Jimmy Dugan: As the resident expert on John Rocker, the misunderstood, enlightened philosopher of the 1990's, what would he say about the state of the New York Yankees going into the 2009 season?
Jeff Pearlman: He'd probably say, "I like what they're doing with the pitching staff. Now would you like fries or onion rings with that?"
JD: Is Torre a complete traitor or does he deserve to vent after years of being caged by Steinbrenner?
JP: There's no loyalty in corporate America today, from the powers that be to the employees, so why should Joe Torre show loyalty back? He had a great run, the Yankees had a great run, he has opinions and he's being paid much money to do so. I have no problem with that.
JD: If the Yankees pick up Manny Ramirez will the Yankees become the University of Delaware to the Mets version of Delaware State?
JP: No, the Yankees would be USC to the Mets' DeVry.
JD: Imagine you are Brian Cashman. Is the answer for center field already a Yankee?
JP:Well, they have such a great lineup that it's the sort of thing where the team can afford to have a good glove with some speed out there, and just hope he hits .250 with four homers and 20-to-30 steals from the eight hole. In other words, I'd say Yes.
JD: We have noticed that you recently moved from ESPN to SI. Were you the "player to be named later" in the deal for Rick Reilly?
JP: I wasn't even an empty can of Mr. Pibb.
JD: What do the Yankees do if Posada's shoulder just doesn't respond?
JP: What they always do—spend huge amounts of money to steal someone else's catcher.
JD: Since you are the biggest Barroid expert this side of Pedro Gomez, i ask you this: is he the least likeable character that you have written about? Personally I can't see him as anything worse than on par with Keith Hernandez.
JP: He's 8,000,000,000,000,000 times worse than Hernandez. Hell, he's worse than Rocker. Yes, he's a terrible, terrible human being.
JD: As a professional journalist, does your jaw drop like mine when you find out deplorable things about the Cowboys in the 1990's?
JP: No, because I've seen the insides of locker rooms and clubhouses. I've heard the stories for years and years. Truthfully, nothing surprises me anymore. It just entertains me.
JD: My readers may not know this, but you and I actually hail from two towns on opposite sides of a bitter rivalry in upstate New York. I attended Carmel High School while you were a student at the clearly inferior Mahopac High. Share a fond Rams-Indians sports memory with us.
JP: Hmm ... this isn't a sports story. But it's Carmel-related. As a high school junior I'd never kissed a girl, and I was invited to the 1989 Carmel High junior prom by Jody Cohen. I knew Jody from Hebrew school—beautiful girl, always had a little crush on her. Anyhow, all night I was thinking, "Tonight I'm finally going to kiss a girl." The prom ends, we go back to my house in Mahopac. I pull my dad aside and say, "Let me drive her home. Please." Well, my dad could be strict about certain things, and I had yet to earn my senior license. In other words, I couldn't drive alone past 9 pm. So my dad drives us to Jody's house, and as I walk her to her door, the car's running, headlights on, my old man sitting there watching. I pussed out, didn't kiss her. Kills me to this day.
The Fowl Balls would like to thank Jeff Pearlman for putting up with us. You can buy his books here, read his work on si.com, and be sure to check out his blog, jeffpearlman.com. He has a link to the history of farts. Brilliant.
What do the Yankees do if Jorge Posada can’t play catcher anymore?
They are a team filled to the brim with Designated Hitters waiting-to-happen, so if Posada’s shoulder is no-good and he can’t throw out enough runners to keep anyone honest, then the Yankees have a big problem. (See Gary Carter after 1987).
How big, you ask? Posada is still owed $32 Million over the next two seasons. While last year was the first year in 11 years that Posada played in less than 110 games, age is a factor as is the injury that limited him to only 168 at-bats last season. He is, at 37 years old, a very big question mark.
So, if not Posada, then what? Well, after last season every Yankee fan has to love Jose Molina, but it must also be understood that he will never be more than Jose Molina. The middle of the 3 “Flying” Molina brothers, at 33 Jose has defined himself as a defensive asset and offensive liability. No one with any sense of the game of baseball sees that changing.
