Let me preface my review of the book with the following: I am on record here at the site as being anything but a big Joe Torre fan. I do not and never have bowed at the altar of St. Joe. I always appreciated Joe and what he had meant to the Yankees, but I never felt like he was the only reason this team was successful. That being said the book that seemed to set the city and talk radio on fire all week, was really not that bad after all. It was an easy read. I read all 477 pages in just about three days. Most if not all of the quotes released in the papers last week can be attributed to people other than Torre. The A-Fraud comment, not Torre. The SWF comment, not Torre. The most critical comments in the book can be attributed to three people: Mike Borzello, the bullpen catcher for Joe Torre's 12 years with the Yankees, Mike Mussina and Tom Verducci. Torre walked a fine line between controversial and informative throughout the entire book. My only advice to curious baseball fans is to read the book for yourself. There is a ton on information on subjects other than the Yankees and Joe Torre. The book goes into the development of the current Red Sox dynasty and how focused Theo Epstein was on remaining true to their plan. There is some really good information on Mark Shapiro, the General Manager of the Indians and how he developed a system for keeping track of all things baseball related called DiamondView. If you love baseball and you like to read, give the book a chance. I am by no means trying to save Joe's reputation or trying to convince you that this book is something positive for the Yankees, it's just not. There a ton of details about current and former Yankees that should have never been made public, Joe is certainly guilty there. Even if the most controversial tidbits didn't come from him, Torre tied his name to a book that went against one of his biggest rules: keep what happens in the locker in the locker room. My advice, spend the $25 and read the book for yourself.
Saturday, January 31st, 2009
Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory has been alphabetically listing the team-by-team 2009 ZiPS projections. Today is the Red Sox' day, and while nothing looks terribly shocking on the offensive side (Ortiz and Bay as the Sox' two top power hitters, regression from Youk and Pedroia, decent if unspectacular production most everywhere but catcher), it's hard not to be surprised — and pleased — by projections like these:
ZiPS doesn't allocate by playing time, which is why you see a total of 228 games started here. That would certainly be a record. Masterson isn't likely to see many starts (though maybe he should, given that projection) and Penny is obviously going to start the season as the fifth starter — and a 4.81 ERA from that slot is nothing to worry about either.
Friday, January 30th, 2009
Sometime today we'll probably find out whether Jason Varitek is returning as catcher for the Boston Red Sox. Frankly, it's difficult to care.
Varitek hasn't come out of this looking very good. He first said he was so ignorant of the process he didn't know declining arbitration would attach a draft pick to his cost. Then he apparently was so shrewd he knew going to arb would allow the Red Sox to cut him (forgetting apparently that the Sox have never gone to arbitration with anyone). Now he may just retire or sit out 2009 than take a $5 million offer that is probably about $4 million more than what he could command from anyone else in this market.
I almost hope he does it, just to force the Red Sox to try out a younger catcher or make a trade, even if it's an overpay, for someone else. But Tek does still have value, and his return would provide a smoother, less acrimonious transition. Something tells me he will ultimately swallow his obviously considerable pride and agree to whatever deal it is the Sox have out there for him. If he does, that will be good for him and good for the Red Sox.
But if he doesn't, I won't be shedding many tears.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
Joe Torre pulls an Emily Litella in the NYT: Nevermind! Meanwhile, our pal Al goes into the A-Rod issue in a nice piece over on SI.com. Honestly, though, I just don't have the energy for this whole teapot tempest. Certainly, the Torre/Verducci proposition that Alex was the only needy, self-absorbed star in the Yankee clubhouse seems like revisionist horseshit. (Roger Clemens, anyone, for starters?) The Yankees haven't lost over the last 4 years because of A-Rod, or clubhouse mood, or a million other non-factors the tabs love to harp about, and the whole It's-been-downhill-since-2001 argument seems to defy any objective look at history. But for a couple of bounces here or a giant gnat storm there, things might be recalled much differently. So excuse me if I just sit this argument out for the time being. It's a busy week. If the Yanks biggest problem in 2009 is that they have to play A-Rod and his attitude at third all season, believe me, things are looking awfully good for the Pinstripes.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
The year after everyone got sick of people being pushed in front of or hurled beneath moving mass-transportation vehicles, we come to 2009's contribution to the ever-growing cliche lexicon: Kicking the can down the road.
George Bush was accused of doing it with Iraq. Congress is accused of doing it with entitlement reform. And the Boston Red Sox are about to do it — again — with their catcher situation.
The etymology of the phrase is easy enough to figure out, which is more than can be said for the Sox' plans for 2009-10 behind the plate. The Sox offered incumbent starter-Captain-intangiblemeister a $5 million contract for 2009 with a team option for another $5 million in 2010, or a player option for $3 million. That's a guaranteed $8 million over two years — two more years for the Sox to find a starting catcher after trading away two options (Kelly Shoppach and Josh Bard) during the past four.
