Next week (the Baseball Winter Meetings) is my favorite
time of the off-season. Like the trading
deadline in July, each day of the meetings bring anticipation and the hope that
your team can improve themselves in some way.
For this year’s Yankees, it will hopefully bring pitcher Cliff Lee to
the Bronx and perhaps bring an end to the impasse between the team and star
shortstop Derek Jeter.
Today was an interesting day with reports that the Texas
Rangers had approached free agent pitcher Andy Pettitte. Subsequently, the Rangers were denying those
reports. However, I wonder if the “rumor”
had been strategically placed in the media by the Rangers or an alliance to
tweak the Yankees. Pettitte is already
on record saying that if he plays, it will be with the Yankees or no one. If his only attraction was to play in Texas
to be closer to home, then maybe I could be convinced that the Rangers rumor
has legs. However, at this stage of Andy’s
career, it is simply whether or not he wants to stay home with his family with
no baseball distractions or play one more year with the Yankees to build upon
his legacy. The three years in Houston
already cost him the status of the greatest lefthander in Yankees history. At this point, he is playing for the way he
wants to be remembered (if he decides to play).
There was also a report that the San Francisco Giants, on
a day that saw shortstop Juan Uribe sign with the division rival Los Angeles
Dodgers, had reached out to the agent of Derek Jeter. Financially-speaking, there is no way the
Giants can compete with the Yankees offer.
Yes, they have the money, thanks to the World Series championship, but
it would be foolish on their part to invest that kind of money in an aging
shortstop when the money could be better spent in other areas to improve the
team in its 2011 title defense.
For as loud as the Jeter negotiations have been, there
has hardly been a peep about the Yankees negotiation with closer Mariano
Rivera. Tonight, the Toronto Sun is
reporting the parties are close to an agreement that will pay Mo $17 million
next year. There is still a question
about whether it will be for one or two years.
Every time I hear those kind of dollars, it always makes me remember
when George Steinbrenner said that he’d never pay a pitcher a million dollars a
year. I think that was the year Ron
Guidry had to settle for $900,000.
One Yankees is gone.
The Florida Marlins signed former Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez. I saw one headline that said the Marlins
stole Vazquez from the Yankees, but of course, the team made no effort to
re-sign Javy after the very disappointing 2010 campaign. Early last season, one writer called Javy a
National League pitcher and I have to agree.
I wanted him to succeed in New York, but I am just not convinced that
would ever happen. It’s too bad. I like Javy and I wish him the best in the
National League East. He certainly knows
the division from his days with the Atlanta Braves. The competition is steep but you have to like
the Marlins starting rotation. I am not
going to anoint them as the next World Series champion and they still have to successfully
replace the production of former second baseman Dan Uggla, but the Giants
proved that as long as you have pitching, nothing else really matters. I say that in jest but there is a certain
degree of truth assuming that you have the players capable of scoring runs and
playing defense. The Yankees pick up a
supplementary draft pick due the free agent loss since they offered Vazquez
arbitration (which he had agreed to decline).
I liked the Texas Rangers signing of catcher Yorvit
Torrealba. The Yankees will be in the
market for a strong backup catcher in light of the decision to permanently move
Jorge Posada to DH and make minor leaguer Jesus Montero the starter. At some point, Austin Romine will be in the
Bronx and perhaps the starting catcher, but I don’t think the Yanks can afford
to go into the season with both Romine and Montero on the roster. I like Francisco Cervelli but I don’t think
he’s the answer either. The Yankees need
to find a solid, veteran backup for Montero.
John Buck, who has since signed with the Marlins, and Torrealba are
certainly guys who could have fit the bill.
Now, the team will need to look at guys like Bengie Molina if they
decide to go externally for a backup.
Congratulations to all the former Yankees on the Hall of
Fame ballot. Of course, I’ll always pull
for my favorite living former Yankee, Don Mattingly, but I agree that his back
problems robbed him of the additional years he really needed for
induction. The other former Yanks
include Tino Martinez, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Fred McGriff (why did we trade
him again?), Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Tim Raines, and Lee Smith. Of the group, Martinez was really the only
one who defined himself in pinstripes but I don’t see him making the Hall of
Fame. Sorry Tino, but I can assure you
that I was a huge fan every game you played for the Yankees.
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
I was very saddened today to hear the news of the passing
of former Yankees infielder Gil McDougald.
Growing up as a kid, I’d read about the great Yankees of the 1950’s
dynasty and they always included mention of McDougald. He only played for 10 years but they were
perhaps the greatest 10 years of Yankees history as he teamed with Mickey
Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Billy Martin to dominate the 50’s with 5
World Series championships. I remember
thinking as a kid how cool his name was.
I wish I could have seen those 50’s teams playing for Casey
Stengel. It would have been a great time
to be a Yankees fan.