Monday, February 21, 2011

Yankee Rotation Worries

Worried about the 2011 New York Yankees starting rotation? If you're like most Yankee fans, the answer is probably "yes". But should you be worried? I say no.

The Yankees won 95 games last season with a VERY suspect starting rotation - of course, no one thought that this time last year, but that's how it turned out. They essentially had 2 1/2 starters - C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte for a half a season. The rest of the starts went to A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez (both with ERAs well over 5.00) and while Pettitte was out, Dustin Moseley. Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova also made a few starts.

Going into this season, the Yankee rotation is also suspect. But will it be worse than the 2010 rotation that contributed to a 95 win season? Not a chance.

Let's compare 2010 with what we'll likely see in 2011. In the #1 rotation slot, CC Sabathia will be CC Sabathia. You can pretty much mark CC down for his usual season. In CC's 35 starts, look for around 18-22 wins.

Phil Hughes won 18 games last year, with an all-star first half and a sub-par second half, most likely because Hughes pitched the most innings of his career. Hughes is still young, and I expect an improvement in 2011 - 17-19 wins is a good bet.

A.J. Burnett had a horrific season in 2010, yet stayed in the staring rotation the entire season. He was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA. Could he possibly be worse in 2011? I doubt it. I look for A.J. to bounce back to his usual 13 win season, with an ERA around 4.50. And if he pitches like he did last year? The Yankees will surely have a shorter leash this time.

Javier Vazquez gave A.J. a run for his money as the worst Yankee starter in 2010. He was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA. Freddy Garcia, his likely successor in 2011, won't come close to being that bad. Knock a full run off that ERA, and add about 4 wins for this season. He was 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA in homer-friendly Chicago last year - my guess is 14-8 in New York with a 4.30. We will see...

So that's 4 starters, and an estimated 5-7 win improvement in 2011. That brings us to #5, who for the purposes of this argument, will be replacing Andy Pettitte, who went 11-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 2010 (Dustin Moseley added 4 wins while he was on the DL). Enter rookie Ivan Nova (the likely 5th starter), who was brilliant in 4-inning stints in his September 2010 audition. Will he match the 15 wins of Pettitte & Moseley? Probably not. But 10-12 wins certainly isn't out of the question.

What does all this mean? It means Yankee fans are stressing out for no reason at all. The starting pitchers will be BETTER than last year, even if Brian Cashman doesn't add a starter at the trading deadline. The offense will likely be better (with bounce-back years from at least two of these guys: Jeter, A-rod, Teixeira and a DH-rested Posada), and the bullpen will be better with the addition of Rafael Soriano.

My prediction: the Yankees once again win 95-100 games, and at least the American League Wild Card. Whether they win the division will depend on if the Red Sox are as good as advertised. I'll save the Boston arguement for a later post.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scott Boras: Super Agent?

Two days 'til pitchers and catchers - so I've decided to try and resurrect the "Inside Cheez" blog! After taking the winter off, I'm going to attempt to post here at least once a week. We'll see how it goes.

To start things off, in light of Yankees stars Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher signing with "Super Agent" Scott Boras this week, I've decided to rerun a post I made back in November 2008 (with a few changes)...

Boras is widely known as one of the best agents for Major League Baseball players. But should he be? The way I see it, looks out for his own bank account (which is quite considerable) first, and in turn his clients suffer. Here are a few examples to prove my point:

In 1997, middle infielder Rey Sanchez was traded to the Yankees mid-season, and went on to hit .312 over the final two-months of the season. The Yankees offered Sanchez a 3-year, 9 million dollar deal to stay, with Boras instructed him to turn down. The Yankees traded for Chuck Knoblauch days later, and Sanchez had to settle for one year and 1.2 million from Kansas City. He didn't make 9 million dollars total over his 7 remaining years in the Major Leagues.

In 2001, Boras made Alex Rodriguez the highest paid player in Major League history, but at what cost? He had Alex sign in Texas, where he clearly did not want to play, and where he was guaranteed never to win (the Rangers had too much money tied down in one player). While Boras succeeded in getting Alex traded to the Yankees in 2004, and has continued to keep Rodriguez at the top salary in baseball, he has also continued to embarrass him, with stunts like the famous World Series "opt-out" in 2007. Rodriguez ended up negotiating his latest 10-year deal himself.

And in early 2008, while middle-of-the-road starters like Carlos Silva of the Mariners were signing 4-year, 48 million dollar deals - Scott Boras advised pitcher Kyle Loshe to wait it out, and by spring training, Loshe was not signed. He had to settle for a one-year, 4.25 million dollar contract with St. Louis, 43.75 million dollars less than Silva received. Luckily for Loshe, he had a career year in 2008, and signed a 4-year, 41 million dollar contract to stay with St. Louis, undoubtedly against the wishes of Boras, who probably wanted him to hold out for more...again.

I could go on, but you get the idea. While I do believe Boras truly thinks he's looking out for the best interests of his clients, the fact that he's a multi-millionaire with an enormous ego makes him way too overconfident. No matter what teams offer his clients, Boras always holds out for more, and more often than not, the players end up suffering.

