Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Link Exchange

* Jorge Posada will keep his contract issues in the background and focus solely on baseball. What were Posada's feelings on his contractual status?
"I [couldn't] care less," Posada said.

There are players who say they are not going to worry about their contracts and there are players who really mean it. Jorge Posada insists he's part of the latter group.
I guess it's a little easier to project such bold disinterest when - barring anything unforseen - he has more leverage than Scott Boras fantasizes about. As one of the top-five offensive catchers in the majors last year behind guys like Mauer, McCann and Victor Martinez, Jorge can take advantage of New York's lack of upcoming catcher talent.

*Todd Helton is beginning to regain the strength he lost last year due to illness. The illness-related shedding of weight had the 6'3 Rockie first baseman around 200 lbs. Helton will apparently enter Spring training much closer to his playing weight of approximately 230lbs. This should help the slugger return to form, and may help the Red Sox reopen trade talks.

* Bill Conlin says Aaron Rowand and Scott Linebrink appear too valuable to their teams to create a trade-match. From the piece:
[Also] the stubborn and puzzling rumor that has centerfielder Aaron Rowand being shipped to the Padres for top setup man Scott Linebrink. The Padres can't afford to give up Linebrink, a model of consistency despite a spike in his numbers last season. The Phillies can't afford to give up Rowand. Their outfield depth is thinner than jailhouse clam chowder.
With Victorino - speedy and underrated but low on power for a corner outfielder - the Phillies may have a lot of trouble replacing Rowand's bat, which is not a very strong one to begin with. The Padres continue to entertain offers, even though Trevor Hoffman is on the brink of retirement. Interesting and puzzling at the same time.

Monday Link Exchange

* Jorge Posada will keep his contract issues in the background and focus solely on baseball. What were Posada's feelings on his contractual status?
There are players who say they are not going to worry about their contracts and there are players who really mean it. Jorge Posada insists he's part of the latter group.

"I [couldn't] care less," Posada said.
I guess it's a little easier to project such bold disinterest when - barring anything unforseen - he has more leverage than Scott Boras fantasizes about. As one of the top-five offensive catchers in the majors last year behind guys like Mauer, McCann and Victor Martinez, Jorge can take advantage of New York's lack of upcoming catcher talent.

*Todd Helton is beginning to regain the strength he lost last year due to illness. The illness-related shedding of weight had the 6'3 Rockie first baseman around 200 lbs. Helton will apparently enter Spring training much closer to his playing weight of approximately 230lbs. This should help the slugger return to form, and may help the Red Sox reopen trade talks.

* Bill Conlin says Aaron Rowand and Scott Linebrink appear too valuable to their teams to create a trade-match. From the piece:
[Also] the stubborn and puzzling rumor that has centerfielder Aaron Rowand being shipped to the Padres for top setup man Scott Linebrink. The Padres can't afford to give up Linebrink, a model of consistency despite a spike in his numbers last season. The Phillies can't afford to give up Rowand. Their outfield depth is thinner than jailhouse clam chowder.
With Victorino - speedy and underrated but low on power for a corner outfielder - the Phillies may have a lot of trouble replacing Rowand's bat, which is not a very strong one to begin with. The Padres continue to entertain offers, even though Trevor Hoffman is on the brink of retirement. Interesting and puzzling at the same time.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Bronx Block

I haven't been posting as much as I regularly do because I have been very busy & contributing to the Yankees MVN blogsite, The Bronx Block. Formerly known as "Off the Facade," the page has a very talented staff of Yankees writers, and is chock full of interesting stories, opinions, etc.

Fear not, I will continue to post here at Bronx Liaison and hopefully retain the readership I have forged over the recent months. Let me know what you think of the new digs. Also, read my latest article & tell me how stupid I am for discussing young pitchers not named Hughes, Sanchez or Ohlendorf.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Batting Practice Begins

Over at the incomparable LoHud Yankees Blog, Pete has a roundup of today's batting practice. The starting rotation looked like this:
As Pete explains, this arrangement may foreshadow the starting rotation come opening day. Last year Randy Johnson threw first and ended up the opening day starter. Here's his breakdown of each individual pitcher's session:

Chien Ming Wang - 31 pitches and got six ground balls. He blew a fastball by Jeter.

Andy Pettitte - 30 pitches: Pettitte took the mound to loud applause [and looked] good. A-Rod homered off him to right field but he spotted everything well.

Mike Mussina - 35 pitches: I thought the Moose looked the best and there were only a few hard-hit balls.

Kei Igawa - 40 pitches: Igawa worked fast and threw the most pitches in his 10 minutes. He was “sneaky fast” according to Torre and spotted his curveball well.

Carl Pavano - 35 pitches: Pavano had good sink on his fastball, worked methodically and threw 23 strikes. He said afterward that it was just another step forward for him.

Phil Hughes - 34 pitches: Phil Franchise threw only half his pitches for strikes by my count. But six of the strikes were fouled off and only two were put in play. The rest were unhittable. Hughes showed a ridiculous curveball and the ability to spot his fastball inside or outside. “He’s filthy,” Giambi said.

Humberto Sanchez - 31 pitches: Sanchez was all over the place with his command, throwing one over the catcher’s head at one point. “Why did Detroit trade him?” Giambi said. “He’s huge and he throws 96.”

Damn, wouldn't it be nice to be in Tampa right about now?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Abreu Enjoys the Background

The trading deadline acquisition of Bobby Abreu was an excellent move on Brian Cashman's part. Aside from lengthening an already nauseating collection of powerful bats, Bobby offers Joe Torre the versatility he desires - hitting to the opposite field, bunting, stealing bases, showing speed on the bases. Bobby also sees a ton of pitches, further tiring pitchers weary of facing such a flammable lineup. took a look at how Abreu was able to seamlessly blend in to the Yankees clubhouse and batting order.

