Friday, February 20, 2004

If Jimmy Foxx was "Double-X" can Gabe White be "Triple-X?" 

The Yankees have avoided arbitration with their only remaining arbitration case by signing Gabe "Triple-X" White to a one-year $1.925 million contract with a mutual option for 2005 ($200K buyout).

Over at Transaction Guy, Christian Ruzich calls White the Yankees number-two lefty behind Felix Heredia. I'm not sure where he gets that from. White is quite clearly the better pitcher and has a more severe split, thus making him the preferable lefty-on-lefty guy in the Yankees bullpen.

Looking at the Fielding-Independent Pitching stats posted by Larry Mahnken in his most recent post comparing the projected 2004 Yankees and Red Sox, it's quite obvious that Heredia and White are the weakest two members of the Yankees 2004 staff by a considerable margin. It's also quite obvious that White is the better pitcher.

Those looking for more traditional stats look no further than these from 2000-2003 (bear in mind that White's numbers include 136 games as a member of the Rockies):

Triple-XFelix the Cat

Outside of the home-run rates, White beats Heredia in every category. Felix's only significant advantage over White is his age. Heredia is almost four years younger than the 32-year-old White.

posted by Cliff at 3:02 PM

Gary Gets Testy 

Conspiracy theorists believe that the A-Rod trade was not challenged by the commissioner's office because it was the perfect diversion from the developing BALCO scandal. But, while the trade did direct the attention of Yankee fans toward the box office, as a diversionary tactic it seems to be out of gas. Indeed, it's not A-Rod, but Gary Sheffield who is gracing the back pages less than a week after the trade.

Sheffield is the first player whose name has been directly linked to the BALCO investigation. Yesterday he discussed the matter with reporters, claiming to have purchased vitamins, nothing more, from BALCO and offering to take a drug test to back up his assertions.

For what it's worth, the only thing Sheffield has been proven guilty of doing is sending BALCO a package, contents unknown. I for one am willing to believe that Sheff is, and has been, clean. Unlike some other major leaguers, he does not seem unnaturally bulky, nor has his body type changed drastically from when he was a younger player. What's more, he has not experienced any drastic, unexplained surges in his numbers. If there's anything mildly fishy about Sheffield's record it's that he had some of his best seasons while playing his home games in Dodger Stadium in his early 30s, but none of those seasons exceeded his natural peak, which occurred right on schedule at age 27. What's more, as an elite and extremely disciplined hitter (OBP over .400 in every season since 1995) it's not surprising that he has maintained a near-peak level of performance throughout his early 30s.

In other news, El Duque is playing hardball with the Yankees over the minor league deal they've offered him and is threatening to go to the Red Sox. That this is worth mentioning is a clear indication of how desperate the Yankees are for rotation insurance. Duque will participate in a second open workout on Monday in Miami, the Yankees will have representitives in attendance.

Meanwhile, Jose Contreras's family is still not allowed to leave Cuba.

Contreras said his family was informed 18 months ago that it would have to wait five years for a white card, a document required to leave the island nation.

"It's an injustice what they're doing to my family, just because I decided to leave," Contreras said. "I don't think the family should have to pay. A number of other Cuban athletes have left the country, and they've been able to get their families out in eight, nine months. I actually thought they would be here (now).

This is not news, necessarily, but warrants mention if for no other reason than the fact that Contreras's only hope at the moment seems to be to have Castro relent to a growing publicity storm surrounding the issue. Fortunately, Fidel is a regular BRB reader . . . heh.

Oh, and I think Aaron Boone finally had his surgery, or something. Remember when it was news that his intial surgury date was delayed? In trying to find mention of the operation I found this 1998 article about Boone's heart abnormality in which he compares the surgury he will eventually need for that problem to arthrosopic knee surgery, something he's had twice since then. Or so I think. Can't find mention of it anywhere.

posted by Cliff at 10:56 AM

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Greatest What? 

In his latest column, Rob Neyer assembles a list of the nine "Greatest Baseball Players Ever."

That list, which is based almost entirely on win shares and is given less than 1,400 words of explanation, looks like this:

1. Babe Ruth
2. Willie Mays
3. Ted Williams
4. Honus Wagner
5. Ty Cobb
6. Barry Bonds
7. Hank Aaron
8. Stan Musial
9. Mickey Mantle

Eight outfielders and one shortstop. I'm highly suspicious.

