Monday, January 29, 2007

How to Build a Rivalry

UPDATE: Reports now say that the Helton/Red Sox discussions are dead. Probably a smart thing for the Red Sox. Everything in the following post still holds true, but the Sox have made a wise foray into the realm of "test the waters to get a vet on the cheap". When things didn't look good to the Rockies, they balked. Good GMing by Theo in the end.

How is it that Red Sox vs. Yankees has permeated the baseball scene from the farthest reaches of the continental United States, to the span of foreign continents, and from Spring Training to Spring Training, 365 days a year. I thought I’d had just about enough in 2006 after yet another season of 19 head to head matchups, but I’m starting to feel even more like I ate one too many pieces of double fudge layer cake. This time the story is Todd Helton.

The news has been swirling around the Red Sox and the Rockies lately regarding a potential swap of slugger Todd Helton for a package of players and possibly cash. In and of itself this news does not register as more than a firm tremor on the baseball Richter scale, but in “the rivalry” it’s yet another example of the teams sticking out their chest at one another and daring the opponent to react. For the organizations themselves, baseball decisions are made for baseball reasons, in general, but for the fan bases these things become giant foam middle fingers to wave at each other. What does this really mean once we strip the emotional fan factor from the equation?

Todd Helton has been one of the most fearsome hitters in the game for years. Yes, in the NL. Yes, in Colorado. When we examine his career road split against his home numbers we see the following:

Home .371/.465/.676 for a 1.141 OPS
Road ..294/.393/.507 for a .900 OPS

Home .353/.471/.616 for a 1.087 OPS
Road .287/.418/.453 for an .871 OPS

I chose 2005 over last season’s numbers because Helton, by all accounts, had an illness that prevented him from playing and when he did play he was weak. Taking that illness out of the equation, we should expect him to produce at a fairly consistent level. What jumps out right away is the titanic dropoff in power that occurs away from the thin air of Coors. The average also suffers. For the Red Sox, the problem with making this deal is the big money that is combined with the lack of power at a premier power position. The plus for the Sox will be his on base percentage, which slips to a merely semi-superhuman level on the road. In front of Papi, Manny, and Drew that should be devastating. If Francona can get it through his head to also bat Youkilis in front of that group, you’d see something special offensively.

In other words, he doesn’t have to be Todd Helton Colorado to be a big bonus for the Sox. He merely has to be Todd Helton Fenway. I think there’s more upside to taking on whatever money Helton has coming back with him, if any. The rub is the long term aspect of his play. Can he earn his money on the back end of the contract. I have faith that a .400 OBP and .500 SLG will be a perfect fit in Boston in 2007 and 2008, but his contract runs through 2011. That means that whatever diminished skill set he has in 2009, 2010, and 2011 will be on the payroll in Beantown. In those years, Helton will be 35, 36, and 37 years old respectively. The money is less of an issue with the free spending ways of the modern day Red Sox, but the production is a big question mark. Make no mistake about it. If Helton wears a Boston uniform in 2007, the Sox are looking to win now. They are looking to take, perhaps, two shots at the World Series with Helton in the lineup. They are playing by the early 2000s Yankees’ playbook, where high priced veterans and a yearly run at the championship are worth eating the back end of bad contracts. That’s brilliant if it works. If you win, no one cares about the wads of cash flying out the window of the penthouse. If you don’t win, it looks more like stacks of $100s being tossed into the dingy basement furnace.

Yankee fans have grown weary of that method, and thankfully Cashman has grabbed the reins to build the farm, build long term, and bring a bit of fiscal restraint to the organization. With the resources that both these clubs have, it’s better to invest the dough in the system to build a dynasty on the backs of young homegrown talent. Instead of Todd Helton at the tail end of his career for big money, the Yankees are taking the path to Helton at the beginning of his career at minor league prices. The Sox system has suffered thanks to their recent fixation on winning it all again. Like heroin junkies, they traded away Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez to the Marlins for Beckett and Lowell. Lowell may be a part of this Helton trade, and Beckett was pretty bad on a third place team. Ramirez won the rookie of the year and Sanchez threw a no hitter. Andre Marte is another one that slipped away.