Larry Bowa can still picture a half-dressed Bobby Abreu in the Phillies' clubhouse, his head hanging and his uniform soiled by the frustration of another defeat.

With Philadelphia, everyone seemingly expected Abreu to be "The Man" -- a power-hitting icon of a blue-collar club, perennially challenging to the edge of playoff contention.

As Abreu reports for his first full season with the Yankees, that pressure appears to have been lifted off the 34-year-old outfielder's shoulders.

"He's not going to admit it, but you can see the different body language," said Bowa, Abreu's former manager with the Phillies. "He used to feel like he let everybody down because he didn't drive the run in or he didn't get the big hit. He wants to do that, but he also realizes that there are other guys who can do it."

"It's nice," Abreu said. "It's a different mentality. You know you're going to have a chance to be in the playoffs, and this is what it's all about. I'm looking for a World Series ring, and this team is going to give me a lot of chances to win."

"Everyone in this lineup is a star," Abreu said. "Back on the Phillies, I was 'The Man' -- the one everyone pointed to over the years. It's a good thing to be here, because sometimes you'll make a mistake, and you can deal with that. On the other side [with Philadelphia], when you made a mistake, everybody pointed at you."

It's funny - and I don't mean to bring up Alex Rodriguez for the 1,000th time - but Abreu has become (in Seinfeld terms) the "bizarro" A-Rod. For Bobby, the problem was that his role was far too defined. If he didn't play well, they lost. At least that's how he felt.
When he joined the Yankees, it was as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders. No more worrying about the Phillies losing culture - which has ironically taken a recent turn for the better - and no more immense expectations or pressure. Instead, Abreu was able to fade into a star-studded lineup, contributing by hitting for the gaps instead of strenuously reaching for the fences.
On the other hand, Rodriguez went from being The Man - on the Mariners and Rangers - to just another hired gun. The most expensive one albeit. Somewhere in the shuffle, A-Rod lost his identity. For the first time in his career - excluding his first couple years in the league - Rodriguez had to defer to a Captain. The Yankee ballclup was Jeter's team and not his team.
Throughout his time with New York, Rodriguez struggled to grasp his role with the Yankees, constantly drawing too much weight onto his lonely shoulders. Where Abreu comfortably slipped into the lineup as if he'd been here for years, Rodriguez remained noticeably uncomfortable - more resembling a rookie than a two-time MVP.
For the New York tabloids: make Alex and Bobby best friends. If A-Rod emulated Abreu's content ease, it might help the troubled superstar.
Abreu also shows a mentoring side, as the article makes mention of his attention to the younger bombers - including future-star Jose Tabata.

With his services as a team spokesman no longer in heavy demand, Abreu has taken to quietly tutoring some of the younger Yankees farmhands. His locker neighbor this spring is 18-year-old Jose Tabata, a Venezuelan prospect who has drawn physical comparisons to a young Manny Ramirez.

Abreu spoke extensively with Tabata on Wednesday in Spanish, and said that the promising outfielder has been quizzing the veteran on all aspects of life in the Major Leagues.

"I'm trying to give these young guys as much as I can," Abreu said. "Whenever they ask me for something, I'm very happy and open to them to help them and give them the best advice that I can. Some of them are going to be All-Stars one day, and I hope they'll do the same thing for the young guys someday."

Here's to Abreu remaining in the 3-hole in 2007.

Zim & Crosby Rip Yanks

* Former bench coach and Popeye doppleganger, Don Zimmer, stood by his man today. Viewing the most recent episode in the Jeter & Rodriguez saga as an attack on the Captain's legacy, Zim decided to bury A-Rod. I think Zimmer is misreading the public, because most baseball fans are not blaming Jeter, they only believe he can do more to support Alex.

"They're making [Jeter] out to be the bad guy," Zimmer said. "What has he done wrong? If A-Rod hits a home run tomorrow, Jeter will be on the top step, the first guy shaking his hand. What do you want [Jeter] to do, put his arm around him and kiss him?

"Now, here's a guy. What's [Rodriguez] make, $25 million a year? What is it that Jeter's done any different with him than what anybody else has done? How in the hell can Jeter be criticized over A-Rod? I'm trying to figure it out. I don't even understand it, but it makes me sick because I'm a Jeter man -- me and millions others."

Zimmer was asked why he thought people would side with Rodriguez.

"All I know is I know what Jeter is," Zimmer said. "And for Jeter, they're making him out the villain. How in the hell could you ever make Jeter the villain, of all people, in this game?"

Zimmer expressed his opinion on how the perceived friction between Jeter and Rodriguez began.

"When it all happened, and A-Rod got the big contract, he made a comment, and you guys have to go back and look it up, he said Jeter can never get a contract like that because he doesn't hit home runs like I do," Zimmer said. "Is it Jeter's fault he's playing in New York with the Yankees and they win four World Series? You're going to hold that against him towards A-Rod, who has never won nothing?"

Donnie, come back to us. One of the 4000 New York columnists must have worded the question in a way they knew would get a rise out of Zimmer. Is his opinion really necessary? I know they're trying to sell papers, but Zim sounds more bitter-old-man than important observer.

* Bubba Crosby, 5th outfielder extraordinaire, thinks he didn't get a fair shake with the Yankees. A new addition to the Cincinnati Reds, Bubba ripped the team chemistry in New York as well as manager Joe Torre.
"That's something we lacked in New York. It felt like everyone would go their own separate ways. Here guys go out and do things together," said Crosby, who was signed to a free agent contract in the off-season. "I think that's a huge part of the game. The Yankees have had $200 million-plus payrolls the last few years. Money doesn't mean championships all the time. You look at St. Louis, it looks like the guys love each other and hang out."

