Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Arod’ Category

Derek Jeter is a human being. That seems to be the lesson derived from the New York Post’s preview of Ian O’Connor’s forthcoming book about Jeter, which will focus on the Captain’s relationship with Alex Rodriguez.

Arod’s unflattering comments about Jeter in the March 2001 issue of Esquire led to a cooling off period in their friendship.

Weaving Arod into the narrative has almost become a prerequisite for publishing a baseball book, so it’s not surprising that O’Connor would go that route. What is difficult to understand, however, is why so many people seem to be regarding the excerpts as groundbreaking news.

Just about anyone who has followed the Yankees over the past 10 years is well aware of the icy relationship that existed between the two superstars for most of the past decade, so O’Connor’s initial revelations hardly qualify as news. Although the quotes attributed to Brian Cashman aren’t part of the record, most of the other details have been widely reported and discussed.

A common reaction to the New York Post’s predictably sensational presentation of the excerpts has gone something like this: “You see…Jeter isn’t perfect. What’s more, he has been a bad leader all along.” Considering the piling on that the Captain has endured since showing the first signs of succumbing to age, that reaction has pretty much been par for the course. However, that doesn’t give the book’s author, or its readers, a license for hypocrisy.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

In last night’s 15-3 drubbing of the Baltimore Orioles, Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig for one record and moved to within a nose of the Iron Horse for another.

During the Yankees seven run outburst in the eighth inning, Alex Rodriguez capped off the scoring with a grand slam. The bases loaded clout was the 22nd of Arod’s career, bringing him within one of the record held by Gehrig.

Grandslam Leader Board

  Grand Slams
Lou Gehrig 23
Alex Rodriguez 22
Manny Ramirez 21
Eddie Murray 19
Willie McCovey 18
Robin Ventura 18
Jimmie Foxx 17
Ted Williams 17
Hank Aaron 16
Dave Kingman 16

Source: Baseball-almanac.com

In the inning, which represented the first time the Yankees had scored more than three runs in a single frame (the last team in baseball to accomplish the feat), Rodriguez also increased his RBI total in the game to six. It was the 14th game in which Arod knocked in at least six runs, tying Gehrig for the most ever.

Most Games with 6 or More RBIs

  G HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Lou Gehrig 14 26 96 0.694 0.732 2.129
Alex Rodriguez 14 24 92 0.662 0.667 1.789
Babe Ruth 12 25 76 0.691 0.712 2.218
Joe DiMaggio 12 20 79 0.712 0.742 1.966
Dave Kingman 11 25 73 0.561 0.583 1.947
Ted Williams 10 17 67 0.638 0.702 1.830
Al Simmons 10 15 61 0.632 0.644 1.596
Jimmie Foxx 9 17 63 0.689 0.725 2.044
Mel Ott 8 16 50 0.658 0.690 2.053
Jack Clark 8 14 50 0.600 0.619 1.829

Source: Baseball-reference.com

With several more productive seasons left in his career, Alex Rodriguez will have the chance to rewrite a good portion of the record book. For obvious reasons, some people might bristle at that possibility. Others might simply lament the slow eradication of names like Gehrig from atop many all-time lists. However, that last concern really isn’t warranted. The great chain of baseball history links together the game’s best players; it doesn’t break them apart.

Read Full Post »

Just before opening day, major league baseball and the players association announced several policies designed to better diagnosis and treat concussions. Despite the progressive measures adopted, however, there are many more steps that can be taken, not the least of which involves enforcing the current rules as they pertain to plays at the plate.

Should violent collisions at home plate be outlawed by MLB (Photos: Getty Images)?

Baseball is not supposed be a collision sport, but that’s sure how it looked yesterday in Colorado when Justin Upton tried to score on Melvin Mora’s weak groundball to short stop. On the play, which occurred with the score tied in the top of the 10th, Troy Tulowitzki fielded the slow roller and fired home to Chris Iannetta, who was immediately blind sided by the forearm of Upton. Incredibly, Iannetta held onto the ball and escaped injury (at least one that we know of), but it’s easy to see how a different outcome could have resulted. After all, even the NFL, which sells violence, has rules against slamming into a defenseless receiver, so it seems ridiculous that baseball would tolerate such a play.

