Saturday, December 1, 2007


"They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing."-- The Merchant of Venice

It isn't often that I thank the Baseball Gods for the Steinbrenners. Like many a Yankee fan I've always nurtured a rather ambivalent view of the Boss and his progeny. This off-season's developments offer a dramatically illustration.

For example, the Steinbrenners, one minute, can exhibit pettiness, duplicity, and callous ingratitude in disposing of the manager who guided their franchise through one of the great eras in Yankees history: 10 division titles; 6 Pennants; 4 World Series Championships.

In the next minute, the Boss Juniors can epitomize the very opposite traits-- magnanimity, self-effacement, endearing candor, wisdom and a largess both of spirit and pocketbook. They exercise Abreu's option. They indulge Andy Pettitte while he plays Hamlet. They re-sign Posada and Rivera (only after questioning the commitment of the one and offending the other.) And they top it off by consummating the unfathomable. They welcome Alex Rodriguez back without humiliating him. They forgive him his errancy without demanding his abasement. They don't allow rancor and slight to trump the business of winning. And at the exorbitant price of doing so, they never once recoil. A commitment the fans of most major league franchises only can envy and that we Yankee fans ought not take for granted.

A cursory glance at the tycoons fraternity that comprises MLB's ownership club only reinforces Yankee fan's great good fortune. For all the Steinbrenners largesse, their net work qualifies them among the memberships' middle class.

Consider Carl Pohlad, the Twins' owner, the wealthiest owner in baseball. Forbes' magazine estimates Pohlad's net worth to total somewhere between $2.8 billion dollars and 3.1 billion dollars (a sum more than twice that of the Steinbrenners) which would rank him the 114th wealthiest man in America. (See "The Twins Are Not Sharing the Wealth," NYT, November 29, 2007) Indeed, the annual interest Pohlad's wealth accrues exceeds the Yankees payroll. However, Pohlad operates his team as though it were a municipal entity and refuses to spend a dime more than the revenue the Twins generate. Although many question whether Pohlad even spends this much.

Many reports (in addition to Twins fans) accuse Pohlad of pocketing a portion of the revenue sharing he receives instead of investing it to retain his players and/or to sign free-agents, the purpose for which MLB earmarked it. The Twins, evidently, receive $20 million annually from general revenue sharing and an additional $25 million from MLB's on-line media properties, yet their 2007 payroll totaled about $70 million, 19th in baseball.

As for whether the Twins' own chief revenue sources, their ticket sales and media contracts, cover the difference, including added expenses. Well, Forbes' last "Business of Baseball" article credits the 2006 Twins' with producing $14 million in operating income, from which they garner about $5.5 million in operating profit.

Not enough lucre, evidently, to sate Pohlad's money lust.

An avarice the Twins forthcoming new stadium only accentuates and makes all the more reprehensible. Because in 2010 the Twins will earn $30 million dollars a year more from their new $522 million dollar stadium -- 75% of the cost Pohlad extorted from the City of Minneapolis.

But with more money on the way, Pohlad still has the effrontery to cry poverty. So as the 2007 Winter Meetings approach, the Twins prepare to ransom their franchise's crown jewel-- Johan Santana, perhaps, the best pitcher in baseball-- because they refuse to pay him the $20 + million dollar over 6 years that he seeks.

Which would seem to suggest that a competitive imbalance plagues baseball less because it can't institute a salary cap than because it allows tight-fisted misers to own its clubs-- hidebound skinflints who buy baseball teams to ornament their portfolio with a vanity asset and who could care less about winning or their fan's allegiance.

Compare Pohlad's short-sighted parsimony to Red Sox owner John Henry. Last year, Henry, another billionaire who surpasses the Steinbrenners in wealth, reportedly drew Dice-K's $51 million dollar posting fee from his own vast personal resources. Henry bought Dice-K for the obvious reason of course-- because he wants to win and Dice-K was the best available commodity for improving the Red Sox's fortunes. But Henry also did so because he's an astute businessmen. He appreciates professional sports' fundamental economic law: nothing sells like success. Henry's investment brought him a championship and augmented his team's revenues besides. The Red Sox not only profited from a post-season gait that ran through the World Series; what's more, winning a Championship enabled them to raise their ticket prices from between 5% and 13% for the forthcoming season.

However, the simple verity that "If you win it, they will come" is a verity Carl Pohlad, for all his business acumen, evidently is too frugal and/or too myopic to apprehend. Because for very same $50 million Henry spent, Pohlad could increase the Twins' offer to Santana from the 4-year $80 million proposal Santana rejected to a 6-year $130 million contract he likely would approve. An investment that would assure Pohlad a World Series contender for his new ballpark and far beyond. With a 29-yr-old Santana and a 24-yr-old Liriano at the front of their rotation, the Twins would boast the best 1-2 combination in the AL. (Liriano, you may recall, went 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA in 2006 before an elbow injury disabled him and ended his season.) .

But that doesn't appear in the offing. So baseball's talent drain continues: from the frugal and myopic to the ambitious and visionary. The question for the Yankees is at what price Shylock's ransom?


And it will be a hefty price at that because the Minnesota Usurer can smell the anxiety. Their mortal rivals have won their second World Series in three years and perhaps for the first time in history, threaten the Yankees' hold on their birthright. And the Yankees know it: they didn't just invest $100 million in two players over 35 to surrender the fight or to bide their time while their youth movement burgeons. The Steinbrenners understand the law of battle: You must strike the enemy before he grows too powerful to overcome.

Because for all the media cant about Joe Torre's tactical inadequacies and the demagogy about his failure to realize the team's "mission statement" the Yankees' haven't advanced to a World Series since 2003 for one overriding reason. They've suffered from a deficit of arms. As a consequence, they've had to muddle through the post-season with a middling starting rotation bloated with overpriced salaries, debilitated by age and injury, and bereft of a genuine ace.

(Albeit, observers have overrated the liability of the last shortcoming. During the Yankee dynasty era, the Yankees won less because they possessed a conventional ace in the Guidry, Beckett, Santana mold than because of their rotation's depth. From '96 through '01, a different pitcher occupied the #1 slot in October, depending on the quality of the season he was having: Cone/Pettitte in '96/'97, Wells in '98, Duque in '99, Pettitte in '00, Clemens '01. In fact, the #1, #2, and #3 slots were largely interchangeable because one or two equally proficient pitchers followed the #1 starter. This explains why the Yankees could drop the first game in nearly every ALDS and still win the series.)

Since 2003, however, the Yankees' starting rotation has lacked both quality and depth. By now, Yankee fans are all to familiar with the following damning stat. In the last seventeen post-season the Yankees have played, beginning with Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, their starting pitchers are 2-8 with 6.36 ERA. And in only four of those games has the team's starter given them a "quality appearance"-- defined as pitching at least 6 innings and yielding 3 or less runs. (Mussina in Game 5 of the '04 ALCS, Chacon in Game 4 of the '05 ALDS, Mussina in Game 2 of the '06 ALDS, and Pettitte, more recently, in Game 2 of the '07 ALDS.)

But with one transaction, the Yankees could consign this record of futility to a best forgotten past.

Add Johan Santana and overnight, the Yankees' rotation rivals that of the Red Menace to the North.

Slot 1-- Santana v. Beckett------------------------------------ Draw
Slot 2-- Joba v. Buchholz-------------------------------------- Draw
Slot 3-- Wang v. Lice-K----------------------------------------NYY
Slot 4/5--Schilling-Wakefield-Lester v. Mussina-?-------BRS

However, if the Yankees can manage to retain Kennedy and/or Pettitte returns, the fourth/fifth slot evens and the Yankees pull ahead overall.

The problem, of course, is that Shylock knows how much Santana would profit the Yankees. Or alternatively, cripple them, should he instead ransom Santana to the the Red Sox. And so, Pohlad will extract his weight in young flesh. At what price do the Yankees' balk? Because apart from the players they will have to cede, the Yankees also will have to pay Santana over a $120 million, besides. The financial burden to the Yankees then is two-fold. First, Santana's $20 to $25 million-a-year salary, obviously, would consume 10 to 15% of their payroll, forestalling the leaner, more flexible salary structure Cashman recently has striven to implement. Second, Cashman would have to yield three to four of the young, inexpensive players upon which the success of his plan depended.

Fewer younger players subject to the league minimum for 3 years and to arbitration for another 3 years still perpetuates reliance on the overpriced, inefficient market baseball's free agency system produces. A player earns the most in his career at the precise moment he is oldest and least productive.

Of course, the foremost problem in evaluating the Twin's ransom is that they haven't publicized their demands. At this writing however, baseball insiders at ESPN, SI, and the local tabloids have reported the Yankees' best offer for Santana to include Philip Hughes and Melky Cabrera, in addition to a third prospect ranging from Jose Tabata, Austin Jackson, Alan Horne, and Mark Melancon at the high end to Daniel McCutchen, Kevin Whelan, Alberto Gonzales and Jeff Marquez at the lower end.

The Red Sox meanwhile refuse to relinquish either of the two players the Twins would require: Clay Buccholz or Jacoby Ellsbury.

Is Hughes too high a price for the Yankees to pay? An that depends of course on one's estimation of Hughes' promise.

Keith Law, one of ESPN's more insufferably insolent, self-declared experts, believes the New York media has overvalued Hughes and exaggerated his potential.

Law's opinion of Philip Hughes follows:

"I've never seen [Hughes] as a potential #1; best case scenario is a #2... He has just an average fastball; does not have plus fastball movement; has only one average or better secondary pitch (his curve); does not show an advanced feel for pitching; does not have a build that points toward durability, nor has he been durable in the past; does not show plus command, although I wouldn't rule it out down the road; and has shown below-average poise and mound presence...I've seen him lose his composure on more than one occasion...His fastball also isn't explosive...Clay Buchholz, for example... I've said before that I think he could be a #1 starter.";

How much value should we place on Law's assessment? Well, those familiar with Michael Lewis' Moneyball will recall Law's pedigree. Toronto GM J.P Riccardi hired him to serve as the Blue Jay's counterpart to the Oakland Athletics, stat guru, Paul DePodesta. However, Law fancies himself more than just another sabermetric prodigy. Law thinks the part of Riccardi assistant qualifies him as a scout as well.

His sabermetric background notwithstanding, Law doesn't offer a single stat to substantiate his judgment. An rich irony considering Billy Bean adapted sabermetrical analyses precisely to eliminate his front-office's dependence on the very kind of subjective evaluations Law issues on Philip Hughes.

Hughes' Minor League Stats certainly impress: In 275 innings, he struck out 311 batters (1.13 per inning), issued only 66 BBs (.24 per inning), amassed an exceptional 2.83 GO/AO (Ground Ball:Fly Ball ratio), and held batters to a .164 Batting Average.

Compare Buchholz's Minor League stats: In 125 innings, he struck out 171 batters (1.37 per inning), issued 35 BBs (.28 per inning), posted a 1.09 GO/AO, and held batters to a .193 Batting Average.

Apart from Hughes' larger sample size and better GO/AO, the numbers almost mirror each other.

At first blush, it might seem improvident to trade a 21-yr old pitcher who can anchor the team's rotation for the next six years for a 29-year-old pitcher, even if he's the best in baseball. While Hughes is entering the prime of his career over the next six years, Santana will begin the autumn of his. What's more, over the same period, Hughes would probably cost the Yankees approximately $100 million less.

Year 1 through 3 Hughes $5,000,000 (pre-arbitration)

Years 3 through 6 Hughes $30,000,00 (arbitration eligible years)

Year 1 through 6 Santana 135,000,000

Forsaking Santana, accordingly, would save the Yankees an average of about $16 million-dollars-a-year that they then could reallocate for free-agent position players or relievers. It's a bargain, that in the abstract, it would behoove the Yankees to rebuff.

Alas, the Yankees aren't an abstract team playing in a baseball vaccum. Their an aging roster that plays in the AL East.

Four interdependent factors compel them, as such, to bear the sacrifice and to trade for Santana.

1) Pettitte's potential retirement only leaves them the Yankees with two starting pitchers the Yankees can rely on for 200 innings: Wang and Mussina. And perhaps, not even Mussina, given his performance last year.

2) The corollary to which is that the Yankees would have to rely on three rookies Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy-- none of which the Yankees will let pitch 200 innings or whose performance the team can project over that portion of the season they will pitch.

3) Forsaking Santana raised the possibility the Red Sox could obtain him and a rotation featuring Beckett and Santana very well could relegate the Yankees to second place for the next decade.

4) The Yankees need to win NOW. The Yankees had a sum total of 2 starters under 30 last year: Cano and Melky. Their next youngest starter is A-Rod, at 32. While Posada and Rivera are over 35. Jeter, Matsui, Damon, and Abreu are all 33-34. During the 3 to 4 years it may take for their young pitching to flourish, their position players may decline and/or retire. And with the exception of Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson, the Yankee farm system lacks high-end position prospects to replace their aging superstars.

So if the Twins will trade Santana for Hughes, Melky, and another prospect (that does not include Tabata, Austin Jackson, Melancon or Horne), the Yankees, reluctantly, will have to gouge themselves to award Shylock his pound of flesh.