"Even being a fifth outfielder for [Cincinnati], you're going to get three times as many at-bats as I would if I were with the Yankees again," Crosby said. "It's exciting to know I can play my game. Sometimes I'd get the green light, but I'd get the stare from Joe (Torre) that said I better be sure. Then you hesitate and just wait for (Hideki) Matsui to hit a two-run homer."

"I hit every spring training. I got to the big leagues with the Dodgers because I could hit," Crosby said. "I was ready to see what I can do, hitting. I knew I could go out there in spring and lead the whole camp in hitting and it wouldn't matter, I'd still be the fifth outfielder. It's nice to go to an organization that if you produce, you're going to play."
Ok, let's relax Bubba. I liked you when you played for the Yankees and you were nice little player. But you're still Bubba Crosby. Lead the whole camp in hitting? What planet is this guy on right now. And the reason you will get a whole lot more atbats while in Cincinnati results from two factors:
  • the Reds do not have half the offensive talent the Yankees do.

  • the Reds play in the National League, meaning no DH and more atbats for utility men.
This article is more proof that the Yankees need to hang out and eat dinner more often. If they had only had a team Red Lobster night, they may have won a few more championships. Not to discount team chemistry, but let's not overblow it either. Especially from a newly released and embittered utility outfielder.

Bon Voyage Bernie

Well the wait is over. Over the last week, Tampa became a vigil. Homegrown products and hired-guns alike wondered if the grizzled four-time champion would once more ride into town & battle for a roster spot. But he never came.

Bernie has officially turned down the Yankees invite to Spring camp.
Bernie Williams rejected the Yankees' offer of a Minor League contract and will wait to see if a guaranteed job opens up for him on the team.

Yankees manager Joe Torre spoke with Williams last week and tried to reach him, without success, on Sunday.

"Bernie told me he had talked with Joe. Other than the invite, there wasn't any information that led him to believe he would be a member of the team," Williams' agent, Scott Boras, said Tuesday. "He's continuing to work out, will wait to see if their position changes."

Even though the Yankees icon is apparently in the dumps about experiencing the 07 Yankees from afar, he still has expressed that he will continue working out in the hopes that a roster spot opens up. Barring another flurry of serious injuries - think Sheff & Godzilla - Williams will most likely ride into the sunset.

A sunset full of Yankeeographies, Centerstages and video tributes at the Stadium.

When understanding that Bernie refuses to dilute his Bronx legacy by finishing his career in an alien city, one word comes to mind. Loyalty-Loyalty-Loyalty. Say it three times and think of #51 strolling into right center for a high popfly. That towering shot off of Kenny Rogers that just sliced foul in the 2006 ALDS may be the final image Yankee fans witness before the graceful, classy, Williams settles into retirement.

I will miss Bernie Williams. He was fun to watch, a joy to root for and as clutch as it gets.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


  • Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs agree to one year $12.4 million deal just before the deadline. The Chicago Tribune has a lot of money, huh?

  • Barry Bonds says he's happy to be back. In a performance about as believable as Hilary Swank in The Black Dahlia, surly Barry eventually returned when the questions turned toward steroids, tainted records, and all of that unpleasantness.

  • Ichiro speaks up. For the first time, the lefty implied he may test the free agent waters.

  • Johnny Damon is about as easy-going as it gets. Forget the Bernie, Mariano and A-Rod issues. If Damon were in the center of a tornado he'd be asking for hairspray and an umbrella.

Jeter's Response

After Alex Rodriguez finally fessed up to the evaporating friendship between he and Derek Jeter on Monday, it was the Captain's turn. This morning Jeter gave his take on things:

"I don't have a rift with Alex," the New York Yankees captain said Tuesday. "We go out there. We work together. This is our fourth year to be playing together. It's annoying to hear about it all the time. Everyone assumes they know what our relationship is. Everyone assumes -- they see us on the field, if one person gives another one a look, it's a story. If we're at opposite ends of the bench, people say it's a story."

"I don't see the relevance of it," Jeter said. "It has no bearing on us playing baseball."

Jeter refused to say how close he and Rodriguez are away from the ballpark.

"How would I characterize it? I would characterize it as it doesn't make a difference," he said. "What we do away from the field, how much time we spend together, really makes no difference when we're playing."

"From Day One I've said I support Alex," he said. "The only thing I'm not going to do is tell the fans what to do. ... I don't think it's my job to tell fans to boo or not to do."
It's not clear what people wanted to hear from Derek. Some thought he would simply brush A-Rod's comments aside and tell the media he will talk about baseball because his private life is just that. Other's thought he may lean toward a more artificial response. Personally, I would have liked to have heard Jeter agree more and display less combativeness.

Regardless, the fact that Jeter officially spoke up about the actual situation may be in a way, therapeutic. The only way that A-Rod can truly succeed revolves around his desensitizing himself from trivialities, protecting his confidence instead of his image. I think he's taken his first step in doing so.

Again, Peter Abraham has audio of the Jeter interview, as well as the Captain's well-founded hate for the new hats.

Maybe the fans can take their cue from this dysfunctional relationship and start supporting Alex a bit more than they mercilessly boo him. The booing eventually became the "in thing" to do and instead of cheering on the team, fans decided to string up the individual. It was like an audience power-trip. We knew that the player was hurting from fans' reaction, so we were intrigued, even compelled to continue prodding the roadkill.

The point is not that Alex Rodriguez does not deserve his share of Bronx cheers, hell I've even booed him when he's struck out with the bases loaded. The point is that booing every little idiosyncrasy is not chique, it's moronic and by extension detrimental to the team you're following. As Jeter would say, "I'm not telling the fans not to boo," but I do think they need to pick their spots.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Manny Already Being Manny

  • Manny Ramirez will be over a week late to Spring training, possibly arriving on March 1st. This comes from his new mouthpiece and fellow whack-job, Julian Tavarez. According to Tavarez, Manny's mother had surgery recently.