Neyer does recognize that his list looks a little fishy, but offers negligible analysis of its exclusivity:

There is a big problem with this list: There are nine players, and eight of them are outfielders (Wagner being the only exception). This is consistent with Conventional Wisdom, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's right. Why do outfielders fare so well? Two obvious reasons: Outfielders tend to last longer, and they tend to hit better. If you want more infielders, though, I heartily endorse Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins and Mike Schmidt (and don't be shy about moving Wagner, a shortstop for most of his career, up a slot or two).

There also aren't any pitchers (Ruth notwithstanding); if you want a pitcher on that list, feel free to drop Walter Johnson somewhere between Bonds and Mantle.

Hmmm. I'll admit, I'm not intimately familiar with the philosophy and methodology behind win shares. I hold Bill James, who created them, and Neyer in very high regard, but have disagreed with both often enough that I refuse to trust them outright (actually, I refuse to trust anyone outright, as should you).

It seems to me that the discussion of the Greatest Baseball Players Ever is as much a philosophical one as an analytical one. What are you really trying to measure? The ability to win a single ball game, or a high level of performance over time? If the latter, is that amount of time a seven-game World Series, a single season, a four-year peak, a decade or a generation? The only type of player who can win a game single handedly is a pitcher (barring the DH that is), but not a single pitcher makes Neyer's list. What's more, the most valuable possible player in a short series is also a dominant starting pitcher (see Christy Matthewson in 1905, Sandy Koufax in 1963 or 1965, Bob Gibson in 1967, Mickey Lolich in 1968, or Randy Johnson in 2001 for the best examples of this). Things become more complicated over larger spans because historically the best pitchers only appear in every fourth game or so while the best everyday players are exactly that.

I don't plan on trying to solve any of these quandaries here and now, but it struck me that Neyer's list looks a lot like a list of the Greatest Hitters Ever. With that in mind, I wondered what such a list might actually look like. Focusing purely on what a player does with the bat allows us to skip right over win shares and look at what I feel are the two best stats to measure hitting performance across baseball's many different eras: OPS+ and OWP.

OPS+ (adjusted on-base percentage plus slugging) is useful because it corrects for park factors and expresses a player's OPS in relationship to the rest of his league. In other words, it levels the OPS playing field, allowing us to responsibly compare a hitter playing in a hitters park in a high-scoring era against a hitter playing in a pitchers park in a low-scoring era with a single number. (OPS+, like ERA+, is expressed as a percentage, with 100 being league average)

OWP (offensive winning percentage) tells us what a team's winning percentage would be if they had league average pitching and defense and a starting line-up comprised solely of clones of the given player. It sounds a bit sci-fi, but it does a very good job of telling us what is most important: to what degree did Player X help his team win. The fact that his runs are measured against those allowed by a league average pitching and defense staff corrects for era, though to the best of my knowledge there are no park factors involved. OWP, however, is directly tied to run production, and thus works nicely in conjunction with the park-corrected but more esoteric OPS+. As OPS+ and OWP are both rate stats, they also help eliminate problems that result from varying career lengths.

It's very convenient that Neyer listed only nine players, rather than the typical top-10, because the top nine players on the all-time lists for both OPS+ and OWP (minimum 3000 plate appearances) are the same. They do not, however, occur in the same order:


1. Babe Ruth - .852
2. Ted Williams - .832
3. Barry Bonds - .804
4. Mickey Mantle - .801
5. Lou Gehrig - .797
6. Rogers Hornsby - .787
7. Ty Cobb - .781
8. Joe Jackson - .780
9. Dan Brouthers - .770


1. Babe Ruth - 207
2. Ted Williams - 190
3t. Barry Bonds - 179
3t. Lou Gehrig - 179
5. Rogers Hornsby - 175
6. Mickey Mantle - 172
7t. Dan Brouthers - 170
8t. Joe Jackson - 170
9. Ty Cobb - 167

It's interesting to note that four of Neyer's all-time greats don't make either list. Here are those four players, their ranks and stats:

Stan Musial: .752 OWP (11), 159 OPS+ (15)
Honus Wagner: .749 OWP (12), 150 OPS+ (34)
Willie Mays: .731 OWP (24), 156 OPS+ (20)
Hank Aaron: .719 OWP (33), 155 OPS+ (22)

While Musial is a near miss, it seems clear from this that Mays and Aaron benefit in the making of greatest player lists as a result of their longevity and durability (which result in some eye-popping counting stats) as well as from their all-around excellence. Certainly Willie Mays benefits greatly from his reputation as a defender and baserunner, but it should be noted that Aaron stole 240 bases to Mays' 338 with an identical success rate and was an above average outfielder in his own right.