With no feasible minor league catcher ready to ascend to the big league level, what do the Bombers do if Jorge can’t play or goes down early?
With no free agent catcher available under the age of 33, the water is muddy. But yours truly, the Deputy Dog, votes for the best defensive catcher of all-time, Ivan Rodriguez. The market for Pudge is cool at best and he could be had for a fraction of the $12.2 Million he made last year.
The knock, of course, is that he is 37 years old. So is Posada and the Yankees gave him $45 Million. At age 36, I-Rod played in 115 games last season and is still the owner of 13 American League Gold Gloves behind the dish.
Pudge batted .276 in slightly fewer than 400 at-bats last year, though his power production slipped. The guy is still a consummate professional and the best to ever wear a catcher’s mitt. Rodriguez also stayed in solid off-season shape as he prepared for the World Baseball Classic, so you know he is ready to go when camp opens.
While anyone that roots for the Yankees would like to have Dioner Navarro back in pinstripes, that’s not going to happen. I would hate to have to see Joe Girardi put the gear on this season. Managing and catching is just too much to ask from one man.
In staying true to my previous columns, it’s only money and they are the Yankees. So, I, the Deputy Dog, soundly endorse Ivan Rodriguez for backup catcher.
Exclusive with Joe Torre on CNN's Larry King Live on Friday, January 30, 2009 at
9 p.m. ET. For more information, please visit www.cnn.com/larryking. You can now submit a video question on the website!
So, in light of this email, I encourage you all to submit video questions giving Mr. Torre the finger. Thanks for reading the site, Larry King staffer, and getting some knowledge on exactly what we think of Mr. T's antics before sending along an attempt to plug his backpeddling appearance. This is what happens when you run a website that gets a few hits. These are the idiots that I am dealing with here.
- Please be sure to check out our "links" section. We have worked hard to hand select the best blogs and resources on the interhighway.
- Peter Abraham will be running a piece that I wrote about Nick Swisher tomorrow. Be sure to pop over there and give it a look.
- The contest for a free t-shirt will be announced this afternoon.
That is all.
According to Buster Olney's report, it looks as though Bobby Abreu might be willing to take a one year deal. Suffice to say that the contract that Abreu is looking for will be worth far less than the $16 million that the Yankees would have been required to pay him, had he accepted arbitration. Cash took a lot of heat for failing to offer arb to the right fielder, but in hindsight this may have been the most important move of the offseason. If Bobby Abreu was on the books for $16 million in '09, do the Yankees sign Mark Teixeira?
To make room for Andy Pettitte, the Yankees designated Chase Wright for assignment. Wright has done well to become a legitimate pitcher again in the Minors following his four consecutive home run meltdown as a rookie in Fenway Park (pictured above). Our friends over at RAB dont think that Wright will clear waivers, and I have to agree. Twenty-six year old, serviceable, left handed starters rarely do. Happy trails Chase. We hope that you can continue to cut the mesh stuff out of your hat like an eight grade wrestler for another major league team.
|As we told you when we "settled things" a few days ago, the Yankees are back in serious talks with Andy Pettitte. Less than 50-50 my ass.|
Update - Buster Olney says the contract looks like $6 million guaranteed with $6 million in incentives. Nice deal. Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Chamberlain, Pettitte to start the season sounds pretty good to me.
As first reported on in the NY Post and Daily News, Torre's forthcoming, tell-all book will be launching a cross-country assault on 161st and River Ave. Apparently the book, "The Yankee Years," reveals that teammates of Alex Rodriguez referred to him as "A-Fraud" behind closed doors, as well as uncovering the anger that Torre still harbors for Brian Cashman.
The book is billed as a "third-person narrative" by SI's Tom Verducci, and not a personal retelling on Torre's behalf. Although I have to say that even if these little exerpts were taken from a single, five minute interview with Torre, my view of the man has changed. Though I have had my share of disagreements with the way that Torre ran the Yankees late in his tenure, there has never been a lack of respect on my part when it came to Torre as a man. He was always the consummate professional, and did will in handling the egos withing a clubhouse full of All Stars, if not Hall of Famers. Taking back handed swipes at an organization that handed you the keys to a championship-caliber team despite a career losing record is not what I would deem professional.