Will Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher eventually get their money? Absolutely. But whether they stay in New York, or end up in a city they have no interest in playing in is anyone's guess.

One thing's for sure - if I were a marginal free agent, I'd take the first decent offer I got, no matter what Boras says. That first offer just might be the best offer, but Boras will never be convinced of that. He can get you more money for sure. Just ask Rey Sanchez.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yankee Publicity Stunt

OK, now this may be a little far-fetched, but the whole New York Yankees-Derek Jeter contract fiasco is so "baffling" (in the words of Jeter's agent Casey Close) that there must be a reasonable explanation.

Derek Jeter, his agent Close, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and Yankees co-owner Hal Steinbrenner met behind closed doors a few weeks ago, and supposedly the meeting went well. So why have they been battling in the papers ever since? Here's how I think the conversation went:

Stienbrenner: "Derek, you've been a great Yankee. We want to keep you in pinstripes for your entire career. How many years are you looking for?"

Close: "We want 3 years."

Jeter: "Yes, 3 years. I'd like to retire and have a family when I'm 40. 40 is my limit."

Cashman: "Great. Three years it is. Let's see...the highest paid shortstop in baseball, Hanley Ramirez, makes $11 million, and the highest paid middle infielder in baseball, Chase Utley, makes $15 million." What do you say we match that 15 for three years? Say, three years, $45 million?"

Close: "That's exactly what we were thinking. 3 years, $45 million. We just wanted to match Utley. We know Jeter's 5 years older, but we think he brings many more intangibles to the table."

Steinbrenner: "We agree. Derek, you're well worth the extra money. And if you decide to play longer, we'd be glad to extend this deal."

Jeter: "Thank you, Mr. Steinbrenner."

Cashman: "Hold it a second, that was too easy."

Steinbrenner: "Yes. (laughs) I was really hoping this would drag out a bit. We could own the back pages for months if we kept this going."

Close: "So why don't we do it? Let's drag it out. We all know even bad publicity is better than NO publicity. If we announce a contract now, Derek's name won't be in the papers 'til March. If we don't, we have headlines as long as we like."

Cashman: "And with the Mets hiring a new manager, we'll need something to steal the headlines from them, for sure."

Jeter: "But won't I end up looking bad?"

Close: "Perhaps initially, but when it's over, you can just blame me. Say you has nothing to do with the negotiations. Your agent was just doing his job, and you wanted to be a Yankee for life all along."

Steinbrenner: "It's settled then. I'll start by saying the negotiations could get messy".

Cashman: "Then I'll announce our offer, and say that Jeter should take it, or look elsewhere."

Close: "Then I'll say the negotiations are BAFFLING" (laughs)

Jeter: "And I say nothing, right?"

Close: "Right. You're nowhere to be found."

Jeter: "Perfect! Let's do it!"

Did this conversation happen? I'll leave that up to you. But think about this. These four men are SMART people, and they all want the same thing: Derek Jeter back in pinstripes. What I've written here may be hard to believe, but to me, it's MUCH more believable than what we've been seeing in the papers the past few weeks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inside Cheez on Twitter

You may have noticed the windling post here on Inside Cheez lately. When I began this blog in late 2007 and throughout 2008, I was posting about 3 times a week on average. In 2009, I slipped to about 2 a week. This year, it's been more like once week.

Then, I logged on to my blog today (in the heat of a pennant race, I might add), and I noticed I'd only posted ONCE in the last month! Inexcusable.

It's pretty safe to say that I don't have the time that I used to to keep "Inside Cheez" going in its previous form. So, as Lebron James would say, "I've decied to take my talents to South Beach". Or, as they say in the blogging world, "I'm moving my posts to Twitter".

If you've enjoyed my posts here over the past 3 years, I hope you'll follow me on Twitter at @InsideCheez. I do plan to keep this blog going in some form, when I have something I feel needs to be addressed in longer form. So please click the "follow me" button on the home page, and you'll be notified of any posts here as well.

I look forward to interacting with everyone on Twitter. Look for my first real "tweet" today...and on a daily basis as we head into the post-season.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yankee Double Standard

In the 7th inning of last night's Yankees-Rays game in Tampa, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was seemingly hit with a pitch. He winced with pain after the ball (or so we thought) hit his elbow. The umpire thought so as well, awarding Jeter with first base.

But the high definition replays we saw immediately afterward revealed the truth. Jeter wasn't hit at all. The ball struck the knob of his bat, and never touched Jeter. It was all an act. Tampa Rays manager Joe Maddon argued and lost, was tossed from the game, and the Yanks Curtis Granderson followed with a home run, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead at the time (they went on to lose to the Rays 4-3).

After the game, Jeter admitted that he indeed was faking, and he went to first because the umpire told him to. The question is: is this cheating? Or just harmless gamesmanship?