Friday, November 16, 2007


"No battle is ever won. They're not even fought. The Battlefield only reveals to man his own folly and despair and Victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools." --William Faulkner

No one likes lawyers very much; less so, agents.

Scott Boras, however, arouses in fans, reporters, critics, and of course, baseball's owners and GMs, an animosity usually reserved for tyrants, subversives, and crooks. His less than scrupulous tactics explains some of it. His arrogance, presumption, and cynicism certainly doesn't help. However, sheer envy accounts for much of it as well. The resentment testifies to the skill. After all, Boras doesn't disguise his ambition to be the best at what he does. And his adversaries' (and rivals') hostility largely proves that Boras has succeeded. Indeed, the man who dominates his field, as A-Rod does his, should take pride in having earned the unalterable hatred of some of the most competitive, rapacious, and frugal business tycoons in the country-- men who since the days of Charlie Comiskey have lied, stonewalled, and colluded to preserve their stranglehold on the profits Boras has managed to re-distribute among the people most responsible for generating them, his clients.

It's no accident, then, that the sports media has crowned Boras baseball's most influential and notorious agent. However, as he recently revealed in a less than flattering New Yorker profile ("The Extortionist" October 29, 2007), Boras actually considers himself a lawyer, first and foremost. To his mind, the lawyer's mantle fits more aptly with his conception of himself as a learned professional driven, above all, by high-minded purpose.

The media, in contrast, prefers to see Boras through its own narrow and jaundiced prism. Baseball Columnist, Bill Madden, for example, would reduce the man he calls "the Avenging Agent," to some comic-book crusader exacting revenge for a minor-league baseball career derailed by injuries and thwarted by inadequate talent. First of all, the caricature exaggerates Boras' actual modest expectations for his baseball career. From which he wanted little more than a practical way to finance his education, first through a college scholarship and later, a subsidy for his law school tuition. And by this measure, Boras can count his minor-league career a resounding success. Secondly, by evoking the vindicitve malcontent who wishes to bankrupt his former bossess, Madden's caricature trivializes the baseball's ignoble legacy of exploitation, graft, conspiracy, fraud, wage-fixing and labor scabs against which Boras fights.

Anyway, what ultimately motivates Boras's crusade is far less important than how he envisions it and what he intends it to accomplish. Which in the modern era is to right the injustice that has enabled baseball ownership to veil their books in secrecy, to siphon undeclared revenue streams, to skirt anti-trust laws, to trade on political patronage, to beggar minor-league players, to deny amateur's legal representation, and to amass exorbitant profits they neither account for nor confine to their proportionate contribution to the game.

Nonetheless, the dynamic of the crusade also explains how and why Boras' mission could so easily could founder in overzealousness, hubris and miscalculation, as it did this time. Boras bungled the A-Rod negotiations and cost his client at least $21 million, if not more, because the incandescence of his righteousness blinded him. Zeal ensnared him in the missionary lawyer's trap. Cause eclipsed client. Boras lost sight of his paramount duty--to fulfill Alex Rodriguez' personal wishes and to advance his limited self-interest.

You see, the legal advocate often strives to vindicate two interests simultaneously, interests that can converge but often as not conflict-- the interest of his cause and the interest of his client. To illustrate, witness the infamous OJ case. One the one hand, when Johnnie Cochran played the "race card," he did so for the simple reason that appealing to his preponderantly black jury's racial grievance promised his best chance for his client's acquittal. Nonetheless, Cochran's indignation at the LA law enforcement's ignominious record of racism animated him as well. Cochran sought to establish a legal precedent for jury nullification where endemic racism has tainted the criminal investigation. Acquitting OJ, despite the incriminating evidence against him would achieve a farther-reaching objective. It would signal to the City of LA that the racism which pervades their police department, unless eradicated, will forfeit their officer's legal authority, void the legitimacy of the arrests they make, and risk exoneration of the guilty they accuse. Serving OJ served Cochran's cause. Or perhaps, more accurately, Cochran's cause served OJ. In either case, the interests of client and cause intersected.

What does Johnny Cochran have to do with Scott Boras? Well, Boras, a self-styled labor lawyer, confronted a similar dichotomy between client and cause in his representation of A-Rod. Only this time the two goals diverged. And Boras was remiss in not subordinating his larger cause to A-Rod's avowed interest.

We can assume Alex Rodriguez retained Boras for the reason every performer seeks representation from his agent-- to maximize his share of the money others earn from his performance. The actor from the studio. The musician from the record company. The ball player from the owner.

Accordingly, Boras claimed Alex Rodriguez, as the best player in baseball, deserved a 12-year contract in excess of $350 million. The figure wasn't arbitrary. Far from concealing his logic, Boras recounted it to the point of tedium. In 2000, the year the Rangers signed A-Rod to a 10-year, $252 million dollar contract, major league baseball was $3 billion dollar industry. Since then it's nearly doubled, to approximately a $6 billion dollar industry in 2007. From this figure, Boras, as such, extrapolated that Alex Rodriguez was worth almost double his 2000 compensation package or around $400 million. Now there are a number of obvious flaws in Boras' logic. The obvious one being that A-Rod 2000 contract far exceeded what the market could bear, as the Rangers problems in paying it subsequently proved. Moreover, no contract executed over the last seven years even nearing its average annual value, and only Manny Ramirez's breaching the $20 million+ threshold.

Still, distorted math is not what propelled Boras in the end, who probably understood the logical flaws in his economic model anyway. No, what drove Boras to miscalculate was that he allowed his agenda to subsume his client's. Sure, Boras wanted to secure for A-Rod the largest contract and the most money possible, as he does for every player. He counseled A-Rod to void his contract and to declare free-agency because in most instances, the competitive bidding of the marketplace sets value and inflates price. But like Cochran saw in OJ, Boras saw in A-Rod an opportunity to set a precedent. A precedent that would benefit all his clients and consistent, moreover, with Boras' idea of players' just deserts.

That Boras had another agenda was evident to anyone with enough patience to listen to his tedious and pedantic lectures. At every public opportunity to discuss A-Rod's contract, Boras cited, ad nauseam, baseball's continuing exponential revenue growth. Which he traced to all the new revenue streams the owners have tapped over last decade in new stadiums equipped with corporate luxury suites and more recently, through the regional sports networks and alliances with foreign baseball leagues. To say nothing of the tremendous boom in attendance, broadcast revenue, overseas merchandising, and overall profit the owners have reaped as a consequence-- profits, in Boras' estimation, and many others as well, the owners haven't shared with their players.

This explains why Boras devised a term of art to characterize A-Rod's worth: IPN, standing for iconic magnetism, historic performance, and network value. The network value comprising the key of course. Boras persisted in arguing that A-Rod was worth hundreds of millions to one of the 25-odd teams who had not founded regional sports networks to broadcast their games. Presumably, with A-Rod's contract, Boras intended to set the precedent for a player garnering a share of the profit a team's sports' network generates.

(Boras has a valid point here, incidentally. Regional sports' networks founded on broadcasting a local baseball team potentially enable owners to segregate, if not conceal, the revenue they otherwise would have to declare. To illustrate, when MSG paid the Yankees $40 million annually for the right to broadcast Yankee games, the Yankees could not deny that their operating revenues included $40 million above and beyond the gait. Such is not necessarily the case with the YES Network. The Yankees own 36% of YES, but it's a separate legal entity. Who's to say whether YES pays the Yankees a fair-market rate for broadcast rights?)

The problem, of course, is that A-Rod, evidently, didn't want to serve as the self-sactificing martyr in Boras' grand design. He wanted to play for the Yankees, plain and simple, and to extract as much money from them as Boras could. Boras, it seems, persuaded A-Rod that to accomplish as much, he had to opt-out first, enable the bidding process to begin, and then persuade the Yankees to match the offer. Presumably, if some team like the Giants or Angels interested in founding a sports network offered A-Rod some share in its profits, the Yankees would have to respond likewise.

Only it soon became clear the Yankees had other ideas. They weren't bluffing about the consequences A-Rod risked in opting-out. The Front-Office was set to replace him. And once Cashman's pursuit of Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell, Miguel Tejada or Scott Rolen accelerated, A-Rod realized his interests and Boras' agenda conflicted. He wasn't going to play somewhere other than the Bronx just so his lawyer could realize his mission to transform baseball's landscape. And who could blame A-Rod for refusing to play the standard-bearer? Who could blame him for refusing the the sacrifice Boras' justice would have exacted? He did that once and he ended up languishing in Texas.

So A-Rod returned to the Yankees and agreed to forfeit the $21 million subsidy his opt-out denied them. While Boras' zeal, perhaps for the first time, cost his client instead of enriching him.

And so this Thanksgiving, we Yankee fans gives thanks that baseball mirrors America, where more often than not, over collective justice, self-interest will prevail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Evidently, the Yankees have resorted to damage control yet again.

Just as King George's Court Reporters tried to discredit Joe Torre in the wake of the public outcry his ouster created, they've spearheaded the movement to depict A-Rod and Boras as greedy, venal mercenaries and to defend the Yankee Front-Office's decision, as such, to shun them.

At first Cashman Inc. wanted Yankees fans to believe that the reason the organization would spurn A-Rod, if he voided his contract, was because the Yankees would lose the $30 million subsidy the Rangers' committed to pay them through the contract's final three years. Lose the best player in baseball over $30 million-- that is, $3-million-a-year over the 10-year contract to which the Yankees planned to extend him?

Well, Cashman's argument, never especially compelling to begin with, became even more untenable once A-Rod actually opted-out. First, a few reporters revealed that the so-called $30 million dollar subsidy was really only $21 million-- because of the $30 million Tom Hicks still owed under A-Rod's former contract, A-Rod himself was entitled to $9 million of it.

What's more, once reporters began to consider the unpalatable alternatives for replacing him, Yankee fans wanted to know why $21 million-- a sum less than Kei Igawa's posting fee and Roger Clemens 2007 salary and commensurate to Giambi's '07 and '08 earnings-- should preclude the Yankees, at the very least, from negotiating with A-Rod notwithstanding.

Wasn't the business of winning more important than the Yankees' wounded pride or the so-called "credibility" with future free-agents the organization claimed it would squander if it reneged on its warning? And in any case, what credibility were they talking about? Wasn't A-Rod's situation sui generis? The Yankees don't have any other players on their payroll with opt-out clauses. And when was the last the Yankees announced before free-agency started that they wouldn't negotiate with one of their own players if he exercised this right? Answer: NEVER.

So as the Yankees' ostracism of A-Rod increasingly seemed more punitive than prudent, King George's Court, through their press agents, began to pander a few more justifications to bolster their case. The first was that by opting-out, A-Rod indicated he no longer wished to play in New York. Which, A-Rod, then, refuted through his press agents and "unnamed sources close to him" and the spuriousness of which Boras, moreover, exposed by adducing Bernie Williams' example. Was Bernie Williams, in 1998, Boras asked, was any less loyal to the Yankees by declaring free-agency and nearly signing with the Boston Red Sox? No, of course, not. Nor is Mariano Rivera for recently reminding everyone that he would consider playing for Joe Torre in LA.

So with the valence of the "Alex doesn't want to be Yankee" dwindling, the King George's Press returned to their favorite bogeyman-- the money.

Why so few baseball writers ever condemn, let alone question, the amount of money the owners earn baffles this writer? Baseball players actually work for their salaries. What contribution does an owner make? It's not as though baseball owners assume some great risk in purchasing a team. They own a closed-market business. Don't players deserve increases commensurate to the astronomical rise in profit the owner have garnered over the last decade from the advent of luxury suites, sold-out ballparks, local television networks, and a rising gate.

Still, reporters' prefer to decry escalating player salaries. So, perhaps, it wasn't surprising when the new reason they offered for the Yankees to shun A-Rod focused on the financial difference between the contract extension A-Rod rebuffed and the cost of signing him as a free-agent. A cost, Jayson Stark observed, wasn't $30 million-- the amount commensurate to the Rangers subsidy-- no, it was actually $203 million. What, $203 million? Where did that come from? Let's see.

Bill Madden, one of King George's favorite leakers when he wishes to replace his manager and unregenerate Boras-hater (Madden calls him "The Avenging Agent"), illuminates.

Madden's premise is that A-Rod now will cost any team he signs with a minimum of $300 million. The reason: the total extension package the Yankees were prepared to offer A-Rod would have netted him at least $300 million. According to Madden, an extension for A-Rod that retained the terms of the old contract would have looked as follows: (See NY Daily News, "Just Shea No," November 11, 2007

'08-'10 Rangers Contract $91 million ($32M for '08, $32M for '09, $27M for '10)
'11-'17 Yankees' Extension $203 million ($29 million per year for 7 years)

TOTAL NET WORTH TO A-ROD = $294 million

Following Madden's logic one-step further, ESPN's Jayson Stark purports to account for this $203 million premium the Yankees now would have to pay to sign A-Rod. To his credit, Stark's calculations account for an additional variable many other commentators missed. A-Rod, potentially, costs the Yankees more than any other team, apart from the Red Sox, because the Yankees' current payroll exceeds the luxury tax threshold. As such, the Yankees would have to pay a 40% surcharge on A-Rod's annual salary if their pay roll exceeds $155 million for 2008, $162 million for 2009, $170 million for 2010, and $178 million for 2011.

