Always Exciting in the Bronx

So it's been an interesting week for the Yankees and their fans.

First, the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano, shoring up their bullpen and giving them one of the strongest one-two late-inning punches in baseball. It unquestionably makes the team stronger in 2011, narrows however slightly the gap between them and the Red Sox, and arguably pushes them over the bubble and into being the favorites to make the playoffs again. So, naturally, everyone hates it.

Well, not everyone. Wallace Matthews from ESPNNewYork loves it. Really, really, really, really loves it, to the tune of:

But if you're keeping score at home, score this offseason solidly in favor of the Yankees. … Just like that, the Yankees go from a wild-card team at best to favorites to win their division.

But, other than him, everyone hates* it. They hate the length, they hate the money, they hate losing a draft pick for a middle reliever, they hate the opt-out clauses, and they hate that Rafael Soriano is not a starting pitcher.

On top of that, there seems to be some evidence that Brian Cashman hates it, too, and so opens anew the nearly annual parlor game of "Guess How Much Control the Yankee GM Has Over Yankee Personnel."

(I'm using "hates" more poetically than literally here.)

It started with Buster Olney, who confirmed "there was a split of opinion" on Soriano in the Yankee front office, and that it was a "more ownership-driven deal."

That was somewhat rebutted/clarified by Jon Heyman, who said Cashman "preferred to keep [the] draft choice," but that "he in no way threw [a] body block to [the] Soriano deal." I'm not sure what this means, except that I guess he's saying Cashman didn't care enough to make a huge deal about it. Which makes sense because no one's quitting a dream job like that over a $35 million contract that makes your team better in 2011.

Heyman further commented that no GM has "full autonomy" over a team. Which, of course, is true: Witness Theo Epstein asking John Henry and Tom Werner for permission to throw megabucks at Carl Crawford. Of course, there's a big difference between asking the owner permission to spend his money and the owner forcing you to spend money (and a draft pick you already said publicly you would not give up) on a player you'd rather not acquire because he's "bothered by" your "blueprint" for the bullpen, as Bill Madden and Roger Rubin reported in the Daily News.

And things get weirder. Heyman tweeted that the Yankees would consider moving Joba Chamberlain, now displaced as Mariano Rivera's prime setup man, for a "viable starter." Which is strange, considering the last time we checked, Chamberlain was a viable starter, and not all that long ago either. Would the Yankees be happy getting back someone with a 4.18 ERA in 221 innings? Because that's Joba's line a starting pitcher. Looks pretty viable to me.

Finally, we have a missive today from Madden, in which someone raises a host of worries about Soriano, including whether his temperament is right for New York. Is this a Bronxpocalypse in the making? Probably not.

Madden's one-sentence summary in today's story probably has it about right:

The Steinbrenners' edict to sign Soriano does not necessarily signal a major breech in the Yankee hierarchy as much as it confirms that the GM does not enjoy the unquestioned autonomy he was perceived to have in the years right after George Steinbrenner's health began to decline. Like with the Boss when he was still the Boss, the final decisions are in the hands of the Steinbrenners.

There are worse things that can happen than being forced to compile one of the best bullpens in baseball. The real concerns are in the unanswered questions: Has this been the case for a while? Is this a one-time occurrence? Are we seeing the beginnings of a slippery-slope scenario? I suppose only Cashman himself can answer them, and he'll have that opportunity when his contract expires at the end of the upcoming season.

14 comments… add one

  • First – thank for taking my mind off that debacle in Foxboro – I can focus on the upcoming Sox season much clearer now.
    With the pen they have, I’d consider Joba for the rotation and see how things work out.
    Do Yankee fans here think that there is some friction between Cashman and Hank/Hal or are they just showing they are in control of this team like their Dad was for all those years?

    BillsBurgSF January 16, 2011, 10:04 pm
  • i agree with you paul…the logical move that came to my mind after hearing the soriano news was that it would free joba up to try starting again…he’s good enough to at least be a #4 or #5 giving them 5 or 6 decent innings…they won’t get anything better in return in a trade unless they sweeten the pot…
    the rest of it is much ado about nothing i’d say…anyone who believes that cashman has ever, even for a moment, had complete autonomy over personnel decisions, is delusional…the worst case scenario is that cashman has a little egg on his face over being so definitive about “his” plans in this particular situation…he needs to learn to be more vague, maybe even take lessons from jeter’s speechwriter…
    meddlesome ownership is not unique to the yankees…