The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.” – MLB rule 7.06(b)

As mentioned, baseball doesn’t need to make any rule changes to eliminate this needlessly dangerous play from the game. All it has to do is enforce ones that already exist. For starters, catchers, like all other fielders, ARE NOT allowed to block the plate. According to Rule 7.06b, “The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

  • Just like his father used to do, Hank Steinbrenner held court at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, opining on everything from house building to modern psychology to social and economic political systems. The elder Steinbrother also revisited the team’s off season acquisition of Rafael Soriano.

Hank has proven to be the much more vocal of the Steinbrenner brothers (Illustration: nymag.com).

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

  • Entering camp, the big story surrounding C.C. Sabathia was how much weight he lost over the offseason (and how he did it). On the first day of spring training, however, the story quickly changed to the likelihood that he would exercise the opt clause in his contract.

    Today's breakfast links are sponsored by Cap'n Crunch. Just don't let C.C. Sabathia have any!

  • If not for the Sabathia overload, the big news of the day would have been Joe Girardi’s announcement that Derek Jeter will remain in the leadoff slot.
  • Another hot topic was what should be a very lively competition for the final two slots in the starting rotation. Of course, the Yankees also need AJ Burnett to rebound from his poor 2010 campaign. Otherwise, the bottom of the rotation will be the least of the Yankees’ concerns. This season, both problems, and their potential solutions, will fall in the lap of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
  • Although the bullpen is mostly set for the upcoming season, all eyes remain on Joba Chamberlain, who looks to finally establish himself in some kind of role . According to Brian Cashman, however, the enigmatic righty first needs to worry about making the team.
  • Keeping tracking of names and faces can be challenging during the early days of Spring, so The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig has provided a list of uniform numbers for all Yankees expected in camp. Number 33 still belongs to Nick Swisher, but don’t be alarmed if the uniform hosting that digit seems a tad on the large side. David Wells is also in camp as a guest instructor.
  • Off the field, Alex Rodriguez made news, but this time the attention was welcomed. Chad Jennings at the LoHud blog has some great pictures from a recent ceremony honoring Arod that was hosted by the Latin Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Away from the friendly confines of Tampa, the Phillies unveiled a rotation that is flush with aces. During the press conference, some interpreted Lee’s comments as rubbing salt in the Yankees wounds. However, the biggest news was made in Jupiter, where it was reported that Albert Pujols and the Cardinals mutually agreed to establish Wednesday as the deadline for reaching an agreement on a contract extension. Who knows, if the two sides can’t come to terms, maybe the Yankees can use the money saved from not signing Lee and offer it to Albert?

Read Full Post »

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

Usually, when one thinks of a podium in the Bronx, it’s there to say hello to a new million dollar acquisition. This time, however, the media hordes were assembled to say goodbye to one of the team’s all-time greats. That’s why, as Andy Pettitte answered questions about his decision to retire, the proceedings took on somewhat of a surreal feeling. After all, if Pettitte was healthy enough to pitch, capable of performing at a high level (his ERA+ of 130 was the fourth highest in his career), and greatly needed by the Yankees, why exactly was he walking away?

As expected, Pettitte’s reasons for retiring centered on his family. According to the lefty, his heart simply wasn’t into returning because the other aspects of his life were pulling on its strings. Considering that Pettitte’s heart has always been in the right place (although Yankees’ fans might not like where it is now), his reasoning was perfectly understandable. And yet, it is still hard to imagine a great player voluntary walking away from the game when he still has the ability to perform.

Andy Pettitte and wife Laura field questions at press conference announcing his retirement (Photo: Getty Images).

At the beginning of the proceedings, Jason Zillo, the Yankees director of media relations, made an interesting comment about Pettitte’s press conference being a unique event in his 15-year tenure with the team (which is almost as long as Pettitte’s). In fact, the validity of the comment extends well beyond Zillo’s time in the Bronx. Despite having scores of superstar players who spent the bulk of their careers with the team, the Yankees have not hosted many press conferences to announce the retirement of a legendary figure.