The Yankees are poised to bring up Phil Hughes this season. Cano, Wang, and Melky are all current factors in our lineup. Any number of other young arms could be on their way to the Major League roster soon, and a few lower level players will eventually have a huge impact (Tabata). There is work to be done on the Yankees farm when it comes to position players, to be sure, but we are building. The Red Sox would be trading away yet another package of minor leaguers to get Helton. They have Papelbon in their rotation now, and wisely never sold him up the river. Pedroia will be joining the big club to fill their hole at 2B, while Jon Lester will be attempting to come back from cancer. That leaves very little in the way of major prospects in their farm system.

Who knows, the Red Sox may end up winning 3, 4, 5 World Series in a row thanks to all the spending. Maybe they’ll succeed where the Yankees have failed in recent years. Their team will be very strong for the next few years, to be sure. I’m still going to live and die by the way the Yankees and Cashman are running the business today, and I think it bodes well for our dynastic likings, to see the future emerging from within.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Once Upon a Time in China

The Yankees are pursuing quite an ambitious building project these days. Not only have they remade their once ridiculed farm system into a loaded system of young pitchers, but they are also more than aggressive on the international scene now. Decades ago, the Dodgers and Blue Jays built baseball academies in the Dominican Republic, hoping to take advantage of the huge fever for baseball that kids in the streets demonstrated by throwing rocks and catching them with milk carton gloves. Hard to argue against that move, in light of the desire shown by those young boys.

The international signing period saw the Yankees grab 5 Dominicans in an especially deep class including outfielders Carlos Martinez Urena and Arielky LaPay, shortstops Jimy Paredes and Jose Toussen, and righthander Hairo Heredia. Toussen and Urena are considered elite prospects, while Hairo Heredia has been described as having "now stuff".

The Bombers have been out there in Venezuela, snatching up prized players like catchers Jesus Montero and Francisco Arcia, as well as shortstop Jose Pirela. Venezuela seems to be the next big breeding ground for Major League talent, which is quite obvious given the roster of the WBC club from that country, which features the likes of Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Rodriguez, Kelvim Escobar, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Bobby Abreu, and Magglio Ordonez.

Now, Cashman and company are venturing beyond Japan and Taiwan in their quest to develop and acquire talent. Matsui, Igawa, and Chien Min Wang are going to make up a current core of important Asian-born players in the Yankees lineup, but the untapped potential is, of course, China. A contingent of Yankees brass, including Cashman, Levine, and Jean Afterman, is heading through Japan to talk with Yomiuri and Hanshin, on their way to building a Chinese empire of their own. The Chinese Baseball Association is little more than a rough cobbling of amateurs feeling their way through the infancy of the sport behind the Great Wall. The Yankees know this, and recognize that this is the time to get in. The branding of baseball in China will be accompanied by an interlocking "NY" and the money the Bombers will bring to the table will help the sport to explode.

The China Baseball League is a fairly new creation, founded in 2002. As the wikipedia entry for the league tells us, the CBL is not to be confused with the Taiwanese "Chinese Professional Baseball League". The Taiwanese league is more established and the sport has been played on that island nation for much longer. Taiwanese baseball players are Major League ready right now, while players from mainland China are probably a generation away from being on the MLB radar. The WBC team was managed by Jim Lefebvre, a utility player for the Dodgers in the late 60's and early 70's, and the former manager of the Mariners, Cubs, and Brewers. He had his work cut out for him, and not surprisingly saw his club get banged around by the more experienced nations in the competition.

I saw the China Hope Stars participate in the Konami Cup Asia Series 2006, along with the likes of the La News Bears of Taiwan (who have a bull as their cap logo, thanks to the La New shoe company's sponsorship!), the Samsung Lions of Korea, and the eventual champion Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan. In 3 games, the Stars were outscored 32-4 by the other countries pro clubs. It's a very positive sign to see China involved in the sport, but they have a ways to go. Hopefully, the Yankees can push those efforts along and give themselves an inside shot at a bright future in China. In the meantime, the profile that is being generated by the Yankees in Asia is broadening and the brand is only growing stronger, despite the success of the Mariners, Red Sox, and others in the Japanese market. I'll keep my eyes on China for you and let you know if anything interesting is reported here in Japan.

