Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Lightning 7.11.2010

  • The Yankees feel "used"?!?

One of the more laughable aspects of the Yankees failed pursuit of Cliff Lee----aside from Joel Sherman's reporting----is the way they're privately complaining that they feel "used" by the Mariners in the negotiations.


The Yankees, who adopted the Larry Lucchino lament that they're an "Evil Empire" as a term of endearment and have made a practice of cold, corporate brutality to achieve their ends think that the lowly Mariners "used" them to get what they really wanted in the first place from the Texas Rangers?


It's not simply that the Yankees are fuming that they were misled by the Mariners and their GM Jack Zduriencik, but they're making this clear----quietly----to reporters who are peppering their stories with the "used" aspect.

How quickly they forget.

In this New York Times article by Tyler Kepner, it's discussed how the club thought they had a deal with the Mariners only to have the absence of finality and semantics sabotage the whole thing as the Mariners spun and sent Lee to the Rangers. Mentioned is the infamous George Steinbrenner lunch with David Wells in which he convinced the big lefty----one of his favorites----to shun the Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom he had a handshake agreement, to return to the Yankees.

On this subject, I was thinking about the deal the club was discussing with the Cubs in 2000 that would've brought them Sammy Sosa. In this NY Times article (Written by Buster Olney if you can believe that!! He was credible then. If you can believe THAT!!!) it appears as if the trade had a pretty good chance of happening.

The talks dragged on with people on both sides of the fence advocating the trade or saying that it was exactly the opposite type of move that made those Yankees teams what they were----a cohesive unit devoid of that one diva-like superstar who cared about himself and his numbers more than he did winning.

It was a little over a week later, when Brian Cashman contacted Indians GM Mark Shapiro to acquire a mailing address to send a World Series ring to former Yankees coach Gary Tuck, that the small inquiry led to the Yankees acquiring David Justice. Without Justice's blazing hot streak immediately upon joining the Yankees, they might not have won the 2000 World Series.

Trade talks come and go.

They fall apart over the smallest details; and yes, teams use one another to get what they really want from someone else. It's part of doing business.

For the Yankees to feel used it perfectly understandable because, in fact, they probably were used; but the Yankees of today, run by Brian Cashman and the more cautious and unsentimental Hal Steinbrenner, don't let personal feelings, fan entreaties or criticism interfere with the championship goal. Even in the days of George Steinbrenner at his most irrational, there was a warmth-of-heart in some of his actions. He liked Wells personally and wanted him back; he continually tried to help Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and always had a fatherly affinity to former players, coaches, managers and executives in need.

Had the Boss still been in charge of the club, would Hideki Matsui have been allowed to leave after his virtuoso performance in the 2009 post-season? Would he have let Johnny Damon leave?

Of course not.

This is not a criticism of Cashman for the decision to replace Matusi with Nick Johnson even though Johnson has been a disaster. He didn't cost that much and the theory made sense to bring in a cheaper DH who'd come on a short-term deal and would be easily replaceable by a rotating group of starters and bench players if his injury-prone history cropped up again. Johnson got hurt.

Subterfuge and ulterior motives are part of the "obvious process" that Cashman often references as he does his job. The Yankees----of all teams----should know and accept that the collapse of the trade for Lee was always a possibility until the deal was official.

If the Mariners were asking for Ike Davis and/or Jonathon Niese as the basis of a deal for Cliff Lee, then the Mets were wise to pass. If they were getting Lee long-term, then maybe, maybe it would've been more a more viable thought, but for a rental that was going to cost the players and over $100 million? No way.

Because of their history of making deals that were ill-thought-out in pursuit of iffy ends (the Scott Kazmir trade chief among them, although Kazmir isn't that good and it turns out that Rick Peterson was right about him in questioning his long-term future), there was always a chance that the Mets were going to panic and do something desperate and stupid; so it's a positive for the club's future that Lee was traded to the Rangers and isn't on the market as the deadline approaches.

It's a win-win for the Mets. Lee wasn't traded to their competitors in the NL playoff race and they didn't gut the organization to get him. Plus, he'll still be out there for anyone and everyone with the financial might to go after him after the season. I see the guarantee that he'll automatically go to the Yankees after the season to be absurd. Other teams----the Angels, Mets, Red Sox----have the money to get him and all will check in to see what it's going to take.

