Friday, November 14, 2003

Relief market shrinks by two 

Mike Timlin and Tom Martin have resigned with the Red Sox and Dodgers respectively, eliminating them from the Yankees' potential 2004 bullpen picture. Timlin, a 37-year-old righty, resigned for one year at $2.5 million with a team option for $2.75 in 2005 ($250,000 buyout). Martin, a 33-year-old lefty, resigned for two years at $3.2 million.

Martin had been my second choice behind Ricardo Rincon for the Yankees 2004 lefty killer.

posted by Cliff at 3:19 PM

Olympic Coal 

I once again call your attention to Stark's Rumblings & Grumblings column. Not to the trade rumors, but to the sidebar about the U.S. Team's elimination from the Olympic tournament. There are some excellent points made there, many of which where made at the beginning of the week by Sam over at Three Up, Three Down. The Jim Caple column referenced in the Stark sidebar is here.

posted by Cliff at 2:50 PM

Back with Mel, back to the Mill 

The Yankees got some great news yesterday when Mel Stottlemyre called Brian Cashman to tell him that he'd be back in 2004.

Mel's return automatically increases the odds of Andy Pettitte resigning with the Bombers. At Joe Torre's recent Safe At Home charity dinner, Roger Clemens portrayed Andy as very conflicted about staying home in Texas (which is what his family wants) versus remaining a Yankee. Mel's return might help to tip the balance toward New York. What might also help is that there's a very good chance that the Astros simply can't afford him.

That and the fact that the Yankees most likely will not be players in the Vlad Guerrero sweepstakes are among the juicy tidbits in Jayson Stark's most recent Rumblings and Grumblings column.

With that bit of news, I fully expect the Yankees to sign Gary Sheffield, who is representing himself, has already talked to Cashman, and has publicly reiterated his interest in coming to the Bronx.

The Curt Schilling news seems to be cooling down (though you can read plenty about it in both of those last two links) and the General Managers' meetings are over today, so hopefully we'll get a breather from visions of Soriano and Johnson dancing in other uniforms.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a look at what the future may hold for Joe Girardi. It sounds like he turned down the Yankees job offer because he wouldn't be on the field or in uniform.

While Girardi won't be a Yankee coach in 2004, Darryl Strawberry will be. Is Straw really the guy you want your youngsters hanging around with? Better yet, is it really the best idea to have Strawberry spending time with a bunch of college-age kids with too much leisure time? Actually, if it'll distract the Boss from shipping Nick and Sori out of town, let him hire Steve Howe and Pascual Perez for all I care. Is Doc Ellis gainfully employed nowadays?

Lastly, there are less than four months until the Yankees once again take the field. Spring training kicks off March 4.

posted by Cliff at 2:04 PM

The Needle and the Testing Done 

The results of Major League Baseball's survey drug tests are in and more than five percent of the tests have come up positive. This means that mandatory testing will occur in 2004 and 2005. If more than 2.5 percent of the league tests positive in those two years combined, mandatory testing will continue. If less, survey testing will return in 2006. The reported results put the actual percentage between five and seven percent.

The way I see it, this is the best thing that could have happened. Everyone knows that there is some level of steroid use going on in baseball, so a zero percent result would only have revealed the testing to be completely ineffective. Any result lower than five percent would have proved that there is indeed steroid use but prevented the league from taking further steps to eradicate it. Obviously a higher percentage would have been worse for the game's image. Yes, a five percent result is just perfect. Perhaps too perfect.

While players were tested anonymously this year, the mandatory testing that will begin this upcoming spring training will not be anonymous. For his first offense a player will be given treatment and education and will be subject to further testing. A second offense will earn him a 15-day suspension (without pay) or a fine of up to $10,000 (is it me, or are those not equal penalties). More compellingly, players will be publicly identified on second offense. Third offense: 25 days or up to $25,000; Fourth: 50 days or up to $50,000; Fifth: one year suspension without pay or up to $100,000. Let me repeat myself here. One year suspension without pay or an up to $100,000 fine? In a league with a minimum annual salary of $300,000? Is this a loophole to keep star players from being suspended? Do I even have to ask that question?

This is just the tip of the WTF iceberg. To begin with there are the results themselves, which have been reported as "between five and seven percent" positive. What exactly does that mean? There were 1,438 tests and X positive results that = X/1438 (times one hundred) percent positive. Why the vague result? Well according to Gene Orza of the Player's Association: "There's . . . a technical disagreement to the interpretation of the results." Apparently the number of positive tests "ranged from 70 and 100" (NYTimes). But 70 out of 1438 is 4.9 percent. I guess they round to the nearest percent (is that in the agreement?). And what if it had been 50 to 80 positives? That's 3.5 to 5.6 percent. What then? To further complicate things, of the 1438 tests, 240 of them were repeat tests (also done anonymously and at random), which means that 70 to 100 positives doesn't necessarily mean 70 to 100 players.

But here's my favorite part (from this New York Times article):

That 5 to 7 percent of players tested positive hardly means that only 5 to 7 percent use banned substances, scientists said. Baseball's survey testing program did not meet the standards of what would be considered meaningful screening, like the year-round, random, unannounced testing used by sports affiliated with the Olympics, Dr. Wadler said.

Scientists also noted that players could have used steroids in the off-season, when they knew they would not be tested, and stopped several weeks before spring training, when testing began. This could have provided them with the muscle-building effects of steroids while allowing time for detectable amounts of the drug to leave their systems, scientists said.

Given that baseball players were told to expect to be tested beginning in spring training, failing a drug test amounted to flunking an IQ test, Dr. Wadler said. At the Olympics, 1 to 2 percent of drug screens are expected to turn up positive. That 5 to 7 percent of baseball players tested positive may indicate a lack of sophistication about drug use compared with track and field and professional football, said Dr. Charles Yesalis, a Penn State expert on steroids.

"There must be a lot of stupid baseball players," he said.

Lastly, the players tested were those on the 40-man rosters of each team. That makes sense as the 25-man rosters are in constant flux. However, all 40-man rosters are fleshed out with minor leaguers (for example the Yankees' 40-man currently includes Juan Rivera, Erick Almonte, Drew Henson, Fernando Seguinol, Michel Hernandez, Bubba Crosby, Andy Phillips, Jorge DePaula, Danny Borrell, Alex Graman, Chien-Ming Wang, Randy Choate, Bret Prinz, Jay Tessmer and Sam Marsonek--appropriately, 15 players who spent the bulk, if not all of 2003 in the minors). Players with minor league contracts have been tested for illegal substances since 2001. Assuming each team has 15 minor leaguers on its 40-man and that all of those players tested negative because they'd been subject to testing over the previous two seasons in the minors, that means that the positive results came from the remaining 988 "major leaguers." In that case the 70 to 100 positives result in a seven to ten percent positive result. Of course, that's not accurate either, because of those 240 retests, some of which may also have been of those minor leaguers, so the actual percentage of positives among major league players is most likely above ten percent.

Given all of these variables (dispute over the results, the ease of avoiding a positive result even for an abusing players, the watering down of the results due to the approximately 450 previously-tested minor leaguers involved) I find it very suspicious that the official result just happened to be the minimum required for mandatory testing in the next two years. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. We've got our mandatory testing. That's all that matters right now.

posted by Cliff at 10:14 AM

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rumors and other horsesh*t 

The General Manager meetings kicked off in Phoenix yesterday and the rumor mill is all in a tizzy.

One move has already been made. The Astros signed a member of the Yankees' 2003 pitching staff. Thankfully it was Dan Miceli.

As expected, Brian Cashman is at the center of everything. Yesterday he met with Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola Jr. and Royals GM Allard Baird (three guesses as to whom they discussed) among others. Cash is in a self-described "hunter-gatherer" mode, with an emphasis on the "gatherer." Essentially, he's seeing what's out there so that he can put together a game plan. Right now his primary focus seems to be finding out what would be available via trade.

As for the rumor mill, Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson are the only names that have come up as trade bait (no surprise there--besides, "Juan Rivera" just doesn't make good copy), and the potential returns include Carlos Beltran (Baird wants a "young impact player" or two starting players), Jim Edmonds, Javier Vazquez (though Omar Minaya doesn't have a budget and thus can't plan for 2004 yet), and Curt Schilling. Free agents who have been mentioned in connection with the Yankees include Gary Sheffield, Shannon Stewart, Luis Castillo, Kaz Matsui, Arthur Rhodes, Tom Gordon, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and LaTroy Hawkins.

Of course none of this means much at the moment, though the Schilling talks--much to my dismay--seem to be progressing. Schilling, who has a no-trade clause and will be in the final year of his contract in 2004, will insist on an extension with any team to which he might be traded. He has said he would be willing to talk to the Yankees about his concerns, which, in addition to his own contract extension, could include the continued presence of Joe Torre.

Lastly, it looks like Gammons was right. David Wells will need back surgery, but he still plans to pitch in 2004. Oh and although the Rangers claim they won't, the Astros say they will make in inquiry about getting Roger Clemens back in uniform next year.

Meanwhile, in real news, anyone remember Bubba Trammell? Well he has filed a grievance against the Yankees for the remainder of his 2003 salary. There are still no firm answers as to why he left the team, but the Players Association claims he is suffering from depression and should have been on the disabled list, not the restricted list.

posted by Cliff at 11:57 AM

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Roy White 

The Yankees have named their new third base coach: Luis Sojo.

Heh, just kidding around. Yes, Sojo will coach third, but the real news is that Roy White will take Mazzilli's spot on the staff and coach first.

Here's White's resume from the linked article:

The 59-year old White previously served as the Yankees' first-base coach in 1984 and 1986. He was also the club's bench coach in 1983. He worked in other coaching capacities with the Yankees' organization including roles as a special assignment instructor in 1995 and a roving outfield instructor from 1996-1998. White spent the last five seasons as the hitting coach for the Oakland A's Triple-A affiliate and, in 2003, he helped guide the Sacramento River Cats to the Pacific Coast League Championship.

White played with the Yankees for 15 seasons from 1965 through 1979 and ranks among the all-time club leaders in hits (10th - 1,803), stolen bases (fourth - 233) and games played (fifth - 1,881). He played in three World Series (1976, 1977, 1978) and was selected to the American League All-Star game twice. Following the conclusion of his Major-League career, White played three seasons in Japan with the Tokyo Giants from 1980-1982.

A great choice. The Yankees needed someone who could work with the outfielders. White, who played for no other major league team, will do that as well as have a certain inside track with Matsui as a result of his time spent with Matsui's old team in Japan. Most importantly, White was the sort of fundamentally sound, all-business ballplayer that fits in perfectly with the Torre vision. Willie, Donnie, Luis and Roy. Hell of a staff. Now we just need Mel back.

posted by Cliff at 12:44 PM

Monday, November 10, 2003


Great post here from Jay Jaffe over at The Futility Infielder on Avkash Patel's new Attrition Rate (AtR) stat. The stat combines a hitter's ability to see pitches and get on base (avoid outs), to determine his ability to wear down pitchers. I'll let Jay tell you the rest, and show you what it means for the Yankee offense, but I will say that this ads yet another log to my Nick Johnson fire.

posted by Cliff at 4:36 PM

Rookies of the Year & Rumors 

The Rookies of the Year for 2003 have been announced. Angel Berroa won in the AL, just beating out Hideki Matsui (as well he should have). I would have liked to have seen more votes for Jody Gerut, but I wasn't holding my breath. Dontrelle Willis won in the NL and he should not have. It doesn't take a brain scientist to figure out which of these pitchers was better in 2003:

Pitcher 1: 3.30 14-6 .245 BAA 1.28 WHIP 160.2 IP 148 H 142 K 58 BB 13 HR
Pitcher 2: 2.84 10-9 .212 BAA 1.14 WHIP 180.2 IP 140 H 172 K 68 BB 12 HR

That's Pitcher 2, Brandon Webb, in a walk over Pitcher 1, Dontrelle Willis. Fercryinoutloud, Webb gave up fewer hits and home runs with a better ERA, BAA and WHIP despite pitching 20 extra innings. Which reminds me, Webb only started one more game than Willis (he also relieved once) but still pitched 20 more innings. Giving Willis the award over Webb is inexcusable. It's obvious that Willis won the award because of the ten games leading up to the All-Star break in which he went 8-0 and the resulting media attention he and his quirky wind-up received. That's ten out of 27 games mind you. What's more, Brewers centerfielder Scott Podsednik was every bit as exciting a player as Willis, something I got to see firsthand at Miller Park, and also had a better season (.314/.379/.443, 43 SB, 100 R). Bottom line: Willis made an excellent showing for a rookie but both Podsednik and Webb were better and more deserving of the award. Fond as I am of Podsednik, I'd probably have voted for Webb. He kept the D-backs in the Wild Card hunt when Johnson and Schilling went down with injuries, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and holding batters to a .212 average (I had to repeat those). Outstanding.

Speaking of the D-Backs, I won't even get started on the Curt Schilling rumors. I'll let Mark Grace say my piece. Nor will I comment on this garbage about Soriano. I've already said my piece about trading Johnson or Soriano and unless something awful happens I will let it stand. Now is the time of year that you have to be very selective about what rumors you let bother you. Especially when it's a slow day on the back page.

Some hearsay that is worth your time, however, is Peter Gammons report going into the winter meetings in Phoenix. One particularly heartening passage pertains to the Astros and Andy Pettitte:

There is a lot of speculation in New York that the Wagner deal clears the payroll for the Astros to sign Pettitte, but that apparently is not the case. The Wagner move simply pays for 2004 raises and arbitration cases. The 'Stros lost close to $15 million in 2003, they have to get closer to the debt/equity percentages and unless Hidalgo goes, Pettitte will probably stay in New York.

I hope he's right. Gammons also expects David Wells to have back surgery this offseason and then go to pitch for the Padres. We shall see.

posted by Cliff at 3:17 PM

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