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Posts Tagged ‘Steinbrenner’

Last night was the deadline for major league teams to offer salary arbitration to their ranked (type-A and type-B) free agents, and a surprising 35 of the 64 eligible players were extended the invitation. The most active teams were the Rays and Blue Jays, who respectively offered seven and four players arbitration. With draft picks at stake for those free agents who sign elsewhere, and inflated annual salaries awaiting those who remain, you can bet that most teams will be sitting on pins and needles over the next week as the players decide whether to accept or reject the offer. The Yankees won’t have to endure any suspense, however, because their lone offer was made to Javier Vazquez, who has already agreed to decline the invitation.

The Yankees have been involved in 21 cases since the first arbitration hearings were held after the 1973 season. Over the last decade, however, the team has been much more reticent to engage in the process. Since beating Mariano Rivera in 2000, the Yankees have gone to a hearing with only one other player: Chien Ming Wang in 2008.

All-Time Arbitration History, By Team

Team Won Lost Total Win %
Rays 5 0 5 100%
Phillies 7 1 8 88%
Orioles 11 3 14 79%
Red Sox 12 5 17 71%
Dodgers 14 6 20 70%
Nats/Expos 22 10 32 69%
Cubs 4 2 6 67%
Rockies 2 1 3 67%
White Sox 14 8 22 64%
Braves 15 9 24 63%
Blue Jays 5 3 8 63%
Angels 15 10 25 60%
Cardinals 9 6 15 60%
Reds 18 13 31 58%
Yankees 12 9 21 57%
Astros 8 6 14 57%
Mets 11 9 20 55%
Twins 15 13 28 54%
Indians 7 6 13 54%
Padres 10 9 19 53%
Mariners 10 9 19 53%
Rangers 10 9 19 53%
Pirates 9 9 18 50%
Brewers 2 2 4 50%
Diamondbacks 1 1 2 50%
Athletics 17 18 35 49%
Royals 9 10 19 47%
Marlins 3 5 8 38%
Giants 2 4 6 33%
Tigers 6 14 20 30%

Source: bizofbaseball.com

The Yankees rank in the middle of the pack in terms of both the number of cases heard as well as winning arguments made. However, the team has had several high profile cases that were particularly noteworthy, particularly for the reaction they elicited from owner George M. Steinbrenner III.

In 1980, Rick Cerone had a breakthrough season in his first year with the Yankees. After finishing seventh in the MVP voting, the veteran catcher asked for a raise that would more than quadruple his salary to $440,000. The Yankees countered with a more modest increase to $350,000, but the arbitrator sided with Cerone. Following the decision, Steinbrenner lambasted Cerone for being disloyal, but the embattled catcher defended his victory by saying he was more than willing to compromise at the midpoint. At the time, Cerone’s award was the second highest in the process’ history, trailing only the $700,000 salary won by Bruce Sutter in his 1980 hearing with the Cubs.

I don’t enjoy a young guy off one good year who was plucked out of Toronto showing so little regard for me. It’s not what I am looking for in my kind of guy. I don’t think Tommy John would do that, or Reggie Jackson or Lou Piniella.” – George M. Steinbrenner III, quoted by the New York Times News Service, February 16, 1981

In 1987, Don Mattingly, who was coming off one the best seasons of his career, asked for a record salary of $1,975,000, which not only turned out to be the largest arbitration award to that point, but also the highest salary ever paid by the Yankees. Once again, the Boss was not happy about making history.

The monkey is clearly on his back…I’ll expect him to carry us to a World Series championship…He’s like all the rest of them now. He can’t play little Jack Armstrong of Evansville, Indiana. He goes into the category of modern-player-with-agent looking for the bucks. Money means everything to him”. – George M. Steinbrenner III, quoted by the New York Times News Service, February 18, 1987

The organization wasn’t the only side to come away from the arbitration process with a sour taste. Before throwing a pitch for the Yankees, Jim Abbott, who was acquired before the 1993 season, first had to do battle with his future employer in the hearing room. Despite having a 2.77 ERA with the Angels in 1992, Abbott was coming off a 7-15 record, which in a less enlightened time probably made his request to double his salary seem a little obscene. After Abbott lost his hearing, Murray Chass of the New York Times wrote that the left hander “wasn’t pleased about the decision”, which only compounded his less than enthusiastic reaction to being traded to the Yankees in the first place.