Even as they became a punching bag going back to the spate of injuries they demolished their 2009 season----many of which were not the fault of the medical staff and front office----there was still a strong foundation in place with Davis, Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia. It's also easily forgotten that both David Wright and Jose Reyes are only 27. The Mets have a strong basis for long-term contention and a lot of money coming off the books after 2011 as Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo will be gone.

They'll have to re-sign Reyes, but there will be money to spend for that and to bring in some big names that may come available (both Dan Uggla and Mark Buehrle are two names that jump out and fill potential holes).

The breathing room the club has gotten by their solid play in 2010 (even with their recent slump) and the emergence of the youngsters puts them in a good position to make smart acquisitions and hold onto their assets for personal use rather than to bring in short-term veterans who may or may not help; may or may not stay.

GM Omar Minaya is safe now not just because of his contract, but because the club is healthier than the attackers in the media suggested or, in some cases hoped to be in order advance their own candidates to run the club.

If the team ends the season with 86 or so wins and misses the playoffs, I think it's 50/50 that manager Jerry Manuel will be back; in fact, I'd expect Bob Melvin to be managing the club next year if that happens.

Be that as it may, the Mets have been getting lucky lately----a luck that was bound to happen after the 2009 nightmare.

Things are better in Flushing than anyone could possibly have thought and is another prime example of why piling on is for the weak and lazy who permeate the "credible" media. They've moved their cottage industry to the Diamondbacks and Cubs; but it's a transferable entity that doesn't take much work or ability. They're qualified for that at least.

  • Speaking of the media...

The love affair a chunk of the reporters----on ESPN specifically----have with the Red Sox is evident in the way the club has gotten a pass for the injuries that have befallen them. Many are not their fault----just like with the Mets of 2009----and they've overcome them to play mostly excellent baseball after a slow start because of the depth in their organization that Theo Epstein and his people have built.

Is it the medical staff's fault that Josh Beckett has been on the disabled list for months with a back injury? No. But imagine if it was the Mets who had a player languishing on the DL and is only now about ready to begin his minor league rehab assignment.

Then you have the hellish signings of the likes of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka; that they're relying on journeymen like Scott Atchison out of the bullpen and you see they're just as guilty as other teams who haven't had the troops or money to cover for their mistakes.

And don't you dare point to Lackey's 9-5 record as a basis for him being "good"; he's been horrible for most of the year. They're paying $18 million for these Gamelogs. Lackey's going to end with a record of about 16-9 this year, but if he were on a weaker team, that would be reversed. He's been plain bad.

I was wrong about both Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz----they've been fantastic; Marco Scutaro has been the serviceable Marco Scutaro at the plate and he's been average defensively (at best). The team's done a wonderful job of overcoming injuries, but there hasn't been the attacking aspect that the likes of the Mets, Diamondbacks and Cubs have engendered because: A) they don't have the recent run of success; and B) they don't have a poster-child for the stat zombies running their teams.

I have great respect for both Theo Epstein and the Red Sox, but is it a crime to criticize them when they deserve it?

If it is, I'm doing it anyway.

The protectionism and twisting of facts to suit oneself is a shaky way to assess if its basis comes from personality and not reality, but it's par for the course today. Sadly.

  • Viewer Mail 7.11.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets:

Before the 2010 season started, I read several stories in the MSM suggesting that Bernie Madoff had fleeced the Wilpons out of several hundred million dollars, and that this unfortunate turn of events would limit the capacity for the Mets FO to add salary now and in the future.

Even if they were willing to part with prospects for, say, Roy Oswalt, they'd still probably have to pick up the remainder of the guy's contract. Granted the contract is prorated, but we're talking about a team that, from what I hear, wants to make sure they don't have to pick up Alex Cora's relatively tiny vesting clause for appearing in x number of games. This is not just an issue for this season but the future as well. If the Mets can't add free agents in the coming years because the Wilpons are financially boxed in, then don't they have an obligation to sell the team to an ownership group that can afford to run a major league franchise in the biggest media market in the country?

I'm not buying the assertion that the Mets don't have the money to bring in a big contract via trade. The Cora deal may just be to get rid of Alex Cora and his salary for a cheaper alternative. They still have a payroll of $126 million----if a team can't compete with that, they've got more problems that just Bernie Madoff.

