Sunday, May 06, 2007

Revisionist History

I love when something big happens and there's a bunch of fallout in the media. You knew that there'd be words about Clemens from Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, media pundits and more. You could almost hear Red Sox Nation simultaneously shouting, "&^%& you Roger!" after his appearance at the Stadium. Yankee fans would have done the same. If Clemens had picked Boston, we'd all be cursing him from now until October.

The hilarious part of the whole thing is the reaction of those people who say he's going to stink and that he's in decline and that he can't pitch in the AL East. I read a comment somewhere that said Clemens was facing Russ Ortiz in Houston and will now have to face David Ortiz. That's just funny on so many levels. The boys over at Firebrand of the American League analyze the signing, and I think do a fairly good job of it. I think the point that people are missing is the fact that Clemens has a relationship with Joe Torre and Derek Jeter, not to mention the Boss, that he simply just doesn't have with anyone on the current Red Sox roster. Terry Francona, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Mr. Henry and Theo Epstein....they're probably all nice people, but not Clemens brothers in arms. The respect that Torre's players have for him is something that we can't overlook. Jeter too.

I know Clemens came back for money, but there is more to it. I also know that anyone who is now saying that they didn't want him, or don't need him is just fooling themself. I find the Red Sox (Ortiz, Schilling, Tavarez, etc...) disingenuous because we all know where things stood breaking camp. Look at this from the April 9th Boston Globe:

"You can never have enough pitching. Just ask Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. Appearing yesterday with manager Terry Francona at a promotional event for Dunkin' Donuts, the Sox infielders were asked who they'd most like to see in a Sox uniform. "Roger Clemens," they replied without hesitation."

Bob Ryan wrote as recently as May 3rd that Theo Epstein should throw Henry's wallet at Clemens because you can never have enough pitching. He was right. If Boston added Rocket to Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield they'd be the odds on favorite to win the whole thing. They'd probably have the entire New England region doing the conga line thing, kicking dirt on the Yankees grave and worshiping at the altar of their returned hero. All the talk of raising #21 to the rafters and Roger wearing his "B" cap on his Hall of Fame bust. Forget all that today because Clemens is a washed up 44-year old pitcher who can't hack it in the AL East and will only give the Yankees 5 or 6 innings of fair pitching.

Denial is more than a river in Egypt.

Nothing is guaranteed. Clemens may have some struggles ahead. You just don't know until he steps on the mound and throws. Until he does that, the pessimism is just sour grapes based on emotion and not precedent. The precedent says that Clemens will be very good and that the Yankees just got a whole lot better. For fun, I went to check the seasons that Nolan Ryan pitched past 40-years old. I wanted to see how Roger Clemens stacks up against his hero, and how much precedent there is for a 40-something Hall of Fame strikeout king from Texas to continue dominating this late in his career. I'll list the ERA+ numbers of Ryan on the left and Clemens on the right:

40 years old: 142/112
41 years old: 94/145
42 years old: 124/221
43 years old: 114/197
44 years old: 138/???
45 years old: 102/???

Ryan wasn't nearly the physical specimen that Clemens is today. Clemens' workout routine is grueling and he still holds much of his power. He may not give you the length that he once did, but if he helps to the tune of a 138 ERA+ as Ryan did at the same age, he'll help the Yankees fight for the playoffs and likely start Game One. That's what the Yankees paid for. Again, nothing is guaranteed, but to write him off out of spite is ignoring some important things on the side of precedent.

Jerry Crasnik of ESPN writes that the Yankees have reverted to their old ways. He writes:

"The irony is, Cashman's new master plan for the Yankees was heading away from the time-honored practice of throwing money at every problem. The Yankees traded Gary Sheffield to Detroit for three young pitchers in November, and they rebuilt their farm system by refusing to deal away Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Hughes and their other top prospects for immediate, high-priced help. New York's minor league talent, ranked 27th in the game by Baseball America in 2004, currently checks in at No. 7.

But there's nothing like a crisis to make a club revert to old habits. Think about it: The Yankees are about to spend $4.5 million a month on a guy who's 3 months older than Jamie Moyer."

That analysis, too, is a little off base. Crasnick is operating under the assumption that Cashman is on a cut payroll, develop the minors, shy away from spending system. What Cashman is in fact doing is slightly different. Cashman is not spending on things that he can address in more cost-efficient ways. He is running the Yankees in a Moneyball-esque mannerm, where he will find gaps in the market to fill his needs. He won't go sign Carl Pavano anymore when he can develop Phil Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, Tyler Clippars, Ross Ohlendorf, Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, Adam Kennedy, and so on. He WILL drop a truckload of money on Roger Clemens' doorstep, or Johan Santana's. The power of the $1.2 billion New York Yankees is the power to buy the luxury item. The intelligence of Cashman is to know which item is truly of luxury value. The rest of the roster can be filled in with internally developed players. Clemens, Pettitte, and Mussina are all stop gap pitchers in the present, while the minor leagues are beefing up. You'll see him go out and buy another player or two over the next couple of years while he concentrates on position players. It doesn't happen overnight, so you spend on short term, high upside deals.


jrvj said...


Good analysis.

Personally, I think that the best parallel to the signing of the Rocket's signing is the Abreu - Lidle trade of last year.

On that one, the Yankees took advantage of their intrinsic ability to take on salary, even if for only a short time (Lidle, God bless his soul, was a FA at the end of 2006, and Cashman probably suspected that he was not going to be keep Abreu and Sheff).

I still think the Yanks are serious about decreasing their payroll long term. However, it's clear that they realize that it's penny wise and pound foolish to decrease salary this year and then lose out on the playoffs and 4,000,000 fan attendance marks of recent years....


Michael said...

One of the guys over at Highbrid Nation wrote a very interesting post about Roger Clemems and and the "real" reason he has come back to play for the Yankees. Good Stuff.

Jim said...

Wang/Clemens/Pettite/Hughes/Mussina -- that's a rotation I'll take into October. And for those who say Roger's no good for more than five innings? Well, Yanks will have Rasner/Igawa for long relief, Scott Procter to put out fires and 95% of Mariano to close things out. Meanwhile we're developing all those good young arms Cash-man picked up in the off season. Can you spell D Y N A S T Y?

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