On a slightly related note, I joined SABR last year and have thrown my hat into the Asian Baseball SIG. I hope to get more involved in their coverage and research on the sport over here, and I'll do my best to make Canyon of Heroes a forum for that information.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Get me Scott Proctor!

This image appears on the front page of the New York Times with the following caption:

Opposition Strike Disrupts Life in Lebanon

Thousands of protesters blocked roads with rubble and burning tires at the start of a general strike to try to topple the government.

I just wonder what the Lebanese government did to piss off Joe Torre like that! Doesn't it look like he's signaling to the pen for Every Day Scotty?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Back to Work

It's been 6 days since I last posted. Wow. That's a rarity. It seems that the occupation of fatherhood has kept me from the business of Yankees blogging. I suppose the lining in the silver cloud of non-posting has been the relative lack of news in Yankees Universe recently. Man, I can't wait until pitchers and catchers in less than a month.

I'm back to blogging today, and back to work tomorrow morning, so I'm hoping the productivity increases as the season draws nearer by the day. Today, I'll just recap some of the minor things in the news and in lightning style make a comment or two. Here we go:

1. The Braves scoop Gonzalez and Craig Wilson.

This is a double-whammy for Yankee fans, albeit a minor one. On the first roster move, I think the Yankees were better off for having kept Melky in pinstripes, although I never hated the trade that was being bounced around. Having Melky in the Bronx, or at least available for a larger trade down the road, is a good thing. On the second roster move, Craig Wilson never got a good shake in the Bronx and I wish he were the guy manning first next year. Mister Mxyzptlk may be a tough at bat to watch this year, and part of me hopes the Red Sox find a way to make him say his name backwards so he can return to whatever mid-90s netherworld dimension he left his glove in.

2. Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs are on different financial pages.

Zambrano wants Zito-esque money($18 million) to extend his contract with the Cubbies. Speculation is that if he doesn't get that before opening day, he will in fact test the free agent waters in the offseason. Anyone who reads here regularly will know that I'm a big Zambrano fan. I know he walks the ballpark sometimes and I know he's thrown way too many pitches at his age, but he's a very good ballplayer. This is the note from his Wikipedia entry describing his repertoire and propensity for walking batters:

"His pitches come out of a slinging, three-quarters to low three-quarters delivery. His main pitch is his hard, moving two-seam & four-seam fastball that clocks anywhere from 94-98 mph, but usually settling around 96 or 97 mph. Carlos has a heavy cannonball of a sinker that he likes to throw with a split grip. This pitch usually winds up getting beaten into the ground by the batter which is one reason Zambrano likes pitching at Chicago's Wrigley Field with its tall, thick grass. He always makes sure to mix in plenty of sharp-breaking sliders & splits to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He has also developed a change-up that he throws mostly to left-handed batters. His main weakness is a lack of pinpoint control, leading to a tendency to surrender walks. Nevertheless, Zambrano seems to be hurt less by giving up walks than most pitchers, due to the fact that batters hit many more ground balls than fly balls against him. This can be attributed to the sinking movement of his fastball. He rarely surrenders home runs (65 in his career) and often induces double plays."

His career ERA+ is 133 and he'll only be 26 this season. Zambrano is 23 innings short of qualifying for the "active leaderboard" in the ERA+ category, but should he be included, only Pedro, Clemens, Santana, Oswalt, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux would be above him, and Roy Halladay at 130 just below. Pedro, Clemens, Johnson, and Maddux are all way past their best days, so Zambrano ranks as one of 4 pitchers at this level (above 130), in his prime.

I hope he hits the open market, cause he'd look good in the Bronx. More on Zambrano as the season progresses.....

3. The rotation.

I'll wrap things here today, so I can continue with a stream of thoughts over the next few days. The rotation will be the main point of focus this season, with a lot of question marks, and probably a high degree of volatility from a fan perspective. Every shaky outing that the Yankees starters put out there will be met with a kind of "See, I told you so." angst that frankly annoys me. There are a lot of fans (probably the same group that boos A-Rod) that are looking for a reason to be pissed off at the Yanks. They are Yankee fans, to be sure, but they are pessimists at heart and actually need the stress to fuel them and redirect their personal trials and tribulations onto sports. I suppose that's okay. Whatever gets you through the night. Me, I'm excited about the prospect of seeing any number of our young prospects hit the Bronx this season. Clemens or no Clemens, I am more excited about Phil Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, and Ross Ohlendorf. Hughes is the future, without a doubt, but Sanchez also intrigues me. I found this YouTube clip from the 2006 Futures Game. He strikes out Stephen Drew on a nasty breaking pitch, gets Howie Kendrick to bounce out weakly, and strikes out Alex Gordon looking on the same big curve that got Drew to start the inning.