Accordingly, Stark calculates the "$203 million difference" as follows:

Yankees Proposed Extension: 5 years, $145 million
Rangers' Contract: 3 years, $81 million
A-Rod's Take: 8 years, $226 million (28.25M per year)
Yankees' Luxury Tax Premium: $226m + ($226m * 40%) - ($30m TX subsidy)
Total = $287 million

A-Rods' Demand: 12 years, $350m
Luxury Tax: ($350m * 40%)
Yankees' Total Bill: $490 million
Total Difference for Yankees = $203 million

But before we address the two basic fallacies Stark's analysis betrays, let us update his calculation with the figures Madden provides. Remember: Madden reveals, on the one hand, that (1) the Yankees were prepared to offer A-Rod a full 7-year extension, not just five; (2) that the Yankees only receive $21 million of Hicks' $30 million outstanding obligation; and on the other (3) that Boras, despite demanding $350 million, could accept a minimum of $300 million for A-Rod and still claim a victory.

Stark's Numbers with Madden Addendum
Yankees Proposed Contract Extension: 7 years, $203 million
Rangers' Contract: 3 years, $81 million
A-Rod's Take: 10 years, $284 million (28.4M per year)
Yankees' Luxury Tax Premium: $284m + ($284m * 40%) - ($21m TX subsidy)
Total = $377 million

A-Rods' Minimum: 10 years, $300m
Luxury Tax: (300m * 40%) = $120m
Yankees' Total Bill: $420 million
Total Difference for Yankees: $43 million

Now, $43 million is not exactly $203 million. But let's concede for the sake of argument that Boras already has a suitor willing to pay his ransom of $350 million and the Yankees would have to match it to retain A-Rod. (Under such a circumstance the Stark difference would rise from $43 million to $113 million.) The problem is that two assumptions still plague Stark's argument. One of which is spurious, another of which is indeterminate.

Stark's extrapolations assume (i) that the Yankees' payroll will exceed the luxury tax threshold for the entire duration of A-Rod's contract and (ii) that following the expiration of the current labor agreement which runs through 2011, the owner and player will renew the luxury tax. The corollary assumption to which is that the Yankees payroll for the last six years of A-Rod's contract ('12-'17) still will exceed the height to which the new labor agreement raises it.

(This is to say nothing about another flaw in Stark's argument. The Yankees receive some percentage of the luxury tax they pay to defray the cost of the new stadium they're building.)

Stark's first fallacy subsumes its second. Evidently, Stark didn't look beyond the 2008 season in assuming the Yankees would exceed the luxury tax threshold throughout the duration of A-Rod's next contract. Because had he, he would have come to a more equivocal conclusion.
After the 2008 season, the Yankees will discard the following contracts:

1) Giambi $22 million
2) Abreu $16 million
3) Mussina $11 million
4) Pavano $11 million
5) Farnsy $5.5million
6) Pettitte $16 million (provided he doesn't retire this year)

Total Lost after 2008 season = $81.5 million

(I will assume that the loss of other players beyond the players listed above following 2008 will off-set the increases the Yankees will incur from the rise in salaries of arbitration-eligible players like Wang and Cano)

ESPN calculated the Yankees 2007 payroll to be $195 million

So let's estimate their 2008 and 2009 payrolls, should the Yankees change their mind and sign A-Rod. In 2008, with A-Rod, the Yankees payroll would rise as follows:

1) + $1million Posada's Contract
2) + $4.5million Mariano (I assume Rivera re-signs for 3 years at $45 million)
3) +$1 million Abreu
4) +$1 million Pavano

Total Increase w/o A-Rod = app. $8million

A-Rod Increase = $14million ($30 million '08- $16 million)

Aggregate increase for '08 = $8million = $14million = $22 million

  • Estimated 2008 Yankee payroll with A-Rod = $215 million
  • Estimated 2009 Yankees payroll with A-Rod = $215 - $81 (expiring contracts) = $134 million

Which means, all else being equal, the Yankees would be about $28 million under the luxury tax threshold for 2009. Two implications follow: (i) if the Yankees don't incur the luxury tax after 2008, the cost differential of signing A-Rod on the open market versus extending his contract drops to little more than the $21million Rangers' subsidy and (ii) that even with paying A-Rod $35m-per-year, the Yankees potentially would have about $28 million dollars at their disposal to spend on Johan Santana, before MLB would assess a luxury tax in 2009.


In fact, should the Yankees change their mind, A-Rod's contract, along with Posada's, Rivera's, and Jeter's, would remain the only long-term contracts the Yankees would have to pay past 2009, when the Yankees' luxury tax threshold would rise to $170 million and in 2011, to $178 million.

So can the Yankees afford A-Rod? It's difficult to evaluate definitively, of course, because the Yankees, like every other major league team, don't have to account publicly for their revenue and indulge in creative book-keeping to minimize the profits they declare. Still, the Yankees enter a new stadium in 2009 with 60 corporate luxury boxes and suites and seats throughout the ballpark whose prices many estimate will rise from 75% to 400% in addition to commanding "a licensing fee" surcharge for season-ticket holders. Whether they maximize this earning potential will depend on whether fans fill the ballpark and spend their money on concessions and souvenirs, which in turn, will hinge, in the long-term, on whether the Yankees win.

So, once again, can the Yankees afford to re-sign A-Rod? To which a Talmudic answer seems most apropos: i.e., Can the Yankees afford not to?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


"Hell hath no fury like a Steinbrenner scorned"

Villify him, if you will. Deplore him, if you must. Renounce the mercenary temptress who stole your affections and trampled your heart.

After all, you embraced him and he rebuffed you. You defended him and he betrayed you. You let him seduce you; and then when you offered him millions to stay, he spurned your calls.

But then, please, let the indignation, recrimination, and malice subside. And then, once you've shed the scorned lover's bravado; once your wounded pride has healed, ask yourself whether your beloved Yankees can prosper without him?

Because if you're honest with yourself, if you eschew the temptation to overconfidence and self-deception; you'll have to confront the stark reality. The Yankees cannot win a championship next year without A-Rod's production. Worse, the remedies readily available for assuaging A-Rod's loss can cripple the Yankees more, in the end, than the loss itself.

Alas, A-Rod and Boras knew exactly what they were doing when the AL MVP voided his contract: the Yankees need A-Rod far more than A-Rod needs the Yankees. And all the threats King George's Men issued over the past three months only reaffirmed where the balance of power rested. For an ultimatum is a sure sign of weakness. More dangerous still, ultimatums invite defiance or reprisal.

Reveal to A-Rod once or twice the consequence of opting-out and the Yankees, perhaps, deter him. Repeat the threat multiple times, as the Yankees' hierarchy did, and you almost certainly provoke him. Because no one can acquiesce to an ultimatum without surrendering his self-respect. A-Rod only demonstrated that he was less desperate to remain a Yankee than the Yankees were to retain him.

As well they should have been, because A-Rod is no less indispensable to the Yankees future than the Yankees other free-agents, Rivera, Pettitte, and Posada and perhaps, more so.

Lose Mariano and the Yankees, at least have Joba Chamberlain to stanch the bleeding. (Not that the body still won't ache.)

Lose Andy Pettitte and the Yankees can turn to their farm system's one surplus commodity-- young pitching. Or they can wait a year; and with the bonanza of elite starters likely available, the Yankees can go shopping and purchase a substitute in the marketplace. (Following the 2008 season, Santana, Sabathia,Sheets will be free-agents. And if their team don't exercise their options and Peavy and Lackey will join them and Burnett, too, if like A-Rod, he exercises his opt-out.)

Lose Posada? Well, the Yankees will suffer and profoundly at that. In fact, of the dynastic threesome, the franchise can afford to lose their catcher least. Nonetheless, a catcher as prolific as Posada is an anomaly, more windfall than necessity, in the long run. All else remaining the same, the Yankees would survive with Jose Molina, Yorvit Torrealba, or Michael Barrett behind the plate for a year or two until either Francisco Cervelli or Jesus Montero, their two top minor-league catchers, displaces him.

But tragically, all else is not equal. Because with the player responsible for 17% of their runs last seaason, the hitter who accounted for 14% of their total bases, the bat that comprised their sole source of right-handed power, the Yankees refuse to negotiate. It's one thing to shun a player because his price exceeds his worth. Quite another, when pride, spite, and stubborness forestall rational decision-making. But this is precisely what the Steinlittles current stance betrays. They've ostracized A-Rod in a fit of pique. Did A-Rod court banishment, by refusing, when he did, to discuss an extension? Of course, he did. But Scott Boras is the Godfather of agents. With him, it's never personal; it's only business. Would that the Steinlittles emulated him. Because in their vindictiveness, the Steinlittles harm themselves above all.

Have the Yankees record-breaking attending records induced complacency or overconfidence? Do the Steinlittles honestly believe they will draw 4,000,000 fans with the Yankees languishing in third place on September 1st? (Sure, 50,000 fans may attend Yankees Stadium's final farewell ceremonies, but ask Larry Lucchino how many fans braved muggy September nights in 2006 after the Red Sox fell out of playoff contention.)

And a forlorn September is precisely what the Yankees now face. Indeed, A-Rod's departure, if irrevocable, threatens to push the Yankees to the precipice of mediocrity, the lesser of all the teams they barely surpassed to make the playoffs this year-- a slightly more expensive, slightly more productive incarnation of the '07 Blue Jays or Twins. Because whether the Yankees' front-office acknowledges it or not, the Yankees, during the last four years, have grown increasingly dependent on A-Rod's production. As such, his loss leaves a void the size of a crater and the most readily available means to fill it would require the Yankees to dig themselves deeper into the hole, by relinquishing the young pitching prospects which hold their future's foundation.

Their Yankees farm system is barren of major league ready offensive talent. Their two best hitting prospects, Tabata and Austin Jackson, are outfielders and still years away from burgeoning. The next two years' class of free-agent 3B is a middling lot: with the 34-yr-old, pull-hitting Mike Lowell leading the '07 class and what will be a 33-year-old, oft-injured and steroid-tainted Troy Glaus leading it in '08. While the one major-league player who could both play 3B and approximate A-Rod's production is Miguel Cabrera, who would cost them Hughes, Kennedy, or Chamberlain, one of the very young pitchers upon whom the Yankees future depends.


So why can't the Yankees just stick Joe Crede or Wilson Betemit at 3B and rely on their young pitching to carry them? After all, didn't the Yankees contend for six championships in nine years with Charlie Hayes, Scott Brosius, and Aaron Boone at 3B?

Well first of all, Chamberlain, Hughes, Kennedy, and Wang have hardly proven they're the equal of Cone, Clemens, El Duque, and Pettitte just yet. Neither Hughes nor Chamberlain has exceeded 140 innings in a single season . And Ian Kennedy has started a sum total of three major league games, all in September, no less. Sure, the Yankees budding three, with Wang, could burgeon into a modern day incarnation of Cuellar, McNally, Palmer and Dobson, the Orioles Fab Four. Then again, it's possible, if unlikely, Chamberlain-Hughes-Kennedy could no more meet the enormous expectations that now saddle them than could the Mets' notorious triumvirate of Isringhausen, Pulsipher, and Wilson.

The real flaw in the Brosius fallacy however is that it fails to account for how much the current lineup's complexion differs from its championship-laurelled predecessors. From '96 to '03, the Yankees only asked their third-baseman to field his position because they received consistent, and widespread, production from CF (Bernie), 1B (Tino), and DH (Fielder, Justice, Chili/Strawberry). Even the '96 through '00 teams, founded on their pitching had 3 or more players that hit 19 or more home runs. '96 (Bernie, Tino, Fielder/Sierra, O'Neil ) '97 (Bernie, Tino, O'Neil); '98 (Tino, O'Neil, Strawberry, Bernie, Brosius, Jeter ); '99 (Tino, Jeter, Bernie, O'Neil, Chili) '00 (Posada, Bernie, Justice).

Now, the Yankees receive little offensive production from 1B and CF and considerably less from their DH.

Remember: The 2007 Yankees were not the 2004 team when A-Rod's 36 HRs and 106 RBI's complemented Gary Sheffield's 36 HRs and 121 RBI's and Hideki Matsui's 31 HRs and 108 RBIs (and even Bernie William contributed 21 HR and 70 RBIs). Nor were 2007 Yankees were not the 2006 team when A-Rod's 35 HRs and 121RBIs reinforced Jason Giambi 37 HR's and 113 RBI's.

The 2007 Yankees were a collection of left-handed singles and doubles hitters; a 36-year old switch-hitting catcher with a career season; a right-handed SS, if among the best clutch hitters in history, who doesn't hit for power; and the AL MVP and best all around player in baseball, Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Subtract A-Rod and the Yankees's lineup suddenly looks very ordinary-- bereft of power, right-hand deficient, wanting at the infield corners, regressing at the outfield corners, old and overloaded at DH, and in general, entering the first-stage of decline -- a series of 33+ yr-old veterans whose most productive seasons have passed them by.

