Thursday, January 31, 2013

2 Million Guaranteed Reasons to DH

"Ow, my shoulder"
The Yankees wouldn't listen to me. I explained yesterday why they shouldn't sign Travis Hafner   but they're going to anyway. The Steinbrenner boys are shelling out $2MM guaranteed  for Hafner to be their DH against right-handed pitchers in 2013.

On the plus side, Hafner is popular with his teammates and a good clubhouse guy. For the team's sake and the fan's sake I hope it all works out. But I'm not counting on it.

Plus with Kevin Youkilis on the team the Yankees are starting to look too much like Vin Diesel.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yankees Shouldn't Sign Pronk

Travis Hafner destroyed American League pitching from 2004-2007, but has been a shell of his former self ever since then. So it was disturbing to learn on Wednesday that the Yankees are reportedly in talks with the free agent to become their designated hitter against right-handed pitching. WEEI in Boston even reported the Yankees are close to a deal with the man nicknamed "Pronk" (Coined by former teammate Bill Selby- part project, part donkey).

Just say no.

Hafner's offensive numbers improved during the first three years of that four year, career-best stretch of time. It topped off in 2006 when he belted 42 home runs, drove in 117 runs, and led the AL in slugging (.659) and OPS(1.097). In 2007, Hafner drove in 100 runs for the fourth straight year,  but other numbers noticeably dipped.

Hafner had hit over .300 from 2004-2006, but he dropped to .266 in 2007. His OPS (.837) dropped 260 points and he hit just 24 home runs, despite playing in a career high 152 games. He's topped 100 games played in a season only once since then.

As you can see in the details that follow, Hafner has been placed on the disabled list seven times since the beginning of the 2008 season, including a stint of over three months in 2008. Hafner had his right shoulder scoped a month after the 2008 season ended and was still feeling its effects in 2009.

2008 - right shoulder strain 5/30
2008 - transferred to 60 day DL 7/26
2008 - activated 9/9
2009 - right shoulder soreness 4/29
2009 - activated 6/5
2010 - right shoulder inflammation 7/29
2010 - activated 8/15
2011 - strained oblique 5/20
2011 - activated 6/17
2011 - strained right foot 8/22
2011 - activated 9/11
2012 - sore right knee 5/24
2012 - activated 7/4
2012 - lower back inflammation  8/6
2012 - activated 9/19

This past season he missed six weeks due to knee surgery. While he may not quite be in the same league as Nick Johnson when it comes to time on the DL, Hafner's body (there have been unproven rumors of steroid use since the injuries began) has been steadily breaking down. His numbers have shown some consistency (over .800 OPS 2009-2011) in the last handful of seasons, but the Yankees do not need another base clogging, one dimensional player. Though he was no outstanding defender, Raul Ibanez could play left field adequately for the Bombers last season. Hafner has only played 72 games at first base in an 11-yr career.

The obvious thinking by Brian Cashman and others in the Yankees organization is that Hafner will wear out less with less play. It's the same type of logic the Yankees used when they signed Eric Chavez in 2011 and 2012. With Alex Rodriguez out until July and maybe for the season due to hip surgery and/or a steroid suspension (more on that tomorrow), Cashman has to feel Hafner can provide some of the punch missing with no Nick Swisher or Rodriguez in the lineup.

Horace Greeley once said "Go West, young man." I'll say to Hafner, go anywhere else rapidly aging baseball player.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No More Jeff Nelson Play

One of the dullest plays in all of baseball is when a pitcher fakes a pick off attempt at third base in order to try to actually pick off the runner at first. Whenever it happened in a Yankees game Michael Kay uttered "There's the Jeff Nelson play".

Kay has just lost part of his reportoire- Major League Baseball has declared the play a balk beginning in the coming season. The rule was approved in the recent owner's meeting.

My unscientific guess would be the play worked about 1% of the time. It was annoying 100% of the time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Morse Headed to Mariners in 3 Team Deal

I was hoping the Yankees could work out a deal for power hitting outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse, but the 6'5" slugger will call Seattle his new home in 2013.

The Mariners acquired Morse from the Washington Nationals in a deal that also involved the Oakland A's. Mariners catcher John Jaso will be headed to Oakland, while the A's sent A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen to the Nationals. A player to be named later will also be sent from the A's to the Nationals.

Morse was a light hitting utility infielder when he played for the Mariners from 2005-2008. Morse began to show some pop with his bat in his first year in Washington (2009) and followed it up with a break out season a year later when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 95 runs. Injuries limited Morse to 102 games in 2012, but he managed to hit 18 HR and knocked in 62.