  • John "I'll Tear You To Ribbons" Gibbons agreed to an extension with the Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe Canada's obsession with hockey and its brawler mentality is to blame. Gibbons began his fighting career by challenging clubhouse-cancer Shea Hillenbrand. Unfortunately, he was unable to successfully defend his title when LHP Ted Lilly mortified Gibbons in what has become known as "The Rumble in the Tunnel."

  • Although Joe Torre has repeatedly used his clout, reaching out to Bernie through multiple media outlets, Williams has maintained his absence from camp. Cashman also continually stated that the minor league invite is not a slight, but an opportunity. If Bern does not appear in camp by Wednesday, his time with the Yankees will have come to an abrupt and perplexing end.

A-Rod Arrives, Confesses

We all saw this coming. After witnessing the frenzy around "dangerous" topics such as Mariano's extension or Bernie's future, a firestorm would certainly surround Alex's first day at camp. Today, Alex Rodriguez finally tried to put the Jeter-ARod fiasco behind him.
"People start assuming that things are a lot worse than what they are, which they're not. But they're obviously not as great as they used to be. We were like blood brothers," Rodriguez said Monday. "You don't have to go to dinner with a guy four, five times a week to do what you're doing. It's actually much better than all you guys expect, but I just want to let the truth be known."

"We were best of friends about 10, 13, 14, years ago, and we still get along well. We have a good working relationship. I cheer very hard for him. He cheers hard for me. And most importantly, we're both trying to win a world championship," Rodriguez said.

"The reality is there's been a change in the relationship over 14 years and, hopefully, we can just put it behind us," Rodriguez said. "You go from sleeping over at somebody's house five days a week, and now you don't sleep over. It's just not that big of a deal."

While Rodriguez won the AL MVP award for the second time in 2005, he is 4-for-41 (.098) without an RBI in his last 12 postseason games dating to 2004. He got just one hit in last year's playoff loss to Detroit.

"I stunk. And when you stink, sometimes, you have to call it," he said. "I went 1-for-14 last year with an error and that's pretty lousy."

He was dropped to eighth in the batting order for the first time in a decade as the Yankees were eliminated in Game 4.

"It was very disappointing," he said. "Yes, I was embarrassed."

"Let's make a contract: You don't ask me about Derek anymore, and I promise I'll stop lying to all you guys," A-Rod told reporters.
If you'd like to hear the entire interview, check out Peter Abraham's blog. Hearing the entire interview, unedited, offers a more honest portrayal of what was said. He also has audio of Steve Swindal's apology for his recent DWI arrest.

After listening to the A-Rod audio, and hearing countless fans and talk radio hosts throw their opinions around, I feel that Rodriguez did little wrong today. With exception to him asserting that he "loves being the highest paid player in the game," Alex may be taking the right tact in terms of dropping "the act" and beginning to focus exclusively on baseball.

Every Yankee fan understands that Alex and Derek are not the same buddies they were when they broke into the bigs. They do not hold weekend bashes or sleepovers anymore, and the Esquire article obviously destroyed the friendship. However, for the first time Alex has admitted in public that they are no longer the best of friends, displaying a more determined demeanor than past seasons.

Who knows if this will mean anything. All the melodrama, all the over-analyzing will cease if A-Rod can do one thing: hit in October and shut up his critiques. Maybe this is the first step in desensitizing himself, reaching for rings instead of stats.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lazy Sundays

Not too much coming out of Yankee camp today. The final pieces appear in camp tomorrow for their physicals, meaning beat reporters will get their first crack at Alex Rodriguez. Following Igawa's shaky beginning to Spring - his first pitch sailed five feet wide of Jorge Posada - his wildness has settled and he apparently threw strikes yesterday.

  • Because of the hurry-up-and-wait mentality for Yankee fans and columnists, I decided to unleash yet another lost cinematic masterpiece. As I learned from the below trailer: a clever title does not equal a quality film. Notice the special effects seemingly spawned from a high school AV room.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nawww, Really . . . G-Unit Hates New York

  • Randy Johnson more and more resembles a kid in a candystore during his re-acclimation to the Diamondback organization. Following Mussina's (and other Yankees) assertion that G-Unit was miserable in New York, most Yankee fans must be nauseated by recent photos of a smiley, gregarious Randy. Today, Johnson called out New York reporters because they "used [me] as a doormat" and wrote stories without allowing him to proofread beforehand.

  • Jorge Posada says Phil Hughes is major league ready, and he knows it. Posada, who does not often dish out such praise, likened the 2007 Hughes to Andy Pettitte in 1993. Both exude confidence not cockiness, remaining humble while still displaying professionalism and talent.

"The kid belongs . . ."That maturity, it just stands out," Posada said. "The attitude, you see it. It's not about being cocky. It's just the way he walks around, he belongs here. He acts like a big leaguer."

Just another impressive moment during Phil's maturation.

  • The Marlins intelligently gave in to Miguel Cabrera's financial demands, rewarding the budding superstar with a $7.4 million contract. This comes after Marlin executives and owner Jeffrey Loria called Cabrera out on the carpet for missing fan caravans - only to learn that the Florida star was tending to his ill father.

According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, Wigginton's wife, Angela, went into intense labor two weeks early. Against the clock, Ty was forced to deliver the baby in the bedroom closet of the their new North Carolina home.

Talk about clutch.

"He was out in less than a minute," Ty told the Times. "One or two pushes, and he was ready to see the world."

This may be the closest he comes to taking ground balls following the acquisition of Akinori Iwamura from Japan.

*Buster Olney may dedicate tomorrow's entire blog to his almamater's upset of the #1 team in the country. In a shocker, Vanderbilt defeated Florida 83-70.