Damon, Abreu, Matsui and Giambi all regressed this year, with the latter two's erosion the most disconcerting because they're the only other two hitters who hit for power.


Refusing to negotiate with AROD because in opting-out, he cost the Yankees $21 million dollars-- an amount less than Kei Igawa's posting fee; a sum less than Roger Clemens '07 salary; a total equivalent to Jason Giambi's '08 income-- means the Yankees face on the following two options.

1) Mortgage the future and relinquish Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and (Humberto Sanchez or Alan Horne or Ross Ohlendorf) for Miguel Cabrera.


2) Concede '08 as a rebuilding year. Take the risk that no team acquires Santana and signs to a long-term deal before the '08 season concludes. And hope that the Yankees can sign him and another Boras' client Mark Teixiera for the money they would save on A-Rod.

Either entails considerable risk. Far more risk, that is, than offering $280 million dollars over 8 years for the best player in baseball.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


So the debate rages on: Will the Yankees benefit from Joe Torre's departure or will King George's Court come to regret the rift they either orchestrated or otherwise invited?

Let's leave aside, for a moment, whether the King's Court intended to discharge Joe or not. Let's leave aside how little the Boss and his courtiers, evidently, understand the respect, gratitude, and kudos due a succesful 12-year employee, even if his performance of late, for whatever reason, hasn't matched his earlier triumphs: better yet, how one ensures that when his 12-year tenure ends, he departs gracefully and without carrying a trail of rancor or acrimony in his wake. [1]

Let's leave all aside all the arguments about how the Yankees handled Torre's departure. Alas, it is now a fait accomplis. So the question remaining is whether the change in leadership will benefit them.

Of course, change doesn't occur in a vaccum. The alternatives must be measured against the deposed incumbent.

Girardi is perhaps the only candidate the Yankees could hire who might excel Torre in media savvy. Neither Pena nor Mattingly, in contrast, come close to matching Torre.

Indeed, neither Girardi's intelligence nor his verbal dexterity can be gainsaid. Girardi owns an engineering degree from Northwestern Univerity. A background reflected in the meticulous statistical archive he keeps on players and utlilizes during games and outside the diamond, in the fastidious precision with which he chooses his words. Which, perhaps, explains why his delivery so often lacks the sincere, forthright, and paternal warmness Torre exuded. Girardi's skillful use of evasion, indirection, and platitude rather suggests the lawyer or politican. Coupled with his austere demeanor, Girardi, more accurately, evokes the military man. The crew-cut, the fixation with details, the immaculate grooming bespeak the repressed, controlling martinet. Think Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz: the Pentagon engineer overly awed by the numbers; the smug expert overly impressed with his technical skill; the thin-skinned autocrat utterly intolerant of criticism. One part Buck Showalter, Two parts William C. Westmoreland.

More problematic still, I can't imagine the Yankees current roster of veterans, superstars, icons, and future Hall-of-Famers wouldn't chafe at receiving criticism and instruction from a 41-year-old contemporary-- one Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte played with as late 1999. What's more, Bergen Record columnist, Bob Klapisch, has speculated that A-Rod, in particular, may recoil from playing from Girardi because he reminds A-Rod so much of Showalter. Meanwhile, some of Posada's friends intimated to the NJ Star-Ledger (10/26/07), the Yankees catcher harbors similar misgivings about Girardi. Either, if true, in itself, should disqualify Girardi from further consideration.

On the diametric opposite end of the personality spectrum sits the man who best could match Torre's role as clubhouse paterfamilias-- Tony Pena. By all accounts, Pena is affable, modest, lighthearted, and inspires affection in all who know him. Pena has developed a close rapport with the team's two young Latino player, Melky and Cano. Further commending him, Pena has transformed Posada from a below-average catcher to an average to above-average one over the last two seasons. Indeed, both Posada and Torre have credited Pena with markedly improving the percentage with which the Yankees' catcher has thrown runners out. And like Girardi Pena not only has managerial experience, he boasts a manager of the year award, besides (2003, with The Royals)

Still, to most Yankee fans, Pena is a cipher. Part of it, I suspect, is that as first-base coach, he has avoided the spotlight; the other part, I supect, is the language barrier. Although Pena speaks English without difficulty, he seems to lack the full command and fluency Latin American players like Bernie and Posada possess. And in a city where the media feeding frenzy leads reporters to parse manager's syntax every day, Pena may not be at his most confident or at his best.

Perhaps, the only candidate capable of combining both of Torre's best qualities-- the loyalty and affection he inspired in the clubhouse and the honor he imparted to the manager' chair outside it-- is, of course, Don Mattingly. The salient difference between them, of course, is that Torre had about 15 years of managerial experience before he became the Yankee manager. Mattingly hasn't been a coach for half as long.

Now, like many a Yankee fan, Don Mattingly was about the only reason I watched the team through the late 80's and early 90's. And during Mattingly's prime, few compared in talent, work ethic, consistency, gravitas or stature. Which is precisely what gives me great pause about him managing the Yankees now, at this juncture. The impetus seems driven by sentimentality. The sentimentality of the Yankees' most influential fan-- the Boss. About the aging monarch's recent penchant for the lachrymose, I quote James Baldwin, "Sentimentality is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to expereience, his fear of life, his arid heart."

King George, evidently, wants to see Mattingly manager, he says, before he dies. A reason I can understand but with which I don't necessarily sympathize.

I'd hoped, rather, that the Yankees would renew Torre's contract for two years with the stipulation that he groom his heir-apparent. Because if the organization envisioned Mattingly as their manager one-day, it seemed to me, that the Boss' favorite son needed a little more seasoning. Not only has Mattingly not overseen a pitching staff in a managerial role, but unlike many former catchers like Torre, Girardi, and Pena, who often transition seamlessly into managers, Mattingly hasn't handled a pitching staff as player either.

One can only hope Mattingly is a quick study.

In short, all of the above managerial alternatives suffer from one or more glaring shortcomings. Which, to my mind, had commended Torre as manager-caretaker for another two years, until Mattingly had ripened fully enough to assume the mantle.

Nonetheless, I wish to do justice to the case that the Yankees needed a managerial change. And in doing so, I will cite no less than the universally respected authority, Newsday's national baseball columnist, Ken Davidoff. Ken, recently, was generous enough to mention this obscure, little blog on his ("There are still games going on?", October 23, 2007) and I wish to repay the compliment.

Those of who you who already read him know that Ken's commentary is always intelligent, trenchant, and cogent. More rare in a sports columnist, his tone is gracious, his conclusions are judicious, and rarer still, he is often witty and endearing. (See his Blog Post, Trading Places, 10/25/07) However, with Randy Levine's conflict of interest police on full watch, I should disclose that Ken and I went to JP Stevens High School together, which may explain why I not only admire his work but also like him personally. But I doubt it. In fact, considering my, shall I say, ambivalence, about Edison, New Jersey, it's probably an even greater credit to him.

Ken's case appears in "Time Has Come for Classy Joe To Go",0,5326998.column

As I read it, Ken arguments are as follows,
(1) Torre is a bit of an anachronism, a throw-back to the old-school baseball traditionalists who rely on gut and instinct for their decisions.
(2) Wheras baseball's future belongs to managers who are extensions of front-offices steeped in sabermetrics and who as a consequence, don't command salaries as high as Torre's was.
(3) To this end, Cashman and the rest of the Yankees brass prefer "cheap, young, durable youngsters" whereas Torre demonstrates a marked prejudice toward aging veterans.

Ken cites two vivid examples of this last shortcoming of Torre's in his overuse of Proctor and Vizcaino-- to which we could add, from past years, Karsay, Quantril, Sturtze, and Gordon-- and his neglect of Edward Ramirez. And Torre's similar consignment of Shelly Duncan to a bench player, at most.

All weaknesses of Torre that I can't dispute. (Although the GM's office bears its share of responsibility for neglecting Duncan as well. They didn't even invite him to training camp and instead, used their Rule 5 pick on Josh Phelphs.) Indeed, I'd love to see the new Yankees' manager award Duncan a chance to perfect his skills at 1B and to win a full-time job.

And Lord knows, Torre's management of his middle-reliever leaves something to be desired. However, once again, it's important neither to overlook his personnel nor to forget who Torre, in overusing certain relievers, had as his alternatives. Until Cashman's youthful movement bore fruit this year, it wasn't as though Torre has this reservoir of young hard-throwing relievers he had, but refused to tap. Since the middle relief heyday of Mendoza, Nelson, and Stanton, Torre has been hard-pressed to find a jewel amid the dross of Felix Heredia, Felix Rodriguez, Gabe White, Buddy Groom, Chris Hammond, Juan Acevedo, Antonio Osuna, etc.

There has been considerable speculation that Cashman's support for Torre was tepid, at best, not only because of the shortcomings Ken enumerates above. But also, Cashman, apparently, as designs on placing his own stamp on the organization. SI's Tom Verducci suggests that Cashman imagines himself a baseball intellectual in the mold of Theo Epstein and Billy Beane and has aspired, for some time, to transform the Yankees into some Moneyball epigone. But Torre's traditionalist management-style blocked Cashman's way.

Is this true? God, I hope not. To be sure, Cashman deserves kudos for replenishing the Yankees' farm-system and re-asserting its overall strategic importance to the Yankees future. However, many of Cashman's personnel decisions, in particular, about major league pitchers are responsible for the playoff defeats that cost Torre his job. Here's just a few of Cashman's noteworthy follies.

  • Trading Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver
  • Trading Jeff Weaver for Kevin Brown
  • Trading Juan Rivera and Nick Johnson for Javier Vasquez
  • Trading Javier Vasquez for a 41-yr old Randy Johnson
  • Jose Contreras
  • Carl Pavano
  • Jared Wright (forsaking Derek Lowe, for $1 million more per year)
  • Kyle Farnsworth
  • Kei Igawa
  • Andy Pettitte? (George was more responsible ignoring Pettite in '03 however)

And since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, Yankee starters, in their last 17 post-season games, have gone 2-8 with a 6.36 ERA. In elimination games, they're 0-4 with 12.22 ERA, averaging 2.8 innings per start.

I quote an astute observation of a loyal contributor to Ken's blog, Peter Ciccone,

"In the Yankees last 15 postseason games--going back to Game 6 of the '04 ALCS--Yankees hitters have reached their first at bat in the 4th inning down 3 runs or more 9 times. 9 TIMES!!! Including three times this month against Cleveland. In those same 15 games, the Yankees took their first at bat in the 7th inning trailing 10 times, with starters providing a quality start in only 2 of those 10 games (Chacon Game 4 '05 ALDS, Mussina Game 2 '06 ALDS)."

Is this because Cashman relied too heavily on sabermetrics in acquiring these starters? Or does this reliance, in turn, discredit Cashman's sabermetrical model? No, not necessarily

However, it does suggest that there's no substitute for that quality that Torre had in abundance-- baseball instinct. We often forget how often Torre would make a decision, contrary to what the numbers would imply, and turn out right in the end. I can recall countless occasions over the last 12 years, where I would wring my hands and shout at the heavens over Torre's decision to play Minky or Cairo or Enrique Wilson or Charlie Hayes, or to pitch Graeme Lloyd or Jim Mecir or Holmes or Grimsley or Vizcaino in some situation, during a period in which his players were strugging, and the player nonetheless responded. And Torre's faith in him would reward him and the team.

It's because Torre often relied on that primal level of human knowledge-- intuiton-- part innate, part experiential-- that no sabermetrician can duplicate and for which rational intelligence cannot substitute.

I only hope that the Yankees don't soon regret their decision to minimize the simple importance of "JOE KNOWS". He marshalled, an often inconsistent level of talent, to 12 straight post-seasons for a reason. His critics ignore that accomplishment at their peril.

[1] According to YES Network's Michael Kay, Torre professes insult because he just loves acting the martyr. I wonder whether Kay ever paused to ask why almost every Yankees manager to leave King George's employ in the last 30 years, then, harbors lingering bitterness and shuns the organization for years afterward.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


"The more things change, the more they stay the same" --- French proverb

The nausea has returned. Oh yes, after twelve years, it has reasserted itself, and with a vengeance.

The pettiness and the effrontery. The insolence and the vindictiveness. The cowardice and the malice. The insanity and the embarassment. Yankeeland has resurrected the age-old revulsion.

The organization that repelled you by hiring and firing Billy Martin 5 times in 13 years. The brass that outraged you by dismissing Dick Hower after he won the AL East. The Boss that disgusted you when he canned Yogi Berra 16 games into a season, and with his son, no less, in the locker room. The leadership that appalled you by dispatching Buck Showalter and Gene Michael after they'd led the Yankees through a fourteen year wildnerness into the post-season. The front-office that disgusted you when it wasted its time courting Gary Sheffield and in the meantime, drove Andy Pettitte away.

Well, yesterday revived the legacy of nausea to connect the Yankees' shameful present with their ignominous past.