When the Sox offered what appeared to be a willing overpay to Varitek in 2004 — four years, $40 million for performance that surprisingly wound up being worth just about $40 million — it was believed to either be a career-ending deal, or a deal that at least finished up Varitek's time as a starting catcher in Boston. The Sox in 2004 chose to kick the Varitek-replacement can a long way down the road. Yet here we are, kicking the can again.
Hey, sometimes that just happens. The Sox in retrospect should have held on to Shoppach and figured out another way to acquire Coco Crisp. Of course, they received Josh Bard in return, and trading him to the Padres didn't even require hindsight to look poor. Efforts to acquire catching (Kottaras for Wells, drafting Brown and Wagner) haven't panned out as well as hoped, while few quality catchers have been available for trade, and none at all have become free agents. This past offseason has seen a striking number of potentially available catchers in the trade market, which looked promising but has so far proven disappointing — the catchers all have significant question marks, and the teams' asking prices have been too high.
So here we are again, with Jason Varitek, who has until Saturday to decide whether the only offer he has is good enough for him to take. The betting here is that he'll take it, giving the Sox a little more leverage in the hopes of driving down the asking price for a young catcher to take Tek's miserable at-bats against right-handed pitchers and be the much-ballyhooed protege for the Captain's allegedly amazing game-calling and game-preparation skills.
Hopefully, that works out. Otherwise we'll be coming across that can soon enough.
It occurred to me that I no longer give a crap who might be catching for the Red Sox next year.
Or, more accurately, I don't care about the machinations surrounding the Sox and their semi-estranged (former?) captain. I also don't care what they pay him, if they so choose to pay him something. Really, it's getting insanely boring. More words have been written, across the web and in the print media, about the nuance of arbitration rejections, illicit dalliances with sideline reporters, club and player options, than are justified. I mean, there's a seven page (and only two day old!) thread on SoSH regarding the recent contract details and a 22 page thread about the pluses and minuses of bringing Tek back. Couldn't this have been handled more succinctly? Let's try:
pluses: familiarity with pitching staff, whatever that's worth, hair that reminds me of Ray Bourque's, raises the Sox-in-residence quotient of my hometown (Newton), plus the sentimental value of seeing a guy possibly retire with a team with whom he has spent a decade.
minuses: everything else
See, that didn't take 22 pages and 440 comments.
I wish the player would stop talking and the team would plug their leaky boat at this point. Take your time, Tek, if that's what you need. But do it quietly, please. I'm trying to rest up for the regular season.
Monday, January 26th, 2009
Andy Pettitte is returning to the Yanks according to the AP. He's taking a huge pay cut, but one wonders if Joe Torre's explosive jeremiad against the Yanks, A-Rod, the Bronx, the fans, my family, your family, everyone's family, and your momma, gave the big lefty ideas about a way to make up for the financial loss. Is Andy's own best-selling tell all now in the making? If I were his agent, I'd recommend he carry around a recorder and notebook and hang out with A-Rod in 2009.
Meanwhile, what the hell is happening to the free agent market? If the article is accurate, Pettitte is only guaranteed to make $5.5 million, with incentives raising his salary another $6.5 million. Seems like a nice deal for the Yanks.
Sunday, January 25th, 2009
The talk of Yankee Universe is Joe Torre's forthcoming book The Yankee Years. Co-authored with Tom Verducci, the 477-pager is a tell-all about his time as the Bombers' manager. The early reports say the book has some less-than-flattering depictions of A-Rod, Brian Cashman and others in the Yankee brass. From the Post:
Scorned skipper Joe Torreis blasting the Yankees – calling many of his former players prima
donnas, confessing he stopped trusting the powers that be years before
he left the team and charging that general manager Brian Cashman betrayed him.
In an explosive new book called "The Yankee Years," Torre gets most
personal in his attacks against Alex Rodriguez who he says was called
"A-Fraud" by his teammates after he developed a "Single White
Female"-like obsession with team captain Derek Jeter and asked for a personal clubhouse assistant to run errands for him.
The cynics among us will undoubtedly focus on these titillating and controversial details. I, for one, owing to a poor formal education, am having trouble understanding this last story. Did A-Rod want a personal clubhouse attendant for himself or for Jeter? And did he wear a red wig and make Jeter wear one as well? Or was the personal attendant hired to look like Derek Jeter…in a red wig? All of this is a distraction from what I am sure is the generally pleasant tone of Torre's memoir. Yes, there are chapters titled "Kevin Brown: Douchebag" and "Jeff Weaver: You've Got to Be F*cking Kidding Me", but in general Torre's book is gracious, a loving look back at a special time. It's a cliche these days that negativity sells newspapers, but it's a shame that the Post reporters and other of their ilk don't include Torre's loving portraits of Miguel Cairo (from page 323: "To this day, I think he was more valuable to this team than A-Fraud.") and Scott Proctor (page 35, 42, 46, 86, 222, 223: "I know I've said this before, but Scott's arm was just so perfect. The guy had once-in-a-generation stuff.").