In 1996, the displeasure was back on the Yankees side when Bernie Williams won a whopping 650% raise from the team. The Yankees had been hoping to negotiate a long-term deal instead, but with Williams and his agent Scott Boras already looking ahead to free agency, the team had little choice but to take things one year at a time.

Continuing a trend, the Yankees also had difficultly inking their other young core players to long-term deals. In 1999, the team lost arbitration hearings to both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and then the following season took their closer to the table once again. The Yankees prevailed over Rivera the second time, but still wound up handing out the largest arbitration-derived salary in team history.

The most interesting element of the 2000 hearing with Rivera was the arguments made on both sides. Rivera’s camp suggested that the closer was at least as valuable as Jeter, who had signed a $10 million deal earlier in the winter. The Yankees, however, countered by suggesting that Rivera added less to the bottom line, citing the fewer number of internet hits and derivative revenue that he generated compared to Jeter.

The Yankees offered a compelling argument to support that claim, noting that from 1997-99, Jeter merchandise sales at Yankee Stadium totaled $2,280,000, compared with $57,000 for Rivera. Over the same three-year period, Jeter received 727,196 hits on the team’s Web site, compared with 68,974 for Rivera.” – Anthony McCarron, New York Daily News Sportswriter, February 19, 2000

I wonder what Casey Close (Jeter’s agent) thinks about that argument now?

Complete History of Yankees’ Arbitration Cases, 1974-Present

Year Player Ask Offer $ Increase % Increase
1974 Wayne Granger* $46,000 $42,000 -$1,500 -3.2%
1974 Gene Michael $65,500 $55,000 $0 0.0%
1974 Duke Sims $56,000 $50,000 $0 0.0%
1974 Bill Sudakis* $30,000 $25,000 $10,000 50.0%
1981 Rick Cerone* $440,000 $350,000 $340,000 340.0%
1982 Bobby Brown $175,000 $90,000 $10,000 12.5%
1982 Ron Davis $575,000 $300,000 $100,000 50.0%
1982 Dave Revering $325,000 $250,000 NA  NA
1987 Don Mattingly* $1,975,000 $1,700,000 $600,000 43.6%
1988 Mike Pagliarulo $625,000 $500,000 $450,000 257.1%
1993 Jim Abbott $3,500,000 $2,350,000 $500,000 27.0%
1993 John Habyan $830,000 $600,000 $100,000 20.0%
1993 Randy Velarde* $1,050,000 $600,000 $690,000 191.7%
1994 Pat Kelly* $810,000 $575,000 $650,000 406.3%
1994 Kevin Maas $490,000 $425,000 $170,000 66.7%
1994 Terry Mulholland $4,050,000 $3,350,000 $700,000 26.4%
1996 Bernie Williams* $3,000,000 $2,555,000 $2,600,000 650.0%
1999 Derek Jeter* $5,000,000 $3,200,000 $4,250,000 566.7%
1999 Mariano Rivera* $4,250,000 $3,000,000 $3,500,000 466.7%
2000 Mariano Rivera $9,250,000 $7,250,000 $3,000,000 70.6%
2008 Chien Ming Wang $4,600,000 $4,000,000 $3,510,500 717.2%

*Denotes player won the arbitration hearing.
Source: bizofbaseball.com and baseball-reference.com

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Just days after the news that Sparky Anderson had entered a hospice, the legendary manager passed away at the age of 76.

Sparky Anderson in his playing days with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, where he spent four seasons from 1960 to 1963.

George Lee “Sparky” Anderson was a career minor leaguer who played in only one major league season with the Phillies in 1959. At his best considered a poor man’s Eddie Stanky, Anderson never lived up to his limited potential as a player, but slowly made a name for himself as a coach when his playing career ended in 1963.

After several seasons as a coach with various organizations (over the course of three days in the winter of 1970, he went from being a third base coach with the Padres to a similar role with the Angels before ending up an unlikely manager of the Reds), Anderson finally got his big break with Cincinnati.

Before Sparky signed on to lead the Reds, the team had won only one NL pennant in the previous 29 seasons, underperforming what were usually high expectations. Against that back drop, the 36-year old Anderson, who always seemed to look at least 10-years older, pragmatically told reporters “That’s why I’m not on the spot. If the Reds are supposed to win the pennant and don’t, it won’t be the first time it’s happened recently”.

In case anyone was disappointed by the hiring of the relatively unknown Anderson, the Reds sought to quickly ease the transition. In December, they issued a team Christmas Card featuring a caricature of Sparky Anderson driving a tractor. “Holiday Greetings from the Big Red Machine”, the card read.