Before you answer, think about this: what if it were Alex Rodriguez who pulled this stunt? You got it - EVERYONE - media, managers and opposing players would be calling this act "bush league", much like A-rod's much publicized "slap" in Boston, "Ha!" vs. Toronto, or his walk across Dallas Braden's "mound".

Does the fact that this time it's Derek Jeter make it any less bush league? Apparently so, because even after being ejected from the game, Maddon said he would have "applauded" his players for doing what Jeter did. I wonder how he would have reacted if A-rod was the culprit? My guess is that the "bush league" tag would have been trotted out yet again.

So to answer my original question, I don't think it was cheating (faking injury is not against the rules). And I don't think it was bush league either (any more than I thought A-rod's acts were). Jeter was simply doing what he always does - do anything he can (within the rules) to help the Yankees win. For this, Jeter is always heaped with praise, as he should be.

But shouldn't Alex Rodriguez, who plays EXACTLY the same way, be showered with praise as well?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ho-hum Home Stretch

Tomorrow is September 1st, the day the Major League Baseball home stretch officially begins. Before 1995, and the advent of the Wild Card, this was the most exciting time of year for the top teams in the league - neck and neck for weeks on end, fighting for a division title.

Now? Sure, there are a few relatively close races - the Atlanta Braves lead the Philadelphia Phillies by 3 games, and the Minnesota Twins lead the Chicago White Sox by 4 games. But the tightest race of all, the American League East, where the New York Yankees and Tampa Rays have been deadlocked for the last 8 days, means absolutely nothing at all.

That's because the Yankees and Rays, are not only tied for the A.L. East lead, they're also tied for the best record in baseball. That means the "loser" of this race, won't really lose at all. The second place team will easily win the A.L. Wild Card, and all they'll lose is one measly home game in each playoff round.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Wild Card. It gives more teams a chance at making the playoffs, and that's good for baseball. But something needs to be done to penalize the Wild Card team in the playoffs, and make winning the division mean something.

How about adding a second Wild Card team in each league, and have them play a one-game "play-in" game to make the playoffs? Perhaps make the Wild Card team play an extra road game each round? Or maybe even give them no home games at all?

The saddest thing of all about this, is that we'll never again see a game quite like the Yankees-Red Sox "Bucky Dent" game in 1978. If the Yankees and Rays finish the season tied, they won't even play a tie-breaker game. The team with the best head-to-head record wins the division, and the other teams grabs the wild card.

Yep, on September 1st, and the A.L. East will be all but over. That may be nice for fans of the Yankees and Rays, but for baseball fans in general? It's boring as heck.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Yankee for Life

Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Joe Girardi, Scott Brosius, Johnny Damon - What do these players have in common? They all played for multiple teams in their careers, and for a small portion of that career (4 or 5 years), they played for the New York Yankees.

Hunter and Jackson starred for the Oakland A's in the 70's, and Jackson for the Angels in the 80's. But in the public consciousness, after winning World Series in New York in '77 and '78, they will always be Yankees.

Joe Girardi played for the Cubs, Rockies and Cardinals, but because of one World Series triple, is best remembered as a Yankee.

Scott Brosius was a nobody with the Oakland A's. For the Yankees, he was and always will be a 1998 World Series hero.

Johnny Damon, World Series hero for both the Boston Red Sox (2004) and New York Yankees (2009), and currently of the Detroit Tigers, turned down a waiver claim on Wednesday that would have sent him back to Boston for the 2010 stretch run. Why? Not because he was still upset about the Red Sox not signing him after the 2005 season. Not because he "loves Detroit" (as he keeps saying). And not because he's an "idiot".

It was because he had the chance on Wednesday to choose his legacy. He had the chance to choose whether he'd be best remembered as a Yankee or a Red Sox. He in effect was choosing what cap he'd wear on his Hall of Fame plaque (if he somehow hangs on for 3000 hits and gets in). And was there really any other choice?

As a former member of the Boston Red Sox, he's been booed mercilessly every time he's set foot in Fenway Park since 2005. He was a vital cog in the 2004 World Series winning team, the first in 86 years, yet the Red Sox fans forgot. They wore shirts that said "Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary, acts like Judas". Thanks for the memories, Johnny!

As a former member of the Yankees, Damon was cheered upon his return to Yankees Stadium, as all Yankee World Series heroes are. Even David Cone and David Wells, who pitched for the hated Red Sox in the twilight of their careers, were never booed just for wearing a different shirt.

Along with Jackson, Girardi, Brosius, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui and dozens more recent World Series heroes, he will be welcomed back to the Yankee Stadium every year on Old Timer's Day to hear those cheers again and again for the rest of his life.

Would going back to the Red Sox have really tarnished his Yankee legacy that much? Probably not. It certainly didn't hurt Cone or Wells. But unlike Cone or Wells, being a Yankee had gotten into Damon's blood. It's like Andy Pettitte said back when he was a free agent. I'll play for anyone...but NOT the Red Sox.

I think the decision came down to this: Johnny Damon isn't just a former Yankee player. He IS a Yankee. And even if he never puts on the pinstripes again, he always will be.