Sure, the years may pass. The names and faces may change. The Steinbrenner serfs may supplant the Steinbrenner Lord; and The Boss' courtiers may inherit his Kingdom. But the self-destructive arrogance, the irrational scapegoating, the contempt for their fans' intelligence and the defiance of common sense-- that never ceases. It only goes into remission.

The Yankees never deserved Joe Torre. The last two weeks only proved it.

First came the ingratitude of the Boss' ALDS Ulitmatum after a season in which their manager had resurrected his team from the brink of extinction, despite a pitching staff featuring the likes of Kei Igawa, Chase Wright, Matt DeSalvo, Tyler Clippard, Darryl Rasner, Carl Pavano and a 10-week DL stint for Jason Giambi, the hitter who led them last year in Home Runs.

Then followed the high-handed callousness in which the organization who let a man, who had toiled for them for 12-years and won throughout, a man of of consummate tact, grace and integrity; a man who following his team's elimination shed tears of anguish and devastation; a man they let wallow in misery and dangle in anticipation for ten full days before deciding his fate.

In the meantime, they staged a cyncial and contemptible charade, with all the pomp and circumstance Little Men crave to make themselves feel important. For two days, they convened behind closed doors and locked gates in their Tampa Manse. For two days, they pretended to deliberate, to weigh and to consider. When actually, for two days, they schemed and contrived; they plotted and maneuvered. How do we rid ourselves of this beloved man, these Little Men pondered? How do we dispose of this Mensch who has robbed us of the credit and the praise, the affection and the respect, to which our money entitles us. How do we dispatch him and yet preempt the outrage from our fans and our players that we know ourselves too cowardly to face by simply firing him? So the Little Men combined their collective smallness and this is what they wrought: an offer so insulting they calculated he would refuse. An offer that in ostensibly saving their faces, slapped his harder than if they'd had the decency just to fire him in the first place.

So on the third day, they invited the manager who had led them for twelve years who had won them four championships and reflected upon them only glory and grandeur in the process -- they invited this man to Tampa to dictate to him irrevocable terms for surrender. And with all the duplicity and unctuous innocence that Little Men can contrive this is what they had the gall and the indecency to offer--

  • "For reaching the post-season for an unprecedented twelve consecutive years, for attaining 10 AL East division titles, for earning 6 AL pennants, for winning in 6 years as many World Championships as we had in the previous 35, we offer you one lame duck year at a 30% decrease in salary.

  • "And because the mission statement of this franchise is to win a World Series every year and while we all share responsibility for our failure to do so the past seven years, we wish to hold you, Joe Torre, to a standard we would never impose on ourselves. No, because you, Joe Torre, alone haven't made it past the ALDS in 3 years; because you lost 4 straight games to the Red Sox in the '04 ALCS; because you haven't won a World Championship with the legions of great starting pitchers we've furished you-- from Jeff Weaver, Javier Vasquez, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Carl Pavano, Jared Wright, Hideki Irabu to Kei Igawa: because of all this failure you, alone, Joe Torre have caused the Yankees franchise the past seven years, you, alone, must accept what we like to call a 'performance-based model.' Never mind the effect it may have on your players. No, to reinforce that you, alone, Joe Torre, cost us the Division Series the past three years and to motivate you for the future, you must accept a $1 million incentive for each playoff round you win-- performance-based stipulations, to which we, of course, don't consider ourselves beholden.

  • And finally to reaffirm, that we only welcome managers who win World Series here-- albeit from our President and our GM we, evidently, accept far less- we will only guarantee you, Joe Torre, a second-year only if you reach the World Series. (Note how generous we are because we don't even demand that you win it.)"

And of course, what ensued was the ending the Little Men had spent ten days scripting.

The Manager who loved his job and in turn, inspired the love and loyalty of his players and his fans, demonstrated in vivid fashion why the ungrateful and devious Little Men and the organization they lead never really deserved him.

And in doing so, he exposed the Little Men for who they are.

Joe Torre forsook the job he coveted because he has too much pride and self-respect to accept the humiliating and degrading terms in which the Little Men couched it. Joe Torre declined the offer because he would not play their scapegoat. Joe Torre spurned the opportunity because he would not accept sole responsibility for the success the Little Men portray as failure. Joe Torre rejected them because he could not abide the abject insult their incentive clauses implied.

No, predictably, Joe Torre would not debase himself for $5 million; not for the prestige of his title; not for the roar of the crowd; not for proximity to dignitaries and celebrities; not to prolong his moment in the limelight. Joe Torre would not grovel and scrape and dive for the Blood Money the Little Men threw on the floor.

No, Joe Torre thanked them and he walked away without protest or rancor. And never more did his class, his dignity, his magnanimity throw the pettiness, the baseness, the cowardice of the Yankees' Little Men into lower relief.

One marvels at the smugness and the self-delusion of these Little Men. So worried were they of enraging and alienating their customer, they compounded their insolence and their dishonesty by professing surprise-- Renaultian shock, even-- that Joe Torre would decline their degrading offer-- and in staging their charade did nothing but insult our intelligence. Do they really think so little of their fans that they think we would buy the transparent chicanery they purveyed?

More worrisome, do these Little Men so devoid of courage and honesty really believe that the free agents players they were loath to antagonize by firing their manager outright will not see right through their duplicity?

Four years after the tepid, disingenuous, eleventh-hour offer to Andy Pettitte that drove him to Houston; one year after refusing to extend the contract of their indispensable catcher, after declining to renew the contract of their immortal closer, after waiting until Spring Training to vouchsafe their still productive 16-year center-fielder a demeaning, non-guaranteed minor-league contract: Do these Little Men, after their affront to the manager Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte consider a father figure, really believe their free agents will re-sign after the way they treated him-- will re-sign simply because the Little Men are prepared to offer them prodigious sums of money. No, even after Andy Pettitte himself fled to Houston in 2003 for much less because the Yankees' disrespected him, the Little Men upstairs, evidently, still haven't learned their lesson.

They don't understand why the $300 million they spend annually has bought neither the players' loyalty nor the fans' love only their manager could inspire. How stubbornly obtuse, how self-satsified these Little Men reveal themselves to be. Such is the entitlement of sons who inherit money and think they earned it. Such is the vice of opportunists who usurp power and think they merited it.

So, for now, the Little Men have gotten what they for long contrived. They can have their ordinary and pliable manager whose celebrity and stature will not overshadow them. They can obtain all the credit and plaudits Joe Torre's prestige denied them. They can have their opportunity to demonstrate that anyone can manage a team with a $230 million payroll and deliver it to the post-season. They can prove their cyncial belief in the power of the all-mighty dollar. And they can show their fans that their free agents who threatened to follow their beloved father-confessor out the door, unlike their manager, possess a loyalty that extends no farther than money.

So concludes the Golden Torre interregnum in the sordid, everlasting reign of the Bronx's Little Men.

Let them know however, if they prove wrong and all their money can't save them from their pettiness and insolence, their self-destructive malice and unreason, and Posada and Rivera and Pettite, for the second time, leave and A-Rod, seeing only adversity ahead, follows, and the Yankees return to a third-rate, mediocrity behind Toronto and Boston: let them know their prodigious attendance records, their prolific network revenues, the reservoir of affection and respect and loyalty Joe Torre's class brought and the well of rancor, and duplicity and effrontery his nobility shielded -- all will desert them.

And then, may the Little Men see themselves for who they are.

And may they suffer the Peoples' Wrath.


"Oh, how wretched is the poor man that hangs on prince's favor"-- Henry VIII

If their squalid purge of Joe Torre hadn't already revealed King George's Court for all its imperial condescension, its abject pettiness, and consummate obtuseness (See above), then Prince Hank's comments on Sunday flaunted it for us all to see.

The vindictive little Prince poked his head out of the royal bunker to kick his fallen manager once more.
Joe Torre is an ingrate, Prince Henry declared, "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad... [gave] him that opportunity-- and the great team he was handed."

"Handed?" What a mordant irony! The entitled Prince rebukes the man who rose from a violent, working-class home through talent, intelligence, and self-deprecating charm for not genuflecting in appreciation for the status and success allegedly "handed" him on a silver platter.

"Handed"! Handed, as though the Yankees managerial job were some sinecure, an act of patronage King George, in his infinite generosity, vouchsafes on some select, undeserving peon. Is their any more piquant illustration of how little regard the Steinbrenner clan has for their managers' work, in general, and Joe Torre's contribution, in particular?

Yes, in 1996, they “handed” Joe Torre a closer John Wetteland whose confidence his predecessor had decimated. They “handed” Joe Torre a middle-reliever, Mariano Rivera, whose talent and promise no one else in the organization seemed to have noticed. They “handed” Joe Torre a pitching staff devoid of an ace because a 146-pitch game in the '05 ALDS sidelined David Cone all-season with an aneurysm. They “handed” Joe Torre a first-baseman whose slow start incited a jeering crowd. They “handed” Joe Torre a hole at second-base that he plugged with a utility man who responded with a career best season. They “handed” Joe Torre a Texan pitcher the pressure of New York so unnerved he would vomit before his starts. They “handed” Joe Torre the first World Series the franchise had won in 18 years. Yes, they handed it all to him, says the King's entitled heir. Joe Torre, in his own right, evidently, made no contribution worth mentioning.

What's remarkable, however, is that in the same breath Prince Hal cannot fathom why Torre would construe the Prince's patronage-- a one-year irrevocable offer at 30% pay-cut, with "motivation"-based performance incentives besides-- as a reproach, an insult, a symbolic expression of just how expendable they viewed their manager. A perceived dispensability that Prince Hank's own comments, now, explicitly affirm.

Perhaps, then, we should take Prince Hank at his word, then, when expresses shock at the universal opprobrium the King's Court has since received. Perhaps, we should believe him too when he says, "[he] sincerely wanted Joe to accept that offer." Perhaps, the offer he and the rest of King George's Court devised was not the ruthless, Machiavellian ploy with which their critics have credited them. No, the King's Court, evidently, is too arrogant to resort to low cunning. And what's more, their too obtuse to comprehend why a 12-year employee tendered an irrevocable, non-negotiable pay cut and “bonuses” that would task him alone with recent failures would signal to him disapproval of his work and contempt for his record.

No, the King's Court subjected Joe Torre to far worse than a ploy. They proffered him a mea culpa to sign, an offer tantamount to terms of surrender. For to accept them, Joe Torre would have had to admit to their implication that he alone is to blame for the Yankees’ last three ALDS defeats; that he alone bear responsibility for an entire organization’s failures and to forces beyond his control. And more odious still, the King’s Court is so smug and arrogant they profess incomprehension that Joe Torre was neither so contrite nor so desperate as to submit to their terms.

Alas, here in all its unabashed sordidness stands the smallness of All King George's Men.

Pity them their blind insolence. And pity us Yankee fans for loving the Kingdom they rule.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


"The past is never dead. It's not even past." --William Faulkner

Twelve years of stability, prosperity, and concord. Twelve years of optimism, pride and grandeur. Twelve years of regular season excellence and post-season drama. Twelve years in which excitement reigned on the field and normalcy prevailed in the clubhouse. Twelve years in which Yankee fans could delude themselves that the insanity, the meddling, the bluster and the farce that characterized the Dark Ages had faded forever into oblivion.

How easily we deceive ourselves! A few inopportune and gratuitous threats in the newspaper. Unrealistic expectations. Misdirected blame. Ingratitude, pettiness, and churlishness abounding. A dangling, scapegoated manager. Lust for, and flirtation with, the latest glamorous name......

And in a blink of the eye, memories of the dark, ignoble past come flooding back: the 13 years without a playoff birth; the six consecutive seasons of 4th place or worse finishes; the annual clubhouse turmoil and the revolving managerial door.

In case you didn't live through, or conveniently have forgotten, the decade B.T.E (Before the Torre Era), let me refresh your recollection. The Before Torre Era was the worst of times.

It was the epoch of dugout altercations and barroom brawls and front-office vendettas. It was the age of the three-ring media circus. Managers criticized players in the press, players publicly villified the front-office, the front-office decried ownership, and ownership reviled just about everyone. (One time, even going so far as to hire felons to besmirch a player's reputation and to sully his name.)

It was the period when ownership drove away Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Goose Gossage, Mickey Rivers and countless other players responsible for World Series championships. It was the span when baseball GM's could exploit the Madness of King George to bilk the Yankees of Al Leiter for Jesse Barfield, Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden, and an entire farm-system for Rickie Henderson. It was the years when The Boss would banish a callow shortstop to AAA for an untimely error. It was the Springs of Andy Hawkins, Dennis Rasmussen, and Ed Whiston. It was the Summers of Dallas Green, Bucky Dent, and Stump Merrill. It was the Winters, cold, bleak, and stove-less when incumbent players fled, Yankee Greats were estranged, and free-agents shunned New York.

The dark tyrannous pall over Yankeeland only began to lift when in 6 B.T.E., Commisioner Fay Vincent exiled King George.

For in the ensuing three years Gene Michael managed to re-build the Yankees foundation by drafting Derek Jeter, signing Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, acquiring Paul O'Neil, and refusing to trade Bernie Williams.