Who knows, maybe we don't need Zambrano in the end. In just a few short years maybe we trot out Hughes, Wang, Sanchez, Betances, and Joba Chamberlain every week. I would love that. See you tomorrow....

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jusqu'ici tout va bien

I'm breaking out of Yankees mode for a day to bring you a little something different. This has got to be the calm before the storm with Cashman on vacation, Clemens months from making a decision on his future, and the roster more or less set for Spring Training. It's brutal from a baseball junkie's standpoint, so I endeavor to bring you a little culture in the place of Yankees commentary.

I began studying French as a 5th grade student and continued through my 2nd year of university. I'm embarrassed to say that while I was once nearly fluent, I can barely order coffee and a baguette in 2007. The same can be said in some respect for my Spanish. I am a language lover, and have dabbled in Italian, Korean, Zulu and a number of other languages over the years. One of the great loves that I've acquired over those same years is a passion for French urban culture. Some of the most original, creative, and pure hip hop comes from the ghettos of Paris. There is great strife in France as a result of the often uneasy integration (or lack thereof) of the many former colonial citizens of the French empire. If you'll recall, last year there were some very serious riots in France over the issue of recognition and 2nd class citizenship. France was on fire.

Where there is great strife there is also often the raw power of creative energy that expresses itself in many ways. Hip hop has always been such an outlet for the colonized, marginalized, and cast aside. In the US, hip hop culture has been co-opted, commercialized, and generally robbed of its real angst. There is so much manufactured angst that it's sometimes hard to remember when the music was genuinely the voice of the inner city. French hip hop still maintains a lot of that creative, heartfelt vibe that hearkens back to the Golden Age in the US. To name a few of my favorites from the French scene, MC Solaar is the godfather of French hip hop and maybe the most famous to American music fans. Passi, Ahkenation, Mac Tyer, Kery James, and Saian Supa Crew are a few others that I try to keeps tabs on. Kery James and Saian Supa Crew are particular favorites, and I thought I'd bring them to your living room via the magic of You Tube.

The first two selections are videos from Kery James. "2 Issues" is a track about the perils of the street. As James puts it, there are only two ways out for most, behind bars or in a box. It's a song that paints a bleak picture of the violence and consequences of playing the ghetto game, and it resonated whether you understand French or not. The second video is a pure machismo track called "Patrimoine du Ghetto", which means "Inheritance of the Ghetto". This is a track about standing up against your foes, and remembering that the toughness you put out there is responsible for so many cemeteries full of ghetto youths. It asks the listener to think about the fact that those in the ghetto know the same pain and the same suffering and consider that they're all in the same boat. It's one of the best rap duets I've heard in years with a fluid back and forth that draws you in and moves you along with the story. Check them out:

The next two tracks are from the Saian Supa Crew who I found quite accidentally while browsing for music on You Tube. They have to be some of the most energetic and interesting artists out there with a lot of fun videos. They are a group of very different characters with a lot of different styles. The Crew blends together easily despite their varied approaches to rhyme, and the videos are really a blur of movement, changing scenery, and some excellent steadicam work. They remind me a little of Leaders of the New School. The first video here is called "X-raisons" and is a visual adventure. The steadicam work is dizzying, and the change from artist to artist is a kind of grab bag of styles to follow. The second video is called "La Preuve par Trois" or "The Proof by Three", whatever that means. See for yourself:

This music really became a passion for me after seeing the 1995 film "La Haine" or "The Hate" directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. Kassovitz is more recently well known for directing "Gothika" with Halle Berry, but made his mark with the critically acclaimed "La Haine". This is a film that transports you into the middle of the Parisian ghetto for a day in the life of three young men. The scene is set at the start with a brilliant opening montage featuring a riot in the streets set to Bob Marley's "Burnin' and Lootin'". A young Arab has been beaten and put in the hospital in critical condition as a result of a run in with the police, and the streets have erupted. The following day is captured through the eyes of the three main characters in an array of drugs, violence, angst, tension, insanity, and sometimes laughter. It's a commentary on police brutality in a way, but it's really a slice of life piece that puts you in the skin of some very deep and challenging characters. It's not an easy film, so don't expect any of the whimsy you get in French films like "Delicatessen", "Amelie", or "Moulin Rouge" for example. This is brutal and unforgiving, but it will make you think and it will make you feel.....gritty.