Since 1901, the Yankees have had 22 position players (minimum 1,000 games) and 10 pitchers (minimum 200 games started or 400 games) compile a WAR greater than 30 during their time in pinstripes. However, from that illustrious group, only three have had a formal press conference to say goodbye on their own terms: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and now Andy Pettitte.

When the Yankees faced the Dodgers in the 1952 World Series, Joe DiMaggio was sitting in the bleachers instead of playing centerfield (Photo: Life)

Like Pettitte, DiMaggio had been hinting at retirement for some time before eventually making his final decision. During the course of his injury plagued career, Joltin’ Joe would often hint at walking away, but he finally formalized his intentions during the spring of 1951. Despite the dramatic announcement, not too many people expected DiMaggio to actually retire, and the doubts lingered even after he had a subpar year by his standards (OPS+ of 115 in 482 plate appearances). However, after winning the World Series against the cross-town Giants, DiMaggio again told reporters that he probably wouldn’t be back in 1952. Most people still shrugged off the statement, and even Yankees’ owner Dan Topping didn’t seem convinced, telling DiMaggio, “you might feel differently a month from now”. Almost 60 years later, Cashman would be telling Pettitte the same thing.

When baseball is no longer fun, it is no longer a game and so I’ve played my last game of ball.” – Joe DiMaggio, quoted by UP at his retirement press conference, December 11, 1951

As things turned out, DiMaggio was serious. On December 11, 1951, Joltin’ Joe assembled the media and officially retired from the game, much the same way that Pettitte did this morning. At the time, however, such an event was unheard of. “The press conference in which Joe announced his retirement was without precedent in size and confusion,” stated The Sporting News’ Dan Daniel. “The writers were far outnumbered by the newsreel, radio and TV specialists. The sandwiches, coffee and cheese cake had to be replenished thrice.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

The Yankees off season additions of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia probably would have elicited a passionate reaction back in 1999, when both pitchers finished in the top-10 for the A.L. Cy Young award. However, with each hurler well past his prime and only signed to a minor league deal, both announcements were met with deserved indifference…that is, everywhere except for an isolated portion of an exclusive enclave in Miami where Alex Rodriguez calls home.

Over the years, one of Arod’s favorite sights has been Bartolo Colon in an opposition uniform. This year, he may be wearing pinstripes.

When the Yankees signed Colon, you couldn’t have blamed Arod if he shed a tear or two. In 57 career plate appearances against the rotund righty, Rodriquez had belted eight homers (including three in one game) and compiled an OPS of 1.515. Perhaps not surprisingly, since the last time he faced Colon in 2007, Arod’s offensive numbers have gradually declined. Coincidence? Pinstripes might be slimming to Colon’s waistline, but Arod’s offensive production could suffer the greatest reduction.

Just when Arod had the appropriate time to grieve over the loss of potential at bats against Colon, the Yankees added insult to injury by coming to terms with Garcia. If Colon has been the pitcher against whom Rodriguez has feasted the most, then Garcia has been his favorite appetizer. In 47 career plate appearances against the Chief, Arod has hit five long balls and posted an OPS of 1.449.

Losing the chance to hit against two prime targets would be bad enough, but both signings coming on the heels of Gil Meche’s decision to retire has only compounded Arod’s offseason of discontent. So, where does he go from here? He could always hope that neither Colon nor Garcia make the team, but rooting against the Yankees’ collective best interest would be a tad unseemly. With so many of his other favorite pitchers either in the National League or retired, it seems as if the Yankees slugger really has been backed into a corner. Call it a hunch, but if Arod opens the Spring by demanding a trade, remember that you heard it hear first.