Alas, the reprieve wasn't to last. Vincent allowed King George to resume the throne. And soon enough tyrrany, madness, and fiat reigned yet again as King George, in spite of the Yankees' first playoff birth in fourteen years, dismissed the two architects responsible.

Only this time just when King George appeared poised to cast the Yankees yet again into perdition, the Baseball Gods, working in their ever mysterious and unfathomable ways, decided to favor the Bronx with an unexpected and unearned gift. Out of Hannibal Mo (or St. Louis, anyway), they brought the Damned Yankees "Clueless Joe"-- the ominous New York Post headline that fate would charge with a rich, mordant irony which only years later would Yankees fans fully appreciate.

Because just as the mythic "Shoeless Joe" would damn the Yankees, the real-life "Clueless Joe" would redeem them and usher in The Yankees Renaissance. A Golden Era dawned, reminiscent of the 1950's when Pinstripes ruled. And over the succeding twelve years, the Dark Ages indeed receded into oblivion. Or so we thought.

No, of course, Joe wasn't alone, or perhaps even preponderantly, responsible for it. After all, he inherited the foundation Gene Michael built, Bob Watson refurbished, and Brian Cashman solidified.

However, it was through Joe's stewardship, the Yankees won with those players, and won and won and won: four World Series rings in six years, six AL pennants in nine years, and ten AL East division titles in twelve, and finally, an unprecedented twelve consecutive post-season births.

But more importantly, Joe stamped the franchise with his personality. He imparted his patience, his maganimity, his sang-froid. He restored to the Yankees the class, the nobility, the dignity Joe DiMaggio once symbolized and King George, long ago, had squandered. Even its fiercest rivals begrudgingly respected and admired the team in the Bronx.

How could they not? Their stars no longer publicly feuded, brawled in bars, or taunted each other in the press. Manager and GM no longer blamed each other for losses. Tampa and New York's antagonistic factions maintained an uneasy but workable detente. In the clubhouse, an esprit de corps reigned that enabled the team to absorb malcontents, misfits, and libertines and still manage to harness their talent. Indeed, Torre inspired such loyalty and affection in his players that free-agents not only wanted to play in New York again but specifically for its manager himself, with Joe often sealing the deal with a well-placed recruiting call.

And then of course the team won and won and won. Which really is the only reason why Torre remained long enough to carve out the first and only autonomous fiefdom in the history of King George's reign. Winning had granted the vassal power, prestige, influence-- the unbridled love and adulation of the people-- that the King couldn't deny. Albeit, througout, he resented it.

You see, a tyrrant can compel the people's respect. He can purchase their allegiance. He can even, through success occasionally, earn their admiration. But he never can win their love. And he fears and loathes anyone who can.

Thus the reason why Steinbrenner, for years, has yearned for the occasion to sack Torre. Torre's popularity threatens King George's unbridled hold on power. Were it not for the people's outcry and for the public backlash every tyrrant most fears, King George would have dispatched his imagined rival long ago.

Alas, now with Torre's contract expiring and the Yankees having lost three straight divisional series, it appears King George has seen his best opportunity. And so, the King has retired to his Tampa castle to convene with his advisors and evidently, to name a new vassal to manage the Empire.

Meanwhile, the King basks in the reclaimed limelight. He feeds the speculation; he prolongs the agonizing Limbo. The Sword of Damocles hangs over Joe's head and King George cherishes the moment. The vassal's anguishing wait to learn of his fate and the people's clamor to hear it confirms for the King that he still wears the Crown.

True, only time will tell if the King casts Yankeeland back into the Dark Ages. But the omens of the past-- the public ultimatums, the leaked reports, the tacit and unwarranted blame of his manager, the seeming indifference to public opinion or player sentiment, the intimations of wholesale dismissals -- thus far bode ill.

Torre's presence might not have been able to advance the Yankees past the last three divisional series because his management couldn't overcome wretched starting pitching that over the last seventeen post-season games has plagued the team. A period during which Yankee starters have gone 2-8 with a 6.36 ERA, and in elimination games since Game 7 of the '04 ALCS, are 0-4 with 12.22 ERA, averaging 2.8 innings per start. (See also "How to Fix the Yankees", Pitching, Pitching, Pitching: Why the Yankees Lost, August Archive)

No, Torre's presence might not secure for the Yankees a championship over the next few years. His absence, however, could very well prevent them from contending for one anytime soon.

And lest you think progress is inevitable and a return to the Dark Ages impossible, consider that how King George treats Joe and who he selects to manage will weigh heavily in whether four cornerstone players, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte, and A-Rod, return. Cornerstones the Empire cannot and will not rise again without. For however much promise a rotation of Joba, Hughes, Wang and IPK holds for advancing in October, lose any one of the Four Pillars and the Yankees risk not even qualifying for the tournament. Lose two or more and the Empire's foundation might not simply teeter, it might very well crumble. And in the ensuing chaos, another Dark Age could loom.

So you Yankee fans clamoring for a new manager, heed the past or one day you may awaken to a new Dark Age that you yourself have invited and discover yourself lamenting your ingratitude and yearning for the Golden Age of Joe.

Monday, October 1, 2007


"The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us."-- King Lear

Oh how 162 games focuses the mind, sharpens the view, and alters the landscape. Oh how a season separates the men from the boys, the charltans and poseurs from the real McCoys, and the true redeemers from the false prophets. Oh how the Baseball Gods punish tragic pride and deliver a poetic, almost Divine, justice.

From April to September, we Yankees fans endured it. The preening and the gloating, the malice and the Schadenfreude, the pettiness and the braggadocio. We read it in Mike Lupica's columns. We heard it resound from WFAN and their roster of Yankee-hating hosts. We witnessed it in the "Yankees suck" jeer that each night captivated the Shea rabble. We smelled it in the fetid stench of ressentiment that wafted from the Flushing sewers.

A seismic shift in New York's baseball geography had occurred, we were told. New York's baseball capital had migrated from the Ruth's House to Jackie's Rotunda where a new king was crowned. The King is dead. Long live Queens.

The Mets were young, vital, and ebullient, they said; the Yankees, tired, decadent, and old. The Mets had cultivated success; the Yankees had bought failure. The Mets boasted budding superstars; the Yankees were saddled with declining has-beens. Reyes, Wright, and Beltran heralded a radiant Spring future. Jeter, Posada, and Rivera personfied a dying October past.

Never mind that this Mets team hadn't won a single World Series. Never mind that this Mets team was comprised of players who hadn't proved themselves beyond a single season. Never mind that a baseball seasons ends not in May but September. Never mind that the once moribund Yankees have risen and the once mighty Mets have undergone a ignominious fall.

That is, the Baseball Gods tend to mete out an equitable, if deliberate, justice. Over a 162 games season the great distinguish themselves from the merely lucky while talent, heart, and the simple law of averages overcome the anomalous bounce and errant call. The .300 lifetime hitter follows his wretched slump with a hot streak. Today's adverse decision at 3rd base is balanced by tomorrow's undeserved boon at home. The pitching staff composed of middling starters and an overtaxed bullpen unravels. And the insolent, gloating fan swollen with hubris over his team's May fortunes receives an abrupt, traumatic and much-deserved comeuppance.

Take Heed Mets Fans and Behold the Wrath of the Baseball's Gods.

Let this be a lesson to you, oh arriviste-- the lesson that the New York Yankees (if not always their fans) teach: "Magnanimity in Victory" and "Dignity in Defeat."

Oh Mets fan, that petty animosity and resentment you harbor for the Yankees is best directed at the ownership and management of your own franchise. After all, the Yankees didn't compel the Mets to trade Scott Kazmir, Heath Bell, or Brian Banister or deter the Mets from re-signing Chad Bradford or Darren Oliver. No these are follies Mets' ownership and management committed all on its own.

Perhaps, then, for the future, it would best serve the Mets fan and the team he professes to adore to concern himself less with the fate of the AL East and the team in the Bronx; and to worry more about the decisions rendered and the competition faced in Queens.

For as long as the Mets fan preoccupies himself with the Yankees' fate, he consigns himself and his team to the plight of the inveterate second-class citizen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Beware: the Boston Plague has hit New York.

Has food lost its flavor? Is sleep restless and fitful? Do you pace during games, check scoreboards obsessively, or suffer bouts of nausea and despair? Has the gnawing doubt that a run of improbable success quelled momentarily bedevilled you once again?

Alas, with September approaching, the plague has attacked with a vengeance. A trip through two cities haunted with the ghosts of morbid Octobers past has weakened the immune system and invited the infection.

For now, the Yankees have returned home bruised, humbled, and wearied. Though not yet beaten. One month remains. But to survive through September and to salvage the season, the Yankees will have to gather their strength, regain their form, and summon reserves of gut and grit and will to mount one last and final flourish.

But first, they have to man the barricades against an old enemy, poised with confidence, fierce with swagger, free of worry, and hungry for revenge. A Scarlet Letter still adorns their cap and a centennial malice still fills their hearts. Boston has not forgotten the coup de grace New York delivered last August, nor the countless times before then, and will be eager to repay it.

How quickly the roles reverse. Just one year ago it was not the Yankees, but the Red Sox injuries, mismanagement, and unfulfilled expectations plagued. Josh Beckett hadn't realized the potential his acquisiton promised. Age had sapped David Wells and Curt Schilling of the efficacy their names and numbers heralded. And a middle-relief corps stocked with young, overused arms couldn't quite translate onto the mound the buzz generated in the bullpen.

To be sure, the Red Sox bats, on Manny a night, had redeemed them. Oritz's MVP-caliber, late-inning heroics carried the team into August and with the dreadlocked, RBI Machine behind him, the two formed the most lethal tandem in baseball. But at the trade deadline, Cashman outmanuevered his rivals and the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu, the final ingredient a Red Sox team dependent on offense so desperately needed.

Then the rash of injuries arrived to rob Boston of a post-season and to propel Red Sox management to emabrk upon the type of gluttonous off-season spending spree usually confined to New York. They bought a shortstop and left-fielder. But it was the hundreds of millions spent to corner the market in Japanese arms which reversed Boston's fate. With Okajima bought and Matsusaka delivered, the Red Sox, for the first time in 12 years, seixed the AL East balance of power.

It's an old and simple lesson Boston and New York's eternal battle teaches. '77 and '78 imparted it; '86 - '90 affirmed it; '96 - '03 reinforced it. '07 merely follows the arms race's iron law. That is, the war is decided before the battle is fought. Sure, proficient and powerful bats will bludgeon many an opponent. But over 162 games, the best starting pitching staff wins. PERIOD. And this honor, for now, belongs to Boston.

What's bizzare, actually, is how closely the Yankees have come to resemble their offensive-laden rival's of yore. More specifically, how reminiscent the Yankees' 07 season has been to the Red Sox's of '06. The freakish rash of injuries. The mighty offense led by an MVP candidate. The erratic, ever suspect bullpen. The aged starting rotation. The promising trade that never quite materialized. The callow pitching talent prematurely thrust into a playoff run. God only hopes the '07 Yankees don't reenact its final chapter.

The Wild-Card is still within the Yankees' reach. However, the Yankees will have to hold their own against the Red Sox, stifle the Mariners, and against the Royals, Devil Rays, Blue Jay and Orioles, duplicate their July success, for the playoffs to be within their grasp.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007



Here we go again. Remember when the Baseball Oracles insisted on declaring the Yankees dead in May with the body still registering a pulse? (See below “The Reports of the Yankees Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated.”)

Well, you would think that the Yankees recent resurgence might have chastened them; that it might have dissuaded them from delivering predictions about an unknowable future with an air of infallibility. But it hasn’t.

No, baseball’s fortune-tellers are at it again. First they foresaw a funeral; now, it's a divorce proceeding they prophesy. Alex Rodriguez is leaving the Yankees; the breach is imminent and what's worse, a fait accomplis.

Never mind that the couple has yet to separate. Never mind that the marriage actually looks its most blissful in years. Never mind that-- irony of ironies-- the more affluent of the two spouses can ill afford a split. Never mind, the baseball prophets say, because Alex wants his freedom. He, more importantly, wants more money; and his attorney Scott Boras will accept no less.

Those certain A-Rod will forsake the pinstripes include:

  1. ESP-N’s Jayson Stark (“Think A-Rod won't opt out? Think Again,” April 26, 2007)
  2. ESP-N’s Steve Phillips (ESP-N radio id=2934000): Phillips finds his tarot cards amid women’s apparel. He reads Cynthia Rodriguez’ notorious shirt reading “FUCK YOU” as a omen A-Rod will leave New York. (Of course, Phillips never discloses that he might have an ulterior motive. Few METS fans have forgiven Phillips, the METS' former GM, for refusing to bid on A-ROD when A-ROD was a free-agent in 2000. If A-Rod leaves, however, Phillips could claim vindication, by arguing A-Rod, all along, was ill-equipped to play in New York, whether for the Yankees or the "Me-toos".)
  3. Peter Gammons, Red Sox Nation’s Cassandra, phantasizes A-Rod an Angel or a Red Sox in ‘08 (July 5, 2007 “Michael Kay Show”)(Could Gammons be indulging in wish-fulfillment? After all, A-Rod defection to Bean Town, would finally requite the loss of Ruth.)
  4. WFAN’s Sweeny Murti (Sweeny Blog, To Opt Out or Not? June 21, 2007) (Murti writes, ""Why don't the Yankees offer A-Rod an extension?' Good question. It'll never happen.")
  5. FOX SPORTS' Ken Rosenthal admonishes the Yankees to starting courting replacements. (“Yanks May Need New Third Baseman,” July 19, 2007)
  6. YES Network’s Michael Kay handicaps the odds of A-Rod's exodus at 95%.