If the Astros truly want to move Oswalt, they're going to have a choice: eat a chunk of the money to get better prospects; or give Oswalt up for a package of hit-or-miss youngsters to get the trading team to take the full contract. Omar Minaya has been fairly criticized for some of his deals, but he showed a masterful bit of patience and predatory instincts when he got Johan Santana for what's turned out to be nothing and resisted calls to add Mike Pelfrey to the deal.

I mentioned earlier the foundation of youth and the money coming off the books. They'll be competitive and pick and choose the big names they pursue until after 2011; the NL is weak and they have a good chance of a playoff spot both this year and next year...then they can spend to improve markedly.

The Wilpons aren't selling the team and I don't believe they're boxed in.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Cliff Lee:

I hear you on Sherman and I assumed the deal was done, given the language in the reporting. That said, he wasn't the only one reporting the story. Today's NYT confirms that the deal was just about done and the Mariners hit up other teams afterwards, essentially to say, "Last call, everybody." And the Rangers threw in their prized piece. Cashman, apparently, feels "used." But the truth is, you're right when you say that a deal isn't a deal until both teams confirm it is.

We all know by now that a deal isn't done until it's DONE! I've made it a practice to disbelieve everything until I see the player standing in front of the team logo holding his new uniform and blinking at the popping flashbulbs.

It's part of the job for these things to happen, as I said earlier; for Cashman and the Yankees to complain about it now is a little out of line.

I'm not going to harp on Sherman, but even he----as much of a cheap shot artist and questionable voice he is on baseball----had to know that the whole thing had a chance of coming apart at a moment's notice; that explains the cautious language (and adjustments) he made in his tone as the day went on. If he wants to take credit for the scoop and being the first one to report it, he has to take the hits for being wrong.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Cliff Lee, Brian Cashman and Nolan Ryan:

If Cashman feels used, he should also know it comes with the territory. I accuse myself of minimizing what Cashman does sometimes because of the Yankee check-book he has at his disposal, but getting used and played like a fiddle is a dynamic he has to contend with to a much greater degree than other GM's do.
I enjoyed hearing the deal fell apart like wet toilet paper. As well as the 1st place Rangers are playing they are still an organization with more problems than a math book. They should count their lucky stars Nolan Ryan is giving that team direction. Nice to see another team trying to be a the Brewers did with C.C. I just have to question their motivations because of the unsettled ownership. I want to know what they're really thinking. I'd like to think this is Ryan taking the Texas Bull by the horns.

He does know it comes with the territory because he's engaged in it himself.

I have the same respect for Cashman as I do for Epstein, but it's easier to cover mistakes with money----it's a fact.

The Rangers have been excellently run by Ryan and GM Jon Daniels in the last few years. I used to unleash on Daniels for making one of the worst trades in baseball history when he sent Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka, but he's more than made up for it with his savvy drafting and trading. Even with the financial issues, the Rangers are young enough and loaded enough to make going for it now with Lee a smart gamble.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Nolan Ryan:

As you point out, the real moral of the story is: Don't with Nolan Ryan.

He is absolutely ruthless. 2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

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Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Now that Lee is safely out of the way till the winter, there's a little relief on my part. I've been so consumed with the Mets transitioning to the younglings I really didn't want to see any of them go. The Mariners wanted a catcher and I'm kind of glad they didn't like Josh Thole because I DO! Dylan Owen and Dillon Gee are at AAA and I'd like to see them win spots on next year's staff. We have a number of options to go with at 2b with Malo, Tejada and Reese Havens to choose from. I love Jeff Francoeur's arm in RF but not much else. I'd like to see Fernando Martinez get that job next year. Package Francoeur and something else to improve the bullpen and bench. Who knows...maybe the Wilpons can come up with enough money by December to buy Cliff Lee. But I'm happy with these kids and I want to see the Mets continue working them in and phasing out the old.

Joe said...

For the same reason I won't criticize Jason Bay for Slugging .424 thus far, we shouldn't criticize the Lackey signing yet. It's been HALF A SEASON. I admit he's been bad, as I don't even care about win/loss record. But he could have a good second half and up with solid numbers by seasons end. Or, he could post good numbers in year 2, or , 3, or 4....You get my point. Too early to criticize the contract.

She-Fan said...

With Lee getting lit up last night by the O's, I don't feel quite as bad about not getting him. What I feel bad about is JOBA!