Clemens "Quits" & Phil Hughes Interviewed

*Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano made up today. Yesterday, Mussina read Crutch the riot act, asserting that the brittle one must regain the trust of him teammates after two years of clubhouse absenteeism.
Moose went on WFAN radio with hosts Mike & the Mad Dog, but did not change his tune. He remained honest about Pavano, A-Rod and all things Yankees. He also stated that the return of Sheffield and Matsui may not have been the best thing for a team which was gelling - even without their allstar corner outfielders.
If you missed the interview, I highly recommend you take a listen. It's refreshing to hear a multi-millionaire offer real answers to hard-hitting questions.
*Roger Clemens says there's only a 20% chance he will pitch in 2007. That makes it a 80% chance the Rocket will retire. Factoring in the Roger-unreliability variable, this declaration basically means nothing. From

"The teams that are involved, I think they've got really good clubs that are together, and if somebody stubs their toe and my phone rings in May, I might have to think about it," Clemens told KRIV.

Until Clemens starts turning down $15 million offers for minuscule workloads, I will assume Randy Hendricks and his client are playing politics. Once I see Clemens watching games from the stands and not the Yankee bullpen, I will believe he is out of baseball.

*Yankee talking head, Michael Kay, interviewed Phil Hughes yesterday. Hopefully the escalation in media buzz and interview requests does not have adverse effects on Phil-er-up. Check out the interview at the ESPN radio homepage. Scroll down until you see Kay's mongloid image.

*Barry Bonds disappointed every baseball fan in America by finally agreeing to a deal with the Giants.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mussina Rips Crutch. Torre's Family Matters.

Mussina ripped Pavano yesterday, but I had not yet read the actual quotes until last night. I had initially assumed that Yankee beat guys had taken things out of context, hoping to find a story where there wasn't one. Mussina's words, however, were brutally honest.

When Pavano said the media has pursued a non-story and that his teammates are not as distant as columnists have portrayed, Moose shot back:

"He's only looking at it from his perspective. We're looking at it from our perspective, those of us that have been through both years. We want him to go out there and show that he wants to do this," Mussina said. "It got to a point where we just didn't even want to hear about it or talk about it anymore."

The extent of how much Pavano must do to regain respect was evident when Mussina was asked whether he would give Pavano the benefit of the doubt that he's going to do all he can to pitch.

"No, not just yet. Not yet, no," Mussina replied. "I want to see that he wants to do it."

Mikey questioned Pavano's ability to play through pain - something Moose, Sheffield, Giambi and Damon did throughout the season. When Pavano explained each injury led to another, making his return increasingly out of reach, Moose had another bullet in the chamber:

"I'm looking at from a perspective of just the way each thing happened and the timing of it and just piecing all those things together," Mussina said. "You get to form your own evaluation. It didn't look good. From a player's and a teammate's standpoint, it didn't look good. Was everything just coincidence over and over again? I don't know."

Good. It's about time one of the high-profile arms in the Yankee rotation took a defined stand on Pavano's inability to take the ball every fifth day. For two years now, the Yankees have collectively turned the other cheek to Crutch's lack of discipline, heart and teamwork.

*Joe Torre has had a tough life. Whether facing domestic violence growing up or medical issues within his family, Torre never seems to unravel. Unfortunately, some guys have all the luck - others not as much. (Excluding an MVP as a player & four rings as skipper)

Frank Torre, Joe's brother & former major leaguer, is in need of a kidney transplant.

The 75-year-old, who spent seven seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies from 1956-63, had a heart transplant in October 1996. The following day he watched from his hospital bed as his brother, Joe, managed the Yankees to victory in the World Series clincher against Atlanta.

"I talked to him yesterday. He sounded good yesterday," Joe Torre said Thursday. "His heart is working on the 11th year now. With all the rest of the medication you have to take, the rest of the organs take a beating. That's what it comes down to."

Joe Torre said his brother, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, likely would learn next week whether one of his relatives was a match for a kidney transplant. If there is no match, he would go on a transplant list and have to wait, a process that Joe said could take a year.

The Palm Beach Post reported Thursday that Frank Torre's daughter, Elizabeth, might be a match.

"My heart is only 38 years old," Frank Torre told the newspaper, laughing. "The problem is, my body's 75. I'll be the bionic man by the time they're done with me."

At least he still has a sense of humor. Another tough break for the Torre clan, let us all hope Frank dodges another bullet, returning himself to good health for another run.

*Maybe Jon Lieber is not getting traded this Spring. With five other starters already aligned - Garcia, Hamels, Moyer, Myers, Eaton - Lieber seemed like the odd man out. However, the former Yankee (ditched inexplicably for Jaret Wright) may find himself another role with Philadelphia.

ESPN believes GM Pat Gillick may place Lieber in the bullpen. What was his response? Surprisingly unselfish if not selfless: "I've pitched in the bullpen. Wherever he needs me to go is where I'll go."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Swindal Swindled

Steinbrenner's son-in-law Steve Swindal, has been detained in Florida due to operating a vehicle while impaired. Over the past 18 months, it's becoming more and more apparent that GM Brian Cashman along with Swindal are the Yankees braintrust, effectively running the Yankees as The Boss recedes further into the background. Maybe Big Stein will jump back into the picture if Swindal thinks he can emulate Billy Martin while remaining the driving force behind Yankees operations.

*The Yankees will wear black armbands on their uniform, honoring the late Cory Lidle.

*Barry Zito showed off a new delivery on the first day of Spring camp. The Giants coaching staff cringed, nervous over the need for such a change.

*Kerry Wood bruised his ribs while taking a nap at Cubbie Spring camp. Ok, it wasn't a nap but the incident was no less hilarious. From the AP: "Wood bruised his right side when he fell out of a hot tub at his home." You can't make it up. Wood and Pavano should become inspirational speakers on how to make millions by not living up expectations.