Arod’s Hit List

vs. Pitcher PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Jeff Suppan 36 6 10 0.433 0.528 1.067 1.594
Bartolo Colon 57 8 17 0.431 0.456 1.059 1.515
Gil Meche 38 5 10 0.419 0.447 1.032 1.480
Freddy Garcia 47 5 9 0.389 0.532 0.917 1.449
Steve Sparks 40 5 10 0.421 0.450 0.868 1.318
Ramon Ortiz 66 8 14 0.320 0.455 0.800 1.255
Daniel Cabrera 45 4 9 0.371 0.467 0.771 1.238
Ted Lilly 50 5 8 0.333 0.440 0.786 1.226
Kelvim Escobar 39 4 8 0.364 0.462 0.758 1.219
Jamie Moyer 62 6 12 0.375 0.435 0.750 1.185

Note: Based on a minimum of 30 plate appearances, including postseason.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Read Full Post »

Over at the Yankeeist, Larry Koestler took a look at one of 2010’s most curious mysteries: Alex Rodriguez’ shockingly poor performance against left handed pitchers. Using pitchFX data, Koestler concludes that the pitch selection of opposing southpaws (i.e., fewer four seamers and more cutters, two seamers and sinkers) contributed to Arod’s struggles (while also conceding the limited sample size), but could the answer be much more benign?

Alex Rodriguez’ BABIP vs. LD%, 2004-2010

Note: Columns represent LD%; lines represent BABIP.
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

What jumps off the stat page most about Arod’s 2010 season is his BABIP of .212 against left handers, which is by far his lowest rate in either split since joining the Yankees. Although it may be too easy to attribute all of Arod’s struggles against lefties to bad luck, his very low batting average on balls in play seems to suggest that fortune wasn’t always on his side. Then again, it’s also possible that Arod’s lower BABIP resulted from weaker contact, and, in fact, that seems to be the case. As a Yankee, Arod’s line drive percentage against lefties had ranged from 14.2% in 2004 to a whopping 26.4% in 2009 before falling to 12.10% last year. More specifically, Arod’s line drive percentage declined the most against lefties’ cutters, two seamers and sinkers…the same three pitches identified by Koestler.

Alex Rodriguez’ LD% by Pitch Type, 2009-2010

Note:  Columns represent number of pitches; lines represent LD%
Legend: CH – Changeup; CU – Curveball; FA – Fastball; FC – Fastball (Cutter); FF – Fastball (Four-seam); FT – Fastball (Two-seam); SI – Sinker; and SL – Slider
Source: Baseball-reference.com and joelefkowitz.com

So, have left handers found a way to combat Arod by throwing pitches that he can not drive? Or could the answer be more about who is throwing those pitches than the selection itself? In 2010, Alex Rodriguez batted 189 times against lefties, including 49 times, or 26%, against David Price, Johan Santana, Ricky Romero, Cliff Lee, and Francisco Liriano. Against that cross section, Arod batted .114/.204/.182. In 2009, Arod faced that quintet only 37 times, or 21%. Interestingly, however, he did quite well against this group, posting a solid line of .241/.405/.448. When you consider how Arod handled the league’s best lefties in 2009, it’s no surprise he had such an outstanding season against southpaws (in both years, Arod excelled against Jon Lester).

Alex Rodriguez’ PAs vs. Select Top Lefties

Player 2010 2009
David Price 13 9
Cliff Lee 10 11
Francisco Liriano 10 6
Ricky Romero 9 9
Johan Santana 7 2
Total 49 37

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The knee jerk reaction would be to suggest that Arod’s skills are in decline and, therefore, he can no longer hit the league’s best lefties. However, a closer look at the five lefties who dominated Arod in 2010 reveals that they all improved their performance against righties by varying degrees from 2009. In other words, Arod’s struggles last year may be more about them than him.

Select Top Lefties vs. RHB, 2009-2010

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Often times, the desire to pinpoint the reason behind an outlier can lead to a variety of plausible theories. However, the small samples involved make all but the most glaring conclusions lack the necessary significance to be convincing. As a result, although we know Arod must hit better against lefties in 2011, it remains to be seen whether that means he’ll need to figure out how to handle a lefty’s cutter, or just how to handle David Price.

Read Full Post »

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

The acquisition of Russell Martin hasn't had most Yankee fans doing handstands.