    dc January 16, 2011, 11:09 pm
  • I think it’s easiest just to blame this one on Mo! He wanted him, he got him!
    I can’t believe the sh*t storm signing a reliever has caused over the past week or so. Signing a reliever was most definitely not a priority but (on paper) it has most definitely made the team better.
    As for who made the decision, who cares? Maybe I am missing the point of this whole argument/discussion, but regardless of who made it the Yankees are better (on paper at least) for it in 2011. I think people are looking (optimistically) for the Yankees to turn into the bumbling idiots of years gone by throwing money at anyone that would accept it. It’s not the 80’s. The Yankees signed Rafael Soriano, as of early last week the #1 free agent still on the board, not Ed Whitson!
    Finally can we please, please, please (not you Paul) stop talking about how we lost the 31st pick in the 2011 draft? I am super psyched that the Yankees have once again built up their farm system again (to a very respectable level) but let’s not get crazy! Posada, Jeter, A-Rod, etc…this team is built to win now. They had a chance to help this team win now. I am not saying sacrifice the future completely for the now, but it’s one pick in the draft, take a step back from the ledge.

    John - YF January 17, 2011, 9:13 am
  • right on john…you’ve said in one concise, eloquent post, what i’ve been trying to say in several disjointed, inchoherent ramblings over the past several days:
    while this signing was not the “plan” going in, in sure is a damn good plan b…the team got better, and we didn’t have to spend the entire $30 or $40m we had earmarked for this season’s additions, so there could still be other moves to be made later on…we added the best 2010 closer in baseball…we may not have the best starting pitching, but we arguably now have one of the best bullpens and still one of the top 3 or so offenses…
    the draft pick is only relevant if this current team had everything it needed going into the season to win the division, and from everything i’ve heard, it didn’t…if a starting pitcher could have been had without giving up the pick that probably would have been preferable [once cliff lee spurned us, of course]…remember we supposedly kicked the tires on a grienke trade…
    i think you’re right that some folks are hoping that the yanks are going to return to the dysfunctional days, which reared their ugly head as recently as a couple of years ago with the infamous arod renog allegedly spearheaded by hank …wishful thinking…somewhere behind closed doors as the end grew near, i think papa george realized which of his boys got which of his dna…there’s the smart, calculating, savvy, businessman beancounter, and then there’s the blustery boob…i’ll let you decide which is which, and which one you would want in control of your legacy…
    and i’ll say it again…no gm has complete autonomy…none…maybe for little decisions, like who the utility infielder is going to be, but for decisions of “magnitude”, and that’s different for every team, trust me the gm gets plenty of help [or interference]…if mo was part of that influence, or girardi, or hank, who cares?…it’s a team, right?…that should include the leadership
    “ed whitson”?…now i would have said “carl pavano”?…now that would be worthy of a “sh*t storm”

    dc January 17, 2011, 10:06 am
  • DC, it’s not like Cashman has a this sterling track record with trades and FA signings right? I mean if this guy was mistake free from start to finish, with only a few bumps in the road I can see this being a big deal. I like Cashman, he’s really the perfect man for the job personality wise, but he too has warts and plenty of them. So he didn’t want Soriano, great he’s on record now in case it doesn’t work out…and if it does then what? Can we fire him? As you can tell I am already sick of the off-season.
    As for Joba, how funny is it that the rumor comes out that they are willing to now move Joba like he’s some sort of sought after hot commodity? Other GM’s must be laughing, oh now you want to move him? After voiding him of all his once sky high value and only after you signed the best reliever on the market and no longer have a need for him? Sure we will give you _________ (insert other teams best pitcher here). Joba is the perfect example of how dumb it is to proclaim “He’s an untouchable prospect”…Think if that Halladay trade was still on the table the Yankees might not jump at it now?

    John - YF January 17, 2011, 10:17 am
  • we’re not going to have much of a debate here john, because again i agree with you…i get a chuckle out of the discussions that occasionally compare gm’s…they all make mistakes…we [sox and yanks fans] are fortunate that we root for teams that have a margin for error as wide as the grand canyon…are cashman or theo smarter than say the gm’s from minnesota or tampa bay [sorry can’t remember their names], who have somehow managed to keep their teams competetive without large pocketbooks?…like i said, no gm runs a team in a vacuum, and the team is better for it…
    yeah, the joba talk is bs, probably started by bored sportswriters…who would want to give any value for a guy that we screwed up…they’ll probably let him languish as a middle reliever, but i’d stick him in the rotation at the back end with nova and leave him alone…let him pitch like he’s been there, no innings limits, skipped starts, or any of that other nonsense…that stuff doesn’t work…look at hughes, he was on a roll last season until they decided to skip a start, then he got all messed up…

    dc January 17, 2011, 10:53 am
  • Oh that wasn’t a “DC, …” I just felt like talking to you specifically since we were seeing eye to eye pal!