Oh well, I am sure no one will dwell on those details. A-Rod will be sure to have to answer questions about those red wigs lying around his locker while we'll hear nothing from Proctor or Cairo all season.
Friday, January 23rd, 2009
Keith Law yesterday opened the Prospectalooza that is the numerous Top 100 prospects lists we see around this time every year. The big surprise (at least to me) is that power 1B Lars Anderson is the No. 7 prospect in all of baseball. I've heard lots of good things about him, but No. 7??
Law says this about him:
Anderson has outstanding plate discipline for a prospect his age – or any age, really, but his relative youth makes it much more impressive. His career OBP sits at .404, and you can see a cerebral approach to the strike zone. … once he gets started, he's very short to the ball and makes a lot of hard contact with good backspin. He has the swing and physical potential to hit 30-plus home runs, but is still working out which pitches to pull and which pitches to take to the opposite field. He's adequate at first base despite being a well below-average runner. Despite the fact that he finished 2008 with a strong performance in Double-A, Anderson is a few years away from becoming an impact big-league hitter with both a high OBP and big power, but he has the complete package and only requires development time to get there.
Well, I'll be. Color me a little more excited about him than I was before. The rest of the relevant (for this site) Top 100 (26-100 are Insider only):
- 7: Anderson
- 46: Austin Jackson — "he's still a great athlete, but it's not translating into baseball skills as quickly as hoped."
- 52: Michael Bowden — "no ceiling" but also not likely to be more than a No. 4.
- 81: Nick Hagadone — would have been Top 40 except for TJ surgery
- 83: Jesus Montero — "Catcher in name only" but a "very promising bat" that would work at first
- 90: Junichi Tazawa — could be in bigs by year's end, but looks better as a reliever
- 94: Daniel Bard — all stuff, no head
- 95: Andrew Brackman — "Significant upside" if he can stay healthy and regain command after TJ
- HM: Dellin Betances — "All upside" with great stuff but needs a lot of development
- HM: Josh Reddick — Great bat, great arm, poor plate discipline
- Missed the cut for Boston: Casey Kelly, Stolmy Pimentel, Ryan Westmoreland, Michael Almanzar
- Missed the cut for New York: Zach McAllister
Thursday, January 22nd, 2009
In one of the more unlikely pairings in recent memory, a few weeks ago Moose Skowron appeared on the (brilliant) NPR program "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." Moose spent much of the program correcting host Peter Segal about his playing record, but apparently his sense of the history isn't quite so perfect either, as Ron Kaplan points out in most amusing fashion.
The New York Times today points out the impressive number of players with impressive Hall of Fame credentials who remain unsigned with less than a month before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report:
By then, perhaps Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Iván Rodríguez and Tom Glavine will have jobs. Or maybe they will still be searching for a place to play.
Retirement could be an option, too. (Jeff Kent will go that route Thursday.)
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
For the second season in a row I had the honor and privilege of attending the World Baseball Coaches Convention in Uncasville, Connecticut. The event is put together by a group headed by former major leaguer Pete Walker. This year's speakers included John Farrell, the pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox, Trey Hillman, manager of the Kansas City Royals and Turtle Thomas, head coach at Florida International and formerly of LSU. Other notable speakers at the convention were Matt Nokes, Rich Gedman, Steve Phillips and Jim Penders. Nokes is pedaling a new approach to hitting, which in my eyes needs a lot of help to catch on. There is just far too much movement before the swing for high school players to grasp. Jim Penders is the head coach over at UCONN and absolutely brilliant baseball man; I would not be shocked to see him at the next level sometime soon. Also in attendance, but not speaking was Jennie Finch. She was promoting her new device she has called The Finch Windmill. After being around a bunch of Oakley wearing dudes for three days, she was a sight for sore eyes.
The Red Sox, as we all know, have taken their penchant for throwing the proverbial poop against the wall to new heights this year, combining it with their penchant for signing injury-risk players to low-cost deals. They've signed five players coming off injury with an impressive level past performance for a combined guaranteed base total of $12.5 million. Of course, if all five are healthy and reach their maximum incentives, the Sox would spend another $25 million — a total of $37.5 million for the five players, still not a bad deal.
But the chances of that are very slim indeed. The analogy thrown around has been that the Sox bought five lottery tickets with the expectation that the payoff from one will make all five worth it. It makes sense, and as unrealistic as it is to assume all five will go down as key contributors to whatever the 2009 Red Sox achieve, it seems equally unrealistic that all five will be considered busts. Heck, the Sox even got some value out of Bartolo Colon last year, right?
Here are the five, and my thoughts on their likelihood of contributing for a significant stretch of 2009, ranked in order of likelihood. I've also included their stats (and FanGraphs win value from their last healthy season and the Marcel projections for 2009 (the best we've got until PECOTA comes out).
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009