The New York Yankees are in the unfamiliar position of entering a new year without having made any significant improvements to the team. Although the free agent signings of Russell Martin and Pedro Feliciano are both positive complementary acquisitions, the team’s failure to make a big splash has left it vulnerable to a serious of question marks, one of which will become an exclamation point should Andy Pettitte decide to retire. Patience has been this offseason’s theme, and hopefully its virtue, so instead of looking too far ahead, perhaps it would be better to look back at past acquisitions over the last decade? Below is a list of the major names acquired (re-signings generally excluded) after each season (based on conventional wisdom at the time) along with an assessment of the group’s overall performance.

2009: Javier Vazquez, Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson

Fresh off their 27th World Series championship, the Yankees were far from complacent. The team said goodbye to veteran contributors Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui and replaced them Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson. Cashman also sought to round out what had been a top heavy rotation by acquiring what he hoped was a rejuvenated Javier Vazquez from the Braves. On paper, the Yankees got a little younger, if not better, heading into their title defense.

Until Granderson and hitting coach Kevin Long worked on an adjustment in August, Cashman’s three most significant offseason moves all looked as if they would come up snake eyes. Since returning to the lineup on August 12, however, Granderson posted a line of .261/.356/.564 in his final 192 plate appearances, and then followed that with an OPS above 1.000 in both the ALDS and ALCS. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a “rags to riches” end for either Johnson or Vazquez. After getting off to a poor start, Johnson developed his usually spate of injuries and was eventually shutdown for the season. Meanwhile, Vazquez temporarily rebounded from a poor beginning, but eventually resumed his struggles and ended the season with an ERA+ of 80.

2008: Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett

The Yankees rearmed for 2009 with the signings of Sabathia and Burnett.

After making the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons, the Yankees finished in third place under rookie manager Joe Girardi in 2008. With high salaries like Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina coming off the books, the Yankees pushed their chips all in and came away with a pair of aces and a wild card.

CC Sabathia’s acquisition was the linchpin, and with the big lefty in the fold, everything fell into place in 2009. Although not as dominant, A.J. Burnett turned in one his finest seasons and teamed with Sabathia and Pettitte to form a three-man rotation throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira was everything the Yankees expected, both with his potent bat and golden glove at first. When all was said and done, the three acquisitions played a monumental part in the Yankees’ return to glory.

2007: Alex Rodriguez* and LaTroy Hawkins

Even though Alex Rodriguez was already a member of the team, the whole production surrounding the opt out made his eventual return seem like a new acquisition. Perhaps distracted by the Rodriquez situation, the Yankees made few other significant additions. LaTroy Hawkins was expected to be a sold bullpen contributor, but after raising the ire Yankees fans by wearing Paul O’Neill’s unretired #21, he struggled mightily and was eventually trade to Houston.

Although Alex Rodriguez had a very strong 2008 campaign, he not only declined from his MVP form in 2007, but also missed 27 games. Still, Arod wasn’t the reason the team missed the playoffs. Instead, it was the failure to strengthen the rotation that did the Yankees in, especially when the team’s reliance on Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy backfired. During the offseason, the Yankees were widely expected to trade for Johan Santana, so the team’s subsequent failure was seen as a repudiation of Cashman’s decision to forgo obtaining the Cy Young lefty from Minnesota. However, one season later, Cashman’s decision would be vindicated.

2006: Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa

Kei Igawa's press conferences provided a rare opportunity for fans to see him in pinstripes.

In 2006, the Yankees had a powerhouse lineup, but the starting rotation proved rather thin. So, in addition to clearing out a few square pegs like an unhappy Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson as well as Jaret Wright, the Yankees’ focus for 2007 was centered on acquiring a reliable starter. With the rest of the market both thin and overpriced, the team eventually wound up reuniting with Pettitte, who had left for Houston after the 2003 season, and rolling the dice on Kei Igawa, a move that was at least in part a knee jerk reaction to Boston’s acquisition of the more heralded Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Pettitte, who went 15-9 with a 112 ERA+, was exactly what the Yankees needed in 2007. Unfortunately, the rotation was little improved from the previous year because Mike Mussina suffered through the worst season of his career. What’s more, the signing of Igawa proved to be a colossal bust as the Japanese import was quickly exposed as nothing more than a triple-A talent. The Yankees’ continuing rotation crisis forced them to lure Roger Clemens out of retirement one more time, but even the addition of the 44-year old Rocket wasn’t enough. Not only did the team relinquish the division title for the first time since 1997, but its lack of pitching depth was exposed in the ALDS as the Cleveland Indians knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round.