I told Clyde King [manager of the Giants] that it’d really be something , me and him going out to the plate with lineups for the game of the day one of these weeks. Nobody’d know who either of one of us is.” – Sparky Anderson, speaking about his anonymity, The Pittsburgh Press, March 31, 1970

Going into his first season, Anderson knew he wasn’t exactly as well known as Santa Claus. During his first spring training, he quipped, “I told Clyde King [manager of the Giants] that it’s really be something , me and him going out to the plate with lineups for the game of the day one of these weeks. Nobody’d know who either of one of us is.”

Although unknown when he was hired, Sparky Anderson made a name for himself as manager of the Big Red Machine.

Those sentiments, which now seem so eerie considering the death of King and Anderson on consecutive days, quickly dissipated as the Reds won 100 games and returned to the World Series in 1970. After two more close calls in 1972 and 1973, Sparky’s Big Red Machine finally broke through with back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1976, the latter resulting in a commanding sweep of the New York Yankees.

Following the 1978 season, the Reds shocked the baseball world by dismissing Anderson. At the time, Reds’ president Dick Wagner cited the team’s complacency as reason for the change, but most signs pointed toward a personality clash between the two men.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner called the Reds’ decision “the biggest boo boo of the year”, leading many to speculate that Sparky’s next stop might be in the Bronx. At the time, Bob Lemon was serving as a lame duck manager during the 1979 season with Billy Martin waiting to take over in 1980. However, further indiscretions by Martin had the Yankees leery of their commitment, and rumors floated that Anderson would instead take over Lemon. As things turned out, the Yankees never got the chance because the Tigers, fearful that another team would snap him up, abruptly fired their manager in June and hired Sparky as the replacement.

“I made a bet with Sparky last January for dinner and a suit of clothes that he’d get a managing job before June 15. It looks like I won, doesn’t it”. – Reds’ pitcher Tom Seaver, speaking to AP/UPI after the Tigers hired Anderson to be their manager, June 13, 1979

After leaving the Reds, Anderson guided the Tigers for 16 seasons, including a World Series championship in 1984 (Photo: Detroit News).

Anderson slowly brought the struggling Tigers back to respectability before eventually winning it all in 1984 with a historic 35-5 start to a 104-win season, and in the process became the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues. Sparky remained with the Tigers for 11 more seasons, but only returned to the playoffs once more (in 1987) before retiring in 1995. He exited with 2,194 games won, good for sixth on the all-time list (and third at the time of his departure).

Always a character, Sparky Anderson was a true ambassador of the game. He was equal parts traditionalist, optimist and enthusiast, and always exuded a genuine sense of love for wearing a major league uniform. All of baseball is worse off for his loss, but infinitely better for his time in the game. He may have been a no-name when he first stepped onto the scene, but he departs as one of its legends.

The Traditionalist

In the early 1990s, the Yankees had become used to getting mauled by the Tigers, especially in Detroit. So, when the Yankees took a 6-0 lead in a game on May 7, 1993, Buck Showalter still wasn’t taking anything for granted. In an attempt to score a seventh run, Pat Kelly swiped second base in the top of the sixth. The Yankees’ aggressive posture with such a large lead seemed to upset Anderson, who could be seen gesticulating toward the Yankees’ bench. After the game, Sparky’s immediate response was to quote Branch Rickey’s old axiom about letting sleeping dogs lie, which seemed rather appropriate because his Tigers roared back to win the game 7-6.

Anderson eventually apologized to Showalter for his reaction, but as things turned out, the moment served as an invaluable lesson for the rookie Yankees manager. By sticking to his guns, Showalter not only earned Sparky’s respect, but raised eyebrows around the league. When Anderson eventually retired after the 1995 season, the first man he recommended as his replacement was Showalter.

The Optimist

Spring training has always been a haven for the optimist, and no one proved that more than Sparky Anderson. Without fail, Sparky would spend the entire camp touting one of his team’s young prospects. Whether it was Jim Walewander, Billy Bean, Scott Lusader or any number of other nondescript minor leaguers, Anderson would trumpet their ability, which usually meant they’d seldom be heard from again. The Tigers under Sparky were mostly a veteran club, but at least in March, youth was served.