The positioning of draft picks has a very different effect on the Yankees than it does other teams. Due to their economic clout, the Bombers have the ability to draft elite talent in later rounds. Names like Dellin Betances, Brad Suttle, Mark Melancon and Austin Jackson show up in round four or later in recent drafts. These were players that had tags like "strong commitment" and "unlikely to sign" attached to them before the Yankees opened their checkbook. Now, they are four of the top ten prospects in the Yankees organization according to Baseball America.
What this illustrates is that every pick counts for the Yankees, especially after Type A free agents like Bobby Abreu did not net the team extra picks. The smart move would be to stand pat on free agents; with one exception.
That exception is Andy Pettitte. I am unwavering in my belief that Pettitte will begin this season as the Yankees number five starter. Sources cited by SI's John Heyman say that there is a "less than a 50%" chance that Andy returns, but I can't see it. At the end of the day, Pettitte doesn't want to pitch anywhere else, but he doesn't want to stop pitching. The Yankees are said to be holding firm at their offer of $10 million, but I think they bend. Call it one year, $13 million and everyone is happy. There, I fixed everything again.
The Yankees need another starting pitcher. Andy Pettitte remains in the double-talk limbo and the waiting game for Ben Sheets continues. So what to do?
Brian Cashman continues to ignore the brilliant staff here at The Fowl Balls, (that would be Jimmy Dugan and myself), leaving centerfield in the ridiculous overpaid and under-skilled hands of Melky Cabrera while Andruw Jones remains unsigned and Felix Pie was traded for a pine tar rag.
Let me make one more suggestion Mr. Cashman. RICH HILL.
He’s 28 years-old and he’s left handed. What the hell else needs to be said?
His salary for 2008 was $445,000 and by only starting 5 games last season, I don’t think he’s in-line for a raise just yet. Hill was sent back to the minors in May and then hit the DL in August. So, if Ca$hman wants to play the budget card, Hill is the man to do it with.
In his only full season of 2007, Hill started 32 games and pitched 195 innings to an ERA of just under 4. He gave up less than 1 hit per inning and struck out 183 batters, so there is clear evidence of the ability to get out hitters at the big league level. He also averaged fewer than 2 walks per start, which translated to a WHIP of 1.195 (8th in NL in 2007). There is definite upside there and, oh, did I mention that he’s LEFT HANDED?
The Cubs are said to be out of patience with the young Mr. Hill and he could probably be had for a dozen donuts and a fungo bat. What is Cashman waiting for? It’s an arms race, so stockpiling an inexpensive 6ft. 5in. hard-throwing left-hander is a good thing. Hell, it’s just stupid not to go get him.
Hill, much like Andruw Jones, is low-risk and high-potential. Need I say more?
Update: No, I am still got getting paid as a special advisor to the Yankees.
According to Bruce Miles ath the Daily Herald, Felix Pie of the Cubs is "Likely to be traded before spring training". This is a classic buy low opportunity that could potentially be a steal for the Yankees. Pie also has much more upside than other options, including Andruw Jones (sorry Deputy Dog), and would cost less than Mike Cameron.
The first thing most of our readers will do is go here and check out Pie's stats. Don't. He has been terrible in his 260 Major League at bats, striking out 76 times. That Rob Deer-like performance is not what I am looking at. In his minor league career, Pie has shown flashes of the five tool ability that scouts have raved about for the last 5+ years. He has hit as a .299 clip in 2500+ minor league at bats, over a thousand of which coming at the AAA level. His strikeout numbers are also considerably better than his brief stints with the Cubs.
Apparently, the Cubs are frustrated with his "slow progress", but keep in mind that Pie is still yet to see his 24th birthday. For what looks to be a minimal price, Felix Pie could be a steal, as well as the starting center fielder for 2009. I know that Yankee fans are anxious to see Austin Jackson patrol that piece of real estate, but the organization does not view him as major league ready. How about a 2010 OF of Pie, Jackson and Swisher? (who will be coming off of a bounceback year, but more about that later)
There is, however, a horrific downside to this. To be forced to listed to John Sterling's morbidly obese self repeatedly explain how to pronouce Pie (by the way: its pee-A) in the same fashion that we found out that Xavier Nady likes to pronounce the 'X' in his name is enough to make me want to rip my ears off. Collateral damage, I suppose.
|According to the horrifically depleted nj.com, a man named Ryan Ward has been brought up on charges for impersonating Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.|
He's charged with scamming a Belmar bagel shop out of free food last summer after allegedly telling an employee, "Do you know who I am?" and pointing to a photo of Chamberlain in a newspaper sports section.