The trailer that follows is a bit vague in terms of the story and what you should expect, but you'll get a feel for the kind of atmosphere though, and maybe it'll spark your interest. One disclaimer, this film is apparently out of print in the US. It never was released on DVD, much to my dismay, and the NTSC VHS is now out of print. I have one with me here in Japan, but you may have to look real hard to get your hands on a copy. I promise, it will be worth the effort.

That's my cultural message for the day, and hopefully the Yankees will make some news soon, so I won't have to resort to such measures again. Hope you enjoyed this little change of pace.

Friday, January 12, 2007


It was great to see Andy Pettitte slip on the pinstripes again, once and for all this time. I was happy about the signing when it happened, but the press conference was something special. The smile on Andy's face showed his relief and excitement in being a Yankee again. It was meant to be. Andy is a Yankee and always has been. Even during the time he wore the Houston uniform, it was kind of a photographic footnote to the career he had in the Bronx.

I think the same can be said about Randy Johnson, come to think of it. It may or may not have been a wise move to bring him to New York in the first place, but it certainly was the best thing for all parties to have him return to Arizona. Much like Andy Pettitte yesterday, Randy Johnson's homecoming was a lovefest of sorts. He grinned from ear to ear enough to worry me that his perpetually grumpy countenance would never return. The first time someone asks him how he's doing, that should all go back to normal. It was a good fit for Johnson and the Diamondbacks to be married all those years ago. He won an astounding 4 Cy Youngs in their old purple and teal uniform, and helped lead them to their only championship. Going back to end his career was classic storybook style.

The two returning pitchers had me thinking today. Everyone was talking Roger Clemens as soon as Pettitte was done with his photo ops. John Heyman even gave the odds of a Clemens return to the Bronx as 75% in his article. Cashman said that he'd put on the full court press when the time was right. The Rocket is set to launch in the Bronx for the last time, right? Another great story about an aging pitcher returning to his roots to finish a fantastic career. Not so fast. If the storybook ending is what's in store for these guys, shouldn't Rocket be going to Boston to make peace with his roots? That would be consistent with the other two tales. After all Boston is the place that Clemens needs closure with.

In the end, it's hard to imagine Clemens pitching in Houston in 2007. It could happen with all the perks, big money, and the chance to train with his son, but I would put my money on the greatest rivalry in sports for the end of Roger Clemens. The stage is to great and the money figures to be just as large.

I'm going to buck the trend, and say that he goes to Boston and enters the rotation. I'm going to go ahead and predict that the Red Sox' closer sometime midway through the year will be Jonathan Papelbon. The Sox will go with Clemens, Schilling, Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Wakefield and Papelbon will solve the big gaping problem that is the Boston 9th inning. When Clemens finally hangs it up, Papelbon will join the rotation again. You'll see the pug nosed kid say all the right things about helping the team in the role that is most needed, and deferring to the legend that is Roger Clemens. He'll genuflect at the alter of the Rocket and there will be a huge lovefest for him as he slips on the Red Sox colors and brings everything full circle. That's how the story would end if I were writing the script. Of course the Yankees would still win the division though.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fight the Good Fight

We're all behind you Bobby. Fight the good fight, and we'll hold you your spot in the order at Old Timers Day whenever you're ready.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Kei Igawa is in the house. Cash Money keeps talking down expectations on Igawa, and lowering the bar for his introduction to the Bronx. It may turn out that Igawa is a league average guy with some rocky outings, but something in my gut tells me he'll do better than that. He won't be Daisuke Matsuzaka by a long shot, but he could shore up the back end of the Bombers rotation and make life very hard on teams who are looking for a weak link in the Yankees iron chain.