2005: Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Damon

The Yankees won their eighth consecutive A.L. East division title in 2005, but didn’t make it past the Angels in the ALDS. During the decade, the Yankees gradually drifted toward being a lineup of mashers that would compensate for a mediocre pitching staff by bludgeoning other teams, and 2005 was the pinnacle of that trend. Still, the Yankees most significant offseason move was to snatch Johnny Damon from the rival Red Sox and continue to gradually nudge Bernie Williams toward retirement. Damon was an immediate success in pinstripes and eventually wound up providing commensurate value over the entire term of the four-year deal, contrary to initial expectations at the time.

On the pitching side, the Yankees brought in Kyle Farnsworth to take the place of the departing Tom Gordon, who had proven to be an invaluable regular season reliever. The team made no adjustments to the rotation, however, despite its collective failure during the 2005 season. Instead, the Yankees seemed to roll the dice that Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina would rebound from disappointing years, while Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright would enjoy better health in their sophomore seasons in pinstripes. Only Mussina panned out, and the Yankees once again found themselves with a subpar rotation.

2004: Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Tony Womack, and Jaret Wright

Carl Pavano also had little use for his home uniform after the press conference announcing his signing.

The 2004 ALCS collapse to the Red Sox was a cataclysmic event that prompted the Yankees to pretty much replace their entire starting rotation. Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber and Orlando Hernandez were all jettisoned from the staff in favor of Johnson, Pavano and Wright. Although much was expected from Johnson, the initial reaction to the acquisitions of Wright and Pavano was met with justified scorn. Neither would contribute much to the team over the terms of their contracts, but Pavano’s comical 145 innings over four season earned him a special brand of infamy. Luckily, the 2005 season would be saved by two unheralded acquisitions, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, who combined to go 17-3, as well as the emergence of Chien-Ming Wang from the minor leagues.

In 2004, Miguel Cairo had surprisingly strong season, but the Yankees smartly decided not to roll the same dice the following year. Unfortunately, they opted to go with an even worse option by signing Tony Womack, who quickly proved to be one of the more futile players in recent team history. Once again, however, fate played a favorable hand when the promotion of Robinson Cano not only added life to the lineup, but also forced the Yankees to incorporate a player who would eventually emerge as a bonafide star. In the meantime, however, Womack continued to be a drag on the lineup as a left fielder.

Although Johnson led the Yankees with a 17-8 record and a respectable 3.79 ERA, he wasn’t the dominant force that team thought it had acquired. Particularly because of the three brutal free agent signings, the 2004 offseason easily ranks as one of the worst in team history. It would take several seasons for the Yankees to free themselves from the mistakes made in the winter of 2004, which only added insult to the injury of that year’s shocking ALCS.

2003: Tom Gordon, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown

The Yankees lost the 2003 World Series to the Marlins, but the euphoria from winning a dramatic ALCS against the Red Sox almost seemed to override that disappointment. Nonetheless, Brian Cashman wasn’t resting on his laurels, despite having a lineup and pitching staff that both performed well above average. On offense, the Yankees added a perennial masher in Gary Sheffield (even if Cashman’s preference for Vladimir Guerrero would have worked out better in the long run). However, an offseason injury to Aaron Boone added a significant hole at third base, which the Yankees wound up filling with the shocking acquisition of Alex Rodriguez. The idea of adding Arod and Sheffield to a lineup that already included Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui seemed like enough to guarantee a return trip to the World Series…and it should have…except for a late season breakdown in the pitching staff.

In addition to a lineup overhaul, the Yankees also revamped the starting rotation by replacing Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens with Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown. On paper, the swap seemed to favor the Yankees, and the early returns were somewhat positive, but both Brown and Vazquez suffered a myriad of mental and physical breakdowns that quickly made their situation in the Bronx untenable. Both pitchers would contribute in a big way to the team’s game seven debacle in the ALCS and forever be branded as failures in the minds of Yankees fans.

