Archive for March 9th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

After missing almost two weeks of action with a groin injury, Andrew Brackman finally made his spring debut for the Yankees in yesterday’s exhibition game against the Braves. Even before the setback, it was going to be a tall order for the young right hander to head north with the club, but his eventual promotion seems to be less about if and more about when and in what role.

When Brackman finally does get the call, history will be waiting for him, and all he’ll need to do is throw one pitch. At 6’ 11”, Brackman would not only become the tallest Yankees’ pitcher of all time, but he would join the Blue Jays’ Jon Rauch as the tallest player in major league history. Of course, to accomplish that feat, Brackman will have to beat Loek Van Mil to the majors. At 7’ 1”, Van Mil would blow away the competition, but considering his 6.37 ERA with the Twins’ double-A affiliate last year, he isn’t likely to make the major leagues.

If Brackman does join Rauch as the tallest pitcher in baseball history, he’ll become only the second Yankee to hold that distinction. The first was a 6’ 7” lefthander named Edward Haughton Love, but better known as Slim.

Head and Shoulders Above the Rest: Progression of Tallest Yankee Pitchers

Year Pitcher Height
1901 Frank Foreman 6′ 0″
1902 Crese Heismann 6′ 2″
1903 Ambrose Puttman 6′ 4″
1908 Hippo Vaughn 6′ 4″
1916 Slim Love* 6′ 7″
1982 Stefan Wever 6′ 8″
1988 Lee Guetterman 6′ 8″
1996 Jeff Nelson 6′ 8″
1996 Graeme Lloyd 6′ 8″
2005 Randy Johnson 6′ 10″
2011? Andrew Brackman* 6′ 11″

*Tallest in major league history to date.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Slim Love was born in, where else, Love, Mississippi on August 1, 1890. Otherwise, little is known about the early life of the tall and lanky southpaw. In fact, it seems as if he just dropped out of the sky onto the baseball landscape. Considering his height, Love would have been a perfect bridge between the two.

Maybe it isn’t a stretch to suggest he just materialized out of thin air? Unlike most major leaguers, Love wasn’t a highly sought after prospect uncovered by a scout beating the bushes. He wasn’t even a journeyman who first opened eyes pitching for a local squad. If Love was playing baseball somewhere as a youth, no one knew anything about it, and considering his abnormal height, he would have been hard to miss.

According to an account in The Washington Post, Love’s baseball career evolved from his own barroom bragging. As the story goes, Love, who had traveled up from his hometown to Memphis, Tennessee, walked into a local watering hole, took a seat at the bar, and ordered everyone a drink. Then, the affable giant boasted about his prowess on the mound and boldly claimed that he had come to Memphis with the sole purpose of leading the town’s ballclub to the pennant.

Slim made his advent into professional ball via Memphis, and the way he happened to land with the Turtles was on account of his bucolic disposition and odd appearance.”The Washington Post, August 31, 1913

Although Slim wasn’t the first guy to walk into a bar and start spinning yarns, he must have been very convincing. Impressed by both his confident demeanor and commanding size, the proprietor of the tavern reached out to Bill Bernhard, a friend who also happened to be the manager of the Memphis Turtles (known as the Chickasaws starting in 1912). In no time, the lanky lefty found himself working out with the Memphis team, and soon thereafter was given the chance to prove that he was more than just a fast talker.


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A recent tweet by Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Segura suggested that the Yankees made an offer to Aroldis Chapman that was in excess of $54 million. Considering that the Cuban fireballer signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $30 million, Segura’s claim was met by more than a few raised eyebrows.

Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra, who is also a lawyer, offered a logical framework for why the rumored Yankees’ offer was likely embellished or even a fabrication. However, I am inclined to believe there is more than a grain of truth to Segura’s claim because it’s the only reasonable explanation for why the team didn’t make a stronger push for Chapman.

If quality lefthanders are a valuable commodity, ones who can throw over 100 mph are the proverbial mother lode…a Holy Grail in fact.  At the time the Reds announced the signing, the Yankees’ relative lack of interest was more than a little perplexing. After all, it’s not like the Yankees were caught off guard. The team hosted Chapman as a guest at game 6 of the 2009 World Series and its scouts were in attendance at the lefty’s open audition on December 15. Despite this early involvement, however, several reports claimed that the Yankees never even went so far as to make an offer.

After failing miserably with high profile international free agents like Jose Contreras and Kei Igawa, it’s not hard to see why the Yankees would be cautious in their pursuit of Chapman, but to not even make an offer to a 22-year old lefthander who tops out at 104 mph seems like an extreme form of risk aversion. Quite frankly, that’s not how the team does (or should do) business, so it was very hard to believe the Yankees simply decided to pass. Offering $24 million more than the next highest bid would obviously have been imprudent, but not even making an offer seems incompetent. For the Yankees sake, it would be better off it the former proves to be true.

It’s ridiculous to criticize the Yankees for not spending enough money, but that doesn’t justify being penny wise and pound foolish. At $30 million over six years, Chapman was not an absurd financial risk. What’s more, after the exorbitant contracts handed out to middle relievers, Chapman’s contract now looks like relative bargain, even if his permanent role remains as a setup man. Just consider that Yankees will be paying Rafael Soriano $35 million for only three years, and had to surrender a draft pick for the honor. Signing Chapman instead of Soriano would have not only saved the team about $10 million per season (when you factor in the luxury tax hit), but also given them another viable rotation candidate in a best case scenario.

As more details emerge, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Regardless of the facts, however, one mystery will always remain. Either Chapman, or his agents, inexplicably turned down a boatload of money from the Yankees, or the team inexplicably decided to not offer him one. Neither scenario makes much sense.

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