I wrote a few pieces about Igawa after winning his posting rights, so you can check out my thoughts at your leisure. I also submitted a piece to Mike A. over at Pending Pinstripes and I'm guessing that should be up soon as well.

In the meantime, welcome to the Bronx Kei Igawa. Kore kara yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Steal of the Deal

The New York Post is quoting an NL Scout who says that Ross Ohlendorf is the steal of the Randy Johnson deal. The article dances around the name Chien Ming Wang a bunch of times and quotes the GM as follows:

"This kid is special."
"He's a tough kid, a smart kid. He got over 1,500 on his SATs."
"He really has a power arm. He's the kind of kid you just love to have. He's special."
"Ohlendorf is the story of this trade. [Yankees GM] Brian [Cashman] got a steal."

I've been very high on Ohlendorf for quite some time now, and felt that he would be the sleeper in this deal. I expected Owings to front the trade, but in the end I'm extremely pleased to add Ohlendorf to the Bombers system. He's been called a C+ prospect by a number of scouting services, but I think that "+" at the end of the "C" could turn this player into a B prospect or better when all is said and done. To me, he's the most intriguing addition to the farm this offseason, and while Sanchez looks like the better "now" prospect, I can't wait to follow Ohlendorf as he does his thing in either Trenton or SWB. The Daily News also had this to say about Curtis Ross Ohlendorf.

The same scout calls Alberto Gonzalez Major League ready, with the chance to start for a number of teams now. He says that the bat is a bit weak, but he reminds him of Orlando Cabrera. Whoever this scout is says that he could be around for 10 years. I don't know what the truth is on any of these guys, and frankly there probably aren't more than a few people out there that have seen them enough to make a full analysis of their ability, but I'm satisfied, if not thrilled, with the trade. You can see my feelings in the post just below this.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Snake in the Grass, At Last

The Yankees and the Diamondbacks agreed to a less than inspiring deal that exchanges Randy Johnson and his $16 million, 43 year old, back surgery recovering body for Luis Vizcaino, Curtis Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson, and Alberto Gonzalez (no not that one).

On one hand, what should fans expect to get back for a guy with the aforementioned situation? Should we expect to get to A prospects and a reliever, as was reported in early speculation? Is this deal even value? At first, I thought this was a horrible trade. I felt strongly for about 10 minutes that Cashman got punked. Reflecting more on it now, I think it's fair value. The problem that I have with this deal is that I feel we should have held out for Vizcaino and Owings, at least. It's all well and good to get your reliever and 3 prospects, but those players are all B or C prospects. It's far more palatable to take home one A prospect as quality over quantity. Minor beef, maybe.

My take on what we get....

The centerpiece to this deal to me is Ross Ohlendorf. He's not stellar, but I feel like he has something to give the Yankees. My opinion early on was that we would do well to get Ohlendorf in the deal and I quietly coveted him. The thing is, those feelings came in the context that he'd be the secondary take in this transaction. It was contingent on either Owings or Nippert coming to the organization as well. Now, I'm a bit lukewarm. He's a nice young pitcher with a good head on his shoulders. He's showed some improvement in his time in the minors, but he gives up a ton of hits. His K/BB ratio is improving, but it remains to be seen if he's topped out. That's the key to the deal. If his power slider can be complimented with a couple of other plus pitches, and he can locate them, maybe he has a bright future. Otherwise, he'll just be another AAA pitcher that floats around before disappearing.

Vizcaino is the Major Leaguer in the deal. I'm not impressed. He's very mediocre as relievers go. He's another righty in a pen with better options. Bruney's upside is so much higher, and we got his when Zona simply cut him last season. That's a better acquisition. The peripherals on Vizcaino are not great. His OPS Against the last 3 years in Arizona have been .723, .757, and .705 and that's in the NL. That means that every hitter that faces him looks like a utility infielder or 4th outfielder. I suppose that's a good thing, but we have plenty of guys who seem like better options. Where does he pitch? Long relief? Is he going to get Proctor's innings? Farnsworth's? Bruney's? Not sure what his role is.

As for the other two prospects, Alberto Gonzales is a light hitting shortstop with a reputation for an excellent glove. He hit better last year, and his value is probably about as high as it's going to get. For the Yankees, he's basically a guy to plug into the minor league system and leave there until he's either packaged in a trade, or shrivels up and starts a Wendy's franchise somewhere. I kid. Honestly, there isn't really a place for him with the Yankees now, and I can hardly imagine the front office pulling off the bold move of finding another position for Jeter. Even if they did that, it makes more sense for A-Rod to resume his role there than to bring in a kid to play SS.

The fine D'Backs blog "Baby Backs" has this description of Gonzales:

Alberto Gonzalez, 23-years-old, SS, Venezuela

Signed in 2002 at 19 years old. The best defensive shortstop in the system, Gonzalez has made strides with his bat as well. He hit .318/.359/.426 in Low A South Bend and then handled a double-jump to Double A Tennessee remarkably well, hitting .290/.356/.392. He ended the season with a brief 4-game, 15 AB audition in Triple A Tucson and was part of the championship-winning team. He won’t be a middle of the order hitter with little power and with Drew being the D’Backs SS of the future he may have trouble reaching the Majors with this team, but his glove will give him a chance of having a Major League career. Will be Richar’s double-play partner in Tucson next year. Was 15th in BA’s Top 20 prospect list for the Southern League.

At 23 years old, with a AAA assignment ahead of him, Gonzales is a couple of years away from a Major League gig. He won't get it with the Yankees so, logically, he must be moved. A LOT of Major League teams covet young shortstop prospects, especially when they flash leather and hit for average. If this young guy can handle the stick even a little bit, watch him exit New York with a pitcher sometime this season or next.

Steven Jackson rounds out the players here. He's a AA pitcher with a Clemson background. had this to say about the 6'5", 220 pound righty:

Another college pitcher who jumps straight to Double-A after spending last year in Lo-A South Bend, Jackson is a pure power pitcher who has a devastating slider that caused, among other things, 12 wild pitches last season. The Diamondbacks made have openly stated they feel their Double-A rotation could be the big league rotation before too long, and for a long time, and expect big things from Jackson, a 10th round pick out of Clemson in 2004, this season.

I believe that AA rotation included Ohlendorf and Owings when this was written. If he turns into something, I'd be pleasantly surprised. Obviously Cash and company know a helluva lot more than me, but Owings would have looked nicer here. In the end, it's really hard to complain too much. Shedding the aged and infirmed crankpot that is Randy Johnson, and his big money, is a good thing. Getting some prospects back is also a good thing. The giant gaping question that must now be answered is who will step into Unit's place in the rotation once the season starts.

Clemens is the name. That would make Cashman look very good. The other options are Pavano, Rasner, Clippard, Sanchez, and Karstens. That's okay, but I'd love to see something a little more proven at the Major League level. Whatever happens, we still field the best team in the AL East, so Yankee fans' patience with this reorganizing of the system will certainly pay of in a year or two.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Done Deals?

After a lot of speculation recently, it appears the Yankees are on the verge of completing a number of things. The first, and most important of these deals is the Randy Johnson to Arizona affair. Dan Benton over at MVN's Off the Facade is reporting that the Yankees will announce before week's end that they have sent Big Unit to the D'Backs in exchange for Brandon Medders, Dustin Nippert, and Micah Owings. I was hoping for Ross Ohlendorf, but if Nippert can straighten his recent problems out, he is a potential monster.

I recently detailed the prospects involved in the bulk of the speculation swirling around. The addition of Nippert and Owings give us the following AAA ready talent:

Phil Hughes
Humberto Sanchez
Dustin Nippert
Micah Owings
Tyler Clippard
Darrell Rasner
Jeff Karstens
Steve White

That rotation may be better than a number of Major League staffs. Do the Royals put out thatcaliber rotation now? Tampa Bay? Pittsburgh? The problem now is an overabundance of pitching at the AAA level. At this point, you may see one of these players win a Major League job out of Spring Training unless Clemens decides to come back to start the year. It also opens the possibility that Cashman can package a few of the players here for a top flight Major League pitcher. Johan Santana has been bandied about, but he's not going anywhere this year. The Twins won the Central last season, and will try to do so again this year. Zambrano? Matt Cain?