The discrepancy between Wagner's two rankings is a bit perplexing until you realize how tightly packed the OPS+ rankings become once you reach Jimmie Foxx at number 10. Foxx's career OPS+ was 163, Willie McCovey and Harry Heilmann are tied at 32 spots down the list at 42 with a career OPS+ of 148, just 15 points lower than Foxx. By comparison, the difference between 10th and 42nd on the OWP list is 45 points. And before you point out that the differences in OPS+ account for a greater percentage of the entire total, allow me to point out that Babe Ruth's career record OPS+ is 207 compared to an average of 100, whereas his career record OWP is just .852 compared to an average of .500.

At any rate, our goal here is to combine these two lists into a list of the definitive top-9 hitters of all time.

The first three spots are done for us:

1. Babe Ruth
2. Ted Williams
3. Barry Bonds

Of course, Bonds isn't done. Nor has he gone through a decline phase. Although he actually ties with Gehrig for third on the OPS+ list and barely beats out Gehrig and Mantle on the OWP list while trailing Teddy Ballgame by a good bit on each, I'm content to leave him where he is for the moment as he seems ready to hang 'em up as soon as his production slips and another season or two like his last three would cancel out a brief decline quite nicely.

The next six cluster nicely into two groups of three:

Gehrig, Mantle and Hornsby

Cobb, Jackson and Brouthers.

Looking more closely at the first group, Mantle had the best four-year peak of the bunch when you look at RCAA (runs created against average) in relation to outs, OWP, and RC/G (runs created per game) in relation to the league average:

Hornsby ('22-25)Mantle ('55-58)Gehrig ('27-30)

Hornsby comes very close to Mantle, creating more runs with fewer outs, but compared to league average per game, Hornsby created 261 percent as many runs as the league average player whereas Mantle created 262 percent. A dead heat broken Mantle's 9-point advantage in OWP. Gehrig lags behind in part because his sustained excellence scattered his very best seasons so that a dominating four-year peak is more difficult to obtain. Gehrig and Hornsby both had four seasons with an OPS+ over 200 (Mantle had three), but while three of Hornsby's occurred during his four-year peak, Gehrig spread his out (1923, 1927, 1930, 1934) so that no more than two can be gathered into any four-year stretch. What's more, Gehrig had more seasons of an OPS+ over his career average of 179 than either of the other players (nine for Gehrig to seven for Mantle and six for Hornsby).

As Hornsby trails Gehrig in both of our primary lists, it seems unfair to rank him ahead of the Iron Horse, so the only real question is where to put Mantle. As the Mick just inches past Lou on the OWP list but trails him by a good bit on the OPS+ list, I'll put him behind Gehrig. And based on the above peak performance and the fact that he beats Rajah by a good bit on the OWP list, I'll put him ahead of Hornsby:

4. Lou Gehrig
5. Mickey Mantle
6. Rogers Hornsby

Here's a look at the four-year peaks for the next three:

Cobb ('10-13)Jackson ('11-14)Brouthers ('1883-86)

Cobb crushes his competition here, and would do so to the same degree if you expanded his peak to five years (adding 1909). He also posted eight seasons with an OPS+ above 190 (to three each for the other two players). Pile on top of that his tremendous career value (something about 4,189 hits and a .366 average over 24 seasons) and he's clearly our number 7 hitter.

