market one more time before spring training. Here’s my 25-man roster using only remaining free agents. It’s a stretch to say the least.
Johnny Damon, CF
Edgar Renteria, SS
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jim Thome, DH
Vladimir Guerrero, RF
Manny Ramirez, LF
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Bengie Molina, C
Cristian Guzman, 2B
I’ve decided to punt on outfield defense. This is probably the worst defensive outfield ever assembled, so I’ll just hope that everything is hit to third base.
Scott Podsednik, OF
Derrek Lee, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., UT
Josh Bard, C
Is it bad that a left fielder is my defensive replacement in center?
Obviously I don’t want anything hit in the air, so I’ll roll the dice with Webb’s sinker in the No. 5 spot. Let’s face it, a lot of things are going to have to right for this team anyway. As for who gets the nod for the No. 1 spot in the rotation, I think I know my audience.
I figure I’ll need someone who can throw more than one inning at a time, so I’ll take shot on Penny in the bullpen. Added bonus: It might keep him healthy.
The unknown lefty on the Yankees roster • 12.21.10
Quick, who’s that guy in the picture on the right?
Turns out, that’s Steve Garrison, and whether you’ve heard of him or not, he actually is a member of the New York Yankees. Has a spot on the 40-man and everything.
Garrison has never thrown a pitch for the Yankees organization, but he was claimed off waivers from the Padres in September. The Yankees hadn’t seen very much of him when they made the claim, but he came highly recommended by Kevin Towers, the former Padres general manager who was passing the time in the Yankees scouting department.
“If Kevin Towers likes a pitcher, especially a bullpen guy, you have to listen,” Mark Newman said.
Garrison is 24 years old and he’s left-handed, which makes him standout in a Yankees system light on lefty relievers. Garrison has worked almost exclusively as a starter, and the Yankees haven’t decided whether to use him in the bullpen or the rotation in the minor leagues next season. His future, they believe, is as reliever, but he needs innings. Garrison features the standard set of four pitches — fastball, changeup, curveball, slider — and the Yankees are still figuring out which of those might be most effective for him in relief.
For a guy on the 40-man, Garrison remains something of an unknown commodity, but he comes from a trusted source, and the Yankees will get their first long look at him in spring training.
“There’s something there to like,” Newman said.