The award for the most adamant and vociferous clairvoyants however goes to ESP-N’s Buster Olney. "Buster-damus" has read the tealeaves, the tarot cards, and ostensibly, A-Rod's palm lines. "Buster-damus" has gazed long and hard into his crystal ball and lo and behold, he has seen the future: A-Rod will both opt-out and sign with the Los Angeles Angels or the San Francisco Giants. (“Olney Chat”, July 2nd, Answer to Nick from Boston; See also “Olney Archive”, July 11th). Will a documentary narrated by Orson Welles soon follow?

In fact, Olney has repeated his prophecy so often that on one occasion, he even hallucinated its fulfillment. On July 9th, on ESPN’s morning radio program, Mike and Mike, Olney revealed, “A-Rod has announced that he will opt-out of his contract at the end of the year.” (MVN, July 9th) That A-Rod said no such thing didn't seem to deter Olney. It did frighten the Yankees however. Two days later Yankee officials supposedly told Olney they were receptive to extending A-Rod’s contract to avert the possibility. (“Sources: Yankees Willing To Talk Extension With A-Rod During Season, ESPN.COM, July 11, 2007)


Evidently, the experts have trafficked so long in confidential information that they no longer can distinguish the esoteric from the unknowable and privity from prescience. It is one thing for "Buster-damus" to discover, for example, that X-team is close to acquiring or disposing of Y-player because Olney has sources in one or more GM's offices. It’s quite another for Buster-damus to pretend to fathom what only Alex Rodriguez, Cynthia Rodriguez, and perhaps, Scott Boras, one the one hand, and the New York Yankees, on the other, possibly can know.

(1) That is, first and foremost, does the New York Yankees 3rd-Baseman wish to remain in Pinstripes? Has even considered the matter as yet, let alone, reached a decision? And if A-Rod has, given how guarded he’s been with the press this year, why would he have confided his decision to anyone likely to divulge it when so much money is at stake?

(2) Then, moreover, looms the question of whether the Yankees would sign him as a free agent if he chooses to void his current contract? That is, are the Yankees’ threats that they would not-- their not-so “confidential” disclosures that they only will extend A-Rod’s current contract if he forswears the opt-out clause; that they will NOT pursue him on the free-agent market--does the Yankees’ public position amount to posturing or to a genuine non-negotiable ultimatum?

The trouble is the only people who definitively can answer these two questions aren’t saying. Which means that to believe Buster-damus, one must assume he’s not only clairvoyant but a mind reader besides. Otherwise, all the confident predictions about where A-Rod will play next year amount to idle speculation and gratuitous conjecture masquerading as expert authority and special insight.

Don’t let the pretense of infallibility fool you then. The man sitting in Section 2, Row K, Seat 5 at Yankee Stadium is no less qualified to surmise where A-Rod will play next year than Buster Olney and perhaps, no less apt to be right.


For all the oracular forecasts that A-Rod’s days in the Bronx are numbered, Baseball Seer’s appear to minimize, or to overlook entirely, an obvious omen. While no one can determine the future, need and means go a considerable way in shaping it. And the Yankees need A-Rod, desperately so; and they, of course, are one of the few teams with the financial wherewithal to afford him.

In fact, with Yankee major league roster’s growing age and dwindling production, on the one hand, and their farm system’s raw, callow pitching talent and meager supply of hitting prospects, on the other, A-Rod’s importance to the franchise has only increased over the years. Don’t allow Posada and Rivera’s rings and pedigree to deceive you. Alex Rodriguez has become every bit as indispensable, and because he’s younger, perhaps more so.

True, when the Yankees acquired him in 2003, A-Rod was a luxury. The Yankees had just won their 6th American League pennant in 8 years. Meanwhile, A-Rod, was amassing prolific statistics for a Rangers team that had finished no better than 4th since his eagerly heralded arrival their in 2001. Baseball's best player wanted out. And after negotiations that would have sent him to Boston failed, the Yankees interceded and a marriage of convenience was born.

But the core of player who propelled the Yankees to their last Word Series have aged four years since. And not enough talent has existed in their farm system to replenish the major league roster or to replace the obsolescence. Sure, Cano has ensconced himself at 2nd base; Cabrera, in the outfield, and Wang has emerged as the rotation's ace. But youth in the Bronx is in otherwise scarce supply. By season's end, Damon, Matsui, Abreu will all be 34 or older. Posada turns 36 in August, Mariano Rivera, 38 in November. Giambi is a decrepit 36 and counting.

No, A-Rod is no longer a luxury; he’s a necessity. The immediate future of the Yankees belongs to A-Rod and Jeter, as it once did to Gehrig and Ruth. The Yankees won't excel without both of them, not in the immediate term anyway. (This is not to deprecate Posada and Rivera's significance, only to assume that the Yankees recognize that they can't replace either and will re-sign them. Let's hope Cashman and Co. realize that keeping A-Rod is no less important.)

To appreciate fully A-Rod's importance, one only need imagine the Yankees without him. Imagine Opening Day 2009. The Yankees open their new $1.03 billon Stadium. The crowds descend. Electricity pervades the air. The faithful roar with anticipation. The ceremony to honor the great Yankee past begins. There’s Bernie, Torre, O’Neil; there’s Reggie, Murcer, Nettles, and Gossage. Even an 83-yr-old Berra has made it. They wave and the fans eyes wells with tears as they recall the glories of past. But then the ceremony ends and the immortals exit the stage.

Then Bob Shepard announces the 2009 “Bronx Bombers”:

Damon, DH
Derek Jeter, SS
Robinson Cano, 2b
Jorge Posada, 1B
Hideki Matsui, LF
Aaron Rowand, CF
Melky Cabrera, RF
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Ramon Castro, C

Notice the void? Where’s the 30+ home run bat? Where’s the potent cleanup hitter? Where’s the right-handed power? Where’s the player, in late innings, pitchers fear? Where’s the future Hall of Fame hitter poised, one day, to pass Barry Bonds on the homerun list, the player who single-handedly generates buzz and publicity? Where's the star?

Could this line-up compete with the Red Sox, the formidable Blue Jays, the prolific Devil Rays, or the resurgent Orioles? More importantly, with a YES Network to sustain and 1.03 billion dollar stadium to pay for, could the Steinbrenner family afford mediocrity, could they afford even its possibility? (Remember too that among the Boss’ greatest regrets, he says, is not re-signing Reggie Jackson after the 1981 season. Well, what Yankee since Reggie has been more reminiscent of his magnetic and (polarizing) draw than A-Rod?)

Of course, the appeal of the new Stadium alone will draw fans in the beginning. And it’s also true that season ticket earnings and corporate box revenue, through advance sales, track the previous season’s performance. But come late summer '09, how many fans will brave sweltering hot August days and late September school-nights to watch an average .500 team languishing in the standings? Lest we forget that 52,000 fans a night is not a birthright. Even during the dynasty years, ’96--’03, the Yankees never averaged more than 43,000 a night. Indeed, attendance falls just as easily as it rises. Camden Yards and Jacobs Field don't sell-out anymore for a reason. And as anyone who recently has paid $7.00 for a Yankee Stadium hot dog and $10.00 for its beer, whilst sitting in $17.00 tier seats, can attest—almost 50% of baseball teams’ gate stems from concession sales. The Yankees can’t sell Little Billy a $6.00 Coke while he's watching in his bedroom.

On the other hand, as Barry Bonds demonstrates, mediocrity might not deter Little Billy from dragging Dad to the ballpark if one of his Yankee favorites is nearing homerun milestones. Why else do 5% of the population in the most beautiful city in America flock to AT&T/Pacbell Park to see the woeful Giants play?

That is, A-Rod may not guarantee World Series rings but against the risk of an empty stadium, A-Rod is the best insurance money can buy.


Indeed, the Yankees’ success on the field, their attendance draw, the YES Network’s advertising revenue, the morale of their aging all-stars (would Jeter suffer mediocrity gladly?), the organization’s appeal to coveted free-agents, the profitability of the new stadium—all this depends on Alex Rodriguez remaining. That is because without him, the Yankees will not contend for a championship anytime soon. Certainly not before the skills of Posada, Rivera, Matsui and Damon have long since eroded and/or they’ve hung up their gloves. A-Rod and Jeter, at 33 and 32 years of age, are the bridge between the Yankees past and future, between the aging, veteran position players and its still fledgling pitching prospects.

Furthermore, the Yankees don't have an available replacement for A-Rod at 3d base, nor for his right-handed power and production. Wilson Betemit fills the utility role well but as an everyday infielder, his statistics suggest a 3B equivalent of Andy Phillips, or worse. In the beginning of the season, when the Los Angeles Dodgers played him everyday at 3B, Betemit hit .125.

Meanwhile down on the farm, the Yankees’ best third-base prospect, Marco Vechionacci, is 20 and playing at Single A. Triple-A 1st/3rd baseman Eric Duncan’s stock, on the other hand, has plummeted so low he no longer even grades among the Yankees top 25 prospects in Baseball America’s ranking. (Through 81 games for AAA affiliate Scranton-WB, Duncan has hit .233 with 8 HR, 37 RBI’s, a .316 OBA and a .368 Slugging percentage.)

Nor for the foreseeable future do the Yankees’ have the ability to recoup the loss of A-Rod’s statistics from some combination of prospects at multiple positions. The organization’s best minor-league hitting talent, 19-yr-old Jose Tabata (called “Little Manny” by some) and 20-yr-old Austin Jackson, are raw single A outfielders, at least a year away, if not two or three, from blooming at the major league level.

A bearish free-agent market the next few years casts life without A-Rod in an even bleaker light. The 2007-8 crop at 3d base offers few desirable alternatives: Mike Lowell turns 34 in February and he’s the best of the lot. (Mike Lamb, Russell Branyan, and Abraham Nunez comprise some of the others. Enough said.)

The 2008-9 cohort of 3d baseman is slightly more promising, but only marginally so. The Yankees would have to choose from a 33-year-old Troy Glaus, a 31-year-old Joe Crede, a 34-year-old Morgan Ensberg and if the Rangers and Braves don’t exercise their options, Hank Blaylock and Chipper Jones. (Don’t count on Blaylock’s availability: the Rangers’ can exercise his option for ‘09 for a paltry $6.5 million; while Chipper turns 37 on April 24, 2009)

In other words, the Yankees can’t replace A-Rod and the one third-baseman remotely worthy of his mantle doesn’t qualify for free agency until 2010. In the meantime, the Yankees’ chances for obtaining Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins without relinquishing the very young pitchers Cashman refuses to trade, Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, ranges somewhere between slim and none.


In fact, the only way the Yankees could compensate for the loss of A-Rod, if not exactly off-set it, would be to sacrifice the 2008 season—the year before they enter their new ballpark, in itself a risk—and then gamble that in the ‘08 off-season, they could sign both Mark Teixeira and Johan Santana or C.C. Sabbathia[1] for a sum approximate to the $30-35 million they would have to pay A-Rod. It’s a perilous gamble, first of all, because the Twins and Indians could sign their aces to contract extensions before then. The Twins and Indians, despite modest payrolls, $70 and $60 million respectively, possess the means to spend more. The Indians’ attendance records in the late 90’ shows they have the fan base to sell-out Jacobs Field when management fields a winning franchise. The Twins, on the other hand, open a new stadium in 2010 and Twins owner Carl Pohlad is a multi-billionaire whom many gauge the wealthiest owner in baseball. That is, the Twins have the means to re-sign Santana, if they only summon the will.

Signing Teixeira is an equally uncertain proposition. Although the Braves don’t expect to re-sign him, Teixeira is a Boras client. Which means, on the one hand, Teixeira is destined for free agency and on the other, means, Teixeira is likely to command a contract as exorbitant and onerous as A-Rod’s. Teixeira, what’s more, has intimated he wants to play for the Orioles.


On the few occasion when baseball's oracles are constrained to justify their conclusion that A-Rod's exodus is imminent, they adduce the following logic:

  1. Scott Boras’s clients never forgo free agency and the opportunity to earn more money.
  2. Boras secures the most money for his clients in free agency by pitting numerous teams against each other on the open market. (The bidding process usually culminates with the eleventh-hour arrival of “a mystery team” ready to pay millions in excess of the last best offer.)
  3. Boras, on the other hand, recoils from closed-markets, like the Matsuzaka negotiation, where a single team bids against itself, for obvious reasons. A closed-market confines negotiation to a single team, reduces his leverage to take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums, curbs the inflation natural to the auction process, and of course, forecloses the mystery suitor.
  4. Ergo, A-Rod will decline to entertain a contract extension (the consummate closed market) and instead will void his current contract and opt for free agency.
  5. The Yankees, true to their word, will refuse to compete for A-Rod’s services in an open market.
  6. The Angels, Dodgers and/or Giants, in turn, will bid $300 million and A-Rod will flee to the West Coast, joining Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham’s pantheon of infamy.