The Motivator

Perhaps Sparky Anderson’s greatest talent as a manager was his ability to motivate, especially star players. His famous comment from the 1976 World Series about no one being comparable to Johnny Bench was often seen as a slight to Yankees backstop Thurman Munson, but the words were really meant as a tribute to his own catcher. Another classic example of motivation during the World Series occurred in game 5 of the 1984 World Series. In the eighth inning of that game, the Padres were clinging to life, trailing 5-4 with runners on second and third and Kirk Gibson coming to the plate. San Diego manager Dick Williams initially instructed Rich Gossage to walk the Tigers’ slugger, but the Goose talked him out of it. While manager and pitcher conferred, Sparky repeatedly shouted at Gibson, “He doesn’t want to walk you!” One pitch later, the ball was headed over the roof in right field and the Tigers were on their way to a World Championship.

For video of the Gibson homerun, click here.

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As the Core Four’s careers wind down, can the Yankees keep a smile on their faces?

Earlier in the week, we suggested that Joe Girardi’s legacy as Yankee manager would depend on how he shepherds the Yankees’ core of aging veterans through the twilight of their respective careers. Making the task even more challenging for Girardi is that he played alongside these legends during the primes of their careers. As a result, you couldn’t blame the Yankees skipper if he allows sentimentality to play at least a small role in how he handles this precarious issue.

Although Girardi has been very diplomatic on the subject, Brian Cashman has not. According to recent comments, it seems that if the Yankees’ general manager has his way, sentimentality will have no impact on how the team treats its veteran stars.

We’re not going to be interested in retaining players because of future milestones. The stars don’t put fannies in the seats. Wins do. If it’s a bad team, people will stop showing up by July. They’ll go to the beach.” – Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman, quoted in the New York Times, October 29, 2010

Rob Neyer called Cashman “his hero” for the above statement, but as a lifelong Yankee fan, I find it somewhat disturbing, especially because it can’t be dismissed as tough talk. We’ve already seen this sentiment put into action with how the team handled the end of Bernie Williams’ career. Following the 2006 season, Joe Torre still seemed inclined to have the popular centerfielder play a role on the team, but Cashman refused to relent and only offered Williams a non guaranteed invitation to Spring Training.

Yeah, it would be tough for me if you had to say goodbye. I sense he feels confident that he can still play this game. It’s tough for him to feel wanted if it means getting spot on the 40-man roster at this point in time because there’s no room.” – Joe Torre, quoted by AP, February 18, 2007

In other words, Bernie Williams never really retired. The Yankees effectively ended his career.

At the time, most Yankees’ fans seemed fine with the decision because Williams’ talents had obviously declined. I, however, was not. Although winning is clearly the number one mission statement, the Yankees should be about more than just one bottom line. George Steinbrenner was famously quoted as saying the only thing he cared about more than winning was breathing, but under the Boss, the Yankees’ organization placed great emphasis on promoting a family culture. Once a Yankee, always a Yankee so to speak. Much was made of Steinbrenner’s itchy trigger finger, but the truth of the matter was being fired or released from the Yankees just meant a reunion would soon be in the planning.

Make no mistake about it. Before Steinbrenner took over, the Yankees reputation had always been as a very bottom line organization. Even Babe Ruth was jettisoned when he no longer was the Sultan of Swat. And, to be sure, that philosophy probably played a role in the franchise’s perennial success. Having said that, the Yankees shouldn’t have to choose between winning and placating their veteran stars. After all, the team’s history is defined by more than just wins and losses, but also the men who make them possible.

The decline of legends like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (well, maybe not Mo) is inevitable, and at some point, the Yankees will have to move on. However, they don’t need to do it in such a cutthroat way. In the case of Bernie, there was no reason for not giving him a guaranteed deal. Even if the money was a concern, would the Yankees really have been worse off with Williams taking the roster spot of guys like Andy Phillips, Josh Phelps and Kevin Thompson? Luckily, Bernie’s relationship with the Yankees remains strong, but it would have been a shame had the result of the team’s decision been estrangement from one of its homegrown stars.

Do we really follow sports only to watch a winner? If so, why not jump from bandwagon to bandwagon? Although many casual fans do take that approach, the diehard’s attachment to a team stems more from its history than its prospects for future success. Because of their financial advantage, the Yankees can have their cake and eat it too. As a result, the team shouldn’t feel the need to abide by Branch Rickey’s famous advice about trading “a player a year too early rather than a year too late” when handling its Hall of Fame core. The Yankees can still win while catering to their stars. The end doesn’t always justify the means, and in this case, the cost of winning in the future doesn’t have to involve turning away from history.

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