*Torre is down on bended knee . . . begging for Bernie to attend camp.

2007 Yankees Preview

This projection assumes a few things.
  • Potential backup catcher, Raul Chavez and his newly broken hand pave the way for an unproven Wil Nieves. Grizzled vet, Todd Pratt could also fight for the spot.
  • Phelps beats out Phillips for the righthanded piece of the firstbase platoon. Phelps gets the opening day start over Mientkiewicz, assuming Scott Kazmir faces Wang on April 2nd.
  • Villone impresses during Spring as Myers remains a lefty specialist with batter-per-week type stuff. The trust Torre displayed during Villone's power-outage is a contributing factor.
  • Phil Hughes does not make the club out of Spring training. Phil-er-up awaits a mid-season call-up while dominating at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Which brings us to a midseason projection of the 25-man Yankee roster:

Once again, the perceived roster would rely upon several assumptions.
  • The Yankees re-acquire Roger Clemens, outbidding Houston and Boston.
  • Phil Hughes does not falter during his time in AAA, continues his prodigious rise and appears ready for the jump.
  • Kei Igawa yields mediocre results, but displays strong bullpen potential. Particularly his ability as a long man and strong k/9 ratio (as seen in Japan).
  • Humberto Sanchez thrives in a new role at Scranton Wilkes-Barre: coming out of the pen. His heavy fastball and swooping curveball befuddle AAA hitters, prompting Yankee management to insert Sanchez into an already strong AL bullpen.
  • The Yankees can package Pavano, Bruney, (maybe an Ohlendorf) and get back strong catching prospect Jeff Clement who is currently blocked by Kenji Johjima. Even following Clement's injury-shortened sophmore year in the minors (the majority spent at AAA) and an awful Hawaiian Winter League the Mariners may still reject an offer. Unless of course, Pavano is back to his 2004 form, which may halt the Yankees dealing him altogether. Keith Law's take on Clement is surprisingly dreary.
  • The Yankees are able to move horror-show Kyle Farnsworth, maybe bringing to an end 8th innings full of free passes and frozen-ropes.
These midseason projections materialized out of creativity as much as rational thought. Giving up on Igawa after a 1/2 season may be a bit brash, especially when he is earning (luxury-tax or not) $40 million over the next four years. However, should Clemens choose New York while Hughes continues ravaging the minors, somebody needs to make room and it will not be a healthy Wang, Pettitte or Mussina.

There is always the possibility that the Yankees leave Hughes down at AAA Scranton, continuing to closely monitor his innings pitched until he reaches the targeted 180 mark. With the addition of Clemens, even more pressure is alleviated for Igawa.

However, should they move Igawa to the pen after gaining Clemens and Hughes, the Yankees could have a dynamite rotation. An '07 stable of Wang, Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina and Hughes means business. As does the addition of Sanchez to a bullpen already juggling late-inning arms.

It may be unlikely that Seattle deals a first rounder with as much potential as Clement for someone as brittle as Pavano, but a strong first half from Carl the Crutch will attract multiple suitors. Many of whom understand the front-end type stuff Pavano is capable of harnessing when healthy.

This depends on how much Seattle covets Clement - as well as Johjima - and how much they covet starting pitching. Following their failure to sign free agent Jason Schmidt (or Barry Zito), the M's rotation must bare Jarrod Washburn's unpredictability, Jeff Weaver's AL return, the loss of Gil Meche and a shaky second season from future stud Felix Hernandez.

Sure Clement earned himself the Johnny Bench award as the nation's top catcher, but a deal that brings a rejuvenated Pavano, bullpen arm in Bruney and mid-rotation guy like Ohlendorf (whose on the MLB brink) may draw their interest. If Johjima has a strong start in '07 while their pitching falters, they may need those arms - even if they must send Clement and another above-average prospect packing.

Also of note is the fact that Baseball Prospectus ranked the top catching prospects on PECOTA and Clement came in at #18. The rating is hurt by Clement's injuries and is not very reliable with minor leaguers, but these are chips working in the Yankees' favor. A cerebral Clement could back up Jorge for a couple years until Posada retires. At which time he would be ready to carry the torch.

Unrealistic? Maybe.

More interesting than "outsiders" reporting Mariano will be in a Red Sox uniform next year? I hope so.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hurry Up & Wait

With Major League ballclubs beginning to file into their respective Spring training sites, sportswriters fight for juicy info on dry topics. One thing remains constant, Andy Pettitte's Bronx return means lots of fluff pieces. And I love every single one of them.

Pettitte feels good to be back in pinstripes. And back in Tampa for Spring training.

"Me and my wife just looked at each other. It's like, 'an, it seems like we never left. It's all the same as it was,'" he said.

After three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros, Pettitte is back with the New York Yankees, his hair a little shorter and some hints of gray starting to show.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman remembered the conversation he had with Pettitte the day the two-time All-Star decided to sign with the Astros.

"You never know, you might come back this way again," Cashman said then.

"I feel good and I feel like I'm going to be strong and I'm going to hold up, or I wouldn't gave done this. I don't want to go through it. I don't want to go through the agony of feeling like I let everybody down if I'm not able to toe the rubber. To me it's just not worth it. I've made plenty enough money to live in Deer Park, Texas, for a long, long time."

The piece also discussed groundbreaking issues such as Andy's personal ringtone for his wife - "I'm So In Love With You" as performed by Al Green. Maybe Carlos Zambrano will interview Rickey Henderson during Cubbie training camp, giving columnists nationwide something to write about besides Mariano, Bernie and Torre. That interview might sound a little something like this:
Big-Z: Carlos Zambrano thinks you are the best leadoff hitter in the history of the game. What do you think?

Style-Dog: Rickey Henderson thinks that Rickey is the best period.