Their pretension to understand baseball economics notwithstanding, baseball's prognosticator overlook a rather glaring detail. In its financial terms, A-Rod’s contract is sui generis. It's the only contract in baseball that two teams, not one, pay. And this unique wrinkle enables the Yankees to offer approximately $30 million more than any other team on the open market without having to pay the balance. More importantly, it enables Boras to earn more for his client through securing A-Rod an extension than by his opt-ing out and filing for free-agency.

I explain why below.


When the Yankees acquired A-Rod in 2004, remember, the Rangers’ owner, Tom Hicks, signed a separate, collateral agreement, committing the Rangers to pay $67 million of the $179 million still outstanding on Rodriguez's contract. This means that under the current terms of A-Rod’s contract, which runs through 2010, the Yankees pay approximately $16-17 million of his annual salary. The Rangers pay the rest, about $9-10 million each year. This means that of the $67 million, then, still due Alex for 2008-2010 under his current contract, the Rangers owe $28.7 million.


  • 2008-10 A-Rod’s earns $81million ($27 million annually)
  • 2008-10 Rangers pay $28.7 million (app. $9.57 million annually)
  • 2008-10 Yankees pay $52.3 million (app. $17.43 million annually)

See Cot’s Baseball Contracts:

However, if A-Rod opt-outs on November 10, 2007[2], his current contract is voided and the Hicks’ collateral agreement perishes along with it.

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, because Boras, in this one instance, actually stands to make MORE money for his client if his client declines to void his contract and negotiates a contract extension instead. The confluence of two anomalies in A-Rod's contract status suggest this result: (i) as, I observed above, on this one occasion, the team granting him the extension, the Yankees, can offer A-Rod $30 million more than they actually would have to pay; and (ii) the market for A-Rod is comparatively smaller than for other players because, unlike the conventional free agent, very few teams can afford to pay one player $25 million a year, let alone the $32-35 million Boras recently said his player is worth.

Let's consider the implications of the second anomaly first-- that is, A-Rod's market problem. Now, to most major league players, it is impossible to assign a market value until the player actually enters the free agent marketplace and multiple teams bid against each other for his services. This is why Boras clients almost always pursue free-agency rather than sign contract extensions, even where the player hopes to remain with his current team. The reason is because there is always some team that realizes it can't land the player without offering millions above what the next highest bidder is prepared to pay, thus inflating the price his former team initially contemplated.

The wrangling surrounding Bernie Williams' contract, for example, illustrates why Boras clients choose free agency even when they wish to remain with their current team. Bernie, all along, wanted to remain a New York Yankee but to extend his contract, the Yankees were willing to offer no more than 5 years at $60 million. It wasn't until after Bernie entered the free agent market that his market value soared to above $80 million. To entice him to play for his rival, the Red Sox had to offer seven years and $80+ million, which in turn, compelled the Yankees to raise their offer $27 million to retain Bernie. (Johnny Damon, on the other hand, dramatizes the inherent risk Boras' brinksmanship entails. Even though Damon wanted to stay in Boston, the Red Sox, in the end, refused to match the Yankees' offer.)

But neither Bernie's nor Damon's contract were confined by a market ceiling. Their market value accordingly was whatever a team was willing to bid. A-Rod's market value is far less elastic. First, there are far fewer franchises that can afford a $25 million-a-year player, let alone the $32-35 million a year Boras recently claimed A-Rod is worth-- far fewer than could pay Bernie or even Barry Zito, for that matter, $20 million annually. Second, as the games' highest paid player there's only so much higher his $25 million-a-year salary can climb before it outprices the marketplace. That is, the market value for A-Rod, unlike for a Bernie Williams, say, is finite. What is that sum? I don't know. But it can't be much more than the $25 million-a-year A-Rod currently earns. Figure the market can bear an increase in A-Rod's salary roughly equivalent to how much the sport's aggregate revenues have increased from 2000, when A-Rod signed his current contract, to 2007.

A-Rod, then, is the one player whose maximum value Boras can estimate reasonably BEFORE contract negotiations begin. In fact, Boras already has calculated it. He has announced that Alex is worth between $32-35 million a year.[3]

This is where the second anomaly enters the equation. For the $30 million subsidy the Yankees receive stands to profit Boras' client more through a contract extension than through an open-bidding process.

Let’s illustrate. Say Boras gauges that the highest bid A-Rod could command as a free agent is $280 million for 8 years ($35 million annually), because at least one team among the Angels, Giants, Tigers, Dodgers, and/or the Red Sox can pay him that much, and what's more, one of them is prepared to offer it to him. (And lest you think that’s impossible because Boras can’t ascertain this without suborning a tampering violation, recall the J.D. Drew episode.) That is, Boras concludes that if A-Rod voids his contract, his client could earn, at most, $35 million annually for 8 years for a total contract value of $280 million.

Boras, in turn, tells the Yankees that to retain Alex, the Yankees would have to pay him commensurately. Hence, he expects a 5-year contract extension for at least $199 million.

CONTRACT EXTENSION: PROPOSAL 1: Why Hicks' $ Benefits the Yankees

  • $175 million for 2011-2015 (avg. annual salary $35 million)
  • $24 million raise for 2008-2010 (avg. annual raise $8 million)
  • Total extension for 2011-2015 = $199 million
  • Total amount still owed 2008-10 = $81 million (avg. annually $27 million)
  • Total 08’-’15 = $280 million (8 years, $35 million per)
  • 'o8-'15 Yankees pay $251.3 million
  • '08-'15 Rangers pay $28.7 million

The key here is that an extension preserves the terms of A-Rod’s current contract under which Tom Hicks pays $28.7 million of the $81 million still due A-Rod through 2010. As a consequence, the Yankees get for about $250 million what every team on the open market would have to pay $280.

But the Hicks wrinkle benefits Boras and A-Rod as well. That is, Boras can earn almost $28.7 million above the market rate, if he convinces the Yankees simply to match it. Suppose Boras informs the Yankees, for example, that A-Rod doesn’t really like New York as much as he does California. So to compete with the Angels and/or the Giants’ likely offer of $280, the Yankees will have to grant him a 5-yr $229 million extension to ensure A-Rod earns $310 million for 8 years.


  • $ 205 million for 2011-2015 (avg. annual salary $41 million)
  • $24 million raise for 2008-2010 (avg. annual raise $8 million)
  • Total extension for 2011-2015 = $229 million
  • Total amount still owed 2008-10 = $81 million (avg. annually $27 million)
  • Total 08’-’15 = $310 million (8 years, $38.75 million per)
  • 08'-'15 Yankees pay $281.3 million
  • '08-'15 Rangers pay $28.7 million

The reason why Boras can demand as much is because he knows the Yankees, under such a circumstance, wouldn’t have to pay any more than the market rate. That is, for convincing the Yankees to pay what every other team would pay in the open market ($280 million), Boras earns $28.7 million more for his client than the market otherwise would command. Quite a bargain!

The more likely scenario is one in which both Boras and the Yankees profit from the Hick’s subsidy. Ever the shrewd lawyer, Boras avoids overplaying his hand, calculating that the Yankees would balk at paying market value for a player they’ve had under contract for less than market value for the past four years. So Boras offers to split the difference. Instead of $199 million extension or a $229 million extension, he asks the Yankees for one in between: let’s say, 5 years at $215 million.

CONTRACT EXTENSION: Proposal 3: Mutual Advantage

  • $191 million for 2011-2015 (avg. annual salary $38.2 million)
  • $24 million raise for 2008-2010 (avg. annual raise $8 million)
  • Total extension for 2011-2015 = $215 million
  • Total amount still owed 2008-10 = $81 million (avg. annually $27 million)
  • Total 08’-’15 = $296 million (8 years, $37million per)
  • 08'-'15 Yankees pay $267.3 million
  • 08-'15 Rangers pay $28.7 million

In this scenario, both Boras and the Yankees gain. Boras wins $16 million more than the $280 million the market otherwise would value his client. He also can boast that under the extension A-Rod’s annual salary increases $10 million (from $27 million to $37 million) and that he, Boras, consequently, secured the first (and probably, the last) $38 million-a-year player. Meanwhile the Yankees benefit as well. They get to congratulate themselves for paying less than market value for A-Rod-- paying $267.3 million to a player actually worth $280 million.


Now, this isn’t to say that financial incentives alone will induce A-Rod to re-negotiate his contract with the Yankees. If A-Rod learned anything from his odyssey in Texas, it is that no amount of money can buy a player contentment-- certainly not for 10% more on the dollar. The $30 million more the Yankees can offer him on a contract likely to total $280 million is, by itself, unlikely to sway him if he dislikes playing for the Yankees or he no longer can abide New York.

Lord knows he has reason to. The fan’s abuse. The relentless media scrutiny. The double standards by which he’s judged; the indignities and outrages he has had to endure. The New York Post’s prurience. Jeter’s snubs. Torre’s disfavor. Yankee management’s aloofness.

Indeed, New York, to its discredit, hasn’t exactly embraced one of baseball’s future immortals or showered him the adulation and gratitude his accomplishments warrant.

A-Rod wins an MVP in 2005, yet fans jeer him the following season because he only hits 35 homeruns and 121 RBIs.

In the 2004 ALDS, A-Rod goes 8 for 19, a .421 AVG and .476OBA, with 1 homerun and 3 RBI’s (to say nothing of the impressive post-season statistics A-Rod earned while a Seattle Mariner: 18 for 51, a .353BA, with 3HRs and 8 RBIs). Yet his critics still ignore the foregoing statistics and selectively cite his 2 for 15 performance in the 2005 ALDS and his 1 for 14 performance in 2006 to prove that A-Rod doesn't perform in the post-season.

(It never occurs to A-Rod bashers that 39 AB's simply may pose too small a sampling size to assess a player's performance. Over equivalently small post-season stretches, for example, other so-called "clutch" Yankee players have similarly floundered: (i) through the six post-season series preceding the 1998 World Series, Tino Martinez, as a Yankees was 18 for 96 (.188 AVG) with 1 HR; and (ii) even "Mr. November" himself, Derek Jeter, went 6 for 44 between Game 1 of the 2001 ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series.)

No, no matter how preternatural his achievements, A-Rod can't seem to win over his detractors. Not even this season. A-Rod’s offensive production can carry the Yankees through the first 3 months of the schedule; A-Rod can hit dramatic, game-winning homeruns against the Orioles, the Indians, and the Red Sox; he can go 15 for 31, a .484AVG with a .579 OBA, 7 HRs and 19RBIs in the ninth-inning through 112 games; he can become the youngest player in major league history to reach 500 HRs and the first, ever, to hit at least 35 HR and 100RBIs ten seasons in a row; he can have a 2007 season that, in its late-inning heroics, awe-inspiring numbers, and record-setting feats daily baffle the imagination: he can accomplish all this and hostile talk-show hosts like ESPN radio’s Steven A. Smith can opine, on the very day he reached 500 HR’s no less, “I don’t consider Alex Rodriguez a great player until he performs under pressure… until he performs in the post-season.”

That A-Rod already has Stephen A. Smith refuses to heed.


Of course, the jeering, ungrateful fans; the petty, invasive media; the staid clubhouse with the martinet-like rules and unremitting pressure to win may, indeed, make the appeal of an Arcadian California, where a golden sunlight bakes the brain and robs fans and press of all aggression and animus, too beguiling to resist. Could the seers be right?

Or does A-Rod crave something more permanent than prodigious sums of money and unconditional adulation? Does he have a future to consider and a legacy to cultivate? When remorseless Age exacts its mortal toll-- when the bat slows and the arm weakens and the legs fail-- when the incessant travel, the oppressive heat, the fickle crowds begin to pall and retirement beckons like a seductress' warm, nurturing embrace-- what, THEN, will A-Rod do? Does he want a Second Act, outside baseball, or will he be content to exit the stage and retreat from the limelight into the reflected glow of memory-- to the abstraction of record books, the graven images of museums, and the tepid affection of family?

[1] The Padres, Angels, and Dodgers all retain options for the ’09 season on Peavy, Lackey, and Penny, respectively.
[2] A-Rod can opt-out after the 2008 and 2009 season but only under very specific conditions. The Yankees can avert this contingency by increasing his salary to $32 million. Or in the unlikely event, some other free agent position player has secured a contract that pays him more than A-Rod earns annually, the Yankees would have to raise A-Rod’s annual salary $1 million above his.
[3] (Coincidentally enough, the morning before A-Rod hit his 500th homerun, Boras told Peter Abraham, the Yankees’ beat reporter for The Jersey Journal, that Alex is worth between $32-35 million a year. See Day 110,