    John - YF January 17, 2011, 11:04 am
  • we usually do buddy…bring on the naysayers!…where are you guys hiding? ;)

    dc January 17, 2011, 11:24 am
  • My thoughts on draft picks are clear…who cares really. We’re not the Pirates or Rays.
    As far as the whole Cashman declaration thing goes…it’s just more “Bronx banter”. Every tiny little thing done at the Stadium is ripped apart by all these writers with all their sources to death.
    Bottom line? We are better with Soriano than without him. I was fine with where we were before we signed him so i’m golden now.
    I tend to take it one year at a time because the “Core” is at the end of their run so let’s try and get them at least one more ring before they ride off into the sunset/HOF.
    We’ll figure out the rest later when ALL that money comes off the books and Hanley is a free agent. ;)

    krueg January 17, 2011, 12:48 pm
  • > naysayers?
    Neigh. Let’s make a horse/car metaphor.
    Your rich dad buys you a Ferrari California (okay, Florida) for your birthday. You wanted a solid family-mover diesel to get you through your five-day work week. But your “new” Ferrari is only ready to make short runs two out of five days, hopefully with a trunk full of groceries. Unfortunately, those are the same days when your trusty Bugatti Veyron SS is in the driveway. And the recent addition to your stable/garage wants to run, OH yes it does, because it already proved itself a late finisher, and that is what it does. And every time you take the horse out earlier, it gets more rowdy because you put it away before it can enjoy itself.
    So unless you are waiting for the Veyron to blow a head gasket, why didn’t you buy that diesel or a plow horse?
    It might work out just fine. Still seems silly. Like building a double-ended light saber when you really just need more Jedis.
    (Only slept two hours last night.. can’t be held responsible for ridiculous metaphors)

    attackgerbil January 17, 2011, 7:11 pm
  • “…can’t be held responsible for ridiculous metaphors…”
    no ag, i liked it…thing is, there wasn’t one “solid family-mover diesel” left on the lot, not even with a trade-in when my rich dad went to buy me that car…the ferrari was the only thing left on the lot of any value…dad was underbid on the car i really wanted, and for some reason, the dealer took that lowball offer…there was one other car left that no one seemed to want, it was actually my old car, an edsel, and i said i would walk before i’d ever drive that thing again…it was always broken down and in the shop…apparently my dad thinks there is room in the driveway for both the ferrari and the veyron, and there will be plenty of opportunities to drive both…is it overkill to have 2 elite closers?…probably…was it a good option given the circumstances and lack of other real options?…probably….”It might work out just fine.”…probably…

    dc January 18, 2011, 1:45 am
  • thing is, there wasn’t one “solid family-mover diesel” left on the lot,
    Yes and no. There’s certainly no one even as good as Carl Pavano (did I just type that?), but I’m still shocked the Yankees didn’t take a flier on Jeff Francis, especially given that he ended up signing for just a $2 million base salary.

    Paul SF January 18, 2011, 8:16 am
  • I started to type yesterday: If Carl Pavano’s name wasn’t Carl Pavano or if his agent had one of those Men In Black memory zappers the Yankees would have signed him this off-season. No question about it.
    As for Francis: I can’t say I am disappointed at all. I not big on soft tossers. Andy Pettitte is as close to a soft tosser as I want to get. I know, I know if I just took the time to get my nerd on I’d see evidence (Fangraphs loves him – called his signing one of the best of the off-season)that he could be a very good asset to the Yankees in 2011.

    John - YF January 18, 2011, 9:45 am
  • “…There’s certainly no one even as good as Carl Pavano (did I just type that?),…”
    yes, you did paul, but i can’t criticize you for it, because forgetting his yankee disaster, you’re absolutely right…by the way, he was the “edsel” i referred to, but i’m sure you knew that…moving on…since we don’t have a memory zapper, the next best thing is if he would settle for $2m i’d take another chance on him, even though i still think he’s a douchebag…he owes us a goodwill discount since he already fleeced us for $40m…but i don’t think i could handle seeing that dang porn-stache every 5th day…francis?, yeah, forgot about him…he’s another one of those “why not” type of guys…i still say stick joba in as a back end starter and let him go, without messing with him innings-limit-wise…

    dc January 18, 2011, 10:24 am

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