Friday, October 19, 2007


As some of you may have heard, Joe Torre declined the Yankees' offer of a 1-year deal to return as Yankees manager. The deal, which Torre referred to as an "insult," was for about $5 million, a pretty big pay cut from Torre's estimated $7 million salary in 2007. There were some performances bonuses that could have raised the deal to $8 million, but these were all tied to postseason performance. And there was a possibility of a 2008 option that could vest -- but only if the Yankees won the pennant in 2008. Torre, sensibly, decided not to take a big pay cut and stay in a job his bosses (GM Brian Cashman excepted) don't want him for.

It seems that the Yankees gave Torre such a low-ball offer in an attempt to deflect criticism for his departure. If they had merely fired him, they would be the villains. But if the headline reads, "Torre rejects Yankees' contract offer," then the heat would presumably be on Torre. This kind of thing happens often, where a company doesn't really want to fire someone, so they try to badger them into quitting to save face. Only this particular ploy was unsuccessful. All of the big-time analysts I've heard weigh in on the issue (Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, Tom Verducci) immediately blamed the Yankees and excoriated them for such a shady move. Any attempt to transfer blame from ownership to Joe Torre has failed horribly.

What will the Yankees do next?
An ESPN Sportsnation poll has 57% of respondents predicting that the Yankees will miss the playoffs this year. With the departure of Joe Torre and the damper that puts on the plans to re-sign Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and (potentially) Alex Rodriguez, fans are predicting a tough year for the Yankees.

But really -- what's all that different? I've defended Torre, but I think his greatest strength is in PR and damage control; from the perspective of just wins and losses he's not that special. And I think the team is fully capable of re-signing Rivera or Posada (and maybe both), especially if Don Mattingly takes over as manager, which is the most likely scenario from what I'm hearing (although it's very early yet). Next year's Yankees will have most of the same big contributors from this year, and many of them stand that chance of improving dramatically over their 2007 numbers (Joba Chamberlain, Phillip Hughes, Ian Kennedy). The only big threat to the Yankees' chances of repeating as winners of 90+ games is the possible loss of Alex Rodriguez. But losing A-Rod would also free up a lot more money to commit to Rivera and/or Posada. And there are several creative solutions to the third base problem, with Garret Atkins' name coming up several times (although the Rockies are unlikely to trade any key players if they win the World Series).

There will be a lot of drama and a lot of headlines, but the Yankee machine is still moving right along, and except for A-Rod, there's every likelihood that they'll be just as good next year.

Other news:
  • The Red Sox got a big victory from Josh Beckett in Game 5 of the ALCS. I'm not quite ready to fellate him yet, but it is true that Beckett is quite the big-game pitcher.
    With this win, I think the Series is pretty close once again. The Indians hold the advantage with the 3-2 Series lead, needing just one win, which they may well get tomorrow with Fausto Carmona taking on Curt "This Isn't Your Father's Pitching Ace" Schilling. But the Sox got out of Cleveland and have two more games in Fenway Park. And if they can win in Game 6, their odds are much better for a Game 7 that pits Daisuke Matsuzaka against Jake Westbrook. There's still a lot of excitement here. And thank God, because there's nothing like 4 series sweeps out of 6 to kill some TV ratings.
  • In a pretty darn unexpected move, Angels GM Bill Stoneman has stepped down from his position; Tony Reagins, director of player development, succeeds him. While I'm not a big fan of the Angels' narrow baseball philosophy of contact and speed, it's hard to argue with results, and Stoneman has had a pretty remarkable run of success despite not being nearly as famous as some of his colleagues. The knock on Stoneman, which is valid, is that he's always been far too hesitant to pull the trigger on trades. He's got a very strong group of young talent, but hasn't really leveraged that into anything else at the big league level. Still, he's done a good job with what he has, and even his big-money free agent signings have been relatively successful (pro: Vlad Guerrero, Kelvim Escobar; Con: Gary Matthews, Jr., Bartolo Colon).
    It's really remarkable how many long-tenured GMs have gone this offseason. Coming into the season, the longest-tenured GMs in baseball were John Schuerholz (Atlanta), Billy Beane (Oakland), Stoneman (Angels), Terry Ryan (Twins) and Brian Cashman (Yankees). Three of them are gone (and it appears they all stepped aside of their own accord). Other long-term GMs such as Walt Jocketty (St. Louis) and Dave Littlefield (Pittsburgh) were shown the door, although it was about time for Littlefield.
    They're dropping like flies in the front offices of baseball. This creates some job openings for new blood, as well as a change of scenery for Jocketty (I highly doubt that Littlefield will be a GM again).
  • The Royals have hired Trey Hillman to replace Buddy Bell as manager. Hillman was considered a dark horse for the Yankees job, but maybe he got a pretty good idea of how the higher-ups treat their managers this past few months. I know little about him, so I can't say whether this is a very good move or not. Time will tell (and so will I once I do my research).
  • The Rockies are trying to trademark the term "Rocktober." Hey, even a team of destiny needs merchandising. (I need to be careful, because they may try to trademark the words "team," "of" and "destiny" sometime soon).
  • The Mitchell Commission report will be issued soon after the World Series, I understand. Word got out about a week ago that the committee would be naming big names that hadn't emerged in other investigations.
    Wouldn't a simple press release have been more appropriate? Why not just tell everyone that the report will have pictures of naked ladies in it. Maybe that will make someone care.

The ALCS continues tomorrow, which is surprising, because I thought we had another 5 days off so everyone could go goose hunting or whatever the hell they're doing during all these days off.

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