To me, this is an outrage. Close your eyes and imagine you are Joba Chamberlain. Pretty cool, right? You are the toast of New York, with an infectious personality and a right arm worth millions. Keep your eyes closed. Now imagine you are Joba without all of those things. Would that make you happy? Could you imagine living life as a fat asshole that has to act like someone famous to get some AquaNet laden girl to talk to him in the armpit of New Jersey? Yeah, things would be different then, wouldn't they.
So, I ask the court, give Ryan Ward a break. True he did get a free bagel, but at the game of life he still loses.
In news that uplifted my spirits and faith in humanity, the First Lady passed this little gem on to me this morning. Apparently Alex Rodriguez was spotted out on a romantic date with Kate Hudson. It's like he was in bed with Madonna one night and thought to himself "this is exactly what I want, except 40 years younger".
I have been living for months unable to escape the notion that the greatest baseball player on the planet could do no better than a washed up, veiny, saddle bag of a pop star. Even though she doesn't start my motor, Kate Hudson certainly fits the bill of superstar girlfriend. Thank you Alex. Thank you for making the world make sense again.
|Candidate for the Yankees bench in 2009:|
Eric Hinske. Versatility to play both outfield corners and first base, and 20 home runs in three hundred eighty one at bats last year for the Ex-Rays. It baffles me that this guy is still looking for work while the Yankees are signing guys like Angel Berroa and his career 77 OPS+ for bench help.
Somebody call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance. In an article on MLB.com, Carl Pavano had this to say about his tenure in New York:
Update: I just realized that in my hatred for Carl Pavano, I have neglected his fans. For those of you Carl Pavano fans in the Cleveland area, I would like to extend an olive branch to keep you on as loyal readers. Click here, and have a great time this weekend!
|Staying true to their underdog, small-market, "we-don't-have-as-much-money-as-the-Yankees" mentality, the Boston Red Cross look to be on the verge of signing perennial injuries John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli. Congratulations. I don't think that shopping at free agent Marshall's is going to do it this year, Mr. Henry.|
To make room for Big Teix, Shelly Duncan (pictured above) was DFA'd today.
In news more pertinent to an actual impact at the Major League level, Brian Cashman disclosed that Phil Coke was told to prepare as a starter for the 2009 season. Ah, to be a hard throwing lefty. This guy will have a job until that arm falls off.
This brings us to our favorite sour grapes display, provided to you courtesy of Boston Dirt Dogs. These drunken Irish frat boys actually liken the Yankees signing of a 29 year old, durable, stud first baseman to the signing of Carl Pavano. CARL PAVANO. It must be hard to avoid typos while you are dropping tears and snot all over your keyboard.
With the Patriots missing the playoffs, and now this, I was not sure that I could be happier. The topper will be when their championship caliber Celtics sign proverbial cancer Stephon Marbury to blow up their team. F*ck you all.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Indians are in serious discussions with free agent starter Carl Pavano. Pavano will visit Cleveland soon and a deal could be wrapped up quickly. We'll have to see if Pavano can come close to the $2MM guaranteed Mike Hampton received from the Astros.
Good luck with that. Luckily for the Indians, this contract will likely be paid out of the "Free Money From the Yankees Fund" that most small market teams use to cover payroll.
|According to Tyler Kepner of the NY Times, Sir Schnoz has told the Yankees that he is not interested in signing their offer for one year, $10 million deal. |
This begs the question: if Pettitte doesn't sign, as most Yankee fans just figured he would, who becomes the fifth starter? With Phil Hughes in dire need of starting another season in AAA, and pitchers like the debacle that is Oliver Perez, and Ben "I make AJ Burnett look like Cal Ripken" Sheets left on the market, what options are there?