Big-Z: Carlos might take fellow Dominican, Alex Rodriguez, over Rickey.

Style-Dog: Rickey has something A-Rod don't (flashes World Series ring).

Big-Z: The Z abides.
Ok, so maybe sports columnists aren't the only ones effected by dry, inactive February baseball-camps. Cubs GM Jim Hendry isn't worried about Zambrano.

*Da MeatHook is close to completing a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. After a couple of impressive seasons with Detroit, Dimitri Young eroded due to issues on and off the field.
Former All-Star Dmitri Young agreed to a minor league contract with the Washington NationalsDetroit Tigers cut him last year following legal and substance-abuse problems.

Young was released in September, and later that month he was sentenced by a court in Michigan to a year's probation for assaulting his former girlfriend. Last summer, Young spent 30 days at a rehabilitation center for depression and alcohol abuse.

Goodbye Sori, hello Da Meathook. Do the Nationals realize they are required to field a team in less than a month?

*Barry Zito ditches Duff, Milano, arrives at Spring training. Calls his Bay City switcharoo a "seamless" transition.

I Live For This

We are only a few months away from witnessing beautiful scenery such as this:

*The big news of the day? Jersey native and bullpen sacrificial lamb Ron Villone agreed to a minor-league contract, allowing him to compete for a spot in an already crowded bullpen. His 2006 ERA ballooned over 5.00, but was a bit of an aberration due to comical periods of overuse. Some other tidbits from the first day of Spring training:
  • Joe Torre says he wants to manage beyond 2007, with or without the Yankees.

  • Torre is also hoping to sit down with Bernie so that they may discuss whatever there is left to discuss mano-y-mano.

  • A conversation with Mariano will be the first item on GM Brian Cashman's contractual list. There is really no reason for Yankee fans to sweat over such a situation as an extension will get done, very possibly before Spring training concludes. The New York tabloids are only attempting to drum up readership on a dead-issue. They figure Bernie Williams being shown the door has some sort of relevant connection to a player who has yet to show any signs of decline. Knock on wood.

*Carlos Zambrano's impression of Rickey Henderson - implementing the use of third person narrative - begins a new punchline for bloggers everywhere. Big-Z will have a big V-Day checking himself out in the mirror and sending himself chocolate covered cherries. However, if Carlos wants to bring his fiery mound-presence to Yankee Stadium in 2008, he will not face such contractual trivialities.

*The Padres signed an Iraqi War vet to a minor-league deal. Regardless of your beliefs for or against the conflict, this brief story is worth checking out. Seems as though (Marine Corporal) Cooper Brannan is not a publicity stunt and may be a talented pitcher in his own right.

Apparently the Pads have strong ties to military organizations in the San Diego area, frequently honoring troops with special days at The Litter Box (aka Petco Park). It would be a great story if Brannan ultimately made it to the show - as unlikely as it may seem.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

At Least It's Warm Down There

Either the years are getting shorter, or I'm getting older. The latter is more likely. To all the Yankee fanatics, I say Happy Pitchers & Catchers day! As if this day really means anything, other than another distraction on the voyage toward opening day.

For fans, Spring training is either a bore or an excuse to watch meaningless baseball. For Yankees fans, it's an opportunity to raise (already dangerous) expectations of gunslingers such as Hughes, Betances, Sanchez & Ohlendorf.

The Carlos Zambrano predicament just got a little stickier . . . or funnier, depending on your perspective. At a negotiating impasse, with the Cubs offering far less than Zambrano is seeking, Carlos decicided to speak up.

"I'm ready to sign, and I would do my job anyway with the Cubs this year," Zambrano said. "Whatever happens, I don't want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."

"When you're a great pitcher and have talent, you deserve the money no matter who gives it to you," he said. "Zito is a great pitcher. Good for him he has that contract, and I think that will help me.

"[Cubs general manager] Jim [Hendry] spent a lot of money. I hope he has more for 'Big Z.'"
Thats what Carlos Zambrano thinks. Big Z is just as intimidating (and slightly hilarious) off the mound than on. As the only young, dominate starter on the Cubs who hasn't fallen apart - see Prior, Wood - Zambrano has earned a big payday in the future. However, he must reach free agency before he begins posturing for a Zito-esqe deal.

Another interesting, if not obvious contribution from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
One baseball insider's description of two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who can become a free agent in two years: "He has got a $175 million lottery ticket in his back pocket if he stays healthy."
Johan Santana's good? He's going to get a ginormous FA contract?

That's like saying the Mets could use a starting pitcher not named Sele, Sosa or Park.

Joel Sherman thinks Brian Cashman is a stone-cold gangsta.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mo Knows Dough. Marty Gets The Axe.

Mariano Rivera's contract will be up following the 2007 season. In what has become a bargain price - particularly when taken in context with the absurd financial explosion of the 2006 offseason - Mariano's $10 million per year salary may take a slight raise in 2008 and beyond. Rivera is too big a professional to make any contractual discussions (or lack thereof) a distraction for the rest of the team, but it would be nice to have his situation resolved before he takes the field April 2nd.
If they want to talk, we're willing to listen," Rivera said Monday following a pre-spring training workout. "But I'm going to bring nothing to the table. I'm just going to focus on what I have to do and see what happens. I have a contract for this year. That's what matters. All I have to do is focus on this season. I just have to worry about being able to help the team as much as I can."

"I know that I have one more year, that is this year," Rivera said. "After that year, I don't know what's going to happen. Definitely I want to finish my career here, but if they don't give the respect that I deserve, I have to move on.

"The Yankees always give me the respect," Rivera added. "When the time comes, if they want me back, they want me back. Otherwise, I'm not going to sit in my house crying. I have to move on."