The addition of Brandon Medders has also fostered speculation that Kyle Farnsworth will be sent packing. I don't know that this is true, but it certainly makes for good rumor mill grist. Medders turns 27 this month. He has a 151 ERA+ in 102 Major League innings. In that time he's posted a not very outstanding 2.00 K/BB ratio, and only registers a 6.88 K/9 rate. His minor league numbers were a lot nicer, and probably have given him that "potential" label to this point in his career. At 27 years old, as a reliever, it has to happen soon or it will never happen at all. We'll see. I wouldn't get rid of Farnsy just yet.

When this deal goes down, I'll talk about it a bit more and speculate on what it means for 2007 and beyond.

The other news of the day is the word that the Yankees are closer to a deal with Doug Mientkiewicz to play 1st. Since that's been the official word for weeks now, I assume that should the Yankees get any closer to Doug Mientkiewicz they may have to buy him dinner. I hate the idea of playing his backup catcheresque hitting everyday just to get a league average glove at first. I know it's likely that they are toying with the idea of playing Josh Phelps against lefties, and Mientkiewicz against righties. Whatever. If it happens, it happens. What about Andy Phillips? Does he end up in a package with the pitchers at AAA? Does he get bumped from the Big League roster. If I were Andy Phillips right now, I'd be looking for a new address ASAP.

There's no word recently about Mark Loretta as our utility infielder. If the Yankees can make that deal, I'd be ecstatic. He's got a career .299/.363/.402 batting line with a 101 OPS+ to his name. I know he wants a starting gig somewhere, but the Yankees could really use him and get him plenty of at bats. Being an everyday player is the most important thing to a guy with his level of accomplishment, so I can see some difficulty in adding him as a bench player, but as a Yankee fan I think our bench would suddenly be a great deal more solid with Loretta. At this point in his career, it's hard to plug him in everday at his declining ability. As a bench player he has top flight value.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Call Omar Minaya!

So I was in the hospital today, visiting my wife and son, and I got a request for a cool beverage from the lobby vending machine. Like the dutiful husband that I am, I went to the first floor with a pocketful of coins and perused the selection. Coca-Cola. Milk Tea. Milk Coffee. Pocari Sweat. Oolong Tea. Mets Grapefruit Beverage. Fanta. Wait!

Mets Grapefruit Beverage by Kirin. What the *&%*?

I did a double take and found that the green and yellow can before me was not only called "Mets" but the logo for "Mets" is actually similar to the Mets' font. See for yourself. The "M" doesn't have the trademark hook at the end of it among other things, and the "e" is more of a continuous loop. The cross on the "t" is a bit shorter, but the "s" is a dead ringer.

There's got to be some kind of copyright infringement going on here. I'm pretty sure that Omar Minaya and the New York Metropolitans of Flushing, Queens don't have a working arrangement with Kirin, and whats more I'm sure that MLB would have a logo on the can if that were the case. While they're not "exactly" the same, it's kind of an intellectual property case isn't it? If the logo is so similar as to confuse consumers, it's out of bounds. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd be interested to hear the copyright law on something like this. I think the burden of proof is that you must show that consumers have "actually" been confused that the Kirin drink is affiliated with the baseball team. I was.

As you can see I bought the can and brought it home. I just cracked the can and.....tastes like Fresca. Second sip.....yeah, kind of like Fresca. What Mets' player reminds me of Fresca? Off the top of my head.....Paul Lo Duca. Nothing says refreshing grapefruit flavor like adultery. See you tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Future Has Arrived

Now the Yankees..ees...ees..ees....

Numbah eleven..ven...ven...ven....


This morning (New Years Day in Japan) my wife and I were blessed with the arrival of our first child, a son. There are no words to describe this experience, but indeed I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Hiroto (HEE-roh-toh) Plugh (Ploo) is 7 pounds, 5 ounces and 20 inches long, born at 7:42am on the first day of 2007, year of the boar. His wingspan is absolutely ridiculous. He's all arms and legs like his daddy was, way back when.

My wife is a lefty so I'm hoping the free agent market for pitchers hasn't dried up by the time his rookie contract with the Bombers is up sometimes around 2036. At any rate, his lullaby has been "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" since he was conceived and he heard it for the first time this morning as a member of the air-breathing world. He smiled.

Play ball Hiroto!!