Fear not; as always, The Fowl Balls has the answer. I am in full support of making Alfredo Aceves the fifth starter going into the season. 'Fredo threw 170+ innings last year, putting him in line for a 190+ inning season in 2009. As noted over at River Avenue Blues (riveraveblues.com) in their latest chat, there aren't many number five starters who get to that mark. Aceves also had stifling numbers through three levels of the minor leagues last year, to the tune of a 0.98 WHIP in 140 2/3 innings. Thoguh he struggled a bit in his 10 appearance stint at Scranton Pittsburgh Intercourse Philadelphia Wilkes-Barre, the twenty-six year old put up a decent enough showing after his major league call up to warrant a shot. It is time for Alfredo to unleash his creamy goodness on the American League (that's what she said).
The following entry marks the return of Deputy Dog after a year plus absence. Always good for a fresh point of view and never shy to take a not-so-popular stance, look out for more consistent posts from our first (and at this point, only) staff writer. Enjoy.
There is a glaring hole in centerfield in the South Bronx .
By all accounts, blue chip outfield prospect Austin Jackson will not be ready for the major leagues until 2010. So we wait.
Melky Cabrera is, well, Melky Cabrera. Someone said to me last season that he underperformed hitting .249 when the truth is, Cabrera is a .250 hitter. Period. He is certainly not the guy you want playing one of the prestige positions in the state-of-the-art Mecca that will open this April.
While the global economy is in a recession Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have given the preverbal middle finger to the rest of Major League Baseball. Still, it's never bad to shop for a bargain.
Keeping all that in mind, there is one fool-proof way to wait for Austin Jackson, while upgrading from the mess that is Melky Cabrera, while at the same time putting a name player in a prestige position for the most storied franchise in sports and do it at a bargain. The answer, my friends, is Andruw Jones.
Mr. Jones is scheduled to make $15 million in 2009 but he has restructured his deal with the Dodgers so that his 2009 cost is only $6 million and the sides are prepared for a mutual split. Bargain.
Jones only played in 75 games in 2008 but he is a Scott Boras client so his motivation cannot be questioned as he looks for his next contract. Incentive.
Jones won 10 straight gold gloves from 1998 to 2007 and was highly regarded as the best defensive center fielder in the game. If he even returns to a fraction of that form he is twice the player Melky Cabrera will ever be. Upside.
Jones is a career .268 hitter with an OBP of .339 though his power potential is massive having hit a career 371 home runs with a career slugging percentage of .489 and 1131 RBI. Jones hit 26 home runs or more in 9 straight seasons from 1999 to 2007 and he has driven in 90 or more runs 9 times. This will also provide excellent protection for Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, something Cabrera will never do. Upgrade.
Jones only has one year left on his contract, making him a versatile option. If he underperforms, then he is gone by the time Jackson is ready to take over or we identify that Jackson is not the answer and we can acquire a long-term CF solution. If he performs and Jackson isn't ready, he could be the answer with a 3 year extension or if Jackson is ready, Jones could make a solid RF in the twilight of his career. Low-Risk.
So why hasn't this happened already? The downside to Jones is that everyone remembers what they see last and his 2008 season was a trainwreck. Joe Torre is not a motivating manager and Jones did not seem to fit in Dodger blue. Jones played in a career low 75 games due to knee injuries, while he had played in no fewer than 153 games from 1997-2007. Conditioning guru Joe Girardi and Yankee pinstripes might be just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate the career and value of Mr. Jones, while at the same time getting the Yankees through 2009 on the cheap.
Following the most active offseason in recent memory, the Yankees have set the bar very high for 2009. The Fowl Balls promises to meet those expectations even if the team fails to. Plans for the new year include items in The Fowl Balls Store (which doesn't mean you shouldn't still be buying the old ones!), reader submission contests, Jimmy Dugan plastering his stupid name all over the interweb, and the triumphant return of an old friend of the site (oh, the suspense!). Thank you again for the support, and keep on reading.
Please continue to send your questions, comments, and futile inquiries for free t-shirts to email@example.com.