There is little doubt that Mariano will be shown the respect he deserves. The Sandman sure simplifies things for Yankee management. Basically, as long as the contract offer is reasonable, the team will retain one of the top-10 individual weapons in baseball history. Don't forget there are relievers not near Mariano's equal who boast bigger contracts. Ahem, Billy Wagner.

General Manager A.J. Smith and the San Diego Chargers fired recently extended head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Team president Dean Spanos expressed to ESPN football "guru" Chris Mortensen that serious differences between the head coach and the GM incited the move.
"Our fans deserve to know what changed for me over the last month," Spanos said in the statement. "When I decided to move ahead with Marty Schottenheimer in mid-January, I did so with the expectation that the core of his fine coaching staff would remain intact. Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case, and the process of dealing with these coaching changes convinced me that we simply could not move forward with such dysfunction between our head coach and general manager. In short, this entire process over the last month convinced me beyond any doubt that I had to act to change this untenable situation and create an environment where everyone at Charger Park would be pulling in the same direction and working at a championship level."
As of right now, the Chargers have absolutely no coaching staff in place for the upcoming season. With the firing of Schottenheimer, the exodus of Cam Cameron (and countless assistants) some creative maneuvers from Smith will be required should the Chargers again challenge for AFC superiority.

No word on which young promising athlete ex-wife Ana currently has her tentacles wrapped around, but Kris Benson has been officially deactivated for the 2007 season. An MRI exam revealed a torn rotator-cuff, which means another swell year for the Orioles RHP.

Matsuzaka arrived in Tampa today, sending a typically boring airport into a Beatles-type frenzy.

Monday: Hitting the Links

Eagles head coach Andy Reid has taken a leave of absence to deal with personal issues. He will be away from the team for a month. Probably to smack some sense into his two delinquent sons who've been charged with heroine and handgun related incidents. Both events took place only hours apart on the same day.

The Boston Herald explains why the 2007 Red Sox have more worries than is customarily associated with a $160 million ballclub.

The Yankees firstbase platoon will have Mientkiewicz from the left side of the plate and an all out war for the righty portion. Andy Phillips, an Alabama product who has spent his entire professional career within the Yankees organization will fight it out with Rule V draft pick Josh Phelps.

Phelps has put up some impressive MLB statistics, yet he has failed to carve out a niche for himself as an everyday player. The Daily News looked into his career, proving there will be a battle to become the Yankees first baseman. If Phillips does not make the team, he is out of options and will therefore look elsewhere in MLB.

As we all know, Joe Torre does not have a contract in place following the upcoming season. What does this mean? I don't know, ask Mike Lupica.

The Florida Marlins are doing their best to torment their most talented player. With an ongoing financial battle which has the two sides separated by $700k, Miguel Cabrera decided to spurn invites to "fan-caravans."
"(Owner) Jeffrey (Loria) and the rest of us are extremely disappointed that he's not here with every one of his teammates. All the players are here except Miguel,'' Samson said Saturday at FanFest at Dolphin Stadium.

"We're disappointed, that's the bottom line. Our organization is disappointed that he wasn't there with his teammates.
By the way, Loria did not attend the event either, which is both hypocritical and setting a bad example for Cabrera. Time for the Marlins to wake up. This guy is on the verge of superstardom, has already appeared in three Allstar games and is only 23 years old. Give him the money and pray he eventually decides to stay with Florida. He may have little leverage, but the team will play a lot better when Cabrera is happy than when he feels slighted or mistreated.

Alexander the Grater

There is no denying the fact that anything Alex Rodriguez says or does becomes media fodder. Whether he is promoting a children's book or annoyed by contractual questions, Rodriguez cannot win in New York. No pun intended. He is now, more than ever, a lightning-rod for criticism, blame and humiliation.

Although justified in some cases, the perverse scrutiny A-Rod faces has yet to generate any reasonable resolutions to his "problems." Last year, the onus shifted to the icy relationship between former pals Jeter & Rodriguez, and more specifically Derek's refusal to protect an endangered A-Rod.

Some fans thought ARod was (surprise surprise) completely at fault because any defense concocted by the Captain would only further weaken him - if not paint the troubled slugger as a frail child in need of daddy's guidance. Others felt that Jeter, as the leader of the club, should have spoken up for his befuddled teammate, possibly reuniting Rodriguez with a long lost acquaintance: confidence.

During this cloudy period, it was unclear whose stance was the right one. I could understand why Jeter would uphold a grudge stemming from the derogatory statements Rodriguez made to Esquire Magazine. But I could also understand a fan's belief that the Captain of a ballclub should put the success of said team over the sensitivities of an individual.

One thing's for sure. Whatever apprehension Joe Torre has had in asking Jeter to bury the hatchet must evaporate. The time has come for Jeter to back up A-Rod like he did Giambi - during the public fallout regarding his steroid confession. When the Captain begins placing personal vendettas over franchise achievements, it's time to re-prioritize.

I could see Jeter refusing to acquiesce if the player-in-need did not want to win as badly as Rodriguez. Or care as much as Rodriguez. Or work as hard as Rodriguez. Or play every day like Rodriguez. Like him or not, these traits cannot be refuted. The man genuinely wants to win in New York and works as hard (if not harder) than any professional ballplayer in the bigs.

There is no guarantee that Jeter's addressing media and fans will transform Rodriguez into a clutch performer. However, I do guarantee the King of New York effectively commanding fans and writers to "cut Alex a break, he's trying his hardest" would go a long way. Not just in terms of Alex's confidence alone, such a declaration may inspire other teammates to grow closer to Rodriguez instead of perpetuating the 24-plus-one depiction.

Eventually, all the Jeter defensives and Torre tough-love strategies will not make a bit of difference. Ultimately, the definition of "A-Rod in New York" will come down to one simple realization. At some point, Alex must look himself in the mirror and say "Screw everybody, I'm the most talented athlete in the sport."