Morse and Kendrys Morales, acquired earlier this off-season from the Angels, are expected to help bolster a Mariners lineup that was dead last in runs scored (619) last season. He became expendable in Washington when the Nationals re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Jaso split his time between catcher and DH last season and set career highs in home runs (10), RBI (50), and OPS (.850).

Cole was drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft and dealt to Oakland as part of the package that brought 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez to DC prior to last season. He stood out at Double-A Burlington last year with a 2.07 ERA and struck out 102 in 95.2 innings before a promotion to Triple-A.  .

Treinen was selected by the A's in the 7th round of the 2011 draft and spent last season at high Class 'A' Stockton.

Teixeira Can Duck Less This Season

Vicente Padilla does not like Mark Teixeira. Mark Teixeira does not like Vicente Padilla.  'Does not like' is probably an understatement, but I'll keep this clean.

Almost every year Teixeira and Padilla do battle at the plate and each time there is a good chance Padilla will hit or come close to hitting Teixeira. Glares and words are exchanged, etc.  Sometimes Teixeira hits a home run which is the best way to flip off Padilla.

But worry no more sports fans, you won't have Padilla to curse out any more. No he has not retired, but he is moving to Japan. The 35-year old has agreed to terms with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for $3.25MM.

Padilla made less than half that last year as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The Hawks will be the sixth organization Padilla has pitched for since he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent in 1998.

No, you won't see fireworks in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) either. Teixeira will be playing in the upcoming tournament for the US, but Padilla has passed on playing for Nicaragua.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BBWAA Snubs MLB Eligibles For Hall

Everyone knew that this year's Baseball Hall of Fame vote would be an interesting one. Accused performance enhancing (PED) drug users Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were on the ballot for the first time, as were anti-PED self appointed spokesman Curt Schilling, and perennial All-Star Craig Biggio. Holdovers from past ballots, such as Jack Morris, were expected to have a greater chance to get in with players from the Steroid Era expected to be ignored by most of the voters. 

It turns out everyone was ignored to a point. The accumulated votes of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) did not elevate a single player to the 75% minimum tally necessary to gain entrance to Cooperstown. 

It's the first time since 1976 that the BBWAA did not elect at least one player. Biggio, who spent 20 years as a catcher and second baseman for the Houston Astros, came the closest with 68% of the vote.1 Morris received 66.7% in 2012, but was only able to attain one more percentage point (67.7%) this time around. 

I can totally understand and respect any writer's opinion that players that fall into the Bonds/Clemens/Sosa category should not be allowed in the Hall, but voters who left deserving, "clean" players off their ballots did a poor job with the power that wield. 

Opinions differed among the writer's when it came to the handling of the Steroid Era group. Moss Klein, who covered the Yankees for the Star Ledger from 1976 - 1992, included Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa on his ballot because they were the best of the "tainted era".2 Klein felt that cheating was widespread and so you either needed to eliminate the entire era or elect who was the best of that period. He chose the latter when he filled out his ballot. 

16 writers that work for had votes this year and 87.5% of them felt Biggio should gain entry. But some did not include them on their ballots. Whether it is the usual bias of making sure no one gets a unanimous vote or the reluctancy to vote a player in on his first shot, it's ridiculous that Biggio was left off so many ballots. Two of the ballots belonged to's Ken Gurnick and Marty Noble, who both only voted for Morris.3 

Jeff Bagwell gained a few percentage points from last year's vote, but his ability to garner the necessary percentage is iffy due to the (unfounded thus far) suspicion that he was a cheater. Earlier today ESPN Radio reported that Mike Piazza, one the best offensive catchers in the game, could also be prevented from entrance due to whispers of PED use. He received 57.8% of the vote in his first year of eligibility and, to me, was deserving of induction his first time through the process. 

There still will be a Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, but will there really be an interest? Large crowds normally gather to cheer on their favorites as they are inducted. One would imagine the turn out on Sunday, July 28 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y will not be a large one. The 2013 class is former umpire Hank O'Day, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century player Deacon White, all of whom were elected by the Pre-Integration Committee.4 

The Baseball Hall of Fame is not for everyone, - there are already players in there that many feel don't belong (Kirby Puckett's name is often mentioned) - it is for the very best of the best. But it's disappointing that no one was elected by the BBWAA. You will not convince the fans that not one of the players on the 2013 ballot deserved enshrinement, whether they are cheaters or not. 

My feeling is that eventually those with tarnished reputations will be inducted when the BBWAA is comprised of younger voters, ones that were not in their formative years during the Steroid Era. It would seem the average baseball fan doesn't care about steroids any more. They would just like to see their favorite players, warts and all, inducted. Guys like Craig Biggio. 