As for Jackson and Brouthers, they're actually tied in career OPS+, with Jackson in the lead in OWP. Of course, Jackson never had a decline phase because he was banned from baseball at the age of 31 for his role in the infamous Black Sox scandal, whereas Brouthers played some 88 games well below his career norm over three seasons after the age of 37. Still, Jackson's peak was slightly more impressive than Brouthers, as he created 237 percent more runs than the league average, compared to 230 for Brouthers, and leads Big Dan by seven points of OWP. It's a dead heat, but I'll give the edge to Jackson based on the slight edge in both peak and career numbers, despite the appropriately unfair advantage he has of not having had a decline phase:

7. Ty Cobb
8. Joe Jackson
9. Dan Brouthers

So my final list of the Greatest Hitters Ever:

1. Babe Ruth
2. Ted Williams
3. Barry Bonds
4. Lou Gehrig
5. Mickey Mantle
6. Rogers Hornsby
7. Ty Cobb
8. Joe Jackson
9. Dan Brouthers

Six outfielders, two first basemen and a (terrible) second baseman. Chronologically according to their best decade:

Brouthers (1880s)
Cobb (1910s)
Jackson (1910s)
Hornsby (1920s)
Ruth (1920s)
Gehrig (1930s)
Williams (1940s)
Mantle (1950s)
Bonds (2000s)

Looks pretty sketchy, but remember, we've got nine hitters covering thirteen decades. And guys like Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, Frank Thomas, Dick Allen (that's right), Mark McGwire, and a plethora of '90s greats (Manny, Edgar, Giambi, Thome, Bagwell, Piazza) show up in the next 20-30 spots (not to mention a fair number representing the 1890s and 1900s, which also get shut out of our list). Perhaps there's a post about the greatest hitters of the post-Mickey/pre-Barry era in my future.

posted by Cliff at 12:27 PM

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Alfonso's Sorry AƱos 

In digesting the A-Rod trade on Sunday I wrote the following:

Losing Soriano will hurt more than Yankee fans realize right now. It's very likely that he will finally have that 40/40 season in the hitter heaven that is the Ballpark at Arlington. But even if Sori makes peace with the strikezone and realizes his potential (which is significant), he will be A-Rod's equal at best. And there's very little chance of Sori fixing the problems in his game that completely before he turns 28, the age that Rodriguez is now, in two years.

Well, as it turns out, Soriano actually turned 28 last month. You see, Sori told a little white lie about his age when he came to the states in 1998 and, because he hasn't left the country since before the terrorist attacks of 2001, he hasn't undergone the visa scrutiny that most Latin American ballplayers have (remember when Enrique Wilson aged about three years before the 2002 season?).

So, as it turns out, Alfonso Soriano is just six months younger than Alex Rodriguez. (!) Which among other things means that Soriano is less likely to fix the holes in his game (27 is the accepted peak age for ballplayers and often marks a drop-off point on their learning curves). The amazing part is that, not only did the Yankees know about this for some time, but the Rangers knew about it before making the Rodriguez deal.

That makes you wonder just how hard up the Rangers were to move A-Rod? Mark B. offers a compelling theory about Tom Hicks' finances in the comments section to this post over at Baseball Musings. My theory is that Tom Hicks consulted his Willie Nelson Advice Doll before making the deal. However you look at it, this trade just got that much better for the Yankees.

Ain't it funny how time slips away?

posted by Cliff at 4:07 PM

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


This is an amazing picture:

St. Joe crowning a new king while the crown prince looks on.

You can see the realization in Jeter's eyes. He's not Mr. Wonderful anymore. A-Rod meanwhile, looks like he's being baptized.

It's also a great picture because it's yet another reminder of how much these two look alike. Both slender, athletic, 6' 3", with dark skin, light eyes and a neatly trimmed fade. Has there ever been a pair of teammates like them? Perhaps Paul and Lloyd Waner in Pittsburgh in the '30s, both Hall-of-Fame outfielders, but they were brothers.

This photo is also another reality check. This is actually happening.

While I set this photo as my desktop wallpaper, check out this AP article, which has some interesting quotes from Cashman about Jeter staying at short, Selig about approving the deal, and Tom Hicks about agreeing to it in the first place. And this one from describing the genesis of the deal.

posted by Cliff at 1:47 PM

A-Rod Quick Hits 

Reading everything that's being written about the A-Rod trade is somewhere between impossible and pointless, but a few things have caught my eye as I've attempted to make the rounds:

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times points out that in adding A-Rod the Yankees are barely taking on any salary for 2004 thanks to the departures of Soriano, Henson and Boone. Check it out. Take the $15 million the Yankees are scheduled to pay A-Rod in 2004. Subtract the $1 million that's being deferred, then subtract Soriano's $5.4 million contract, Drew Henson's $4 million for 2004 and the more than $4.8 million they'll save by voiding Aaron Boone's contract and the Yankees are taking on less than $800,000 in salary for 2004 as a result of this trade. Wow.

Jay Jaffe points to the irony in the fact that Aaron Boone, despite being a complete bust on paper, has helped the Yankees stick it to the Red Sox twice now. The first was, obviously, his ALCS-winning home run. But had Boone not injured his ACL, it's very, very likely that this deal--which the Red Sox worked so hard all winter to pull off and the Yankees appeared to throw together in a weekend--never would have happened and A-Rod may have yet wound up in Boston. So I guess the question becomes, would you have traded Soriano, Brandon Claussen and three PsTBNL for A-Rod, Gabe White and an extra-inning Game 7 home run to defeat the Red Sox in the ALCS? I'll let you make that call.

Meanwhile, I found this exchange interesting:

In his latest column, Jayson Stark tries to convince us that taking A-Rod out of the Ballpark at Arlington makes him Soriano's equal:

Only six players in the whole sport have outhomered Soriano over the last two years. Only two have scored more runs. No one has spewed more extra-base hits.

Even more fascinating, if you factor out A-Rod's Texas stats by comparing the numbers of these two guys just on the road, you discover something shocking:

Soriano has more road homers (45 to 44), many more runs scored (133 to 108) and a much higher batting average (.311 to .279) than A-Rod over the last two seasons. Hmmmm.

In the comments section to his latest post over at the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, Larry Mahnken nips such talk in the bud:

A-Rod's OPS on the road, 2001-2003: .939
Soriano: .889

Soriano's Road OPS was better than A-Rod's in 2002, but that's because OPS undervalues OBP (A-Rod's GPA was higher).

But more than that, a third of A-Rod's road games were in Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim (all extreme pitchers' parks), while a quarter of Soriano's road games are in Boston and Toronto (extreme hitters' parks). Soriano's road games include games in Texas, A-Rod's road games do not.

The point? Don't put too much emphasis on home/road splits, there's a lot of noise there. It's better to park-adjust the numbers.

Stark also points out that of the seven players who have signed $100 million contracts, four of them are current Yankees: A-Rod (10/$252), Jeter (10/$189), Giambi (7/$120) and Kevin Brown (7/$105). The other three are Manny Ramirez (8/$160), Mike Hampton (8/$121) and Ken Griffey Jr. (9/$116.5). Of course the Yankees will only be paying A-Rod $112 over seven years (less than they're paying Giambi, who is four-and-a-half years A-Rod's senior, over the same number of seasons--oh, and Peter Gammons factors in Boone and Henson and calls it $90 million over seven years--not that that really makes sense), and are only on the hook for about $33 million (which includes the money sent to the Dodgers with Jeff Weaver) over two years for Kevin Brown. But really, there are two lessons here, both of which should have been fairly obvious without these numbers. 1) don't sign pitchers to $100 million contracts and 2) when the Yankees spend ridiculously, they still spend wisely.

Gammons also reminds us what a bloody mess the A-Rod/Manny negotiations were--with their false deadlines and the fact that they seemed to be conducted via a public internet chat--in contrast to Brian Cashman's sneak attack blockbuster. And he and others remind us that while some owners may complain, the more the Yankees spend, the more money they hand over to the other 29 via the luxury tax. It's not George's fault that most of them either don't spend it or don't know how. Meanwhile, Mike over at Mike's Baseball Rants describes the Red Sox attempts to acquire Rodrigues as "Icarus-like".

What else? Turns out A-Rod was born in Washington Heights, though his family moved back to the Dominican Republic and then to Miami by the time he was four years old.

Jamey Newburg suggests that the Rangers might roll Soriano over to the Dodgers, who finally have a GM, for some pitching. I'm skeptical of this for two reasons. 1) New Dodgers' GM Paul DePodesta is a Beane disciple, would he really go after the free-swinging, low OBP Soriano in his first move on the job? 2) Haven't the Rangers learned that taking a pitcher out of Dodger Stadium and putting him in the Ballpark at Arlington isn't the greatest idea? Don't look know, but the Dodger's starting pitching is one part built for their ballpark and one part overrated.

In other news, Christian Ruzich over at The Transaction Guy reminds us that, while Miguel Cairo may be an acceptable option at second base, the Orioles have a pair of young, fleet-footed, slick-fielding second basemen in Jerry Hairston Jr. (28 in May) and Brian Roberts (26), one of whom will wind up on the Baltimore bench if not traded.

Oh, then there's some jive about Greg Maddux coming to the Yankees now that Rodriguez, a fellow Scott "Evil #&*#@" Boras client, is here. Crazier things have happened. In fact, they just did. If this happens, I'll have to credit my girlfriend with the scoop as she heard the rumor on the radio before I caught wind of it. That said, Brian Cashman has flatly denied filing an entry in the Maddux sweepstakes.

Lastly, in other pitching news, the Yankees might actually offer a minor league deal to El Duque as emergency rotation insurance. I guess a 9,000 year-old whiffle ball pitcher is better than nothing.

posted by Cliff at 1:57 AM

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Digesting A-Rod 

The Rangers and the Yankees have agreed to the terms, the players union has approved, all that remains is the commissioner's approval. If Bud strikes this deal down in "the best interests of baseball," he'll leapfrog Scott Boras to capture the #1 spot on my "Evil Sumbitches Who Need To Banned From Baseball" list. Thankfully, the early reports are that Selig is expected to approve the deal.

Is this deal bad for baseball? Well it's certainly good for the New York Yankees, and to my eyes (as to the eyes of most fans out there--more than 80 percent of them according to ESPN's SportsNation poll) it's good for the Texas Rangers, who were never going to improve with A-Rod's contract on the books. So if it's good for both teams involved, how can it really be bad for baseball? I do think the trade makes the Yankees the favorite in the AL East once again, but not by much. The Yankees are a pitching injury or two from having to worry about the Toronto Blue Jays, their two leading candidates for the starting third base job have played a combined zero major league games at the position (not counting A-Rod deferring to Cal Ripken Jr. in the 2001 All-Star Game), and their top candidate for the second base job is Miguel Cairo. The acquisition of A-Rod tips the balance, for sure, but it doesn't break the scale. The only area in which the Yankees have no competition is payroll and, I'm sure the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers will tell you, it sure helps to have a team like the Yankees around when you're a team that needs to unload an unwieldy contract.

So I guess I picked the wrong day to be busy (band practice this morning--our new bassist is coming along smashingly, thanks for asking--Shins concert this evening). But let's take a quick look at the key issues that result from this trade.

1. The Trade As reported by AP, the deal will send Alfonso Soriano and a minor league pitcher (the Rangers will be able to pick from a list of ten provided by the Yankees) for Alex Rodriguez. The Rangers will pay $67 million of the $179 million remaining on Rodriguez's contract. Here's how the remaining payout breaks down.

The Yankees will pay $15 million/yr for 2004-2006, $16 million/yr in 2007 and 2008, $17 million in 2009, and $18 million in 2010. $1 million/yr from 2004-2007 will be deferred without interest until 2011.

The Rangers will pay $3 million in 2004, $6 million in 2005 and 2006, $7 million in 2007 and 2008, $8 million in 2009 and $6 million in 2010, plus the remaining $24 million of deferred money at a reduced interest rate (2 percent instead of 3), and at a later pay date (2016-2025 instead of 2011-2020).

As the altered payout of deferred money will devalue A-Rod's contract slightly, he will be given a hotel suite on road trips and be able to link his web site (which, as far as I can tell, doesn't exist yet) to the official Yankee site.

Note: As a result of the Rangers contribution, the Yankees will be paying A-Rod less than Jeter for the life of his contract (both are signed through 2010), less than Giambi starting in 2005 through the end of Jason's contract in 2008, and less than Mike Mussina for the next three years. Yes, in 2005 and 2006 Alex Rodriguez will be the fourth highest paid player on the Yankees, as per their own contribution. What's more, the Rangers will wind up having paid Rodriguez $140 million for three years, while the Yankees owe him just $112 for the remaining seven.

The Players: There is no rule of thumb on trading for a player like Alex Rodriguez, but if there was it would go something like this: if you only have to give up one major league hitter, no matter who that major leaguer may be and, less importantly, if you have a place to play him or your current shortstop, make the trade. The Yankees don't have any minor league pitching prospect that would make this a bad trade. Losing Soriano will hurt more than Yankee fans realize right now. It's very likely that he will finally have that 40/40 season in the hitter heaven that is the Ballpark at Arlington. But even if Sori makes peace with the strikezone and realizes his potential (which is significant), he will be A-Rod's equal at best. And there's very little chance of Sori fixing the problems in his game that completely before he turns 28, the age that Rodriguez is now, in two years.

I spent the early part of this season ranting about how the Yankees should not trade Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano. Since the trade of Johnson I've ranted some more about how Javier Vazquez would have been a free agent after the 2004 season. But if you had told me at the end of October that the Yankees could turn 25-year-old Nick and 26-year-old Sori into 27-year-old Javier Vazquez and 28-year-old Alex Rodriguez, well I'd have changed my tune. No right-thinking baseball fan would not rather base their team around A-Rod and Vazquez than Nick and Sori. There's really no contest. Johnson and Soriano have the potential to become two of the game's finest players, but A-Rod and Vazquez have already reached that status and each is only two years older than the player he replaced. Brian Cashman is my hero.

Third Base: Rodriguez has reportedly agreed to move to third. Of course, anyone reading this blog knows that he is a far superior defensive shortstop to Jeter. One hopes that Jeter will counter A-Rod's offer and that Joe Torre will play both of them at both positions during the spring. Even if Jeter offers, he should not automatically be moved to third base. There's a distinct possibility that his shortcomings at shortstop will only become more glaring at third base. I find this possibility unlikely, but if Jeter looks lost at third and A-Rod takes to the position like the second coming of Graig Nettles, then it seems obvious that Rodriguez should be the one to move. That said, Jeter's problem areas as a shortstop are footwork and range. He still has good hands and a great arm. Provided he can react to the ball fast enough at the hot corner, I see no reason why he won't be able to play a solid third base, particularly with A-Rod covering ground next to him.

Second Base: Folks are suggesting elsewhere that Jeter move to second. I cannot fathom this line of thinking. If Derek's got bad footwork and no range at short, why on earth would he be any better at second? True he goes back and to his right better than to his left, but the Yankees already have a solid major league second baseman on their roster: Miguel Cairo. Meanwhile, they do not have a single man on their 40-man roster, nor among their spring training invitees who is anything other than awful at third base. Cairo is among this group. He's atrocious at third base, perhaps the worst of the bunch that includes Enrique Wilson, Erick Almonte, Tyler Houston, Mike Lamb, and Jeff Deardorff. But he's a natural second baseman. He spent three seasons as the Devil Ray's starting second baseman during that franchise's first three seasons and on his career has posted a fielding percentage and range factor better than those of the league average second baseman. No, he's not much of a hitter, but he's no Enrique Wilson either, and with a line-up that surrounds a core of Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield with Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Hideki "Sophomore Surge?" Matsui, who needs another hitter?

That's about all I have time for now. I'm sure there will be plenty more later.

posted by Cliff at 4:07 PM

Yankee Haters, Start Your Engines 

Holy #^@&#*&!!!

Just one day after the rumor first hit the mill, "three high ranking baseball officials" have told the Associated Press that it's a done deal: Alex Rodriguez is coming to the Yankees in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later.


Yesterday's rumor had Jose Contreras and Dioner Navarro involved in the trade as well, and I fear that one of them might be the PTBN, but the AP report says that the PTBN will actually be a minor league pitcher. The Yankees don't have a minor league pitcher that could keep this from being one of the best trades the Yankees have made since they bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. A-Rod is 28, younger than Jeter and just two-and-a-half years older than Soriano. He's also the best all-around player in the game and in an epic battle with Honus Wagner to be the best shortstop who ever played.

He's also a gold glove shortstop (although word has it that he's agreed to move to third, but we can bitch about that in the days, weeks, months and years--his contract is good for seven more years!--to come).

Oh, and the Yankees have the ability to stack the top seven spots in their line-up like this:

Derek Jeter - R
Bernie Williams - S
Alex Rodriguez - R
Jason Giambi - L
Gary Sheffield - R
Jorge Posada - S
Hideki Matsui - L


More later . . .

posted by Cliff at 10:41 AM

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