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Archive for March 11th, 2011

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

You don’t mess with Nolan Ryan, at least not in Texas. Today, former Rangers’ managing partner and CEO Chuck Greenberg learned that lesson the hard way.

I have great respect for the Texas Rangers franchise and am enormously proud of all we have accomplished together since August. Unfortunately, Nolan Ryan, the co-chairmen and I have somewhat different styles. While I am disappointed we did not work through our differences, I remain wholeheartedly committed to doing what’s right for the franchise.” – Chuck Greenberg, quoted by MLB.com, March 11, 2011

A showdown with Nolan Ryan prompted Chuck Greenberg’s resignation as CEO of the Texas Rangers.

Less than one year ago, Greenberg was an instrumental figure in the long, drawn out and often messy process that resulted in the sale of the Texas Rangers from the Hicks Sports Group to Rangers Baseball Express. Although Greenberg was the leading figure throughout the initial sale process and subsequent bankruptcy court-ordered auction, the name of the ownership group he put together pretty much said everything about where the future of the franchise was headed.

The initial plan was to have Nolan Ryan (the Express) focus on baseball operations, while Greenberg took care of the business side. At first, that formula seemed to be working well. In the couple of months they ran the team together, Greenberg scored a number of business successes, including a new lucrative cable TV contract, while Ryan oversaw a roster reconstruction that culminated in the franchise’s first trip to the World Series. Soon thereafter, however, it seems as if egos got in the way and the partnership fell apart.

According to an MLB.com report, the first sign of friction occurred when Greenberg injected himself into the team’s pursuit of Cliff Lee. Unhappy with the blurring the lines of their division of power, Ryan reportedly objected to Greenberg’s increased profile on the baseball side of operations, and that dispute resulted in the latter’s resignation.

Greenberg’s decision reportedly comes after weeks of attempted mediation. After that process failed, it seems as if Ryan laid down an ultimatum, thereby forcing the team’s two largest investors, Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, to make a choice. Davis is from Dallas and Simpson is from Ft. Worth. Needless to say, the New Jersey-born Greenberg probably didn’t stand a chance. If there was only going to be room for one sheriff on the Rangers, you can bet it wasn’t going to be the east coast lawyer.

Whether or not he was treated fairly, Yankees’ fans aren’t likely to have sympathy for Greenberg. After all, when he wasn’t criticizing the denizens of Yankee Stadium for being uncivilized, he was exulting in the role he played steering Cliff Lee to Philadelphia. It remains to be seen if those high-profile incidents contributed to Greenberg’s demise, but many in New York will undoubtedly enjoy the karma.

Greenberg and Ryan are going separate ways after attempts to reconcile their differences failed.

The friction between Ryan and Greenberg really isn’t that unique. In fact, a very similar situation occurred when George M. Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees from CBS back in 1973.

When the Yankees’ sale was made official on January 4, 1973, the AP headline read “Burke Heads Syndicate Buying New York Yankees”. Burke referred to Michael Burke, who served as Yankees President when the team was owned by CBS. At the time of the sale, Burke’s role as matchmaker between Steinbrenner and CBS head William Paley was vital. Some have even argued that Steinbrenner would not have been able to buy the Yankees without his intervention. This claim is supported by a story from Bill Madden’s recent book, “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball”, in which Paley cited Burke’s continuation with the team as an important consideration of the deal.

“Mr. Paley. I can assure you we wouldn’t want to it any other way…I won’t have much time for baseball, so Mike’ll have to carry the load…He’s Mr. Yankee, and that’s a helluva asset for us”. – George M. Steinbrenner, quoted in “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball”

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As if last year’s Javier Vazquez trade wasn’t bad enough for the Yankees, now comes word that Arodys Vizcaino, the young right hander sent to Atlanta in the deal, has been throwing lights out in spring training. In fact, in his last outing on March 9, Braves’ GM Fran Wren confirmed that at least two radar guns had the 20-year old Dominican right hander topping out at 101 mph. In an earlier spring outing, Vizcaino sat comfortably at 94-97 mph, so, needless to say, it appears as if he has fully recovered from the partial elbow tear that ended his 2010 minor league season.

Will the Yankees’ regret trading Arodys Vizcaino?

Vizcaino, who was considered a top prospect before his elbow injury, was among the Braves first spring cuts yesterday. Also assigned to the Braves’ minor league camp were Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Brett Oberholtzer, three more highly touted pitching prospects that provide Atlanta with enviable depth to complement its talented major league roster.

In many ways, the Braves farm system is like the Yankees. Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have all attracted a lot of attention in Tampa this spring, but you can’t blame Brian Cashman if part of his focus remains with Vizcaino. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching, a philosophy that also applies to prospects.

When the Yankees made the trade for Vazquez, many people focused on the departure of Melky Cabrera, but those more familiar with Vizcaino correctly identified him as the centerpiece of the deal. After all, it’s not like he was flying under the radar. Baseball America listed Vizcaino as the Yankees’ third best prospect, so Cashman had to know what he was giving up when he made the trade.

Unfortunately, Vazquez had an absolutely miserable season in his return to New York. Despite his historically poor performance, however, two things prevented the deal from feeling like an absolute bust. One was the solid 40 innings of relief from Boone Logan, who was also acquired in the trade, and the other an elbow injury sustained by Vizcaino during the summer. Although no one would really wish ill health upon a player to mollify the fallout from a bad trade, the fact remains that with the young right hander’s elbow fully recovered, the chances of the deal coming back to haunt the Yankees have increased considerably.

For all we know, Arodys Vizcaino could wind up being a minor league washout. What’s more, the supplemental draft pick the Yankees received when Vazquez left via free agency could yield a future Hall of Famer. In the meantime, however, hearing about Vizcaino’s impressive resurgence will likely grate on Brian Cashman, not to mention the team’s many fans who have made prospect watching a new pastime.

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