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4 - The Sporting News

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Yankees Eye Balling Nats' Morse

For some time I've wondered if the Washington Nationals outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse would be available via a trade.  Apparently the answer to that question is now yes.

The Yankees are among a number of teams that have reportedly contacted Nats' GM Mike Rizzo about acquiring the eight year veteran. The Nats couldn't make any move concerning Morse until free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche re-signed with the team or went elsewhere.  That question was answered early Tuesday when the two sides agreed to a two-year, $24MM deal.

With Morse set to make $6.75MM this season, free agency on the horizon in 2014, and prospects (e.g. Tyler Moore) near Major League ready, it makes good business sense to try to move Morse, who will turn 30 before the regular season starts. It also makes good business sense for the Yankees who could determine after the 2013 season if they would like to keep Morse. If not, it will help them to reach their salary goal ($189MM) for the 2014 season.

The former 2000, third round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox (he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners in 2004 as part of deal that brought Freddy Garcia to the Windy City's South Side.), came into his own after he was dealt to Washington for Ryan Langerhans in 2009. A deal that was thought of as the time as one underwhelming player for another.

Read the rest of this article for free at Yahoo Voices by clicking here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NHL Game On - But Does Anyone Care?

Professional ice hockey has always been considered the outsider among the big four sports (baseball, football, and basketball being the other three). It has struggled to draw fans to watch games in person, to have a viable TV package, and to gain air time on local and national sports radio and television talks shows. So when a lockout seriously threatened to wipe out the entire 2012-2013 NHL season, the players and management had to know that their game was going to take a serious hit in the public relations department. The two sides agreed over the weekend to the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), but is it too late? 

The players and management have accepted that their sport, like the others previously mentioned, are a combination of both entertainment and business. But the average sports fan doesn't care about the business side of things. They only want to root their teams on, argue with other fans about who has the better team, and hope that when the season ends, it is their team hoisting the Stanley Cup or Lombardi Trophy, etc. 

Instead what you have is a game that has taken another huge hit to its public perception. There are many sports fans who won't watch hockey simply because of the fighting - which has been reduced considerably over the years - and others who refuse to pay the exorbitant price of tickets. Those that were willing to do so in the past will be less inclined now that the current season is a 50 game microcosm of a normal hockey season. 

The NHL had reached a new height in popularity when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, something they had not done in 40 years. Every sport benefits when their major market teams are involved in the championship process (baseball is probably the exception due to the lack of a true salary cap) and hockey was on everyone's lips in mid-June when the Rangers won the championship. 

Hockey also benefited from a down turn in professional basketball the same year. The cover of Sports Illustrated's June 20, 1994 issue screamed out, "Why the NHL's Hot and the NBA's Not".1 A split cover photo showed an overhead shot of Rangers' goalie Mike Richter denying Vancouver's Pavel Bure on a penalty shot in Game 4 of the NHL Finals. It sat atop an overhead shot of Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon reaching for the basketball over his New York Knicks counterpart Patrick Ewing in the NBA Finals. 

Author E.M. Swift cited among other things, the lack of Michael Jordan in the league (1994 was Jordan's foray into minor league baseball), a 30% drop off in NBA conference TV ratings, and a perception that the NBA had turned to thuggery (implied by the LA Times) and the NHL was the trendier league (according to Sports Licensing International). 

So what did the NHL do with this new found popularity? They clashed over a new CBA of course! The 1994-1995 season was knocked down to 48 games by the time the two sides came to an agreement on the new pact. Fans already bitter from Major League Baseball's shortened/no World Series 1994 season, held up a big foam finger...but the finger was in a different place. The NHL was permanently damaged from that point on both, in popularity and, if you believe management, financially. Things only got worse when the entire 2004-2005 season was wiped out by another CBA clash. 

The 2011-2012 NHL playoffs were exciting on both coasts; the LA Kings would go on to win the first Stanley Cup in their 46-year history. They defeated the New Jersey Devils who had ousted their bitter rivals, the Rangers, in the Eastern Conference finals. There seemed to be a buzz about hockey again, but the need for a new CBA was an albatross that hung around everyone's neck and sure enough it appeared as though the 2004-2005 debacle was being replicated. 

Will the fans return now that there will be a game to return to? I've come across fans on both sides of the spectrum - those who will have nothing to do with the NHL (possibly ever again) and those who are so excited you would think a member of their family was coming home from war. Then there are those of us in between. The group that won't buy tickets to a game, won't spend money on merchandise, but are leaning towards watching the games. 

Why? Because the game is still a sport to me. The ugliness of the business can be left to the players and owners. 

1 - Sports Illustrated, June 20 ,1994