The ALCS collapse also stained Tom Gordon, who had two outstanding regular seasons in pinstripes, and even Rodriguez, who was on his way to being the series MVP before going dormant over the final three games. Because of the team’s demise in the playoffs, the overall contribution of Cashman’s 2003 offseason acquisitions was largely discounted. Collectively, the quartet contributed 18.5 wins above replacement, but it was their high profile failures in the ALCS that would be remembered.

2002: Todd Zeile, Hideki Matsui, Jon Lieber and Jose Contreras

After the 2002 season, the Yankees were feeling the unfamiliar sting of an early exit from the playoffs. It was hard to get too worked up, however, because the team recorded 103 wins and outperformed statistically in just about every phase of the game. So, it seemed as if only minor additions would be needed.

The verdict on the Hideki Matsui signing was two thumbs up.

Along with the addition of some depth in Todd Zeile and a reclamation project like Jon Lieber, the Yankees turned to the international market for reinforcements. Both Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras were widely acclaimed as stars in their respective countries of Japan and Cuba, so much was expected from the two veterans. Matsui was always ticketed for the Bronx, but the pursuit of Contreras caused the first real resumption of hostilities between the Yankees and Red Sox when Boston General Manager Theo Epstein reportedly trashed his hotel room after learning of the Yankees’ signing. Although the conquest of Contreras also prompted Boston CEO Larry Lucchino to refer to the Yankees as the Evil Empire, it was the signing of Matsui, who hit a key double off Pedro Martinez in the fateful eighth inning of the 2003 ALCS, that would torment the Red Sox for years to come.

2001: Robin Ventura, Steve Karsay, Rondell White, Jason Giambi and David Wells

The Yankees responded to a shocking and bitter walk off defeat in the 2001 World Series by making several significant changes to the team. The most notable was the replacement of Tino Martinez with Jason Giambi, who at the time was one of the most feared hitters in the game. The Yankees also compensated for the retirement of Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius with the signings of White and Ventura, respectively, before rounding out the bullpen and rotation with the addition of Karsay and the return of Wells.

With the exception of White, all of Cashman’s moves worked according to plan, and the team went onto to an impressive 103-win season, despite getting eliminated by the Angels in 2002 ALDS. Over the long term, however, the addition were mostly stop gap moves, with the exception of Giambi, whose declining skills and defensive limitations (not to mention steroid revelations) eventually made his contract an albatross.

2000: Mike Mussina

The Yankees seldom had “too much pitching” during his tenure, but Mike Mussina was always an anchor of the staff.

In a classic case of the rich getting richer, the three-time defending world champions responded to that season’s sudden decline of David Cone by replacing him with Mussina, one of the game’s best pitchers. The addition of Mussina helped give the Yankees a formidable front-line rotation in 2001 and provided the team with an anchor during a turbulent decade that featured more than its share of mediocre starting pitchers. Unfortunately, Mussina never won a World Series with the Yankees, but his 123-72 record over eight seasons in pinstripes is testament to the quality of the signing.

It’s hard to pinpoint which offseason from the recent past is most similar to the current one. In many ways, by putting all of their eggs in the Cliff Lee basket, the strategy resembles the team’s approach with Mussina after the 2000 season. Would the Yankees have returned to the World Series in 2001 and 2003 without the former Orioles ace? And, more importantly, will they go back soon without Lee?

Then again, with the Yankees anxiously awaiting a final decision from Andy Pettitte, this offseason could wind up resembling the 2006 winter when the veteran lefty’s return gave the Yankees’ rotation enough rope to hang on until a midseason reinforcement. We know it won’t end up looking like the treasure troves acquired after the 2003 and 2008 campaigns, but by the same token, Cashman’s philosophy of patience should help avoid the long-term negative ramifications from an offseason similar to 2004.

Unlike all of the offseasons mentioned above, the one difference from this year is there are still three more months until Opening Day. Although very few attractive free agents remain, there is still the possibility of a trade. From a historical perspective, Yankees’ fans just have to hope that if such a transaction occurs, it will turn out to be more like another Arod trade than the one for Randy Johnson.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »